Why do some people have power over others?

After contemplating Christopher Columbus’ trip to the Americas, and how he gained absolute power over the natives simply because he was more powerful, it made me think: Why is it that some people are granted so much power over others, even when they haven’t done anything to deserve it. I decided that the best way to represent my thinking was with a video that we can all relate to to some degree (minus the ending). You can watch it here. Just a note, the video is 2 minutes, but there’s an accidental minute of black screen at the end.

My thinking behind the video was to represent how even when the oppressed struggle, they still end up on the receiving end of another persons power. I represented this by showing the story of a young boy that gets sent to bed by his mother. Initially, the boy is just having fun, and means no harm, but rather good. This is a reflection on how the Indians were attempting to be nice, and meant no harm the the Europeans, stated on page one “They willingly traded everything they owned” The boy doesn’t want to go to bed, so he revolts. However, his mother still has absolute power over him, so his struggle is fruitless. This is a reflection on Christopher Columbus that most people can relate to. Our mothers only have power over us because they were the ones that gave birth to us and were stronger for the longest of times. This is just like how Christopher Columbus gained power over the natives, because he was the one to find them, therefore they were his belongings. This is shown on ┬ápage one where Columbus states in his log “They do not bear arms… They would make fine servants…”The boy attempting to revolt against his mother shows the futile struggle that the natives made against the Europeans. Like the boy, they took desperate measures against the Europeans, yet Columbus held the power, making it so that they could not challenge him and his forces. The end result is that both the natives and the boy get crushed by those who hold the power.

This brings me to answer the question, why do some people have power over others? In the case of Christopher Columbus, he gained power over the natives since the Europeans had better technology. Columbus was then granted the power to do whatever he wants with them, simply because he was a good seaman. Being a good seaman meant that he was the best person to lead the voyage to what he thought was Asia, and so even though he did not have any right to have power over others, being the leader of the voyage meant he could command his forces as he pleased, therefore he was granted power. This leads me to the conclusion that in the older Europe, people were granted power in two ways: This first is from being born into a powerful family, and the second is being selected by those powerful families for your specific skills. In the case of Columbus, those with power decided he was the right one to choose. Therefore, he was granted power not for his ability to lead, but for his ability to sail a boat.

In the modern day, power is no longer granted so liberally. Instead, most countries grant power to those who are voted in by others. This ensures that the people chosen to lead will be the right people for the general population. There are still some cases in which power is granted in the same way as old Europe, such as the boys mother, or in a dictatorship. This brings me to conclude by saying power is an ever changing system, and therefore there is no one answer as to why it is granted to some. In the past, it was granted to many that didn’t deserve it, whereas now the general population gets to choose. The granting of power will not remain the same, it will change through history as society evolves.



One thought on “Why do some people have power over others?”

  1. Hey Aidan,
    I liked your post: it had a great balance of clarity, force and brevity. Your video was really creative ( a little hard to follow at first), but you did a really good job of explaining it, putting the relevance of the video parallel with the facts of Columbus & the Arawaks. Suggestions would be to link us to some sites so we can get more insight into what you’re telling us, and maybe go further in-depth into your question? You talk about the two ways power can be granted, but I was left wondering how these “powerful” families got to become powerful, if they were not born or elected into that position?

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