Apr 20, 2012

Adversity and power

Human beings are weak. They are vulnerable to nature. They can do nothing against natural hazards, illness, and old age. Life is so hard and full of tests for human strength, durability and true willingness to live. But as human beings are also a breed of survivors, we survive in the worst of situations. We were able to recover from the two World Wars that left us in economic and emotional depression as a result, and live through other worst manmade or natural calamities. It’s our inherent nature to survive that allows nearly all men to withstand many hardships.

Despite this, it doesn’t mean that human beings are good. As Lincoln once said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Lincoln was no stranger to adversity; nearly all biographies and illustrations concerning the greatness of Lincoln stress the many setbacks and hardships he endured before he reached the presidency. But he was respected mostly for his leadership capacity and for being fair to his people. 

Power is also a great challenge for a man. It is as dangerous as money. Both have the same capacity of influencing people’s characters. As people are weak, whenever there is an opportunity to obtain power, they will seize it. Firstly, it is to defend, to protect themselves against the dangers and the threats coming from nature or from the other individuals. That’s the inherent nature of human beings; we can’t really blame them for that. It’s a need of security, which can only be satisfied by the fairness of a legal system. 

Secondly, power makes their life easier and for that, I am referring to slavery, to the monarchy system, to how powerful and rich people can allow themselves to have slaves and servants, to perform all the work at their place, while they are eating, sleeping, enjoying life fully. Dictatorship is exactly the same. The dictator takes advantage of his power to impose laws, thoughts, ways of living on people, frightening them into submission. The latter are man with bad character, who abuse power and use it solely for their own self-interest. A real good man, on the contrary, will not abuse power or will not let power corrupt him. He will use it for the common good. It’s the best way to test a man’s character, by giving him power, watching him handle it and observe his leadership. 

Here we can also see the necessity to divide the powers: powers should not be in the hand of one man. The French Revolution is a good illustration for this idea with its separation of powers into 3 different ones: legislative, executive and judicial; each one keeps an eye on the others.

In conclusion, as human beings are weak and selfish by nature, we can only judge them on their capacity and will to surpass themselves.

Copyright text: Huong Ly Dang

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