A few years ago I stepped down as the chief executive officer of a well known Fortune 500 company. Unfortunately, I’m forbidden by a court order to name it—a long story for another time. For now I’ll just call it Cicero Industries.
The name refers to the first century, B.C.’s great Roman businessman, Aurelius “Jack” Cicero, brother to the lesser known orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Little known fact: Jack Cicero was once Rome’s largest dealer in new and used asses.
On my last day as CEO, a young man knocked on my door — a man whose name I recognized as a junior executive on one of the lower floors but whom I had never met. His name escapes me now. Ned somebody.
He’d come to ask me to impart some wisdom that he might use to further his own career and perhaps one day end up in the very office I was now getting ready to leave.
I was almost touched, of course, although the question of touching or being touched by an employee is in itself a touchy subject. Best left for another day. Anyway, I will never forget the words of Ned somebody: “How did you get to be such a really evil bastard?”
I was jolted. On the one hand I felt immense pride that someone had noticed. But on the other I wondered if this was just an attempt by some run of the mill bastard to kiss my evil ass.
Until that moment I had no real grasp of whether my evil example was getting through to all the little bastards down on the lower floors.
I was aware of certain grumbling and whining in various corners of the building, some of it louder than others and always appreciated. But I had always assumed there would be pockets of pissants who remained immune to the random chaos of my rule. In other words, people who just didn’t get it.
Ned dispelled that notion when I asked “Who says I’m a really evil bastard?”
“Everybody,” he answered. “Every human being who isn’t you or me, and speaking of me, I’m with them. Thinking you’re an evil bastard, I mean.”
With pride, I pointed to a plaque on the wall bearing a favorite quotation from Jack Cicero.
“To improve your lot in life, you have to have a lot to begin with. You can’t get ahead by improving nothing. Bare minimum, you need at least a piece of crap which has more uses than you might think. Do- gooders love to turn crap into nice, shiny non-crap so they can feel all warm and gooey inside. Which means there is and always will be a lucrative market for crap.”
“There is your wisdom,” I said to the young bastard. “But it won’t do you any good.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“You’re not evil enough.”
“But I lie, cheat and steal every day.”
“Yes, but do you know why?”
“Um,” he said. (Never a good sign.) “Because, it just feels right? Um, I mean wrong?”
I shook my head as two armed security guards came into the office.
“An evil bastard doesn’t feel anything.”
To the guards I added “Drop him down an elevator shaft.”
And that is why my next project will be to write a guide for getting beyond the easy levels in management—the stupid bastard level. There are stupid bastards everywhere, so many, in fact, they have watered down the concept of a bastard in the first place.
Only really evil bastards can understand this. And if you’re not too stupid, or if your feelings have been surgically removed (recommended) you can too.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2021, all rights reserved. Oh, yes, I have rights, you know. And I know how to use them.