Power is Power

Everyone having the power will in the end commit the appropriate atrocities.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 26

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Since great power is by definition an element that can single-handedly throw the world from its balance, a single dictator in a large state is sufficient to disturb the peace of mind of all. As a result, a great-power world is safe and secure only if the government of each great power is in the hands of wise and good men (a combination that is rare even in democracies). As things are, however, great power attracts by its very nature the strong rather than the wise, and autocrats rather than democrats.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 71

Peoples never revolt against tyrants. They only revolt against the weak.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 77

Harry Potter

Dumbledore & the Minister for Magic position

"Don't be evil" - Big tech companies and the siren song of power

The Size Fetish

Shame, shame, shame

tl;dr: To become a public servant in Tlaxcala, one had to undergo ritual shaming in order to put the power-hungry in their place, and discourage the self-serving.

Those who aspired to a role on the council of Tlaxcala, far from being expected to demonstrate personal charisma or the ability to outdo rivals, did so in a spirit of self-deprecation – even shame. They were required to subordinate themselves to the people of the city. To ensure that this subordination was no mere show, each was subject to trials, starting with mandatory exposure to public abuse, regarded as the proper reward of ambition, and then – with one’s ego in tatters – a long period of seclusion, in which the aspiring politician suffered ordeals of fasting, sleep deprivation, bloodletting and a strict regime of moral instruction. The initiation ended with a ‘coming out’ of the newly constituted public servant, amid feasting and celebration.63

Clearly, taking up office in this indigenous democracy required personality traits very different to those we take for granted in modern electoral politics. On this latter point, it is worth recalling that ancient Greek writers were well aware of the tendency for elections to throw up charismatic leaders with tyrannical pretensions. This is why they considered elections an aristocratic mode of political appointment, quite at odds with democratic principles; and why for much of European history the truly democratic way of filling offices was assumed to be by lottery.

dawn-of-everythingch. 9


dawn-of-everything Graeber, David, and David Wengrow. 2021. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. Signal. ↩︎ 1

breakdown-of-nations Kohr, Leopold. 1978. The Breakdown of Nations. Dutton. ↩︎ 1 2 3