Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Power and Religion and How it all Works

It is interesting to watch the desperate attempt of Pope Benedict the 16th attempt to maintain his and the Vatican’s grip on power over the ‘Chinese Catholics’. I say maintain as he obviously has power over those on the mainland who worship in the underground Catholic Church. On the other hand the authoritarian self-appointed Chinese government wields its power over ‘their official Catholic flock’ and appoints bishops to reinforce their point and to gain leverage in their quest to demolish the Vatican’s relationship with the other Chinese powerbase, Taiwan. For me both organisations represent humanity at its grubbiest and the quicker both reform their civilization limiting doctrines, or idealistically disappear altogether, the better it will be for humanity.

First of all, here is a definition of power (source unknown)

“The ability of a person or group to influence the thoughts or behaviour of another person or group, so that he/she or they do something they would not otherwise do, assuming that the recipients of the power have some personal discretion over what they do.” Obviously the key is choice or discretion, if the governed have no ability to choose there is no exercise of power, purely it is just an exercise of dehumanizing oppression through force. I guess those who control or have power over mechanisms of oppression are powerful by default.

Power, if you study ‘human resource management’, is said to come from five basic areas or as some put we all have five points of power. Depending which book you read you will find the following groups of words to describe the various points:

Point 1) Legitimate, Authority, Position, Access to Formal Communication

Just think how well the Catholic Church or for that matter the Muslim Mullahs, Jewish Rabbi’s, Hindu Priests, Buddhist Monks and many other wacky ‘wise men’ play their power games using point one of the five. The Pope of course claims legitimate power from god and the mullahs quote the power handed down from their prophet. All religions and their bureaucracies insist that they are the only authority and therefore of course try to direct their hapless victims to understand that only through them is salvation assured. Likewise they always insist that only they and those they appoint to spread the word have the exclusive recognised formal communication channels to ‘the main man’ (or is it a women), God.

2) Expert, Task, Knowledge, Technical Superiority, Communication

When it comes to expert knowledge the religious speakers excel. Watch Muslim clerics going on with the never-ending interpretations of who said what and what it all means for their imperfect followers. They ramble on with childlike puerile so-called moral stories, anecdotes and analogies to the point that it would drive a thinking person to a state of boredom wrought insanity. Technical superiority on who in power said what and when in their dogma of expertise seems to make them believe hold the key to life’s substance and meaning. As in the case of corporations newer staff can spend months if not years coming to grips with the false technical know-how of the ‘corporate jargon’. Older members of staff in corporations love their jargon as it makes them needed as teachers and mentors of the new and the young. Just as it is a crass and an energy sucking waste of time in companies so it is for those trying to find their god in formal religious organisations. In most (or both) cases all they ever find is how to fit in with the ‘in group’, which I guess is enough for some… sad actually.

3) Coercive, Fear, Take Away, Negative Control of Resources or Information

Well what can I say; you would have to be “dead from the neck up” not to figure out what goes on here. Hell and damnation, the loss of seventy two virgins, stoning to death, apostate killings, jail and as the hapless Bishops of China are finding out excommunication… big deal, at least these days they won’t be put on the rack and burned at the stake I suppose. Poor Joan of Arc, the story still makes me angry. By the way a great fear factor… don’t mess around or AIDS will get you (that should scare the bejesus out of them), condoms no way… the Muslims are reproducing quicker than the Catholics. For some of course its, oh well want to mess around, how about four wives, or now in some Arab lands even temporary wives that have no legal status.

4) Referent, Personal Attractiveness, Relationship, Groups, Charisma, Sex

Churchmen of course know how to charm as well, charismatic leaders are always chosen and the love and cuddly warm stuff is on offer all the time. Just think of it, seventy-two virgins, lovely couches to lie on and beautiful liquids to drink, what an enticement for the Muslim faithful. I am not sure… are the virgins supposed to stay virgins or is that where the sex comes in? Come to church you Christian sinners and be entertained sing, let your hair down, feel safe and loved and even spill your guts to a priest and he will lovingly forgive you. The referent power, that’s the cruncher. Referent power means the leader is a close confidant of and holds favour with the ultimate power, (the bosses in corporations) and the almighty and most powerful in the church movements … the Gods. For Muslims I guess its being a friend of and perhaps even a direct descendent of the profit, or at least a descendant of one of his best friends or relatives.

