back to top

Of Power and Passion

by Hayden Hollingsworth

Once again, we are flooded with more information than we need to have about the private lives of the rich and famous.  But it’s important for us to know and try, as hard as it may be, to understand why international financial wizards, governors, congressmen, rock stars, presidents of nations, prime ministers, and a host of other male luminaries lose, at least temporarily, their minds.

This is not a new phenomenon but because of the instant news cycle it has become a more frequently recognized problem.  Three thousand years ago King David got caught with his pants . . . well, you know the Bathsheba story.  In 1963 John Profumo, British Secretary of State for War, had his dalliance with Christine Keeler, a purported Soviet spy; it was news for about a week. In 1974 Wilbur Mills, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was found cavorting in the tidal basin near the Washington Mall with Annabelle Battistella (aka, appropriately, Fannie Fox).  We were briefly titillated, but Congressman Mills continued to serve for a year until he resigned and checked into a rehab unit in West Palm Beach.

The list is endless.  A book, perhaps a NYT bestseller, could be written about all the famous men in history who have befallen a similar fate.  I would suggest the author be prepared to spend a lot of time in court defending against libel suits but, bestseller or not, it would be PR nightmare for a lot of men. The real purpose of thinking about this goes beyond the tabloid value but to why in the world do they do it?

Having never been in a position of power, I have no personal expertise on the intoxicating effect it must have.  If one becomes as, Tom Wolfe famously described in Bonfire of the Vanities, a Master of the Universe, all sorts of bad things can happen.  The beginning of that slippery slope must be the sense of entitlement.  When one assumes that mantle of the mighty then the rights of others may become subservient.  An ego of that magnitude mimics the plant in Little Shop of Horrors:  An appetite never to be satisfied.  I once saw a sign in front of a west Texas grill:  Too Much Ain’t Enough.  If you are powerful, perhaps that’s a brief cautionary tale.

To be even-handed in this, it must be mentioned that temporary insanity of this type is not confined to the powerful; they are just more likely to be caught and certainly with cataclysmic consequences.  Women do not behave this way or, if they do, they may be more clandestine about it.

At the risk of offending creationists, I would suggest there is a phylogenetic basis for this.  In a recent column I mentioned that if it weren’t for geography and religion there would be no wars.  While that may be true for humans, it is certainly not so for other vertebrates.  They fight and they kill over territory but there is no credible evidence they are concerned about religion.  Instead, the males have an equally potent motivation for violence:  maintaining control of the females.  In order for a species to survive the male must have many females to sustain and grow their number.  That behavior is instinctual.

We must be very clear about that statement:  In no way does the ascendancy of that primitive impulse justify alpha male behavior in humans.  That said, I don’t think it is too far a stretch to suggest that something in the human male brain triggers actions that are socially reprehensible.  Why else would they behave in the totally irresponsible way?  On a conscious level, surely men have more sense than that.  On a practical level it is perhaps true that God gave man enough blood to operate his brain and his reproductive equipment but not necessarily both at the same time.


Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles