Whether it's a pushy person, a control freak, a bully, or an outright tyrant, the
problem is the same: their goals are always more important than yours.
A difficult, pushy person has gone too far again. They are bossing you around, acting selfish and
self-important, threatening you, making demands, barking orders, and abusing their
Control freaks, imperative people, and tyrants exercise power in a harsh, cruel,
or destructive manner. They are oppressive, harsh, arbitrary people who make
life difficult for too many of us. They are annoying,
inconsiderate, and demeaning. What are they thinking? How can we respond
Control-oriented people as described here expect to control the people and
events around them. Exposing or challenging their tactics
could provoke their anger and result in
severe and possibly dangerous retaliation. Expect to be a target of their backlash. Protect yourself
and others who could become targets before challenging a control-oriented person.
- Absolute rule,
- Abusing power,
- Selfish power,
- Unmitigated power,
- Unrestrained exercise of power; abuse of authority
Difficult people, control freaks, imperative people, and bullies push us around during our
day-to-day encounters. They go out of their way to turn every encounter into a
dominance contest and often insist on getting
the last word. They insist you do it their way, dominating so many trivial
issues as well as the more important ones. Going out to dinner with a control
freak can easily become an ordeal. Choosing the restaurant, deciding where to
sit, what to order, what fork to use, how much to tip, how long to stay, who
pays, how to pay, and
what to do next all has to be done their way. Tyrants, dictators, despots, autocrats, authoritarians,
imperialists, fascists, Czars, Nazis, and monarchs practice their tyranny,
totalitarianism, absolute rule, and domination on a larger and more destructive scale.
Tyranny leads to oppression, the sustained
humiliation of a group of people. The oppressed people are suppressed,
limited, or controlled by unjust use of force or authority.
A Hierarchy of Tyrants:
Tyranny can creep into our behavior to a greater or lesser degree. Here are
some categories, arranged in increasing degrees of dominance and disregard for
||Fragile high self esteem drives these people to act superior to
disguise their inferior feelings. Controlling others is one
manifestation of their need to act superior.
||This is the desired condition. True leaders act from healthy high
||Egotists are self-centered. They have been seduced by their
first-person viewpoint. It's all about them; they are motivated only by
their own self-interests. They lack empathy for others.
They are controlling because only their needs matter.
||Narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They
exaggerate their achievements and expect to be recognized as superior,
even when their accomplishments are ordinary. They fantasize attaining
unlimited success or power. They believe they are special and require
excessive admiration. They lack empathy and exploit others to achieve
their own ends. They often envy others or believe others envy them.
They are controlling because only they matter.
||Psychopaths are anti-social. They totally disregard the
rights of others. They feel little or no remorse for the harm they
cause others. They blame the victim and lack empathy. They are
deceitful, aggressive, tough minded, glib, superficial, exploitative,
irresponsible, and impulsive. Yet they
may display a superficial charm. They are controlling because others
A superficial analysis may show that leaders and tyrants share many characteristics. Tyrants often
appear at first as strong and effective leaders. Perhaps this
explains why so many tyrants attain leadership positions. This chart can help us
discern the differences and avoid the costly mistake of granting unchecked positional power
to a tyrant.
|Visionary; holds a clear, compelling, well
thought-out, and constructive vision for the future. Focused while
maintaining broad perspective.
||Visionary, but fixated on a narrow view. Narrowly
|Determined; they persistently
pursue their goal
and are undaunted by obstacles and setbacks.
||Relentless, tenacious, unyielding, rigid, close-minded,
dogmatic, and stubborn.
|Influential; communicates passionately to engage
||Influential, charismatic, captivating, engaging.
|Passionate; remains committed and focused on the
goal with heart and soul.
||Obsessed; the goal is all that matters. It must be achieved at all
Followers are intrinsically
motivated and provide enduring support.
Followers are extrinsically
motivated and support ends when the coercion ends. Often
|Connected with others.
||Separate from others. Isolated, alone and apart.
|Empathy for others. Humble.
||Apathy for others. Arrogant.
|Healthy self-esteem. Accurate and realistic
self-appraisal. Solicits and accepts feedback and criticism.
||Low, or fragile-high self-esteem. Egotism, narcissism, or even
psychopathic. Inaccurate and Unrealistic self-appraisal. Avoids and
rejects criticism and all but overwhelmingly positive feedback.
|Primarily concerned for the cause, the
organization, and the people being lead.
||Concerned only for the self.
|Broadly and ethically principled. Fair and
||Unprincipled or narrowly principled. Selfish.
|Internal Locus of
||External Locus of Control.
|Consistent, reliable, logical, authentic,
well adjusted, and emotionally stable.
||Volatile, whacky, irritable.
||Monologs, lectures, preaches and engages in tirades.
|Respects reciprocity and
|Concerned with substance.
||Concerned with image.
||Invasive, intrusive, and obnoxious.
