Many ways to gain some introspection on the world. Small things can be windows on big things. In fact, there is often little difference between the two other than the severity of the consequences.
The daily scene was played out with remarkable consistency. Most of the bar’s regular clientele were content with enjoyable company. A younger man comes in, one of the semi regulars. There is a feeling of a plan that always wafts in with him. Sitting with friends and being soothed by enjoyable company doesn’t seem to be consistent with that plan. Unlike the others, he seems to have a need to touch most of the patrons in some way. He makes his rounds. “Cyclist need to get off the road and stay on the sidewalk. If they get hit, it would be a culling the gene pool” he starts with me. This one is only meant for me as the rest of the clientele are pretty sedentary. Then, on to the next, with something about “all problem pets need to be killed” is the conversation he strikes up with the animal lovers. Continuing to move around the room and getting the reactions. I wonder what he is going to do when he gets to the lone, elderly African American gentleman, who happens to be one of the board members of the organization and is well respected. Now, I’ve noticed that bullies get pretty adept at knowing where the line is and what they can get away with. He leaves that one extremely vague. The older gentleman lets the dart fly by him, unperturbed. The rest of us take our turns, behaving as marionettes, our arms and mouths flailing about as he pulls the puppet strings with deft precision. He moves on to the next puppet once the lasting impression has been made on the current subject. One might simply call it demented sport, but I feel that this person feels a serious lacking in his life and he has a powerful need to fill it. He had a need to exert control over others, any control, about any subject, it didn’t matter what. Any desire for that influence to be positive seems to be overshadowed by the need to exert control, leave a mark, a legacy.
Of course this is an extreme case, the most transparent that I have ever witnessed, but major events in life, events between nations and in history, are often caused by the more simple of emotions and needs. Complex arguments are then constructed around these simple motivations as further justifications.
Robin Wright is a journalist famous for interviewing dictators and military leaders in war torn countries. At a recent talk that my wife and I attended, she said “Never underestimate the power of men”. She then went on to explain that if you give a young, poor, powerless man a gun and a mandate to exert control over other humans, that fills a great big need of his, scratches an itch. The global politics of the situation may not even be of much interest to that man. In extrapolation, this has also been the motivation for many famous leaders throughout history.
The desire to want to control might be greater than most of us are willing to admit. Sometimes, the tendency is to wrap it up in something seeming much more altruistic. ‘I’m doing this great good’. When altruism is achieved, does it matter what the cause of the good is, so long as it is done? Perhaps, but when damage is being done, might it be helpful to recognize the deeper root causes, so as to work on the project of mitigation? Does a bully stop bullying because it is pointed out to them? Is a sexual predator cured because they realize it? I know this is rare, but without the recognition, mitigation would seem impossible.