Our human psyche is like a horse with many masters, and ranked among them is Government, and Media, and Business. One master sees that the blinders never fail in their task of administering blindness. One master investigates the reins constantly, to guard against an encroachment by the individual will. One master tests the harness constantly, that the servile brute may not forget its allotted and proper burden. Other and subtler masters note the aspects of the terrain and the feed and the healthy future of the breed: they stand aloof.
The facility for business is a reasonably constructed and physical extension of the primal hunting instinct of the carnivore, and is itself as clearly a tool of physical contest as is a spear, a trained dog, a nuclear explosive, or a padded bosom. It is a tool whose use extends the power of the animal beyond the borders of naked animality. Its function is of acquisition and of destruction. It kills, that the animal may eat, and the animal is to eat, that it may kill.
All who share the privilege and the responsibility of life, live upon this wheel of natural whim. As the mind is the function of the brain, so this special tool hidden among folds in the fisted brain, has as its function that aspect of the mind which equips the physical body. The carnivore without it is doomed to be a brief and sorry meat for its fellows.
What traits of personality are required for business? One must be intelligent and single-minded, and troubled by no untamed conscience. Monomania is crucial. Imagination is dangerous and useless. An abundance of energy is vital. Scruples are decorative, not functional.
The activity of a real and vigorous imagination poisons the will, by suggesting too many alternatives, and kills single-mindedness. Single-mindedness depends on the channeled presence of the personal portion of communal will, and if the channel enlarges, the will can get no grip, and flounders.
What are the social skills required to participate effectively in this chattering session of business? A person must be able to mimic the reactions of one’s peers, must be malleable as a chameleon, so that none will be aware if one chance to have qualms of conscience or stirrings of humanity, and so that none will be aware if one chance to have a moment of individual awareness. To wake surrounded by the inhabitants of a dream, would be dangerous as to swim with sharks.
One must lie easily, remembering always the essential falsehoods of one’s profession, and believing the lies as they are invented on the tongue. If you do not believe your own lies as you speak them, nobody else will believe them, and you will have withdrawn sufficiently from the game that you may not believe the lies of your peers.
Truth will never be as popular as lies, because it seems harder, and bleaker. Almost invariably, we prefer the phonies among our contemporaries, rather than folks of truth or genius. In superficiality is happiness, when we fear the truth, and feel belittled by genius. Little people love displays of littleness, because littleness allows them to feel real, and nobody loves to feel substantial as a bubble.
One who perceives the surface clearly enough, will understand the depths beneath the surface comfortably, though inarticulably, and may be uninterested in those depths. To be a successful seller, one must ignore anything beyond the surface of reality. One must believe in the surface with unfeigned sincerity.
Sincerity is prized, while honesty is abhorred, and sincerity must have the appearance of sincerity, or it counts as nothing. Every intelligent and civilized society values the appearance of sincerity more than it values sincerity itself. The appearance of reality is more important than is actual reality. Appearance is the only thing that superficials dare to trust, the only thing that may be discussed easily.
The appearance is real and exists on the superficial plane of reality, and is the nearest thing to substance that is available to normal folks. The appearance of things, is the clearest indicator of truth and reality and substance, that normalcy is permitted, and this is healthy. To ignore the appearance and the superficial, is unhealthy.
This plane of the superficial, is the domain of those three masters we spoke of. Business, and Government, and Media, each has a fine and imposing abode on this level, and each has many servants and formidable affairs.
To be excellent at business, one must enjoy it utterly, and one must consider it a fine game to be played well. To be a champion at business, beyond mere excellence, it must be religion. Somebody who is so good at being bad, must pay an awful price for the privilege. Why do so many people pay such a devastating price, forsaking conscience, family, and self?
Every religion requires martyrs, and martyrs work for nothing. Their bosses reap the glory.
We strive to succeed in business because acquisition is the human pursuit, and we would match our fellows. What pleasure would be found in life apart, striving for baubles our various authority figures have preached against, striven to suppress, and mocked? The fruits of acquisition seem tangible. They can be held in hand like Faberge eggs. They can be walked upon, like beaches in an earthly paradise. Their acquisition permits us to forget the coming and the gnawing precipice, the yawning reward, the sleep without rest.
Our fear dissolves when we confront the acceptedly real and the acceptedly desirable, and if later it prove a mirage, that is irrelevant.
Pursuing what our fellows pursue, we forget our smallness, insignificance and loneliness. What comfort had Galileo though he was right? What comfort had Gauguin? What comfort had Christ? The human needs went unanswered, and each must have been a focal point of cosmic doubt, an arena of the psyche. The loneliness must have been fraught with horror, and fear.
In the night our human loneliness crawls across the ceiling and stares down at us, and though we cannot see it, we feel that it is there. It mocks us as we watch it through our closed or open eyes, or through our fingers which splay like trembling fans upon our faces. We hear it scuttling and we hear it whimpering and whispering like the beating of a heart. We are reminded of the basis on which all illusion shimmers awhile, and it is unmindful of us, and unkind. We want the great basis to confide with us, and its tongue is unmoved.
Honorable suffering is humanity’s only possible gift to Deity, and it is not enough.
It is our normal desire to escape the offering of that gift, and we attempt this when we choose to remain always on the surface of desire, the surface of reality and life. Therefore a reasonable society embraces the march of business, and of war. War is only business with its sleeves rolled up.
All of the world’s business has one goal, and efforts made in business have been attempts pulsing toward that goal. To define the goal precisely would require the use of many words, and two aspects would be implicit in any definition, and would be explicit in any honest definition. Despite any decorative digressions, the goal of business and of war includes the enslavement of the human race and the destruction of the planet.
The best people among the devotees to commerce, these myrmidons to Mammon, prefer to pretend that their personal goals are somehow short of this grand goal, but in their hearts and brains they know that nobody is fooled. Each can tell easily what the others do, and each permits a mantel of confusion to settle over all.
Lying doesn’t bother them. They are good at it. The unluckiest among them pale with disgust every morning when they confront the bathroom mirror. The luckiest among them are scarcely ashamed at all. The proudest among them are frightened because they know they have betrayed themselves, and somewhere the almost inaudible voice of conscience still murmurs.
While it’s true that those who are too susceptible to morality’s punctilio may be disgusted by business, it’s also true that we are easily disgusted by things we are not in sympathy with. For many folks, and usually for the poorest of us, business is just the science of cheating people, a mindless obscenity, and yet to a business buff, the act of being in business justifies one’s existence to oneself and to one’s Deity. Sometimes businessfolks wonder that they are unable to appreciate the uncommon, and yet is that truly so odd, since they revel so in the common?
Does a robber-baron truly believe that a lifetime dedicated to the crippling and assassination of whole families by the thousands, is balanced by building a concert hall as he is about to die? Do such acts of dishonor go unrecorded into the dawn of prehistory and the dusk of post-history?
“As mere human knowledge can split a ray of light and analyze the manner of its composition, so sublimer intelligences may read in the feeble shining of this earth of ours, every thought and act, every vice and virtue, of every responsible creature on it.” Amen.
And yet their desperate hope and prayer is for a Ptolemaic and all-inclusive silence, silent as a perfectly managed conscience, even on Sunday.