Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Harm Does Not Interest Them

"Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them."
- TS Eliot, American-born British critic and poet (1888-1965)

This is a different take on the motivation of people who seek power. Eliot implies that power seekers are fundamentally insecure, thus seek ways to make themselves feel important.

I would put it slightly differently. I would say that these insecure people seek power to make themselves feel important in the eyes of others, so that others will see them as important. If they can't feel important within themselves, then receiving the respect that power accords will satisfy them.

This is a stretch when we think of people such as presidents of the USA or CEOs of powerful corporations. But then, those people are consumate professionals who have the skills to disguise what they don't want others to know and display what they do want them to see.

Let's move away from power and focus on ostentacious purchases. Why must Hollywood movie stars live in homes that are many times larger than our own? Do they require more space to run around before bed? They might say it's for entertaining, but that can be done easier (and porbably cheaper) when the star uses the facilities of a major hotel that is set up to handle such events. No, they just feel they want something grandiose to show off. The adulation of others makes them feel more secure.

Does an expensive Mercedes Benz drive or ride or park any better than a much less expensive Italian or American car? Maybe not, but their owners believe they are better because they get more notice from others by owning them.

Everyone who reaches a postion of power and many who own expensive possessions have caused some harm to others along the way. They don't care about the others because they consider their defeat or their subsequent poverty to be the consequence of the way that business is operated. Only the winners count.

When everyone in parliament or Congress is healthy and most are fairly wealthy, health care suffers more than any other part of government because sick people are losers to the politicians. President Bush plans to balance the US budget within five years by cutting back on health care funding. The poor health of his own people doesn't matter so long as his military has the money to kill or maim as many of "the enemy" as possible.

As Eliot said, the harm they do does not interest them. Feeling important is what matters.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make sense of the rat race so we can fix what is broken before it is destroyed totally.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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