Of Self-esteem and Power


I am writing this on the occasion of the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the 15th President of the Republic, Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Cojuangco Aquino III or P.Noy. As things stand, he is the most powerful man in the country today. His power comes from his overwhelming election mandate. He not only possesses a moral mandate, but also emotional gravitas of the people. What is captivating about the man is his level-headedness and his feet on the ground in spite of the power his presidency. If all accounts of his personal encounter and appearances in the media are to be judged, P.Noy is the very human president of recent memory. His unassuming ways endear him to people.

Contrast this with my experience. In my last post, I was caught in the middle of conflicting perspectives on how authority must be exercised before my transfer. In the end, it was all about power, with persons wielding their power over me as a subordinate. I opt not to divulge the details here.

Looking at the entanglement at a distance now, there were times that it’s never easy to understand the stance by one in authority. There are leaders who abuse their power or sometimes use it as a defense mechanism to cover their weaknesses. Some leaders never recognize that ‘power’ operates relationally and reciprocally. With that, I asked myself: “Are bad bosses act that way because they’re bad people? Or are they basically good people who have psychologically changed by their acquired authority?

How would you feel when first thing in the morning, your first thought is an encounter with a bully who undermines your capabilities? To me, that is sadistic and inhumane! This reminds me of Pilate who told Jesus that he (Pilate) has the ultimate power to either punish Him or let Him go. I realize how misplaced such a power .

Why am I writing about this? Simple. Because I want others to realize that there are still cowardly people who are only emboldened by their power. What is worse is that these persons wield power negatively. This negative perception of power comes from a very deep sense of insecurity. As Lord Acton said: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you super add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. What facilitates corruption of power by a person is his/her weak sense of self. A weak sense of self brings about low degree of personal morality, thus making a person vulnerable to corruption of power. And once a person is corrupted by power, the chance is that there shall be no other way but down in a matter of time. In other words, there is such a thing as ‘trappings of power’ because power is at times a trap. Seldom does a person trapped by power survives unscathed.

Let me end this short note with a quote from Edgar Lee Masters: “Beware of the man who rises to power from one suspender.’ Power without a sense of morality is corrupting power. And the person corrupted by power was from the very beginning had no self-esteem at all. Closely examine yourself and the people around you, and what I say is almost unmistaken.”

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