Where Lies the Power? - Healing the Hurts of Nations

Healing the Hurts of Nations
and building a world fit for humans
Palden Jenkins
Healing the Hurts of Nations
and building a world fit for humans
Palden Jenkins
Healing the Hurts of Nations
and building a world fit for humans
The Oppressed, at the UN in Geneva
Palden Jenkins
An abridged thinking-points version of the 2003 book
Healing the Hurts of Nations
Healing the Hurts of Nations
An abridged version of the 2003 book
Website in construction
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Where Lies the Power?

What's Underneath
Where lies the Power?
Behind business and government

One crucial matter is often quietly shoved to the side. It concerns the highest levels of power. Here we enter a complex world of unclear ownerships, big numbers, remote characters, smoke, mirrors, and little is clearly verifiable.

Yet if we wish to see change, this matter must be raised. A small number of people hold a large capacity to block, slow, obfuscate, steer, nudge or, indeed, promote world change, without most of us feeling we have a say in the matter. This particularly concerns finance, geopolitics and defence.

Power is intricately and broadly distributed, mainly through the agency of money. While there are millions of stakeholders, the highest levels of power are concentrated in few hands. No one completely understands or controls this multiplex global system, though sufficient is known to make it work well in many instances. Deceptions, illusions and hidden agendas are involved.

This said, the tweaking and skewing doesn't always work and, by quirk or by decision, undercurrents, waves of change or reforms come about to counterbalance this tendency. Power structures can become victims of their own illusions.

Instruments exist to influence political and market conditions and crucially affect the whole system, especially when big players act in consort. Such concerted pressures have been applied in many areas: wars fomented, inventions suppressed, inventors and dissidents ruined, funding withheld and ideas smothered, to further oligarchic interests.
The influence exercised by major players raises a problem of power, politics and accountability. Global structures are capable of adaptation, so we're not talking about destroying the existing system but shifting the way it is run and applied. Its rules and parameters are slanted and biased in ways that create fundamental ecological, cultural and human problems. Short-term profit and oligarchic priorities tend to dominate.

In the modern world, markets are supposed to be free and responsive to supply and demand, and governments are supposed to be just and accountable. But the biggest players can dominate and rig the system, get rid of inconvenient public figures and steer things in their way.

This happens through networks of friends, common interests, ,powerful organisations and influential people - ultimately about 500ish people worldwide. Whether or not Freemasons are involved, they operate in a well-evolved masonic style and pattern. At least in the West - other cultures have their own parallels.

That is, members of power elites are nominated and chosen or vetted and approved. Things are sorted out behind closed doors according to a logic evolved over centuries. The more that democracies and 'open societies' have developed, the more that background and invisible networks have grown behind the scenes.

This isn't a single 'big brother' source, though there are key players - it's more of a power-system with well-established aims to hold power, deflate the influence of religions and popular movements and promote secular values in which ordinary people are co-opted into becoming vested interests and reinforcers of the system. This power is transnational, outlasting generations, and the ability to get to the top is open mainly to those who are chosen or approved. But there are exceptions.

However, other interests in other regions are playing an increasing role in global affairs - Chinese, Arabic, Russian, African, Indian and special-interest transnational groups. The Western power system is losing its hegemony.
Background power

Power at the top is wielded by a small number of people. They mostly know each other. Only some are publicly well-known. They often work through protégés, front-organisations, quiet personal chats, select meetings or specific pressures applied in specific directions.

Such background influences seek to define the main parameters and agendas globally and within nations and sectors and, when necessary, to decide what really happens. The ability to pull strings and control things is not infinite or infallible, but these people constitute a more powerful force than any other grouping.

Here lies our problem. Left to itself, the world would generate a greater momentum for change than we have seen. But the world is not left to itself, and the international system is not responsive to public opinion or genuine human and ecological need - it responds mainly to dominant interests.

There are exceptions, things aren't and cannot be totally steered, and these power systems can be clunky and ineffective too. But the ability of this system to absorb and co-opt new initiatives, influences and trends is one of its survival mechanisms.
While the world is influenced by a small gaggle of people, thousands more have contributory inputs - billionaires, CEOs, key position-holders and high-ranking voices. Background power structures plug into and depend on this overall layer of more publicly-visible power.

