Ideas and Power

Ideas are only as powerful as the people who believe them. Powerful people exert their influence in innumerable ways, ushering ideas into pragmatic expression. Powerful ideas need not emerge from the creativity of powerful people; ideas that become powerful simply acquire the endorsement and embrace of powerful people. That is not to say that people without power cannot conceive of ideas that become powerful, only that their ideas cannot become powerful without powerful allies to move them along.

Note that I said nothing about ideas being good or bad; only powerful. Bad ideas can be powerful ideas. Bad ideas can be dangerous ideas. Bad ideas can wreck whole civilizations and societies.

These thoughts came to me one recent evening after my wife and I spent three enjoyable hours with people who I found interesting, entertaining, and fundamentally good. I wonder, though, how powerful they are. I wonder whether their ideas of justice and decency and compassion can find powerful people to embrace them.

We must explore ways to reach powerful people with ideas that have the potential to be powerful. We must find ways to entice them to believe in the potential of good ideas; otherwise, the bad ideas erupting from the minds of immoral or amoral or otherwise unfit people will emerge victors. And we’ll all suffer. Except the powerful. But their progeny and their progeny will. “These things may not harm you, but think of your children.” Maybe that’s the trump card we’ll have to play. The trick to a future worth living is to cajole, convince, or otherwise entice powerful people to believe in positive ideas with the potential to change the world. Or, if achievable, become powerful people and do the heavy lifting ourselves.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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