Power. It is a potent cocktail and can easily go to a person’s head. Love of power makes a person exhibit cruelty, greed and many similar moral weaknesses. Only a truly great person can willingly hand over power and gracefully accept that he has bowed to a greater purpose. Only a moral giant can see that their ego is less important than the greater good and prioritizes the needs of powerless individuals.
When I was a young law student, I struggled to grasp legal concepts. There were so many principles that were hard to work out or internalize. The study of Law, to me, was the polar opposite of solving math problems or proving scientific theories, through lab work. There was an abstract flavor to the discipline. Nevertheless, in my final year of law school I was drawn to the study of Jurisprudence. At its simplest, Jurisprudence is the philosophy or theoretical study of Law. My law professor spent many a lecture staring at the ceiling spouting jurisprudential wisdoms and concepts. I imagined these concepts as spiraling upwards to the top of the lecture theatre like invisible puffing clouds. It was after I completed this subject that I had a firmer grasp of law and a better understanding of legal/government systems.
I was able to concretize the concepts of the Rule of Law, Democracy and the Separation of Powers. There was a moral face to all of this. It was then I could appreciate that these principles should never be embodied in just one person. The reality was that it was the combined machinery of many institutions run by varieties of people (the “System”) that ensured that everyone would be represented and also, protected.
In a sense, people in power are custodians of the people. They hold a near-sacred duty to manifest the aspirations and needs of the many, while protecting the least. Would this task be difficult and a messy process for these custodians? Indeed, it would be.
But my belief is that humility is the key characteristic necessary for these custodians, these very people capable of holding power on behalf of the people. I addressed humility in another post.(See https://sueslife.com/2020/08/25/humility/). At no point must power be handed over to bullies because bullies use force and oppression to take power away from people. A person in power must have a healthy tolerance and respect for those who rely on the System.
It is also my belief that the holders of power must respect human dignity. Allowing and respecting another person’s dignity, no matter how different they are in appearance, beliefs, practices, life circumstance and personality, is the hallmark of a good leader and a holder of power.
We need to realize that everyone is different. At a molecular level, no two people are alike. We may not empathize with someone who is different from us. But we must tolerate and respect their humanity. To me, personally, these acts are manifestations of love for our fellow human being.
Power in the wrong hands can render many miserable. However, in the right hands of the humble, dignity-respecting caretaker, it can render life hopeful and peaceful. This is how the System works for the people.