In 1999 the paper value of assets controlled by the world's three richest people was equivalent to the annual GNP of the whole of the developed world. This has broadened, with new players entering the game. In 1999, the developed world still dominated world trade and investment, but by 2020 it was the rest of the world that was dominating.

Oligarchies have sufficient clout and resources to shape national and global trends, policy and de facto reality. They can pull strings of governments and bend ears in global institutions. Do things our way and you get promotion and success. Don't, and you pay. They know the right people and can tilt things one way or another.

Absolute hands-on control is unnecessary since the world economic system, geared to self-interest, sees to that. But on critical issues they get their way. The world public doesn't usually stop it, and the media, education systems, with other incentives and pressures, make sure the public doesn't feel a need to do so.

In recent times, this system has changed from one of force to one of incentive, from sticks to carrots. The threat of loss of comfort, position and security are sufficient to keep people in place. But it isn't as simple as it used to be, and at the top a jostling for power hampers world progress, creating conflicting priorities, avoiding the uncomfortable issues and delaying necessary change.
Mechanisms and instruments

This isn't one formalised organisation, more an organism, a caucus of shared interests. Any system will always have a small number acting as its main brains, but the big question is how they are motivated and how much they are in touch with the realities most people live in.

Many of the world's top players show up at conferences, think-tanks and organisations such as the Davos and Bilderberg conferences, the Council for Foreign Affairs, OPEC, OECD and others. But even here, the basic policies and drift of these organisations are often quietly agreed behind closed doors. This operates through contacts or the confluence of ideas and intents shared by people with interlocking interests.

Different interest groups, schools of thought and generations are united by a common interest in controlling wealth and resources, stopping other things happening. This is elastic: people, ideas and dynasties rise and fall. Things shift and change, but not fundamentally.

This isn't a unified conspiracy: it is a network of shared interests. In any society, this variously happens - those with experience, seniority, information and influence collaborate, talk things through, engineer things, consult trusted friends, build coalitions, do each other favours, pull off wheezes, promote ideas, pull strings and, when necessary, sabotage, discredit, exclude or clamp down on whatever threatens them.

Some participants represent old money (such as the Rothschilds) or newer money (Bill Gates or Elon Musk); there are key resource-holders (de Beers and oil-sheikhs) and corporate interests (Rockefellers, Fords, the Carlyle Group); royal dynasties (Windsors and ibn Sauds); key organisations (CIA, EU and OPEC); groups of interests (military-industrial, finance, energy, pharmaceuticals); statespeople and office-holders, key advisors, professors, diplomats and executives; central banks, big investors, market leaders and strategic business consultants. There are organised-crime (Mafia, Colombians) and covert-ops members (NSA, MI6) and an assortment of oddbods (arms traders and offshore fixers). Wealth, influence, placing and acceptability determine participation, and there is no formal admissions procedure. But you need to be the right kind of person behaving in the right kind of way.

There are conspiracies: cabals, lobbies and secret schemes that promote shady, narrow aims, some of which are highly questionable. But top nobs can have large-scale effects on humanity and nature, prioritising the interests of the few over the many, without actually constituting an intentional conspiracy.

Absolute control is unnecessary since the system as a whole, with its rules, norms, managers and enforcers, handles the majority of issues. Instead strategic interventions are made to influence longterm trends by nudging specific ideas or initiatives.

Yet top-down control suffers from organisational clunkiness, poor intelligence, insulation from reality, internal argument, the law of unintended outcomes, competing vested interests, near-sightedness, rogue operators, conflicting issues and force majeure - so this is not easy. Conspiracies' success rate isn't that high.
Glitches in the system

The system is not entirely foolproof, and here lies a crucial point. Its priority is to perpetuate the underlying status quo and promote its agenda. Society is awash with change and innovation, yet the wider and deeper agenda remains essentially the same.

Yet this system, though powerful, is not all-knowing: it sees what it can see and it does see, and it is limited to its own optic and viewpoint. Sometimes reality begs to differ.

Something else is going on too: a new agenda surfaced in the 1960s and, while it was suitably constrained in the 1970s-80s it has nevertheless grown as an historic undercurrent which in the 2020s is surreptitiously becoming a dominant agenda. New factors have appeared on the world stage: the environmental and climatic crisis, soaring demographics, the rising impetus of the former Third World, changing public values and humanity's maturing psychospiritual condition.

