There are always people with more power than others. There are always nations with more power than others.
Even if there is no differential power distribution among people or among nations, some people will try to mislead others to think that he or she has more power than others. We have recently seen Mr. Juan Guaido posing with a few people in military uniform and claiming to have the Venezuelan military behind him. Reacting against North Korea's Kim, President Trump tweeted that he has "a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" There are two reasons for such fanfare. First, power, or even just the appearance of power, is often associated with personal fame, financial gain and political respect. Second, there is a mob of opportunistic people who constantly monitor who has more power than others and flock to where power lies. Thus, the appearance of power may materialize into real power with a large mob followers.
It is for this reason that no religion can spread by preaching love alone. The supreme love has to be associated with supreme power to have a chance among the mob. It is for the same reason that some preachers have to fly private jets instead of carrying the cross. The mob flocks to the jet-flying preachers instead of cross-carrying ones.
The mob know that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", so the powerful will eventually start looting others for personal gain. Being with the powerful means that one can share the glory and grandeur of looting others. Not following the powerful implies the misery and misfortune of being looted.
The powerful often reminds the mob that you are either with me or against me.
Napoleon formed a large group of looters and looted far and wide. He was heralded as a great leader for the looting he had done. Paradoxically, he was condemned as a criminal for exactly the same looting when he lost power. It would have been nice if he was heralded as a great leader when he was loving and compassionate, and condemned as a criminal when he was not. Unfortunately, judges and historians are always very fond of acquitting people with power but condemning those without.
At this point it might be wise to digress a few steps into the concept of power. It would be entirely unscientific to discuss power and politics without actually understanding what power means. Leo Tolstoy repeatedly argued that power to society is essentially the same as force to objects in physics. To understand changes of motion in a physical object, one has to identify the force and its application to the object. To understand changes in a society, one has to understand the power that moves it. So what is power and its source?
For ancients, there was an almighty deity who interfered with earthly matters either directly or indirectly through his agents such as prophets or ordained kings and emperors. This deity acted as a micromanager and determines the evolutionary trajectory of human society all the way down to the floating path of a dust particle. However, scholars by and by discarded this divine power and started seeking power among mortals. Physical power is highly visible, especially in those like Hercules or many modern bullies. One can also perceive manifestation of moral power. Some preachers commanded a large crowd of followers when he behaved righteously, but became almost immediately powerless when he was found to solicit prostitutes. However, as pointed out by Tolstoy, it could not be personal power that enabled Napoleon, who was neither physically imposing nor morally virtuous, to move 600,000 soldiers eastward towards Moscow. After a short pause and reflection, Tolstoy concluded that Napoleon's power arose from a large mob that banked their individual physical and moral power in his trust.
Power banks exist in both democracy and dictatorship. The key difference is that, in a democracy, one is allowed to transfer one's personal power from one power bank to another, typically after a four-year term deposit. In a dictatorship, the power bank gathers power from individuals and ensures that all alternative power banks are eliminated, so it becomes impossible to transfer one's personal power from one power bank to another.
Napoleon was a successful political banker. He had a large mob who deposited their personal power in his bank and pledged to never transfer it elsewhere. The stable genius today did the same with his supporters.
A successful political banker without a moral compass always morphs into a looting master.
Some people have classified the most powerful looting masters as First World, the mob followers as Second World, and those being looted as Third World. This classification was criticized for not catching the dynamic nature of this caste system. For example, the mob and their children do not want to remain members of a mob forever. They know that Napoleon was originally a member of the mob, but managed to raise himself to become a grand looting master. In particular, many of the mob were inspired by what Napoleon once said:" Those soldiers who are not willing to be a general are not good soldiers."
The caste system is therefore somewhat dynamic. The mob members wish to become Looting Master, and the looted wish to join the mob. But this creates an insurmountable problem of increasing number of looting masters and shrinking number of looting victims. The looters either have to loot more savagely, or find some way to increase the number of looting victims. Some politico-economists, as well as economy-minded communists such as Lenin, have sounded the warning a long time ago that the looting practice would not be sustainable. Alternative ways of looting had to be found.
Just as a large number of herbivores are required to sustain a few carnivores, a large colony is required for a small number of looters. An ideal world for looters is "the empire on which the sun never sets".
Napoleon very quickly arrived at the conclusion that Mideast, India or Africa could not sustain the looting in its full glory and grandeur. It is necessary to broaden the looting base to include wealthy European countries.
