This is an elaboration on a “debate” that happened in the comment section of my submission to this week’s Speakeasy (165). SilverLeaf, a rather notorious blogger of this corner of the internet, took some of her precious time to share some insights with me on world politics, and abstract concepts like power, conflict, and cycles of chaos.
This is most likely going to be a ramble dealing with those issues, as well as a response to SilverLeaf’s most recent comment.
First, on the topic of Power, and its ability to corrupt the good will of men. My stereotypical teenager idealism and optimism refuses to admit that principle. I think power is only a source of corruption if one actively strives for it, as that power will take priority over introspection and morality, amongst other “good” traits of character. It can also become damaging if one grows too dependent of that power, or any privileges that come with an advantageous position, whether social, professional or political. However, if one can be in a position of power without becoming too reliant of the privileges that come with such a status, one can hold power without the conservation of said power becoming a priority that overtakes morality or ethical decision making. In a time of worldwide economic turmoil however, vulnerability to poverty or economic hardship makes conservation of acquired goods and privileges a bigger concern to all people (and groups/associations of people, as political parties, nations, religious groups and most institutions involving multiple people are concerned (Not to mention companies)). This economic turmoil also brings incentive for people to look for scapegoats on whom to collectively blame their problems (Has mob mentality EVER accomplished something good?), as if to persuade themselves that they have no part in the problems that plague nations and economies worldwide, as if it wasn’t their fault (and sometimes it’s not. That doesn’t justify the finger pointing though).
That brings me to my next topic of ramble: Politics and extremism. Take the situation I just described and add a new factor to the equation: A political party that likes to flatter your patriotism and national pride, and that blames the daily problems of the people on a part of society that is fundamentally “different” (Not a huge fan of the word), whether in skin colour, religion, nationality, social class etc…. Now take that entity, and make it promise to the people that they will maintain their resources and privileges if those scapegoats are removed from the equation, or, at least, prevented from taking a bigger part in it. Here in France, that phenomenon is very present. The extreme right National Front claims that foreigners from Africa and Eastern Europe are taking “French” jobs, that the Euro and the E.U. are killing the French economy, that the governing socialists are incapable of running the country (which, to their credit, is a widely spread opinion that I can, to an extent, understand). Then again, this rise of extremism cannot only be the cause of this power conservation mechanism, at least not directly. It is also caused by the mass distrust in classical parties, mostly due to their inability to deal with the consequences of 2008’s financial fallout. However that inability to solve the many problems that befell on national economies may also be tied to the power mechanism we were talking about earlier. Indeed, the crisis may have had the same effect on politicians and people of influence as it is having today on the electors/voters. They were faced with a failure on the global level. They had been elected, and now the people of their nation were faced with inflation, rising prices, and, in some cases, unemployment or homelessness. Maybe this caused them to grasp on to the power they were given access to, for fear of losing it despite their efforts. Maybe they lost focus of the problem. Maybe they lost focus of the voters who put them in that seat. That would be understandable when political rivals that were insignificant before now could claim that they had failed to protect the nation from economic hardship (an impossible task in this globalized world, by the way). So it all links back to power in a vicious circle of chaos: Rise; Corruption; Trauma; Rise.
Except that’s not quite true. Compare this situation to the last time extreme right, fascist parties were on the rise: in the 1930s and before, racism and xenophobia were widespread and part of mainstream society. Hatred was omnipresent after WW1’s “dictat”. In the meantime, we avoided an open conflict between the United States and the Soviets (which, because of the spread of nuclear weaponry, could have devastated life on Earth). This goes to show that, despite it being slow and gradual, progress is being made, and that might be best.
If we were to flip the table over and radically change society in a short period of time, then true chaos would ensue (Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution, anyone?). We will gradually improve our ability to resist corruption and hatred, learn to wield power with reason, learn to understand one another and bypass differences. Human society is like a rocket, fighting to escape Earth’s gravity: It consumes a ridiculous amount of energy, but it has the ability to elevate us above and beyond the flaws of human nature.
So, SilverLeaf, to answer your comment, no I don’t think that power is fundamentally bad, even if, in modern socio-political terms, it tends to be. As for global peace, I think and hope that we’re on the right track.