High, relevant, consistent, and attainable performance standards.
||Perfectionist, demanding, inconsistent.
Provides helpful and balanced feedback.
||Critical and demanding.
Benjamin Franklin, Catherine the
Great, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi,
Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther
||Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Tse Tung,
Idi Amin Dada, Slobodan Milosevic
Tyranny is no substitute for leadership and should never be confused with
It is certainly important for us to control ourselves and many aspects of our
lives. Self-control is an important attribute of maturity, and an essential
component of relatedness. Control is an essential element of
Loss of control leads to anxiety,
resentment, stress, feeling helpless, and even
control, acting powerless, and playing the victim, is irresponsible. But keep in mind that our
freedom ends where other's begins. Balance control with the rights and
others and respect for others.
Control goes beyond Autonomy and Competence
Autonomy—responsible free choice—is a basic human need. But control goes
beyond autonomy because it goes beyond what is reasonable or necessary and
ignores the needs and freedoms of other people. Control is autonomy gone awry
because it is unmitigated by relatedness.
Control ignores the no-trespassing sign that autonomy
Competence—successfully meeting an
optimum challenge—is also a basic human need that is similar to but not the same
as control. You can reasonably ask: How can I succeed at a task if I can't
control the activities required for the task? Again the distinction is the
consideration given to the rights of others.
Out of Balance:
Why do they act so bossy? What are control freaks and other bullies thinking?
They have several perceptions and beliefs out of balance.
The mistaken belief that what I can control can't hurt me drives the behavior of
many control freaks. Others are driven by the fear that
they will lose control, or at least needed
autonomy, altogether. Their anxiety results from
vulnerabilities that the control freak tries to eliminate by controlling every
aspect of the environment and the people in it. They try to control every
threat. They lose track of what they
can change and what they cannot. They chose an
ineffective approach to coping with their anxiety. There is certainly enough to
worry about: the ambitious boss-under-pressure worries the work won't get done,
envious co-workers worry you'll get the promotion instead
of them, jealous adults worry about their partners;
scarcity leads to resource contention,
stature-conscious, resentful, or caring but inept
parents worry about the kids; and tormented, willful, or confused kids worry
about the parents and each other. It must be exhausting.
Uncontrollable adverse events often lead to learned
helplessness and stress. Exerting control prevents learned
helplessness, unless you try to control the uncontrollable or change the
Tyrants reduce their own fear by removing anyone who poses a threat.
Getting it Right:
An obsession with getting it right—when driven by the fear of failure—can
result in controlling behavior. Perhaps the control freak does have an important vision worth achieving.
Perhaps the goals are worth working hard toward. Perhaps obsessive attention to
detail is the best way to get the all-important result. Perhaps they have an
outsized but narrow and rigid sense of duty. They may not see other options for
solving problems and getting things done. They may be trapped by their own set
of rigid but ill-founded rules. Perhaps the control
freak just cares more than you do about the goal. They may see the goal as much
more important than the relationship, and they don't see how to preserve both. Perhaps the enthusiast has
crossed the line and become the zealot. The control freak is deathly
afraid of failure, and they don't trust anyone else to
get it right.
To placate your micromanaging boss try to establish a better working relationship, demonstrate your
dedication, knowledge, and competency; keep the boss informed, request more
autonomy. Put the boss at ease, address
his fears, work to understand the pressures he faces and his point of view, and he may
allow you the space you need to contribute your best.
Impatience—the fear of running late—can stimulate controlling behavior. Often
impatient people usurp control in an attempt to speed events along and get more
done. This quick-fix rarely works. As the signs say “The hurrier I go the behinder I
get,” and “Look before you leap.”
Doing as a substitute for Being:
I make up for my pathetic being with more and more doing. I
have a relentless sense of duty; I cannot say no. If I do enough my value will
become obvious, even to me.
