Humans are intrinsically made to rule. Dallas Willard reminds us that we all have our own kingdoms. The idea made me think more clearly about agency and development.
A kingdom is a place where you rule, where you decide and make things happen. We are all chiefs with chiefdoms, the only difference is that they differ in size and shape. This is not a debateable ideal, it is a plain and simple reality. Human beings rule and they have power, some more than others. This notion of exercising control and influence through power and agency links to Amartya Sen’s notion of development as the freedom to choose. When we do development, we use our kingdom, our resources, our power and our rule to enlarge the kingdom of someone else. Giving out soup or clothes assists and shows some compassion to subjects in the kingdoms of others, but it does not assist others to expand their kingdoms, their areas of rule and control. Development should be about increasing someone else’s power and that normally requires the diminution or at least the restraint of your own power, control and influence.
We confront the paradoxical illusion of cheap leadership. If leadership is defined as influence, there are a further two distinct levels of influence that has to be differentiated: First, the influence where you influence other to act and exert your power, your kingdom, your rule. Second, there is an influence of restraint, service and sacrifice that enhance and increase the leadership of others. Here lies the cruel joke: there is no leadership in itself, only the making of other leaders. Leadership is not influence, but the transfer of influence, power and control. The moment you start to ‘lead’, in the classical sense, you are not a leader! Influencing makes you a king or a manager. Leadership is the sacrificial process of giving up the spotlight, giving up control and using your power to extend someone else’s influence.
We are left with acts of leaderships rather than positions or persons called leaders. In acting out this transfer of influence, we need to discern and decide who we empower. Sometimes we settle for middle management: we give our power to a bigger king or chief so that under their rule we will be in charge of a section. We give more power to the already powerful, because we find safety in that system. Indeed it seems counter intuitive to give power and influence to someone who already has a big kingdom or area of control. If it comes to being super smart with massive fields of influence, there is no point in ‘leadership’ beyond self preservation. Building very large kingdoms or empires becomes a game of power and strategic control- leadership is lost. The domain of pure leadership will always intersect with the powerless and so called weak. Many people do not see themselves as influencers or leaders and it is there where we can show our leadership. It is not coincidental that the most famous historical figure with the best selling biography ever, always identifies with and hides amongst the ‘poor’. He started his kingdom by activating thousands of small kings and queens.
How? First by pouring love on them so they realize their inherent worth and capacity. What kind of love does that? Love that manifests through deep and constant respect. Respect is measured, not in what we do, but in how we make someone feel. Love respects and love gives access and attention. In this respect and attention, self-love and self-belief becomes activated, the king is born, the queen is awakened from her sleep. A leader is a king-maker. A leader is a queen-maker. One can be tempted to play along and make fat kings fatter, this is a short-cut to ensuring ‘results’ and outputs. Many go down that road. We can also choose a different level of engagement and enter the domain of unseen greatness where life’s harshness has kept magnificent rulers asleep for too long. Normal people are not normal at all. Once we fail to see the flame and potential in any human being we have lost some part of our own essence. Our leadership and influence, whether we like it or not, are linked to the influence of ‘the least of these’.
The start of your kingdom is your body. You are the governing force, the government of your body. You are the President of your body. Whatever you think or choose happens. You have full power over your body. That is why physical violence, punching, rape or even a hiding is so traumatic. Someone violates your primary kingdom, the small space where you are in charge. Hence, non-violence is not just about being nice, it is a strategy to ensure the integrity of the kingdom of self; protect your castle. This is why a poor teenage girl who gets pregnant is ‘fucked’ on so many levels. The body is the first ring of your kingdom, because it is easiest recognizable.
Inside your body lives your soul and mind. Your thoughts. Here it get’s tricky and sad. One is so tempted to say that your thoughts are actually the first domain of your rule, your thoughts are supposed to be the place where you are the governor. But powerful people and systems have unfortunately been robbing you of that reign for years. From the moment you wake up, you see and hear messages that are not accidental, they are voices and noises designed to penetrate your mind. Other kings and queens are sowing seeds in the fertile fields of your mind! I’m not just talking about advertising creating false needs in the sphere of brand association. Philosophical assumptions underlie the content of all the messaging that enters your ears and eyes. Worldviews are programmed into the DNA of your thoughts, even if you don’t know what a worldview is. Slavery is back baby. Slavery is back, invisible and cruel to the point where the majority of society sings up voluntarily. All for a dose of opium and the road of least resistance.
