The story goes that, for decades, lots of celebrities and friends of Harvey Weinstein had direct knowledge of his reputation for sexually harassing women and berating both women and men on his payroll. Disgusting as the stories are from women and employees, it’s no big surprise, and I don’t mean just to those who already knew. Now even more big-name predators have been outed at the time of this writing.
Two thousand years ago the phrase libido dominante, the lust for power, was coined referring to the first Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar (63BC-14AD). Not just old news, but ancient news, the insatiable hunger for power historically unleashed the worst of human nature and left death, pain and suffering in its wake. Think: Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Queen Mary, Amivi Gama, Chairman Mao, Idi Amin, Vladmir Lenin, Pol Pot, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco and Adolph Hitler to name but a few notables. There are more, virtually everywhere, just not quite as extreme.
I believe humans come hard-wired with foibles included, and that the lust for power is one of them, an innate human behavior regardless of age, status, race, creed or level of intelligence. A mechanism of survival in the animal kingdom, it pervades every level of human society, as well. From the domestic abuser, corporate CEO, politician, military personnel and Hollywood luminary to the leader of a country or religious organization, the power-obsessed believe they deserve to be ‘on top,’ having earned the right to pass on the same my-way-or-the-highway behavior they endured to get there.
Is there any human who can honestly say they have never behaved in a way to gain power over another or others? I sincerely doubt it.
Power over others can be subtle or overt, but similarly, those who subscribe to it typically believes in their superiority, a blind spot leading them to become easily addicted to fawning attention, near-dictatorial authority and an inability to handle constructive criticism.
Many will defend such domination in the name of establishing and maintaining order. Also, those who dominate and control are not necessarily bad people; after all, they have been authorized to be that way by the complicity of a wife, husband, parent, child, employee, congregation, or country given such behavior is seen pretty much as ‘normal.’ Like not being able to see the forest for the trees, it’s difficult to get to the bottom of a widely accepted cultural norm and its ubiquitous impact.
The really crazy part is that these individuals, in one arena or another, are often recognized as the most successful in life; e.g. President Woodrow Wilson had the utmost respect for Mussolini at one point. When domination is the pretext for success, we are blinded to the reality of self-deluded people and how others suffer at their hand. Harvey Weinstein is the perfect example. Before his fall, everyone and his brother in Hollywood at the Oscars lavishly thanked him for their claim to fame.
At the personal level, while someone might say they are against domestic abuse, behind closed doors it continues emotionally and physically among even the most ‘respectable.’ At the macro level, we find central banking as what dominates and controls world economies and governments via a system benefiting the owners and cronies while everyone else is required to go along to get along.
I believe that until the lust for power is recognized for what it is, a purely innate human condition prior to business, political or religious affiliation, we will continue to be blindsided by its negative effects in our lives. Individually we neglect to look in the mirror, admit our own culpability and commit to making changes in the only way possible – with ourselves. Legislation may provide an external fix but never a real solution. Whenever anyone seeks power over another or others to gain advantage, they perpetuate the worst of personal and societal dysfunction.