The Greatest Task: Power

February 13, 2008

Power is often thought of as an object to be obtained and held.  Some people hold power and others are powerless within their situations.  We for instance are perceived as powerless at the hands of the media.  They report based on their research and we accept.  In the teacher-student relationship, the student is powerless to the teacher who controls his grade.  These are the common ideas of power.  I believe them to be wrong.

Every individual has an equal amount of power, so long as he at one time existed.  But it is up to the individual to give power any kinetic strength.  Every person whether conscious or unconscious of his power, is exerting it at this moment, but conscious exertion produces more self interested results. 

Power is not an object to be passed or to be held by only one or a few ideologies or people.  Power is present in everything that exists and it exists only because it is a part of human consciousness.  Power is only as real and tangible as love and hate, as it cannot be labeled by the senses, but that its presence is felt enough to be given a name.  It is in nature, in animals and in human beings.  And through these vehicles is able to be used.  Without a vehicle for expression, power is useless or nonexistent.  In human relationships, those who are “in charge” appear to have more power than the subordinate people, but this is not the case.  Both or all of the people in this relationship have equal amounts of power, but the higher authority has either developed hers through education and experience or shares the popular ideology of the employers who give her the position to exercise her power. 

Even in this case, it may still seem that the subordinate person in the relationship is powerless.  He will have to obey his boss or suffer consequences.  The problem with this statement is that he does not have to do anything.  Just as a trained animal can at any moment chose to bite its owner, the subordinate person can choose to exercise his power and protest.  However, certain ideologies that he adheres to which he may have obtained in education, family, social pressures or the ideology of his own self-interest, may prevent him from protesting.  He may be disciplined, fired, treated poorly or suffer other consequences that he does not wish to face.  This means that he still has the power to act, but that power from other people or groups of people in the form of ideologies influences his choice.   By ideologies, I mean any reality of a human being or what we hold to be true.  There are political ideologies, personal and family ideologies and any process of thinking about the world is an ideology.

It is the same for me in class.  Though I have always wanted to shake things up by saying something crazy and running out of the room or by speaking in a ridiculous accent in class, I will probably never do either, despite the fact that the rigidness of the classroom makes me squirm.  The ideologies of reputation, grades, family and personal responsibility stop me from acting.  But at any time I can choose to ignore all of that and go for it.  That is when I become the most free and when I use my power to the best of my ability. 

Our presidents, our corporate leaders and all other authority figures are not completely free and have no absolute power.  They are tied to ideologies and in addition, at any given moment, any person who passes within their sphere of influence is exerting power over them.  A worker in a factory exerts power over his boss so long as he was ever associated with the company.  When he works, he is making products.  When he takes off or quits, he causes his boss to have to find a replacement.  At every moment, we are the worker to some person, group, institution or ideology.  The only task that we have is developing that power and using it.  But the trick is to gain knowledge from many ideologies regardless of their importance to use, because the education system, our social relationships and the other normalizing aspects of our lives are not enough to know everything about our power.

So power is not an object possessed by a lucky few, nor is it something to be passed around.  It does not operate alone; it is a tool of operation.  It is a tool that we all possess so long as we exist, and we must be conscious of its presence within our own bodies.  We are not ever powerless, and despite the great devices of power exercised against us in certain instances, we are irresponsible to think ourselves victims, though those illegitimate and exploitative ideologies often seen in poor neighborhoods and the workplace are morally reprehensible, to say the least.  Nevertheless, we must take our internal tool of power and build it with knowledge and confidence and in some cases other people.  This is the great task of the human being: to recognize and mold his power.

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The Last Step

February 11, 2008

It occurred to me today that life is too personal. 
In order to really get into a deep relationship with anyone (except in the case of really exceptional people), you have to be eternally patient.  It takes most people a long time to get personal.  After thinking about it for a while, I came up with the three (or four) steps I usually see in most of my relationships.
    1. The feeling out phase when people just meet and listen to each other without voicing to much opinion.
    2. The opinion phase is the time for sharing opinions on not too sensitive topics.  Humour usually comes out in this phase.
    3. The obnoxious phase where one or both people in the relationship loses inhibition and shows their true colors.  This
         phase is often marked by embarrassment in public, random singing, fights and various other loud activities.
    4. This optional phase is marked by the sharing of deeply personal thoughts or experiences.  It develops with trust and
         the realization that your friend will love regardless of anything you did in step 3.

