A long dead friend – clever, intelligent, sharp witted – once asked during a conversation about power and its dynamics, what I understood of absolute power.
Oh! come on! that’s obvious, isn’t it? I said naively!
The long dead friend, not the kind who let go easily, pressed on and challenged for my opinion, adding: prove you aren’t the fool I think you’re. Piqued, I waxed lyrical in response, regurgitating all kinds of things I was told, taught or simply read about absolute power. What all those various voices said it is and/or what they said it means and their own definitions of it.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realise I was regurgitating other people’s opinions on the subject, mistaking them, rather ignorantly, for my own opinion.
The long dead friend, listened but with an obvious look of amazement, not believing what I was saying while I went on about with all the nonsense I had absorbed from other people on the subject. Having had enough, the long dead friend cut me short, remarking: you’re really such a fool I think you are!
Surprised but certainly not insulted by that truth, I attempted to contest it by asking why?
The long dead friend, added: you aren’t creative either in your regurgitation of other people’s opinions. At least, be clever, learn to make them come across as your own opinions. Everyone does. That’s the nature of this world. When we express what we often think are our own opinions on many things, we are, albeit, unconsciously, expressing, regurgitating, recycling other people’s opinions, who also do precisely the same thing, hence why we tend to sound the same, have the same views on various issues despite our different social backgrounds.
The long dead friend, then said: absolute power is not marked by/with, and certainly does not lie in possession of all powerful weapons and armies. Absolute power is, lies and is expressed in ultimately having the final word, in having the power to make the final decision. If one has the final word, if one has the power to make and take the final decision, one has absolute power irrespective of the process before and leading up to the final word/decision.
Absolute power is the power to override all decisions, made and taken by others, with one’s own decision. Absolute power is the power to be the final arbiter of truth and falsehood. Absolute power is the power to decide what is right and what is wrong and have everyone accept that as the norm.
You can have all the powerful weapons, armies but without the ability to have the final word, make the final decision and be the arbiter of the final word and the final decision, you’re certainly powerful but without absolute power. You have limited power, limited power is borrowed power. You have, therefore, borrowed power from one with absolute power. You’re, needless to mention, beholden to the power source – one with absolute power.
Those who have the final word, who make and take the final decision, are the arbiters of truth and falsehood – they have absolute power. These are the people who define, shape and decide the narrative, who direct our communication, who decide on what is and isn’t news, what we consume as news and consequently define, shape and decide our thought process towards the world and form our worldview.
The long dead friend, concluded. There was a long moment of silence between us, of deep reflection before we both agreed it was time up; for each of us to run for our next trains back to our humble abodes. But one thing was clear, although we didn’t waste any of our time discussing it, no one of us had any power at [in] anything, let alone absolute power.
We realised, there and then, that we were at the mercy of those with power and their power sources – those with absolute power.