Desire for power/status... for the purpose of helping others.

ImNikkiPotnick asks:

What can we say about the desire for power in the form of money/status for no other reason but to make positive change in the world?

What comes to mind is: what makes us an authority to decide what’s right/wrong or good/bad in the world? What works and what needs change. There isn’t an object truth to right/wrong. Only society holds that authority.

I suppose even Hitler believed he was helping the world in his own way, with his thirst for power.

The desire for power/status is no doubt egoic. But can it ever be healthy on the spiritual path?

Freyr replies:

This is an excellent question.

Worldly power/money/status is of no consequence.

When I find myself in positions of power, I use it to liberate, just as I would use anything else.

To seek power over others, or to cling to it once it has been obtained, is to use it for a purpose other than liberation. Those who seek power generally want to imprison others in one way or another.

Power/status is like being a jailor. Why would you choose that? I would not. But if someone gives me the keys to the jail and says “you’re the jailer now, congratulations” then I say “okay, thank you very much” and then use the keys to unlock all the doors for all those over whom I have been given power.

Unsurprisingly, not many people choose to put me in positions of power. What would be the point? The only people who can give power to me is those who already are holding power/status, and that generally means that they chose it, which means they do not want to set everyone free. They want control, and when giving power to others what they really want is a deputy who will maintain control, just as they would. They do not want to liberate. If they wanted to liberate, they would do it themselves.

Let’s talk about status specifically a bit. Reputation. “looking good”. When you look good, people take you seriously, which, again, gives you power over them. Who wants that? In the past I have gone to great length to ruin my reputation by saying unpopular, taboo things. Not harmful to others, but making myself look bad/dangerous/whatever, so then they disregard me :D

More recently I’ve refined more how I present myself. I’ve realised that I had been, attracting people in some ways (raising my status) and then having to trash it in other ways to compensate. I’ve gotten better at not saying things that will make me look good.

Bragging is actually quite effective. If everyone thinks I’m really arrogant, then they won’t pay too much attention to me!

What was the other one? Oh right, money. Money can also be used for liberation. But giving people money must not be out of a sense of guilt, or lack, or because you need something from them. It must not be a sacrifice. That’s not kind.

Bill and Melinda Gates have HUGE amounts of money that they enjoy giving away. But they only have that money because of non-liberatory activities. Proprietary software. I could never do that.

Maybe, at a later stage of enlightenment, it will seem helpful to exchange services for money. But from where I stand now, it’s not what I want to do.

I can understand the reluctance to wholly embrace this “doctrine of liberation”. You think of all the terrible things that will happen if you give up control. After all, as the sayings go, it only takes a bunch of people doing nothing, for evil to flourish. But so much is out of our control. If the perpetrators of injustice care what I think, then I will tell them. I will say “this is not kind”. But what I’ve learned is that, to a fair approximation, no one cares what I think. So I wouldn’t really be helping the situation by adding my voice of condemnation. I would just be adding to everyone’s misery. I prefer to let people carry on murdering if that is what they want to do.

I’m not here to change the world. To force a change on the world, that the world does not want, is not kind, is not helpful. When/if the world sees as I do, it would change. I vote. I work with anyone who comes to me. But other than that I do not interfere. Were a nation state to recognise my wisdom and put me in charge, I would then be the leader of a nation. But I wouldn’t last long in office because I would make no effort to keep my position. I would make decisions conducive to the health, wealth and happiness of all, rather than popular decisions. I would be literally the worlds least successful politician because I would not care about staying in power and so I would not act to please those who put me in power.

So the only way I could ever get into power, would be if a significant proportion of the population was extremely wise and able to distinguish between wisdom and insanity. And even then, there are probably better candidates than me and at most I’d be an advisor. Though by that time the enlightenment rate would be absurd. Such a world would be, very different than this one.

Learning not to interfere, is an exercise in mental discipline, built on a robust intellectual framework.

Forgive, and you will see this differently.