The biggest secret is that I'm not as good as I appear to be. My
image has to
be controlled at all cost. Because I feel inferior, I have to act superior. My
biggest fear is that someone will discover I'm a wimp. The only opinion I have
of myself is the opinion others have of me. How I feel depends entirely on what
you think of me. I depend desperately on your approval
to establish and maintain my self-worth. I work full time to cover up
my vulnerability. I crave your affirmation and approval. I must control or even
humiliate you so you don't humiliate me.
These people don't understand that their self-worth and
dignity is intrinsic and is not provided by others. Also,
stature is only achieved on an absolute scale, and is not
evaluated in comparison to others.
We all view the world from our unique first-person
viewpoint. But if other viewpoints can't be comprehended, or this viewpoint is unmitigated by healthy relationships
with others, or
feeling empathy, it becomes disconnected, uncaring, unchecked, fixated, and destructive.
This is the root of egotism. The egotist forgets that his freedom ends where
other's freedom begins. The belief (or fear) that “no one can get the job done
as well as I can” or “if you want it done right, do it yourself” drives many
control freaks to interfere, bosses to micro-manage, and poor leaders to
overreach. Along with their first-person viewpoint, a fear of failure drives
them to control every aspect of their world as they attempt to ensure success
and reduce their anxiety. In any case the control freak is preserving their own
interests at the expense of other's. Children are born believing they are the
center of the universe; tyrants never outgrow this belief.
The control freak may simply mistrust others. There can be several causes for
this including past betrayals, poor relationships, or poor communication
or delegation skills. They may criticize other's work and find it unacceptable.
The control freak believes that since others can't be trusted to get the job
done, there is no alternative to doing it yourself.
To work with such an untrusting control freak it may be helpful to gain their
trust carefully and gradually over time.
Control freaks may hold the mistaken belief that the person with the most toys wins.
Perhaps the control freak just does not know any better and is unaware of
more constructive and effective approaches to achieving goals. Perhaps abuse is all
they have ever known. Perhaps the only approach they ever
learned for dealing with people is to abuse them.
Perhaps their only role models were other control freaks. Perhaps you can have compassion for their ignorance
and help them learn better approaches to building relationships.
Organizations are typically organized as hierarchies, with several people
reporting to one boss. While this is a common and often effective organization
structure, it is no excuse for an abusive boss, and it does not diminish the
value of any of the humans in the organization, regardless of their position the
formal hierarchy. Carefully designed organizations put in place mechanisms, such
as upward feedback, anonymous reporting, and ombudsmen, to prevent or provide
early warning of abuse.
Having a Bad Day:
When people are under unusual stress they may react by seizing control.
Perhaps a generally reasonable person has just been stuck in traffic, had a
fight with their spouse, got bad news from the doctor, learned they are about to
lose their job, or bounced a check. They may react to this stress by being
uncharacteristically difficult and controlling for some period of time. If a
generally reasonable person is acting unreasonable today, then perhaps you can
wait for their stress to pass and they will return to their more reasonable
selves. A good person in bad circumstances deserves your
compassion, not your
We can choose how we respond to tyrants. There are alternatives to
Overcome our Fear:
Tyrants exploit our primal fears and we typically cower from them. We are
seduced by their influence and succumb to their threats as we are easily blinded by
hate, or guilt. We yield to their tantrums.
Fear can easily lead to primal thinking,
tunnel vision, and panic. But courage can overcome our fears and with careful
and creative planning we can confront the tyrant.
Endure and Survive:
Slaves endured the oppression and humiliation
of slavery for many years. It was not acceptance, but merely survival until they could work toward better treatment.
Tyrants often come and go, perhaps you can wait this one out.
Understand their Point of View:
Perhaps the tyrant really does have it right. Work to adopt his point of view
and understand where he is “coming from”, what problems he is facing, and what
he is trying to accomplish. See if this helps to make his actions and motives
more clear. Even tyrants deserve our empathy. Perhaps
adopting his viewpoint will allow you to see alternative solutions, or at least
If you don't like it, change it. If you can't change it, leave. Acknowledge
the oppression, understand the tyrant, consider your alternatives, and choose
your battles carefully. Decide what you choose to change
and what you choose to avoid. If this is just not a situation where you have the
strength, interest, resources, or will to change now, you may decide to
disengage and live to fight another day. If your boss is a tyrant arrange for a
reassignment or leave the organization.
