Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why are people such dicks about power?

I spend a good deal of time thinking about this because I see it all the time.

Why are people such dicks about power?

Money is power, beauty is power, knowledge is power. Share it, don't wield it. If we share, then all of us have a chance to be powerful in our own way. Everyone wins.

Sometimes when I see a phenomenon in human nature recurring, I think oh, there must be some root in evolutionary biology. Some reason humans have adopted this behavior. An out-for-thyself mentality probably comes from a time when successful survival really did depend on how well you looked out for yourself. That's outdated in today's world but there are still stories of people climbing on the backs of others with ne'er a thank you to all those that served as steps.

Maybe that's why I like science so much. The curriculum by nature instills the humble adage "we are standing on the shoulders of giants" into the psyches of its student body and I'm aware of this every time I turn on a light or fumble with my phone. I try not to become so lost in my daily routine that I forget how lucky I am.

This is also one reason I like giving back, in my small way. I'm not building circuits or inventing things but I know people and I can love them. Yesterday I thought I don't care if I was snowed sometimes. I gave with an open heart. What of it? We give what we can when we can and we're all the better for it. I've gotten better at not being too foolish though. Reciprocity is a good measure. "Never love anybody who treats you like you're ordinary" wrote Oscar Wilde. Don't make someone your priority when you are only their option.

Back to the power thing. I think there's more at play.

People want to preserve their value by not sharing their knowledge -- it dilutes their worth, perhaps -- but it's not just that. There's more.

We're a herd species, and if one member doesn't "get it" or is clueless, that feels like a threat to the rest of the pack. Maybe that's why there's so much derision for those who don't fit in.

If people look like they're not paying attention to themselves, well, then, they're the outlier ready to be snatched up by a lion. No one wants to be near that guy when he gets picked off.

Maybe that's also why there's so much peer pressure to conform.

It's safer to blend in on a grassy plain.

If we know this, though -- what's in our natures -- we can fight against it. Mind over instinct, bitches. We're better than that.


  1. I don't know that it's the power. Some people are just dicks.
    And my current boss is quite possibly the nicest guy I've ever worked for...

    1. I've been very lucky to have great bosses much of my life. People in power aren't necessarily the ones who are dicks about power though, perhaps precisely because they aren't lacking?

  2. El Guapo, your boss is right behind you isn't he? :)

    Power doesn't cause someone to be a dick, power is a personality enhancer. A dick with power is a bigger dick. Just like someone who is inherently kind can use their power for good. Unfortunately when your a nice person, unlike a dick, your ultimate goal is not to amass power.

    In my understanding of it, the quote,"we are standing on the shoulders of giants", tends to itself empower the dicks. Especially in science. You never hear of Marconi or Tesla's research assistants, you only hear of, 'the one that published the paper". In the articles it will say something like 'Dr. Phloblegobber and his students' or 'A research team headed by Dr. Phloblegobber' discovered the Phloblegobble particle today. This reduces all but Dr. Phloblegobber to nameless minions under his ultimate greatness. Whether or not he did any of the work, he becomes the giant whose shoulders the next researcher stands on.

  3. Yeah, that's a whole entire side of the coin that I did not mention. Collaborative recognition isn't well-rewarded in our society though. I wonder where that comes from and how it can be changed.

    BTW, best fake name ever: Dr. Phloblegobber. Ha!