I was reminded of “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer. I read it just after I got out of the military. After the first paragraph I figured it was just a clichéd war novel. At the end of the first page I realized it was the source on which all clichéd war novels are based. It’s a masterful observation of human behavior, and explained a lot of things about the military that had mystified me.
Much of the story involves the struggle between a somewhat idealistic lieutenant and a cynical colonel. In one incident, a large shipment of meat is received, and it all goes to the officer’s mess, far more than is needed, and none to the enlisted men. The lieutenant protests; in his understanding of proper human behavior and military leadership, the men must be looked after and treated with respect by the officers; if anything the men should get most of the meat. The colonel explains that deliberately humiliating the enlisted men is part of maintaining power.
Meade is confusing, as moral and decent people frequently do, the exercise of leadership with the exercise of power. People exercising proper leadership have power not only from whatever force they can wield or whatever legal authority they have, but from moral authority as well. Unfortunately people in power often don’t give a shit if they have moral authority or not, and they believe inflicting fear and degradation increases their power- which it does to some extent, and much easier than maintaining moral authority, which is a drag.
Bloomberg could influence economic policy somewhat- he’s a billionaire and prominent figure in the world of elite finance. It’s not like he hates black people, I understand he is good friends with the premier of Bermuda, a leftist black politician. But he gets a power trip out of criticizing the food choices of people who are just able to buy any food at all.
I don’t care much for black people and don’t really care about their problems, but as little as I care, I care more than Michael Bloomberg. Ultimately the powerful have a moral responsibility, whether they recognize it or not and whether they are ever held to any account or not.