Power and Reason?

October 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

I do this for a reason. I want you to donate to a children’s charity and write to me. Please see the About Lesley page or read the instructions at the end of this post…..

I have been wandering round the news sites again this week. I like to read the news on that Interweb, it allows you to skim some stories and find deeper opinion articles when you are in that frame of mind. One article in particular caught my eye – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19842100, entitled ‘The psychology of the powerful’, interesting stuff.

There were two main threads to the article. First we had the theory that power can (literally?) go to a person’s head. This came from an extract from a speech from psychologist Guy Claxton at the Royal Society of Medicine conference this week. He talked about “a disorder of intelligence”. Mr. Claxton is Professor of learning sciences at the University of Winchester, has written many books and advised multiple organisations on how to help people learn.

He makes some excellent points, I know I don’t do him justice but my take from his words:-

  • When you gain a position of (Government) power you move into a different world. You are the person who decides.  This different world does not have its core in the day-to-day life that the rest of the world inhabits
  • There is a danger that this (cloistered) world gives a different reality wherein the decision-making and not the decision itself can become more important. You must be seen to act and the speed of your action, not the thought processes behind it will take priority
  • Doubt is a key quality in all of us. It makes us explore more angles before making a decision we can stand over. When we lose doubt we can lose clarity. One way to keep doubt fresh is to have friends who will challenge and even mock you.
  • If you don’t have humour or doubt you will lose the ability to see your own flaws. Acknowledge them and accept the new ones that others may point out. If you don’t do this? You will always be right and everyone else will be wrong. That way leads hubris, wonderful word, scary meaning.

Professor Claxton is well worth a Google or two. I particularly liked the two listed below:-



I did say there were two main points to the article. The second part covers empathy, another wonderful word and one I love. It is the risk from a lack of empathy that was discussed at the Royal Society of Medicine conference. When we like someone their pain becomes our pain, we empathise. Differing levels of status can impact this. Those in power become, by their position, high-status. This can impact the levels of empathy felt for those perceived to be of lower status; a real danger for all politicians. It brings me back to the cloistered world scenario above. A lack of understanding of how policies impact people is, to me, dangerous. The policy becomes all, the people not so much. I know unpleasant decisions have to be taken. Governments cannot hogtie themselves with hand-wringing and agony. However, they need to account for the impacts their decisions will have on normal people.’ The people’ is not an abstract concept, it is you and me. We have to live with the impacts of the decisions that others make, that is the way when you live in a governed society. I know this, I just hope the politicians do too.

Power and reason need to be bedfellows, arrogance and lack of empathy are normally fleeting in first world politics. Hubris is there but in small nuances. But other countries live with the impact of total hubris, where the people matter not at all. There are countries where it is all about the power and nothing about the reason.

I close, as always, with this:-

  • Please donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice.
  • Visit this blog and comment about your donation. Please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I still want to collect those tales and hope that some child will read about your words and deeds and want to do the same when they are older.

I will:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • Store all comments so that everyone can read them.

Thank you for reading.


Entry filed under: Charity, Children, Donating, Giving, Government, Life, Poverty, wheniwas8. Tags: , , , , , , , .

News or Silly Season? Hindsight.

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