Control is one of those words which have this domineering effect over people simply by the sound of it. It brings to mind images of oppression, of authority, of rule. Defined as the ability to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate or command, control is something that everyone wants to have. But often always comes with a price to pay. People in control aren’t usually loved or even liked. Control is so often linked to autocracy, to repression, to subordination of others, that it acquires a negative connotation.
The Evil Queen forcing her magical powers over the Enchanted Kingdom; the dictator oppressing civilians; parents suppressing their children into not being able to do anything on their own. It’s all about control. And this is what people are after. The authority to reign over others. The hierarchical structure of an army, for instance, determines who is superior to whom. Politicians fight and quarrel over who will get to be in charge of all major decisions, regardless of the fact that s/he will also be responsible for the consequences. Control has become synonymous to power. And life has become a competition of who has more of it.
The problem is, however, that most people try to demonstrate this power they have, by controlling those weaker than themselves. Often this also implies those smaller in size. Animals, for instance, are the first to suffer. Being herded, reared and slaughtered for a specific cause – for the benefit of humans – the latter species attempts to show how it dominates over the “lesser” one. Horses are saddled and bridled up to fulfill their riders every demand, by a simple kick in the sides, and a pull of the reins. Of course, animals can fight back. By biting, scratching, kicking. But in the end it is the one with the extra resources, the biggest tools and the stronger weapons that always seems to dominate. Similarly, it is the rich, the wealthy, the high-ranking in society that end-up becoming the most yearning for power. For more. For control. And these are usually the ones that become the authoritative rulers, the oppressors, the tyrants, the dictators. Ruling over citizens who lack even half of what the former have, and being deprived of so much more.
Even parents exercise control over their children. And a lot too. Raising their babies into grown-up adults, parents are responsible for so much of the decisions they take for an infant’s life. Its first and most important influences. The principles and values that will register in its mind. And most significantly, the behaviour and mentality that will become part of its upbringing. Parents control their children for most of their lives. With the latter being afraid to do anything contrary to the wishes of their parents, and even as adults, being concerned as to what their opinions might be.
Too much control, however, is harmful. In every sense. Too much control by parents means the children are incapable as adults of acting on their own. Of being independent and responsible for their own actions. Sparrows provide perhaps the best example of suitable control: they raise their young ones in the nest, taking as best care of them as possible, as long as they learn how to fly. Once their neonates learn to spread their wings, they are allowed to do so and leave the nest, free to explore the world opened out before them. That is what humans are supposed to do too. But instead so many lack this independence that growing up should come with. Once you leave the nest, you are not supposed to come back. But so many circumstances, even in the current day and age, force them to return. To seek the support and sometimes the very dependence of those that reared them in the first place. And then that same freedom desperately longed for as adults is often constrained in the very walls of that paternal nest. It’s all about control. Whether it is taken by force, or voluntarily conceded.
Nonetheless, control does not necessary mean something bad. And it shouldn’t. Control is also about proving to the world that you can manage on your own. That you can handle both the responsibilities and obligations. That you can command your own reins. And ultimately that you can take control – power – over your own life. It isn’t necessary to domineer over others to prove you have power or authority. That is something to be gained not taken. Just like respect. And that is more often earned by those worthy of it. By demonstrating your achievements, your accomplishments, your skills and capabilities. Rulers/leaders who have done more for their citizens, who have given more to them instead of demanded from, who have listened rather than imposed, are the ones who are most loved and respected. It is those who are given control voluntarily by others. Often even unknowingly.
But the most important control of all is to be able to control your own destiny, be what you want to be, and achieve all that you want to achieve. Life is to be lived, not controlled.