Anatomy Of Naked Power

by Olaewe Ewegbemi

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the future controls the past”…George Orwell

“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”…Lord Acton

“Being a president does not change who you are, it only reveals who you are”…Michelle Obama

Throughout recorded history, men and women have used power in different ways. While few women have risen to power and influence in traditional and modern societies, nonetheless the “anatomy of female power” reveals that women rule the world from the cradle to the grave regardless of what men might think to the contrary(to wit , Biblical Adam and Eve ; and Samson and Delilah, to name a couple).

However, it is the men whose use , misuse and /or abuse of power throughout history that have received and continue to receive focused and relentless attention and review .The abuse or misuse of power cuts across the whole spectrum , from monarchs to barons ,from elected politicians to military despots , and to all those who hold power of any significance and who wield such power over others under their supervision (bureaucrats, technocrats, educators ; and others both in the public and private sectors )

“Naked power” as used herein has nothing to do with the legal definition of the term. Rather naked power is intended to refer to the absolutism of power, power that is wielded by the holder without any qualms, and in an oppressive and repressive manner and purpose. Naked power is in essence literally without clothing, it is a primitive state of mind whose ultimate goal is to govern, rule or administer without regard to ethical responsibility so long as the end is deemed by the wielder to justify the means.

The tactics of naked power consist of catchy slogans, pretentious patriotism, pitching groups or tribes against each other, creating in-group–out-group divisions while putting on a façade of unity; persistence on cohesion for cohesion’s sake, creating a list of perceived enemies and deploying all forces within his power to eliminate or destroy such enemies (sometimes resorting to physical elimination where other means are deemed ineffective).

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad Man”- Bishop Creighton. Few men have risen to power and became Man of the people; while many have used and continue to use power to oppress and exacerbate the pain and sufferings of their people. King Charles I had his Oliver Cromwell who was regarded by some as a “hero of liberty in the history of the British Isles”, while others considered him a “regicidal dictator”. The rise of Hitler to power as a German Nazi produced the Holocaust which remains till today one of man’s inhumanity to man in its primitivity and depravity; and flagrant misuse and abuse of power.

Naked power has also produced dictators and genocidal consequences in every nook and corner of the world. Africa saw its population decimated by slavery and slave trade and its people shackled and transported across the oceans to be treated as chattels and deprived of their humanity .Post-colonial Africa has also seen its share of despots fronting as leaders. Late Idi Amin of Uganda, Charles Taylor of Liberia, late Sanni Abacha of Nigeria, to name a few. Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and others in the Middle East also boast of men with naked power who ruled their people with iron hands and treated them like subjects.

Right here in the United States, the home of the brave and the free, despotic and tyrannical leaders have surfaced here and there. The late Governor Wallace of Alabama whose infamous slogan ,”Segregation today and segregation forever “ was used to divide and conquer (a tactic often used by naked power wielders) will remain as one of America’s dark history .Richard M. Nixon whose presidency almost brought American democracy to its knees is a classic example of the exercise of naked power. In almost all of the cases cited above, each leader or power wielder rallied support for his nefarious and despicable act or mission by appealing to the base instincts of the majority to oppress the minority, by using togetherness to achieve more of evil than good. The abuse of power can be seen in educational institutions, governmental and private bureaucracies, and even in churches, cathedrals and mosques which are deemed to be holy places.

Back to Richard M. Nixon. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. , The Imperial Presidency (1972) and James David Barber, The Presidential Character(1972) are two books worth reading about how power was used and abused in the Nixon White House. Nixon fell from grace and was forced to resign his presidency. All naked power wielders eventually succumb or are driven out of office in the end.

What all despotic and autocratic power holders and wielders have in common are:

• A relentless effort to hold on to power by any means necessary
• A pervasive sense of insecurity and invulnerability which feeds the in-group/out-group syndrome
• An active –negative posture which sees all dissenting opinions as a direct assault on their power
• The mentality of l’etat c’est moi and a failure to realize that power is ephemeral.
• The high propensity to turn a blind eye to the failings and shortcomings of their sycophants , courtiers and co-conspirators and reward them with promotions and approbations while the perceived enemies or out-groupers(those considered not be “team members”) are constantly harassed and punished without just cause , if not eliminated altogether .
• A group-think mentality both in the Irvin Janis’ construct (Irvin Janis, Victims of Groupthink 1972) and in the Orwellian sense (George Orwell, 1984).

Symptoms of Groupthink
Janis had documented eight symptoms of groupthink:
1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions. (Irving Janis, 1972).

Common to all naked power holders is a bond between the “king and his courtiers “, between the leader and his hoard of sycophants who daily sing his praise. All are eventually and mutually consumed and doomed by their group-think mentality and their reckless abuse and misuse of power. When naked power holders fall from grace, the courtiers and sycophants are the first to jump ship. They latch on to the next leader, for they have no permanent allies but permanent interests.

The disgraced naked god is left alone to bear his cross having been abandoned by his sycophants, a.k.a the courtiers or co-conspirators. After all, Jesus had his Judas Iscariot and his Pontius Pilate who washed his hands clean because he “was put in a precarious situation”. The eight symptoms of groupthink identified above by Irving Janis may be taking pla

ce around you, yet you may not be aware of them because you are too consumed by what Janis described as “self –censorship” or because of “direct pressure on dissenters”.

“Now does he feel his secret murders sticking on his hands.
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach.
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief “…William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

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