Posted by The Happy Tutor
(Apropos of the section on Symbiosis in a white paper, "Cooperation Business," published by Institute for the Future. Not publicly available, but I am grateful to Andrea Saveri, one of the authors, for allowing me to read it.)/a>)
Robert Axelrod, author of Evolution of Cooperation, created a computer simulation of the Prisoner's Dilemma (or call it Darwinian or Hobbesian struggle; or call it the Dilemma of the Cubicle Slaves in Wealth Bondage) to see which strategies of competition or cooperation would evolve. Here were the winning strategies under conditions of transparency.
Ideal Strategies under Conditions of Openness and Symetrical Power Among Players
1. Be nice - don't be the first to turn ugly. (This is how Mr. Minim was raised, and it, though I love him dearly, is the extent of his repetoire.)
2. Retaliate - defect if others do. (This is how to handle bullies, and exploiters. The law is supposed to do this, but the law is often corrupted by those who win by aggressive means. Gossip is retaliation for semi-secret wrongs. Osctracization is retaliation. Satire is retaliation.)
Forgive - once the bully backs off, extend the open hand of cooperation. (I try to do this in my comment section. First you spank, then forgive. In the Catholic Church through confession, penance, and restitution, you can be reconciled.)
Be Clear - Be consistent, never give into a the bully, never fail to forgive when the bully is broken.
Now, kids, let's see how in modern life we can foul up this natural system, this "hidden hand" of civil society, from which good comes from evil, and we how can prosper ruthlessly as bullies at the expense of others - and get them to kiss our ass in the process. These are the strategies of Machiavelli's Prince and many a business book. How to win; how to gain power; and how to use power to crush potential critics.
Machiavellian Strategies for Today's Winners
1. Steal from the commons - maximize profit by externalizing cost and risk wherever possible. Cut your cost by dumping your toxins into the commons. With the profits hire yourself an army to protect and legalize what you have taken.
2. Having acquired asymetrical power, use it ruthlessly to suppress whatever would level the playing field. - Repeal estate tax, operate government in secret, use military and paramilitary might to impose Freedom on all culutures, where Freedom means the whole marketized and narcotized intellectually and spiritually and politically subservient lifestyle of Wealth Bondage.
2. Pretend to be nice - Get a false reputation through advertising and PR. Wear blue jeans. Wave from the dusty road on your farm. Hire criers to run before you extolling your generosity and strewing favors, trifles, candy and nuts.
3. Retaliate against Truth - When the truth about you, your company or you policy hurts, sue the offender. Bully and intimidate them into silence by calling the truth libel, slander, brand dilution, terrorism, or un-American. Put your legal budget or a government agency up against the truth-teller's and bankrupt them, blacklist them, or jail them.
4. Forgive - when the truth-teller relents and assents to a lie give them a job in your Think Tank. Put them on tv to show the world their broken and vacant countenance, fair warning to all who resist.
5. Be Clear - Be ruthless. Your power and the impossibility of resisting are the text or subtext of every message. Pick good targets and bad. The random target, caught up in the mangle of your retribution is even more terrifying than the persecution of your real enemies. Arbitrary power silences all, not just your opponents.
Tit-for-Tat Under Conditions of One-way Opacity, and Asymetrical Power
How do the many synchronize against the bullying few, to protect the commons, to create social capital, to create emergent systems that protect the soul, the self, society and the planet against the Doomsday machine of bullying corporate interests? How to do we who are surveilled prevail, for purposes of peace and living culture, over those who have so much more power and who act for their own benefit, in secret, whether in corporate board rooms, charitable "safe places" for elite givers, in the army command, or in government agencies? (Positions the powerful hold seriatim, going from regulator, to board of the regulated firm, to Congress taking lobbyists' money, to lobbyist, to charity sponsoring the next regulator's favorite cause, on and on in a daisy chain of intermeshed power, operating in rooms closed to those affected.)
