The Purpose of Power is Power
You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating, and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price for maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic.
– from “Muad’Dib, The Religious Issues” by the Princess Irulan
– Frank Herbert, “Dune”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of power. What it’s good for, what its limits are.
It’s increasingly clear to me that power, used in ways that are not compatible with the maintenance and continued existence of that power, tends to expend itself. Power that persists usually concerns itself with itself and its perpetuation. But there are inherent trade-offs that cannot be avoided.
Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the path to slavery.
– Frank Herbert
What is power to be used for? What goal is the end to which power is the means? Those who have purposes for their power will sometimes find that purpose in conflict with the perpetuation and increase of the power itself, and so must choose. Those whose purposes include the use of power in a certain way will face even more conflicts and more choices. But those who seek power only for the purpose of possessing and exercising power will not be conflicted, and will be forced to no difficult choices.
Maintaining a democratic system and keeping it functionally in touch with reality is an example of having standards for the use of power. Demagogues and popular tyrants – the most obvious threats to any democracy – are examples of seeking power for power’s sake.
I don’t think this is a conflict we can win.