Love, Drugs, Money and Power: The Answers to the Question-Why?



       In the many conversations I have had of
late about what is happening in MD Anderson’s executive suite, the relationship
between those in the suite and the rest of the institution, the behavior of
Anderson’s faculty revealed in a Houston courtroom, the repeated potential conflicts
between media and academic authorities and MD Anderson leadership, the real
issues of Mrs. Clinton’s covert shenanigans, and the indiscriminate use of
drone strikes by our government, the most common question asked is why? Why do
seemingly intelligent people do really stupid things and why, when caught, do
they continue to insist on innocence rather than owning up to their bad deeds?
Why, indeed?

       I think the title of this piece gives us
the answers.

       It’s usually either sex, love (not the
same and should never be confused with one another), drugs (a minor component
although other addictions may not be), money (the big one) or power. Let’s also
admit upfront that the last, power, can often be perceived by individuals as
access to the other four.

       Sex is a basic human drive and it can
make people do nutty things like get pregnant when they cannot afford or handle
the responsibility of a child or contract a particularly virulent or lethal
disease. When one is outside the interpersonal forces that are at work when sex
is the driver of bad behavior between two or more people, it seems obvious how
bad an idea it is. It happens anyway because at least one person inside the
sexual liaison cannot sense the impending doom. For the most part, that is the
real benefit of contraception, particularly of the barrier kind. It doesn’t stop
the sex but it does control some of the unintended consequences. So in essence,
it is people’s hormones overwhelming their cerebral cortexes that often lead to
sex that can be, well, deflating to a career. Ask Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer
or Anthony Weiner. Of course, had they just said what Letterman did—I did
it—Monica et al would be even more
mere footnotes to history than they are today.

       Love is another matter and a lot harder
to criticize as being foolish for as Woody Allen has said, “my heart does not
know from logic” (from Husbands and Wives). There must be an element of
this involved when husbands do crazy things that seem to be to impress their
spouses (like taking $500,000 for one speech or buy expensive furniture). Names
withheld to protect the guilty.

       Drugs are an addiction and when addicts
are involved all bets are off.  As I tell
me kids, “never trust an addict” (this came from my realization that I was a
gold star addict, an “achievaholic,” and when it came to my career
accomplishment, questioning my judgment was probably in their best interests.
Painful but heuristic).  Fortunately for
me, most of the wrongdoing I have had to deal with or report on has not
involved illegal substances or the drive to obtain them. Other forms of
addiction (to sex, power or gold stars) are frequent barriers to truth. As
someone who lied to himself for years, I should know one—or many.

       Money, of course, is the root of all evil,
but that’s not really the quote. It’s the love of money (so a vice doubleheader,
love and money, from 1 Timothy 6: 10) that’s the real problem. Money is
always just a means to an end or a means of keeping score. Either way, it seems
this is the one that gets so many people, from Wall Street to Main Street, in
hot water. Given the salaries of the executives at Anderson which have got to
be more than 10-fold that of the median salary for a faculty member at Anderson
let alone the other 17,000 employees (30 to 100-fold more than the median of
all Anderson employees?), I think we can say that the lousy performance of the
executives as leaders does not warrant their over bloated pay. The tacit
approval of his megalomania is what must is being bought and sought of his
executive team by DePinho because at least in three cases of people in the
executive suite, I know these people and know that they know they aren’t worth
that kind of money, particularly given the morale turmoil over which they have

       Finally there’s power, the ultimate aphrodisiac
(whoops, mixed things up again). I do believe this is what really drives the
psychopaths who so often inhabit the corner offices of large corporations.
These men (and a few women) oversee morale morasses and justify their huge
paychecks with illusions of progress, press releases that act like wet dreams
to underpin their illusions of grandeur, and megalomaniacal speeches to donors
and oversight boards about their amazing abilities and accomplishments (that’s
sort of like Secretary of State Clinton. Other than accumulate frequent flyer
miles, what did she do at Foggy Bottom for four years?) Why anyone believes
them is beyond me, but they must for they stay in power, which is their goal

       So when you next encounter a human
situation within an organization in which the rank and file are suffering at the
hands of an overly satisfied group of leaders, or the people on the top are
making far more than those below who actually do the work, go through the five
drivers to discover what is really going on. But don’t be surprised if it is
more than one. It often is.  In the end,
it’s the power that they chase and it’s the ineluctable power outage that does
them in.

Leonard Zwelling