Equal Opportunity

Petty Officer First Class John O’Toole tried hard to develop pithy statements that you could think on. One day reflecting on a particularly nasty Commander, he mentioned that the “gentleman by an act of Congress” was “the hero of his own story, but the villain in ours.”

Years later, I would recall this comment concerning many supervisors, bosses, and co-workers stuck on themselves. People want to see themselves as the center of their epic. Back years ago, I could almost imagine some of them scripting their overtures. Now, of course, you have your earbuds and playlist, so no need for originality is required. At the center of your universe, you play out the fantasies of invincibility. You are incredulous at the inability of others to appreciate your vast intelligence, and sorrowfully you need to correct your subordinate’s idiocy, usually in as demeaning a fashion as possible.

Thanks to recent politics, narcissism has gained traction to describe people like these. But in older, simpler (?) times, we described it as a sort of zoomorphism – a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation. One minute a calm “officer and gentleman,” but a raging peg-legged, hook-handed, sneering martinet in the next. People like this are the red-meat fare of books on the sea. But most I’ve known stomp around the quarterdeck of a twelve by twelve office and never get closer to the sea than a trip to Coney Island.

There has been some improvement over the old days. Ogres and their superiors gradually learn that hostile workplace and harassment suits cost big money. But the sort of attitudes that made colonialism so endearing continue; old habits die hard.

The offender can be of any sex or orientation, just lest you forget. It’s one of the dubious gifts of being human that pissants come in all sizes, sexes, races, ethnicities, religions, and directions.

I know this has been a rant, but here are my final word on the topic: Humanity. An equal opportunity offender.

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