Friday, December 4, 2015

No power is absolute

Friday, December 04, 2015

A stark blue sky highlights everything in this city today.
This is a classic fall day, easing in on winter, when everything becomes vivid and unmistakable.
I ache for days like this because it is testimony to what life is supposed to be about, free of clouds or doubt, free of the haze behind which people hide their intentions.
Clouds hide things, often things that people do not want us to see, or of which they are ashamed, or feel guilt about.
But we also live in a world where knowledge is power, where people horde truth in order to dish it out in small slices the way drug dealers might, keeping people in line because they cannot get information from anybody else.
This is the nature of politics, whether this is with a big “P” as in a presidential or other world, on the more mundane “p” of an ordinary job.
There is always someone trying get inside, to become the conduit to power everybody must go through in order to get access.
Over the years, I’ve been through enough business takeovers to see the rise and fall of this middle people, who spent years grooving up to a boss only to lose power when a new boss comes.
But sometimes, the most powerful person in a room isn’t the one you think, but merely a figurehead, someone that allows the real power brokers to operate without being held accountable.
This is largely what happened with New York Mayor Laguardia, who basically did all the public functions while Robert Moses manipulated the levers of government.
Recognizing who is really in charge is a huge challenge for those who want to keep government accountable, for people to live under a blue sky rather than a hazy one.
But as better minds than mine have pointed out, everything has a season, and few people retain power for long.
Part of this has to do with the nature of power, and the concepts laid out in “The Prince.”
All power is built on the backs of other people, a shaky pyramid of potential contenders, each of whom is waiting for his or her chance to be the one on top.  This is one reason why the truly powerful have only a handful of people they trust – most often family members or people they have known since childhood, people who have already been vetted and clearly have learned their role in the power pyramid.
But hunger for power is the most addictive hunger of all. It can change your closest friends into your worst enemy, waiting only for the right moment to emerge.
Most power tends to weaken over time, a few years, maybe as long as a decade before it begins to erode.  This is true of personal power or powerful institutions – the Greek or Roman empires, the Catholic church, the Spanish Inquisition, the British Empire, or the sway of political parties in the United States.

Power never lingers in one place forever. And all you need to do is to wait for it to crumble under its own weight. It always does.

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