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20 March, 2007

Courting Power

This thing, I need to write it; I don't know if it makes sense outside my head, so I'll loose it on the interwebs and see what comes of it. If I'm blithering, well, it won't be the first time.

People talk about power like it's a binary thing -- there is the having it and there is the not having it, and never the two shall meet. About antagonism, about this sense of war -- who has the power, who doesn't. And there are the inversions that some people try to pull, and all kinds of strange things, all of them coming from this binary, the haves and the have nots. Reductionism, the sort of stuff that I see BFP pointing out where some people define themselves as axiomatically without power due to their sex, and thus want a free pass on their oppressive behaviour on matters of ethnicity.

Power isn't black and white.

(Here's where I go off into crackpot territory. Probably religious crackpot territory, really.)

Power is a lover.

When I say "power" here, I mean the first power, the root one, the personal one. This is not the capacity to not be forced; there are people out there who embrace force and are willing to use it. This is not liberation from differential treatment; nobody has that, not even the ones who do not suffer under the standard panoply of unprivilege. This is not a position where one is exempt from suffering; that is the grave, or, if you trust certain religious systems, enlightenment.

This is the roots-down place of I-am, the place where one knows what one can do, what is needful to do it, and has the will to get to it. When I dig at my theology here, I say that this flows from knowing who I am -- it is identity in motion, knowing the shape of the space in the universe I would carve myself to fit in, starting to shove at what's in the way there. And even if I am bent by external forces, crippled by mental illness, forced into endless epicycles of navigating around the obstacles that the oppressor would put in the way of this, I-am in motion is where power rests. And, more theology here, power opens the gates of liberty: I am, I move, and the more I am and the more I move as myself, the freer I become, the freer it is possible for those I fight beside to be. We-are, we-move, we-become, we-breathe.

Power is a lover.

Power is not the sort of lover that can be seduced; it does not need to be tempted to us, led astray from its rightful path. There's no sense in believing that power is the rightful consort of somebody else or something that needs to be won.

But power will not just fall into our arms like a summer movie theatre romance. It wants us, but it wants to be courted, to be wooed, too; it will not just fling its arms around us and proclaim undying devotion. We have to want it, we have to stand up tall and be good and ready for that relationship or it will sit in the corner of the bar drinking its beer and watching us, waiting for us to notice the way it studies our every motion, traces each motion with that longing gaze. If it makes a pass, we have to look it in the eye and say "Yes".

Power is a lover.

I've been thinking a lot about power in the last few months, working out the details of what's called a power exchange relationship. I'm "supposed to be" the sub, the one who gives up the power, right? But I feel more centered and secure and powerful now than I did before I "gave that up". Because stepping into that space has become I-am in motion, I-am someone who has this space, this motion, this liberty, I-am-manifest, I-am-real, I-am-strong.

I saw the opportunity to take my power by the hand, squeeze its fingers and look it in the eye. We'd been dancing around each other for years, admitting attraction but somehow never able to move beyond those long glances down the bar and the quick look away. And I saw the space where I could take the moment, say, "Would you like to dance," and now it's something that I have more consistently, this space where I-am can move, not always there, but there nonetheless.

I gave up my power? No; I accepted its invitation. Power is a lover.

Who has the power in a relationship? I see people talk about this, in BDSM terms sometimes, in arguing about who has it better, the approacher or the approachee in popular romances (and what that means about gender politics), in dynamics between employer and employee, in all kinds of things. But the power isn't a binary; there's my power, there's your power, there's the way they stack up against each other in this context, which may not be the way they stack up against each other when other things are being measured, which may not be opposed at all in all situations.

Power is a lover. Even spurned power is still power, is still a lover, and sits in the sickness of its fucked-up relationship with its true love exerting its capability the ways in which it is allowed.

I-am in motion. There are times the shit of the world batters me into stillness, makes me forget, makes me too brutalised to take its hand, but it will wait for me to court it again, to look it in the eye, to say "Yes."

It will always wait for me, because power is a lover.


Trinity said...

I like this. I think I agree with some of it and not with other parts, but I'm not even at the point where I can articulate what.

SunflowerP said...

Oh, that's what you meant, when you made an unelaborated comment about the "power-over" concept being problematic. I think you've hit the nail on the head - lots of good thoughts here.

I really have to get in the habit of looking here more often.