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.