Tower, Don't Cower:
Although the typical reaction is to cower in response to the tyrant's
threats, there is a more elevated and enlightened viewpoint. If we recognize the
many fallacies tyrants rely on, and recognize tyrants as the lonely and childish
school-yard bullies they are we can avoid being controlled by them. Spoiled
brats do not deserve the attention they demand. Uncover, dispel, and shatter the
myth. This viewpoint
recognizes these powerful truths:
Dignity is intrinsic to every human. It does
not have to be earned, it cannot be granted, and it cannot be taken away. The tyrant can neither strip
you of your dignity nor can he provide you with dignity. We all share a long
list of intrinsic similarities. You remain a worthy
human being regardless of what the tyrant does. It is your own choice, your own
asset, do not
squander it. The oppressed are no less worthy than the powerful.
The tyrant's freedom ends where yours begins. When the
tyrant's will infringes on your autonomy, a negotiation is required to resolve the
conflict. The situation is symmetrical, you each have rights,
limits. Seek shared values to provide principles that can help
transcend or decide the
conflict. Create alternatives that eliminate the
conflict and make it
trespass, make it visible, and do not tolerate it.
First person viewpoint is the fundamental
asymmetry of humanity. The tyrant is
seduced by his own narrow viewpoint. He considers only what he sees and he
clearly, uniquely, and powerfully. His point of view is not moderated by healthy
and respectful relationships with people who have alternative viewpoints. Perhaps he is
unaware, or intolerant of diverse or conflicting viewpoints. He may fear
skepticism and inquiry. He does not welcome criticism or differing points of
view. He may not even be aware of any alternative viewpoints.
Perhaps he is uncomfortable with complexity. But his is only one out of the
six-billion valid viewpoints on this planet. Your own point of view is equally
valid. Find a forum, express your views, and begin the dialogue. The storyteller provides only one viewpoint—it is inherently
selective and biased. Go tell your story—it is equally valid and important.
Hate can only be sustained by cognitive error. The
tyrant works to control or eliminate something or someone he sees as the
obstacle to his goals. He has named the evil other, he hates it, and it must be
destroyed. But choosing to hate is an ineffective shortcut that avoids the hard work of analyzing
the problem in depth. Hating attributes blame
incorrectly; it misallocates right and wrong. To defuse the hate, assess the
situation from another perspective, analyze the problem in more depth, identify
the real causes, eliminate the errors in thinking,
and move forward with an effective solution.
Tyranny is dishonorable. History judges tyrants harshly.
Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide in his underground bunker
in Berlin in the final days of World War II. Joseph Stalin's crash programs of
industrialization and collectivization in the 1930s, along with his ongoing
campaigns of political repression, are estimated to have cost the lives of
millions of people. Saddam Hussein was convicted of charges related to the
executions of 148 Iraqi Shiites suspected of planning an assassination attempt
against him, and was sentenced to death by hanging. Saddam was executed on
December 30, 2006. Many of Mao Tse Tung's policies and socio-political programs
such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution are blamed by critics
for causing severe damage to the culture, society, economy, and foreign
relations of China, as well as an estimated 40 million or more lost lives. Their
glory is short lived, their disgrace lasts forever. It won't be long
before the tide turns against the tyrant.
Might does not make right. Quite the opposite is true; when
evidence is available then
influence alone can make the point and change behavior without having to
rely on coercion. If your views are correct, they do
not need an aggressive defense; if they are incorrect they do not deserve it. If Pepsi really was better than Coke, there would be no need to
spend $ Billions on advertisements claiming it is better. If President Richard
Nixon believed he was the better candidate, then why was the Watergate break-in
necessary? If Catholic priests did not molest children, then the Vatican would
not have written a secret document, the Crimen sollicitationis,
directing the use of pontifical secrecy to cover
up the cases.
Beginning in 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy became noted for making
unsubstantiated claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet
spies and sympathizers inside the United States government. It is difficult to
estimate the number of victims of his false accusations. The number imprisoned
is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs. Ultimately,
his tactics led to his being discredited and censured by the United States
Senate. Because their views go unchallenged, powerful self-centered people often
get it very wrong. If the tyrant really
does have a better idea, let that idea gain acceptance on its own merits. Good
ideas speak for themselves. The need to use force is evidence of a weak idea.
