The Fantasy Of The Power Trip
We think we want the power, but nobody wants the responsibility that comes with power.
I can vaguely recall seeing a commercial for hairstyling gel for women. I can recall how the woman in the commercial found relief by gaining control over her hair. I can recall the expression on her face, of serenity. I didn’t know that kind of control was so important to women then. But as a happily married man for 12 years, I have gotten to know that desire for power.
That commercial was a fantasy. Just like the Marvel and DC comics movies that we’ve been treated to for more than a decade or two now. Every action movie is a fantasy of control. Dramas are a fantasy of control, too. We watch a sitcom and still, there is this fantasy of control. We win an election, and again, we’re in the fantasy of control.
I’m a gadget guy. I’ll admit it. I have a cell phone, I have Google Home speakers and hubs. I have smart TVs and smart switches, plugs, and lights. I have written routines to automate those things. I put a Chromecast on the TV in my mancave because Samsung doesn’t play nice with Google. I will admit to wanting control and maybe even a little power over things.
But I really don’t want control over other people. I do want a basic minimum of respect from others, which I earn by respecting others. But beyond that, I don’t want power over other people. I don’t like to tell other people what to do. I don’t want control over their lives. I don’t want that much responsibility. I really don’t.
I make a point of not telling other people what to do in my life. I don’t tell my wife what to do. I just trust that she will do what is right for us. I don’t tell my kids what to do. I just give them options. When I want them to go upstairs from the basement, I don’t tell them to go upstairs. I say, “Be upstairs before me” and they will race upstairs. I want my kids and my wife to think for themselves.
I do coordinate with my wife in all of our affairs. I don’t question what she buys. I don’t worry about her spending too much money. I know she will buy what is needed for the girls when it comes to clothing and toys. I trust that she will do the right thing. Then I just focus on my time with the girls and my wife while we’re all still here.
But I look around at our politics and I see that’s all just a power trip. We are a nation of warring and disagreeable factions fighting each other for control. We are a nation divided. We have been led to believe that the natural order of things is for some people to have power over others.
For every action, there is a reaction. When my wife attempts to assert control over the kids in any situation, I see that the kids don’t like being told what to do. I see her treating the kids in a way that she would not like to be treated. I am fairly confident that if I treated her the way she treats the kids, she would protest. So I avoid treating the kids in a way that I don’t want to be treated. I’m mindful of the possibility that they will return the favor when I’m an old man with much less power and authority than I have right now. My wife hasn’t figured that part out yet.
I don't want power over the people around me because I don’t want to take that much responsibility for them. With every assertion of power over others, comes responsibility for others. And for anyone who knows what codependency feels like, every assertion of power over another person is a grant of power to the other person. They only need to disobey you to show their power over you, which you granted to them.
And this is where we are today. We are a nation of people who have power and we assert it, without acknowledging the responsibilities that come with that power.
We have the greatest military force in the world right here in America. Well, it’s spread out all over the world, but we have it under our control. Do we have peace at home, right now? No, we don’t. How many of us can sleep well at night knowing what is going on in the world? Not very many of us can. We have the power but we do not take responsibility for that power. And that military force could not protect us from a virus.
I see that the great captains of industry, with all their power, as they choose not to be responsible for the millions of people now unemployed. With every layoff, comes an admission that those who run the business world wanted the power without the responsibility. They want the money, not the people. They care more about money than people.
Still, there are many businesses that are doing what they can to hang onto their employees. They are keeping everyone on their payroll to the best of their abilities. Those employers accept the responsibility that comes with great power.
But to me, the greatest irony in America is the religious right. So filled with fantasies of persecution, power, and control. So determined to tell everyone else what to do and how to live. So determined to tell people who identify as gay, that they can’t get married. So determined to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. So willing to prosecute a war for religious freedom. So unwilling to accept responsibility for those other people when their public policy agenda fails.
This is why I don’t want power over other people. In my life, in my family, I just give them the space to be. I let the kids generally roam on their own. I let them direct themselves but I’m mindful of their safety. If I don’t want them to have access to something that is dangerous, fragile, or important, I keep it out of reach. I don’t slap their hand for touching it. I move it. If I want them to do something, I model the behavior or the task that I want them to do.
I have noticed that Jesus said, “follow me”. He did not say, “accumulate great wealth and loan it to other people at interest.” He did not say, “take up positions of great power in government and compel other people to follow me”. He must have been an anarchist because did not want power over other people. He did not take responsibility for other people. He just said to follow him. He also understood that people, especially children, are the greatest imitators in the world. And he had peace because he modeled peace.
I value peace more than power over other people. I value life without friction more than power over other people. I don’t worry about what other people think. I’m only concerned with how they treat me. I will walk away before I will ask someone else to change. I will change my behavior first before asking someone else to change theirs. I do all that because that is how I want to be treated.
There seems to be an inverse correlation between power and peace. The more power we have, the less peace we have in our lives. We might find then, that if we let go of any fantasy we might have about power in any realm, we will find greater peace. I have tried this and it works for me. By eschewing power over others, I have found a life of relative peace. Imagine what life would be like if we multiplied this attitude by about 330 million.