Friday, February 20, 2009
What Do These Things Have in Common?
1. The Taliban imposing strict Islamic law, then Taliban leaders privately indulging in many of the same activities Islamic law forbids and/or enjoying shockingly superior living conditions.
2. A U.S. legislator creating laws while taking bribes and misusing taxpayer dollars for personal gain.
3. A business owner asking employees to put the good of the company first, then surfing pornography for hours on the internet in violation of his own policy and internet controls.
4. A parent becoming increasingly annoyed by a child who doesn't turn out how the parent wished, then criticizing or withholding approval of the child.
Do you see a connection? Although widely differing in degree, there is a single human trait rearing its ugly head in these examples. A universal desire having roots in every one of us.
People love the power to control. And once they have it, they wield it to force the world around them to suit or benefit themselves.
And the more power of control a person has, the greater the danger he or she will use it to satisfy the person's every little whim.
How do we control others? We can do it with raw force--physical or mental intimidation. But raw force requires one-on-one contact, so it's not terribly efficient. Even if you're a dictator, your soldiers need to have face-to-face contact with the controlled population to be effective.
But raw force is easy to spot. I'm more concerned about the delicate tools of control. Control that is clothed in false morality. Cultural mores fit into this category. Whenever a culture imposes rules and expectations which limit one group's freedom, there will always be another side to the equation. There will always be those who benefit from someone else's loss.
Take, for example, cultures where women are treated as inferiors. What do men gain? Control over where women go or not go. Who they can interact with. How they can dress. The power is capped by taking away the means for women to break away. Forbid the ownership of property. Forbid education. The bottom line--men enjoy the knowledge that their whims will be satisfied without the limiting and frustrating work of respecting another's autonomy.
Organized religion can be another delicate tool of control. Even things that on their face look innocuous can have questionable motives, like dietary restrictions. Can't eat meat on Friday? Can't eat pork? Why? Perhaps one group is asserting influence over another group's most basic life functions. Even when you eat, you are reminded of the message and created influence of the clergy. If you step back and look objectively, can you find things taken with this power? In the history of the world, religions have demanded attention, time, labor, money, bloodshed, and special treatment for its clergy. How many times has one group destroyed another under the guise of religious righteousness?
Maybe on some level, humans as a species want to be controlled. It provides comfort. It provides order. But maybe there are better, more lofty goals than comfort and order. Don't be fooled into sacrificing yourself for another's gain. Look for control and those who attempt to wield it. Although it can be a tantalizing prospect, one person never has the right to thrive at the expense of another. Fight it when you see it. Stand up and say no!
Don't let yourself get hosed.