Notes politics

Strategy 33: Sow Uncertainty and Panic (The 33 Strategies of War)

Victory is gained not by the number killed but by the number frightened.

Arab proverb


Terrorists are born out of feelings of weakness and despair, and a conviction that the cause they stand for is worth the damage. A world where the powerful seem large and invulnerable, this kind of strategy becomes more appealing, in fact, it may develop into a style that permeates into society itself.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan faced off against the extremely conservative medical societies that dominated psychoanalytic practice. He realized it was futile to fight them conventionally, so he developed a style that can be described as terroristic. He cut short his sessions with patients, he ended them whenever he saw fit, sometimes after only a few minutes. This deliberate provocation of the medical establishment set off a chain reaction in the psychoanalytic community for many years.

The sessions themselves were terrorizing for the patients, who never knew when Lacan would tell them to leave, and so they were forced to concentrate and make every moment count. This had great therapeutic value, according to Lacan. After gaining much publicity this way, he kept his provocative actions up, creating his own rival school ad society.

His books were written to match his strategy: violent and arcane. He seemed to enjoy throwing small bombs into the world, and thrived on the attention they brought him.

People who feel powerful are tempted into outbursts of anger and irrationality – this keeps others around them in suspense. These fits of temper are like other serious kinds of terror in that they have a chilling affect on their targets – sapping their will to resist.

If you have to deal with a terroristic spouse or boss, it is best to fight back in a determined but dispassionate manner–the response such types least expect.

Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Read The 33 Strategies of War

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

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