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Desert Companion

Influence: Power chasm

Power Outage

Reflections on influence by a man who has none.

One of the many gifts this city bestows upon us is a clear demonstration of the nature and perks of power — and, more to the point in my case, its inverse, powerlessness. This yin-yang is all around us, and it’s not some subtle metaphor. Often it’s closer to blunt-force trauma.

Take a drive down the Strip: all those glittery facades, imposing water features and sparkly new suburban assault vehicles with tires the size of my backyard. Even from miles away, these imposing constructions loom like billion-dollar taunts over my dinky house, my barely maintained lawn, my 11-year-old Nissan, my shower with its teasing trickle of water pressure.

I walk downtown, not far from where I live. A giant flame-throwing praying mantis?! That’s enough raw power to get Iggy Pop excited. I can feel the heat a block away. Do I have the influence to put such a thing in my driveway? Happily for the neighbors, I do not.

Consider the habits of those with power. They eat at fabulous restaurants with salads made from hand-selected heirloom vegetables and, if they are on the paleo diet that I understand is all the rage among the elite, exceptional cuts of meat from cows that lined right up to sacrifice their flesh to discerning customers.

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Again, for contrast: I eat at downscale fast-food joints with $1 bargain menus, and I’m not sure that the granulated brown substance in my taco ever belonged to anything alive.

When I was young, I used to think that power was something I would eventually acquire, that everybody got, that was a birthright of every American. Or at least, you know, white male Americans.

I now suspect that this confidence may have been tragically misplaced.

But I’m close enough to observe the habits of those who do wield power. They are not like you and me. (Well, me, at least.) They drink in much nicer bars and do not order off the $1 menu.

My downtown neighbor, Tony Hsieh — that guy has power. He seems like a very nice person, and I am only picking on him because he is everywhere downtown. He also has billions of dollars. So here’s a way to be powerful: Sell your company to Amazon.com for billions of dollars. Then you too can get a giant flame-throwing metallic model of a predatory insect to entertain your friends and worry your neighbors.

Those of us who do not sell shoes still have some options. The power of many can defeat the monopolies of the few, or some such, according to my favorite left-wing organizations. This is why we have such effective gun-safety laws and clean, renewable solar power for everyone, too cheap to meter!

I have to go now. The dogs are hungry and only I can satisfy their base needs. Come to think of it, I do have that one iota of power. To them I am the god of full bowls and soft blankets. Eat well, my loyal subjects!

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