“Power Corrupts – Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”. This quotation by Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 remains a telling observation about our species. Throughout time it has been the defining moment in the collapse of each civilization, from China, through Greece, Rome and beyond.
If we look at the latter days of the Roman Empire we see the manipulation of the masses, through the increasing debauchery of the Games deflecting attention away from the wholesale corruption within government, by those intent upon holding power at any cost.
Endemic within this condition is the direct correlation between the accumulation of power and an increasing lack of accountability by those exerting the power – one feeds the other.
If we look back at our species, each civilisation has grown to occupy an increasing proportion of the known world, culminating with the British Empire who occupied an area “upon which the sun never set”. Within the confines of this dynamic lay the seeds of destruction. Growth reaches a saturation point beyond which individual human comprehension or ability seem to fade and leadership ceases to pursue meaningful development – decadence.
The higher ideals of human endeavour grow weak and are replaced by indulgence, as achievement is measured by narrowing definitions of greed and power, superseding the original desire to benefit mankind. Blame cannot be placed at any individual’s door when it manifests, the desire for power is an intrinsic part of the human condition.
In this 21st century we are faced, for the first time in our history, with the ability to occupy and “manage” the complete known world – Globalisation – and additionally we are now making sorties into the new frontiers of space. This situation contains the seeds of our destruction or liberation as a species, depending upon how we continue to perceive and manage the fundamental aspects of who and what we are.
I offer a personal perspective on where we are at for consideration:
Corporate activity – The financial markets have enjoyed unprecedented growth with little accountability as to how that growth is achieved. The sub-prime market in America, the collapse of a bank for the first time in 150 years in the UK and the largest negative trading position in financial history by an employee of a French Bank, have all occurred within a space of just six months.