There is a correlation between fear and the amount of power people seek.
America’s police departments are increasing in size and becoming militarized, which is ironic because crime has been on a 20 year decline.
America’s police are also becoming more aggressive and bully-like.
This is a symptom of a greater problem. My concern is with those who aspire to jobs with built-in power and prestige.
The more power an office holds, the more ruthless – that is lacking in empathy – are the people who are attracted to it.
I’m only referring to government jobs and political offices because those positions hold a monopoly on legal force.
I am concerned about what may be the motivation behind the desire to hold these jobs.
There are thousands of motivations that tempt us daily: love, hunger, sex, comfort, health, status, and so on.
However, the top motivator is fear.
It is such a strong driver of our behaviour that it may also form the basis for every other motivator in our lives.
Fear is a prime motivator because it is rooted in our childhood experiences, and it moves us subconsciously.
David Richo, author of When Love Meets Fear, states, “When we notice a connection between our present fears and their origins in early life, we are finding out how much of our identity is designed by fear.”
An individual’s motivation for power is to acquire control over his environment.
A certain amount of controlling behaviour is a healthy natural survival instinct, but after a point it becomes harmful.
When that happens normal survival is no longer the motivator.
Underlying the quest for power is fear, and the desire for power is to eliminate fear.
The more fearful a person is the more control over their environment they believe they need to feel safe.
When they seek out public office this becomes a problem, because those who use power to assuage their own fear, also use fear against others to bolster and maintain their power.
Merriam-Webster offers this definition of Power: “Possession of control, authority, or influence over others.”
The average person understands that it must be earned.
Known as “Referent Power,” it is the ability of an individual to attract followers and build loyalty through charisma, leadership, and management skills.
This power, and the prestige that goes with it, is only as good as an individual’s honour and reputation allow.
In contrast, “Legitimate Power” or “Positional Power” is formal authority that is conferred on the holder of the office or position. This is the type of power managers have within a business enterprise; and it is the type of power granted to an agent of the government.
Subordinates and citizens must obey the office holders regardless of whether the power is earned or not.
Power itself is not evil; like money, it is indifferent and unbiased in its usefulness to the person who possesses it.
It does not make the possessor evil.
It is the possessor who uses it in evil ways.
In her book, Freedom from Fear, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it.”
Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler were raised by brutal parents who frequently beat them.
Growing up, they lived in daily fear.
Both of them went on to become dictators, who maintained complete control over their people through the use of fear – inducing terror.
I’m not saying that all agents of government are attracted to power, or that they were abused by their parents.
Some, however, may have grown up feeling alienated or inadequate.
They may not have been part of the in-crowd at school, or they may have been bullied or ostracized.
Having the power of their office makes them feel secure.
Everyone wants to be free of fear.
It is prosperity, however, that is most likely to make people feel secure.
Simply having the opportunity to achieve success makes people less fearful.
Political and social freedom offer people a safe place to create their own fortune.
Even if they are unsuccessful, most appreciate having the unfettered opportunity, and take responsibility for the effort they made.
Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder, was a world traveller who observed many oppressive governments.
In contrast, she said, “An American could look at the whole world around him and take what he wanted from it, if he were able. Only criminal law and his own character, abilities and luck restrained him.”
I would like to see an America that once again offers freedom of opportunity, so that our national fear and the growing police state can be abated.
Let’s return to the era when Andy of Mayberry represented America’s police!
• Robert Wilson is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He is also the author of the children’s book, The Annoying Ghost Kid and the recently-published Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. For info, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.
Posted: Feb 3, 2015