The Way The World Works

Human beings are weak, so says Jack Abramoff.  We are as weak as we allow ourselves to be.  It has been shown time and time again that power corrupts.  Take note about the importance of arrogance in this system that allowed Jack to manipulate representatives and legislation.  Many people argue that they prefer humility in their leaders, and their friends. Yet arrogance, charm and confidence frequently blind us to the exploitation of the weakest points in our nature.  These, and worse traits of disagreeable, non-collaborative bullying,  are frequently rewarded. (Scholarly article).

Of course we tend to trust those who are confident, and who soothe our egos. On the flipside, the arrogant and cocksure often rise by intimidating our egos as well, by plowing over us - and sometimes  quite rightly - when their ideas and vision are in fact 'better' than what we had in mind. The latter leadership or negotiating techniques may not bring them an amiable or good natured kind of trust from those who sit beneath them, but after they've climbed to a certain echelon, they become nearly impossible to take down again.  The best part about Jack Abramoff is that he admitted during his crooked dealings, at the pinnacle of his influence, he believed he was morally pure on the whole.  Which inevitably made it easier for those complicit in the corruption to put their faith in his integrity.  Don't misunderstand, it was definitely about the perks, about greed and self-interest, but to participate in questionable practices, many of us will not engage unless we have come trust those who sold us the snakeoil.

One person who seemed to have perfected this precarious combination of ruthlessness and benevolent intention that bred vast trust in those beneath him, was Steve Jobs.   His tirades were legend, he was also humbled and forced to admit he made poor decisions as his company was taken from under him, but he appealed to people's trust in demanding they exercise their potential.  Not just for a computing company, for a profit - but to "change the world".  His intensity and purpose kept people loyal despite verbal abuse and at times reckless business decisions, but he did a devilishly clever thing asking people to follow him towards a purpose larger than even himself.  People respected his genius, but they saw their part not as serving him, as serving something much more, and he became the conduit to bring them to the task.  He was not so much unlike an early Apple defector, the one we all know and love/hate everytime we turn on our PC.

Together, Steve and Bill make one whole Waldo (or Wally for you Aussies!)

I do believe that human beings crave trust as much as they crave love.  Even in the face of cognitive dissonance, we willfully or subconsciously manifest false trust in others driven by a strong desire to make our perceived reality conform to our values and notions about how others not just should, but must, behave. This placates our need and fulfills our wish to trust those who promise us great benefits, or those we have become inextricably tied to through emotional bonds. Besides, aren't we happier when we trust, don't we feel more relaxed? I think,  like Fox Mulder, more than anything we want to believe. Whether it's the trust in the certainty that we are just in our actions, or that we can rely on the intentions of others.  Obviously the proportional lack of trust we have in ourselves is matched to the proportion that we allow others to influence us against our best instincts.

Unless you have nothing but saints running in your social circles, you will find yourself  at odds with compassionate and forgiving intentions that grate against (what is usually a warranted and healthy) skepticism about associates that seem too good to be true, or have already taken advantage of your good nature.  I agree with Billy Joel, living like a saint is no fun, and expecting everyone to rigidly adhere to your moral code will leave you lonely at best - so I leave the question out there to you, reader - how do you walk the line?  How can we live ambitiously, skeptically, and yet with kindness and not cynicism?  How to embrace acceptance, fairness and forgiveness, yet protect ourselves from exploitation or be certain we aren't being led into corruption?  These questions seem to require not just a mindfulness of others, but intense internal mindfulness, and can this be achieved without great interpersonal and intrapersonal stress?

Black and white is too obvious, I'd rather you explore some of shades of grey and get back to me.

image credit - corruption

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