The Art Of Stealth, Part 2: “Do Not Commit To Anyone, But Be Courted By All”
Welcome to the second episode of The Art of Stealth. The purpose of this series is to learn and master the strategies that others have used to get ahead. It’s intended to serve as part of a 21st century “mirror” for sojourners. The “mirror for princes” genre was a type of political writing that was very popular during the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th centuries. These books taught rulers how to behave in order to avoid having reigns that were violent, tragic, and most of all, short. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is the most famous example of this genre. The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthasar Gracian is another popular example of this genre. Currently, these books are mostly read as a form of self-help literature. Most African-Americans havenever heard of them. This is a pity. This lack of knowledge makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to hype, and vulnerable to the wiles of others who are familiar with the wisdom contained in these books.
AFRICAN-AMERICANS ARE TOO QUICK TO TAKE SIDES. THIS IS FOOLISH.
Today’s quote is from The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene,
It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others—playing people against one another, making them pursue you.
(emphasis added) The 48 Laws of Power, pg. 145.
Once you step into a fight that is not of your own choosing, you lose all initiative. The combatants’ interests become your interests; you become their tool. Learn to control yourself, to restrain your natural tendency to take sides and join the fight. Be friendly and charming to each of the combatants, then step back as they collide. With every battle they grow weaker, while you grow stronger with every battle you avoid. [pg. 152]
To play the game properly, you must seem interested in other people’s problems, even sometimes appear to take their side. But while you make outward gestures of support, you must maintain your inner energy and sanity by keeping your emotions disengaged. No matter how hard people try to pull you in, never let your interest in their affairs and petty squabbles go beyond the surface. Give them gifts, listen with a sympathetic look, even occasionally play the charmer—but inwardly keep both the friendly kings and the perfidious Borgias at arm’s length. [pg. 153]
. . . Preserving your autonomy gives you options when people come to blows—you can play the mediator, broker the peace, while really securing your own interests. You can pledge support to one side and the other may have to court you with a higher bid. [pg. 153]
THE DISADVANTAGES CAUSED BY OUR QUICKNESS TO TAKE SIDES ARE OBVIOUS
I assume that most folks in the audience can recognize that the above-described behavior is exactly how most other people of color, including non-African-American Blacks, have handled their interactions with us. This is wise of them. This behavior enables them to keep friendly relations with all factions while African-Americans endlessly fight various equal rights battles over the years. This means that no matter who wins or loses, they’re in good shape when the dust settles.
Often, we continue to be good “guard dogs” who fight these other people’s enemies—even after they’ve reconciled!
The disadvantages to African-Americans’ unfortunate habit of rushing to take sides should be equally obvious: Nobody has to “bid” for our support because we offer it automatically and freely. We unnecessarily make other people’s enemies our enemies. We drain our own resources while fighting other people’s battles. We naively assume that every fight is a principled crusade, when most times it’s actually about advancing other people’s personal ambitions. Finally, the people whose causes we support discard us at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, we engage in this foolish behavior across the board—at work, at college, in politics, in our personal lives.
Learn from the so-called biracial and multicultural “rainbow chicks,” and other people of color:
- Listen sympathetically, but don’t commit to other people’s causes.
- Quietly hedge your bets and secure your own interests.
- Position yourself to be able to get with whoever wins.
Tagged as: the art of stealth