Love Your Enemies?

August 22, 2018

What do you think of LinkedIn? Or the Freemasons? Or Stringfellows? Or Facebook?

These are all places where people of business go to meet and greet others who like themselves are in business. It’s the phenomenon we hear about named ‘networking’.

There are professional helpers offering help available, and who make their livings by helping business people increase their ‘reach’ on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. This is an industry sprung up which engineers introductions to others in the business world. It’s a way of pushing the envelope just that bit further so as to meet and team with or buy from or sell to people seeking similar - A lonely hearts club for those without enough work or means!

Put simply, these venues are clubs. In themselves they are businesses which submit yearly accounts and make-up profit and loss balance sheets; but their business is to be a club for like-minded people to mix with one another.

By definition clubs are exclusive. They have rules and they have premises and they have entry cards and entry fees. Abide by the rules, visit the premises, buy you card pay your fees and most times you can walk in and enjoy the facilities anytime you wish to. Without abiding by the rules; or with no card nor fee paid; the premises become off limits to you, and the enjoyment of facilities ends.

The nature of a club being exclusive means also that members are by their memberships privileged; beyond the scope of those who do not belong or have not joined.

I will exaggerate for emphasis sake and say that within this Charmed Circle a business person can operate. S/he can know s/he is among others also seeking to operate in similar ways. Should s/he meet someone who is there but not to do business s/he has every incentive to ask that person why s/he is present. There’s no point being there unless you want to do business.

A member has paid to have access to other business people like the member himself is.

Networking takes this congregation of traders a step further. Networking is the advertising world for entrepreneurs. Advertising confronts its publics not with bare introductions to goods and services, products, brands and companies selling and making things; advertising also does its best to sell us some of its goods and/or services. It aims to persuade us in any way it can which is not against law or regulation. All’s fair in love and war – and in advertising.

Networking is where entrepreneurs not only meet one another but also do their best to sell themselves, their products, brands, services, to those whom they are introduced via their club memberships. And the same arguments which apply to advertising to the larger public, apply equally also to the activities of persuasion and persuasiveness which entrepreneurs get up to on their club platforms.

Now everyone more or less knows all this already. Like the guy who drinks Guinness not because of its product image, but because it’s good for him. We know, so we think we are aware, we think we are on top of it, like Sherman Clump “I’m in control!”

But when we look around us at the world and see what goes on here day by day minute by minute ceaselessly and relentlessly and in great profusion; do we not ask ourselves very, very often; “is anyone in control of this world and what goes on in it?” We ask ourselves flabbergasted, gobsmacked, at a loss to find even a shred of an answer. We know the world of men and women is a world of chaos; as The Preacher saith: “Time and chance happeneth to them all”

Is my logic amiss were I to say that were each of us indeed in control and not merely assured of ourselves being in control; would not the world show a better orderliness and so be a more approachable place to try to understand?

“Our beginnings never know our ends”

So, in business clubs we are using the techniques of advertising, so far as we are aware of them and can simulate them, so as to meet and greet and do business with others, who are doing the exact same things.

This means that literally we are there to sell ourselves. As Danny de Vito as Harry, Matilda’s father, says to her when he boasts about his car sales:

“Smart shoes; snappy suit; well-oiled hair: they don’t buy a car: they by ME!”

To get on the good side of a person is more than half the battle in any exercise involving persuasion of the person. The queen to Edward II in Christopher Marlowe’s drama of that King Edward, desperate to win him over throws herself into his arms. He replies:

“Fawn not on me, French strumpet!”

The King had none of it. So what then if the soft-sell falls by the wayside? By short rebuke. It’s a personal affront. The person being persuaded doesn’t like you, and has shown himself to dislike you. End of relationship; at least for the time being.

So our feelings are engaged in this vying for custom and business; this selling of oneself on business club platforms. I might say that it is because our feelings are engaged that we know what we do know about how to ‘bring people onboard’ and to ‘win them over’, how to use our persuasions, our charm, our status, influence, power, beauty, wiles, and whatnot; all to close a deal and make some business.

