Re: power <debate>

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Sun, 10 Mar 1996 17:13:23 -0500

In a message dated 96-03-09 22:09:40 EST, tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU (thomas w
kavanagh) writes:

> Two separate questions:
> -Do only the "powerful" have recourse to casuistry? Are there
> unsuccessful, powerless casuists? Are there powerfuls who are not
> casuits?
> -Is it a one way process, from power to casuistry? Could it be that because
> of the success of casiuistry, its practictioners become powerful.

Tom: it's Hard for me to separate the two. I am increasingly inclined toward
the view that the powerful are significantly different from other people on
the inside. Just now I was overtaken by an image of power as a magnet
attracting its own to itself, "pulling" them upward through the power
structure and into their positions. An overstatement, surely. But I do
believe that, as it were, power knows its own.

I want to return to the idea that powerful people tend to see the world
differently than most people do. "Ideas" do not distract them from the
cardinal activity: sensing the big picture, scanning to see clearly "where
people are coming from" (including "signs" and portents), anticipating the
oucomes of interactions (not to say "train wrecks") and then applying just
the right pressure here and there to bend the trajectory of those outcomes in
their favor. I can't emphasize strongly enough the kind of person it takes
to *continually* do this. Scruples, truth, beauty -- ideas -- even, and
especially, love, come second. They're not so much appreciated for
themselves as they are viewed as tools to be used or expenses to be born.

It's not the logic or skill of casuistry. Most people can learn that. It's
the capacity to use it. Can this resolve be developed? Maybe. Should it be
more generally developed? I don't know. Maybe it does take all kinds to make
a world. But I draw back here.

I realize the limitations of this response. As you suggest, there are
undoubtedly different developmental cycles underlying the rise of powerful
people. Childhood experiences probably play a role, and it wouldn't surprise
me to find out that the genetics of disposition are involved. Power can
invigorate, but it can also take a tremendous toll on the body and mind. The
right constitution is needed if one is to be successful. Some people,
surely, are simply not cut out to handle power, so that even "giving" it to
them will not be sufficient to make it stick. This is not to minimize such
people. It's just that their hearts may be too big.

BTW, I had gotten away from FG Bailey. Thanks for the reference to
_Humbuggery and Manipulation_. Important power skills both!

Mike Cahill