The impact of these factors is only partially seen by the world's controlling interests because they live in their own bubble. As long as the world's population is disunited and kept busy scrabbling for crusts, all is well, but when larger forces take root and grow, established power comes into question.
Indeed conscience and foresight do exist amongst people at the top, and some are deeply concerned for the future. Anti-capitalist demonstrations jolted them, exposing a rift in their core interests. This is not clear-cut, but populist and conservative influences have driven a wedge into the cracks, and the actions of other world players in the last decade has widened further cracks in the system.

The rift resolves into two main camps.

One inclines toward humane, forward-thinking, liberalising values incorporating ecological, humanitarian and planetary issues - at least inasmuch as money-making and continued power rely on thinking ahead and thinking big. It tends toward soft power (business and culture) and internationalism.

The other is reactive, promoting a narrower, harder-hearted resistance to change, tending to deny newly emergent viewpoints and realities and to obstruct them unless they can be captured for its own interests. It tends toward hard, military power and superpower dominance.

This global power setup has largely been centred in USA and Europe, with Europe tilting toward the first camp and America toward the second. It is not simple and clear-cut because there are various agendas at stake, and power-mongers, while interdependent, are individualists.

That old thorny question. Both conspiracy-deniers and conspiracy-promoters are emphatic in their positions, distorting the question. There are shades of conspiracy.

Some are secret projects and black ops which intentionally pursue a master-plan - some of them longterm.

Some involve background manoeuvrings to promote certain big ideas and interests - such as scientific, pharmaceutical and ideological ones - or simply the capturing of wealth.

There are those who share interests and thus act as a powerful bloc, largely intentionally, in public or behind the scenes. With significant influence or wealth, an assertive group can swing markets, pull off political stunts or influence public opinion or governments sufficiently to control or skew things considerably.

There are also groupings who implicitly act together without intentionally cooperating - with shared or converging interests they therefore make similar decisions or act along similar lines.

There are also conspiracies that appear to be so, but they don't actually exist, or they're not really as they are described. Much fantasy is injected into the arena. And there's truth in it too.
The public pays a high price by failing to identify society's true controllers. This failure makes people more susceptible to manipulation, coercion and exploitation.

Oligarchies cannot simply be got rid of - revolutions and sudden regime changes can bring back the same problems in different clothing. The key issue is that people as a whole permit society to be hijacked, hoodwinked and dominated, and until this collective behavioural pattern subsides, such problems will continue.

The key question is the motivation, intentions, competence and wisdom of power-holders, whoever they are and whatever they stand for. While they can be a key part of the problem, they also have the wherewithal to be a key part of the solution.

But it's not quite that easy. Moral preferences, human rights, the natural world, poverty and peace are not the highest of priorities when questions of money and power are at stake. When competition meets cooperation it tends to drive a wedge through it.

There are and have been conspiracies based not just on self-interest, but on a big idea, and some are relatively benign in intent, even if the outcomes can be very mixed - the Masonic writers of the American constitution, the Socialist International of 100 years ago and the recent environmental movement are examples.

And there are those whose big idea is to oppose timely and appropriate developments and to capture or block change, even at the cost of many lives and whole landscapes.

How we judge these complex matters depends very much on our own position and attitudes - not least the extent to which we have inwardly resolved our own power issues.
So where lies the power?

Three answers: 1. with everybody - if and when we can handle it; 2. with nobody - it is given; 3. by the rather small caucus of interests mentioned above.

In the final analysis everybody holds power. This is a deep psycho-social matter. Realistically, this does not mean everybody is involved with everything: it means a system where those in power are oriented good-heartedly to public service and the greatest good for everyone as a whole. This means a responsive feedback system wherein the people clarify their consensual will, provide their leaders with constructive, workable feedback, and sagely influence the selection, support, monitoring and regulation of those in power.

Yet... nobody holds power. Power is given, not only with the consent of the people, but also by force of circumstance. Legitimacy is fluid and it works mysteriously - even the most astute dictator or absolute ruler can lose legitimacy. The tide of power can turn against them so that, even if still in office, power ebbs away from them. We get the leaders we truly deserve and, when we or the world deserve something different, that's what starts happening. Power is tidal. Things change.

