I grew up before the Internet kicked in and read insatiably at the time.
I came to reading relatively late but quickly outdistanced the expectations of parents and teachers. I read everything in the house. I read entirely without judgement. I could no more have told you the difference between a good and bad book than between a good and bad tree.
Being entirely unfussy about how I consumed information was quite the blessing. The bizarre hodgepodge of generally contextless facts one acquires was one of the things I had working in my favour at school.
In more recent times this tendency manifests in being a) unable to walk past a bookshop in general and b) willing to pick up and learn from anything lying around.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Can Make You Thin, by Paul McKenna in an independent bookshop in Aberdeen (I’m the same weight now that I was when I was 18 and I generally haven’t moved more than maybe 7kg in any direction), Twilight, large chunks of Haynes Manuals, odd bits of religious texts, cookbooks for things I find it cruel to eat and histories of things that definitely didn’t happen. I like to think I got something out of all of them.
And so we come to The Game, which I picked up in all innocence in a bookshop somewhere and found myself reading open mouthed at what appeared to be a proofread version of hell.
I do a couple of long rants on the topic of the Game. I suspect there are better on the Internet. The Mash (of course) has it’s own take on the ‘community’ as does xkcd. Suffice to say that, the Game is a book that defines seduction as “Step 1 approach literally every woman you see. Step 2: lie to them until someone sleeps with you. Step 3: repeat”.
The Game was a profound influence on me in that I swore very early on to never ever find myself looking at the world in the way it promoted. It’s generally fairly creepy to even contemplate.
…and this started a trend for me of reading some very strange books. It’s an interesting process. There’s a quote that goes:
“Choose your enemies carefully
because they will define you”
…and this became the literary equivalent. What I want from life hasn’t changed, but by comparing it to the power and money obsessed ideologies of things like The 48 Laws Of Power I was able to chip away the things that I definitely didn’t want to be.
So I think these books can have a place, in the same way that records of crimes should be kept. Not to glorify, but to warn.
The majority of people who buy them treat them differently. They buy them because they accept the central premise that life is about power and control and that the answer to their problems is to act more like an lab rat and less like a human; to lie; to glorify oneself; and to steal status.
I find myself wondering how to ‘fix’ this. A cultural way to end this ‘positive’ feedback loop: the cultural reinforcement that means people keep using these authors to justify more and more dark behaviour.
I’m starting to think that the answer may be in the other great weakness of the texts – that they clearly don’t ‘work’. The business practices of the The 48 Laws Of Power (A Joost Elffers Production) would work in a world were you never worked with the same person twice and people didn’t talk to each other – but you will and they do. The ‘tactics’ of The Tame would be great – if your idea of a rewarding courtship is to have pre-written the script for every conversation, and your idea of a relationship involves hiding 90% of your life from your other half.
This leaves an opening. So how about a new book. One that is written in the same hyper-masculine style, one that motivates in terms of power and force and influence. One that breaks down the previous approaches and gives all the reasons why they fail. The reasons they fail are pretty obvious at the meta-level: if you are a nasty unreliable piece of work, people don’t want to work with you. Co-operation is what civilisation works on. Crime really doesn’t pay.
But the meta-level is no use to this target audience. The message needs to engage on their terms. They need to hear, for example, why paying the right amount of tax makes you richer (because all the time and effort you have to put in to getting away with avoiding tax is enough for you to make much more than you are paying. Why treating people with respect and decency means that you’ll have the high status girlfriend that everyone else wants (because it turns out that women aren’t stupid and do talk) and why being honest and open about what you want from life means that people will loyally follow you and help you get it.
…and you have to put the message in exactly those terms. Talk about power and control and sex. Don’t mention respect and decency and love. Present the ideas not as a moral foundation but as a set of tactics that trick the world into giving you what you want.
There are thousands upon thousands (48 Laws of Power sold over 1.2 million copies in the United States) of people who have absorbed the idea that the way to live is to take power and to value status over people. So far society’s answer has been the same as it’s always been: to recognise such people by their methods and then frustrate their path at every turn. Some do get the life they desire. The vast majority don’t.
How about we attempt to harness this power, this raw ambition. If we can turn only a fraction of that number into people who channelled their fire, their greed, their ambitions into creating rather than destroying, then that would be a sight to see, a real sight to see.
All this is simply to tell you that I might take a chance (making use of this sort of technical analysis) at preparing a short set of posts aimed at evil people. Watch this space.