Column by Elena Yang
I continue on the course of Hogwarts’ teaching on power. I highly recommend that you read the passages substituting fictitious names with real names in your work environment. To what extent do the descriptions parallel your experience?
III. Then, there is the purely bully power.
Bully power is embodied in Draco Malfoy and his cronies. Of course, one could argue that Voldemort was a bully too; after all, a bully strikes fear in the victim.
However, Voldemort was extremely skillful and intelligent in applying his skills to manipulate, to strike, to conquer.
He would be more like Dumbledore than he was like Draco. The bully relies only on brute power, sheer meanness of spirit and strength.
Where Draco lacked the strength, he compensated with his two bulky minions. Draco also had no qualms about using his family’s history for bragging points.
Generally, there are strategies behind villains’ use of fear to gain power; bullies simply enjoy beating up others, mentally and physically, and their satisfaction is immediate and transient.
One can avoid bullies for periods of time; one might also out-maneuver bullies. But fear-based power can sustain its grip on people even in the physical absence of the person wielding such power.
Draco’s character was largely annoying and obnoxious, but he gained more interest later on as he attempted to use cunning to gain attention.
He didn’t strike me as desiring a lot of power then, but certainly a lot of attention.
Dudley Dursley was an even more pure bully than Malfoy; no thought accompanied his nasty behavior toward Harry. He was parroting his parents.
Harry was not happy living with these people, but he was not afraid of them; rather, he viewed them as pathetic and a joke. Harry almost never saw himself as a victim.
IV. Vacuity-based power!! Imagine that!
Who can forget the empty-headed, celebrity-seeking, self-glorifying but good-looking Gilderoy Lockhart, the Defense-Against-Dark-Arts teacher?
Or, the poison-pen reporter, Rita Skeeter? who had no trouble using innuendo to create a different sort of vacuum into which people could insert their own imagined stories?
So, flashy appearances can be powerful too; flash may not last long, but often causes damage that can last longer than do the persons using such power.
However, if their followers weren’t blinded by the flash, these people wouldn’t be able to wield such power. So, while the person possessing the power may be vacuous, s/he does have to know how to read the (potential) followers’ desires.
V. Trust-based power engenders respect and growth in others.
This of course was largely embodied by Dumbledore, not just toward Harry, but toward all the other people around him, including the seemingly sneaky Snape, the occasional bumbling Hagrid, and many others.
Longbottom’s courage grew with the series but was first recognized by Dumbledore for his standing up to Harry, Hermione, and Ron in the first book of the series.
Dumbledore was the epitome of Appreciative Inquiry, always seeing the positive sides of a person and giving them plenty room to grow into and develop those strengths.
While Appreciative Inquiry might strike some as a bit too saccharine (it isn’t; that’s likely to be our cynical side giving such a descriptor), Dumbledore never wavered in his commitment to fight against the Dark Lord.
I always felt that Dumbledore’s fight against the evil figures in the books was never mean-spirited, gloriously rendered, spectacularly exhibited, or greatly publicized (by himself.)
Yes, he was manipulative, but he was fallible, and was the first one to recognize his own dark side. It was precisely his recognition of his ambition for power that decided him never to take the “Ministry of Magic” job.
In contrast, Voldemort could never understand the principle of trust (nor love.) When Malfoy Senior and Bellatrix “let him down” by “allowing” Harry and his friends to escape, his reaction was, “their stupidity and carelessness prove how unwise it is ever to trust,” thereby assuring that his followers would never “grow” under him; his followers could only at best not repeat the same mistakes.
Of course, if a villain could understand trust and even embrace it, s/he wouldn’t be a villain in the first place.
VI. Power Sharing/Situational Power display: The triumvirate’s accidental and reluctant show of powers
At first glace, the power bases of our three heroes, Harry, Ron, & Hermione, were straightforward: Harry’s in his courage, Hermione’s in her book knowledge, and Ron’s in … comic relief?
It’s easy to dismiss Ron’s importance, but his trust in the friendships with the other two, and theirs in him, was the solid foundation for Harry to be ever more courageous.
Harry wasn’t spectacularly brilliant; he was smart, enough to grasp the nuances of life, but eventually he learned to trust his instinct in many situations, led by Dumbledore, his fiercely loyal friends, and his love for his parents, without which his instincts might not have been as powerful.
Hermione might be great in book learning, but she was in the thick of the action all the way, despite her better judgment at times.
Ron might be a sidekick, but try to imagine this whole saga without him! The complimentary nature of the trio is worth noting; we often neglect that which is NOT in our appreciation of what it IS.
It is at the intersection of what is and is NOT that we gain a sense of true identity, such as Muggle vs. wizard/witch, offense vs. defense (why would there be defense in the absence of offense?), safety vs. risk, etc.
When Ron ran away from the other two for a while in their final battle, he immediately realized his folly. These three friends helped make each other who they were.
Throughout the series, these three friends always took turns to lead (in figuring out how to rescue the Sorcerer’s Stone or break through the Chamber of Secrets), to take risks (wearing the locket containing one of the Horcruxes), or to figure out what’s needed at the moment.
The best example of the interplay among these three was when Harry relinquished the Gryffindor sword to Ron to destroy one of the Horcruxes: Even when Ron was wavering and sidetracked by Voldermort’s manipulation (through the Horcrux), Harry never attempted to take over the task.
Later when Dumbledore met Harry at King’s Cross, he said, “…perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
Not that any of the three wanted to keep on wearing such cloth!
Many have criticized that Rowling’ writing as being rather unsophisticated, dismissing the Harry Potter series as not great literature.
Personally, I have often found books of “great literature” status to be pretentious. What I have appreciated deeply regarding Ms. Rowling’s stories is her grasp of human nature, both its superficiality and its deep crevices, in a complicated labyrinth of narratives.
Next week is about the followers in the power dynamics. Till then,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.