I photocopied this great poem on power  from Harpers magazine 20 years ago.  I gave it to many friends including C.&J. in Ireland- who taped it on the wall, next to the roll of toilet paper in their washroom for the entertainment of guests.  It may or may not be outdated. 

REFLECTIONS ON POWER : a dissenting view by Earl Shorris


  1. I reject power, but only philosophically, which is to say, I am a liar
  2. Power is the central position: it is not the centre
  3. Power is the pleasure of the day after day, all other pleasures belong to the moment, or to the succession of nights.
  4. The colour of power is dark grey.
  5. Although power shifts, it does not change by degree.  Power is or is not.  It does not dawn, not does it leave in twilight.
  6. Power is not an ability.
  7. There is no essential difference between great power and small power: expansion is only a matter of accessories.
  8. In the city, power walks.  Taxis are for those who meet the schedules of others.
  9. Emptiness is a sign of power.
  10. The powerful speak slowly, as if time were plentiful.
  11. There are no draws in the game of power.
  12. The surface of power is polished stone.
  13. Power always has something of greater importance.
  14. When a powerful man asks for something, he is always brought something superior: an urn for a cup, a couch for a chair.
  15. The powerful know complexity is the province of underlings.
  16. Power is not in the making, it is in the having.
  17. There is no power in a small room.
  18. After he gained power, what had been seen as eccentricity appeared as wisdom.
  19. A formula for power: power equals the weakness of others times their number.
  20. Power, like any other dream, is both the act and the end.



  1. Power is arrogated: it always truly belongs to someone else.
  2. A man offers me a gift; I have power over him unless I accept the gift. I point out that it is immoral in business to accept such a gift and I do not accept it.  Now I have power over him in two ways.
  3. One loses the sense of power over others.  To feel power it must be constantly increased.
  4. Women covet power but do not appreciate it.
  5. I don’t want to be a boss, he said.  The only thing worse than having a boss is being a boss.  He became a boss.  They made me a boss, he said.
  6. Hell and children derive their power from the same kind of anxiety.
  7. A vision is powerful, unless it is understood.
  8. The most powerful names in intellectual argument are those that are recognized but not known.
  9. Power is gained by withholding.



  1. Power articulates its desires.
  2. Circuitousness is a better means for the powerful than confrontation because it is more certain.
  3. The powerful punish by disinterest.
  4. Power enables one to break appointments.
  5. Underlings speculate about the powerful; the powerful discuss underlings in full knowledge of the situation.
  6. Power interrupts.
  7. There is no better way to flaunt one’s power than to appear equal when dealing with the powerless.
  8. To recognize virtue in an underling is an act of power.
  9. The difference between a powerful man and a bully is the latter’s penchant for telephoning underlings at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon.
  10. The president of a company makes jokes about cheating on his expense account to an audience of men who fear they will be caught cheating on their expense account.
  11. Power sits at another table.
  12. A powerful person may choose to send another in his place.  The acceptability of the substitute depends on the power of the one who sent him.
  13. Power shows intimacy as a reward.
  14. Power thanks.  Nothing more clearly separates the powerful from the powerless than graciousness.
  15. Power does not kill: it permits suicide.



  1. Power is conferred by association: the basking of underlings.
  2. A powerful man said nothing, and all in attendance knew exactly what he meant.  Later they could not agree on what they heard.
  3. People do things for the powerful; they do not wait to be asked.
  4. In fiction, the recourse of powerlessness is murder; in life, the recourse of powerlessness is petty theft.
  5. Those without power wait.
  6. The powerful are made uneasy by deference; but they accept nothing less.
  7. Power may be amused, but to be amusing is an admission of weakness.
  8. Power is embarrassed by unsubtle flattery.
  9. Hurried speech is a form of deference.
  10. Power’s best decoration is a cultured assistant.
  11. Death has no power; it is dying that we fear.
  12. Envy is a form of obesiance.
  13. The power of a man is determined by his ability to mask the power of those who dominate him.
  14. Men abrogate their lives to their livelihoods.



  1. Power is the first compromise of society
  2. Evil is ascribed to the powerful because they are unknown; it is the weapon used against them.
  3. Stylishness, being an acquiescence, mitigates power.
  4. Mere wealth is gelded power.  That is why debutantes are vulnerable and attendance at polo matches is poor.
  5. Conspicuous power is vulnerable.
  6. There is no power without arrogance, however subtle.
  7. Clarity vitiates power.
  8. To the powerful, art has no meaning, only uses.
  9. The powerful man has no use for those who are immobilized by the truth.
  10. Ultimate power maybe safely ignored.
  11. Whenever it is universally known that power is the creation of its victims, the world trembles.
  12. Love is not power; that may be as good a definition of the human predicament as we are likely to get.

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