Quote, August 2 2012 — Face reality and accomplish something, or engage in wishful futility?

It is futile to tell a man he should choose to be helpless when he should be taught how to use the power that he can command wisely and well.

-Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle, page 6, Chapter 2: Why?

We’re in the middle of harvest here, so a bit short on time, and Cooper’s quote stands by itself quite well.

Still, a few comments.

The power a person can command comes in many different forms: respect, caring, authority, and expertise are a few I can think of. Even the ability to hurt someone with your words is a type of power.

I think a lot of people today avoid the “teach them how to use the power they can command wisely and well” part. I think they work to avoid it. Partly because it’s difficult, both for the teacher and the learner. Partly because if you really do teach someone how to stand on their own two feet and make their own decisions, exercise their own power over their life to the extent they can, then the person you taught will probably wind up disagreeing with you on a few things. Not because you’re bad or they’re good, but just because that’s life and not everyone views things the same way. And my personal observation is that a lot of teachers (meaning anyone who is trying to teach another person anything, not just “school” teachers) don’t like to lose that mantle of authority — if they are not very careful and very rigorous in examining and scouring their own heart of excess vanity and pride, “teaching” becomes more about being an unquestioned authority figure and less about imparting both the method and rewards of learning to someone else.

I know the philosopher Nietzsche was in many ways a man with little compassion. I know his philosophy was nihilistic and lent itself far too easily to becoming a justification for evil acts by others. But still . . . ever since I read him in college, I have to admit I agree with his concept of a “will to power”. Everyone wants to have power, over their own life at a very minimum. And I also still agree with his statements about the ascetic personality, who will will nothing with all their heart, because the human mind cannot not will. Which is why I agree with Cooper, do not try to tell someone they should be content to be helpless and should not seek power at all; instead, recognize the will to power and do your damnedest to teach how to use that power well and wisely, and while you’re at it, teach them the limits of power and the repercussions, ramifications and responsibilities of power too.

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