There is a saying that goes something like this, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn't fail?" It is usually meant to inspire people to aspire to great things. Well, I have a slightly different question. What would you do if you knew you would get away with it?
After reading too many articles about greatly accomplished people who have money, status, respect and influence who eventually fall from grace and into criminal court, I have come to ask this question: what makes a person who has wealth, prestige and power commit a crime? Is it the belief that all that he has will redeem him of his crimes? Is it that he truly believes he is immune from criminal charges and above the law? Is it that he thinks no one could possibly believe that he, such a fine person, would commit horrible crimes? Or could it be something else?
Criminals at the Top
Yes, I realize I have used the masculine word "he" in the above paragraph. It's not that I don't think women would or could commit such crimes, they have. But the instances that come to my mind are overwhelmingly men. Just in the last few days, I have read several such articles and when I think back further over the years, the list seems endless; there are athletes, politicians, lobbyists, celebrities, businessmen and socialites.
Yes, I realize that people of all walks of life, regardless of the amount in the bank account, the size of the investment portfolio or the person's background, education, upbringing, religious beliefs, gender, profession or lack thereof commit all kinds of crimes. And there is almost always a question of why regardless of whom it is that commits the crime.
But to me, the most baffling are those who seem to have it all and then lose it all because they chose to break the law; those who are already in the limelight and more closely scrutinized even before allegations of crime emerge; those who are in leadership positions; those who command great respect; those who hold great monetary power.
My theory is that greed, pure and simple greed, is at the heart of this matter. The more you have, the more you want. The more you have, the easier it is to get what you want. The more you have, the bigger your ego. The more you have, the less you care about others.
The high and mighty do not steal to cover basic needs or provide for their families. They, generally, are not mentally deranged. They are not modern day Robin Hoods. They simply do it because they think they can. They do it because they don't care about how their crimes will affect others around them. They do it because they want to and it will benefit them in some way.
My hypothesis is that these people are narcissistic. Narcissism is quite complex, and just what it entails seems to depend on whom you ask, but basically it's inflated self-importance, lack of concern with what happens to others and a highly developed sense of entitlement. Put these things together and you could have a criminal mastermind.
Oddly enough it's probably these narcissistic traits that helped these people rise to the top of their respective professions. And sadly, it's these traits that will aid them in rebuilding their fame and fortune even after they serve their time and pay their fines and drop from view for a short period of time.
Almost all will return to the public eye and many with a spot on TV or a book or two in which they get to talk about themselves. What a surprise. After all, another characteristic of narcissism is a lack of shame.
The above description of narcissism sounds like a young child: self-centered, selfish, and self-important. The world revolves around the toddler. Fortunately, most kids grow out of this self centric universe and realize that others have feelings and needs and develop a sense of responsibility, service and compassion. Those who don't may grow up to be the president, a corporate giant, a celebrity and perhaps a criminal. Over and out...