Friday, March 29, 2013

Dræpa er Hann Vill

The Viking kings of Norway are depicted in the Konungs skuggsiá
as a rex iustus and God’s representative on earth. As such the king has power over life and death for all his subjects. Those who disobey him violate God’s will. The king "er sva mioc miclaðr oc tighnaðr aiorðu at aller skulu sva luta oc niga til hans sæm til Guðs. hann hævir oc sva mycit vælldi at hann ræðr hværs lifdagum þærs er i hans riki er sva sæm han vill. Lætr þann dræpa er hann vill en þann liva er hann vill." (Jón Viðar Sigurðsson, “Kings, Earls and Chieftains,” in Ideology and Power in the Viking and Middle Ages [Leiden: Brill, 2011], 69.)
The idea that the king has the ability to "kill whomever he will and let live whomever he will" lends itself to certain abuses. On a smaller level, sometimes those in power decide that they can similarly fire and retain whom they will, with similar abuses. Wise organizations limit the ability of individuals to have that sort of power over those they supervise by requiring more than one individual to make those decisions. This does not prevent abuse but makes it more difficult to achieve. Foolish organizations do not so limit individuals and routinize the abuse of power.

In the case of the kings of Norway, they depicted themselves as being like God. Humans tend to make trouble when those who are not really God's representatives think of themselves as having the power of God, whether on a large or a small scale.