I was talking last night with a good friend about something that popped up in Google Earth. There’s a layer that automatically got added – the crisis in Darfur, all the flashpoints in the conflict, and the topic drifted to – how do you make a difference? Ultimately, how do you effect real, lasting change? Will donating? Writing your Congressman?
Ultimately, the ability to effect change is power. Without power, you cannot effect change, you cannot make a difference. If you have a little bit of power, you can make a little bit of change. If you have a lot, then you can singlehandedly change entire countries or continents. Consider at his apex just how powerful Alan Greenspan was – a single sentence could rocket or sink the economy for days, and create or destroy billions of dollars in wealth.
That tangent led us to the discussion of power vs. morality. They’re not the same thing, and in the drive in this morning, it finally occurred to me what they were. Morality is the direction you go – the way you steer. Morality is the gas and the engine that takes you there. No power means that you can steer as straight and true as you like, but you won’t get anywhere. No morality means that you can head off the road really, really fast.
You need both. Ideally, morality and moral guidance for most people is more or less in place; the trick then is to stay on target, stay on the road while you learn how to build power. That’s the harder part of the equation. We live in a society that actively encourages the bulk of citizens to NOT become more powerful, to forfeit their power to government, business, leaders, demagogues, zealots, religion, and so forth. You hear the pleas for the surrender of your power every day:
– Buy this product and you’ll be happy.
– Elect me to office and I’ll fix your problems.
– Worship this deity and you’ll go to heaven.
– Trust me with this decision and I’ll reward you.
The powers that be don’t want to steer you off the road. They want you to stop driving entirely.
How do you resist giving up what power and steering you have?