On Poetry and Culture Shock

Ridiculous areas of power

Fanshawe has written an excellent essay rant essay on the nature of power . It is true that having a great power over a small area can be a very dangerous thing. Reducir al mínimo, his blog, is in Spanish, and I like that entry so much that here you have my translation.


I was wondering why I had such a violent, furious reaction against all this Wikipedia business*. The previous post's title, the addenda, everything, shows I was raging in a situation which, at least in theory, doesn't affect me that much. I mean, I don't know Cisne Negro (well, now I know him a little bit more) and I have nothing to do with Lovie's cartoon (beyond the fact that I'm a reader), therefore it would have been a logical reaction to report on the case and show my disagreement with Wikipedia's management.

But it wasn't so. I was angry; furious. It has become a personal issue and I would like to know why.

A few days ago, my boss, a short-sighted, bad-mannered guy, ordered me to change my seat at work. I began to tell him why I preferred to stay where I was and he cut me short saying, "here, we do as I say", and left, leaving me mid-sentence. I went out after him, like a hyena, and I accused him of having bad manners, of not respecting me, of being unable to talk to anybody to their faces, of being authoritarian, of power having gone to his head. Anyway, he just repeated "do as I say because I say so". It's a comfort to know that he spend a couple days aching about this argument.

But let's stop at the "power going to his head" bit. This is Palazzo Paleotti. A study room and computer lab at [Bologna] University. My boss's domain is... minimal. Tiny. Insignificant. But he's all full of himself, al full of that little bit of power, and he uses and abuses it. I rebel, get angry, give notice (actually, tomorrow's my last day). But it doesn't matter, he thinks he has the right to yell, to bully, and repeat once and again things like "I'm the boss here", "I represent to the outside the study rooms of Bologna [University]". When someone doesn't tolerate his shouting, he gets crazy. He's the boss, period.

There are even smaller areas of power. The bus driver that closes the door on your face just because he can. He is in charge of his bus and he decides you can't go in, even if he saw you running all the way to the bus stop, it doesn't matter. He uses and abuses his power. The University secretary who makes your life hell when you register beecase she doesn't feel like working. When you complain, she gets mad and decides that she's not going to register you. Because she's in charge. It's her area of power and she squeezes it, as abusively as possible. I used to date a girl who got angry with me when I was nice or friendly to restaurant staff, when I helped them to clean up or lifted things so that they coupld wipe underneath. She used to say, "they are working for you, you're his boss".

I realise now that I have reacted like a rabid dog to something that I've considered an abuse of a tiny area of power, Wikipedia. Arrogance, bad manners, condescendence, not listening, not discussing, shutting oneself up in stubborness and using "I am the boss, so shut up" as a weapon. It sounded like an Internet version of nouveau-richness, of someone who has been a nobody all his life and suddenly finds himself with power in his hands, even a tiny bit, such as a bus, a study room or a Wiki. And then I think about how these people, simple and normal with virtues and flaws, with a little bit of extra power become dictators, tyrants, horrible people who try to be always on top, treading on no matter who... just because they can. And in that case, what happens to those who get real power, power over something big? It has always been said that power corrupts, and I begin to worry that it is true in 9 out of 10 cases.

I wonder what would happen to me if I had power, even a little bit, how I would behave, if I would forget my ethics and would bully everyone, as so many others do. I think of the times I have been a teacher, in charge of a class, if I have ever said "because I say so".

Sometimes I am afriad of giving up , either way. Giving up the fight against this and giving up the fight against myself so that I don't fall into the trap.

*To cut a long story short, Fanshawe was angry because a Spanish wikipedia entry on a comic book was deleted by the Wikipowers that be.

1 comentario

fanshawe -

Thank's a lot, Nia, I think that it's the first time that anyone translates me :-)