The One About Book Club: The 48 Laws Of Power: Laws 9 and 10


February 28, 2010 by Toriach

Hello again. Well yesterday we took a look at laws seven and eight, of The 48 Laws Of Power. Today we look at the next two laws, one of which is incredibly important for Progressives to start following.

LAW NINE: Win through your Actions, Never through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

Wow. This one is huge. And it’s one that Progressives often have a hard time with.

We often have a tendency to think that if we can just keep talking we will get people to see the sense of our ideas. Generally speaking all that does is make people tired of listening to you. While there is nothing wrong with talking, we must also make certain we are acting. Now the ideal action would be to get Progressive legislation passed and have people see how successful it is. But that is problematic since we are usually out of power more often than we are in. Fortunately that does not mean that we have no other options.

One of our best options is the formation and usage of Non Governmental Organizations or NGO's. Now this is tricky since central to the Progressive message is that reasonable responsible government is a good thing. However if our message is one of reluctant warriors we have the potential to go far. If we are constantly reminding people that if government were doing what it's supposed to do in protecting the people and ensuring their well being their would be lessened need for NGO's. The main thing is that any extra-governmental steps we take must be presented as not a refutation of government but rather as a criticism of governments failure to act.

Another problem we have regards those who oppose us and our seeming disability to disengage with them. So often I see Liberals and Progressives who will debate with a Conservative until they are blue in the face. This is always a losing proposition. I'm not saying we should not engage. But we should do so in the manner or, and to the degree of our choosing. It is easier to do that if you keep a couple of key facts in mind.


Here's the thing, broadly speaking Conservatives are our enemy, ideologically speaking. They may be good people, love their kids, hug puppies etc. But never forget that their entire world view is based on the idea that people should stand on their own unless they have absolutely no other recourse, and then dependence on private charity is preferable to government intervention. They reject the notion that government ever helps. They believe it always and only hurts. They believe that businesses if left unregulated will generally do the "right" thing and that government regulation again only makes things worse never better, etc. etc. They are fanatically devoted to this mindset and message. So strictly speaking on such matters there really is no point in even talking to a Conservative is there? But you are not talking with them for their sake. Rather the point is to get the Progressive message out there to those who have not made up their minds yet. This is why it is important for Progressives to comment on Conservative blogs, call conservative talks shows, write letters to the editors of Conservative newspaper and magazines etc. But it is important to put forth our message or talking point, and then to disengage. Now you may sometimes feel like follow up debate, and that's fine, but be selective where and how you engage. Most of the time you will only be expending time and energy that is better spent elsewhere. Also keep in mind that the window of open mindedness can be rather small. So a reader of a Conservative blog reads the comments section and sees your point and they think about it. But if you keep coming back to defend yourself they will see you as weak, and defensive. Now they disregard your original point, hell they don't even remember it. The window is gone and instead of lodging a Progressive point in their heads they now are even more filled with Right Wing ideology.


Progressives often want to refute every point that a Conservative makes, but most people find that tedious, especially from a responder. If you want to make a point by point refutation save it for your venue that YOU control, be it blog, TV show, what have you. When you are in the realm of someone else’s control, the briefer and more to the point your message is, the harder a time they are going to have distorting it.


It's not precisely a reversal, but the fact is that in this day and age, there is not getting away from talking. Ours is not an age where it is generally possible to have one's enemies killed, or exiled etc. without running into a large number of problems, and you can't do it publicly. So we talk, which is why they call it a war of words. And while there is strength in silence we must be careful about what message the silence communicates. It must be a dignified silence that says, "I've said all that needs to be said and I trust the people to understand what I'm saying." rather than the fretful fearful silence that conveys a message of weakness and fear. Often times once you have disengaged on a particular point with a particular opponent the worst thing you can do is reengage. It will make you look weak. I understand that no one likes it when your words are twisted around but the truth is that is something Conservatives excel at. So you break your silence to explain yourself, to clarify, and they twist that, so you break silence again. Quickly it becomes clear to everyone who is really in control, and it’s not you.


You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

This is one of the ugly realities of politics and it is one that as much as we might wish were otherwise no one, not even Progressives can escape. It is the reason why even though we know the circumstances beyond his control that led to Jimmy Carter's presidency being perceived as a failure, we also know how he is perceived and generally hold him at arms length. It is why no Progressive gets too close to Ralph Nader. It's the reason why Howard Dean after getting his message across about his fundamental problems with the current Health Care Reform bills, stepped back from saying that it would be best to start over. He wanted to make certain he was no identified with Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake who in the eyes of the general public, and a great many Progressives has destroyed her credibility. Now obviously we don't want to cut people loose the first time they have a defeat or suffer a reversal. But ultimately there comes a point, like it or not that we have to be ruthlessly pragmatic, and when the very mention of someones name taints the Progressive Movement, we've got no choice but to distance ourselves from that person. If we do not, then it hampers our ability to do anything worthwhile.


As The 48 Laws Of Power, says there simply is no reversal of this law. However I think for both our image, and for our spiritual well being, we should be careful in how we apply this law. We must not become a group that cuts someone out the first time they run afoul of circumstances (generally speaking obviously there could be a situation that a person has done or said something so horrible that to be seen supporting them for even one instant more would be destructive to our goals) and we should usually try not to be seen demonizing former allies and leaders who have fallen from glory. Again Carter and Nader are great examples. We are more than happy to allow with Carter on things like Habitat For Humanity etc, but we are careful to make certain that he is not seen as influencing either the directions our policies take, nor the reactions we have to current events. Nader is a popular columnist, and a very intelligent person but any time the subject of his making another Presidential run comes up most smart Progressives find a way to say something nice that amounts to either “Well it would be nice if he could win, but in the current climate I don't think it's a good idea.” Or even better, a nice sounding statement that amounts to “No comment.”

Alright everyone, that's it for this installment of The One About Book Club and for this weekend. Check back next weekend when we'll be diving into laws 11 and 12, and 13/14. Plus remember to check in every day for the weekly edition of The One About…. This week I'll be looking at topics ranging from the problem with religious exemptions, to the Conservative double standard around Obama engaging with "Religious Extremists", and I'll even have tips on how to use martial arts to stop a Republican dead in their tracks. Until next time….

Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!

(This article originally appeared at The One About...)

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