The Game of Power

We have all used it over ourselves or unto others. Maybe to accomplish something we desire from others, or influence others to our own ideals. We all have had that shining moment when things are manoeuvred successfully by us, yet we are sometimes not aware howthese manifestations happen. This intangible entity is called Power. It is a neutral tool that has been aspired, fought for, and maintained by countless civilizations. This intangible entity caused destruction among people, and caused tremendous advancements as well. The universe is basically built upon power, a shear force that hold things together, keep things going, control and maintain biological systems. And on social dynamics, power is the most aspired entity that is worth shedding blood for. We have seen how Babylonian rulers were able to maintain power by disseminating a common knowledge among the masses that the rulers had direct access to magic and witchcraft, and this black magic was capable of destroying anyone who dared to disobey; we have also examined how Ancient Egypt stationed power by equalizing their rulers to Gods and Goddesses worthy of worship. The Roman Empire, on the other hand, was able to expand beyond its initial state due to their calculated military advancements, and strategically- infused politics with the new lands acquired. On a contemporary account, we have witnessed how The United States of America rose to power by positioning herself as the leading frontier of Democracy and technological advancement, and this political establishment was coined in Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s E=MC2 atomic bomb explosion during World War Two. These public relations between states and the struggle of acquiring and maintaining power is certainly a very old game that was once played by different legions, yet the same rules are applied to each new tournament. The raw definition of power is hard to identify, since each person define it according to their subjective prospective. Niccolo Machiavelli, the writer of the famously read book The Prince, gave a different contrast to what power is and could be. And that is in comparison to the earlier comprehension of the elements of power. In the middle ages, it was a common understanding that the ruler ought to be morally- upright to legitimately reign over his subjects. The elements of power were highly influenced by the moralistic view of who deserved authority, and that is understandable since the church was the omnipotent authority figure at that time. In The Prince, this notion of moralistic standpoint in terms of authority as the sole legitimate way to acquire and maintain power was highly criticized by Machiavelli. The writer argued extensively, that regardless if the power acquired is from a legitimate or illegitimate means, it is but the Prince’ obligation to learn the practical skills necessary in maintaining rulership, thus, sustaining his state. Shakespeare, on the other hand, portrayed different facets of rulers with a single common denominator of power manifestation. In Henry IV’s play, we have witnessed the social dynamic between various powerful characters on different intensity. Prince Hal was the most transformative character that experienced a metamorphosis during the climax of the play. He was like a chameleon that churned his way into the ideal prince any kingdom shall aspire. And the fact that his mediocrity was just an act to lower everyone’s expectation and present a spectacle of awe and admiration once his true character is revealed, definitely portrayed Prince Hal’s strategic-thinking ability. And this very quality is the most needed skill for a ruler to master throughout his reign. Since rulers will always be tossed with intensive rate of decisive actions and quick witted manoeuvrings, King Henry IV demonstrated this leadership skill of compartmentalizing and strategically aligning his decisions and projects on an operational manner. It is argued that there is a hint of Machiavellian power in Henry IV’s style of leadership, as he portrayed a politically-infused mindset when dealing with enmities and potential rebellions, and this type of power mindset was not the norm at that time since kings were considered to be chosen by God himself and no one will ever threaten their throne. In Henrik Ibsen’s play The Enemy of the People, this shed light upon a different aspect of power struggle than the other works. In this play, we have witnessed how a person with a legitimate access to authority can lose power by the voice of the masses. The play focused on the power struggle between different personalities yet powerful in their own way. Dr. Stockmann, is considered powerful due to his career background as the doctor and healer of the town and being the expert of water baths, his brother Mayor Stockmann, on the other hand, is considered a legitimate authority figure by being the government representative of the town. Public influence, subliminal maneuverings, direct manipulations, and deceptive mannerisms were all demonstrated during the power play between key characters of the play. By which this reminds us of how Machiavelli explicitly emphasized that power cannot be obtained and maintained without a leeway in morals. I can summarize the ideology behind Machiavelli’s The Prince as “Appear as to how the masses consider as lofty good and a sound leader, but subliminally do what is necessary to control the conditions to what you see fit.” And this single phrase was well demonstrated by Mayor Stockmann. He was successful in influencing the people of the town to officially call Dr. Stockmann as their public enemy while being completely out of accusation. From the Enemy of the People, we have witnessed that power is best played subtly. This very same skill was portrayed by Henry IV during his subtle disregard to Hotspur’s appeal for Mortimer’s ransom from the Welsh. Mortimer was more legitimate to rule England than King Henry and that knowledge was well ingrained as a potential threat to his throne. King Henry could have had multiple options to eradicate this threat, for example he could have ordered a forceful action of killing Mortimer prior capture, or could have politically made an agreement with the Welsh for his execution in trade of something with value. But King Henry’s inaction about the matter shed light upon his Machiavellian tendency to subtly manoeuvre conditions to what he see fit with action or inaction. It is well understood by these characters that power by force is the weakest type of them all. Hotspur was forceful, powerful in the battlefield but lost in the game of manipulation. All leaders omit achieving their goals by war or forceful coercions. Since it will cost monetary, people, and land losses, therefore forceful coercion is indeed an expensive venture. Machiavelli made it clear those other types of power such as influence, reward mechanism, and referent should be exercised prior considering the use of force or threats. Social power was extensively discussed, yet no one can become socially powerful without harnessing self-generating power. Dr. Stockmann demonstrated inner power when his power and authority position was shed from him. In the eyes of the society, he has become a no body, but we have seen during the end of the play how Dr. Stockmann found strength in being alone. “The strongest people, who can stand alone” as cited by Henrik Ibsen. This self-generating power was also portrayed by the quick witted Falstaff. He is but a mere commoner who had a chance to influence greatly a prince. This complex character has demonstrated that you do not need to be born a prince to have the power factor. Falstaff single handedly manipulated, deceived, achieved to cast influence and control numerous characters in the play, and that is including the young Prince Hal.

We might be centuries away from these greatly written literature, but the rules of the game are still the same. The laws of power still apply to this very day. We are engaged in this power play whether we are aware of it or not. Battlefields became institutions and workspaces, kings and princes became business owners and presidents, while the masses are still occupied on how to survive their daily lives.

This is how it was and it will always be: A Game of Power.

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