Will we ever learn to rule our own thoughts? Will we ever learn to decide what goes into our heads and how it comes out? Your kingdom will stay scattered and small if you cannot clarify and rule your own thoughts. Why have people been journaling through the ages? Because they like the sound of pen on paper? NO! People write their thoughts down as acts of dominion, as acts to understand and rule their own minds! The battle is for your thoughts. You need this shoe or that whiskey, this car or that house, you deserve this, you hate that… and so it continues. Many people will catch you by linking your apparent wants to their products- be it politics or products, but who cares for your long-term wellbeing?
We will get back to the war of thoughts and the struggle to be ruler, president of your own mind, who determines your own values, ideals and strategies. Let’s look briefly at the most common kingdom on earth. Billions have nailed it and the allure of a shortcut kingdom, the attraction of a ready made rule has been so pervasive that few have resisted. The thing that makes biological families so popular and successful is not the cuteness of the mini-me, the continuation of the species or the comfort of growing old together while grandkids bring presents. The biological family is so pervasive and universally endorsed because it offers ready made kingdoms. Here you can be king of your castle by right of what you did with your penis. Worldwide, no matter how useless, sick, uninformed, weak or evil, the little family or household has been offering undeserving men a release for their kingdom desire. Look at parenthood, the behavior of fathers and see how children are being harmed, how the beautiful flame of leadership and influence is killed early in the life o fa child by a fake governor who never learnt to rule himself, but now he has subjects: sometimes two, sometimes ten! The role of the wife as either fellow ruler or subject, I will leave for another day. Families are not bad in and of themselves. Indeed, the structure could be the most wonderful university for learning how to rule! The family could be the safe training ground where everyone experiments with their rule, their power and responsibility. In most cases it does not do the good and beautiful job. It provides an unhealthy escape for the dominion desire. The test is simple: look at your effective rule and influence outside of your family. Don’t look at your work where salaries set the agenda and relationships. Outside of work and home, explain the extent of your rule and influence. If you have a full picture of influence and assisting others to uncover their influence and rule, then your own family (where you were born and the one you made) probably did a good job through healthy dynamics.
At our core, each of us is either a protector or a leader. We design our lives to either manage and control or to explore and lead. Both spheres include influence, rule and power. The difference is that the one builds walls and fences and the other tears them down. Leaders are not bosses, but bridges. Reaching out or helping others should include traditional charity and sacrifice, but the sacrifice should be way more radical that we think. Instead of sharing an hour a week, sharing your food or even your clothes, you are called to share your power and influence. How? BY increasing the power and influence of someone who have become unaware that he or she were made to rule. People are made to rule, firstly their own lives and secondly to influence other people’s lives in a way that adds mutual value. A natural human tendency is to group in similar circles of likeness. The value of diversity is a key that unlocks a higher humanity where brotherhood transcends animal instinct. A brave leader reaches out to the ‘other’ and thereby grow and learn as he or she assists and shares. If you are smart you would have already realized that by expanding the freedoms of others, by making kings and queens you also expand your own rule and enlarge your own circle of influence. That is not the goal, but a Divine treat and irony- if done right side up.
As an after thought, which for some might be a pre-thought, it might be worth mentioning that the guy who made kingdom talk famous lived about 2015 years ago. That is a very long time ago and when you think for example what Europe went through in the last 300 years and what Africa went through the last 100 years, it is remarkable that a guy said such smart things so long ago. He articulated concepts hundreds of years before the frame of mind or philosophical and cultural contexts had words and references for such views. How weird, these days when something is 10 years old we throw it away. Reading books that are 100 -200 years old seems odd and they battle for relevance. Yet, some guy’s words slap us in the face, grab our hearts and lead us- 2000 years after they were spoken and written.
Can he set me free?
Can I be included in his rule and he in mine?