Chapter 7. Human relationships II: Humans are power machines

Mr. Clear
5 min readFeb 6, 2022

--

Power is simply the ability to get what we want.

But most of our desires are intertwined with human relationships.

If we want something, it’s usually from someone else.

If we want food, then we want the farmer to grow it, the distributor to deliver it to the grocery store, and the cashier to sell it to us.

So, power is the ability to get others to give us what we want.

When we get our crush to go on a date, that’s power. When we get a business client to agree to a deal, that’s power. When we get our supermarket to sell us groceries, that’s power.

Resources are power.

Our main desire is to survive. And to survive, we need food, water, and safety.

When we’re truly hungry, thirsty, or in danger, we’ll do anything.

There are also natural and man-made resources, like electricity and cars, which help us get what we need to survive and then satisfy our other desires.

Physical strength, knowledge and intelligence, and social influence are power too.

We can beat someone up to get what we want, we can outsmart them, or we can persuade them.

Money is an efficient way of quantifying, holding, and using power.

We can use it to get almost any product or service that exists.

Basically, we can get others to do almost anything we want for the right amount.

We’re all born with different amounts of power.

Prince William was born with more power than a child from a third-world country.

We all want power, but some want more than others.

Some are satisfied living a humble life and others want as much power as they can get.

But usually, the more we get, the more we want. Power corrupts.

We try to get power.

Some try harder than others. Some make better decisions than others. Some have limits while others are willing to do whatever it takes.

And in the end, some end up with more power and some less.

It’s a spectrum.

Or rather, it’s a hierarchy.

Because power is a zero-sum game — power is limited.

To have power, is to have power over someone. And if we have a certain amount of power over someone, that’s power that they don’t have over us. If we can make someone do whatever we want them to do, then they can’t make us do anything we don’t want to do.

So, when we’re trying to get power, we’re trying to take it from each other.

And when we end up with more power, someone else ends up with less.

But more importantly, we end up with power over someone else.

The more power we get, the more we want.

And power compounds — the more power we have, the more resources we have to get more power.

So, when some of us get more power, we then use that power to get even more.

And in the end, a few end up with most of the power, specifically those that want the most and are the best at getting it.

And most end up with little.

And this happens at every level. From our schools, to our workplaces, all the way to our entire society. There’s always a power hierarchy.

That’s the history of humanity: a small group of people getting a lot of power from and then exercising it over the rest.

In the past it was slaves, peasants, or serfs vs. slaveowners, kings, and lords. Today, it’s the 1% vs. the 99%.

And the 1% make the most important decisions for our society. They’re the ultra rich, politicians, and judges.

But the 1% make decisions that get them more power.

Some care about the well-being of others and so, they might make decisions with the well-being of others in mind.

But even if they do, that concern is subject to their inclination for power. Remember, those who have the most power, want the most and are the best at getting it. So, their thought processes, their purpose in life, and thus, their decisions all revolve around power first and foremost.

As for ones that don’t care, they just make decisions that get them more power regardless of how it affects others. And some even exploit others to get more power.

They create concepts, institutions, and structures around getting more power.

Concepts like profit, debt, interest, and inflation. The institution of banking. Products like credit cards.

They’re all ways for people with power to get more power from those with less.

Large cities exist because people in power realized that more people meant more power. More people means more slaves, servants, or employees, which means more power.

Consumerism, workaholism, globalization — they’re all ways for people in power to get more from those with less.

And this all leads to a lot of the societal issues we deal with today.

Poverty, world hunger, pollution and climate change..

The privacy and mental health issues we’re seeing with social media, the drug abuse issues in the pharmaceutical industry, the lack of access to healthcare…

All of these are just consequences of people in power making decisions that get them more power.

We have the resources and the technology to avoid or fix these issues but they persist.

All because of power.

On one hand, our consciousness wants to blame each other.

The powerless blame the powerful for not sharing their power while the powerful blame the powerless for their own inability to get power.

The powerless blame the powerful for not using their power to benefits others while the powerful blame the powerless for trying to tell others what to do.

Or some version of that.

And everyone blames the system for being broken.

But our awareness sees that it’s no one’s fault.

It’s not the fault of the powerful that they want more power and are better at getting it just as it’s not the fault of the powerless that they want less or aren’t as good at getting it.

Nor is it our fault that we use our power in the ways that we do. Especially those of us with the most.

It’s no one’s fault because no one got to choose.

We don’t get to choose the way we are, but it’s more than that.

No one chose to have our society develop and operate this way.

Social stratification emerged along with the advent of agriculture. Before agriculture, resources were scarce. When resources became abundant, society began to stratify, we started developing hierarchical power structures, and now we have the society we do today.

No one designed or created our society. And no one broke the system.

Our society/the system is the result of how we humans have interacted over our history. It isn’t working or broken. It’s just how we interact with each other.

So, to be human, in virtue of being a desire machine, is to be a power machine.

To want.

And so:

To want power. To try to take it from each other. To struggle with each other.

To end up in a society with a hierarchical power structure in which those with more exploit those with less.

And to have to deal with the issues that result.

And to feel like it’s someone else’s and no one’s fault at the same time.

--

--