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"To enjoy freedom, we have of course to control ourselves." - Virginia Woolf

We live in a society, and societies only function when AnIndividual fits into the BehavioralNorms and CommunityExpectations of that society. Societies have many tools of control and regulation, from SocialNormalization, to means to EnforceResponsibility, to PassiveDefense?s like GuidePosts, to even ActiveDefense?s like a PoliceForce. However, there is a certain fiction to these structures. They only work so long as TheIndividuals collectively agree to go along with them.

In the West, the solipsist, stoic, and sceptical philosophers have long since argued that the only reality we experience is the one inside our heads. Because we are separated from the external world through our imperfect senses, the only Truth we can really know is what is within our own minds, and thus the world is limited to the bounds of our own mental experiences. PostModernists have taken this to an extreme, looking at how all our social rules are SocialConstruction?s, and subject to misinterpretation, reinterpretation, disobedience, shifts through time, and other messy subjects.

In the East, people have taken another perspective. Recognizing that societies rise and fall, fences are built and torn down, and social rules change as fast as you want them to, NonAttachment? to the external world is essential lest one get swept away with the past (or the untold future). The only thing that is constant throughout this time is our sense of self, and that is of course only to ourselves and to no one else. Thus, while whatever we build will be destroyed, for the LifeAsLived?, we should focus first on growing personally because that is the only thing we carry with us from moment to moment.

Another way to look at this is to ask ourselves two simple questions: How do we get others to do what we want of them? How do others make us do what they want of us? The first question is innocuous until you consider the second. Certainly others convince us do what they want of us through force, need, fulfillment of desire, or agreement, but it's difficult to make us do something. Even under the threat of torture, the Stoics would remind us that we remain in control of what we believe and think. They may gain control of our bodies, but not our minds.

If others cannot control us, how do we control them? The answer is we don't. We only have the illusion of control over others. We can only get others do things if we have the influence to convince them to act as we want them to. Sure, we might have enough power over them to coerce them, through threats or need, such as a PoliceForce with their guns or your employer by your paycheque. But still, there are moments of choice we all face in these situations. To fight back (as in QuebecCity) or to quit. As TheIndividuals we are, we crave the freedom to make these choices--we disdain coercion. Ultimately, the best way to get someone to do something you want is be so convincing, they will do it willingly and with pleasure. Thus, the person is not controlled, but rather acting out their own life path. When your life path and others' life paths converge together around a SuperordinateGoal, magic happens.

We should seek that magic as much as possible. But it seems like it rarely happens. Why?

Well, of course there are many reasons, but often we disable the chance for magic when we seek to control others. Certainly, there is value in controlling others. People are powerful; as machines they are labour to get things done in the physical world. Either as cogs in the machine or a potential army, the strength in organizing people is well known, and the person who is master of that strength is the strongest. But of course, only that person is strong, and the meek may rise up to DevolvePower back to themselves again. To prevent that from happening too often, we created institutions to enfranchise AnIndividual so that they may regain control over their own lives.

By controlling others we enter into a ConflictCycle of revolution and counterrevolution. The human struggle is to escape this cycle. Liberalization seeks to give each person as much control over their own lives as possible, and it is in opposition to the greed of strength.

Even if we are not seeking to move mountains, we often wish to be strong in our individual lives so that we aren't coerced in ways we don't wish to. But if we AssumeGoodFaith, is it really that others are trying to push us around? We might have a conflict over a limited resource, or contrasting goals, but that doesn't have to be personal.

When someone is annoying you, are you taking it too personally? Is someone really threatening you? Are they really angering you, or are you under an AngryCloud, incapable of empathizing with their real motivations?

All too often we project our own internal negativity onto others. If we are insecure or uncomfortable or anxious, we make others suffer for our unease. You may be under an AngryCloud, but that is no one else's problem. Since violence begets violence, as AssumeGoodFaith says, "It is unwise to test others' ability to assume you are acting in good faith." Learn to DampenEmotions, both in text and in yourself. But also in others--it's critical to AlleviateInsecurities? in others rather than exacerbate them.

You need to Wiki:BlameYourselfFirst (but not necessarily last). What could we have done differently to have made the situation better? Every situation is an opportunity for personal growth.

Of course, not everyone controls themselves, and we need to protect ourselves. Controlling yourself is a defensive measure as well. DissuadeInteraction with people with whom you do not need interact. LimitTemptation for others to disrupt your life.

Some people try to control others because they feel morally superior. When encountering others who do not behave appropriately (which, let's face it, does happen), they feel the need to control that individual. Often the control process begins with blame. However, this rarely works. Instead it results in a conflict. As long as the attitude is one of condescending moral superiority, there is no hope of dialogue and no hope of BarnRaising. Rather, one should empathize with the other individual through ActiveEngagement?. Even if the other person's actions are indefensible (say hate speech), there is no sense in trying to berate them. All you can do is ControlYourself to control how affected you are by the other person's behaviour. You may end the relationship with them, but you can't change them.

And finally, controlling others only works when you have a power over relationship. In an OnlineCommunity though, we are here because we choose to be. No one is paying us to be here. Since the SwitchingCosts are so low, we all have the RightToLeave, which we will exercise quite quickly. We will AvoidConflict, and by extension coercion. If it isn't fun, it isn't worth it. Since you can't control anyone else in an OnlineCommunity you are left with only one option: to ControlYourself.

As FidonetPolicyFour (Section 9.1.) states so succinctly:

  1. Thou shalt not excessively annoy others.
  2. Thou shalt not be too easily annoyed.

What does it mean to "not be too easily annoyed?" It means to ControlYourself. What does it mean not to excessively annoy others? It means to ControlYourself.

ControlYourself. While we may not be able to do this all the time, since controlling others consumes so much time and energy, we should reserve that for when it is absolutely necessary. ControlYourself because most of the time you will fail to control others.

The ability to ControlYourself is the essence of maturity.

CategoryPower CategoryConflict


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