Why peasants have ultimate power

When I was younger I enjoyed watching a classic movie: Dragonheart. This movie is set in a fantastical medieval world.

In the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the overall situation with a scene of a young prince Einon overlooking a battle between the king with his knights and the peasants. The conversation between young Einon and one of the king’s soldiers on the hill goes as follows:

Young Einon: “The peasants are revolting.”

Brok: “They’ve always been revolting, Prince. But now they’re rebelling!”

The scene below shows a slaughter of peasants. After a short while the king walks down a seemingly quiet road and is ambushed and killed by peasants. Notwithstanding the death of the king, ultimately the peasants are beaten down and defeated, and of course, re-subjugated into the same old slavery under his son Einon.

What is “Force”?

In our daily conversation, often we use the word “force” in contexts such as “my mother forced me to wash the dishes”. Yet in this sentence, the concept is flawed. In the case of Dragonheart, the peasants were “forced” to serve the king and kingdom by farming and providing a portion of their food as tax. The general use of the word “force” suggests to us that the party receiving the force has no choice and is absolutely unable to control or change their actions. However, this concept is flawed inasmuch as our ability to choose is an innate ability and no man or woman on this earth, regardless of how influential or powerful, can remove the ability to choose from anyone else.

Thus “force”could be better defined as “compelling someone to make a particular choice, by altering the consequences of their choosing otherwise”

Congruous with this, later on in the same movie, the following conversation takes place between a survivor peasant (Hewe) and young lady seeking to incite a rebellion (Kara)

Kara: “Throw off the yoke of Einon’s oppression! We must begin to fight back!”

Hewe: “Your father sung that same tune years ago, and we all suffered for it! We’ll not listen to it again!”

Kara: “No, Hewe, just cringe like a dog under Einon’s boot!”

Hewe: “At least a cringing dog’s a live one!”

Kara: “But this time we can win. You don’t understand.”

Hewe: “I don’t want to understand! I understand this! (Pointing at an eye-patch covering an eye he lost in the battle) I understand six years in a quarry! That’s all I need to understand!”

As this exemplifies,  the drive of compelling circumstances can be so extreme that people literally think they are “forced” into doing something, they think that they have no choice. But in reality, this is almost always not the case.

What is “Agency”?

Agency is “The state of being in action or exerting power”, it is the prerogative and ability to make our own decisions and act entirely for ourselves and of our own volition, or the power to choose.

Agency is why peasants have ultimate power. 

The power of agency is so deep and so powerful that it enables us to choose our own destiny. Agency is not limited to choices of action alone, but attitude, perspective, even happiness can be decided and is indeed determined by Agency. Agency is the root of self-control.

What if, in Dragonheart, all of the peasants unanimously decided that the king will starve, no matter what? They could be punished, yes, they would likely be killed, perhaps even all of them, but then what? The king would starve.

The moment you establish that “force” is merely the act of influencing consequences, you understand the that every one of us has ultimate power. You cannot remove someone’s power to choose, you can only modify consequences.

Shawn

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