Of course, friendships don’t really follow a definite pattern.  People are too complicated to be textbook, but when you’re in a relationship you can usually tell where the relationship is and is headed.  You can tell where “the line” is, how much physical contact is okay and how much you are willing to tell, but in the case for “willing to tell,” it often depends on the confidence of the person in his or her identity and past.  It shouldn’t have to though.  I think maybe the reason people have to wait so long to get personal is because human beings tend to be insensitive.  We treasure the deepest friendships we have because we have finally found people who are willing to listen and act with what we tell them in our best interest.  Most of us are raised to not trust anybody because apparently a lot of people out there will hurt us or only find utility in us.  But even those people, may them most of all, need someone to reach step 4 with. 

That should probably be the task of human beings.  That should be our measurement of progress.  How many of us are willing to bear ourselves all the way to the last step?   School shootings, murders, theft and suicide are very dependent on the fact that people who committed these crimes against others and themselves were at the last step all by themselves.  How many of the people in our lives, regardless of what they appear to be on the surface, would like someone to take the time to reach underneath and pay all attention to the man behind the mask.

Life is too personal.  We make it that way.   I make it that way.  It takes throwing away pride and becoming comfortable with my reality to make it more available to other people.  To let other people know the complete truth and to let them share their own life with mine.  That’s a very tough conclusion to come to.


Talkin’ Bout My Generation

December 17, 2007

Andrew: My God, are we gonna be like our parents?
Claire: Not me…ever.
Allison: It’s unavoidable, it just happens.
Claire: What happens?
Allison: When you grow up, your heart dies.  

This is dialogue from The Breakfast Club.  I used to like this movie because I thought it was fun and entertaining.  Not until recently did it actually mean something to me.  It summarized the themes of conversations around my university dinner table.  That’s right, the college kid is in town. 

I am in the 15-25 year range.  Our 3rd leading cause of death is suicide.  There is 1 suicide for every 100-200 attempts.  In 2005, 16.9% of high school students had considered suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey.  Our problem?   It hurts too much to go on.  The problems never seem to end and nobody seems to really listen or ask the right questions.  It’s less about dying and more about escape.

If we make it through: 79% of us (13-25) wants to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society.  More than ever, college graduates are taking a gap year to work for non-profit organizations.  Our motivation?  To not be what we watch, what we play and what we listen to.  And in the end, it’s about making sure that the problems we see are eliminated.  We are only as strong as our weakest member.

I used relish in the idea of being an adult.  I would have complete control of my life.  Then I realized that being young is the most freedom I will ever have… if I become the adult America wants me to be.  Allison (the “freak”) says that our hearts die when we become adults.  My generation does not want to be adults because we are afraid.  We do not want our hearts to die. We do not want our passion to diminish.  It seems a little ironic that we don’t want our hearts to die, yet so many of us attempt or at least think about suicide.  It happens because we are passionate and every detail in our lives is blown up.  Our hearts are very alive and we take everything magnifyed compared to adults.  So we escape through getaways and some can’t find one, so they decide to leave.  At the root of it all, the adventure in life that we seek is too appealing to let go for the tainted adulthood that awaits us.  Whoever said it gets better when you get older was lying.  It only gets better when you make it happen, at any age.  That’s the part left out of the education system.  As a young adult, though, sometimes we only have tunnel vision.  We know we’ll need to grow up, but the pressure can be too much.  It may be pressure different from past generations, but it is still very real.

For those of us who find the strength to make it through the misunderstanding and the pressure, we seek to change the world and make it easier for future generations.  The public activism of older generations has been transformed into personal activism within our specific lives.  Still, we are reluctant to enter the “real world.”  We were told immaturity, peer pressure and all the “teen” issues stopped at adulthood.  The truth is that they only become more passive aggressive and more institutionalized.  I’m sure any adult in the workplace can testify. 

