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Law 38: Think as You Like, but Behave like Others (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 38: Think as You Like, but Behave like Others

Pausanias
Pausanias

If you feel irritated by the absurd remarks of two people whose conversation you happen to overhear, you should imagine that you are listening to the dialogue of two fools in a comedy. The man who comes into the world with the notion that he is really going to instruct it in matters of the highest importance, may thank his stars if he escapes with a whole skin.

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, 1788-1860

Rebelling against the times and flaunting your original and unconventional ideas is not wise. People will turn against you, thinking you look down upon them and merely crave attention. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel like they are inferior. It is better to blend in and learn how to behave like others. If you want to share your original ideas, do so with a few people who you trust and know will be understanding.

Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.

Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:6

Around 478 B.C, Sparta sent a young Spartan nobleman, Pausanias, to lead an expedition to Persia. The Greek city states recently fended off a Persian invasion, and now the Greeks wanted to retaliate by winning back the islands and towns that the Persians had occupied. The Athenians and the Spartans respected Pausanias for he had proven himself to be a fierce warrior. Pausanias and his troops quickly overtook Cyprus, then moved to Asia Minor (Hellespont) and captured Byzantium (modern day Istanbul). But then Pausanias’ behavior began to deviate from his modestly dramatic touch, he became much more flamboyant.

He hired Egyptian bodyguards and behaved like a Persian and demanded to be entertained. He abandoned his old friends and maintained a correspondence with the Persian dictator, Xerxes, and emulated the latter’s mannerisms. Pausanias was charged with offending the Greeks, but was forgiven for his transgressions since he was respected and was of noble birth. But one day a messenger, instead of sending one of his messages to Xerxes, sent his letter to the Greek authorities. Pausanias was no longer protected, he fled and found refuge in a sacred temple that the Greeks refused to enter. He stayed there, and died of starvation.

THINK WITH THE FEW AND SPEAK WITH THE MANY

It is easy to run into danger by trying to swim against the stream. Only a Socrates could attempt to do that. Disagreement is regarded as offensive because it is a condemnation of the views of others; the numbers of the disgruntled grow, on account either of some matter thathas been the object of censure or of some person who has praised it: Truth is for the few, error is as usual as it is vulgar. Nor is the wise man to be recognized by what he says in the marketplace, for he speaks there not with his own voice, but with that of universal folly, however much his inmost thoughts may gainsay it: The wise man avoids being contradicted as sedulously as he avoids contradicting; the publicity of censure is withheld from that which readily provokes it. Thought is free; it can ers; the numbers of the disgruntled grow, on account either of some matter that has been the object of censure or of some person who has praised it: Truth is for the few, error is as usual as it is vulgar. Nor is the wise man to be recognized by what he says in the marketplace, for he speaks there not with his own voice, but with that of universal folly, however much his inmost thoughts may gainsay it: The wise man avoids being contradicted as sedulously as he avoids contradicting; the publicity of censure is withheld from that which readily provokes it. Thought is free; it cannot and should not be coerced; retire into the sanctuary of your silence and if you sometimes allow yourself to break it, do so under the aegis of a discreet few.

BALTASAR GRACIÁN, 1601-1658

Turning your back on your own culture is dangerous. Your culture is a representation of centuries of shared beliefs and tradition. To show preference for another culture over yours is an insult to your fellow countrymen. This sense of nationalism is not a thing of the past, but continues to exist in today’s more globalist world. People do not want to change their opinions or beliefs. They are comfortable with the identity they have forged for themselves and when you challenge their beliefs, you are forcing them to rethink their identity. This threatens their sense of control and will make them resentful, even hateful of you. It is better to think what you want to think, but to blend in. The next story Greene tells us is an example of that.

In 1593, a philosopher named Tomaso Campanella rebelled against the traditional beliefs of his culture. He was an atheist and had much to say about the irrationality of his time. But he was persecuted for his beliefs, nearly sentenced to death. But he feigned madness, and this earned him a life time sentence in prison. Campanella realized that he would not survive if he continued to defy tradition, so he turned on his own beliefs. He wrote a Machiavellian style book called the Hispanic Monarchy, where he claimed that Spain was destined to carry out a divine mission to control the world, and he also included advice for the Spanish king.

If Machiavelli had had a prince for disciple, the first thing he would have recommended him to do would have been to write a book against Machiavellism.

VOLTAIRE, 1694-1778

This went against everything he believed in, of course, but he wrote the book in a ploy to prove that he has come to his senses. Six years after writing the book, the Pope let him out of prison. Campanella wrote “Atheism Conquered” when he was out. It was a book that portrayed a dialogue about the validity of Catholicism. He used his own views to represent the opposing side and did so with passion. He used the common, cliched religious positions to represent the pro-Catholic side.The Catholics who read the book had ambiguous feelings – they didn’t particularly like it, but they couldn’t claim it was heretical either. Atheism Conquered became a bible of atheists and non-traditionalists.

When the Waters were Changed

Once upon a time Khidr, the teacher of Moses, called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all the water in the world which had not been specially hoarded, would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad. Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character. On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry, and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water. When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men. He found that they were thinking and talking in an entirely different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realized that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding. At first he drank none of the new water, but went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day. Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and became like the rest. Then he forgot all about his own store of special water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a madman who had miraculously been restored to sanity.

TALES OF THE DERVISHES, IDRIES SHAH, 1967

Read The 48 Laws of Power

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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