Reflection essay on corrupting power.
This warning from Acton, a politician, and moralist, is as applicable today as it was in 1887 (Acton Institute, 2019), and can apply to individuals, organizations, and governments. According to Merriam Webster (2019), power is defined as the “possession of control, authority, or influence over others”. Power is that which leadership inevitably results in the absence of the ability to contain and communicate sense both internally and externally. Frequently, when given power, individuals revert to fundamental inhibitions and once steadfast morals to pursue their own agenda, often neglecting those whom they are supposed to lead. The contemplation of both historical and contemporary events and culture only further prove the ideology suggested by Acton. Such examples include the corrupt communist governments of Soviet Russia, Cuba and China, the African nations of Uganda and Sudan, and the actions of Congressman Frank Underwood in the popular Netflix series House of Cards.
Historically, total power and corruption are typical in nations under communist rule, with the actions of political leaders typically resulting in horrific casualties and the tainting of cultural heritage. Cuba’s Fidel Castro was born into the working class and was disgusted by the corruption which ran rampant in the government, and its failure to achieve social justice. Castro led and won a revolution, and established himself as dictator. Ironically, Castro would then limit freedom of expression and execute any who would oppose his rule, in doing so becoming the very thing he rebelled against (Biography.com Editors, 2019). Castro served as an example of a revolutionary leader whose true intentions were forgotten once the insatiable desire for power took hold, resulting in the embodiment of the ideals that they once opposed.
The rise of Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia was analogous to Castro, yet unique in his pre-existing moral degeneracy which presented in various criminal activities in his early life (Montefiore, 2007). Stalin grew up during the time when Bolshevik-led revolutionary philosophies were starting to undermine the existing power over the Russian Empire held by the Tsars. This culminated in the deaths of the entire royal family and the consolidation of Bolshevik power by 1917 under Vladimir Lenin. Lenin’s passing in 1924 gave way to Stalin’s leadership, making him the most powerful man in Russia. Such absolute power would exist through a one-party state where corrupt trials, secret police and brutal enforcers were used. Ultimately, Stalin would be remembered for the massacres of tens of millions of his own people, leaving a contaminated cultural heritage that continues into the 21st century (History.com Editors, 2019). Stalin grew up without much power, and resorted to making his own through violence, much like Castro, however, Stalin was unique in his already flawed moral compass, which was only exacerbated by the corrupting nature of power.