Is power corrupting? This is the question I asked myself this week, following my past columns. What does this strange potentiality, that of being able to impose one’s will on others or on events, tell us about our humanity? And when I say “power” to you, I’m not talking about its brutal form of strong over weak. I am referring rather to this way of obliging by the fact that we have received, from a higher authority or from a ballot, a delegation of power which allows you to decide. Does this modern, democratic and assumed form of the exercise of power give wings or does it systematically rise to the head?
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If we only stick to the facts, it is clear that without the exercise of power, our collective achievements would be very poor. When we erect the Eiffel Tower, the Burj Khalifa, or a Martian rocket, when we dig a tunnel under the Channel, a whole series of decisions is implemented, delegating, in a hierarchical cascade, a will in multiple forms of power. In this sense, power is liberating, liberating from natural, physical and human constraints. When, conversely, it is the expression only of arbitrary choices, it is limiting, it locks up, it constrains, despite the general desire for freedom, which does not support this discretionary imposition of ambition. individual. And at this moment the question therefore arises as to whether power is corrupting, if it changes, transforms the one who exercises it into a tyrant with small feet.
We all know these individuals who, under the pretext that they hold an ounce of authority, use and abuse it without complex, often for their own benefit, or for the benefit of the group to which they belong. No part of society is spared, the company, the political world, associations, churches, all are concerned by the phenomenon, power rises to the head and whoever assumes it becomes a despot, without fear of hitting or hurting. And I’m not talking to you about national or international figures, about Stalin, Hitler, the Kim line in North Korea, and all those bloodthirsty tyrants who tear through the centuries. No, let’s stay modest, and look around us. Our department head, our elected representative, the president of our association, our priest or our pastor, who, under the pretext that they decide, impose an individual will in the denial of the common good or of consultation. They lose their footing, they slip away, striving to satisfy an ego that has become oversized to the detriment of the general interest. So they strut around, they listen to each other talk, they waddle around, generating mockery and jokes around them, but with little noises, the power they have over us inviting us to the greatest discretion.
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Our world shivers with detestable words: “abuse”, “harassment”, “psychosocial risks”, which are the tip of an iceberg whose immensity chills the spine. We must therefore collectively question this notion, we must question power when it is fatal, and establish limits that contain it within the fair and honest framework of the general interest. It is not only a wishful thinking, or an empty injunction, it is a project of society, of a democratic and adult society, where the real power remains with those who entrust it in a temporary and institutionalized way. . The law – labor law, Constitution, doctrines – is there to apply to all those who, in one way or another, go beyond this delegation to derive from the exercise of power a personal interest, even simply egotistical. So yes, power is corrupting, and as such it must be locked up in a web of rules that make it possible to control possible abuses.
It remains for everyone to wonder about their attitude towards power, because we are all affected by the phenomenon. In family, at work, in our social relations, we play, scene after scene, a comedy of power in which we are the actors concerned. Whether we are victims or despots – and we can be both successively -, we have to question ourselves on the best ways to use our power, power over others, power over events, to make it a means of us. grow and not debase ourselves in an abusive exercise of it. It is about our humanity, our being and our spiritual life.