The mind of the Man
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Man, and Superman
And The Man was born. Untenable, predatory, primeval. From the broth of darkness, engulfed in the myth of invincibility that kept him lurking at the border of reason. Insanity ruled the world. History has been replete with examples of mad men changing its course. Creating empires, destroying them, building new ones. In a society that had proclaimed itself to be the pallbearer of consciousness, the victim was now the victor.
At the crux of this human behavior lay a truth so subtle yet so disturbing, that it has led philosophers, thinkers, psychologists alike to ask an incredibly pertinent question, why do we then, don’t trust each other?
The Webster defines it as a “firm belief in the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something or a person or thing in which confidence is placed.” (www.wordcentral.com/cgi-bin/student?trust)
It is the dependency one living form has with another to carry out basic or complex functionalities. A kind of an invisible bond that runs through the race called humanity. Unbeknownst, it is the same strain that is purportedly destroyed for personal gain.
So why do humans don’t trust each other?
The nature of our existence has led us to believe in our individual brilliance, and the idea of dependency is immediately felt as abhorrent and regressive. We were not created to follow. The premise of Man being the ultimate warrior is based on the philosophy of leadership. The leader brings individuals closer. Effective leadership is all about reaching objectives with the resources available at one’s disposal. However, in the absence of effective leadership, the team breaks apart. The reason is got to do more with the lack of trust of each other than the lack of talent.
Robert Greene in his seminal 48 laws of power puts this blunt: “Be wary of friends—they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy, and he will be more loyal than a friend because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.”
Trust is based on mutual reward and the occasions that will suit all the parties concerned. Once the situation passes the camaraderie winds up, and the partners-who-were are now competitors, willing to go one up on each other. Trust is a momentary speck on the wheel of fortune. Whoever spins it wins it. The ones who helped will find their way to buy the wheel. Or better still, snatch it.
Human nature is to rule. And to rule it needs to find umpteen ways to subordinate the mass. The master is always willing to sympathize, provided he or she is in a position of strength. The rule, like trust, is dependent, but much more inherent. The rule has shades of individuality whereas trust falls like nine pins when devoid of participants. Hence, the rule is more complete, and trust is a half-baked functionality divided among the number of players, willing to wreck it.
“No pauper is a friend to the wealthy, no fool to the wise, no coward to the brave. An old friend—who needs him? It is two men of equal wealth and equal birth who contract friendship and marriage, not a rich man and a pauper.An old friend—who needs him?”
Trust can also be characterized as friendship. However, as the Mahabharata had suggested, friendship is a double edged sword. It is based on the equality of fortune, favor, and force. The curious case of Michael III of Byzantine comes to the mind. He had put too much faith in his stable boy Basilius and favored him with riches and power. The erstwhile horse keeper rose to a position of prominence and started ill advising Michael. Blinded by friendship and more importantly trust, the young king killed all those who mattered and supported him and left him to the mercy of his treacherous friend. The end of Michael III at the hands of the palace guards, who once protected him, provides us with a lesson. Trust is like the palm tree. It bends toward wherever the wind blows. Trust like the truth is a misdemeanor, created out of falsehood and crafted to impress.
We humans do not trust each other. We never did. We never will. We are all children of circumstance, and it is naïve to believe in the changing times.
Trust no one.
That brings me to the next question: Why are humans so self-centered?
Narcissism is no more a feature. It is an art. As humans, we are responsible for our upkeep and hence to be kind to oneself becomes a responsibility. Reputation is a right to keep, and any harm to it is considered sacrilege. To maintain the façade of prominence one has to indulge in self-preservation and hence this action makes humans self-centered.
The world is an immense place swarming with opportunists. They will not stop at anything till their objectives are met. The drive is purely economic as much as it is to do with reputation. Seeking to save their faces, humans will challenge every obstacle to win. Self-centeredness does not always arise from immense love for oneself but is also a method to overcome stress.
A recent survey revealed that during such periods of emotional or social disturbance, women become “prosocial” while men seek solace within. However, looking within should not be construed as fallacious. It is a means to search for answers to issues, which, as per the individual, will only be found inside one’s soul. Soul searching is what some call it. To some extent, the narcissism works positively.
The story of the proud king who got replaced by his lookalike and was transformed into a pauper, immediately come to mind. Pride is envious and can lead brilliant men and women astray. However, pride is also an enabler. It pushes one to do marvelous things. History is sated with examples where pride has played a great role in altering conditions.
The control factor out here is the balance. One has to play the balancing act expertly. Emotions are sensitive creatures and when handled cautiously can do marvel to the psyche of the human. Being Self-centered is another grain in the salt plane of human emotions.
So why are people self-centered?
To satiate the need of self-esteem. Self-centered is primal by nature. And no one can beat a human in the game of bending the rules of the jungle.
