Power without responsibility

I have long been intrigued at the possibility of people having power without any accompanying need for responsibility.

The thought occurred to me when I saw a lot of graffiti scrawled over a monument of the names of people who had died in the war. The offender of the graffiti had power — power to deface at the simple press of a button — but surely any sense of responsibility was absent.

This morning I saw a pretty thrush on a clothes line just outside my back window. I contemplated that immature people may have wished to kill it, for no other reason than they had the power to do so, but in so doing they would demonstrate a real lack of responsibility to the world of nature.

And then there are those occasions that occur from time to time when we read of teenagers in court charged with having committed acts of great cruelty to defenceless kittens or puppies.

All farmers have power over animals, but sadly not all show signs of responsibility. Cattle are often left to stand in paddocks without there being any thought of providing shelter in the worst downpours of rain. And maybe heat-waves in the summer are worse, for cows look absolutely pitiful standing without any signs of shade. Would it cost the earth to provide some trees under which animals could shelter?

In the decades before World War II, Stanley Baldwin was one of the most powerful politicians in Britain. He served as Prime Minister three times. However, in 1931, Baldwin’s control of the Conservative Party was threatened by attacks from the newspapers owned by two wealthy press owners who wanted him ousted, Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere.

Three days before the election, on March 17, 1931, Baldwin used some memorable words to attack his opponents.

“What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

Surely power without responsibility has been the prerogative not only of harlots, but of bullies and dictators all down the centuries.

Adolf Hitler would not rest until he had absolute power in Germany. But when he had the power, he showed no responsibility to people of Jewish ancestry.