‘’With great power comes great responsibility’’– we mostly associate this quote with a character Ben Parker and are quoted in the Spiderman movies, but the first person to actually mention it was the 18th-century French enlightenment writer named Voltaire. While what he quotes can be suitable for a morally upright person who has been in power, it does not explicitly apply to every powerful person in this world. Power is a term with many different interpretations, but the most suitable meaning of the word remains the same – to influence any decision and action.
Power channelizes its influence in two ways - respect and fear. Physical power is when a person has bodily strength, which means having greater stamina and endurance, which will give any person the ability to achieve greater things than an average human being. The normal way of channeling influence through physical power is fear and intimidation. We have domesticated small cats but not big cats like tigers or lions because smaller cats are physically weaker than us, while tigers are physically stronger than us.
The power which is able to counter physical power is mental power, as the human brain is the most advanced brain that is known on this planet so far. Though Humans are the most intelligent species, at the same time, we are also physically weak compared to a species like an elephant, thus we invented many things to protect ourselves. A competent person is someone who has knowledge. Hence, the importance of education and awareness should be instilled in an individual from a young age so as to inculcate in children how to use wisely the power entrusted to them.
While mind power can put a person in a position of power, it is the manner they use the power that will put them in a much more advantageous position. A good grasp of linguistic skills and oration attracts people as it is able to stir emotions in public. We have seen the greatest leaders have been prolific orators who were able to tap into public sentiment and harness it to influence their decisions. Combined with exceptional wisdom and experience, the power of expression in an ethical manner has emerged as a deciding factor for leaders to be chosen.
Our constitution says we, the people of India, have given unto ourselves a constitution. A constitution is basically a general rule book consisting of rules and regulations that govern a country through which the public derives the power to keep the government accountable. But such legal powers are an artificial power created and compiled by humans, hence needs human intervention to be enforced upon the government. The government that derives power through the constitution and laws made under it can command both respect and fear amongst the citizens.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power has the tendency to corrupt; hence, great power can lead to absolute corruption. For those in power, it’s very simple to give in to the temptations the power offers to use it wisely. Thus, it is possible that a man in power is bound to become an autocrat. ‘All power corrupts, but some must govern.’ Thus, we must take conscious efforts to keep in check ourselves and not fall prey to the temptations of power.
The objective of power is to influence, hence once met, it compels people to skip morality and infringes others’ rights. The biggest examples of this are the dictatorial and autocratic states. We have seen in the past one of the most brilliant of persons who, after acquiring a position of power, blatantly gave up on their morality and performed unethical acts. The Jewish holocaust is such a brutal event of the past that brings Adolf Hitler amongst the list of most infamous characters in history although he was a brilliant strategist and an exceptional orator, Hitler abused his power and led to the massacre of so many. He used his powers irresponsibly and in an inhuman manner which ultimately caused his downfall.
We have seen various dictators who gave in to the enticement of power, like General Yahya Khan (Pakistan), who is one of the best examples of the irresponsible use of power in recent times. He was a dictator of West Pakistan and East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) when Bengalis fought back with external support and became successful in achieving freedom for themselves. He was a leader who has entrusted with the responsibility of working for the welfare of their people, but over the course, the effects of power led to tyrannical and autocratic rule. But when people joined hands to fight against such injustice, he could not withstand their strength. Hence, power without a responsible attitude brings destruction to the powerful personality and over his sphere of influence. Under the intoxication of power, if a person refuses to recognize the responsibilities they have for society, he becomes unaccountable and loses the trust of society and his credibility in the eyes of the public.
There are multiple ideal personalities who have properly utilized power to live up to their responsibilities. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been immortalized as the Mahatma for the morality he continued to preach throughout his life. The people had faith in his righteousness and his ability to lead them in their fight for independence to attain freedom. A man's primary duty in power is the welfare of the people over whom he commands power, which can only be achieved if the man is moral and virtuous and understands the value of empathy. Another notable personality is Nelson Mandela, who fought against the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa and making it a free nation.
Power and Responsibility are based on the principle of proportionality. All power, whether great or small, comes with equally sizable responsibility. Thus, power and responsibility are complementary in nature, without which good governance cannot be ensured for the people. From time immemorial, we have seen both sides of the coin of power and responsibility. On one side, when power is exercised responsibly, the people in power were able to keep the public interest above their self-interest and work selflessly for the betterment of the world. Those leaders who empower society while being in power themselves are the ones who are desired the most by the public. On the other side of the coin, there are those who believe in the autocratic way and use their power irresponsibly, focusing more on their parochial personal interests than the society’s well-being. This has brought infamy and notoriety to their names and has always ended in their downfall throughout the timeline of humanity.
It is important to possess moral and ethical values to be able to be in power and understand the responsibilities that come with it. Only such ethical values of the leaders protect from succumbing to the lust of power. Hence, we should understand our responsibility as the citizens of this country we are privileged to have powers and hence should be responsible while utilizing them responsibly so as to move towards a brighter future.