Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts…perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
– John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968)
Lucky Alexander the Great! He died at age 26. Rather, lucky for his people.
It has been said that power corrupts. Most of us will have accepted that without thinking about it. There has been a correlation between power and corruption through history. Steinbeck took it one step further, asking why.
People who achieved their positions of power by clawing their way to the top, by putting their opponents and enemies out of the way by various means, got into the habit of fighting for power. When they reached their pinnacle, they had nowhere to go. They couldn’t rally the troops because the troops had no reason to be rallied for the same causes as previously.
History has proven that it’s not possible to maintain the status quo with relationships. Either they are building or they are crumbling. A great leader who has fought his way to the top position or to build a great empire has no more climbing to do. What then? The human structure beneath him begins to decay because the leader doesn’t have the skills to maintain it. He knows how to rally and fight, not to hold onto one position.
With the structure under him failing, the great leader begins to fight his own people to hold power. That’s akin to social cannibalism. Or he begins to form new relationships that will secure his position. These are usually not of benefit to the people. That is, the leader becomes corrupt.
No one seems to be clear when Adolf Hitler lost his sanity, but it may be reasonably assumed that he did so shortly after his early conquests in Europe. Was the Holocaust his way of demonstrating to his people–his military, his party and those who voted him into power–that no one should oppose him? He was known to use hatred of Jews as a way to achieve leadership, but no one expected him to annihilate millions of them. The Holocaust may have resulted from Hitler’s fear of losing his position of power.
Fear hurts anyone who tries to maintain a position without building on it. Usually the relationships that crumble are those where the leader wants to hold power for himself, not where he wants to share it or to benefit those under him. The latter pair would be beneficient leadership, while the former would be selfish or acquisitory. Leaders that become corrupt want more for themselves, but can only get more by means of corruption.
A beneficient dictatorship is, theoretically, the best form of leadership for a people. However, examples of beneficient dictators through history are rare because the ones who achieved power by promising to help their people became corrupt when they got there. Perhaps, as Steinbeck said, it’s the fear of losing that power that corrupts.
Fear, in general, is a destructive emotion. It develops from our natural emotion of apprehension, that which causes us to be careful in risky situations. A person who is afraid is always destructive, though the degree varies and the destruction could be inflicted on themselves, such as through worry.
It would pay us well to be aware of fear when we have it ourselves and when others are trying to inflict it on us. Either way it won’t do us any good.
If a leader is trying to create fear in us, we can act to prevent ourselves from being taken over by that fear. We don’t have to be afraid just because a political or military leader tells us to be afraid.
Generally speaking, a fearful person will have difficulty doing a competent job. A job that has become incompetent through corruption can only hurt everyone.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to provide some means of identifying fear in others and ourselves.
Learn more at http://billallin.com