Humor provides a new perspective. Political Satire,
Political Cartoons, Doonesbury, Dilbert, the Daily Show, and Saturday Night Live
all work to balance power by making fun of it. The nursery rhyme “Rock-a-by
Baby” may have been a surreptitious way of singing dissent with the English
civil war. Be very careful when using humor to disarm power. Respond in a friendly but disarming way
that makes light of the tyrant's abusive tactics. Highlight the fallacies in the
tyrant's goals and tactics, but carefully avoid
humiliating the tyrant.
The best leaders are the best servants. Leadership is not
about controlling people; it's about caring for people and being a useful
resource for people. The best leaders help people work together and do their
best to achieve an important goal. Their actions focus on accomplishing as a
team much more than any one person could accomplish alone. Leadership is about
helping people attain the goal, not about aggrandizing the leader. Tyrants don't serve and servants
don't control. Tyrants are not leaders, and any contrary myths need to be
exposed as false.
Scapegoats are chosen as convenient proxies. They are easy
targets chosen to accept
blame, displace responsibility for problems from where
it truly belongs, and to distract attention from the actual problems. Tyrants
identify scapegoats to distract attention from their own misdeeds. The scapegoat
is not the problem, don't be distracted, look elsewhere for the real cause. Analyze
cause and effect more carefully, avoid the fallacy of
disproportionate responsibility, determine more
accurately where responsibly actually belongs.
Draw attention away from the scapegoat and toward the real problem.
Courage can overcome fear. The tyrant uses fear to
keep us from seeing alternatives. In the face of his intimidation we
typically freeze, flee, become anger locked, or
submit to his demands. But if we can focus, summon our courage, relax,
comprehend the situation, and develop alternatives, we can create options for
moving forward constructively. On December 1, 1955,
became famous for refusing to obey bus driver
James Blake's order that she give up her seat. This action of civil disobedience
started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is one of the largest movements
against racial segregation. In addition, this launched Martin Luther King, Jr.,
who was involved with the boycott, to a prominent position among his people and
in the civil rights movement. She
has had a lasting legacy worldwide.
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
an unarmed man stood in the center of the street, halting the tanks' progress.
He reportedly asked, “Why are you here? You have caused nothing but misery.” As
the tank driver attempted to go around him, the “tank man” moved into the tank's
path. He continued to stand defiantly in front of the tanks for some time, then
climbed up onto the turret of the lead tank to speak to the soldiers inside.
After returning to his position blocking the tanks, the man was pulled aside by
onlookers who perhaps feared he would be shot or run over. Time Magazine dubbed
him “The Unknown Rebel” and later named him one of the 100 most influential
people of the 20th century. Tyrants are often unprepared for truly
and well-planned responses.
Human needs are simple and largely non-material.
Although autonomy is a human
need, steak for dinner is not. In choosing to endure
tyrant's abuse you may be choosing to buy a steak dinner at the cost of your
autonomy. This is usually a bad deal. Choose simplicity over oppression.
There are always alternatives. Reject the obvious alternatives,
create new options, and find
another way. Innovation creates opportunities. Dialogue creates solutions that
other forms of communication jealously hide. If you can't think of
alternatives and feel there is no way out then talk to more people and generate
No one is powerless.
each have our own sources of power. The boss depends on the secretary, the
doctor depends on nurses and patients, and the manager depends on the workers.
Mahatma Gandhi was the skinny little brown man
who summoned the power to free India from British colonial rule. Find your source of strength and apply it to
the problem at hand. Don't play the victim, you always have choices. Speak up
and speak out about what you want and expect from the relationship. End the
trespassing and assert your right to dignity, respect, and freedom. Describe the
actual, unfair, and unwanted asymmetry of the relationship, how it makes you
feel, why it is unfair, and then describe the fair and symmetrical relationship
you expect. Say what you mean, but don't be mean. Don't insult,
threaten the control freak. Confront the control freak, and plan how to expose
and disarm the tyrant.
Helplessness can be learned and unlearned.
Oppression teaches you to become passive and stop trying to help yourself. But you
can reassess your options and decide to take action to end the oppression.
Everyone, even the tyrant, is vulnerable. Study the tyrant to find out his weaknesses.
Balance the power. Apply
your strength where he is most weak. Calmly describe how natural forces
resisting the tyrant will eventually defeat his efforts.
