So we all have our favorite fairy tale stories that our parents used to tell us before bedtime. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel… the list goes on and on. But, what we were living in an a world that was remnant of a parallel one? That is the basis of ABC’s new show Once Upon A Time.
Set in Storeybrook, Maine, every citizen is actually a character from a fairy tale, where they have no reelection of who they were or their pasts. The hour-long episodes flip back and forth between Storeybrooke and the fairy realm, connecting characters’ past actions with their current personalities. Since only two people in Storeybook know the town’s secret, the Evil Queen (Mayor Regina Mills) and Rumpelstiltskin (Mr. Gold), you see how their knowledge of the past affects their current behavior. Although I do not want to spoil the show, if you are interested in watching, but there is one particular episode that has resonated with me since it aired in January.
To give you an overview of the episode, which reveals the background of Rumpelstiltskin character, the Enchanted Forrest is currently at war with the ogres and every child over the age of 14 must serve in the military. The Duke’s men gather young children with the help of “The Dark One” who possess magical powers. Rumpelstiltskin, a cowardly and scared simpleton tries to keep his 13 year-old son out of the service by attempting to run away in the middle of the night. Watch below to see what happens:
Upon leaving the encounter with the Duke’s men, Rumpelstiltskin and his son come across an old beggar, to which Rumpelstiltskin gives him money for his journey. The beggar tells him a secret about how he can control The Dark One and ultimately, possess the power himself. By stealing the Duke’s dagger, the item that controls The Dark One’s power, he would be able to direct his powers; but, if Rumpelstiltskin kills him, then he will obtained all the power himself. Although his son is worried about his father’s plan, Rumpelstiltskin carries through with it, stealing the dagger and ultimately killing The Dark One, which turns out to be the old beggar from the day before. “All magic comes at a price,” the dying beggar tells Rumpelstiltskin and the viewers see this come into play when he returns to save his son from the Duke’s men and is a completely changed man. His son does not recognize his father, whose character has drastically changed from a soft-spoken, loving father, to a heinous, cruel villain.
So, what does this have to do with business, government, and society? Lets think back to our second class when we dissected the relationship between the financial disaster of 2008 and ethics. In discussing the lack of ethical decision making made by numerous players including banks, mortgage lenders, Wall Street brokers, investors, etc…, we concluded that it was a multitude of players that contributed to the collapse of the American economy. If all of these entities had made ethical business decisions from the onset, then the financial crisis might not have occurred. However, because they were acting in their own self-interest, seeking to reap individual reward instead of looking out for the well being of their clients, customers or fellow employees, decisions were executed, risks took, and promises made that in reality, should not have occurred. People placed their trust and confidence in higher powers, sometimes not even understanding the logistics of deals and plans being made, in order to seek internal benefits for themselves and their families. Although the abovementioned financial players believed at the time they were acting in the best interest of their clients, they produced even greater harm to the country’s and global economies.
In the case of Rumpelstiltskin and his pursuit of ultimate power, he was acting in his own self-interest. The thing he prized the most, his son, was at risk, so he thought he was doing the ethical thing by stealing the Duke’s dagger and ultimately slaying The Dark One. However, it came at a substantial cost; loosing his son, loosing his true character and creating greater harm to the Enchanted Forest (if you watch the show you understand what I mean). Because he placed his trust and confidence in the beggar out of desperation, he did not know or understand what he was getting himself into. Rumpelstiltskin was so quick to seek the dagger and the kill The Dark One because his desire to seek internal benefit for himself and his son clouted his decision-making. Although he believed he was acting ethically and morally by killing “The Dark One,” it ultimately brought him to his own demise. Like millions of Americans and corporations, Rumpelstiltskin placed his trust in others while not fully understanding the logistics of his ventures. As a result, both groups faced immense hardships (and in Rumpelstiltskin case, a brand new life of evil and mischief), as they tried to recover from their actions.