We tend to think of powerful people as people who weld a huge amount of brute force and use that force to bend others to their will. In reality, that does not seem to be true. To retain power, the powerful must manipulate people, not force them, to acquiesce to their will.
Consider the man pictured above, Adolf Hitler. His greatest success, as those inclined to evil measure success, was the conquest of Germany. How did Hitler conquer Germany? Through manipulation. By convincing enough people he should be their leader.
Hitler began his march to failure when he resorted to brute military force. Then the rest of the world recognized the threat. Then the rest of the world formed a coalition against him, and Hitler vastly underestimated the power of that coalition. That coalition thoroughly crushed him and his regime.
How do we manipulate each other? How do the powerful manipulate us? We and they make use of empathy. What is empathy?
This post is sort of a reblog, but not quite. The focus is The Highest Form of Knowledge by SaaniaSparkle. However, SaaniaSparkle focuses on the knowledge required to form decent relationships between individuals. Unfortunately, anything good can also be bent to evil. So, here, we will briefly take a look at how people abuse the highest form of knowledge.
What is empathy? Consider how SaaniaSparkle ends her post.
Empathy works so well because it doesn’t require a solution. It requires understanding – when we step outside our own emotions to view things from the perspective of others. By thinking outside ourselves and feeling others, we develop a medicine this world needs. (from here)
Anyone can empathize with someone else. Consider a popular admonition.
Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. — Mary T. Lathrap (from here (grammarist.com))
To understand what another person has done, we try to put ourselves in their place. The desire to consider the feelings of others (or, if we have ulterior motives, to manipulate) takes the art of of empathy to a higher order. Instead of just trying to understand how someone feels now, we try to predict how they will feel if we butter them up under a certain set of circumstances.
How do the powerful in this country manipulate us?
- They educate us. The public school system is run by politicians. The teachers all belong to a couple of labor unions. Our universities, even the so called private universities all bend to the will of the government in order to receive public funding.
- They control the narrative. 90 percent of the news media in this country is controlled by five corporations. Because the relationships the CEOs of those corporations have with government officials, those corporations have a common interest in controlling what we believe.
- They exercise political power. They offer us money, “rights”, and vengeance against our enemies in exchange for our votes.
How does manipulation work? We all have the desire to be part of the “inner ring”. In a speech at Kings College called the “Inner Ring.” C. S. Lewis described what that means. I would if I could quote a short excerpt from Lewis’ speech that gets to the heart of how he describes the quest to become part of the “inner ring”, but I did not find one. To be understood, some works have to be read in their entirety. So, I will quote an excerpt that describes what an “inner ring” is not.
And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it. (from here (lewissociety.org))
Surrendering to and furthering the manipulations of politicians seeking power may look like an offer of security and friendship, but it isn’t. It is simply an evil transaction with people we should not trust. If we want to be part of something worthwhile, then we must seek the welfare of others. We must love others in truth, not try to manipulate or deceive them by pretending empathy.