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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Laws of Power (2)

The second law in The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene) states: “Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies.  Be wary of friends—they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy.  They also become spoiled and tyrannical.  But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove.  In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies.  If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.”  I call the 2nd Law the “Law of Friendship Misconstrued.”  The key issue to consider here is the definition of “friend.”  It is obvious that one can make poor choices in friendships.  Desperate, lonely, and isolated individuals may look with favor upon anyone who shows them attention or a hint that their loneliness and isolation will end.  The “friendship” may be based purely on exploitation.  I cannot help but think of marriage here.  People can jump into a marriage based on all the wrong reasons.  The marriage soon breaks up or is a living hell for the marriage was based on desperation and selfishness and not on mutual friendship and giving.  In fact, a crucial test of the common sense reasonableness of the 2nd Law for me is a simple question:  who would you want for a spouse, a friend or an enemy?  It would indeed seem bizarre to prefer the constant stresses and exploitations of an enemy to the love and charity of a friend.  Another key assumption regarding “friend-enemy” is that of identity—a friend is on our team; an enemy is on the opposing team.  Thus, in a gang, the police are the enemy while members of the gang are friends.  Now consider, is it not possible that a policeman might have more of the best interest of a gang member at heart than the individual’s own fellow gang members?  In short, the policeman might be the true friend while the fellow gang members are just using the individual.  In short, we cannot assume that people who associate with us in a gang (even though on our team) are in fact true friends.  So, a problem with the 2nd Law is that is does not discriminate between true friends and false friends or friends merely of convenience.  Likewise it does not discriminate between true enemies and enemies based purely on opposing team membership.  Should we attempt to make friends of enemies as President Lincoln wanted to do?  The answer must surely be “Yes, but certainly not at all costs.”  Friendship must mean something to be real—it must be true friendship based on the disciplines of love.

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