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Katie van Schaijik

Persons and power

Aug. 1, 2009, at 1:41pm

In the course of an insightful analysis of this revealing photo
at the American Thinker blog, Thomas Lifson hits on a central theme of personalist ethics:

In my own dealings with the wealthy and powerful, I have always found that the way to quickly capture the moral essence of a person is to watch how they treat those who are less powerful. Do they understand that the others are also human beings with feelings? Especially when they think nobody is looking.

The tendency of the human condition since the fall is to succumb to a master/slave dynamic of interpersonal relations, with the strong vying for power and the weak cringing in fear and begging for favors.  Meanwhile, at the heart of our true nature as persons is a call to give ourselves in love, to put ourselves at the service of others.  Those who tend to be slavish have to learn to be self-standing.  Those who tend to “Lord it over others” have to learn to be self-giving.  This is why the answer to the question: “How does he treat the weak and powerless?” tells us so much moral essence of a given individual.

Like Thomas Lifson, I have often observed in strong and successful people a habit of contempt for weak people.  They seem to imagine that their strength and power and riches make them admirable as persons.  What a disastrous mistake!


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