Your Way

Chapter 4
Power

"I worked in the California Legislature for many years; I know of homosexuals in the California Legislature, and I'm not going to say their names, because they would not be reelected and they vote right. And so that is to me the litmus test. If one of those people turns around and begins to exploit homophobia, and to hurt our people, then I would have no qualms whatsoever about ripping them out of the closet and exposing them as a hypocrite."

That was said on June 23, 1990 by a spokesman for the "Names Project." TV stations KQED in San Francisco and WNET in New York were hooked up for a panel discussion among gay activists. At that point, the audience applauded. Yeah! Power politics! Way to go! None of that wimpy reasoning stuff here, just a raw whiff of power, right out there in public for all to appreciate.

That audience was, of course, a pressure group. The time is fast approaching when the standard political question won't be, "What party do you belong to?" but, "What pressure group do you belong to?" If we weren't so fond of euphemisms we'd call them "force groups." The idea is to force public officials to do what your group wants. By definition, your force group is a minority. So the idea is to flout the will of the majority and impose the will of the minority. It was more than just blackmail being applauded.

We live in an age obsessed with force. We deplore physical violence, but worship force. To be influential is to be forceful. "Democracy is nice," people say, "but power is the way to get things done." Influence is not thought to come from reasoning, but from maneuvering. The way to "get" people to do things is to "make" them. You manipulate them this way and maneuver them that way. You arrange things so that the only possible way is your way. You treat people like cattle in a cattle chute.

In other words, our model of influence is not the revered leader, but the cattle prod. We look for inspiration not to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, but to Bessie the Cow.

Ever watch cattle being loaded into a box car for transport? They are confused and unruly, but there's really no place to go but up that chute. So up the chute they go, and off to the slaughter. Noble beasts that they are, cattle do not get accused of having free will. So it seems odd that they should provide the model for handling human beings. The super-sophisticated purveyors of power-think, power-speak, and power-conferencing form their theories without taking into account the difference between humans and cows.

When you stand in line at the bank, it might occur to you that the velvet ropes alongside you have some similarity to a cattle chute. But you are able to think about it, so you conclude that the system works to your advantage. You are not confused or unruly as long as cooperation seems useful. That's why the manipulation theorists get rich. If the boss wants you to do three minutes of heavy breathing before a conference so as to "energize your idea factory," you tend to humor him. Then he pretends that your thoughts come not from your own will, but from his.

To begin deciding whether force works, imagine yourself with a gun in your hand, confronting the smartest man in the world. You point the gun and say, "Tell me how to get rich, or I'll shoot." Now ask yourself, would the smartest man in the world think how you could get rich, or how he could get away from that gun?

Well, don't point the gun; merely hint that it's there. No, he's still going to be thinking only about that gun. You've got to get across the idea that you could, if all else failed, if he refused to help you, as a very last resort, do something rash like pulling out a gun. So there you are, trying to outthink the smartest man in the world.

To clinch the case against force, try to imagine any instance at all of forcing another human mind to think for your benefit. If you use direct force, then the only possibility is to arrange things so cleverly that the other mind's attempt to escape your force will result in a benefit for you. That is, you must be able to outthink the other mind. But if you can outthink the other mind, what is the point of the force?

Imagining indirect force, like fraud or manipulation, only strengthens the case against force, because it requires even more ability to outthink the victim. The only way to get an advantage by using any kind of force, other than self-defense, is to use your mind to get around the huge disadvantage of using force.

When people hear that force won't work, they take it as grim news. What can't be done by force can't be done at all. But the thing becoming more evident each year is that, indeed, force does not work.

The "war to end all wars" was the First World War. War was to be ended by force. At the same time, Russia was taken over by Marxist "reformers." Exploitation of man by man was to be ended by force. All over the world, "redistribution of income" became the rage: take from the rich and give to the poor. Poverty was to be ended by force.

On and on it went, year after year, generation after generation: war being ended by force, exploitation being ended by force, poverty being ended by force. And it's still going on. War is still being ended by force; exploitation is still being ended by force; poverty is still being ended by force. It is, however, finally occurring to people all over the world that force isn't working.

What's needed are new ideas. There is no such thing as getting new ideas by force. The fact of free will utterly destroys any notion of using force to get your way, unless your way is simple destruction. For getting your way, this means avoiding not just physical force, but any slightest hint of an attempt to get around free will and "get" people to follow you. People don't want to be "got," so thatís the end of it.

Strange, isn't it? Just when the world is becoming at last disenchanted with brute force, you and I, on a personal level, are giving up on the alternatives. For politics as public persuasion, we now substitute power politics, the art of polite blackmail. For reasoned discourse, we substitute lists of demands. For advertising as commercial persuasion, we substitute "subliminal" appeals, or any fad promising to bypass free will.

And we wonder publicly why nothing works.

What if it were the case that what works is reasoned discourse and honest dealing? If that were so, then mastering persuasion would be a way of beating the system—of gaining a permanent advantage over people who don't understand the uselessness of force and the power of reason.

If you wonder how anybody manages to influence anything without compulsion, try giving up on force and contemplating the method of influence that works for everybody all the time, unnoticed. Try the power of example.

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