You may now ask me why some people think about their personal gain all the time.
And my answer to this will not be any different to the one I just mentioned above. To seek solace in the darkness of one’s soul is what drives most humans to success. Personal gain can be termed as selfish if disallowing someone else is the motive. However, it cannot be termed one, if the sole purpose is to become successful.
It is contradictory, but then life is a cesspool of paradoxes. And like personal gain it is assiduous. It is nurtured through thick and thin and made to bid for its time. This is what makes it beautiful and worthy to die for.
How can we cope with such people being around us in the work environment without letting go of our jobs (As even businesses have few cynical clients)?
Many years ago, in an ancient village, the wise Brahmin was the center of attraction. Annoyed by their fame, the village egotist decided to abuse him, but in a more subtle way, so as to not invite the wrath of the villagers. He went to the Brahmins house and not finding him scribbled on his door, which roughly translated to “ass.” The next day they came across each other.
Egotist: “I went looking for you yesterday, but as usual you were not there. No one gets any help from you at the time of need.”
The Brahmin had already smelt the rat.
“My sincere apologies, but as soon as I got to know you had come, I did want to come and meet you.”
“But how did you know I had come. No one saw me.”
“Oh, you had written your name on my door. I figured it out.”
Many times, deflating one’s ego is what the hour needs. And this has to be done in the subtlest of ways. Sun Tzu says that wars are won before it is fought.
Modernity is the peril of the current generation. With the advent of technology, communication channels have widened and time to convey one’s message has shortened manifold. In such an age and time, the world has become devoid of emotions, and the growth of hubris has seen a sudden spurt. While this has to do partly with the kind of competition we face, it has also become a new fad. A vogue, to believe, in the lies you tell about yourself.
So how do you manage them?
Remember, reputation is paramount. Your colleague is protecting his or hers. You will do the same. In the workplace, nothing is more important than to look important. It is also crucial to understand the pecking order in which the command flows. Being a part of the coterie can only be a half-hearted measure, mainly because you then become a portion to the whims and fancies of a particular master. In the world of office politics, it is imperative to observe on – alliance. One never knows which way the wind would blow. Time is a treacherous teacher and its lessons, disheartening.
The sly turtle had taken on the elephant once and wanted to teach him a lesson for his vanity. He challenged him to a tug of war over a part of the hill. On the other part, he called on the hippopotamus for the same. When they wanted to prove a point, the turtle gave each of them the either end of the rope to pull. None could see each other and felt that the turtle was strong. Both went home respecting the turtle.
Folklore from Zaire
Your colleagues will always be your competitors. In fact, everyone is a competitor within those confined walls. The one creating the best mystery about one’s capability takes the cake.
Be that mystery, so that your opposition gets lost in the fog of war. Talk less than necessary and be the active listener, most of us aren’t. Create possibilities of competition between your competition and another. In military parlance, create as many diversions as possible. The method of yore was to discuss disconnects and miscommunications. The modern office is an insulated hell hole. Create your version of Asgard and become your own Thor.
How can we let our seniors (or clients) know our feelings without offending them so that our professional and personal relationship with everyone can be in sync?
And I have a concern with this. Why would you want to have a personal relationship with your colleagues? The world is 7.2 billion strong. That makes it 7.2 billion new opportunities minus the ones milling around you. Personal relationships with team members are as disastrous as an office romance. The love evaporates as soon you hit shift-delete. But of course, professional relationships will always need to be maintained. The line is thin. Darken it. It should never be crossed.
Seniors are the war veterans on a battlefield where a new opponent rises every other day. In such a situation, power projection is advisable. Now, that again, would not mean that the swords need to be taken out. Your opposition will unite, not because of their new found fondness for each other, but mutual fear of a new resistance. Remember, that trust is an eccentricity best avoided amongst men of equal wealth and strength.
Create an illusion of bedazzlement. Enthrall your clients and seniors with your capabilities and see how they bankroll you. The mutual admonishment club will soon turn out to be that of admiration. Seniors and clients live in a utopian world of entitlement, and the glass has to be broken through some subtle arrogance. Play on their fear of competition and remind them that you are the competition. That they have the chance to become a part of the same commune as you, you will go a long way in being in sync with your seniors and clients.
As the revered Robert Greene suggests, that by surrounding ones name with sensation and scandal you create an invisible wall of awe. Mata Hari did that and so can you. The idea is to shine brightly than the crowd around you. If you want an illusion of power, be the illusion yourself. Though it is not necessary to create a scandal for the sake of attracting people in power nowadays, as the millennium workforce is all about performance but history suggest otherwise. It is up to you to determine your future, it is up to you to choose your path and reach your own destiny.
Written by Aparna edited by SiteMaster