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Uncle Ben: From Servant to CEO

Uncle Ben is now a CEOFor years, he has been ever with us. A familiar face in the grocery aisle, quick to ease our hunger. But he shall serve you rice no more, for Uncle Ben has been promoted to CEO (or perhaps chairman of the board) of Uncle Ben's Inc. Uncle Ben, instant rice pitchman, has long been seen as a holdover from less polite times. He clearly was not meant to be your actual uncle, or even that guy your dad knew from school that everyone made you call "uncle" as a creepy sign of pseudo-familiarity and respect. Since he was an older black man, dressed as either a manservant or perhaps maitre d’, and "uncle" was a disrespectful way to refer to blacks in the South, it seemed perhaps he was just another racist stereotype. Oh, they told us that he was a farmer known for the best rice in the region, but why the fancy duds? The use of stereotypes to market products has a long and interesting history in the U.S. The movie Ghost World has an interesting, fictionalized take on the matter. Some were obviously meanspirited, but others, like Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, have managed to change with the times and get by, partly because the stereotypes were no longer relevant. Kids today don't have a clue what a "mammy" character like Jemima is supposed to be, except for vague images from old Tom and Jerry cartoons, if they still play those. Is a black butler any more offensive than say, a British one? Well now we know for sure that Uncle Ben is not a racist stereotype, at least not anymore. With this promotion from servant to CEO, Mars, Inc. has finally revealed the truth: Ben was just in a very long, very abrupt career track within the company. Perhaps you and I are salivating over the step from associate analyst to analyst, but that is because we don't have the vision and patience of Ben. Sixty-odd years might seem like a long time for just one promotion, but it's not so bad when the promotion is from the lowest rung on the ladder to the highest, busting through any glass ceilings in the way. Ridiculous you say? It's not without precedent. When young Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered in front of him, the leadership of Wayne Enterprises was opened up. Later, because of his duties as Batman, Bruce could never devote the time required to run a large corporation. Much of his CEO responsibilities were in fact delegated to Alfred, his manservant. Of course Alfred was never officially named to the board, but you can see how that sort of thing could happen. Who was the last CEO of Uncle Ben's Inc.? Perhaps we should look into whether or not his parents were murdered in front of him, such that he was raised by Uncle Ben. Just like Batman, but black, and his crime-fighting gadgetry is probably rice-based. In any event, does this mark then end of all racism in the United States, or is it just a way to drum up some press for the same damn rice they've been selling for 60 years? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Are politicians and CEOs sociopaths?

I was reading something on Slashdot about HP dumping Board member George Keyworth for leaking things to the press. The issue wasn't that he was dumped, it was that pretexting was used to get his phone records. This being Slashdot, the idea that all CEOs and politicians are sociopaths quickly came up. This is how it supposedly works: no normal human being would be willing to cut jobs, sell out their colleagues, keep saying what people want to hear with no guilt from lying, and otherwise do the things that lands you on top of the corporate ladder or in Congress. In order to be successful at those things, you have to lack empathy with others – hence, you're a sociopath. Very intelligent sociopaths can be surprisingly charismatic – they learn can learn, and exploit, social graces even if they don't feel bound to them. Is there any evidence to back this up? There's a book called The Sociopath Next Door, written by a clinical psychologist, but I haven't read it. A search of the literature doesn't show much, although I have to admit I'm not familiar with the technical terms to use in searching academic journals. I did find one piece of related evidence. A magazine was able to run a Voight-Kampff test on the candidates for mayor of San Franscisco. They determined that the majority were replicants, and not human beings at all. What do you think? Are politicians and CEOs really amoral enough to be called sociopaths, or do these jobs select for sociopathic tendencies? Or is it just an intelligent way of saying their jerks and we're jealous of them?