"Power is the primary carrier or vehicle of being: there is no being apart from power. " (Berndston, 1981; p 44) In our study of organizations - such as the human being and his psycho-socio-physical environs - we cannot help but grapple with power. Power is the stuff that binds and directs, that gives form to bodies, corporations and nation states. The channels in which it flows might be an organization chart or a molecular structure. It's inertia is control; its impetus is change. Power can be oppressive or revolutionary. It can be vast and primordial, like the universe itself; or it can be as miniscule as the quanta of an electron. It holds planets in thier orbits, and persons at their tasks. It can be brutal or benevolent. There is no being without power, but there are many different meanings to the term.
What we have in mind here is a particular power - power of human kind. Individually, this power is called "freedom" or "liberty." Collectively, it can appear in various forms from autocracy to anarchy, which can be generally termed "necessity" indicating the limits to individual freedom. The historical notions of free and unfree are positions on a spectrum; Ultimate freedom for an individual is not known to us. Ultimate freedom would be like primordial power - a universal being having no limiting edge to power or horizon to consciousness. All beings who stand in relation to this One would be strictly unfree, fatalistically determined; all activity, position and feeling would arise causally from this One. Casual observation, however, of the multitude of mistakes and mishaps that define the human experience will attest to some lattitude of freedom within the realm of necessity.
An "individual" as such is defined by its freedom. To the extent that they are simply the outcome of previous causes and conditions - like a bud to a limb, limb to a stem, stem to a seed, etc. - the concepts of individual and its freedom are highly abstract if not fictitious. Each of us owe his or her very existence to other causes. Gravity, solar radiation, water and climate come together within very narrow thresholds (e.g., + or - 100 degrees celcius) of life support. Our consciousness also depends upon objects and sensations. Our thoughts rest upon our culture and its language. Personality forms within a narrow mileiu of social norms and suggestions. As producers we are constrained by what others purchase. As consumers we are constrained by budgets and by what is available, and manipulated by marketing and fashion. Yet from a very early age, we are each of us cantakerous and rebellious. "No" will pop out of an infant's mouth soon after "mama." Even if we are not free, we certainly aspire to be. This rebelliousness must arise from somewhere internal to our psyche. No authority would knowingly have taught it.
Within certain discussions, the notion of "free will" is debated: are we to be punished for our own sin or for original sin; for "who is without sin?" Free will is not the same as freedom in a social or political framework. One may have remorse or regret for an action one must perform for fear of reprisal. Whether one performs the prescribed action and feels remorse, or doesn't and is punished, indicates a limit to individual freedom in a social setting. While at the same time, that very act of remorse validates freedom on another level. Conversely, where one's society allows freedom of thought or religion but one is seduced by sensationalism, there is political freedom, but psychological bondage. For freedom to truly manifest in a position of power - as in a creative or spontaneous act - there must be a congruance of outer and inner freedom.
Creativity is not only individual power - an expression of art, language, technology or design - it is the underlying impulse of the universe. Rampant creativity may give rise to hedonistic chaos; more likely it pressures the existing structures of collective power, e.g., chieftans, lords, kings, congress or corporations. Thus a counter-power is employed to suppress such individual expression using either violence or the threat of violence. To the extent that creativity is perceived to threaten social cohesion - which is necessary to humanity - it also elicits counter-forces irrespective of politics. Violence may arise for a lack of norms; or violence may become normative in itself. More subtle, although not necessarily less brutal, forms of social oppression are verbal, e.g., slander and sarcasm.
Or creativity can be controlled economically, where the "starving artist" goes commercial for example. Where creativity translates into economic use, it becomes technology enhancing the productivity of labor, capital or natural resources. Or it can be marketable in itself - usually by rote or mass production. Economic development relies strongly on this expression of individual innovation in the market place and it does best where societies and their governments allow more rather than less individual freedom. At the same time, however, this freedom is constrained within purely economic values. Whether innovation is rewarded or punished it is not entirely free. The plight of universities illustrates this clearly. Money flows into sports and business colleges, not into liberal studies or cultural arts. For universities to survive as such, noneconomic values must share part of the collective power structure.
Ideas - the content of mind - also arise and are shared socially. The individual may presume to shape his or her own ideas in the "privacy" of mind, representing a final sancturary of freedom. But we also know of synchronicity of ideas and archetypes arising in seemingly separate streams of thought. Our private feelings and emotions overlap and can be communicated and understood between us, with or without words. We can catch each other within our webs of fiction, giving rise to cults, social movements, political parties and nation-states. Our different sciences and schools of thought demand conformity to its own lineage of references, jargon, and an increasingly microscopic outlook on things. But more important is what we deem as particularly horrific to humankind: war, ethnic and sexual hatred and violence among children. These do not arise from nowhere. They arise from our own mind: shared mind - human consciousness.
The individual is affected by many forces. He or she is not a separate entity, but a set of relations within a greater set. Those relations internal to the individual may be chaotic or oppressed - psychotic or neurotic, respectively - or they can find a balance within an enlightened regime as in wisdom. Each of us has the capacity for hatred, for jealousy and pride. We also know compassion and grief. We can be lasivious or loving. For the individual and for humanity to find power, it must first look within itself. To the extent that it is subject to other forces which are obscure and untempered, it has no power at all. Without the legitimacy of individual power - the spontaneous expression of the human being - there is no legitamacy of collective power for humanity as well. Necessity without freedom is oppressive - power for the sake of power: a game of tokens.
Thus in our discussion which follows, we will take a path from the microcosm to the macrocosm, from personal to collective powers. It is hoped that at the end of this discussion, we will have an idea as to how to achieve harmony with a purpose, that is: to evolve personally and planetarily with a minimum of violence.
There are many different levels of power over our lives, from the grosser to the most subtle. I will take up - over some time - the following topics:
Rules for Gurps
Economics of Intimidation