Friday, October 16, 2009

A Nobel Laureate

I tend to divide the world into two groups of people: those who are Manipulators, and … the rest of us.

The Manipulators are the ones who work the system for their own personal benefit. Whatever the arena in which they find themselves, their work is NOT for the common good or the benefit of the enterprise. It is for the personal power and authority of the Manipulator.

You probably have run into a Manipulator in your work environment. This is the person who constantly asks, “What’s in it for me?” If work is to proceed on a particular project, and the buy-in of the Manipulator is required, there must be a benefit that accrues to the Manipulator. Without that benefit in place, the Manipulator does not support the project, and work on it does not move forward.

The hallmark of a Manipulator is inconsistency of principle. A principle is supported only so long as it benefits the Manipulator. You might hear this characterized as opportunism, but I think it goes beyond that. The Manipulator has to sell his or her position on a particular principle, so there is an emotional component or “passion” that has to be applied. The degree and depth of communication of this passion is what distinguishes a great Manipulator from an average one.

Politics is a magnet for Manipulators. It is the arena where their craft can be employed in the context of a high-stakes game. The game has high costs in terms of both lives and property, and the Manipulator works to make sure that all risks are assumed by others.

President Obama is slated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize is awarded for various reasons, but in his case it appears to be awarded for appeasement! He is being celebrated for expressing the idea that, “I can get along with people who want to kill me.” His message is that others should feel the same way.

World opinion, with few exceptions, legitimizes this position.

The problem with the President’s position is that the risk is assumed by all of us who don’t have access to the protections afforded the POTUS. Mr. Obama is protected by one of the best security details in the world. While he is able to profess being comfortable with people who want to kill him, he knows that those same people will have a difficult time achieving their objective. That is not so true for the rest of us.

Getting along with people who want to kill you doesn't work out well. Cambodians remember the 1975 to 1979 years in which 2 million people died. Rwandans will remember the 1 million lost in 1994. And yet it still seems that appeasement is held out as a noble stance.

What will cause appeasement to lose its cachet? REALITY!

When a Holocaust occurs, people pay attention. If you are still trying to get along with those who are butchering other people, you become subject to ridicule. This is what the Manipulator cannot stand. The principle on which the position of appeasement was taken will change, and change fast.

This all sounds like extreme imagery, but I think we should remove appeasement from the realm of platitudes and euphemism. Think of Microsoft and its products. For whatever reason, certain people want to harm Microsoft. Hackers create ways to access the Microsoft operating system and do harm to its users. Microsoft could issue a statement saying “Microsoft wants to get along with those who wish to do it harm,” but that would not be in the best interest of Microsoft shareowners. They expect the company to protect itself and to protect them.

Why is this an obvious position to take, and yet in the world of politics, it is deemed right and natural to want to get along with those who want to kill you?

I don’t have a good answer, but it’s what makes politics interesting.

UPDATE 11/07/2009:
The Fort Hood incident on Thursday is a tragedy that brings into focus the clash between Nobel fantasy and reality. Note that the President has been careful in his remarks about the shooting. Rather than devote time specifically to acknowledgement of the tragedy, he packages his remarks within the context of other announcements.

The deaths of 13 people in a "gun free zone" is what politicians might call the "tension between idealism and reality." The President does not want to break that "Peace Prize aura" by acknowledging that his desire to get along with people who want to kill him might be dangerous for others.

His style of "leadership by example" comes dangerously close to being "leadership by hypocrisy."


  1. Great site Howard, thanks for the kind words for my site and thanks for the welcome to your state. As you said, not all CO residents are nuts and fruits, you prove this in spades.....


  2. Thanks for the comment.

    For those of you unfamiliar with "Left Coast Rebel", please go to his site and take a look:

    While the concept of "faint praise" does come to mind with the nuts and fruits remark, Colorado definitely had some nice weather for the CU game, and we are always happy to share our state with friendly folks from California.

    Come back soon!