Sunday, December 22, 2013


A lawyer whom I met before killed himself last week. Apparently, according to the newspaper, a judge wanted him to come to court to explain about some settlement funds. When the police came to his house, he went upstairs and shot himself dead. He had been on a lot of lawyer committees, and by all accounts, was somewhat of an over-achiever. But, in the end, he left two boys and his wife to deal with his mistakes for the rest of their lives. I am profoundly saddened by what has happened to his family.

We have so little time on this planet that it seems useless to spend that time blaming others and living with rage.  Nelson Mandela said something to the effect that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We expect a lot out of others.  People are not perfect.  Many have their own demons, their own stories, about which we usually know nothing. People often suffer from addictions or emotional illnesses and feel they cannot confide in others. Unfortunately, these less than perfect people don't realize how flawed the rest of us are.

A really wise man, Don Clarkson, says, "If you can't talk about something, it's out of control."  That statement rings true to me. Our country is so he'll-bent on punishing others. Our prisons are overflowing.  Missouri has had an uptick in executions. I am saddened by how harsh we are on others, and on ourselves.

I am not a Christian, having been raised as a Jew. Yet, in this season of Christmas, it behooves us all to look to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus understood and preached the true meaning of forgiveness. I am so heartened by his words, "He who is without sin should cast the first stone"  and "Judge not lest you be judged." Jesus understood that we are all flawed.  We all have the potential to do good, to be redeemed, yet we all are imperfect.  In this holiday season, I cherish the belief that life is not black and white, but shades of gray.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Does Power Corrupt?

There is a well known adage, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  What does that mean?  To me it means that few people can keep following their moral compass if they achieve too much power.  And, money is power.   Nelson  Mandela was an exception to the rule. Mandela had the possibility of endless power in South Africa. He could have put the whites responsible for his imprisonment in jail, but he didn't.  He could have exacted revenge on the proponents of apartheid, but he didn't.  Mandela worked to forgive those who had wronged him and the other blacks and unify the country.  He only ran for election once, and then stepped down so that democracy could work.

Compare Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He has become increasingly oppressive since wresting power from the Brits in the former Rhodesia. He claims land for his relatives. He rules with an iron hand, and his country suffers for it.

The difference is how the two men dealt with the power they had. There are few Mandelas in the world. But, power corrupts not only world leaders, but also bosses, politicians, the wealthy, and the rich capitalists.  I have thought about. The characteristics of those who abuse power. It seems to me, aside from being born a psychopath, there is mainly one characteristic and one characteristic alone that accounts for the corruptive tendency of power - INSECURITY.   If you do any reading about Richard Nixon, the man was wracked with insecurity and jealousy.  His 1960 statement upon losing the California governorship, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore," was sad not only because of the defensiveness of Nixon, but also because the statement was untrue. Nixon came back and what happened to the country wasn't pretty.

In discrimination cases, particularly those involving harassment, the  abuse of power principle applies. The less the boss' self-esteem, the more bullying he or she is. The same holds true for school bullies. What's the moral here?  Make sure people you promote are secure in their personhood?  That would be nice.  We don't need any more Charles Foster Kane's running this county.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mandela and Foregiveness

Nelson Mandela was an amazing man and accomplished many great things.  When I was younger, I thought South Africa was doomed to be wracked by violence, with the Black population not  unreasonably seeking revenge for the years of apartheid, discrimination and poverty imparted on them by the White Afrikaaners.  But, massive violent rebellion never happened.  As far as I can tell the main reason for the relatively peaceful redistribution of power is because of the tremendous leadership and wisdom of Nelson Mandela.

After being imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela sought peaceful transition and abolition of apartheid. What an amazing human being, with the wisdom and foregivenesx that prevented what could have been violence and destruction. Mandela said that being vengeful was akin to drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.   Wow. There are very few great leaders throughout history.  Nelson Mandela was a great leader. I hope other leaders around the world learn something from this great man.