Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | June 22, 2013

Real Power

Some people think that power means forcing people to do what you want.

That’s violence and politics.

Others think that power means making people want to do what you want.

That’s charisma and politics.

Even others think that power means manipulating life itself to get it to do what you want.

That’s science and politics.

Maybe that makes politics the science of violent charisma. Hmm… Sounds pretty close.

All of those versions of power have something in common. They assume that people and life itself will do what you don’t want unless you force or convince or manipulate them otherwise.

I call that assumption “adversariality.”

Why presume adversariality? 

After all, our continued existence argues against it every single day. The overwhelming cooperation of virtually all things living argues against it one minute after another, except for the 2-4% among us who are psychopaths and the 2-4% of the time that the rest of us lapse into acting like them.

Almost none of our daily survival results from forcing, convincing, or manipulating anything. It just happens, and we’re clueless about specifically why. Sure, we have wonderful theories, but understand all the specific facts involved in why we lived last moment, live this moment, and will probably live next moment, too? Fucking clueless, but you’d never know it to listen to us.

We totally exaggerate our own significance in staying alive as long as we do. Would we suddenly disintegrate if we dropped the charade? Nope. Just try it and you’ll see. I’m still here!

Bottom line, we let 2-4% of reality stand in our way while 96-98% helps us out all day, every day. We’re a bunch of whining ingrates.

It all begs a couple of questions.

Why want what other people and life itself don’t want?

Why don’t they want what we want? And why don’t we want what they want?

(Notice the focus on don’t. What happened to do?)

When I ask people those questions, all I usually get back are thought-terminating clichés. Human nature. Ego. Selfishness. Not enough to go around. The fundamental indifference or hostility of people and the universe itself. All of them unchallenged, untested, and useless responses.

Thought-terminating clichés are excuses that mask our refusal to understand things better than we do, which at this point is: almost not at all.

In a democracy, with all that adversariality against us, we’d lose. But we don’t see life as a democratic proposition, do we, but a totalitarian one: people and life are basically inclined against little old us, sometimes overwhelmingly. All things considered, they’ll probably go wrong unless we make sure that they go right.

So, then, what makes us think that they are wrong, not us? What makes us think that we know better?

And who are “they” anyway?

“They” is not a specific group of people, things, or forces, but whoever and whatever happens to interfere with getting what we want at any particular juncture. “They” change as our minds do. In other words, “they” are the parts of us that resist us. Adversariality is a war we wage against our own worst enemies: ourselves.

The first step towards real power is to exit these inane arguments that we carry on with ourselves because of others that we blame for raising the issues. (And if a description of it sounds irrational, what does doing it signify?) The second step is to own the fact that we are our only critics, judges, juries, and executioners. That’s what being our own worst enemies means. Sure, others criticize, judge, pass verdict, and attack us, but they all stand in line behind the only ones who choose to let them do it us: us.

We can stop doing this to ourselves. No one forces us to do it, and no one can prevent us from changing our minds.

Real power is to open our minds together with others and life itself to understand what we all think is best to want, then decide what we want to want, and then pursue the best together.

Notice any adversariality in that scenario? Notice anyone judging or dominating anyone else, even themselves? Where’d all that shit go?

It’s easy to let it go when you realize that it gets you nowhere but bad. And you’ll find out that no one will punish you when you let it go, not even the universe itself, because no one can. “They” don’t have the power–only we do.

Anything short of that kind of power is survivalist bullshit. I’m so done with just surviving.


I’m living now. Believe it. 🙂



  1. Great post Millard. A MUST share! The only issue I see in it is that you left out one of the main culprits that encourage adversariality….religion. Religion and politics are kissing cousins imo. Is it no wonder that they are the two subjects that people never want to talk about because they create so much dissention between us? And even though some of us have discarded the shackles of religion in our lives, politics still plays a MAJOR role in creating this adversarial attitude in us. It is the nature of politics to DIVIDE rather than unite! Sure, individually we can choose to ignore it, but the fact that it remains at all makes it almost impossible to overcome for most people. The real question we need to answer is….how do we kill the political beast for good….or at least limit its role in our daily lives?

    • Thanks Dale! You’re right! Not sure yet why it didn’t occur to me, but it’s the source of the missing key ingredient: BULLSHIT! So then that one line should read, “Maybe that makes politics the science of violent charismatic bullshit.” Religion’s access to eternal, infinite realms of bullshit is one of its more noteworthy characteristics. I totally agree with you about the divisiveness of religion and politics. Both of them would vanish in a POOF! if everyone stopped accepting the BS of adversariality.

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