Jun. 3rd, 2004

mirrorshard: (Default)
Rambling time... bear with me, please. Or, alternatively, go read something else. The power, Gentle Reader, is entirely in your hands - nobody is forcing you to do anything, in any way.

Apt, I suppose, because force is the subject of this particular meaningless post. I've had a certain amount of experience with social groups ruled by force and ego, having gone through a more than usually rough school, and then spending most of my university years hanging around with roleplayers and SF geeks - you know, the ones who idolize fighting types, massive destruction, the solving of problems with weaponry, and Big Fucking Guns. Mind you, this is a wild generalization, and not all of them were like that.

But I think I'm safe in saying that any social group run on force (either social pressure or physical force, or the threat thereof) ends up with basically four types of people in it: bullies, yes-men, wimps, and benevolent tyrants.

Which is to say, the ones who get off on using force and proving their power and authority, either to good ends or to bad; the ones who want to have a quiet life and get it by agreeing with someone more powerful or charismatic than them; and the ones who don't want to have anything to do with the whole dominance thing, or who know they'll lose whenever it comes down to a contest, but can't or won't get out of it for one reason or another.

One common error they all fall into is in coming to accept that 'how things are' is 'how things ought to be'. There are basically three kinds of people: elected officials, who have a certain amount of power and the responsibility to use it the way their electorate want, or will accept; appointed officials, who have, again, a certain amount of power, and are answerable to the person or group who appointed them; and private citizens, who have whatever power they can scrape together and are answerable only to the written or unwritten rules of the social group they're operating in.

So, if these private citizens feel they have power, they'll use it to enforce their whims, even when - or especially when - they think these whims to be some sort of social or universal rule.
"You don't sit in Big Joe's chair."
"Only complete losers drink Diet Coke."
"No complaining if you aren't One of Us."

They also tend to think in black and white terms, in my experience, and don't understand a couple of basic principles of game theory - for instance, that what they're playing isn't a zero sum game, and that their winning condition doesn't necessarily match up with the other person's.

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