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Part 14 – Sadly Unaware

When Mr. Im’s analysis of personal responsibility (Part 13 in this series) arrived, Sam had read it with great care. On one hand, his job was so structured that he seldom questioned the rightness or the wrongness of the tasks given to him. He did as he was told to do. He figured that if anything went wrong, anyone got hurt, if what appeared to be the plans went south, he was not responsible for anything. His hands were “always” clean. He was never more than the obedient pawn.

Mr. Im’s analysis took Sam to a deeper level, showing him that his washing his hands of responsibility was infantile. It may be true, Sam was realizing, that he was not the originator of the orders. But, Sam wasn’t a mechanical pawn in the company’s scheme of things. It was Sam’s value system that stood behind his willingness to do as he was paid to do. And, that value system wasn’t imposed on Sam; Sam was the author. Sam was the one to carry it out.

True, others kept the scheme functioning by paying Sam for services rendered. But, Sam was the one who decided that the pay (the recompense was worth his labor). Sam was, he was being obliged to admit, a willing participant in the game of power. Sam was becoming more and more aware of the pervasiveness of the exercise of power, even in the daily ‘humdrum’ of life.

Four days later, Mr Im’s next piece arrived. Sam was both anxious to read it, and also somewhat apprehensive since he thought, “I have learned so much already. What will this new piece reveal to me?”   At the top of the document was the title “Element # 7: Being unaware of the exercise of power.” Instinctively, Sam thought, “I must be getting on Mr. Im’s wavelength. His notes are coming just in the order that I am thinking. How uncanny!!!”

 Element # 7: Being unaware of the exercise of power

Some people in a position to exercise power may not be aware of it. They may not even understand the dynamics of power. They may only be able to say that something strange is going on in a relationship, but they can’t describe it.

Their inner dialogue may go like this: “Power? I don’t have any power. People around me have power, but I am a nobody who has no impact on anyone else. Politicians have power. Corporation executives have power, Generals have power, general managers of pro football teams have power. I am a nobody, just trying to survive in life.”

It is true that millions of people have not given thoughtful analysis to the exercise of power. They may not be aware of the role of their value system in the exercise of power. Perhaps they have not realized that somebody else is trying to change their value system and thereby make them desirous of particular services, commodities, acquisitions, living sites, kinds of education, social clubs, musical styles, reading habits, theatrical works, and political loyalties.

The reality is that their ignorance of how pervasive the exercise of power is, the more easily the power brokers can spread their scope and reach of power.

Now, Mr. Im became very personal for a little section in his paper.

“Sam, I suspect that at an earlier point in your life, perhaps not even that long ago, your ignorance about power easily allowed others to gain power over you. That situation created inner fear, although you didn’t know why. Now, you are beginning to understand why.

“You were living what I call a ‘natural and normal free life’, while at the same time unaware that others were dominating you by manipulating your value system. You were fearful, but you didn’t know why. The situation is ironic, isn’t it, Sam? Your ignorance of their power does not free you from being under their control.   Ignorance is not bliss, Sam!!”

The reverse side of this same principle is that a person may unknowingly be exercising power over someone else. The power person is not even thinking in terms of power, not thinking in terms of getting something from the other person. Allow me to illustrate this way:

Someone in my social context may highly value my presence, compliments, or affections, etc.. The person has not verbally communicated that to me; they have been too shy to do so. Or perhaps I have been too self focused to realize what is going on. In any case, without my knowledge, the other person has been making behavioral changes in an effort to gain my attention, or approbation. At the same time, I am unaware of what is going on, and am actually exercising power unknowingly.

There is a fascinating expression of this unconscious exercise of power, found in a song sung by Neil Diamond, “Win the World.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a2Bwo56z_M)   Diamond’s obnoxiously self-centered protagonist, still unconsciously exercises power over his wife, while she is also in her own way trying to exercise power over her husband. It is a sad song, and hauntingly beautiful. You can follow along with the lyrics as you listen.

I never noticed when you changed your hair
Just another of those moments, I was only half there
When you wore that red dress, that was kind’a up to here
I never noticed, you were wearing a tear

I was always trying to win the world
What on earth was I thinking of
One time too often, I didn’t hold you enough
I was always trying to win the world
But somewhere I lost you, I never saw you
Only trying to win my love

It should have been easy, for all of those times
It would have been me there, if I knew the signs
When you wore that red dress, how could I know then
You’d wear it for me once, and never wear it again

I was always trying to win the world
What on earth was I thinking of
One time too often, I didn’t hold you enough
I was always trying to win the world
But somewhere I lost you, ’cause I never saw you
Only trying to win my love

Somewhere I lost you, ’cause I never saw you
Only trying to win my love

So, the fellow is self-centered and on an ego trip. At the same time, his wife so much “needs” his love that she buys a provocative red dress hoping that it would give her a little power. When that fails, the tears flow and she sees herself as a failure. The husband’s ego trip was higher on his value system than giving his love to his wife. She needed his love. Since she couldn’t contribute to his ego need (which was “to win the world”), she failed to get what she needed. Her basic mistake was to try to play the power game. Her failed attempt is repeated, sad time after sad time in our power hungry world.