Crush Your Enemy

Exploring The 48 Laws of Power

Lord, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my enemies.
— Voltaire, 1694-1778

Law 1: Never outshine the master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please and impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite — inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

I am made of blood-lust. I am ready to kill for survival, even when survival isn’t on the line, and that has done a lot for my professional life. Additionally, it has destroyed my personal life, but that’s a story best reserved for another law.

In my final year of high school, the position of editor-in-chief became available for my school’s paper. I had already logged five semesters in the journalism program as a writer and section editor, but was vying for this top position.

The time and effort I put into it was uncalled for: it didn’t pay, I wouldn’t get credits for the course since I was maxed out and I already had a 100 per cent average in the class. My want for this job – which eventually took up so much of my life that I failed math and didn’t even care – was the new target for my blood-lust.

Everyone else I knew was already sure I was going to get it, but I always thought of it as my job to lose. I lived and breathed and ate (sometimes literally) that paper. I yelled at idiots for missing deadlines and using irrelevant images. I was a power-hungry bitch year after year and it felt good. This job meant my title would finally match my actions.

Naturally, I became even more of a crazy lady when the job became available. I started competing with people who didn’t even know they were in competition with me. I would feign interest in them socially and pretend like I wasn’t completely set on what I wanted.

So, have you given any thought to the EIC position? Oh, I don’t know, maybe I’ll get it, I’m not really thinking about it. (Lie.) There’s a lot of people who deserve it. (Not really.) You should totally apply! (You should not.) I think you’d be great at it. (You would not.) Wouldn’t it be cool if we were EICs together? (Dear god, no.) Have you given any thought to what you would do for the colour issue? Naw, me neither. (Lie.)

If I got wind that someone else was interested in the position, I would immediately edit their work more harshly, not letting a single typo or malapropism slide without snark.

I was the master.

There were a few, however, who would only speak to me when armed with compliments. “Scaachi, you’re totally going to get it, don’t even be modest! Your article about Paris Hilton (note: it was relevant subject matter at the time) was so funny in the last issue (AND IT WAS). You would make the paper so good, I really hope you get it.”

I wasn’t suspicious of these people, and why should I have been? They weren’t smarter than me, no more determined, no more dedicated to the cause of social outcast in honor of the Scarlett FEVER.

Still, they were smart enough to make me look smarter, and those were the kinds of people to keep around. I thought.

It’s been three years since those moments of feeling such power, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as professionally huge since I was 17. I’ve just finished my third year in of my undergraduate degree in journalism and I am a tiny fish in an overpopulated pond.   

As one of the nothings, it would be almost impossible for me to display so much talent that a greater journalist felt threatened by my presence. Regardless, sometimes I pet their egos all the same. It keeps them at bay and I am quickly forgettable. 

I am not the master.

While I am careful to show my little talents in full (which, really, I’m not that cute and I’m not so smart but sometimes I can be a little clever), I am sure to watch narcissism. I may be small now, but I won’t be forever.

I started my final year of high school with the news that another pair had gotten EICs for the first semester. I would have to wait another four months before it was my turn. The new editors weren’t quick to forget my previously haughty and belittling behavior. If I thought I was being subtle, I was wrong.

It wasn’t a fun semester.

This first law may be a lesson to me and other little fishes to know their place, but between the lines is a lesson to the mighty: if you fall after being an asshole, it’s going to suck. (I think Machiavelli said something similar but I have obviously phrased it in a much more elegant manner.)

Living this law is almost inevitable in my stage of life. I don’t have any superiority to exert. And anyone foolish enough to underestimate the people beneath them deserves the fear and insecurity when they’re surpassed.

Keeping to yourself is fine, but when it comes to masking my abilities to reducing myself in order to let other people feel secure – that makes everyone look stupid.

It is possible to be the master without being an asshole. I haven’t completely learned that lesson yet, but I figure that’s something that takes more than two decades of life to figure out.

But once I discover the fine balance between control and humility, I am going to kill all of you.

Pathological, pedestrian, or partial: Partial, because you’ll only understand the law in hindsight.

Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies.

Image: The Stars in the Sky. There can only be one sun at a time. Never obscure the sunlight, or rival the sun’s brilliance; rather, fade into the sky and find ways to heighten the master star’s brilliance.
The 48 Laws of Power, Law 1, page 6
Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, 1469-1527

Living by the 48 Laws

I’m big on books about self-improvement. I like the idea of becoming a better human without really working for it. I especially like self-improvement books rooted in something intrinsically selfish, since I probably am anyway.

Kindness is not my forte, and while I’ve spent years trying to be sweeter, more benevolent, more generous or generally made attempts to subvert my natural inclinations, I’ve decided that a few decades of fighting against myself is enough. Maybe it’s time to give in to what feels right, if not for a little while.

The 48 Laws of Power has been sitting on my bookshelf for some time, an intimating brick that looks boring and lofty. It’s a Joost Elffers book and was co-written by Robert Greene, whose other work includes The Art of Seduction and The 50th Law, which he wrote with 50 Cent. If that isn’t literary credibility, I don’t know what is.

The bestseller claims to be “for those who want POWER, watch POWER, or want to arm themselves against POWER.” In essence, the book is an amoral and cunning approach to life which will teach readers how to manipulate in order to get what they want.

By using Machiavellian language along with real-life applications, the book leaves it to the reader to decide what ethical implications come with their actions.

There are 48 laws crammed in the book’s 452 pages. Its design is creepy and almost dark, like something that could be found in the restricted section at Hogwarts. (How old am I?)

Some laws are subtle and coy (“Do not build fortresses to protect yourself”), others are bordering on sociopathy (“Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim”) while others still would be hilarious if the authors weren’t 100 per cent genuine (“Do not commit to anyone.”)

My favourite so far? “Crush your enemy totally.”

I don’t like being out of control, and I really don’t like when other people exercise control over me, so naturally this book is right up my alley. From the outside, I appear calm and aware of my surroundings, but if you get closer, you’ll see that I’m chaotic and frustrated.

Each week, I’ll live by one law and see how far it gets me. I don’t put a lot of bank in karma or sweetness without purpose, but maybe this will reform me into a nice gal. (Or maybe it’ll affirm my belief in bluntness.)

What do I really want? Peace and quiet from the voice that everyone has that tells them they’re too small.

In full disclosure, this is actually my cousin’s book. It was a gift to her from a coworker, and I think the note he wrote to her aptly describes the opposite of this project: “Don’t be evil. And don’t even think about trying to use any of this on me.”

Too late.

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