Saturday, 5 September 2020

Absolute power is not meant for mortals

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Yes, total and unqualified power is not meant for mortals to exercise. Absolute power is power that is independent and autonomous. It is not accountable and submits to no one. An office with absolute power makes laws for other people but lives above the laws it has made. It cannot be questioned and owes nobody any explanation. Absolute power exercises unguarded freedom without boundaries. This freedom is the reason why the occupiers speak freely and often carelessly. They can say anything, do anything and expect nothing else from those listening or watching them but to accept everything without questions. People with absolute power normally do not have good men around them. Praise singers, hypocrites and yes-men are the only ones that can hang around for a long time because they are the only ones that can be accommodated. Good men and old friends can only be accommodated at the early stages of the assumption of office, but once they settle down, they begin to drop their old friends one after the other.

The fact is that some offices, at their creation, do not have absolute power but some demagogues and power mongers can convert it into such by changing the laws and intimidating the people. The power of the office can also be converted into absolute power when they are raised above criticism, favoured and judged unlike other men and some mysteries created around them and their positions. Through this conversion, we have created tyrants on pulpits, thrones and other seats of power.

I dare say that God, the Creator, never made anyone to exercise absolute power. No one, I repeat, no one is endowed with the qualities and character to carry and discharge absolute power. The fallen man does not have the capacity to handle absolute power. He needs a horizontal as well as a vertical accountability in order to discharge justice and do what is right.

Any office that has absolute power will produce unintended monsters as its occupants. Put a saint to occupy an office that has absolute power embedded in it, it will not turn him differently. He may manage to resist at the beginning but give him many years to come, he will become what others before him became – monsters. Any office, be it religious or political, with absolute power embedded in it explicitly or implicitly, is a killer of morality. It is a pit and a grave yard, even for the most pious.

Many that exercise absolute power do not seem to understand what they have turned into until they leave office, if the position has that provision and the occupants allow the transition to continue. Then looking back, many ask themselves, “who did these despicable things? Who wrecked these havocs?” They will see that they have left in their trail broken lives trampled upon, dreams caged or destroyed, crying and weeping souls who could not save themselves from their cruelty and others just crushed because they dared to have an opposing view. There are some who unfortunately do not have the privilege of after-office reflection. They die in the position of power and are only left at the mercy of history.

Every office, whether political or religious, except occupied by the spirits, must have a sort of regulations and laws that guide the actions and or inactions of the occupants. The occupants do not make the laws that regulate the office, they submit to the laws that established the office.

Lord Acton’s words in 1887, contained in the letter he wrote to Mandell Creighton, who later became the bishop of England, are very instructive here. Mandell was writing on “The Papacy in the Reformation Epoch” but instead of presenting history the way it was, he tended to ignore or defend the atrocities committed by the Roman Catholic Popes who used the “papal courts of the Renaissance”, the inquisitions and tribunals to convict people unjustly and tortured and burnt many at stakes. Lord Acton accused Creighton, “you say that people in authority are not to be snubbed or sneered at from our pinnacle of conscious rectitude. I really don’t know whether you exempt them because of their rank, or of their success and power, or of their date… I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favoured presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” Most of the Popes exercised absolute powers and like already mentioned, they turned out to become one of the worst dictators in the history of Europe.

If we want to live in a decent society, we must not fall into the fallacy that the office sanctifies the holder of it. Because every office is occupied by fallen men, we must create accountability structures that will help the occupiers to do what is right. Constructive criticisms and engagements must be advocated at all times without fear or favour. Though often bitter, but it reminds us that we are mortals. Even when the position is religious or the occupier is pious, we must not pretend or assume that the occupier cannot do any wrong or that the office has sanctified him or her. If you are the person in position, do not destroy the accountability structures you met on assumption of office. Strengthen them instead. Accept your critics as a gift and resist the temptation of increasing your powers, except you want the office or position to destroy your morals and integrity. Because you are a mortal being, absolute power will also corrupt you. Yes, absolute power is not meant for mortals. It is meant for only the Immortal God to exercise.

Finally, we need each other to remain the humans God wants us to be. Our hearts, as fallen men, need to be transformed and tamed. Only the acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and continual submission to the Holy Spirit can do this great work in your heart and mine.  


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