What is The Difference Between Power, and Insanity?

In every culture throughout history people have always railed against oppression, and rallied for change. The humans who are most vulnerable to the whims of cruel dictators consistently look to the one who will be their savior, the one who will fight for them, and make their world a safer place. They put the entirety of their dreams and hopes into the valiant efforts of the revolutionary who steps up and promises them the lives they deserve.

The revolutionary, I'm certain, is full of noble intentions. The need for political and social metamorphosis is so dire that action comes swiftly, and with harsh judgment. Violence may erupt, but with the blessings of the people, as they are under the impression that their savior fights for them. Grand coups are met with thunderous cheers and mass approval, everyone ready for a glorious new country, and all the opportunities one can handle.

When the inauguration of the new leadership has ended, and all of the party goods swept away, and everyone goes back to life as usual, the true metamorphosis begins. It seems that throughout history whenever change has come swiftly, and even violently the new leadership eventually mirrors the old. History also tells us that some new leadership turned out to be much worse than what they had before. It calls into to question the motivation of leadership, and the transformative power of leadership.

Does power corrupt?

Some say absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is a certain aspect to gaining mass control over a situation, or imagine this, a country that I'm confident has the power to change a person's moral capabilities. The ethics once touted as the force to create change and a new world will slowly fade away with the conveniences of luxury and authority.

There is also, of course, paranoia. Paranoia of losing the command so forcefully taken. If a revolution can spark a coup, then the new leader will lose all that they fought so hard for. The precious nature of power and authority become overwhelmingly apparent to the once free, yet angrily passionate revolutionary.

One would think that this threat would encourage the new leader to do a very good job - so as to thwart the need for popular revolution. If the newly found president or king, or whathaveyou applied the policies as promised, and created sustainable wealth that brought everyone out of abject poverty, the people would rejoice, and worship him.

Is this worship healthy?

There is an aspect to leadership that brings to light the annoyingly persistent question. Which came first, the power or the megalomania? As it seems that throughout the majority of history those who seek power, absolute power - no matter how good the initial intentions - come to rule with a brutal iron fist.

Is there a connection between the type of personality that would seek out total power, rather than leadership, that allows for insanity to sink in once that power is attained? It isn't all life circumstances that dictate these behaviors. Undoubtedly, growing up in oppression would help fuel passion, anger, or even hatred. Growing up in unhealthy homes showered in hatred and baptized with abuse would create the psychological conditions so easily ripened into brutality. However, not all dictators were raised in these circumstances, so it can't be the whole of the answer. There is the possibility that the type of person who would fight to gain total control may already have the capacity for mental instability.

At which point, the attainment of power works the magic that is corruption. When you see the masses celebrate a new leader for his promises, his character, his relationship with the people and his rise to power, then watch them be crushed months, or sometimes years after the fact, it is astounding. It is also evident that a rise to power contains some sort of intoxication that eventually brings on their demise.

Is history consistently doomed to repeat itself? Is the problem at hand one that intimates that humans don't want change nearly as badly as they pretend to? Is it a deeper social psychological problem of desiring the father figure as leadership, no matter how abusive he was?

Are we so accustomed to abuse, oppression, and brutality that we crave it, subconsciously? Thus continuously supporting those who will only turn on us? Or do we, as humans really do desire change, and want it so badly we are willing to swallow whatever bittersweet pill we are given, only to be poisoned by it time and time again?

Perhaps there is a combination of all of these factors. That not withstanding I do believe firmly however, that both those who continuously seek ultimate power, and that power itself are a corrupting, psychological two punch combo that has wrought brutality on this world for centuries.

And yet we, the people, the world powers and so called righteous sit and do nothing to stop the brutal cycle.

Perhaps some day greed will be labeled as a psychological disorder, making all the world's leaders madmen in the end.


kdawg68 said...

I agree with you completely that power is a corroding and corrupting force.

That's why you never yield full power. You never put the government in charge of everything. At least that's my opinion.

Like a lot of our peculiarities, I think the drive to become a leader might be initially hard-wired into some of our brains.

Consider that as hunter-gatherers, we believe that groups were led by an alpha male and/or female (similar to what we see in ape societies). There's some fascinating conjecture that women (or at least certain women) may have been placed high socially for the fact that they represented prosperity and survival through the ability to conceive.

