Power vs Powerlessness

By Isha Mahajan

As a senior in high school, I’d been working to complete an early decision application to New York University. Applying as a Political Science major, It was essential to have a recommendation from my Political Science teacher and after she’d agreed to write it, I had hoped that she would be responsible about it irrespective of the fact how much she disliked me because of my political opinions. She was also the chief advisor for the Model UN Society of which I’d been an active member and had held very large contributions with the work I had done for them.

A day before submitting my application when I sat down to review it for the final time, I realised that the letter from the Political Science teacher had not been submitted. I was extremely worried and I was frantically calling her number multiple times. After calling a few times, she answered the phone and replied in a nasty manner that she was at a cousin’s wedding and would not be able to turn in my letter that night. I’d never felt so powerless about anything and I was regretting my decision of giving that authority to her. After a lot of chaos she turned in a document which I found out later was just half a page of the entire letter. I didn’t make it to NYU for very obvious reasons and I changed my recommender for the rest of my applications just so I wouldn’t lose out on opportunities any further. After I returned to school, she was apologetic about what happened but I was in a dilemma about whether she meant it or not. I shared the incident with my peers and a few faculty members who were aware of my equation with her and all of them told me that I should report it to the school principal and there should be some sort of action taken. I didn’t act upon that advice because as my Political Science teacher, she held 20% of my final grade which would have also been crucial in the whole college decision making process.


I think of this incident two years later attending UMass and wonder if that streak of arrogance and authority come into play when we give Power to people? Living in a democracy we often tend to use the power we have to choose our leaders by analyzing traits of selflessness, righteousness and dutifulness, which the current political scenario lacks.  At the time of elections, Politicians make grand promises about working for the welfare of the society once they come into power, but soon after the results are announced people end up regretting their vote. After a point in time, we citizens really don’t see a difference between a totalitarian and democratic regime because either way the leader at the realm of affairs is calling the shots whether you like it or not.


If we touch base with history, World War II invested power in statesmen like Hitler and Mussolini who had authority over the entire state. People of the state had no voice and even if they did, it was buried down in the fumes of concentration camps and domestic torture. They were powerless. The power in the leaders was vested in them because the people put in their faith for the prosperity of the country but these political leaders were so lured by the power they had that it tampered the ability of rational thinking and eventually led to destruction of mankind.

Often times powerlessness makes us desperate for authority and wants to make us compromise our morals and integrity, but what truly corrupts people to do the wrong thing is the taste of power. Acquiring power just makes one oblivious to the fact that nothing is permanent.

Powerful leaders like Kim Jong Yong, Saddam Hussein and Bashar Al Assad show how much power can drive you to completely ignore the love for humanity and make you ignorant to the devastating impact to the world.

If we decide to remove all social, political and economic barriers of religion, race, ethnicity, identity, community, inflation and poverty, would we all for a minute stand up and raise our eyes to see what wrong doings are happening around us and how can we really curb them?


When I decided to stay quiet about bringing to light my teacher’s bias, I was petrified about the authority she had over me. As I sit down to write about power today, it makes me bolder to not remain silent about witnessing wrong things and not talking about them. I may not have the power, but my voice is enough for more than most people to understand and react to changing even the smallest of wrong incidents happening around us. As we start paying attention to even the smallest issues that are not right, we’ll start feeling authoritative enough to bring a change to humanity and with this, the world might start to know peace.

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