It is possible to
speak truth to power. Don't be distracted or intimidated by
the tyrant's positional power, reputation, physical appearance; wincing, bellowing, or rolling eyes;
physical surroundings, or other attempts to emphasize a
disparity in power and importance. Do not
tolerate ego rants. Do your
homework, get the facts right, and present your case
clearly, calmly, and persuasively. You can challenge an authority by
respectfully asking: “How do you know?”, “Why do you say what you say?”,
“What is the
evidence to support your position?”, and “Who disagrees with you?”
spoke truth to power and exposed the shame of Jordan when she unveiled the
common but unspoken crime of
there. Honor killings refer to the murder by family members of a woman who is
raped or is said to have participated in illicit sexual activity. The mere
perception that a woman has behaved in a way that is considered as dishonoring
her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life. Across the globe,
women who are beaten, brutalized, and raped can expect police, prosecutors, and
judges to humiliate victims, fail to investigate cases, and dismiss charges.
Honor killings accounted for one-third of the murders of women in Jordan in
1999. She wrote a series of reports on the killings and launched a campaign to
stop them. As a result, she has been threatened and accused of being anti-Islam,
antifamily, and anti-Jordan. Yet,
took up the cause, and later, the newly ascended King Hassan cited the
need for protection of women in his opening address to parliament. The
conspiracy of silence has been forever broken thanks to this courageous young
journalist who risks her life in the firm belief that exposing the truth about honor
killings and other forms of violence against women is the first step to stopping
The tools of influence are
techniques the powerful use to influence the oppressed can also be adapted by
the oppressed to influence the powerful.
Extremists discount, dismiss, distort, dispute, or
deflect important evidence. But facts are
stubborn. As the facts become more widely known and understood, the
unreasonableness of the tyrant's position becomes more clear to more people. His
support eventually dwindles as more people recognize
the emperor has no clothes.
There is tremendous power in alliances.
None of us
are as smart or powerful as all of us. As the scope of the tyrant's impact
increases, as more people
suffer from his abuse, the more people there are to pool their resources and
energy in overcoming his grip. Find the people who are suffering from the
tyrant's grip, recognize the common problem you are facing, and find a way to
band together and effect positive change. India's independence movement,
labor unions, the women's suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and the anti-apartheid
cause all provide prominent examples of oppressed people working together to
overcome powerful forces, abuse, and tyranny.
You can choose your battles. You can decide when to ignore, yield to,
appease, or accommodate the control-freak's requests. You can also decide when
to confront the unreasonable behavior and insist on change. Keep an effective
strategy in mind to help you choose your battles carefully. With careful
preparation, you can always walk away.
Government exists only to serve and benefit the governed. The United Nation's
Declaration of Human Rights
states: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of
government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which
shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by
equivalent free voting procedures”. Tyrants often forget this and erroneously
believe the purpose of government is to benefit only themselves. Insist on a
government that represents and serves the people.
Privilege and power are distinct from talent. A rich, powerful person may not be very
bright while a poor person might be very bright, hard working, creative, and
talented. Don't be mislead by image, boasting, intimidation, pedigree, and posturing. Demonstrate leadership
through hard work, not privilege. Apply your talents regardless of your present social position. Seek
stature, not status.
There are paths of progress other than growth.
Flowers develop by unfolding their potential, not by becoming the biggest
is not always better. There are important alternatives, including: peace of
mind, integrity, giving and gaining the respect of others, tranquility, clean air, clean
water, the beauty of nature, a healthy environment to enjoy now and sustain for the future,
family, friendships, community, safety, stability, trust, leisure time, meaningful work,
health, reduced stress, ongoing education, fun, enjoyment of the arts, transcendence,
and making significant contributions that help others. Tyrants often ignore
or diminish the value of these genuine alternatives to growth, expansion, and
conquest. Challenge the assumptions that growth is good and inevitable. Pursue
genuine progress, and don't be seduced by the idea that growth represents
progress. Reject the insatiable tyranny of more.
We are all connected. We all rely on others—locally and globally—for needed
resources such as food, water, health care, energy, labor, land, and education.
The tyrant depends on the oppressed.
Tyranny is childish. Tyrants lack self-control, sound judgment, refined
wisdom, and transcendent purpose. Tyranny
is a tragically unleashed version of a child's selfish tantrum. It is
has a clear history of tragedy and failure. In retrospect it often looks
preposterous. We can learn to recognize it, call
attention to it, act as
responsible grownups, and not tolerate it. Maturity is about using
achieve constructive results. Tyrants lack the
wisdom of: understanding the
intrinsic similarities we all share, interconnections, relatedness,
accurate history, symmetry,
humility, and responsibility.
