I spent the last couple of days in Europe cooped up in my home studying and giving a lot of thought about social dynamics, authority, politics and power. I got interested in the history of Singapore, how our forefathers got into power, and how everyone deferred to them, and how the rebels got exiled and incarcerated.
There’s a lot of be learned from how different figures got into power from the hey days of Singapore, the psychology of the masses and the art of politics.
I always prided myself of never being a political man.
In the majority of work environments in my twenties, I liked getting to the root of the problem, and fix that, instead of politics. Even in reservist and the military, I was straight forward, and direct. I had my flaws, but mostly, I was direct. However, I never bothered to maste the game of politics and power. To me, it was pathetic games that people played out of their own insecurities.
For example, my ex military boss enjoy ruling over the lives of 20 odd men, what a waste of time.
Hence, I suffered. To be good isn’t enough. It didn’t matter if my work was good, it mattered if my superior liked me, or not.
I got into a lot of trouble, almost getting charged during my military days, and I found myself in political battles between my superiors. I was forced to play the game of power. I’ll explain how I overcame this later in this article.
The Reason Why Game Works
You can observe this is the domain of seduction as well.
Over the years, I switched my style and approach in attracting women, and all of my relationships to better values such as compassion, honesty and authenticity. However, it’s hard not to notice (and admit) that the tradtional style of social dynamics works because plays on the fear of loss of love and attention, as opposed to love and attention itself.
The fear of loss is twice of that of potential gain. You can argue all you want, but I’ve seen human behavior played out hundreds of times in the same way right before my eyes, in myself, friends, partners and family.
It didn’t matter if I was sincere or compassionate, it mattered if I could make them feel a certain way. It didn’t matter if my business plans are rationale, it mattered if they looked great on paper or not. It didn’t matter if I wanted to walk beside my friends, most of desired to walk infront or beside me.
How many men deem themselve ‘friends’ not because they truly value each other, but out of a fear of not being a lone, the need for survival. How many lovers call their relationship ‘love’ but are merely a neurosis of their emotional needs.
The melancholy, the fear and the thinking animal.
Machiavelli and Power
Einstein, a great thinker, stated in his biography that he consciously removed himself from the games that people play and seeked refuge in the Sciences. He famously kept an independent mind and an individual style of approaching physics and life through high school all the way till adult life. Even at the cost of his education and job prospects.
However, how many of us can afford to do that? How many of us have the courage to do that?
In the military, business and relationships, how many times have I found myself at the shorter end of the stick?
Okay, as promised, I’ll give you some examples in my own life.
- Legal Threats from a Jet Setting Entrepreneur
One great usage of false authority was an entrepreneur I went on head to head on. I attended his SEO course to better my digital marketing skills. However, I found it under delivered. It didn’t matter if he was featured on the mainstream media or had a million testimonials. I felt it was under delivered. I proceeded to publish a non defamative online review, as expected, I received legal threats.
P.S. Check out how to really do local SEO in Singapore. (With results)
The course provider was abusing the authority of the law. He knew my weak point. I wasn’t comfortable with the possibility of getting into legal entanglement at a young age, especially when I was just starting out. He was a jet setting millionaire (imo: jet setting scam) and I was a sole proprietor. I backed down initially. I was silenced. However, I recomposed myself and understood the cards on the table. I had to play them accordingly. I decided to tilt the cards to my favor.
Eventually, that led to 2 hours of negotiation, persuasion, threats and lots of vulgarities in a 1:1 setting with a 47-year-old man.
I didn’t get everything I desired, however, minimally, I got half of what I desired.
I took away important lessons from that. It’s amazing that blind authority can lead to amazing results.
That period forced me to educate myself on the law.
Fast forward a couple of months down the road, I got a troublesome reader who threatened to publish defamative articles on my brand. I took a playbook out of my previous experience, and threatened to sue. He backed down.
I can’t tell you the numbers of times I’ve observed the use of power and authority in business and military settings. I don’t consider myself easily influenced by candies dealt out by people in power. However, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish by dangling potential incentives in front of people. You need to understand everyone’s self serving interest. If you choose to retaliate, you need to make sure there’s no way you can lose.
You need to ask yourself: what’s in it for everyone, at any point of time. No man is an island? Yes. True.
However, in certain political circumstances, every man is an island.
- The Military
In the military, I was the only person who had much difficulty deferring to the abuse of power by my superior. I didn’t want to play that game, and preferred to keep myself out of trouble as much as possible. Everyone else played the game. Everyone else was in fear. Of course, trouble came seeking, and for a year straight, I deferred.
Ultimately, I was either going to fight or flight. I was considering coming up with medical reasons to leave the unit.
However, I decided to play the game.
I decided to hit first. I understood the psychology of such man who uses such strategies often fear similar strategies himself.
Firstly, I made sure to reached out to other comrades who had similar grievances, I assured them to make their case. I made sure that I’ll fight with them. I made sure to ally myself with the people in power to create an image of alliance. I needed my superior to feel alone.
On the day of execution. I got letters, evidence, phone calls from parents, one after another, all planned out. They are all be delivered in drips. Let’s reach out to my boss’s boss. I understood they all cared about one thing: not getting into trouble.
If someone they are responsible for got into trouble, it’ll reflect badly on them. So, I targetted my boss’s superior, to create pressure downwards. These events required intricate planning and timing. Something I took upon myself alone to execute. There’s no way out but to win. You need to bully a bully. You need to hit a man so hard he has no chance to retaliate.
Later in life I learned of this psychological concept called minority influence. Compliance is the highest when everyone complies, however, it falls rapidly when just one person defers. Even the ones that complied the most to my superior deferred enthusiastically.
Through the years I never enjoyed politics or desired power. I consider myself an intellectual, an artist. I enjoy lofty ideas, sensual pleasures and prefer not to get involved in pity human politics. I’d rather you debated against me me than to defer blindly to me.
‘What do you think?’ I’ve always asked, even when they fell silent.
Perhaps that’s why I sucked at girls in the first place. I didn’t understand that pain can translate into pleasure. I didn’t understand that the masses didn’t like to be asked what they thought, they’d rather the responsibility of having to think taken from them.
The Art of Self Preservation
You may think I’m sick in the head for being able to explicitly spell these events out. However, how many of us already do all of these subtlety in our day to day life, in order to persuade, influence and negotiate. Whether be it for sex, money or power? How many of you ghost behind moral ideals to meet your own selfish needs?
I am sick of ending up at the shorter end of the stick. If I’m forced to play a game, I am going to win. If the soft grace of intellect cannot persuade, then I’m forced through other means.
Unconditionally, tolerance and compassion are all lofty ideals that should be pursued.
However, just because you treat someone someway, doesn’t mean that you’ll be treated that way. If you don’t have the luxury or courage like Einstein to completely remove yourself from the wistful nature of human politics, then you have something to learn from Machiavell, as I did.