Essay on the Throes of Power
Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill. Each name promotes a different sentiment within us. At the sound of Hitler and Stalin, chills might erupt over your body as you picture thousands of decayed corpses, barely discernable under a grimy coat of blood, all there for a man’s fear and greed. Churchill produces an altogether different image. Hearing this name, one may experience a feeling of intense admiration and gratitude for this brilliant leader, who kept his country united in the bitter face of war. These three leaders, who at first glance appear as different as night and day, have one crucial, simply obvious thing in common: Power. Each man has had a fine taste of power. They have demonstrated authority over a nation, and have held the very future of that nation, including its people, in the palms of their hands. Power is, ultimately, also the major distinction between these men.
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How they used the power which they’d gained, and how they are remembered in history because of this is what distinguishes Hitler from Stalin from Churchill. Power is shaped by the hands that are holding it; it can essentially be a great tool or a powerful weapon.
Our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, once stated that “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” (Lincoln). This statement is for the most part true. In this world, power, more than anything else, is the great divider between persons of sturdy and selfless character, and persons of selfish and weak character. People of a strong character are often the ones purposefully not seeking power, because they are aware of the catastrophic effects it poses on a society. Those noted few inclined to seek it do so for the betterment of a certain group of people, or a nation, instead of for personal gain and glory. For individuals with a selfish nature, however, power is all about the advancement and prosperity of their selves. When these certain people set out attain it, they first and foremost see the different ways in which they can put it to use to satisfy their individual greed.
Power can be a great asset to those who are well-intentioned and exhibit restraint over it. In the allegory Animal Farm, for example, Snowball the pig assumes the post of leader over the other animals, knowing that the newly revolutionized farm needs a leader, and knowing that he is best suited for the job. He embraces this role purely for the benefit of Animal Farm and its inhabitants, and continuously strives for its general improvement. “Snowball had made a close study of some back numbers of the Farmer and Stockbreeder…and was full of plans for innovations and improvements. He talked learnedly about field-drains, silage, and basic slag…” (Orwell 53). When good leaders hold power, they do so with the thought of others foremost in their minds. They have a vision about the way the state of something should be, and then strive to complete that vision by using their power as a tool to aide the process. If all leaders acted in this way, our world would be quite unrecognizable, and our history books much less thick.
Power and tyrants: our history is tainted with these two words, often side by side. More prominent figures include Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong, but the list goes on and on. Many people want power-some for good, and some for bad-yet few are willing to take the path that leads straight into its clutches. Unfortunately for us, a great majority of those who do choose to seek power are doing so with their own interests taking first priority. David Brin, an engineer, states “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power” (Brin). These corruptible men, drawn to power with their desires first in mind, will never willingly yield their authority. For the most part, desires of these leaders include war, land expansion, money and the murdering of millions who allegedly pose a threat. Power hungry leaders that hold these interests dear to their heart use their power as a deadly weapon, inflicting it upon whoever should oppose them or their ideas, and becoming tyrants in the process. In general, these individuals that go after power for personal progression are often the ones whose names get written down in history beside large death statistics.
Power can be used for good, and it can be used for evil. It is like an instrument in that it assists its user in completing some given task, whether that task be noteworthy or not. How power, as an instrument, is applied is completely reliant on the possessor, and his or her state of character and priorities. Baltasar Gracian said “The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good” (Gracian), and this is the absolute truth. We must rely on the honest and pure to use their influence and power over others so that a state of unity and overall goodness can be reached in a particular place. Otherwise, the power- hungry beings out there will seize it and abuse their authority, effectively earning the title of a tyrant. William Hazlitt, an English essayist, sums up the essence of power suitably: “The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves” (Hazlitt).