Obstacles to Coordination
1. False rallying points - People tend to synchronize their language, gestures, behaviors, accents, tastes. For that we have culture, from folklore to literature to religious texts, to music, festival and dance. Or, we used to. Now instead of culture welling up as an emergent system it is managed from above. We synchronize on what? Obliviously brands, the soundbites of political ads, the festivals of commerce, like the Superbowl. These false rallying points, fictions supportive of bullying corporate power, prevent and preempt the open peer to peer communication of emergent messages from below. The "one way" in one way conversation is not a coincidence, or a failing. The one way communication is meant to disrupt and preempt, to literally render unthinkable or unspeakable original thought or dissent. Synchronized on mass-cult falsehood, grotesque and childish fictions, what does it matter what comes out of our mouth, since it is but a puerile rendition of what was absorbed from mass media? (Blogs are, sadly, a living proof of this disparaging remark. Most are evidence of the sorry state of our fellow citizens' inner life. No better indictment of our society than the citizens who aspire through blogging to be pundits in their turn.)
2. False Information - If the truth hurts, hire those, whether attorneys, PR teams or think tank thinkers who will perjure themselves happily on your behalf. (C.f., Smoky Joe.) Give preferment to those who don't know the difference and are sincerely deluded. Raise second rate intellectuals from High School up, in schools you subsidize, on scholarships you pay, with curricula you control, so that someday they can sit in a think tank and write nonsense on your behalf, to get on tv to spout your message, of Corporate Freedom, like slaves happily singing on your Plantation.
3. Reprisal - Enact laws against terror so broad as to make possible, indeed inevitable, a Kafkaeque mangle of bureaucratic incompetence and brute force, salted with sadism (Abu Ghraib). Blame subordinates when the mangle is shown to catch up the innocent. As the Chinese proverb goes, "The nail that sticks up gets pounded flat." Let people synchronize on diffidence, keep their heads down, give in to bullying since the price of being caught in the mangle is prohibitive, if unlikely.
Ideological Consistency - For every inconvenient truth, whether it is evolution, pollution, or your own crimes, provide another explanation, one that demonizes your critic, and explains the charge as just another example of why he or she should be cast out, ridiculed, exterminated. As the false truths close on themselves, the psyche of the brainwashed will be so closed and so fragile that dissonant thought can no longer enter. These sheep (c.f., Captain Blowtorch) will then go where driven, an army of thugs, voters, consumers, soldiers, policemen, swat teams. Or, like bloggers they can be released on their own recognizance to bandy about the falsified news of the day.
Overcoming the Obstacles
1. Personal courage - speak out while the price is still acceptable. The more who do, the less the risk; until the hidden hand of truth and openness reestablish the conditions of real evolution, not winner take all, but civic cooperation and emergent systems under conditions of candor and transparency.
2. Praise those who show courage. Synchronize through praise, dance, marches, bumperstickers, signs and signals. Do not let it be said by the bullies that resistance is futile, that the hero will die and be forgotten. Keep memory alive.
3. Satirize, criticize, scorn, shame, blame and give a bad reputation to brands, politicians, PR people, marketers, think tank thinkers, pundits and all others who usurp the role of truth-teller, and provide semblances only.
4. Stow (don't show) your education - do not deconstruct the values for which you, or others, may be required to suffer or die. For that would be a betrayal. Be true to the truth. Live in truth. Bear witness. Deconstruct not human rights, plain truth, courage and candor, but those who dissimulate. Start not with the best writers, for God's sake, but with brands, politicians, think tank bs, and corporate hype. (We are not ruled by those steeped in Milton, Shelley, Keats. Deconstruct what our leaders read - Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Management Secrets of Genghis Khan, The Rapture Series.)
5. Link to create a resonant network of social capital - whether face to face, on the phone, through email, or your blog; bestow attention on those who see past the spectacle, and who are synchronizing on a more humane and sustainable way of life.
6. Pass up tainted honors - Do not cooperate with malfeasance. If offered "credentials" for a political convention, or time on a talk show (c.f. Chastity Powers for WB TV Tonight), or a position at a think tank, ask yourself about what it is you are cooperating with, and what it would cost to defect? Will you defect on air, challenging the host, the corporate business model, the advertisers? If not, why are you there? Why simper before millions, displaying your shameless desire to please? Set a better example, and turn down the tainted gift. Become a rallying point in your own right. Do not ride the bully's shoulders, to speak the bully's message, or be complicit in it, and think that makes you tall. Your presence on the bully's shoulder is demoralizing, it shames us all.
7. Pool effort, talent and money - "giving" from the gifted in defense of the commons from which and to which all gifts tend.
8. Organize online and off to bring cooperation games, and coordinated action, into not just business, but our civic life as well. Democracy is not just a spectator sport.