ABSOLUTE POWER

 
       
 

POWER IN PRE-LITERATE CULTURES

 
Think about what it must have been like to be an early human.
 
You perceive yourself as part of the interconnected web of nature, influencing it and being influenced by it.
 
You are not separate from nature.
So you perceive power as an interplay, an interaction.
Your social system is modeled after this conception of power.

 

TRANSCENDENT POWER

 
Now imagine your shock at the discovery of a new idea that is destined to change the world.

Lightning Lightning
The idea is that of a supreme God: a single spirit that is omnipotent.
Thus is born the idea of absolute power, power that transcends the world, that dominates everything.
 
Now certain people who claim they can communicate with this God will set themselves apart from the rest of the community.
 
They are the priests.
   
 They form a class.
 This is the birth of another new idea: hierarchy.

HISTORY

The cosmic model of God ruling over nature and humans is reproduced in the social model of an elite class ruling over other men and women.
Wars of domination begin to shape history into the bloody struggle we know it to be.
State power grows.
City-states become nation-states, which become empires.

 

RECIPROCITY

 
 When we lived close to nature we understood the dynamics of give and take among humans, and between humans and nature.
 We can never fully dominate nature because nature is a part of us.
All the elements of our highly "advanced" civilization ultimately depend on the natural world.
 
Likewise, political power is never absolute.
 Even the most ruthless leader depends on the cooperation and voluntary submission of his subjects.
 
             

All power relationships are interactive, mutually modulating, reciprocal.


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