Adulthood:   

  • Discovery of new things becomes limited
  • Freedom – only within the reigns of what is accepted by society; you make choice based on how you think you will be percieved
  • Honesty happens less – desparate housewives is based on a true story
  • It’s harder to apologize
  • You lose touch with your children’s generation 
  • The workplace is horrible (see “The Office” but in real life)
  • It’s harder to change (adults rarely evaluate their beliefs when questioned)
  • The illusion of being “too old” – you are never “too” old, why does this thought happen

The 15-25 Getaway:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse (more than just use) – instant relief from reality
  •  Music.  It expresses us.  It listened before we talked.
  •  Art.  It says without having to bother with words.  It is a translation.
  • Sex (abuse).  Somebody needs to love us, this is the easiest way to get it.
  • The internet.  What we write, what we read, it’s ours.  Nobody else has to interfere.
  • Video Games.  Fun.  Not schoolwork, news, parents, pressure. It stimulates.
  • Books and Magazines.  Something else.  Someone else.  Something more.  Something better.  

These getaways shouldn’t be necessary.  It’s not just our problem.  18-25 years and younger is not enough time to evaluate and then screw up.  The growing up process needs help from society.  It takes a village to raise a child.  The movies, games, music and television aren’t the only problems.  In the words of John Wooden, “Young people need models, not critics.”

The Point: 
This isn’t only for adults; this is a point for my peers too.  What you see on the surface of 18-25 yr olds is not what lies beneath.  The truth is never shown at first glance.  It is always put at a deeper position so that it can be earned.  If you’re a parent, stop talking, believe me, they know where you stand and they’ve taken from you what they think they need.  There’s so much you do not know despite how much they tell you.  If you’re a “child expert”, you don’t know the half of it.  If you’re just an adult, re-evaluate what you think.  If your one of us, screw it and just do what you need to do, this is your only chance to make sure that when you grow up, “you’re heart doesn’t die.”  The power to change the world is already in our hands.  We don’t have to do it like our parents; we can be the change, not protest for it.  Change what adulthood means.  Make it about discovery, learning, maturing and acceptance.  

Most importantly, never let your heart die. (too you adults, get it back and poppin’)

Stats and Facts (evaluate your views):

http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/suicide/
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-12-12-emerging-adults_N.htm?csp=34&POE=click-refer
http://www.marcandangel.com/2007/08/17/what-is-adulthood-20-defining-characteristics-of-a-true-adult/
Business Today Magazine. Fall 2007. Volume 44, Issue 2. – put out by Princeton (not my college. nope.)  It’s a good read for young aspiring adults and adults who want a refreshing perpective.


The Pursuit of Peace

December 14, 2007

Peace.  It is calm.  I think of it as my end.  My life is the means to peace.  Do the means justify the ends?  If the means make me question my end, then I haven’t reached my end.  So yes, the means justify the ends because peace needs a clear conscience without rationalization. 

I have achieved so much personally, but I cannot find peace.  I cannot find calm.  I know too much to be calm.  I am too afraid to find peace.  I cannot write the passionate music and be fueled by fire in my soul to effect to world if I am peace.  “The greatest weapon on Earth is the human soul on fire.”  A weapon against the flaws in my character.  My soul on fire is the only way to redeem myself against my past.  It is the way to pull myself up the gradient.  Everything in life is a means.  It’s a shame that we cannot know if there truly is an end we will get.

Peace is calm in the midst of work, argument, noise and painful silence.  Peace is the ability to remain together in the most broken moments.  Empathy needs the absence of peace.  I need empathy to live on the way to my end.

I am not ready for peace.  It is my end.  When I have reached it, I am confident that the God I know will tell me its time to go.  He knows that I can’t go until I reach peace.  If I have reached my end, then I haven’t done what I need to do.

I know a lot of people struggle with the idea that there is an end that we are working towards.  I think my end is peace, but that could change tomorrow.  What is your the end?  Is there an end?  Tell me the truth.  If there is an end, can we get it?  Or are humans jsut too flawed?  Are you capable?