King Dick (Power Corrupts)


When my daughter was little, she used to play with the neighbors down the hill. Most of the time this was fine; they’d splash in the stream and play on the rope swing and do stuff you do in the country.  And then there were the days when she would come home in tears. Because one or the other of the Terrible Twins were being terrible.

This usually took the form of making fun of her. And because there were two of them, and they backed each other up, it could be awful. It really didn’t matter what they were saying, it always amounted to the same thing: pulling her down, teasing, ridiculing.

In short, acting like dicks.

And I tried to help and comfort her and point out that they were both short-assed little beggars and the only way they could make themselves look big was by knocking her down. Which was all true, but didn’t help my daughter much, I’ll admit. When you are the victim of bullying, nothing helps much. Because the whole point of bullying is to make you doubt yourself.

I found myself thinking about the Terrible Twins today. Because of some of the things I’ve seen on the news recently. People in power acting like bullies. Politicians ridiculing others, rather than arguing their point of view. Even dismissing and discounting people who disagree with them. In fact, using their public positions, or even worse, their positions of power, to put people down. To fire people for doing their jobs.

I’ve worked for people like that. People who want their employees to constantly be afraid of losing their jobs. People who micro-manage, apparently just so they can be critical, not helpful. People who take every question as a personal attack and become aggressive.

The King Dicks.

Now, it’s bad enough when you are an eight-year-old making fun of people. It’s bad enough when you are in high school to ridicule people who aren’t in your particular clique. It’s bad enough to steal somebody’s sandwiches out of the the break room at the office. Because all of these things are the acts of a dick. And the kind of dick who does these things most likely wouldn’t want to be treated that way. But in these cases, if somebody wants to come back at you, they can.

When you do these things to people who work for you, who are more or less obliged to put up with it, it’s much, much worse. Because your common, everyday dick knows that if he breaks the “do as you would be done by” contract, he’s likely to get some flak for it. But the King Dicks, the bosses, the police, the teachers, the politicians, the parsons, the parents even, know there can be no comeback.

And that makes it worse.

And there are some people who act like dicks just because there is no way you can get back at them.

And this just goes back to what I think is the source of all dickishness: thinking that the rules don’t apply to you. In this case, because you are the boss. You are in charge. You are better than the others. And what is more, there ain’t a damned thing they can do about it!

Now, it’s never good when people act like that. That is the source of so much pain and suffering. But it is especially bad when it is people in authority who act like that. People who are seen as role models. Teachers. Ministers. Elected officials. Because then kids and congregants and voters think that it’s alright to be dicks themselves. And, yes, “Well, HE does it!” is an excuse a five-year-old would use, but you know, there must be an awful lot of six foot tall five-year-olds out there, then.  Besides, the lesson is, “Do as you would be done by,” not, “Do like that jerk over there.”

This is perhaps the main reason for not being a dick: it encourages other people to be dicks. And the truth of the matter is, two people being dickish is nothing but twice as bad as one. A boss who is a dick, a leader who is a dick not only encourages others to be dicks, he multiplies the dickishness.

You don’t have to be Spider-Man to understand that with great power comes great responsibility.  

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And if we don’t hold the ones in power, the leaders, to a high standard, they will not just be dicks, they will be King Dicks.


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