By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
What’s wrong with these people?
You know, the people who make headlines because they’ve done something wrong.
The problem may be that they’ve done so many things right – and risen to positions of power and authority.
So, naturally, we expect a lot of them.
But, like the rest of us, these people aren’t perfect. They’ve just managed, until now, to hide their flaws from the rest of us.
So why did they do such stupid things? Why did they give in to decidedly unpopular behaviors?
Why, when they had so much, did they do things that brought about their downfall?
Taking bribes? Giving bribes? Using the company’s money as if it were their own? Gambling on games they refereed? Holding dog fights? Engaging in questionable sexual behavior?
How did people who do such things manage to rise to positions of authority? Yes, they kept their misdeeds hidden … until the misdeeds made headlines.
Did these people have these flaws in their characters before they began their rise to rather high positions in our society?
Or were they corrupted by the power they had attained?
Social psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld, of the Center for Leadership Development and Research, has said, “ .. when people feel powerful, they stop trying to control themselves.”
An article on the subject in the San Francisco Chronicle calls “power” an “aphrodisiac” or “sexual stimulant.” Actually, it was Henry Kissinger who said that power “is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
Perhaps even the risk of doing questionable things adds to the excitement of doing them.
Gruenfeld has a word of it ? “disinhibition.” The power these people have not only makes them unihibited, it drives them to “diss” inhibition. They are “drunk with power.” Power lowers inhibitions just like alcohol does.
Another psychologist, Cameron Anderson, assistant professor at UC Berkeley, says that this intoxication with the feeling of power explains why powerful people “sometimes behave rather like gorillas.”
Doing these bad things that they’ve done may have been accompanied by an adrenaline rush – a sense that with the power they have they can do impossible things.
Anderson also said that people in power tended to be more optimistic about their chances of success, more likely to gamble. “They see themselves as being above the law.”
After all, if they are senators, they make the law. And if they are presidents, they can veto the laws that the senators (and congressmen) pass.
Of course, we shouldn’t totally blame the powerful who have been led astray.
We, the public, gave them that power. We gather at the football stadium to cheer the players – and wear the same number one has on his jersey. And we see to it that these football players have no need of money. Their contracts run into the millions – because of our adulation of them.
People in government got there because we voted for them; we gave them their power. However, people in government aren’t as well paid as football players – and they need money, especially if they’re running for office. So the candidates raise millions … they say, with no strings attached.
So if you get asked for money by a candidate (actually, you’ll be asked for money by a number of candidates) give what you can. (You don’t want the candidates to have to depend on the lobbyists for their campaign funds).
Anyway we can depend on the elected to have nothing to do with the lobbyists – except listen to them.
Chelle Delaney is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by calling 461-1952 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org