You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too.
–George Bernard Shaw
Follower: What would be your first act [immediately after discovering you had the] power to shape the destinies of mankind?
Gandhi (after a pause): I would pray for the courage instantly to renounce that power.
The acquisition and abuse of power by individuals and institutions provide an endless source of ideas for fiction and nonfiction. But the growing concentration of power in business, government, and technology imperils our future as writers and citizens of the world. As important as any question we must answer is how do we grant individuals and institutions enough power to be effective but not enough to be corrupted?
Institutional power, whether it’s that of business, religion, the government, or the military, is an enemy because it corrupts. This process can make for compelling reading but leads to a hopeless future. Nor is the time for solving the problem endless. The people and institutions responsible for the problem can’t fix it. Who does that leave?
The tens of millions of dedicated, ethical people around the world working for change, and writers with vision, visibility, courage, creativity, discipline, flexibility, passion, and commitment. Writers who have freedom, communities of people to help them, entrepreneurial resourcefulness, and the ability to
- use technology
- find the information they need
- take the long view as well as the short view
- communicate their ideas in all lengths and media
It’s been said that we may have arrived on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now. Things that separate us—power, money, resources, religion, language, culture, politics–are bad. What unites us—our needs, desires, fears, hopes, challenges, morality, technology, and the spirit of community–is good.
We need novelists and nonfiction writers to give us the stories, ideas, advice, information, wisdom, encouragement, inspiration, and humor we need to help keep us afloat on the perilous seas of change, uncertainty, and the misuse of power. To the oars and don’t stop rowing. There’s no sign of shore. Nor do we know what it will look like when we get there, because humanity has never been there before. We’re counting on you to use your words to steer us to a safe harbor.