It was my birthday so I brought my dad’s vintage Risk board and a six pack to the house I grew up in. My brother and his two friends gathered around the table in the kitchen. We set up the Risk board, some food, some drinks, and our dictator hats. We were all friends, but it was war.

Our Risk territories were assigned through luck of the draw. Somehow I ended up with the entire western American coast, most of Europe, and a few outlying places, most interestingly Madagascar. I thought, “Great! I have fish, timber, art, wine, and vanilla beans. I see no reason for war. Let us trade peacefully and we can all benefit!”

Unfortunately, that’s not how one plays Risk. I could not be President Thomas Jefferson, dreaming of American yeomen, tilling fields of freedom. I had to be Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte! I needed open fields, filled with dead bodies.

It’s an interesting hat to put on — that of the sociopathic, warmongering dictator. The style of hat Napoleon famously wore is the bicorne. Once you wear the bicorne, you become the power-mad villain, hellbent on controlling the world. The problem is, where there are territories, there are other hellbent villains, each wearing his own silly dictator hat. And each has his own army of tiny colored pieces.

Like a good Napoleon, I ignored my holdings in the vast west and focused on my opponents in the east. I needed Ukraine to occupy the entire continent of Europe. The obstacle, of couse, was Alexander the Great. This guy had all of Asia and Oceania. And so history repeated itself. Everytime I took Ukraine, I’d get stuffed and lose it before my next turn began. Meanwhile I lost, plastic piece by plastic piece, my holdings in the west.

I was raving, pacing back and forth, yelling French obscenities, one hand in a tiny pocket and the other flailing wildly, conducting a mad symphony. I felt five feet tall.

There are actually people in the world like this. They will stop at nothing for the neurological high that power provides them. These people are called sociopaths because their brains are out of balance. There is something psychologically wrong with them.

The brain has a left side, and a right side. The left side is the intellect; the right side is creativity. Some people say the left is masculine; the right, feminine. Some people must dominate, and some submit.

Mark Passio, the philosopher and student of natural law, says that those who are intellectual are not intelligent. He also insists that those on the flipside — the right-brained who call themselves “new age” — are no more intelligent. Intelligence is a balance between the two sides of the brain. Intelligence is the balance of the left and right sides of the brain.

My translation is this: You’re either a free being, or a creep.

Most of the people out there are creeps. They are either controlling left-brainers, or they are submitting right-brainers. Davi Barker explores this in his fantastic little book, Authortarian Sociopathy:

“We are living in an increasingly militarized society, and I would argue that this has a primarily psychological cause, not merely a political cause….Further, I would argue that this problem stems not only from the psychology of authority, but also the psychology of obedience, specifically the tendency not to intervene when authority steps beyond its bounds.”

Barker shares scientific studies, such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment, then offers an outline for a “renegade experiment” that he hopes to perform someday.

I think it’s obvious that most of the people around us are just little plastic pieces waiting to be moved across a board.

Hmm? Oh, what? Oh shit, it’s my turn.

Even while the prisoner Napoleon died a slow death while sipping arsenic-laced wine on St. Helena, he believed it possible that a ship would arrive with a plan to deliver him to the United States. Once there, he thought, he could disappear for a while, maybe go out west to the unsettled parts — the land he sold to Jefferson. Napoleon’s delusions didn’t stop there: perhaps he’d found a colony! Or become some sort of leader! We can only fantasize from there, the stuff from Harry Turtledove novels….

Napoleon once wrote, “Men and horses have a similar mentality.” They are hard to tame, they will try to throw you off, but they can be broken. And then you can sit on their backs comfortably, as they canter about and drink from the trough. Then they become loyal, like any other pet. Napoleon wrote that he spoke Italian to women, French to men, and German to his horse. I thought this while I played the sociopath.

I think men are like plastic pieces, I say as I fix my bicorne just right and raise my scepter ever so slightly (my scepter at my birthday party is a belgian-style IPA). I roll the dice and seal their fate. Victory or death!

“Impossible is a word,” the little tyrant wrote, “only found in the dictionary of fools.” Perhaps his picture would be fitting, right next to the word “Impossible.”

Before long, I had one territory left: Southern Europe. Once I was wiped out of the American west, my now spread-out opponent felt a rumbling of dust creep up from the Mexican border. The dark horse led his tribal pack of banditos out of South America, and another pack from Africa. He cleared the board in twenty minutes, including my last bastion. He lets his horse wear my bicorne now. I no longer need it.

I replaced the bicorne with the other side of my brain. I was cured of sociopathy. Then I did what anyone else would do. I revelled! I danced and drank and ate too much food and hugged everyone goodnight. I told my family I loved them and then I slept like the dead. I woke up with a sticky mouth and a sticky head, but that’s what power does to you. The sun was out and I walked to get a coffee and enjoy the sunlight. I enjoyed my FREEDOM.

On the Risk gameboard, in the Atlantic Ocean, there is a whale’s tail splashing the water, whilst it escapes into the deep blue. In real life, that tail would be gone in and instant — off and under the waves.

In the world of Risk, however, that whale is a symbol. It is the last vestige of freedom. And even here, in the playground of sociopaths, one needs simply to take off his bicorne, put his plastic pieces aside, and dive into the sea to cure himself of his ills.