Were our feelings not engaged we should be walking AI, rather than humans. Yet when we consider about strategy and approach, presentation and all that kind of thing, and beforehand to our Big Meeting or our Bold Pitch, we would like to consider ourselves to be calculating on how to approach etc, step by step planning, adjusting, adding, removing, revolving ideas, actions, offers, pleasantries the lot, so to get our Pitch like Little Bear’s Porridge just right.

This discrepancy between our feelings being engaged in the melee of negotiation and on the other hand our calculations planned and itemised beforehand, is akin to the discrepancy between our sense of being ‘in control’ and the clear contradiction of this which the state of the world shows to us.

It’s a comforting and slightly egoistical fantasy to think of oneself as being ‘in control’ especially in the heat of bargaining situations, or else that one is able beforehand to ‘calculate with precision” a successful business approach based on selling oneself etc.

[Re-enter Players with recorders]

HAMLET, O, the recorders! Let me see one. To withdraw with you:--why do you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?

GUILDENSTERN, O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.

HAMLET, I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?,

GUILDENSTERN, My lord, I cannot.

HAMLET, I pray you.

GUILDENSTERN, Believe me, I cannot.

HAMLET, I do beseech you.,

GUILDENSTERN, I know no touch of it, my lord.

HAMLET, 'Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

GUILDENSTERN, But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony; I have not the skill.

HAMLET, Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass: and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.

To think so is to hold fast to a logical contradiction. A person who is in control necessarily has the freewill and the awareness enabling her to manage as she pleases any situation ad hoc as it is happening. Yet our planning consciously, calculatedly, minutely, to clinch a deal by charm offensive, by selling ourselves, is a case that assumes illogically, provided all other things are to be considered equal, that the guys we are persuading do not also possess that freewill and the level of awareness, that cool planning ability, to enable them to refuse any approach we might be able to make.

So if you think yourself ‘in control’, what happens when you meet another person who is likewise ‘in control’ and doesn’t want to play? The resistless force meets the immovable object.

Of the right conduct issues arising out of a consideration of business clubs and their networking activities, there is a lot to be said.

I have used Advertising as our analogue to networking, and because it is possibly more clear to use it than networking to demonstrate the ethical impasses one confronts when one networks. A person networking has to be pleasant, even to those whom s/he might in fact loath, when the business demands demand this from her. A person might also have to be unkind, even when he feels a sense of sheer betrayal of another, when the circumstances of business call for it: Especially when his big chief boss is stood beside him, looking over his shoulder and restlessly waiting for the knife to go in.

Thus networking can be brutal, unfair, unkind, hurtful, harmful, antisocial, and sometime psychopathologically so. This is because networking friendships are not friendships per se. Another ‘kidding yourself’ item – just like the person who joys in 1.5 billion likes and follows on Facebook. (By the way: It has been reasonably estimated that an ordinary human being can deal with few more than two hundred friends/acquaintances before for the person’s people begin to become more and more cipher-like to add to his/her community. This is not to say that humans cannot feel deep sympathy and empathy with strangers and over distances of geography class wealth etc, etc. This two hundred statistic is some of the best evidence that I am aware of which speaks eloquently for the value of smaller communities and sets itself fiercely against mass society and against mass production, coercions, dominations, oppressions)

One would be kidding oneself were one to think one is ‘being friendly’ on business club networks. Use these networks by all means if you need to, but use them open-eyed for what they are: they are one of the The Western forms of corruption in public places; and we have little to hold up as evidence of us being holier than thou to any foreign state or nation.

There was an undertaker in USA in 19th century and his business just fell off and he couldn’t think why. He then discovered that his rival, only two undertakers in his town, was married to the telephone operator for the town switchboard. She had been putting through all calls asking for ‘an undertaker’ to her husband. True story. Look it up. We laugh at this story, but we laugh because of the cheeky business practice it demonstrates, and the unfair competition of the rival undertaker. Impudent. Cranky.

Can you see any parallels with the way many of us do our networking?

The guys at a place I worked had a sister organisation next door to them; each building employing over 1000 staff. The guy in my building, my boss, when he didn’t know something, he was pretty lazy and didn’t pick up anything unless he was forced to, he would phone the sister building and speak to his equivalent there and ask what his equivalent had done in such and such a situation. Whatever his equivalent said; he did his side. True again. Funny again. Except had you worked there.

