“Power appeared to be something that a ruler had, the she held, that she had taken from the people. The appearance was false. Power was something people gave, gave willingly, even if they didn’t know it, even if they resented it.”
– from The Last Mortal Bond, by Brian Staveley
It seemed fitting to talk about this observation, made by a young empress, the day after my nation’s Independence Day. That’s the day we celebrate how a revolutionary idea became a revolution. That idea was that the people who ruled only did so by the consent of the people they ruled. It wasn’t divine right, or right of birth, or any such thing. Meaning, those at the top were not actually “above” the people at the bottom at all.
Everyone was created equal, and entitled to the same rights, which, it was a ruler’s role to secure those rights, just as it was a soldier’s role to fight, a merchant’s role to trade, a teacher’s role to disperse knowledge, a farmer’s role to reap and sow, and a blacksmith’s role to create the tools of civilization. It was a job that needed doing. That was why people gave the ruler their consent to rule them in the first place. It didn’t just happen, it was, on some level, a choice. A contract, even.
And if a ruler, or a government, or a system of governance failed to do it’s job, especially if it turned around and became the oppressor, instead of the protector of its people’s rights, then the people were fully justified – nay, obligated – to turn on the traitorous government, cut ties, even rip it down if necessary, and put in a new government as a new mechanism for securing their rights.
Just like anyone would be within their right to fire an employee who does not do their job, and hire someone else who actually will. Just like anyone would be within their right to leave an abusive job that does not meet their needs, or the terms of any contract, and find a new place to work. Just like anyone would be within their right to end an abusive relationship, or report a violent abuser to the police. These are all contracts, and when one side fails to honor the agreement, the wronged party is fully within their right, and their power, to dissolve the contract and seek something more beneficial.
The key is to remember who really has the power, here.
For some time, I must admit to feeling all but powerless within my country. I see the people in power playing their self-serving games, glutting themselves on the blood and sacrifice of us normal folk. I see masses riled up in anger and ignorance, carrying forward an agenda of destruction. I see corporate interests, talking heads in the media, experts on every subject bought and paid for, and the normalizing of destructive, abusive behaviors in the stories we tell, while everything good and honorable is degraded, derided, and left in the dirt. I see the puppet strings of foreign, unfriendly powers bent on the destruction of our entire way of life.
There is so much wrong, so much bad, so much evil at work, on every side, it feels overwhelming.
But all of those people in power? They don’t really have it. They don’t own it. It’s not theirs. It’s ours. It’s mine. That is my power they’re using, and I don’t like how they’re using it, and I know I’m not the only one.
The people who have power have only our power, the power we let them have, and they know it. That’s why every tyrant is terrified of dissent, because it’s a threat to their grip on our power.
So, the only question is… what will we do with our power?
Food for thought!
And Happy Independence Day, America!