10 Apr How Power Corrupts
Marianne Arthur is a 14-year-old school student who lives in New Zealand. This piece was written as a response to a question about how power corrupts, referencing Macbeth. It is a fascinating insight into a young girl’s thoughts around the Harvey Weinstein fallout. A level of innocence has died in the process, but in its place a new writer may have been born.
Written by Marianne Arthur
5 min read
Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is a perfect representation of how influential and how easily abused power can be. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is no threat and is living a considerably normal life for that era. He has a wife to care for, friends to chat with, and the thought of murdering a well-respected man, sends shivers down his spine.
However, as the play continues, Macbeth meets three witches that plant thoughts of a powerful future in Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s head. This changes the characters drastically, and the power starts to manipulate and twist both the characters’ state of mind. “Will it not be received, when we have marked with blood those sleepy two. Of his own chamber and used their very daggers, that they have done ’t?”. These visions and fantasies meld into reality and form the power-hungry murderous and manipulative person Macbeth turns out to be.
Horrifically, some of these traits lie in Harvey Weinstein, who is the victim of my report.
Co-founder of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, has been exposed. Rumours have surfaced of sexual assault and harassment. In essence, Harvey has used his power and manipulative personality to propose that if women did not have sex with him, he would ensure their position in a particular movie to be lost, and their career diminished. The same sense of blackmail is shown in Macbeth: “Know, that it was he in the times past which held you so under fortune, which you thought had been our innocent self”.
Harvey Weinstein also has a feeling of superiority when he makes his attacks, he looks down on women and considers himself to be of a much higher ranking to others. Even after the allegations had been published in the New Yorker article by Ronan Farrow in October 2017, and consequences had begun, in virtually every interview that Ronan Farrow held, the victims were still too frightened of their career being sabotaged.
“If Harvey were to discover my identity, I’m worried that he could ruin my life.” This simple statement, made by one of Harvey’s victims, clearly highlights how the power has corrupted the life of not just Harvey Weinstein, but also the lives of many other Hollywood stars and models. However, the reason he was not called to account three decades ago – when his attacks begun – is because he used his power and threatened to plant items on social media outlets about those who spoke out against him; he shut them off from talking.
The Oxford dictionary defines power as “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events”. Harvey Weinstein is one of the most powerful men on earth. His net worth is between 250 million to 300 million, in other words, he has enough money to rebuild the Trump Tower.
The Oxford dictionary defines corrupt as either “having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain”, “evil or morally depraved”, “made unreliable by errors or alterations” and “in a state of decay; rotten or putrid”. I think we can put this together and say that Harvey slots into at least three of these definitions. His power and money has gone to his head and changed the way he thinks.
My personal inference is that he knew he had enough money to back him up, enough complicit people, and enough guts. He knew he could get what he wanted because if he challenged the jobs that those women had worked so hard for, they would give in. Just like when Lady Macbeth challenged Macbeths masculinity and he did the same. That’s when he cracked, and the manipulative power-hungry Macbeth we were introduced to, devoured his old sense of self.
Sadly, I know that Harvey Weinstein is not an anomaly, as much as I wish he was. There have been many women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted throughout the centuries before now. I believe one of the only reasons Weinstein’s case became public is because of the outrage coming from women that has been passed through generations of male misconduct. This caused the final outbreak to happen, and kick-started the cases of many other women’s stories – and finally the Me Too movement was born.
In my perspective, power is often associated with money. The stigma and stereotype revolving around money and power comes from the hierarchy that originated from the Ancient Egyptians. It determined what class you were in according to your family’s name and the amount of money you had. That tradition has carried down for centuries and I believe it is still an unconscious belief in today’s modern society.
That silent hierarchy has determined part of the amount of power Harvey has obtained, and it overwhelmed him and out came a predator. Harvey Weinstein has definitely worked hard to get where he is, that takes skill and commitment. However, his mistake is using that power, and turning it into a fear directed at the women he assaulted and harassed. He used that fear to get what he wanted, whilst using his power to ensure those women didn’t speak a word.
In an interview Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, tells us that when a man feels powerful, the empathy regions in his brain are less active, and in some cases the male feels that nervous behaviour from a woman means she is attracted to him. It also gives the male a feeling of superiority. My inference is Harvey needed that feeling of superiority, that he got too used to after his first attack, and that lead to three decades of assault and harassment.
The power that Harvey Weinstein held over his company and the colleagues he harassed is enough to stop these women from reporting him for over three decades. Weinstein’s way of dealing with power was to abuse it and that’s what ended him up with regret.
I suggest that if you find yourself in the hands of power, you should direct it at things that matter – maybe a charity, volunteer for something that could make a change –instead of making the same mistake as Harvey Weinstein.
As Lord Acton famously said, “Power Corrupts,” and sure enough, that’s what it did.