“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This statement enshrines the mindset of many about power in our society. However, it may not be true because all powers can’t be corrupt, some must have governed which has driven our Society till contemporary times.
One may aptly put it in this way. “Power without responsibility tends to corrupt”. Hence a power has to come with responsibility otherwise, it leads to arbitrary, an Autocratic rule which is bound to have severe consequences.
Power in simple terms is the ability to influence other’s decisions. This applies not just in terms of ends, actual results, but also means the thought processes that go into producing those ends.
Power is more “freeing” rather corrupting; it allows one’s true self to emerge. Handling power is more about the values cultivated before coming to power.
Power can be classified into different categories according to its sources.
The Physical Power which comes with body strength. A man in traditional family setup has a power to Veto decisions of any member. But he is entwined with a sense of responsibility that his decisions should not harm other. His irresponsibleness or any wrong decision could have dire consequences for the family.
Physical Power of Police is meant for the safeguard of people but on the contrary, a gangster uses his physical power for destruction. Hence it makes clear, the consequences of power with and without responsibility.
The Mental Power or power of the mind that most educated person can possess. He is also constrained by the moral principles.
A teacher on one side teaches students different subjects needed for nation building, however on other side bigotry groups like ISIS, teach immorality and hatred leading to violence and mass killing.
The Power of Oration is the strength of one’s language and he is also bound by moral rule i.e. not to speak the foul language. Speech can be made of harmonious words but hatred words can also get a special place. Hence a responsible speaker is always bound to harmonious words.
A religious preacher can also imbibe non-violence, truth and peace (which are actually the teachings of all religions) in his words however these teachings can be moulded to spread hatred as Jihad, we very well know.
At last, Legal Power, Power of law which gives limited or perhaps the enormous power to the ruler, subjected to the type of govt. whether democracy or autocracy.
Any ruler whether Zila Pradhan or a Prime minister of a country has power by law and responsibility as well. PM with greater power has greater responsibility as compared to a Zila Pradhan.
Even further U.N has a wider scope of power and responsibility as well. Any wrong decision from its end may lead to dire consequences to the whole world.
Here also a President like Nelson Mandela who understood his responsibilities has served his nation well, on the contrary, Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe lacking understanding of responsibility facing allegations of Human rights violation on a large scale in the country.
However, History has produced many, who understood their responsibility in true spirit and set an instance for coming generations. Nelson Mandela and Jawaharlal Lal Nehru are two among them who got power after facing decades of discrimination and injustice.
Their struggle paid them with an understanding of true responsibilities towards their nation. Mandela after coming to power accepted all Black and white as citizens without any discrimination and called for war against not only white imperialism but black imperialism as well.
Also, Nehru never shied away from his responsibilities either as a parliamentarian or a legislator. His scientific temper is one of the reasons; India stood as democracy much after he left his job undone.
On the other side, there are many other who didn’t understand their responsibility, among them too many were freedom fighters. Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe and Muammar Qadhafi, dictator of Libya are few of them.
They have their mind in the right place but the process in their minds either flawed or hazy. This resulted in increasing concentration of power, lack of viable opposition resulting into human rights violation and other adverse consequences like economy etc.
Zimbabwe has become synonymous with hyperinflation while Libya has descended into near anarchy after Qadhafi’s brutal killing. In this context, Names like Adolf Hitler, Napolean Bonaparte, and Ottoman Bismarck worth mention.
Now Question arises, how could somebody be restricted to use power for the welfare of the country? How is somebody being powerful even punished if moves out of responsibilities? How concentration of power should be checked?
The answer to above questions resides in adequate constitutional checks and balances. How responsibility of whole nation could be given to a single individual as in Monarchial system.
Hence ultimate power should lie with people as in Democracy and that too equipped with a constitution made by truly democratic constituent assembly embracing minorities as well. It is this type of incubatory setup that many of aspiring democratic nations lack like Egypt, Nepal and Afghanistan.
What distinguishes Gandhi from Hitler or Armies from terrorist groups is a sense of responsibility. Responsibility also, with power becomes meaningless. Thus power and responsibility require the support of each other in every walk of life.
In this regard, Fundamental duties enshrined in Indian constitution do offer some important takeaways. One of them is a need for a citizen to cultivate a scientific temper, humanism and a spirit of inquiry and reform. This could be applicable across nations, though to be internalised as a logical sequel to one’s own self- realisation rather than imposed from above.
(Writer is an engineering graduate from MIET)