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The Power Struggle

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Many human beings have been involved in a power struggle of some sort since the beginning of time. Between power in the business world, classroom, and government it is often clear who is subordinate and who is dominant. Subordinates may at times feel powerless; however, they can gain satisfaction out of aesthetics and hidden transcripts because of the personal freedoms it represents to them.

James Scott wrote an essay, "Behind the Official Story", which is a discussion of subordinates and their relationship with dominants. It also discusses the hidden transcript and public transcript used by subordinates. "The hidden transcript is thus derivative in the sense that it consists of those offstage speeches, gestures, and practices that confirm, contradict, or inflect what appears in the public transcript" (Scott 524). Many times subordinates have to put on an act to please the dominants. Scott refers to this as the public transcript (Scott 522). The public transcript subordinates display for their superiors is merely surface and often does not truly show how they feel about their superiors. If they were always blunt about how they feel they risk getting a bad grade, fired, or in trouble. Only when subordinates are among themselves can they discuss how they really feel about their superior which would be an example of the hidden transcript.

Azar Nafisi wrote, Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books, a book about her life as a teacher in Iran. Nafisi decided to teach an all- female class in her home. Nafisi quotes one of her students who explains why she had to lie to her father about taking the class,

I lied...What else can one do with a person who's so dictatorial he won't let his daughter, at this age, go to an all-female literature class? Besides isn't this how we treat the regime? Can we tell the Revolutionary Guards the truth? We lie to them; we hide our satellite dishes. We tell them we don't have illegal books and alcohol in our houses. (Nafisi 346)

It is clear that Nafisi's class is practicing what Scott calls a hidden transcript. They are discussing how they truly feel about their government where they are safe from the government from hearing.

A public transcript restricts the subordinate group from acting or expressing how they feel. Subordinates have a public transcript for a variety of reasons: to avoid conflict, to gain a good grade or job from the dominant, to get a curfew extended, etc. Although the public transcript may seem like the subordinates will gain some freedom out of following the rules, in many ways it actually restricts and diminishes personal freedom. If subordinates can not express how they truly feel and have to follow rules that go against their personal belief system in order to gain something or avoid trouble then they know they are doing this because they lack power. They lack power in the sense that they are not in full control of their future. If they do something or say something that could cause conflict they could lose everything they have worked for. For example, if a teenager stays out two hours past his/her curfew the parents could decide to change the curfew to an earlier time.

Surface value effects public transcript for a variety of reasons. Appearances are a major factor in power struggle because it actually runs deeper than surface. Appearances are about control and choice. People like to have the decision of what they look like because it is a personal freedom. In totalitarian regimes rulers like to take away that choice not because they care about how the people look, but because they like to have that control and power over the people. They like that they can tell a group of people what to wear and that group has to listen or they will get in trouble. It is not about their clothes or their hair; it is about the power struggle between the totalitarian regime and their people.

The fact that subordinates feel they even need a public transcript is admitting to a loss of power. If they feel the need to put on an act for the dominants in order to please them then it is out of some kind of fear. Fear is often a major component in power because it causes subordinates to do what the dominants say to do. The fear the subordinates have could be a fear of a variety of things: fear of conflict, fear of losing a job, fear of getting demoted and in some extreme cases fear of getting killed. In some countries rulers may kill subordinates for being disobedient. Another example would be if a burglar is robbing a bank everyone in the bank has to cooperate or they risk getting injured or killed.

Police officers are trained to put on an act when a criminal has a gun and a hostage. They are many times trained to be friendly and to say what they need to say in order to get the criminal to drop the gun. At that moment, if the police want the hostage to live, the criminal is the one with the power. In order for the police to get what they want out of the criminal they need to follow a public transcript and say what the criminal wants to hear.

Aesthetics speak volumes about the power held in a group of people. Virginia Postrel wrote an essay, "Surface and Substance", which discusses the true value of aesthetics and the controversy of that topic, "It will take some time for people to realize that creating the difference between Coke and Pepsi is not just an empty pastime but one of the many signs of life in a free society" (Postrel 439). Postrel places great emphasis on the choice of Coke and Pepsi because she feels it represents freedom for the society. Businesses competing allow a choice for consumers which she feels is important.

Nafisi also feels giving people a choice is important. Nafisi recalls when she allows her students to take off the veils they had to wear,

"In the second photograph the same group, in the same position, stands against the same wall. Only they have taken off their coverings. Splashes of color separate one from the next. Each has become distinct her clothes, the color and the length of her hair; not even the two who are still wearing head scarves look the same." (Nafisi 336)

Nafisi feels it is personal freedom that her class allows the women to choose whether or not they want to wear the head scarves. If they choose to wear the scarves then it is their personal freedom to do so and if they do not want to wear the scarves then they have the right not to.

The way a person dresses can make a statement of power. It is not always the clothes people judge others for wearing; it is what the clothes represent. Many people think of money as power and, as a result, the nicer the clothes a person wears the more money and power it is assumed that person has. This may influence a boss's decision to hire



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