by David Eide .

There is a condition where you get so attentive to "power" the real attributes are in danger of starving. This is true enough so we ask ourselves, "what were the essential reasons you got into that groove? That is, looking at power, staring into it as if it were a monster from the movies that keeps appearing in your dreams."

Certainly one of the reasons was the discrepancy I felt between my own desires, dreams, and ideas and the "posture" and "mannerism" and the "acts" of power, not simply in my own country but historical power as well. Can there be any more disillusioning experience, not simply in relation to personal aspiration but to human nature and its progress out of seeds of light?

And this disillusionment had a "route". It found its way through rationalization into all the processes of the man-made world; as much of it as I could comprehend at any rate. It was an uncanny route.

At the same time I saw that it is lethal not to understand, contemplate and make conscious decisions about Power. What one discovers are the responsibilities of a democratic citizen. He or she must (1) understand the organization of the authority over him, that he consents to give up a certain degree of freedom for the security that the authority provides. In other words, the democratic citizen cannot allow himself or herself to become fused with the claims of power and authority because it is an agreement, a contract. (2) Decide for himself the threshold point where that authority is no longer legitimate. When it has usurped and corrupted the intention for instance. There are so many questions involved with these principles.

First of all, there are hundreds if not thousands of sources of authority and power all with various strengths and weaknesses, all with their corruptions, their stresses, pressures and what not. There is the authority directly over the citizen in his work, the authority of laws, authority in all the complexities and contingencies of his personal life. Then there are the more abstract authorities that certainly do exist but have a tenuous hold on particular citizens (perhaps not that citizen or that one but this one, yes).

The citizens relation to the general power of the state and the specific power that exists over him as he makes his way in whatever endeavor, is determined by his self-interest; his own perception of what will further his own pursuit of happiness or well-being. What extends out beyond his personal interest, youthful idealism for instance, becomes more and more peripheral, more and more misty, his desires more and more determined by common opinion and prejudices.

It's important that the citizen develop his perceptions beyond his common interest and beyond his regional prejudice. Somewhere between old-time tribalism and abstract nationalism a good citizen locates him or herself. Not fused with nationalism but understanding the benefit of living in a society of tribes and interests that transcends the tribes and interests. One thing is for certain his relation to power will be determined by his loyalty to his tribe, interest, or national system of governance.

The key is finding some workable relation to power. Power that has a seeming life of its own and yet is known and accountable. Power that wends its way through the simple and complex affairs of the day and gives the impression that it is the "furthest development" of life and history. Power that obfuscates itself through ceremony and rhetoric but begins at a definitive point and ends at this, this, and that point. It is the great privilege and responsibility of the free citizen to try and understand these things in his or her career as a citizen.

Ideally the best qualities and attributes of the individual come into play and that at some time power is accountable to the truth. It can never be the other way around. The might of power get less and less as the citizens grow and develop.


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