5) Reward, Positive Control of Resources or Information, Money, Benefits

Ah… the charity boat arrives. Spend a little money help the poor unfortunates, reinforce your mission by creating psychological and physiological dependence… and tell them only what you want them to hear. The Muslim Clerics, particularly the Saudis, are very good at this; just learn the Koran stay poor and we will look after you. The money the Saudis have reportedly poured into South East Asia is one of the greatest threats to liberal democracy in the region today. For the Christians its, come confess you ‘real’, (rather than fake Chinese Catholics), donate part of your wealth, we will lift your guilt and send you to heaven. Remember however, you can only approach the gates of the ‘promised land’, heaven, nirvana or wherever…by adhering to our particular dogma.

Critical for power - dependency

‘The power receiver’s relationship to the holder/s of power is effected when the holder posses something that the receiver wants. The more dependant the receiver is the greater the power of the holder. Critical to dependency are; the importance of what is controlled, the scarcity of the resource and the potential for substitutes or alternatives.’ Now if the follower is crassly indoctrinated from an early age with the idea that freedom from guilt and self-loathing can only come by doing exactly what the priest or cleric says, what chance of escape? It amazes and pleases me at times that some actually do overcome the crap. Of course historically (and more so today), some of the church leaders get you to part with your hard earned dollars along the way. How much wealth does the Catholic Church have? An remember for the followers of Islam you must save all your pennies so you can do the hajj and ‘holiday’ in Mecca, your salvation is dependent on it.

Learned helplessness

I guess for most of us safety sensations where most real when we were protected by loving parents. Someone once said to me, ‘you don’t really become an adult until both your parents die.’ ‘Then and only then are you truly on your own.’ Because your parents are the only potential source of ‘real’ unconditional love you are ever likely to have, their loss can truly make you grow, or in some cases I guess, to crumble and seek a supportive crutch. We all go through a stage in our early development when we are truly helpless. I guess a religious father (or mother) substitute can represent a powerful source of security to us all. There is however an opportunity for a sinister force to be at work here if we as adults, become what is known as victims of ‘learned helplessness’. Many powerful organisations and leaders recognise and utilise learned helplessness to further their own power. If our attempts to grow, explore and diverge from the cultural norms we are subjected to when we are young are punished, we are likely as adults to have developed an attitude of submission to the power figures in our lives.

Arab cultural traditions lead many traditional Arab parents to instil shame in their children as a control or punishment technique for those that deliver less than what is expected in the performance of their duties. Another situation that demonstrates this facet of power and learned helplessness that amazes me is how some Arab women will still defend the need for the wearing of a Hijab or Burqa, nothing beats indoctrination from an early age I guess.

The Christians are also pretty good at teaching helplessness as any honest Catholic will attest. Here’s a couple of nasty examples; I’m not sure which brand of god botherers its from however:

“Bible Studies for Younger Youth:

Unit 1 – All In the Family, Unit Developmental Life Issue: Family Session 1: Look Out For Each Other Life Question: What are the benefits of being part of a family? Biblical Truth: Families are to be a place of protection and provision where the members look out for each other. Bible Passage: Exodus 1:15—2:10

Unit 3 – Influencing Others, Unit Developmental Life Issue: Influence Session 2: Take A Stand, Life Question: How can I influence others when everything seems to be working against me? Biblical Truth: As you worship and trust in God, He will provide for you, and your experience will influence others. Bible Passages: Daniel 3:1-30; Proverbs 3:5-6

Unit 5 – God’s Gifts for You, Session 2: God’s Gift: More Power, Life Question: How can I live like Christ desires? Biblical Truth: Through Christ you have everything you need to live a productive Christian life. Bible Passage: 2 Peter 1:3-11

Unit 6 – The Grateful Living Session 1: An Attitude of Gratitude, Life Question: What’s so important about gratitude? Biblical Truth: Being grateful to God is an acknowledgement of your helplessness apart from Him. Bible Passage: Psalm 30:1-12

More power to us all!


The Power Principle – Blaine Lee – Covey Leadership Centre;
Simon & Shuster, 1997

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