The Impossibility of Respect
Written by Winter Trabex.
Mafia crime syndicates and governments have much in common. Both organizations operate through coercion, rather than through persuasion. Both seek to acquire material goods and wealth without providing value in return. Both use force as their final argument- though in the case of the government, force may only become apparent when a long, meandering, wasteful system of bureaucracies and courts have been endured. Both have top-down pyramidal structures of authority wherein people demand compliance from those who are lower in the command chain. Both organizations use violence for the purpose of theft.
In both organizations, rulers demand respect of the ruled without understanding the nature of respect. Respect is, of itself, a natural response to demonstrated or perceived virtue. The virtue thus perceived depends solely on the observer. A person who wishes to see individuals of a certain ethnicity killed will respond with respect to those who are willing to do so; thus, we have Neo-Nazis, who still hold true to what amounts to a religious belief in Adolf Hitler. When a virtuous action is perceived, respect for that action will be displayed.
In this case, it becomes readily apparent why both mafia leaders and politicians want to be respected by others. They do not, in fact, seek the transitory self-esteem boost that comes with being lauded by their peers. They seek a confirmation that their actions are virtuous, by means of inculcating respect in others. However, for mafia dons and presidents, the shows of respect they receive are far more often demonstrations of compliance rather a response to perceived virtue.
This is, in fact, why dictators and authoritarians of all types become enraged over the smallest slight given to them, why millions upon millions of people have died at the hands of people wielding the full and terrible power of the state- those seeking respect from others do not have by default. They must do whatever they can to force respect to come into being. Since both mafia dons and presidents very rarely- almost never- admit that they have done wrong, their actions are always driven by a belief in the system.
The combination of power combined with the ability to enforce one’s will through violence often presents a moral quandary that even best leaders cannot escape. Sentience- whether established upon analytical intelligence or reactionary instinct- is limited to the perspective of the self. There has not, nor is there ever likely to be, a person who can read other people’s minds (a telepath) or get a sense of their emotions (an empath). Selfishness in both people and animals has its origin in the limited perspective of sentience. A sense of infallibility also derives from this as well. Constantly living in an interior world where the self is the only known entity capable of experiencing emotion, of having unexpressed thought, of hoping and planning and dreaming, generates in human beings both a sense of isolation and a need to feel connected to other people. Human beings are social beings because of experiential solitude. A ruler is no more exempt from this perception than any other person. Having lived a life where one internalizes both selfishness and infallibility, it is no surprise to discover that such traits become exacerbated to the extreme. Rulers, both of mafia gangs and governments, don’t like to have their decisions questioned. They believe that they can do anything; it often transpires that they are willing to violate socially acceptable normative behavior. They are not like other men, it is said.
The quandary is simply this: a ruler who acquires a great deal of power has before him a choice to check his own behavior, or give in to others who are trying to check his behavior. It is so far against his own nature to admit that he was wrong in any action or behavior that a great deal of resistance arises when any wrongness is discovered. The autocrat’s favorite practice is to externalize problems on to other people and other situations, never believing- or even considering- that he himself might be the cause of whatever problem is going on. In this manner does it often occur that troubles flow downhill in any authoritarian organization; the ruler, refusing to admit his own hubris leads to far more problems than any factor which can be examined, creates unsafe environments in which to work.
In such organizations, middle managers are always coming and going while the rulers remain in power. Mafia groups and bureaucracies are structured in such a way that the rule of CYA- cover your ass- becomes more important than acting in a moral, or conscionable, manner. Inefficiencies arise when processes- be they theft or murder- become more about protecting oneself from the wrath of the ruler, rather than doing the job properly. The ruler, who prefers to take responsibility for his organization’s successes while foisting its failures onto others, often comes under criticism for such inefficiencies. An organization in which one man gives all the commands, has the final say on everything, must necessarily reflect the character of the ruler. An inefficient organization denotes an inefficient leader- such is the public’s perception.
For these reasons, and many others, it is impossible for any person committed to a process of critical thinking through rationality to show any sort of respect to any ruler whatsoever. The ruler may have been moral, upright, a perfect example of humanity before his ascension to power. After gaining power, it soon transpires that human nature asserts itself. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Rulers who perceive themselves to be virtuous wonder that no one else perceives their virtues. The disconnect is as far away from the ruler as another galaxy is from Earth: impossible to reach except under extraordinary circumstances. Such rulers must settle for false displays of respect, the outward signs of another person recognizing their virtue, for in displaying far more vice and immorality, rulers place themselves upon a throne made of swords, one in which they suffer even while celebrating the success of having acquired the throne itself.
It is a bitter victory, one that only those blinded by power and ambition would seek. Those who know that happiness is not contingent upon getting everyone else to obey one’s dictates seek a different path. A virtuous life, often sought but never realized by the ruler, is easily obtained by one who separates himself from power and prestige. It is something of an irony that respect is best earned by those who do not actively seek it, while those do seek it on a daily basis never receive it.
If you enjoyed this article, you can follow more of Winter on Liberty.me and check out Winter’s new book The Substance of Liberty: Freedom in an Unfree World. Please consider sending a BTC tip to Winter at: 1ACwZKrUPbZ5XWB3jEuTAsi8SrgeZftbxx