Love Is The Power
The problem for romantic partners is that power as normally exercised is a barrier to intimacy. It blunts sensitivity to a partner and precludes emotional connectivity. Yet this connection is what human beings all crave, and need. It satisfies deeply.
Love Is the Power
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He came to Parliament in the early 1830s as an ardent protectionist, opponent of reform, and defender of the statist status quo. As he watched government operate from its highest levels, he evolved into a passionate defender of liberty. When he died in 1898, his admirers were proud of a Britain strengthened by his legacy of cutting taxes, bureaucracy, and intrusive regulation. The Irish loved him because he fought hard to lighten London's heavy hand over Irish life. Biographer Philip Magnus believed that he "achieved unparalleled success in his policy of setting the individual free from a multitude of obsolete restrictions."
Gladstone knew that love and power are two very different things, often at odds with each other. Love is about affection and respect; power is about control. Someone who pursues power over others for his own personal advancement is rightly deserving of opprobrium. Gladstone's friend Lord Acton warned about how absolutely corrupting this can be. If love is a factor in such instances, it's more likely love of one's self than love of others.
When real love is the motivator, people deal with each other peacefully. We use force only in self-defense. We respect one another's rights and differences. Tolerance and cooperation govern our interactions.
When we initiate force (that is to say, when self-defense is not an issue), it's usually because we want something without having to ask the owner's permission for it. The 19th-century American social commentator William Graham Sumner lamented the prevalence of the less noble motivators when he wrote, "All history is only one long story to this effect: Men have struggled for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others, and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others."
Adults necessarily exert great power over infants, whose very existence requires nearly constant attention, tempered by a strong and instinctive affection. By adolescence, the adult role is reduced to general supervision as the child makes more of his own choices and decisions. The child eventually becomes an adult empowered to live his life as he chooses and bear all the attendant risks and responsibilities.
In normal, healthy families during this nearly 20-year maturing process, a parent's power over a child recedes but his love only grows. Indeed, most people understand that the more you love a child, the more you will desire him to be independent, self-reliant, and in charge of himself. It's not a sign of love to treat another adult as if he were still an infant under your control.
A mature, responsible adult neither seeks undue power over other adults nor wishes to see others subjected to anyone's controlling schemes and fantasies: This is the traditional meaning of liberty. It's the rationale for limiting the force of government in our lives. In a free society, the power of love governs our behavior instead of the love of power.
Consider what we do in the political corner of our lives these days, and an unfortunate erosion of freedom becomes painfully evident. It's a commentary on the ascendancy of the love of power over the power of love. We have granted command of over 40 percent of our incomes to federal, state, and local governments, compared with 6 or 7 percent a century ago. And more than a few Americans seem to think that 40 percent still isn't enough.
We claim to love our fellow citizens while we hand government ever more power over their lives, hopes, and pocketbooks. We've erected what Margaret Thatcher derisively termed the "nanny state" in which we as adults are pushed around, dictated to, hemmed in, and smothered with good intentions as if we're still children.
If you think these trends can go on indefinitely, or if you think power is the answer to our problems, or if you think loving others means diminishing their liberties, you're part of the problem. If you want to be part of the solution, then consider adopting the following resolutions for this year and beyond:
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The modern mind, both in its Marxist and non-Marxist expressions, sees in the power of man over man not an ineluctable outgrowth of human nature but only an ephemeral phenomenon, the product of a peculiar historic configuration, bound to disappear with the disappearance of that configuration. According to Marx, the lust for power and its political manifestations are a mere by-product of the class division of society. In the classless society, the domination of man by man will be replaced by the administration of things. In liberal thought, power politics is regarded as a kind of atavism, a residue from the less enlightened and civilized era of autocratic rule, which is destined to be superseded by the institutions and practices of liberal democracy.
While the modern mind denies the intrinsic relation between the lust for power and human nature, transcending all historic configurations, antedating them, as it were, and even determining them, it does not understand the nature of love at all. Love as the reunion of two souls and bodies which belong together or, in the Platonic mythology, once were united, is reduced in the modern understanding to sex and gregariousness, the togetherness of the sexes on dates, in marriage, and in other associations, tending to be of a more or less fleeting nature. What the modern understanding misses is the totality of the commitment that characterizes the pure phenomenon of love. It is aware only of surface phenomena which may or may not be manifestations of love, because it is unaware of that very element in man on which love is built: his soul. And it is unaware of that quality of human existence which is the root both of the lust for power and the longing for love: loneliness.
It is the common quality of love and power that each contains an element of the other. Power points toward love as its fulfillment, as love starts from power and is always threatened with corruption by it. Power, in its ultimate consummation, is the same as love, albeit love is corrupted by an irreducible residue of power. Love, in its ultimate corruption, is the same as power, albeit power is redeemed by an irreducible residue of love.
Love is a psychological relationship which in its pure form is marked by complete and spontaneous mutuality. A surrenders himself to B, as B surrenders himself to A; and both do so spontaneously, in recognition of their belonging together. Both are lover and beloved; what A is, feels, and wants, B is, feels, and wants, too. Love is the most perfect union two human beings are capable of, without losing their respective individualities. Aristophanes has given in the Symposium the classic description of the nature of pure love:
That inner contradiction the lovers endeavor to overcome by letting power do what love is unable to do by itself. Power tries to break down the barrier of individuality which love, because it is love, must leave intact. Yet in the measure that power tries to do the work love cannot do, it puts love in jeopardy. An irreducible element of power is requisite to make a stable relationship of love, which without it would be nothing more than a succession of precarious exaltations. Thus without power love cannot persist; but through power it is corrupted and threatened with destruction. That destruction becomes actual when A and B, by trying to reduce each other to an object of their respective wills, transform the spontaneous mutuality of the love relationship into the unilateral imposition of the relationship of power.
It is in the very nature of the power relationship that the position of the two actors within it is ambivalent. A seeks to exert power over B; B tries to resist that power and seeks to exert power over A, which A resists. Thus the actor on the political stage is always at the same time a prospective master over others and a prospective object of the power of others. While he seeks power over others, others seek power over him. Victory will fall to him who marshals the stronger weapons of influence with greater skill.
The increase of his authority is the ground of his abode; and love is the ground of his authority; it must be through love; for it cannot be through power; for his power is not in his own subjects but in strangers; not in his money, but in theirs; not in their good will, but in mere necessity as things stand now betwixt him and them; therefore if the necessity be not so urgent as it is; or if any other means be shown by God (who is able to do as much by another man as by him) to avoid this necessity; the money and the power and the assistance which it yieldeth unto him will fall from him and so his authority is lost, and his abode will be no longer: for the love which was at first is gone. . . . 041b061a72