rg41 asked in Politics & GovernmentPolitics · 1 decade ago

Fear of power, in addition to fear of losing power, ruins great leaders, not the possession of power in itself?

I am in AP English 4 in a high school in California. My teacher assigned an essay in which we were to defend, challenge, or qualify this quotation by Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Please critique my finished synthesis essay on this topic. Thank you.

Beyond all else, the world yearns for power. From the beginnings of time peasants and tsars, slaves and pharaohs, and beggars and kings have committed innumerable murders, participated in incomprehensible genocides, and masterminded infinite duplicities. All in the acquisition of power. The writings of many great poets and novelists have dwelt on this common thread of humanity, from the theorizing of Lao-Tzu during the ancient Chou dynasty and the debating of Niccolo Machiavelli in early 14th century Italy, to the dramatization of William Shakespeare in the 1600’s and the political satirization of George Orwell in the forties. Although the conclusions reached by these authors expose stark contrasts, one can glean a lesson from their combined wisdom, a lesson epitomized by the words of great Myanmar Prime Minister and diplomat Aung San Suu Kyi: “It is not power that corrupts but fear” (Kyi). Fear of power, in addition to fear of losing power, ruins great leaders, not the possession of power in itself.

Niccolo Machiavelli, in his 1513 treatise The Prince, offers a practical guide for any ruler: “secure power by direct and effective means” (Machiavelli 33). Within his so-called ‘ends-justify-the-means’ approach to ruling lies a militaristic cornerstone, focusing more on strength, as well as reputation and appearances, than on actual leadership. With a foundation made principally on the fear of being overthrown and defeated, Machiavelli tells princes to have this one thing in mind at all times: not to “take anything as his profession but war,” a platform which forces a leader into a defensive position (Machiavelli 35). Violence, to Machiavelli, is the bandage for any wound. Machiavelli would oppose the idea that fear corrupts, because the Machiavellian leader becomes able to twist the fears of others in order to acquire his power. A strong iconic leader, able to manipulate and invoke fear in his subjects, continues the study of war even while at peace in order to maintain appearances and control (Machiavelli 36). To appear strong underscores Machiavelli’s key point regarding power, lying in the statement that “it is much safer to be feared than to be loved” (Machiavelli 41). According to this scholar, love does not conquer all, but rather, fear will defeat any foe.

In juxtaposition, the words of Lao-Tzu emphasize the necessity of harmony and respect, saying that the “best [leader] is a leader who is loved” (Tzu 20). Tzu’s ideal leader, one who values peace, has “no desire” for domination, and does not try to be powerful (Tzu 23). Therefore, this leader need not fear power, for he possesses the ability to “stop trying to control” (Tzu 25). When one attempts to control everything, one begins to fear failure and begins to suspect those beneath him, or those who may be obstacles in the attainment of perfect control. Once this fear has been established, violence, the next step for most leaders, follows. Eliminate the competition. However, “violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself” and, contradictory to the ideas of Machiavelli, inevitably leads to the corruption and downfall of any leader (Tzu 22).

The Shakespearian tragedy Macbeth exhibits such a downfall, focused around a cycle of violence leading to the inevitable deaths of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The aforementioned fear so closely interwoven with the acquisition of power rapidly becomes the main causes of their deaths, especially the demise of Lady Macbeth. Fear destroys one’s sense of right and wrong, therefore Lady Macbeth loses her ability to discern the morality of her actions. At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth embodies the foundation of the lethal plot, a strong comrade for Macbeth and a driving force behind his murderous plan. Her venomous role pushes her husband to the point of no return, evident in her words to him in Act I as his resolution to kill fades, “leave the rest to me” (Shakespeare I.vii.54). Similar to the Biblical tale of Jezebel and Ahab in 1 Kings, in which a male leader finds himself under the manipulation and control of his power-hungry wife, both men “sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by…his wife” (NIV, 1 Kings 21:25). In both of these historic tales, women take charge and lead their men to destruction. However, as Act V begins, a spotlight shines on the weaknesses and forthcoming doom of Lady Macbeth. Her guilt over the murders and her constant fearful suspicion of all those around her cause her to walk in her sleep, talk in her sleep, hallucinate, and eventually kill herself. Manipulative actions displayed by her character throughout the play cause the reader to have a disdain for he

2 Answers

  • molkey
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    that's good.*

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    He sure has given me and all who follow Him that spirit of a sound mind. I love that verse in 2 Timothy 1:7. Not sure what you mean about the excellence of Christianity, though.

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