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Post No.: 0995power trip


Fluffystealthkitten says:


The majority of us believe we’re superior or at least above average amongst the population in terms of traits like intelligence, perspicacity and wisdom. Therefore when given the chance to judge our fellow students in peer reviews, for instance, we might feel we cannot give our peers a higher score than we give ourselves. Putting others down can make us feel even more relatively superior. Sometimes we competitively don’t want to see others succeed if we cannot ourselves. Sometimes it’s displacement behaviour for our own criticisms and shortcomings, against easy targets who aren’t in a position to retaliate against us. We thus fall into the fuzzy grip of a power trip!


Everybody can feel like they’re an expert, especially when granted a platform to voice their opinions and judge others like on social media, when reviewing products or when appraising interviewees.


Whenever we’re placed in positions of power over others, a power trip can go to our heads and it can feel mildly intoxicating. We detest it whenever we’re dealt the stick yet generally relish it whenever we’re wielding the stick. A power trip can turn otherwise gentle people into harsh, hypercritical critics.


Everyone thinks they’re fair judges but anyone can exploit their powerful position and perhaps even partake in corruption because they feel they possess more impunity in this lofty position. They might rationalise the behaviour away as, say, a justified means to an end. Over time, they might become out of touch with ordinary people.


Fairness is seldom objective because there are multiple subjective ways to be ‘fair’ e.g. treating everyone exactly the same versus giving children, the elderly, disabled and/or sick more leeway. Discretion is often distributed inconsistently too – see Post No.: 0724.


A power trip can make us behave without sufficient empathy, especially for those ‘beneath us’. Powerful people tend to be more selfish, impulsive (including physically touching others inappropriately), arrogant (like believing that an interview went well when it didn’t), sociopathic, aggressive and more likely to stereotype outgroups. It’s not so much that these types of people tend to get into power – although they may be the types who’ll most want and try to get into power – but that people tend to succumb to a power trip if they attain immense power, whether as a businessperson, politician, referee, judge or whatever. Narratives of one’s own individual exceptionalism spring, as well as rationalisations that one deserves one’s elevated position (even if one gained it through pure lottery) and is thus entitled to a larger share of any spoils.


Those who are most resistant to the effects of a power trip are more likely to be those who don’t wish to seek personal power or the limelight – which might speak about those who are so filthily ambitious and will tread atop of others to try to reach the summit! (If so, how can we bar those who want power and give it to those who don’t?! Is this the quandary in politics?) “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” said Lord Acton. A power trip can make us feel less dependent on others – freeing us to shift our focus away from others and onto serving ourselves.


Not that individual personalities don’t matter – not everyone will succumb to a power trip. Some leaders remain humble and grounded. But situational factors are more reliable predictors of people’s behaviours. In the Stanford Prison Experiment, people arbitrarily placed in the position of ‘prison wardens’ quite frequently treated those arbitrarily placed in the position of ‘prisoners’ badly. (The original experiment has faced criticisms like claims that the participants were playing up to the expectations of the experiment – yet ‘playing up to expectations’ indicates a situational factor too. And if it’s down to someone’s tyrannous personality then even more reason to not allow them to get into situations of power!)


So afforded the opportunity of power over others, chances are one will abuse that power at least to some degree. We cannot know for sure how we’d behave in a given situation unless we’ve been exactly there for ourselves. A power trip can arise from situations of power differentials.


(The lure of) riches can change some people for the worse. And since money is connected to power – we should always follow the money. Who stands to gain from something? Who has the means to grease someone’s paw? Who are funding particular political candidates who support industry deregulations? Rich businesspeople sometimes donate to politicians or campaigns, lobby governments, buy up or run media companies, or directly run as politicians, in order to influence, protect and further their own financial interests from the top.


It’s therefore peculiar to praise the wealth of business executives yet pillory the wealth of politicians – in many cases, corporate and governmental power are connected because money is power. Very often rich businesspeople, or their children, become the future politicians that govern us. Well evidently our politicians seldom come from poor backgrounds or their diversity doesn’t proportionately represent the socio-economic diversity of the general population. Billionaires purchase or build media/social media companies because they know that they help them to control the kinds of political messages they want to spread.


We don’t always know if someone acquired their enormous wealth without illicit or unethical activities. It’s just like we nowadays question much of the wealth that was acquired by the British Empire. We surely must be wary now that many rich people, and countries, acquired their wealth through iniquitous means thus ‘rich’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good and trustworthy’. We might even only be able to truly appraise someone’s legacy after they’ve died because the full consequences of what they did may take many years to manifest, our morals may evolve over time, or because of what things may become known about them but only after they’ve passed away. (Examples like predatory paedophile and sex offender Jimmy Savile demonstrate beyond doubt that ‘karma’ or people getting what they deserve in life or there being no such thing as luck are all faulty beliefs too.)


