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Power in everyday life

In 'Sarkar'(movie) Selvar Mani says “Jiske paas power hai uska wrong bhi right ho jata hai”.

The extent to which the character was correct was something I grossly underestimated. As I have come to see it these days, the very definition of right and wrong is defined by those in power!!!

Anyway, what is power? How does one define it?

If you would have asked an uncivilized man of Stone age, he would have defined it as the physical strength one has to overwhelm another person. But soon, men would have realized this manner of resolving things is eventually detrimental to all concerned.

Hence, men would have associated themselves into groups, so that he can receive security from these people and in turn must pay back to the group his service and loyalty. Thus despite his personal weakness, by owing allegiance to his group, he can rest assured of protection and security.

Thus, the shift begins to a brutal crude method of settling matters to a more subtle level.
The birth of civilization would have been at a point when men found it more suitable to hurl an insult to another person instead of a stone. (and perhaps because of this, we call the fairer sex more civilized­ J )

These groups diversified to form a hierarchy such as caste, region, religion etc and depending on these identities we sometimes overlook certain differences and unite under any of these.

During the whole middles ages when belief was the centrestage of one’s life, Church had enjoyed a kind of power perhaps unsurpassed by any other empire.  Its influence was so pervasive that during the Renaissance great efforts were made to separate the state from religion.

Also, since the major occupation was agriculture, all power remained concentrated by landlords and other princely sections. It was this wealth accumulated by the most brutal means of exploitation of labourers and other coercions that finally turned into legitimate money (the initial capital required) in the next age of Industrialization that followed.

Since the age of Industrialization was dependent on control of the machinery, it implied that equitable control of the machinery would automatically result in more fair system of distribution of resources.

Since, in this particular system, use of violence would result in the total loss of all involved, violence was demoted to the second place- to be used only in emergencies- and instead money became the tool for domination.

So long as this trade was relatively free, from perhaps much of later part of 19th century and national interests not so all-important, there were relatively less no. of wars and battles. Because strife hits the trade most severely, most of these things had to be settled amicably to protect trade.

Only in the beginning of 20th century when Germany drunk with its newly regained power under the stewardship of Bismark made State an all-important and all-compassing factor did trouble begin. With interference of State into commerce, the traders were unable to drive in the importance of peace. When you are a drop in an ocean, it doesn’t matter whether you stay or not.

The point that I wish to make is that the war at a level became possible because nation-states were dominant force in the age of hyper-nationalism.

With 2 major World Wars within a single generation, nations were humbled into submission and relented to the calls to free up the colonies. India’s national movement just happened to coincide with this decisive event and is perhaps unjustifiably fully credited with accomplishment of freedom.

 With this realization, came in the advent of the next level of power. Knowledge and business based dominance. It was found out that violence of such scale was ultimately detrimental to all parties and even the victors are left with mere ashes in mouth.

Thus, we see the rise in MNCs and the shift to the subtler level of battle is still on.

We have come to level when externally we perforce comradeship while the quest for power goes unhindered as an undercurrent. This is perhaps best exemplified in the oft-quoted “Nothing personal, just business” of Godfather.

Hence, the rise in power of media which is capable of moulding public opinion! Not for nothing did Joseph Stalin say “Writer is the engineer of soul”.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is power is all-important aspect of life which all use to varying degrees depending on their capability but is moving from a crude to subtler levels. Power by itself is neutral; it assumes the color of one who holds it.

But that human intoxication for power by itself is irreplaceable.


  1. Madhav,
    As usual from you, a good dialogue on power. But I think there is more into it than that is apparently felt politically. Our encounter with power starts right from with in the family and is enforced by the elders on the younger ones in one realm and at the same time by the male members on the female members in another realm. May be "civilized" means not about hurling insults at one another but rather than that a discipline to develop individual level of consciousness and awareness.
    This is the basic fundamental difference between understanding of the western civilization and eastern counterpart.
    The conclusion that human intoxication for power is irreplaceable is half empty if the basic tenet of asking the question is not how but why. That is we should ask why is the intoxication irreplaceable.
    Drawing the conclusion from the basic unit of society which is family (since rarely individuals are made out of it) would be more revealing than a simple cross sectional scrutiny of the society on a whole.

  2. @Sravan:

    Thats a very damn interesting way of looking at it.. :-)

    I concede that there's a decisive difference in understanding western and eastern cultures..

    Power is required to make things occur as we wish...Its for protection against uncertainty and so on and forth..

    Even within family we can see the pattern imposed by society. The typical Indian family is a structure that is to be in tune with the overall social structure..

    The western family unit is nowhere as strong and effective as Indian because India is basically an society-based against the individualistic culture of west..

    Civilized is what I imagine to be better way of handling difference of opinion...In this connection, though I am against many other US ways of life, I respect them for "agreeing to disagree".

    In a tribal zone, one has no privacy and no right to personal opinion...That is where we are moving away from..

    And more importantly civilization is about making a virtue out of necessity....(hahaha)..

    Good to hear from you after long...How have you been? No updates on your blog?


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