Do you see any parallels with the way we tend to do networking here? (Does anyone enforce their NDAs?)

The problem with business platform networking is that business is prioritised above friendship. This would not matter were not friendship and general rubbing along together nicely with others not harnessed by these platforms as being the pole position UTILITY for doing this networking, business seeking. Friendship becomes subservient and not an end, not the end in itself. (The guy who flatters and sweetens his caller and smiles and bows and scrapes and then puts down the phone and swears: “Bastard!!” This is an ultimate parody of networking.)

Because business – aka - wealth-creation – aka – getting of money – has been placed above and beyond humankindness of friendships, so that even in an iota that a friend has become sacrificed for gain is horrid (and Moses has said that to break one item of the Law is to break the whole Law) – such a usurpation of place which the seeking for money has accomplished, has meant that networking, along with several other powerful and discrete pressures and trends in our society have presented their wedge edges being driven so as to cause a cleavage in our psyches. A breaking apart in them and a jettisoning of humane Christian values which have ever and always will carry their Divine powers for keeping in check and holding back in restraint the temptations of the politics and political economy of Mammon and of Babylon.

This Biblical language cuts no ice with so many of us right now. I have used it here deliberately so to demonstrate deliberately, how and that, the Bible has great relevance to us today – on how we live – on how we operate. Our economic watchwords, almost in our unconscious now since so well imbibed, are competition – in which inevitably there will be more losers than winners – free enterprise – in which the weakest go to the wall – in which it is gospel to sell in the dearest and buy in the cheapest markets – thus putting one’s greed before others’ need.

As for my title: Love your Enemies; alas we do not often even love our friends above getting a good closed deal. There is no room in the ideology of laissez faire Capital for loving one’s enemies; thus it is that our charity, our alms, are done in public; and in despite of the ethos of The Widow’s Mite and not in consonance with it. We have been taught to increase, to accumulate, wealth power possessions; and we have lost utterly the art of giving, in good measure, flowing over, and in abundance.

Business has too often usurped friendships and is aiming right now to move aside the worship of Christ and to steal his diadem. Our radios speak daily of the threat of lost business to the nation were we to act, or refrain from acting, and so do the right things in foreign affairs, in inward investments, in exports, in imports - and instead the economic criterion is honoured every time in bearing prime place.

I am in a wealthy country and am not short of the necessities of life. I am blessed. I understand many are equally worthy/unworthy with me to possess such boons; but who have pretty well nothing but woes and worries to live on. These people may think I have no right to talk down trade and money; which they need and desire desperately so to live at all.

Yet all my life we have seen charity and investments going into these places where people suffer, and some has been fruitful. Many places remain as poor as, or worse, than they ever were. Jesus said ‘The poor you shall have with you always” but I think in no way did he mean to justify our rich nations in their not committing sufficiently to the poorer ones.

I hear people around me in my country demanding our UK overseas aid budget be axed completely. I hear our government planning to axe winter fuel allowances for the elderly, many of whom die of hypothermia in wintertimes – and give the money they save on these to inward-investing entrepreneurs – heartless, heartless.

Jesus also said “From whom much is given much is expected”.

It makes me feel ashamed. The people here I might say are not in a sublunary California type Paradise for all their material means and exorbitant lifestyles. Many, maybe most, have no idea about life – about how it is lived and suffered in undeveloped nations – about what life might have been gifted to them for – about what might be a better way of life for everyone. Many maybe most, are not overly contented, but are striving after windmills, filling their thoughts and hearts with chasing vain things. Simply because the gospel is not heard by them: I say not heard by and not, not spoken to them, because their hearts have been led like sheep far astray from the gospel and so from – I use the word properly – REAL values.

Without them getting some awareness and them then making some attempt at living in adherence to real values – the gospel values – our people will never find peace or salvation, rest and understanding. Life will never be more for them than the conveyer belt of prizes on the TV game show.

And the great and almost ubiquitous thrust of our means of production and of our economic regimes in nearly every respect presses heavily and almost relentlessly the complete opposite way than does the gospel of Our Lord.

I know whom I have believed. I know who should take precedence.