Today I wanted to talk to you all about power. I have been watching House of Cards over the weekend, because I was deathly sick with something, and was bedridden pretty much the whole time. Anyways, if you have not seen it, House of Cards is a show about a politician named Frank Underwood, who uses his political prowess to rise to power, subverting the traditional means of democracy. He uses anything from intimidation to extortion to get what he wants. When people do not give him what he wants, he will not hesitate to take them out. That’s the basic idea of the show.
Now, these are all traits of a dictator, and they are pretty static concepts when said broadly (like I just did). Let’s take the famous Machiavellian quote “it is better to be feared than loved” and consider it for a moment. It’s certainly true, right? At least, for a leader. Beowulf is a famous example, who was loved by his countrymen but also, deep down, feared as well. Seriously, in the story of Beowulf, kingdoms much bigger than his refused to challenge his because he was so feared. There are many literary examples of this, but even historically it’s true as well. Stalin is perhaps the best example of fear. Stalin was an awful guy who ruled with an iron fist, but nobody questioned his title, even though it was undeserved. Those who did…well…added to the death count.
Of course, fear fails. Not immediately, but eventually. Nearly every revolution was born because someone stopped being afraid. Or rather, many someones. Eventually, someone slips through the cracks, and starts a movements that ends the regime. Whether another regime replaces that regime is a different story, but it can be said that the power of one individual runs out eventually, no matter how much they are feared.
Love, on the other hand, is ineffective for individual leaders. Certainly, it is good if a monarchy is loved, because there is less likelihood for the want of a revolution, but it is impossible for a monarch to please everyone. It’s part of why presidential approval ratings are typically not in the nineties. However, it is good for leaders to be loved in communal societies. When the focus is not on the one, but rather the collective, then the need for love increases. Typically, these societies do not have one individual “king,” and if they do have some sort of leader, that leader is not considered superior to their group. Rather, these groups need love because they need to be able to work together and discuss, constructively, the different avenues to success. Without discussion, no progress would be made.
I bring this up because we live in extremely divisive times. It seems that nobody wants to sit down and talk to each other, rather they rally behind their leader of choice, and hope to dominate the opposition. Which is unfortunate, because I think what made America great is the community. The idea that we can be individuals, but united by a single goal. Not a person, but a goal: each other. That’s something I think we need to get back to.
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