‘Follow the money’ is an aphorism in journalism; although this is often more difficult in practice than it sounds because organised criminals and corrupt leaders structure their companies and bank accounts in convoluted ways offshore to make their assets difficult to trace. Nonetheless, the money is there and at the heart of power and influence. Wherever there’s lots of money circulating and inadequate external oversight, there’s a risk of corruption.


If you’re motivated mainly by money, greedy, rationally self-interested, and you’re being tempted by wads of cash with little chance of getting caught and/or there’s only a minor penalty even if you do (hence the expected value of committing a crime is positive) then you’d behave corruptly too. This is how self-regulation works – or really fails to work. Morality is a malleable thing that can be rationalised away depending upon one’s desired outcome. Laws are useless if they’re not adequately enforced or if the authorities are corrupt themselves.


People – both rich and poor – who are aware of the personal advantages of manipulation are more likely to be manipulative. Thus people who work in cultures where unethical behaviour is seen as normal and where it brings their peers benefits are more likely to conduct in unethical behaviours too. This is once more why self-regulation fails – we’re self-interestedly not likely to stop or punish ourselves if we’re profiting greatly from our own cheating. And we’ll rationally let ourselves get away with it if we police ourselves.


Poor people have more reasons to commit crimes like stealing – a rich person doesn’t need to risk their reputation to steal something they can simply afford to purchase. Yet according to several independent lab experiments – relatively richer people are relatively more inclined to lie, steal and attempt to cheat, and are more overconfident.


The rich are more likely to let money define their own happiness, and (so) on average tend to give a smaller percentage of their money away. No matter how much they have, they’re prone to believe they need more to feel happier.


We can become more aloof and individualistic the richer we are because we can start to believe that we don’t need anyone else to survive – particularly anyone poorer than us – because we’ve got our money to pay/bribe for what we want. Meanwhile, tough or uncertain conditions lead people to feel more prosocial because people understand they need to work together to survive in these challenging situations.


Richer people obviously face fewer problems and stresses than poorer people on average (although they may still complain about various ‘first-world problems’ so they’re not necessarily less grumpy for being richer) but it’s mainly when we’re personally in trouble do we truly appreciate the cooperation with others e.g. strangers sharing their homes with us in the aftermath of a natural disaster. But lots of people around us are silently and privately experiencing their own hardships every single day and would like some help right now. We shouldn’t just value unity when we and our families are the ones in need.


Some world leaders didn’t take COVID-19 seriously enough until they personally caught it – so we wish they could personally experience poverty, mental health problems or bigotry in the same way to gain an empathy for those who do in these regards too. A Prime Minister may believe in implementing harsh austerity measures for the poor and ‘looking after yourselves rather than relying on the government for help’ to recover after a global financial crisis – yet then as a former Prime Minister a few years later and while working for a company that’s a whisker away from financial collapse, will aggressively lobby the current government (through privileged direct access to current MPs) for tax-funded assistance to rescue their company(!)


The wealthy are highly connected because of their power and influence. Those in gatekeeper positions especially wield outsized power. It shouldn’t be surprising that many sexual abuses have been perpetrated by gatekeepers of people’s careers e.g. male film producers sexually harassing women in the film industry. (Powerful men in general tend to overestimate the sexual interests of others and how much others around them are attracted to them.) So it’s often the case that we don’t really revere a powerful person or want to be near them but we know that we must respect and interact with them if we want to get what we want or need.


This overall points to another issue – we must somehow get away from a world where ‘it’s who you know more than what you know’ and needing to kiss certain people’s ****s to further our own careers or lives. If people claim that this is the game that must be played then it only gives these gatekeepers even more power and feed a power trip.


People who have lower religious convictions are more inclined to worship celebrities and relish gossip more. But don’t worship anyone for just being famous and they won’t have any power over you. Imagine bumping into someone you’ve never seen or heard of but is apparently famous in another country – you didn’t know so you’d just treat them as anyone else i.e. their power over you isn’t inherent in them but comes from you granting them it. Not all power derives from wealth differentials or coercion but by us simply worshipping someone or something and giving them or it that power over us; including if we desire someone or something. But we could all give fewer ****s about celebrity culture. We should also discern between actors and the characters they play – we can respect and reward their acting skills but not be interested in their personal lives, non-acting-related opinions or views of the world.


Meow. Being famous shouldn’t suddenly make someone worth listening to concerning current affairs they’re not an expert on, or when they appear in adverts trying to influence us to buy something!


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