Saturday, February 6, 2010
Contemplating Personal Power
I’ve always been extremely interested in power. The trappings of it, the scramble for it, what is power, why do we want it, how can I get it, is it just primate dynamics played out in a human forum… et cetera ad nauseum. I like power. I like how it feels, how it looks, what it means. I like it when I get to exercise it in whatever little sphere of influence I have, I hate it when I have none. It’s an interesting thing.
My people have always been interested in power. We even have a word for it – orenda, or the “soul of all things” – which I am given to understand is kind of a bad translation, as this is one of those purely Haudenosaunee concepts that really doesn’t have an equivalent in English. It is the philosophy that every human being is invested with his or her own power, a life-force that is equal parts aura, destiny, force of will, strength of character, and personal charisma. Probably the closest comparison is karma, but even that kind of falls short. Men and women equally are expected to develop their personal orenda, to follow its pathways and exercise their abilities in the pursuit of peace, power, and righteousness – and ultimately for the benefit of the entire nation. There is also the expectation that a healthy orenda leads to balance and equanimity among the people. When there is sickness, madness, or internal conflict within the tribe than some agent, whether external, internal, or supernatural has caused this imbalance and there are all kinds of rituals and songs and dances and feasts to be performed to restore the balance.
However, I am interested in orenda as a purely personal reflection of my keen desire for power. I have always wanted the kind of power that a strong ruler would yield. I joke among my friends that in the event of a world-wide apocalypse I am totally going to band together the survivors and rule an entire kingdom from a Throne of Skulls in a wild Mad Max scenario, and they believe unflinchingly that it would be possible for me to do so. Perhaps they are humouring me, but hey -- I have never grown out of that adolescent desire to be Empress of All I Survey.
However, the sad reality is that as an aboriginal woman in this country I will never achieve the kind of political or economic power that I really would rather enjoy. Sometimes the obviousness of that fact smacks me in the face. One could say it should to keep me humble, but sometimes it’s just depressing. Like tonight I was driving along the Grand River through Caledonia (or Squatterdonia, as my dad calls it) towards where my sister lives in Cayuga and I was thinking, hey look at all these beautiful houses ON OUR STOLEN LAND.
In reality I don’t want to move back to the Rez and environs, but it would be nice just for once to think – hey look at all those beautiful houses here ON THE RESERVE (not that there aren't any right now, but it would be nice if they reflected a higher standard of living, and that this was the norm right across the country).
Or to think, gee, if I ran for election into a political office, I bet I’d get elected.
Sometimes I have idly entertained delusions of getting into politics. I love politics and have always been good at the kind of office/power/group dynamics that drive a large group. I don’t think any human gathering of more than twenty people is without its own internal politics. And I’m damn good at it, at fostering alliances and talking to people and debating and/or defending positions. I love it. This sort of thing is something I was born to do, use my Iroquoian guile and power of oratory to change minds and influence decisions. This ability actually got me somewhere in my old union, but now I'm staff and can't indulge my prediliction for politics any longer.
Sometimes I think, I bet I’d be an awesome MPP/MP or hell, I’d make a damn fine party leader. But then I realize there’s no party that I would seriously join and be committed to. I’m way too irascible and even though I’m nominally an NDPer by virtue of my union affiliations, it does not suit completely. Maybe I’ll become one of those cranky weirdos that always put their name on the ballot in any election in the hopes that other disaffected losers will rally around me. Yeah, that’s it. It’s my new plan and I’m sticking to it.
But somehow I can’t help but wish for my Throne of Skulls…