One of the great lies of the illegal drug trade is that engaging in the activity can lead to financial rewards. In fact, minimum wage would be a step up from the wages of an average drug dealer. It is much easier to make a living legally than to make a living illegally.
I recently watched the first Michael Bey Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and it was not a great film. It was terrible, in fact, in the way a big budget, glossy nostalgia CGI spectacle is inevitably terrible. Only occasionally did the film so much as rise, very briefly, to a near-mediocrity that quickly collapsed upon any momentary thought to the course of events on screen. The most glaring, in my mind, moment of total failure came from the motivation of one of the villains. He simply made no sense. Supposedly, he was a brilliant scientist and businessman, head of a powerful corporation and a leader in lucrative biotech. The company owned buildings in Manhattan – no small feat for anyone in that market. He owned a very flash mansion in upstate New York, in the Catskills, with beautiful views of the mountainside. What use, then, villainy? He already has everything. The wicked demon pulling his strings behind the flash, a.k.a. Shredder, offers some promise of wealth beyond wildest imaginings after constructing an apocalyptic bio-attack on New York City. Isn’t it easier just to engage in hostile takeovers of other companies, and gut them for parts? Isn’t it easier to kick all the wealth currently earned into an Index fund and let the stable world generate all the revenue an evil asshole needs to punch his manservants for a lifetime? What use all the extra wealth? His motivation made no sense. He sought power, but he had it. He sought wealth, but he had it. Shredder’s free-floating evil menace makes no sense, either. What use do immortal samurai of doom have for destroying whole cities? One would imagine a low-profile and careful reinvestment of dividends would be more useful to securing a lasting future than engaging in swordfights with rogue turtles.
Villains make no sense.
Austin Powers spoofed this, of course, when Dr. Evil asked for one million dollars. World leaders, laughing, asked if he took a check. Then a billion, still no biggie. Let me just call our secretary…
Money is not a useful tool for a powerful overlord, when they already have money. Power, I could believe, for a while, but to what purpose? What is the reason that Vladimir Putin maintains such tight control over his fascist state? He sees himself as a patriot, the true leader of the people, and the proper one. He sees himself as a man of honor. Vanity is his motivation. Fear that his people and way of life will stumble, perhaps. Money is just a bonus on the side. It isn’t even the point. In fact, one can easily imagine the man staring at a black ceiling at night, eyes wide open, wondering what the hell he is doing, what it was all for, and how much longer he can keep fooling everyone into believing he is their rightful leader.