Adults don't tolerate tantrums, there is no reason to tolerate tyranny.
Oppression constrains the tyrant. Sustaining oppression
requires a narrow worldview based on false beliefs. The false belief that women are not smart
enough to vote, the false belief that slaves are subhuman, the false belief
that Jews are to blame for the problems of Nazi Germany,
and the false belief that the poor are stupid were each essential to maintaining the power of the tyrant and sustaining the
oppression. When these false beliefs are dismissed and corrected, we gain a more
accurate understanding of our world and we all benefit. Expose the lie
and strengthen the community.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. The most credible and respected
organizations operate in an open atmosphere. Their operations and decisions are
transparent and can be easily examined by interested people inside and outside the
organization. Organizations that are well run and are responsible to the public not only accept
criticism and suggestions, but embrace them. If questions from constituents, the
public, or the media make leaders or other responsible parties become uncomfortable,
disingenuous, the questions are usually valid and the answers are not. People
who feel uncomfortable under the bright light of scrutiny and criticism often
have something to hide. Shine the light on tyranny to purify it.
Tyrants are lonely, afraid, insecure, and human. They deserve our
compassion, even as we withhold our obedience and
The many causes of tyranny, described at the beginning of this page, show that
tyrants are often driven by deficiencies, inadequacy, loneliness, or fear.
Tyrants often see themselves as the victim. Adolf Hitler titled his
autobiography “Mein Kampf”, “My Struggle”. Perhaps if they
can connect in authentic relationships with caring people, their pain can be
soothed, and their behaviors can improve. Even the nastiest tyrants are only
human. Understand the similarities you share with
them. Connect with them on a human level. Pity the poor tyrant. Have you
hugged a tyrant today?
The Land of Oz:
In the popular movie “The Wizard of Oz” Dorothy demonstrates constructive
responses to tyranny. The movie is such a good allegory for coping with
tyranny you might be tempted to claim “everything I need to know about tyranny I
learned in the land of Oz.” Here is a brief summary:
- Everyone experiences fear, including fear of
- Courage can overcome fear.
- We are responsible for our own choices.
- We all have sources of power we can draw on.
- Authentic self-confidence increases our power.
- Inquiry, evidence, and argument are powerful
tools for uncovering what is.
- Alliances can increase our power.
- We each have our own important stories to tell.
- Tyrants use the trappings of power to enhance their
- Tyrants suppress and manipulate opponents by exploiting their fears.
- We often respond to image before we respond to substance.
- Image is not substance.
- You can speak truth to power.
- Tyrants respond differently to compassion
than they do to threats, dominance, or
- The Wizard is only human.
- All things must pass; even tyranny is impermanent.
- “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great
men are almost always bad men.” ~
- “He that would govern others, first should be the master of himself.” ~
- “Humanity is not divisive, but inclusive.” ~ Neriah Lothamer
- “No one can take advantage of you without your permission.” ~
- “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang
- “Pity the tyrant.” ~ Hans Otto Storm
- “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you,
then you win.” ~
- “When those in power are forced into a process of deliberation, then and
only then will reason play its necessary central role.” ~ Al Gore
- “Never feel overwhelmed when you are overwhelmed with evidence of
injustice.” ~ Ralph Nader
The Control Freak,
by Les Parrott
Imperative People: Those Who Must Be in Control,
by Les Parrott
Dancing in the Shadow of Tyranny: An Activist's Guide to Inner Disarmament,
by Neriah Lothamer
Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People: How to Beat Them Without Joining Them,
by Ronald M. Shapiro, Mark A. Jankowski, James Dale
When You Work for a Bully: Assessing Your Options and Taking Action,
by Susan Futterman
Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, ,
by Paul Babiak, Robert D. Hare
Humiliation and Assistance: Telling the Truth About Power, Telling a New Story,
by Linda M. Hartling, Wellesley College
The United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights.
The 48 Laws of Power,
by Robert Greene
How to Use Power Phrases to Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say,
& Get What You Want,
by Meryl Runion
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't,
by Jim Collins
Bridging the Class Divide: And Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing,
by Linda Stout
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition,
by the American Psychiatric Association.
The Assault on Reason,
by Al Gore
The Wizard of Oz—When Dorothy courageously penetrates
the wizard's façade, they finally connect on an authentic human level and each gets the help they need.
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories,