Anoushka Saha



Anoushka Saha


Power Vs. Responsibility

Power Vs. Responsibility

5 mins 591 5 mins 591

“With great power comes great responsibility”

The phrase ‘great power’ is majorly used in a context contrary to the one intended in this saying. When your father preaches about life or your school principal mentions it during the oath taking ceremony of the Student Council or your boss gives you a promotion (come on, I am sure you’ve heard this saying in any one of these instances), you know what it means. Authority equals duty. In fact, power and responsibility are synonymous according to the Grammar Dinosaur (Thesaurus, duh). However, let me tell you, ‘great power’ is not limited to that of an individual entity, but rather has a mass appeal. The one and only ultimate “divine power” is euphemistically termed, GOD. Is there any greater power in this universe than God? Has it ever occurred to you to associate the Almighty with that common saying? It is the highest power for a majority of us, and yet nobody ever attributes the applicability of this saying to this context. After all, isn’t that what we Indians are known to do? Give importance to the minorities over the general majority? (Political pun intended). 

Before I carry on, let me quickly state my belief of God (few of us from this century are blessed to have that choice, right?) I am a partial atheist, which means I believe in the existence of the divine power as per my convenience. When I have no one to blame for my problems and the sufferings of the world, God exists, otherwise not so much.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma is the creator of the Universe, Lord Vishnu the preserver, and Lord Shiva the destructor. Now I have come across two categories of people, which broadly are (a) Believers of fate and (b) Creators of destiny.

The first category of people believes in the existence of an all-powerful force that directs the flow of their life and of the universe. How else do you explain unexpected deaths and unforeseen natural calamities? How do you explain that one in a million person’s kismet who wins the lottery jackpot? How else do you explain the preposterous prejudices of the world?

The second category of people believes in charting their own life path, fabricating their own fate. They are not puppets to any higher power. They are their own boss and they take responsibility for their circumstances. Even these people are sometimes found saying things like, “It wasn’t in my control, it had to be this way” or “There is nothing I can do to change what has happened, I am powerless”.

So now that you have figured out which category you belong to, let me tell you an interesting fact. These two categories of people overlap more often than you’d assume, not because of convenience, but because of confusion. They blame God when they can’t interpret the reasons for an unexpected event. So much so, that a Bollywood movie was made based on the story of an atheist man who challenges God in a court of law! He deems God answerable for the earthquake that uprooted his life. It so often happens that we are defenceless to the consequences of our actions, because we never anticipated it in the first place. People who believe in Karma believe that God or just the universe has its magical way of working and balancing everything (ironic how they trust a mystical, abstract power but not their loved ones). They say God sees everything and it shall reward and punish the deserving. God is illusory, imperceptible, intangible and basically a matter of trust and faith. Such perceptions of God invariably influence us to act speciously, propitiating illusions without any tangible evidence of effectuality. Having said that, can we ever hold someone, existing only in human perception, accountable for acts of providence, omission or commission, let alone for justice? 

We humans use the name of the Almighty to strengthen our power and dominance on land. We force gullible people to fear the high power to fuel our selfish desires of monopolistic manipulation. No single being or institution has ever been endowed with the power to rule over or dictate their will upon other people. Some people consider it their duty to be messiahs of God and carry forward their agenda. We destroy naïve families, commit felonies, spread hatred among fellowmen, launch wars, manipulate credulous minds – all in the name of God. The question is, do we really have any power of our own? Nevertheless, we choose to exert it to suit our benefits and further our agenda. We act irrationally, harm our environment and then refuse to take responsibility for the repercussions of our actions. Humans were bestowed with a highly developed brain (though I often question that), a powerful weapon that could be used to maintain the balance in nature, but how much responsibility do we take of our planet and its living beings? It is rather prevalent for humans to exercise “great power” in the name of God and leave the consequent “great responsibilities” to illusory entities.

As Isaac Newton propounded, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”- that’s the law of the Universe. So, if you think that a natural disaster is God’s rage of fury, think again. If worldwide penury, leading to malnutrition and illiteracy are just a stroke of bad fortune, think again. If the biases against the innocent are God’s decisions, think again.

With all due respects, sometimes I imagine that the deities – many forms of God – while sprawling on a couch with a tub of cheese popcorn, lazily observe the show of human lives. They are like directors who don’t interfere with the actor’s natural improvisational instinct. God may not have unparalleled power to control the functioning of the universe but we, as a community, do have the onus of responsibly exercising it. However, contrary to what the axiom purports, we deliberately and most conveniently do just the opposite. Power and responsibility are most often not exercised concomitantly by the same person or entity. It is transmitted and interchanged as with God and humans. Well, maybe that is the cycle of nature or possibly a poignant pointer to natural human behaviour.

A penny for your thoughts, please?

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