Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Power. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Our new neighbours have a rabbit who sits in his hutch in the garden. Our cat goes over the wall to have a look. He is fascinated but wary. Thereís a power struggle, of sorts. Bandit, the cat, was here first, has sharper claws and is bigger. Raja, the rabbit, is on his own territory, has sharper teeth and couldnít care less about Banditís attentions. He is safe in his hutch but only at the cost of his freedom.

Human beings too size each other up. We seem automatically to know where we stand in the pecking order in relation to others. We feel wary if we are the underdog, sometimes feeling safe only by holding ourselves back, but at the cost of not feeling free to be ourselves. If we have the edge over the other person, how we use that power is vital. We can choose whether to manipulate, abuse, delight in or encourage the other.

And just as Bandit and Raja are powerful in different ways, so we each have qualities which we use, usually subconsciously, to express and assert our presence. Our size, sexuality, facial features and expression, articulacy, expertise, social skills and body language are all aspects of ourselves to which others respond. As they do, they may feel superior, inferior or on a par with us. Something perhaps to notice as we meet and share with other people today.

We would not normally associate party games with the European Union. But when, from next May, it will consist of 25 countries instead of the present 15, the representatives will move on one seat round the oval table every six months in a slow and stately version of musical chairs. This is to ensure that no country is permanently at a disadvantage because of where they are seated. In addition, newcomers will sit alternately round the table with the old hands. This boy-girl-boy-girl arrangement is designed, according to the charitable view anyway, to better integrate the new members into the Union. A more cynical view is that existing members want to make it harder for the newcomers to form a voting bloc.

The task of ensuring a proper and fair balance of power is not confined to the international community. We constantly need to make decisions about how much influence any given person should have. In the workplace, for example, to what extent should power be determined by factors such as length of service, position in the organisation or generally acknowledged expertise? Or, in the home, do breadwinners have a greater say than those who are dependent on them and how much leverage should children have in family affairs?

As we reflect today on the ways in which influence is exercised in the groups of which we are part, we might perhaps wish to ensure that those who have power donít try and squeeze out the others. Itís not always easy genuinely to give everyone their say but only when we do, will we begin to have real Union.