As a response to the warning on sustainability, military alliance was formed, and the Looting Master said to its allies: "Let's loot those who are not in our alliance. However, instead of getting what you have looted as before, I will now get 70% of the loot and you get the remaining 30%."
The allies, although not happy with the loot allocation, found it acceptable. They would rob the weak more savagely to compensate for the loss they had conceded to the Looting Master.
Then the Looting Master said to its allies: "Let's replace 70% and 30% by 80% and 20%, respectively. The alternative is to place you among the looted. You are either with me or against me."
The allies now face two opposing factions from within. First, some of them, especially the younger ones, consider this looting immoral. Second, some of them believe that they are just as capable as the Looting Master and deserve a fairer share of the loot.
So the leaders of the allies argued with the Looting Master, with the arguments running roughly as follows: We had been faithful allies. We had contributed to making you great, and would continue to make you great again. However, we have looted so savagely that we looked evil in the eyes of our children. This is too much a cost to balance the benefit of unfair share of the loot.
But the Looting Master wouldn't listen. Instead, he fumed: "You total loser! How dare you ask for more?"
The allies were terrified and dashed out of the door as if being chased by mad dogs. In the wildness outside, they had struck an idea of forming their own alliance so that they would not be slaughtered individually by the Looting Master.
So these allies formed their own alliance, which would be known as Hedgemoney for two reasons. First, they had jointly hedged a bet on money and power. Second, they wish to hide their intention to challenge the Looting Master, already well-known as Hegemony.
The Looting Master, or the Hegemony, got even angrier upon learning of the establishment of the Hedgemoney. "Total disaster!" he shouted.
But the leaders of the Hedgemoney were pretty cunning. They had clearly seen the division of the world into three castes, the Hegemony, the Hedgemoney and the Rest, and they went to lobby the leaders of the Rest: "You used to have a leader who recognized the world in three castes, but mistakenly thought that the Rest could stand on its own feet. He failed miserably because he, although having succeeded in uniting most of the Rest, did not make an effort to seek help from us, the Hedgemoney. The joint force of the Hegemony and the Hedgemoney is far greater than the Rest. However, the joint force of the Rest and the Hedgemoney might be greater than the Hegemony. If you follow us, we surely will not rob you as savagely as the Hegemony. We might even accept you into our membership."
The leaders of the Rest were all very glad to hear this proposal. After all, they had helped Hegemony and Hedgemoney to loot their own people for a long time, and were now fed up with the humiliating role of being both the looter and the looted. They wanted to be just the looter like those with membership in Hedgemoney.
The potential union between the Rest and the Hedgemoney had driven the Hegemony crazy, and it had come up with a smart strategy to break up the Rest+Hedgemoney alliance. It first approached the leader of its northern neighbor which Voltaire once dismissively described to be no more than a few acres of snow: "Listen, kiddo. I am going to spank you hard, and spank you so hard in front of all people to make you cry like a baby. However, if you condemn and alienate the leaders of the Rest, I will not only refrain from spanking you, but will kindly change your diaper."
The poor "kiddo" never realized that he was a leader in a vast land that is far more than just a few acres of snow, and he immediately caved in and hurled loads of curses upon the leaders of the Rest. As a reward, he did have his diaper changed so that he now looked smart.
Now this being done, the Hegemony went to tell the leaders of the Hedgemoney, "See the example of that kiddo? If you follow his example to condemn and alienate the leaders of the Rest, I will treat you the same way as I treated him", and he pulled out a few more diapers from his suitcase.
The cunning leaders of the Hedgemoney saw this as a valuable leverage, and they went to whisper into the ears of the leaders of the Rest: "The Hegemony is plotting against you. However, if you give us a very good deal......"
The leaders of the Rest were immensely touched by the timely information from the Hedgemoney, and promised to do their best. They also innocently spread out a large banner starting with the words "Our alliance with the Hedgemoney for the global economy......"
The Hegemony saw the banner, went across the Atlantic and angrily stared into the eyes of the leaders of the Hedgemoney: "You!" He shouted and was about to raise a finger from his small hand.
The leaders of the Hedgemoney were all trembling, and all said in unison, "Not me! It is the Rest that has tried in vain to seek alliance with me. I have steadfastly refused. Anyone who has ever thought of an alliance with the Rest is my enemy #1!" and they ran to and fro to evade the pointing finger of the Hegemony.
The Hegemony was pleased, and said, "I am going to punish the Rest for their attempt to divide us. I expect you to know where you stand." Each of the leaders of the Hedgemoney said "Yes" seven times, each time louder than the previous one.
So this brought us to the current geopolitics of the world.