While there, my morning routine of reading newspapers from many countries led to a deep insight into the condition of mankind. Since informing you of such matters is my job, here at the Nutcase Desk of Risk & Insurance®, I shall now do just that.
My favorite story of the day was a UPI report about a California appeals court that "struck down a mall's rules banning strangers from talking about subjects other than the mall while inside the facility."
The Westfield Galleria Mall in Sacramento apparently issued an edict allowing strangers to discuss any topic other than the mall only if an application to do so were issued four days in advance and approved by mall officials.
This reminded me of regulations in force during the Olympic Games in China. Anyone wishing to stage a political protest had to register their intent with the police in advance. No one who went to register was ever heard from again. Not a single protest was held during the Games.
Right next to this story was an unrelated report from the Wall Street Journal, citing Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who said: "When you give people power, they basically start acting like fools." He noted that people in authority tend to behave like neurological patients with a damaged orbito-frontal lobe, a brain area crucial for empathy and decision-making.
The Journal reported that "surveys of organizations find that the vast majority of rude and inappropriate behaviors, such as the shouting of profanities, come from the offices of those with the most authority." Psychologists refer to this sort of thing as "the paradox of power." The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place "all but disappear once they rise to power."
My traditional reaction when reading stories is: "Where do they find these people?" All over the world, it seems. The problem is not the people, it's power. To be put in charge is to lose touch with reality.
All this came against a backdrop of my imminent deportation from Bermuda for telling the truth, and, by contrast, another person's fairly imminent incarceration in that country for making a joke. Fed up with the regime of totalitarian Premier Dr. Ewart Brown, a blogger posted a message saying: "OK ... point me to the grassy knoll then."
It was a joke, of course. You know, humor. A police manhunt at once began that will lead, no doubt, to whoever wrote the blog (it wasn't me) spending time in jail on charges of terrorism.
We're probably stuck with this problem. Societies and businesses need leaders, and such people are guaranteed to become hopeless jerks. The only safeguard I can see against such idiocy is people like me, who point out the folly involved.
Wait. That means I have power.
ROGER CROMBIE is a Bermuda-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®
October 1, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications