Power in The Secret River


Here’s a nice passage from Jean–Marie’s 2002 UNESCO paper, ‘Non-Violence in Education’ that might serve well as a talking point for The Secret River (emphasis added):

“Power over objects begets power over others. The desire for possession is profoundly interlinked with the desire for power. While competing for possession of objects, individuals are also struggling to assert their power over one another. So there is an organic link between property and power. Power is often what is at stake in clashes between human beings. Naturally, everyone has to have enough to meet his or her basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) as well as enough power to ensure that his or her rights are respected. Desiring property and power is legitimate insofar as it enables an individual to achieve independence from others. Adversaries in a conflict, however, each have a natural tendency always to demand more. Nothing is enough for them, and they are never satisfied. “They do not know how to stop themselves”; they know no limits. Desire demands more, much more, than need. “There is always a sense of limitlessness in desire,” writes Simone Weil. To begin with, individuals seek power so as not to be dominated by others. But if they are not careful, they can soon find themselves overstepping the limit beyond which they are actually seeking to dominate others. Rivalry between human beings can only be surmounted when each individual puts a limit on his or her own desires. “Limited desires,” notes Weil, “are in harmony with the world; desires that contain the infinite are not.””


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