The Ethicist is on vacation. This week’s column features advice from the Macbethicist.
CORPORATE LADDER OR THE HANGMAN RATHER?
I am a vice-president — one of a dozen — of a multinational corporation. Recently, the president’s secretary left a document in the photocopier that was unquestionably intended to be confidential, as it contains information that if known by others would spell the end of his career. While I am not immediately next in line for the presidency — a position I would like to have eventually, to be sure — the removal of the president would move me that much closer to the job. Putting my own ambitions aside for the moment, however, do I have a responsibility to the company, its shareholders, and/or the public to reveal what I know, notwithstanding that I learned it by accident, even if would ruin another person’s career? NAME WITHHELD, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.
Before we get to the crux of your question, I have to note my surprise that you managed to become a vice president of a multinational corporation in the first place — unless you are the favorite nephew of someone on the board of directors — because you obviously are unqualified to lead. You suggest that we put aside your own ambitions for a moment. A moment is too long to put aside your own ambitions. Ambition is everything.
Some wise women I know once told me, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Someone else might or might not have once said, “Business is war.” Your first duty is to yourself, if you are to climb the corporate ladder. Should you reveal the damning contents of the confidential document left on the copier? No. What you should do instead is kill the president — murder him while he naps at his desk, if possible, framing his secretary (fitting punishment for her carelessness), then dispatch the vice presidents more senior than you in turn over the following months, clearing the way for you to ascend to the throne of your company.
After my beloved father died under mysterious circumstances, his brother married my mother, prompting me to suspect that my uncle in fact murdered my dad. Imagine my feelings when the ghost of my father appeared to me and told me as much. I was, in a word, enraged. So I had an idea: I would pretend I was having a mental breakdown, treat my girlfriend rudely, and hire a local improv troupe to reenact my father’s death by his brother’s hand, which I thought might prompt my uncle to admit to the crime. (It didn’t work, and shortly afterward I accidentally killed my girlfriend’s father.) I’m sure that my uncle now suspects that I know that he killed my father (and he tried to have me killed too! Way too much to get into here but I escaped; two guys I went to school with and some pirates were involved), and now my girlfriend’s brother also wants me dead, after what I did to his father. Also, his sister drowned herself because I was mean to her. What should I do now? (Bear in mind that everyone still thinks I’m clinically insane.) NAME WITHHELD, ELSINORE, DENMARK.
The people who think you’re mad are onto something. I think you’re mad. The answer to your dilemma is right before your eyes, not unlike a dagger, its handle toward your hand. Clutch that dagger, son, and use it to kill everyone. Kill them all. Kill your uncle. Then kill your girlfriend’s brother. For good measure, you might want to kill your mother, too. You mentioned a couple of school chums. Are they dead yet?
Even if you hadn’t told me that you had (had) a girlfriend, I’d have known that you don’t have a wife. A wife would have told you what to do. I have my doubts that you’d have listened to her, though. You didn’t listen to your father’s ghost, after all. If experience has taught me anything, it’s to listen to wives and apparitions. Wives and apparitions tell it like it is and know best.
EXIT, SUBDUED BY THREE BEARS…
I’m a young girl with striking blond hair, which isn’t at all relevant to my question. Last year, while strolling through the woods by myself — I’m just a preteen but already really into hiking solo — I came upon a cottage. I found the door unlocked, so I let myself in. No one was home, so I ate some hot cereal, broke a chair, and fell asleep in one of the beds upstairs. Eventually, the homeowners returned — a couple of bears and their cub. I ran out before they could eat me, but also before I could apologize or offer to pay for the food or the damage to the chair. Should I let sleeping bears lie, so to speak, or should I go back and try to make things just right? G.L., THE WOODS, ENGLAND.
Finally, someone who gets it! And a babe in the wood, no less. Kudos to you for seizing an opportunity to take what belonged to others when their backs were turned. If a family of bears cannot be bothered to lock their cottage when they are out, then they deserve to have their home invaded by a stranger. Perhaps the only thing you did wrong was to leave when they returned. You had rightfully lain claim to the premises and its appointments. You should have stood your ground…but I can understand why you would have chosen to beat a hasty retreat under the circumstances. You were outnumbered, and they were bears.
Now, however, you can yourself return to the cottage — with an armed mob from your village — and you will have the element of surprise, being that it has been a year since your last encounter with the careless bears. Moreover, if you time your attack properly, you can lay siege to the cottage whilst the occupants are hibernating. Kill them while they sleep the sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care. Then unseam them from the nave to the chops, and make their hides into rugs for your new castle. Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and your name to the mailbox.
A SORRY SIGHT!
Although my husband, the Thane of Glamis, was recently also made Thane of Cawdor, he seems to be resting on his laurels of late. For instance, he is supposed to be making arrangements for everyone in the household of the Thane of Fife to be put to death, including the women and small children, but now I find that he’s playing at giving advice. Don’t you think he should get back to murdering everybody? LADY M——, INVERNESS, SCOTLAND.
Matthew David Brozik has ambitions that put the ambitions of mortal men to shame. Read about them at imdb.name.