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What is power?


Today, one of the most- sought after personal, social, and institutional commodity is power. At the personal level, this may take a variety of forms that make an individual stand out, indispensable, essentially valuable, and command high degree of respect, influence, and usefulness.  In our contemporary world at the social level, an individual acquires power by being chosen as a leader through the process of election, competition, acclamation, conferment, and volunteerism.  At the institution level, a person gets into the position of power by meeting established criteria and qualification standards usually in a competitive process or by virtue of a collective decision of the governing board or council.

But what is power? From the standpoint of politics and management, power may be defined as the ability of the person to influence others to accomplish a mission, a set of tasks, or an organizational aim. There are many reasons why people want to acquire power, the most basic since the dawn of human existence, has always been to be able to produce food for survival. As man’s survival become more and more complex and competitive, power became necessary to secure and protect life from hostile animals and other human beings competing for the same needs, wants, and desires. Social groups having the same purposes, interests, beliefs, philosophies, and ideologies emerged  and expanded to became tribes, communities, and  then nations and states as we have today founded on various governmental or political doctrines.

At present the most popular and highly valued form of power is political authority which is formally conferred, customarily vested, procedurally, or legally acquired either by the “right of blood”  and  divine right” theory in the case of monarchies, dynasties, and ecclesiastical institutions or by virtue of election in the case of private and public democracies. Of course, educated or enlightened individuals generally know that the concepts of morality, ethics, diplomacy, law, and the modern theories, principles, precepts, doctrines,  and ideologies associated with governmental structures and operations evolved primarily through the process of graded and systematic private and public education most especially in the disciplines of human sciences and international politics. Over the history of human civilization, the sources of acquiring positions of power and leadership in different private and public institutions had shifted from sheer possession of supreme physical and martial power to the natural endowment of exceptional intelligence, extraordinary expertise, and talents.

In our highly competitive, complex, and politically libertarian society, acquiring public power to many, has virtually become the grandest fascination and to some, an irreversible lifetime addiction. It has graduated from the concept of “public service” to the cutthroat acquisition of influence and fame and on top of the hierarchy of personal interests, is wealth.

Why has wealth become the ultimate priority of many political leaders of our country? In our materialistic world, the original meaning of public service has been replaced by excessively wayward lifestyles. And this started with the idea of giving high salaries, fringe benefits and allowances to public officials completely the opposite of what used to be when public servants were just given compensations as honoraria in minimal amounts. In fact, the original and true meaning of public service was “free service” or pro bono. Until now this admirable and humanitarian tradition is still being followed by Radio Networks through their “Public Service” programs.

It is not surprising then that today’s top politicians are also among wealthiest and most powerful individuals in our country. And because, they spend fortunes and fortunes to become elected, they devote a large portion of their term of office recovering what they had invested during the campaign plus the monies they accumulate through various modalities under the terms of “tongpats,” “pabaons”  “kickbacks,” “return-to-sender” delivery system, and the “commission type” of sharing arrangement. Inarguably, in our political system, money is the absolute and ultimate power maker.
Over time the source of power has evolved from brute force to financial fortune. In politics it’s the only source of power that weighs supreme.


by Clem M. Bascar

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