When discussing the absolutistic, arbitrary, autocratic, capricious, despotic, dictatorial, ego-maniacal, fascist, totalitarian, tyrannical behavior of appointed or elected government officials, agencies, boards or individuals in real or assumed managerial positions, one of my friends always quips, “Power corrupts.”
Her quip annoys me. It’s not that I don’t believe that power given to certain individuals or groups can corrupt them, but I also believe that certain individuals are already corrupted by a need for power and are just waiting for an opportunity to exert it.
Sadly, history shows that humans find ways to exert power in any and every arena based on age, color, race, religion or the lack thereof, sexual preference, mentality, eye color, hair texture, length, or color, lip size, nose size or shape, body build, language, speech patterns, education, income, clothes, housing, continent, country or region of birth or residency, neighborhood, friends (to list a few).
I recently read that several tourists of color were attacked in Greece because some Greeks thought the tourists were immigrants taking Greek jobs. Surprise attacks. Such power. Certainly, the tourists did not expect to be attacked in Greece because of their complexions.
And look at what is happening in Egypt. The new president of Egypt, President Morsi, after being put in office by citizen demonstrations and uprisings that forced the resignation of former President Mubarak, now wants to give himself sweeping new powers that essentially would remove most checks on his power.
We Americans do not have to cross the ocean to witness the ramifications and abuse of power. The power of lies in the presidential campaign (and beyond) and the power of states to thwart voters’ rights by imposing new regulations should alarm all of us.
But let us take a moment to ponder the power of City of Evanston staff and elected officials. The Nov. 21 edition of the RoundTable reported that an alderperson told citizens who sent emails and spoke before the City Council in opposition to an agenda item that was subsequently approved by the Council that the Council has to make decisions in the best interest of the entire City and not just individual communities (taken from article). Interesting. Was it not the individual communities that put alderpersons in office? Is it not the individual communities that pay taxes so that alderpersons are remunerated?
The question remains: Does power corrupt, or do people driven by a need for power seek opportunities for power?