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Rodney's Ramblings: Ego And Control

"Looking back, I realize I have had the privilege of knowing and working with some remarkable and stimulating people. But the ones who stand out are those driven by ego and the need to control others around them or the overall agenda. They are the negative ones,'' writes Rodney Gascoyne.

Our western socialization encourages us to be open minded and even handed with others. Education should be conducted in this vein and, where it succeeds, you achieve 'real education'. No one group or faculty or country or culture can or should direct matters to the exclusion of others. But life often does not work that way. The ego and control people have a vested interest in not letting it happen.

The impact of such people is to limit the influence of others and to restrict the agenda to just those areas that suit them. It often also means reduced thinking and actions to the stilted limits of their own ability or views, so they do not lose control. This squashes the open-mindedness required for real advances, and pressures those around to conform, to be accepted.

Characters in public life or entertainment show more instances of the impact of ego. They need the adrenaline that the exposure gives them. More subtle are those in need of control. Initially they can work in the background—maybe some of the rest of us are too tolerant—and so they begin to control the wider agenda. When they feel to be in control, things change. They feel less need to hide what they want and eventually poison the atmosphere so only those ideas germane to their wishes are allowed to flourish. By then, curiosity, argument and reason are not a part of the equation. In the end we witness blunt force and lack of any flexibility. Those that get in their way are then disposable; those that survive are the 'yes' men; any challenges are crushed.

This need not be academic, professional or driven by business requirements. Many people who have a need for control, look for positions and careers that allow them to seek their own ends. Some look for positions that seem to provide better opportunities for this, such as police work, teaching, management or political life. This is not to say that all those in these lines of work have these motivations, but those that have, can and do abuse their positions.

Looking around at public figures can maybe illustrate part of this. The most obvious ones recently were in the American Administration. Oddly, my understanding is that Cheney was initially a protégé of Rumsfeld, whereas now those roles seem to be reversed. Then there are Rove or Wolfowitz, Perle and the rest of the neo-conservative clique, who had high-jacked American public life and warped its domestic political reality, defence posture, economic life and its foreign policy. I have always seen Bush himself as a puppet, rather like past British Prime Minister John Major. Tony Blair on the other hand, seemed a well-intentioned individual who, through ego alone maybe, thought he could influence and moderate the American Administration and Bush. He was easily made to follow their wishes. Then there was Maggie Thatcher, a world unto herself.
In Canada, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, clearly needs to be in control. I, maybe like a lot of others, will watch to see how much this is reinforced by personal ego, just as it was in Pierre Trudeau.

In my time working with young people, I have encountered and witnessed numerous people who had an obvious need to control their charges, and who I suspected were in that line for those reasons. Their influence was always very negative and those that suffered most were the young people themselves.
In business and management, the worst environments and places to work were those with the boss, or sometimes a deputy, through ego or just the need for control, limited free interflows and searches for the better path, in favour of restrictions that they could comprehend or which served their narrow requirements and goals. They were always the least challenging, intellectually starved and restricting places in which to seek to advance and share your own thinking and curiosity. It is really surprising how often you can encounter this situation and how hard it can be to find an environment where you continue to be fully and intellectually stimulated. Ah well, that’s life, I suppose, so just lump it, or should we?

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