Maybe it’s because I’m a woman. Maybe it’s because I’m a minority. Maybe it’s because I’m a teenager and I’m still in school. Maybe it’s because I’m “not old enough” or that I “don’t have enough experience”.

Around us, wherever we go, the presence of a societal hierarchy of power can always be felt. It is something that is always evident and if it’s not evident then social norms make it apparent. Through my eyes, this is both problematic but necessary for the proper function of society.

Power as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the “ability to act or produce an effect.” As such, having power is positively connotated because it can be used to bring about positive change in society. In majority of cases, I support this notion: that power helps bring well-needed change. However, I’m not dismissing the idea that just because you have power you are aiming to benefit society at large.

In majority of cases, authoritative power has done great things for society. It helps communities, encourages good behaviour and sustainability of the environment, and can save lives. An example of this might be how Asian countries such as Taiwan and Vietnam were quick to follow public health guidelines and shut down their borders to slow the spread of COVID-19. Such preventative measures were employed by the government and public health officials as a whole; however, the thought must’ve come from somewhere. In this case, power, cooperation and coordination worked in harmony to give death counts below seven, among populations of millions and millions of people in those countries.

On the flip side of this argument, media sources, the news, interviews, and just about any type of information outlet have highlighted the ways in which authoritative individuals–who have earned or been given powerful positions–are misusing their power to address a personal agenda. A prime example of this would be sexual assault offenders that were brought into the spotlight because of the #MeToo movement. Men such as Harvey Weinstein got away with years of abuse towards women, many of whom came forward with traumatic recollections.

It is these instances that make me question the thought of giving individuals massive amounts of authoritative power. This designated power guides them up to a pedestal, sitting comfortably above everyone else. The problem with sitting on a pedestal is not that they sit higher than others who work for or with them, or that they haven’t earned what they’ve worked for–because working hard would have been part of the equation–but that this power makes individuals immune to making mistakes in the public eye. Hush money, illegal contracts made decades ago and other things of the like contribute to this negative use and abuse of power.

Now, these examples are much larger than maybe you and I for example, but they accurately demonstrate both sides of the same coin. For those of us that just go about our day-to-day lives, societal hierarchies are evident in the form of interactions. As a teenager and student, I, for instance, might face scrutiny for being disrespectful to an adult when trying to voice my own opinion. Adults are older than the average teenage student and hence hold more power than we might. In many cases, being older correlates to more wisdom, experiential knowledge, and power but having less “societal power” doesn’t make you any less of a human being. While I’m a firm believer that elders should be respected for all they’ve done and continue to do for us, power differences shouldn’t be something that hold you back. After all, opinions can be voiced in a manner that is kind and respectful!

With that being said, it seems that power, in general, is necessary for a society to grow and become better. It may be used for the benefit of others, or it may not, but, having and exercising power is one of the main reasons that law and order is maintained. And remember that this isn’t just about government and authority figures having power, but also includes citizens. We are a large part of society and the decisions we make and work in accordance with allow us to exercise our own power.

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