It's likely that these alpha types would have bred more predigiously than those around them. If that's the case then a large portion of the population might carry some of those inherent personality traits.

sonia said...

I agree with your post.

Is history consistently doomed to repeat itself?,

Not necessarily. The true radical changes are often accomplished through slow evolution. The slower the changes, the more irreversible they become. Russia, which tried to change too fast, is now right back in the "wild capitalism" era it used to be before the October Revolution. Vietnam, which tried to impose Communism violently by invading its southern neighbor, is now dominated by the same sweatshops that Saigon used to have 50 years ago.

Meanwhile, Spain, which gradually and very slowly eliminated Franco fascism, is now a model democracy ruled by anti-totalitarian socialists.

Chile followed Spain's example in slowly, very slowly eliminating Pinochet fascism, and is now the most prosperous country in Latin America, ruled by a socialist (and a woman!)...

Most of Eastern European countries also choose slow, gradual elimination of Communism, allowing former Communists to integrate the new capitalist class. Romania, the only East European country to remove Communism violently and too fast, is also the country with the most serious economic problems in the region.

In politics, patience is a virtue. Revolutionaries who call for rapid change, only spin their wheels and stay frozen in time....

an average patriot said...

Got tied up yesterday well not literally but I am checking things out. I just looked at your question does power corrupt and I saw the idiot waving with that stupid face of his on his way to Africa. Does Power Corrupt? That jerk! One look at the Bush mis-Administration puts that question to rest.

Dave Dubya said...

I think it's safe to say these thugs in the administration and congress were corrupt authoritarians before they went to DC. What else can you expect from corporatists and lawyers with inflated egos?

Power certainly exacerbates the destruction they inevitably bring, though.

I can't remember if it was John Dean or someone he was quoting, who said, "Power doesn't necessarily corrupt a person as much as it reveals who they really are".

Renegade Eye said...

After revolution it's natural to have to consolidate the gains. That is the period when there's the most danger.

Revolution in a country like US, that's technologically and economically rich, doesn't have conditions as Russia in 1920.

Stalinism was the consolidation of conservatism. All of the Stalinist opposed the Russian Revolution, contrary to their revisionism.

wozog said...

I heard you have cats? I am doing a cat tournament. You should join. I pay the winner 32 bucks. Check it out if your interested. www.wozog.com. All I need is a picture of your cat with your thumb showing in the picture (to make sure it is really your cat). Send it to admin@wozog.com. Tell me the name of your cat and he or she will be entered. It will be fun. The first tournament is going on right now.

Fran said...

In a sense I can;t help but think anyone who wants the job of president post bush2, has to have some touch of insanity. The mess he leaves behind, on just about every front is huge & the finances in ruins. Initially, I wondered if the repubs had put their worst foot forward- that is looser candidates to the dems can have this mess.... try to dig out of a 9 trillion dollar debt, and undo the wars in soverign nations we have no business being in. The candidate I thought to be most out of touch- McCain is the front runner...and he is now embracing torture-- after himself being a prisoner of war. Your madman theory is ringing true.

a very public sociologist said...

Power does corrupt, hence the reason why our movement has to champion democracy and accountability at every juncture. It won't guarantee a "revolutionary" elite will not emerge - that largely depends on contingency - but the more participation and expectation of accountability, the harder it will be for the revolutionary process to throw up a new class of bosses.

Anok said...

Thank you, everyone for the comments!

A lot of good comments here, there is a lot to be addressed with regards to power, insanity, corruption and the link between them.

I think that while some great points have been brought up, such as the natural order of leaders and followers, and the idea that abrupt changes in politics certainly help cause the circle of dictatorship, revolution, dictatorship, revolution....there is something more to it. All of my sensabilities scream that there i smore.

For example, while there is a natural order of leaders and followers, there is a difference between leadership and corruptible power or dictatorship. So, even though we may have people with the urge to hold a powerful position, that urge may not translate into wanting to dictate, control, or overpower.

So what happens, then? has the system become so status quo, that the corruption that once was thwarted is now running the show? That would certainly perpetuate the cycle, in my opinion. If you have corrupt people pulling to help other less than stable people to power, then the people who have the tendency to lead, but without corruption, have just been left out of the cycle entirely.

It's something to chew on anyway...

Naj said...


did you read 7 steps to revolution?