"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 11, 2010

Power or Liberation (Part Two)

Part Two:

"Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side"

~ Richard Wright and Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), "Us and Them," Dark Side of the Moon

To take power, a person has to preserve it, hold on to it. Holding power does not follow from mere intent, from the desire. A man with power enforces it. He employs others as instruments, shaping their loyalties to his ends. Whether deft or clumsy, he uses their willingness to obey as an extension of his person. To the extent that some one or many obey him, his personhood increases. He inhabits their obedience, expanding the scope of his efficacy. They become extensions of his desire.

Perhaps, in the service of his ends, they fulfill some of their desires. Or come to identify with his as if their own. But they must yield some portion of themselves, and their labor, in order to increase his.

For one to rule, others must submit.

To wit: to preserve power, the holder of it must prevent the liberation of others. This specific relation of one to another obligates those who obey to defer the fullness of their desires, that those they serve may attempt a greater portion of living.

Liberated, they no longer serve.

Understanding this, perhaps we can see where the promise of deliverance, or liberation, fails to emerge from the grasping at authority over others.

To take power, others must obey. This obedience does not translate into liberation, except in the fiction of empty promises and faith betrayed.

Power does not abolish itself. To use it, a person must reinforce it, must assert its legitimacy.

A man employing others as his instruments must use some share of his authority (the obedience of others), some element of his time and persuasion, confirming his right to it.

He must deliver. To do so, though, requires him to further isolate those who obey from those who command. Rewarding followers, keeping the faith of his human instruments, he separates the labor of some, to the benefit of others.

To keep authority, a man must use it, he must reward service and obedience. The power must use a part of the wealth bound in the service of power, accumulated from the service of others, from the alienation of their labor from their desire, to preserve the hierarchy of obedience, by coercion or deception, by persuasion or confusion - by distributing rewards, securing loyalties, maintaining resources, providing support; by promoting the chief fictions of the right to compel and the necessity of obedience; by setting rivals against each other; by maintaining the myths and symbols of authority, the snares in the cultural inheritance, the outposts of ritual and belief, buried in memory and thought.

So that he who promises that the grasping of power shall lead to liberation, promises always a lie.

To maintain power, defer liberation. In fact, prevent it.

Holding power, a man conforms to the continuity of it. He must, or he has no power. Moreover, it seems in main case that in those social orders where staff remain in place, though office changes hands, extra-political centers of authority tend to influence the outlook, decisions and loyalties of those who hold office. The continuity of power lies not in the office holder, but in the staff who serve him, the chains of command which persist despite the vacancy of the office.

The officeholder does not hold enduring power, unless he seizes it beyond the confines of the office itself, unless he breaks the bonds of loyalty, using his human instruments to capture a greater share of wealth and obedience.

More often, though, the man subordinates himself to the office, slotting himself into preexisting conditions, so that people who gain control of an office of the state (or any organization) can come to resemble those they have replaced. Precisely because the officeholder provides the temporary part, the state depends so little upon him, he himself serving as a sign, a public fetish, a token of the “popular will.”

He becomes, in truth, an armed staffer himself, a lesser authority subject to the whims of his more enduring extra-political superiors – or one of a number of competing interests, forming blocs and factions, using the offices of the state (or, at this point, the corporation) against each other, vying for mastery over segments of the population, and their material inputs and interests.

Such persons, as might seem rather obvious, do not deliver liberation.

They can only promise it.

Holding power, competing for it, maintaining or increasing it, they must prevent liberation, or use a facsimile of it only as a reward for obedience, co-opting service by setting a new tier in the perpetuated hierarchy of command and submission – by making new masters, and therefore new subjects, in obedience.

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