Are there a masculine and a feminine way to power? Or, concerning gender, is power neutral? It’s not easy to make a distinction, in a society where power often means dominance, subjugation, exertion of force, if not of abuse and violence. We, men and women are, almost in equal measure, all influenced by this kind of relationship with our mates. Centuries of conflicts, political Machiavellian intrigues, oppressions and injustice certainly have not been fostering the thriving of a more noble idea of power.
Even though we easily associate power to higher and predominant positions in society, we don’t have to forget that, at different levels and in different ways, we all exert some kind of power. A parent yelling at his/her child, a car driver illegally taking precedence on another car, a shop keeper fixing a much too high a price for rare goods, even a little kid whimsically insisting on a toy: they all exert power. Yet when we are subjected to a wrongdoing or injustice, we give up exerting our power.
Victim and offender are actors in an archetypical drama, inscribed in our genes. They are the two sides of the coin, triggered by the experience of our species. They represent the two complementary modalities, respectively showing the interior Feminine and Masculine in humans, at animal mind’s level. The offender uses arbitrary power, in order to gain egotistical advantage from the victim; this latter, is sometimes really helpless and forced to be subjected, but sometimes he/she only believes to be as such and so he/she feels self-pity and turns down defending him/herself. Beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. Since the victim is not aware of really having power, then it happens that he/she would make use of it in form of manipulation, sense of fault, grudge, vengeance or blame. Hard to say who among us did not ever exert both the masculine power of the offender and the feminine power of the victim. We are quite familiar with both the roles of this game, that stick together in all their wicked variations. Former victims tend later to become offenders; the one who has easily overwhelmed a helpless victim, might turn out to become a victim of his/her same untamed impulses or of other people’s vengeance.
Max Weber, the renowned sociologist, who very clearly understood the violent nature of political power, acknowledged to the State the monopoly of legitimate violence: still violence indeed, yet ruled by written prescriptions and therefore less arbitrary. In the modern State the disproportion of force between the State itself and the citizens is evident: it generates clashes and conflicts, since it is governed by élites holding the power with any means, constantly replacing themselves like the cut heads of the lernaean Hydra. The political battlefield, in state societies, is the stage of slyness and force, the ground of the fox and the lion which time ago Machiavelli had written about in his Il Principe (The Prince). But even when power has been balanced by law, and hence legitimated, it remains at this level, mostly a poor power, that is typical of animal mind: it recycles the eternal pattern victim/offender at the same time.
Neoliberalism has brought this game to the climax. It has got us used to the laws of the jungle, by making us familiar with concepts like competition and supremacy of the strongest as “natural” ideas. Mors tua vita mea. Egotism, lack of empathy, injustice and inequality have been declared as virtues sisters of “liberty”: they are understood as absence of obligations, of rules and limits to the huge greed of money and, above all, of power of the few. Wealth matters because it produces power. It gives a sense of elation to antisocial subjects: the feeling of having in their hand other people’s life.
But one of the cultural sources of this greedy attitude towards nature and every human being has to be sought into the rationalising and instrumental mentality of modern science: it was originated by the concept of dominance upon Nature (“Knowing is power” said Francis Bacon, comparing Nature to a woman to be taken violently) and has nowadays given rise to the current predominance of technology on every other human attitude. We are dealing with a lethal mixture of two tendencies, converging to the disintegration and decay of the grounding unity of human being and societies. This is bringing about not only war between individuals, but even inside them, that is between their animal and their less and less perceivable spiritual side. This kind of instrumental conception of man will lead to nothing else than total and autocratic control of the few upon the rest of the people: a form of control that will be ensured by means of technology and with the aid of the victims (we all): victims who are unaware of their own force of resistance and defense, because they are not in touch with their spiritual essence.
This essence is powerful and creative: it is the sole force able to place a division between our half-free life and the forthcoming arrival of the man/machine hybrid, a subject devoid of consciousness and a helpless slave in the hand of the controlling power. The true dark power, absolute and supreme, is not money: it is the power of wiping out the divine flickering spark of any other human. At the level of animal mind, there is even a constructive power: on its masculine side it means defense capacity, task-oriented approach and spirit of initiative, whereas on its feminine side it means ability of maintaining group unity, of caring for the offspring and placating anxiety.
Even though distinctions may always be a bit strained, they let us comprehend that, at this level, we are not particularly different from other social mammals, if not by degree of behavioural complexity. Yet we are not just animals, be it of human breed. We are much more and all conspires to make us unaware of it. When considered from the viewpoint of spiritual consciousness, power is an influence that is exerted on oneself and on other people in order to enforce awareness and chance for action. This power nourishes itself with responsibility and respect, it is vigilant, careful, welcoming, available to overcome mistakes and to restore what has gone broken. So, responsibility is awareness of the consequences of one’s conduct. Respect is deep acknowledgment of the divine sparkling light of our mates. A power of such kind does not know manipulation, subjugation, egotism, envy and incorrectness. On its masculine side it is force and interior harmony, ability to take care by giving shelter, justice, clearness of intentions and will, determination; on its feminine side it is spiritual Love (written in block letter on purpose, in order to separate it from human love, made of feelings and dependencies). This Love joyfully looks at other’s advancements; it is creativity, equality (that is, justice being endorsed according to the circumstances), capacity to create social harmony and acceptance.
If power at animal level is control over other people and environment and a means to surviving as well, at spiritual level it is service and a means to individual and social development, as rise of consciousness as well. If, on the one hand, the power of first type seems to be normal, on the other hand we don’t have to underestimate the enormous potential of the second. Power as service has a much larger impact at any level, since it is transformative, constructive, able to create connections and to multiply forces. It requires great inner strength and produces amazing changes. Above all, it makes us feel good, because this should be the level of dignity we had permanently to place ourselves in.
Then, why should we put accent on the feminine side of power as service, if both of its energies are needed for expressing it? The reason, I would say, is essentially historical: in the western countries (but not only) the historical events have been developing in humans the violent and masculine side of the animal mind, constantly neglecting the creative, generative and harmonic part of the spiritual consciousness. We can make sense of this by looking at the outcomes: environmental destruction, lifeless science subdue to money, economics ignoring people’s needs and rights, huge financial resources aimed at war and destruction, countless autocratic and violent regimes that ruled and still are ruling this woeful planet, constant manipulation of the public opinion by the media, social life marked by egotism and competition instead of solidarity and cooperation, thousand-year old depreciation of woman and Feminine in general.
We need to strengthen our best side, we have to experience a constructive masculine side instead of a destructive one, together with an empathic and loving Feminine side. We must heal the massive sufferings inflicted to our interior Feminine, in order to reawaken the powerful force of the masterful and conscious Masculine. This is neither a theoretical nor a utopian project. We can start right today, by working hard on ourselves and together with those supporting us.
In the Rebis group we are enthusiastically dedicating our efforts to this aim, with all our know-how and experience. Some first results are incoming. We invite you to join us. You find us on www.grupporebis.org.
Translation by Paolo Genta