Power control and controlling Power

Created and born free we were,

without knots and sans binds;

minus constricting chains,

and to be whatever we can be.


Freewill we came endowed with,

To become whoever we can become.

Our existence is boundless and limitless.


Why then, why?

Why do we joyfully?

celebrate our being caged?

– femi Adedina


Documentaries thrill me. I watch a lot whenever I do have the time. A time ago I watched‘Trails from the East’ on SBS  in Perth, Western Australia. The programme, in its ninth episode  follows a traveller through Asia. I had followed his journeys through India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and in this episode the documentary maker and also a traveller is journeying through Iran and moving into Turkey. The documentary is presented without us seeing the narrator at all. We only hear the narrator’s comments giving us his itinerary. What we see most are copious (unedited?) interviews with variety of individuals on the train as it chugged- chugged from one city to another and from one country to the other. Sometimes we are made to visit some individuals in their homes, offices or in some other places or villages. The interviewees are given the freedom to say what they feel about an issue with contrary and politically incorrect views accepted. In the few episodes I have watched  the main issue had been religion and religious tolerance. Conflicting views are accepted, allowed, not shut out and are taken from varied demographics, gender and beliefs. The comments are not filtered – because there have been some really downright orthodoxy ones – but the viewer is left to listen to what each individual says and left to judge. There are no comments from the narrator and no editing out of controversial thoughts. It was one of such comments that sets me thinking about the question of human beings power to control others and bend such to their will. In the interview, the woman, an Iranian of Baha’i faith talked about how difficult it was for her family to profess their faith in Iran theocratic Islamic state. She further said that her parents had to pretend to be Muslims in order to retain their jobs and be able to survive the various pitfalls put in their way by the Iranian bureaucracy and live in Iran. She expressed the point that she was tired of pretense and pretending. Then, the train moved into Turkey. In her opinion, when the train was in Iran, everybody was listless but immediately it crossed into Turkey a change came over them because everybody became freer and happier.

This set me thinking. The train, people and the interview action are still the same but as the train entered another space, a change occurred. The difference between coercion, constriction, tyranny, dictation and intimidation becomes reflected as the train’s wheels moved forward a short length from one country to another. Just a few feet and there occurs a change in mien, breath and comportment. It was not a movement from a different part of the world to another, it was still from one part of the same region (Iran to Turkey), not a movement from one religion to another (Turkey and Iran both profess Islam) and not from one race to another – Iranians and Turks are almost the same set of people. The difference is just in freedom and coercion, letting go and control and liberty and constraint. Her thoughts triggered my contemplations on human beings, control, beliefs, terrorism, democracy and man’s inhumanity to man. These contemplations generated some questions.

Questions such as:

  • Why do people in power, relationships, businesses and organisations or other human interactions always want to control others?
  • Why is power and its manifestations in most times a “a cocoon of the deaf”?
  • Why are some human beings manipulative and controlling?
  • What makes some individuals, systems or organs feel that they are created in order to think for others?
  • What makes some individuals to think that their culture, beliefs, practices, wisdom, faith or concepts are better than that of others while insisting that others must therefore imbibe such or be forced to or killed if they don’t want to?
  • Why is it that majority of people’s thinking are sometimes if not most time contrary to what seems right, or are not ready to reason or think but will willingly allow others to think for them while submitting their freewill?
  • What is it with human beings that we cannot be free and allow others to be free?

Nights after watching this documentary and hearing the woman expressing these thoughts I was worried. I started thinking about power, might is right, dictation, domination, ideologies, religion, human rights and control. Scenes from the film Elizabeth, the plays A man of all seasons, An enemy of the people, The Crucible and the gory burnings of heretics during the Inquisition came to my mind. I then remembered a scene in Robert Bolt’s A man of all seasons where Henry VIII was asking Thomas More for his support in and the Chancellor asked the king why he needs his support .The king answered that:

Because you are honest…and that is more to the purpose, you are known to be honest. There are some like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth and I am their tiger, there’s a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves. And then there’s you…

Thomas More was contented with resigning his post and keeping silent about King Henry’s divorce, which was against Thomas More’s belief as a Catholic. Rather the king would not even allow him this silence because More’s silence was as Cromwell puts it ‘is not silence at all, but most eloquent denial’. Henry VIII won’t be a total king unless More is controlled and the king’s power is seen to be all overbearing and powerful. To controllers, silence, or indifference does not count. What counts and matters is capitulation and allowing them to control your thoughts, breath, forcing you to accept their views or perceptions and erasing your individuality and uniqueness. Times after times in human history we see this played out – Mao Tse Tung, the Crusaders, The Puritans in Salem, extremists in all religions, Klu Klux Klan, Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Hitler,ISIS,White Supremacists  and others. The results have always been massacres, genocides, torture, intimidation and the use of terror as a weapon. In times ancient, present and the future there had been and there will always be individuals, organisations, groups or systems who believe they are God’s gift and interpreter to humanity or if they are atheists who believe they have evolved better than the rest of us. They will always want us to conform to their own precepts and ideas. The germane questions then are:

  • How do we resist them?
  • How do we assert our individuality, our right to exist and be who we are created without being some of others but some of a kind?
  • How do we tackle creeping in dictatorship of thoughts, beliefs and perceptions?
  • How can we as individuals control this innate power within every human being to control others or bend the wills of others to their own will

The tools of combatting groupthink, coercive tools of the state and the overpowering shadow of the one who wants to turn a person into a picture of himself or herself include:

  • Education and enlightenment
  • Well-developed and focused inner being
  • Efficiently and effectively developed and active conscience
  • Acceptance of reality
  • Understanding the narrator, narrator’s intentions and motives and the narrative we are opened to.


Who thinks for you?

Who are you- the horse or the rider?

Last Line.

The photocopy can only be like the original material and never the original. Cultivate and assert your uniqueness because that is YOU.


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