I feel like shaking things up a bit, so today I’m starting off with a fable. You might have heard it before. Once upon a time there was a scorpion that wanted to cross a river. He began to research the rudiments of shipbuilding and was about to solicit bids from a small number of reputable contractors when he saw a frog nearby.
“Excuse me, frog,” the scorpion said. “Are you going across the river?”
“Yes,” said the frog.
“Well, what a happy coincidence for the purposes of this fable! Can I ride on your back while you cross?”
“I don’t know,” the frog said. “I’m afraid that you will sting me if I let you close.”
“Nonsense,” the scorpion said. “If I sting you, you’ll drown. And if you drown, then so will I.”
Persuaded, the frog agreed. The scorpion hopped on his little froggy back, and together the two of them made their way across the river. Then, just as they made it to the far side, the scorpion stung the frog. As the frog was sinking, he asked the scorpion, “Why did you do this? After I helped you, why would you turn on me?”
The scorpion shrugged his scorpion shoulders. “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature to sting. That’s what I do. I didn’t mean to, honestly – it just happened.”
The frog was angry, but not for long, because he was also paralyzed. Soon he sank to the bottom of the river and drowned, and his anger drowned with him. He tried to curse the scorpion, but the words didn’t come out right because he was drowning, and so the curse didn’t work.
What’s the moral of this story? It’s pretty simple. If you trust people, you’ll end up dead at the bottom of a river. Let me make myself perfectly clear.
When it comes to being a great tyrant, trust is the great destroyer. The second you allow yourself to trust your subordinates, bad things are going to happen. Healthy marriages might be built on trust; you might have to succumb to the dangers of trust if you’re planning an expedition to scale the Himalayas. And you should probably trust the pilot of your airplane to do his or her job well, or else you’re going to have an awfully uncomfortable and sweaty-palmed flight. But when it comes to establishing an effective and enduring tyranny, trust is a luxury you cannot afford.
But don’t take my word for it. History is replete with examples of people and organizations that allowed themselves to be blinded by trust, with devastating results:
*In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar installed himself as dictator of the Roman Empire. He was able to do this because he had a massive army backing him up, which is something every serious tyrant should really consider trying to get. However, he also had friends, which is something every serious tyrant should really consider trying to get rid of. One of his friends was a man named Lucius Brutus. Caesar trusted Brutus, and Brutus used that trust to stab Caesar in the back. And the front, and the sides, and pretty much everywhere else. Some friend.
*In 2002, WorldCom was humming along, engaged in highly successful and completely undetected accounting fraud. Then their Vice President of Internal Audit, Cynthia Cooper, came along and ruined everything by letting the whole world know that WorldCom was overvalued by around $4 billion. Thanks a lot, Cynthia.
*In 1995, I made the mistake of telling a good friend of mine that I was planning to ask a certain girl to Homecoming. Then he went and asked her himself. Jerk.
(this article is published at HeadDrama.com. Click here to see on their website)
I just saw you, like, 6 minutes ago at Drexel. Thank you for the great show mixed with a great message.
I also quite enjoy this version of the fable … with not quite so great a message.
You are awesome, E’mae. Glad you liked the Drexel show!!! That was my first trip to Philly, and I dig that city. You’re lucky to live there!