And... within a certain framework, a small oligarchy holds power, but only while it manages to define the agenda, capturing influence by engineering belief or acquiescence in its priorities, delivering the goods to a sufficient degree, and obliging overall compliance and complicity. This oligarchy is now under strain, its sub-divisions operating increasingly at cross-purposes. As global priorities shift, elements in the oligarchy that think in old, change-resistant ways lose their relevance, centrality and legitimacy.
Power to the People. Yes, but people need to hold power well if they are to do so successfully - some of the greatest atrocities and errors are committed by people themselves, especially when some sectors dominate or foresight and strategy are lacking.

Over the centuries a maturing of mass behaviour has made some popular movements at times very clear in their methods, message and objectives. Yet, even if successful, they can still find themselves unready to deal with what follows, giving space for new oligarchies to form. Oligarchies can decide things and act quicker.

However, whether it is 'the people' or whether it is oligarchies big or small, power is given - and the forces determining this process are mysterious and not entirely controllable. To gain power and hold, that power has to be in some way deserved. Destiny needs to be with them.

This is because there is a larger drift to history, a larger ballgame we're part of, and no human sees the whole picture. A visionary might have a sense of future potentials but no one steers it.

There's an element of luck to it too, since much hangs on the power of events - at times, a week can be a very long time, in terms of what is determined amidst a flurry of defining events. And history is replete with fuckups and broken dreams.

So, you might control the media, the army, the economy and the reins of power, but that doesn't mean that, in the end, you have complete control. There's more to human life than that, and any person, party or movement that ignores this truism will have a short shelf-life.

On the whole, revolutions don't really bring all the changes that are needed. They can unintentionally replace the emperor with a dictator, or they might achieve some objectives, such as relative freedom, while getting diverted into other things, such as consumerism, corruption or avoidable misfortune.

Change goes much deeper, and it takes time. After times of change, disruption or trauma, people tend to opt for security over wisdom, foresight or holding to core principles. Change and consolidation are natural alternating trends in the drift of history.

Real change happens over generations - at least three, if not seven - because it is psychospiritual at root, and adjusting social, political and economic systems to new realities takes time and effort too.

The path of human evolution does not end: it moves from chapter to chapter. What once was new later becomes old - it even gets in the way.

Clearly certain big objectives need achieving in the 21st Century, regarding climate, environment, social justice, poverty and wealth, demographics, disaster-management, supplies, health, care, education and war... and these are no longer ideals but necessities. This involves a revolution in the very nature of human life and society, for everyone, everywhere.
The 21st Century pressure for change comes from wider circumstances as much as it comes from people. Crises and periods of intensity are hitting every country in a variety of ways. A crisis that breaks out in one country can embody issues that are critical in other countries too. This is a side effect of internet and media, where different countries become theatres of drama, raising and processing specific issues on behalf of the world. Many of today's uprisings are not ideological or political - they concern more real-life issues such as basic rights, freedoms and social needs.

Circumstances apply pressure on people and systems - the effects of climate, economic, population and technological change. Rapid shifts of circumstance arise from an accelerating pace of change, and people get scrunched. Lack of positive response in governments and oligarchies creates discontent, and too often we see regimes resist or divert change, further amplifying social protest or polarisation and increasing repression. In the longterm this confirms people's feelings, deepening their commitment to change, and change takes place undergound and behind the scenes, even if it comes out fully only after the passing of a generation.

Profound change does take generations, but it still starts now, and the setting of longterm targets doesn't mean leaving things until later. Most of the work needs doing at an early stage, since it takes time for change to embed itself and for its effects to work through. To all change there is also an element of trial-and-error: no one knows if a solution will work until it is trialled and field-tested.

Matters cannot be neatly and quickly brought to closure. It involves an insecure transitional period where change might have started, but it can take years or decades for it to work through and yield positive results. Ultimately this involves making progress in healing the collective human heart - and that's a multi-generational process.
Healing the Hurts of Nations
and building a world fit for humans
Short version of a 2003 book by Palden Jenkins
and building a world fit for humans
Short version of a 2003 book by Palden Jenkins
Back to content