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English / 02.01.2020 / 500

How Fair Ladies Rule

Nikolay Mokhov, author from the Dark Side of Business

“What is power? Who needs it?” a pretty girl asked me. It was a difficult question. Talking to a beautiful woman, you want to say something funny, something light-hearted. You want to tell a joke. But talking about power you’re one step away from seeming boring. Can I avoid this fate? I’m afraid no. I’ll have to write my answer, at the risk of being perceived as dull. Well, what else can I do? Maybe at least She’ll read it..?

When I was a kid, adults taught me to use dictionaries. Either they were too lazy to explain certain concepts or it was to help me learn better. Either way, we had a large volume of Webster’s in an ugly, brown cover. In elementary school I would get sleepy at the mere sight of it. But later I made amends with dictionaries and even encyclopedias. They became a habit of mine. I check the dictionary ten times a day. Barely do I sit down and start thinking about something…

Well, anyway. In my shabby old Webster’s power is defined as the possession of control, authority, or influence over others. But Webster’s is old, philologists will tell me. Who looks for a definition in such an ancient book? Only enemies of progress do. Let’s look for it on Wikipedia… Aha, here’s the definition given in the Russian version of it: “the ability to impose your will upon others, even in the face of their resistance.” And of course, when reading about the ability to impose your will, I can’t help but think about the movie Prince of Darkness.

The devil exercises his power by appealing not just to the foul, but also to the purest of intentions

If not the whole Bible, then at least a significant portion of it is devoted to the issue of free will. Could Eve have resisted her temptation? Could Adam have exercised his free will and refused the apple? My interpretation was always that God gave people the freedom to choose. He outlined the rules, but he didn’t push people towards any choice in particular. Meanwhile, the devil used manipulation to force people to make the decision he wanted. So how did he do it?

For me, the answer is drawn on a Tarot card. A man and a woman are chained to an altar, and upon that altar sits the devil himself. The ability to impose his will is granted to him by people’s addictions. The common idea is that the chains represent the most horrible human qualities: greed, avarice, vanity…

It’s a surface-level interpretation. Goethe’s genius produced another one. In his tragedy, Faustus just has to exclaim: “Stay a while…”, and the hero’s soul will belong to the devil, who would then win his bet with God. And when does Faustus pronounce these words?

The blind Faustus says them when he thinks that a dam is being build around him (in actuality, it’s demons digging his grave.) So Faustus doesn’t lose his soul for money, fame or sex. He almost blows it on the good intention of making people happy with a useful object. The devil exercises his power by appealing not just to the foul, but also to the purest of intentions.

By the way, in criminal circles, when people suppress your will, they also appeal to eternal, perfectly good values. Friendship. The willingness to sacrifice yourself in order to keep your word. The ability to share your wealth with those who surround you.

Fists and bayonets aren’t a great basis for power. One of the characteristics of a state’s power is the monopoly on violence. However, all wise crime bosses and politicians alike strive to limit their use of force. And if you just have to destroy someone, then you should show that there’s no other option. The people themselves want blood. The modest sovereign is just humbly obeying the people’s will… Thousands of years of history show – the monarch should not be the one to initiate executions. Kings that have the rep of an executioner don’t last long. The people don’t like them.

Let’s draw an intermediate conclusion. Will is suppressed by...


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