Thoughts on Power 

The other day I was in the Myanmar Embassy, waiting for a friend who promised to come by noon so we can process our visas together. 23 minutes after and still no sign of her, I stood up and left the 8th floor of Gervacia Center along Pasay Road in Makati. I was pissed. I had already told her Friday last week to not be late for the appointment, as she was also around an hour late for our visa processing; granted, it was not her fault that we did not get to fix all our paperworks that day – but being made to wait again when you’ve already flagged the issue is just a smack in the face that says, “I don’t really respect your time.”

Last weekend, we went to a party at Lake Pandin in San Pablo, Laguna, celebrating another friend’s birthday whilst enjoying the bucolic setting. We had planned it to be a whole afternoon of merriment swimming and eating, which it turned out to be, despite my secret fear of contracting some flesh-eating bacteria or brain-eating amoeba (forgive me, I am a hypochondriac.) The problem was I had other plans that night, and we ended up extending beyond the projected time of return in Makati, where I had scheduled to watch Red Turnip Theater’s adaptation of “Closer”. Not wanting to pressure anyone since it was, after all, not my occassion to begin with, I avoided any sort of confrontation with my vegan friends. The avoidance resulted in my being late.

These two incidents made me realize something which I’ve noticed to happen quite frequently, but which I’ve tried to deny all this time: it’s the – for lack of better term in mind – jerks who win in the end.

They may not be the total jerks who grab all things and barricade everything for themselves – at times, they’re the ones who’ve mastered the art of sly, careful manipulation, who twist your arm gently and make you feel that you are equally guilty for the sharp pain you’re experiencing from your limb. Forget the nice winners – it’s all propaganda. People who have an agenda and push for their agenda are the ones who get to the top: stepping on other people’s shoulders is a prerequesite to winning the game of life and getting immortalized as victors. Because having an agenda will at some point infringe on someone else’s agenda, and being resolute on achieving what you plan to achieve is sharpening your horns so you can gore people blocking your way.

Here is the thing that is perhaps the biggest contradiction to our desire to create a kinder, gentler society: we often reward aggression and rally behind people who step up to claim power. There is always an element of power play at work. Equality, while not a fantasy, is inertia; the thing that propels us forward is the constant war for more power, for control. As a people, it seems we’re just built that way, as sad as it is. We are shortsighted, and this myopic perspective is what allows us to keep trudging on (conveniently oblivious to the reality that only entropy awaits us in our future.) 

To assert one’s right is to believe in one’s entitlement. To forgive and to be genial, sympathetic is to surrender authority. Power: everything is about power.  The unsettling fact is, is there an alternative at all, apart from death? Even death is an escape that does not solve the issue: it only allows other people to usurp more power. The resources you refuse will be enjoyed by someone else: if not by people, then other species. It’s a sad fate. And the jerks, they’ll still have the most fun.  

By Evan Tan

Evan Tan is a writer & communications professional based in Manila, Philippines.

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