Everybody Wants to Rule the World (?)

There’s a famous adage – or maybe it’s just a Tears for Fears song – that everybody wants to rule the world.

That sounds like a reasonable declaration for a particularly desperate day – when it seems like everybody is just out for themselves, willing to push people over to get to the top.

But there’s another way to interpret this phrase.

Someone once told me a possibly apocryphal story about Ray Bradbury. The author was 18 when the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast originally aired. I am told that after hearing the reports of alien invasion, young Bradbury and his brother packed sandwiches and sat out on a nearby hill.

Because the world was ending.

And it wasn’t just that the world was ending, it was that his world was ending. I’ve never found any documentation of this story, but I’ve always remembered it, and remembered Bradbury’s argument that his own death meant the end of the world.

It wasn’t a self-centered argument, but rather a commentary on the nature of reality and autonomy.

Each person has a unique perspective – not only does each person bring their own unique experience, each person experiences life uniquely. Perhaps the color I see is not the color you see.

We have developed effective mechanisms for translating across these experiences – so you and I may agree the sky is “blue” even if we experience that blueness differently.

But fundamentally, our experiences are different. Our experiences are unique. My world is not synonymous with your world.

Given that approach, wanting to rule the world is no longer about domination of everyone’s world. It’s about domination of one’s own world.

Everybody wants to rule their world.

Everyone wants freedom and autonomy. And everyone wants the right to have a say over their own existence and experience.

Of course, sometimes our needs and desires – our worlds, if you will – come into conflict, and we require collaborative tools such as politics to mediate such conflict.

But fundamentally, I suppose, it’s true – everybody wants to rule the world. And everybody has a right to.


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