Everywhere you look these days, it seems fashionable to be a tyrant. From high to low, oppression is raking in high dividends and mighty thrills. And think of all the excitement for the oppressed! You can’t get that kind of gut-churning fear just anywhere. It’s got to be manufactured the old fashioned way, with a boot smashing a face forever.

I can’t help but think it’s a dead end. Not, in the sense that I need to believe that evil doers eventually get their just deserts, or I want to dissuade career-minded people from raking it in, but in the sense that I wonder if there isn’t some fundamental need for tyrants that overrides rational, intelligent decision-making. Joseph Campbell talks about the need for an “enemy”, because the enemy is the instrument of your destiny. Can civilization and culture come about without them? Without the need to measure yourself against something, or someone, would you develop in the same way?

None of this intellectualizing does the dead or the currently suffering any good, of course. The outbreaks of insane aggression leading to fear and bloodshed are real, and threaten all life on this planet. The problem of what to do about it is a deeply human concern that requires a lot of attention. The problem is if you cast out your demons, you have to be careful you don’t cast out the best part of yourself at the same time. Nobody is getting out from under the shadow of human evil, so it pays to face it. And I think we’ve reached a point in our destiny where some of the issues can be approached on a human level and some questions answered.

So I look at it on the more personal, immediate level and look at who the local oppressor is. It seems like everyone I know has, to use a video game analogy, a “boss” character running the underlings that trouble them on the level they are trying to complete. As they used to say back in the day, “Who’s on the throne?” Who is the high chair bully, giving orders and having his or her needs attended to at the expense of everyone else? It’s easy to see everyone else’s shadow, how about your own? Not so easy. That tyrant has your number, and it’s time to get the boot to your face!

Who is that tyrant? What kind are they? Do you have the muah-ha-ha kind, who always gets beaten down at the end of the show of your current, personal television series? Is it more serious than that, forcing you to make drastic choices just to survive tremendous abuse? Maybe you only have a tyrant of the week, that relative you can’t stand, who comes into town for the weekend and eats you out of house and home. Or it could be the crummy person at the checkout counter giving you a hard time, a petty tyrant taking out what small gloating satisfaction they can from their backyard empire of chickens such as will have them.

The tyrant exists solely at the silent consent of others. Our evildoer will often have to enforce that consent actively, through the use of outright force, or in the case of more sophisticated societies, with deception or harassment. But comes a day, the people demand that the sacrifice, the victim, the fool pay up. The tyrant either pays with an ignoble end, the traditional favorite, or they pay with something more intangible. Something is lost to them; they die on the throne and fade away, like a withering, crumbling old thing.

Is that what the tyrant aspires to? To be the bad guy in somebody else’s movie? To be the victim at the end, or to win and die on a sack of gold, and in both cases not knowing what it is they do? Or if they do choose such a course, is that not insanity or criminal naiveté? Who but a fool would want to be king for a day? What kind of people are we, that we need a bad guy just to feel good? Or is it that we need someone to ritually re-enact our own shadows, our own lust for death and destruction? That is what the shadow of humanity’s evil is, after all, a secret wish to plunge from the highest heights to the lowest depths. And we decide, impersonally as a group, when it is time for that sacrifice to plunge into the fire pit, preferably dead, but alive draws out the suspense longer.

What’s scarier, the tyrant or the people propping him or her up on their shoulders as we make our way to the appointed place? Friends, supporters, oppressed all playing a part and secretly waiting for the time when everyone decides it’s time for the fool for a day to pay the price.

Stop the insanity! Time for the real fool to jump in and make monkeys of us all, because we’re all paying the freight on “unconscious village.”

Who’s on the throne in your life? Who put them there? They pay now so you can pay later, but we all have to pay! Abort before takeoff. Get a payment plan, and get right with yourself. Don’t expect someone else to muah-ha-ha for you. Be your own villain and bushwhack yourself. It’ll be more fun that way (what, you want to live vicariously through someone else?), and your audience will find the tragedy and/or comedy more to their liking.