The daily minutiae of world domination

As an avid fan of comics, sci-fi and all varieties of pulpy genre entertainment, I’m accustomed to tyrannical villains whose only wish is, humbly enough, to “rule the world”. In fiction, such an impulse serves a clear story function: a lust for power, control and domination is a lot more dramatic than someone who wants the things I want, like the deposit for a modest three-bed house, or a home library that has one of those little wheeled ladders that zips along the shelves. 

But even then, I find there’s a degree of disbelief I cannot suspend. Granted, the worlds of Star Wars and Marvel comics are not studies in realism, but I find laser swords, intergalactic travel and superpowered antics much more relatable than the power-mad motivations of a Darth Vader or a Doctor Doom.

My reservations are not moral, you understand, but entirely self-interested. Power or control over other people has just never seemed that attractive. Money I can get behind, particularly a stack of money large enough for me to literally stand behind it as I build that nice home library. And sure, independence is something I crave above all things. But power itself? I don’t get it.

Why would you want to run a country, like those egregious malcontents currently lacerating each other, and every marginalised person in the UK, in their bid to become the next Prime Minister? I wouldn’t want the stress and tedium inherent in running a medium-sized leisure centre, so I certainly wouldn’t want to run an entire country, least of all one with a top job that has a near 100% track record of turning you into a social and historical pariah for decades afterward.

And as for ruling the world, or in Vader’s case, an entire galaxy? Imagine the meetings you’d be in all day. The delegation, the planning. There were over a million staff members on the first Death Star alone, my soul shrivels at the thought of Vader’s inbox. No wonder he was throttling senior management left and right, it must have been a nightmare. 

The Marvel movies don’t show Thanos signing consent agreements for local service providers, or having to sit in on market projection briefings from his millions of underlings so he could make binding decisions for every single battalion in a galaxy-spanning armada – but that’s what would have been involved. 

For each glorious moment spent clenching his fist and cackling at a sworn enemy, there would have been 10,000 flamboyantly tedious acts of admin. Eight emails about changing his password, or a dozen video calls with Blerg in accounting, for every minute he spent smiling on that throne.

And don’t get me started on thrones. What is the deal with thrones? Vader, Thanos, Blofeld, Saruman, – find any mediocre man with a God complex, and, the number #1 perk of their mind-numbing march to domination is that they get to sit in a large chair in a big, empty room, while people say nice things to them. This does not sound like a good time, it sounds like being the permanent guest of honour at an extremely stilted care home birthday party.

Of course, Game of Thrones went so far as to make this both the subtext and text of its story, highlighting the conceit of the Iron Throne being smelted from a thousand swords, as a deliberate comment on the dangers of power how it might be snatched from you at any moment in a hail of blood and steel. 

That such a note of caution was necessary, suggests most people would watch these scenes of laughing tyrants and think, “wow that would be great, sitting on that big, weird chair with everyone around me acting really weird, all day, forever, for my entire life”. If I was presented with that option right now, I would sooner eat a yard of my own shite.

I don’t even like it when waiters pull my chair, or air stewards call me “sir”. I feel uncomfortable telling bank staff they’ve been spelling my name wrong for eight years. My jaunt into freelance life after a succession of deadening office jobs was partly about not wanting to be around people who clearly felt the opposite way, the strivers and climbers who seemed to rock themselves to sleep at night with the dream that one day, they could spend hours every day having to order people around. But the other reason I left was that I wanted to avoid ever having to do that myself.

Now, I don’t have a boss, unless you count my various editors who pay me to write things like this and who are, for the record, kind, charming and extremely attractive. But more importantly, I don’t have to be a boss. I’d rather go through life unencumbered by power in either direction, and I think there’s more people like me than fiction, or politics, suggests. 

The world certainly needs people more ambitious than us, but I’m glad we’ve skipped that gene. To each their own. If ruling the world seems like a good time to you, well then, more power to you.

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