A Ramble on Power
of the meaning of the word power. In physics, power is related to force
or the ability to do work. It’s correlated with difference of
potential. In electricity that is translated into a difference in
potential measured in volts. Increased difference of potential means
higher volts and more power to do work.
I don’t know if human beings had much difference of potential in their
societies until the began to create hierarchies. But using power over
others is based on that societal structure, hierarchies. That’s how it
appears to me anyway.
Magnetism and attraction are also involved in difference of potential
and power. If we are attracted to someone there’s a power relationship
involved because there is the difference that human desire itself makes
in the relationship.
Power itself is meaningless without a relationship between at least two
points that create a difference of potential. The structure of modern
day complex societies offer many opportunities for power to emerge in
Lots of games have arisen out of differences of potential.
I haven’t made much of a study of religion and sacred texts in the way some have.
But I have studied the structure of myth in societies and the importance of
having stories that help each person to develop their own narrative
that coincides in enough ways with others in a society that they can
share something we call culture, which in some way becomes involved
with survival. Out of that we get the ingredients for making a meaning
of our lives, if we wish.
Some people have the power of creating narratives that others can find
appealing and helpful. I think they can take advantage of that ability
and by using their difference of potential for telling a good story,
get people to be willing to listen, and then possibly become dependent
on that story telling. That might be how gurus work their magic. I
I don’t have any mass solutions, only local ones with my
My feeling is that as the global system itself runs out of its primary
cheap energy that is so conveniently able to be centralized and thus
can feed these vast interlinked global systems, the solution will be
found as the larger systems break down into smaller parts.
But I don’t really know. I just know that’s what’s happened most of the
times, best anyone can tell, when complex societies collapsed in the
past. What collapsed was a kind of idea that was allowed to exist
through certain kinds of medium, transferal mediums like the military
for the Romans, for instance. We have many more mediums with modern day
technology now. But the US still uses its military. It’s costing us
I’ve read people talking lately about America getting out of the
Empire business. That’s in a sense what it’s about, collapsing the
larger network. Few collapses have happened by design. Given the human
ability to create ideas and believe in those ideas, that’s made past
societies prone to ignoring the signs. Few of those societies were
democratic. Democratic societies do have the potential for alternative
voices to come in and warn of the danger of collapse.
What I have been studying of our own society indicates to me that we
are following the pressure to become more rigidly hierarchical so that
the messiness of the democratic intrusions for change can be better
managed. Those changes may be our only salvation from inevitable
collapse. But the visionaries, especially the dark cloaked priests on
the alter of economics, who have gained ascendancy for the past several
decades are cleverly doing their best to manage away the possibilities
for change. Elites of the hierarchical order have a long record of
I spent a good bit of time looking at the intricate legalities of the
Unitary Executive Theory, and it goes hand in hand with the neoliberal
spread of economic interlaced systems in order to lessen the
complications of managing a huge national bureaucracy like the one that
has evolved here in the US. The result of that is what Wolin has
identified in his recent book, Democracy Inc., as a managed democracy. How much of that is real and
how much an odd ball abstraction from an 86 year old visionary mind who’s worked on the subject all his life is hard to say,
but his abstractions do tend to coincide with mine in a lot
of ways. And that’s the power of narrative.
Palin, I must say, scares me with her potential to draw certain people.
She does have difference of potential all right. As does Obama. Obama
has the power of narrative. I don’t know if that’s true of Palin. If it
is, it’s not a narrative I’m familiar with, and I’m about as populist
as it gets. It’s just I’m not evangelical populist. I’ve never had that