Law 20: Do Not Commit To Anyone: The 48 Laws Of Power
“It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others — playing people against one another, making them pursue you.”
Part 1: Do Not Commit To Anyone But Be Courted By All
“If you allow people to feel they possess you to any degree, you lose all power over them. By not committing your affections, they will only try harder to win you over. Stay aloof and you gain the power that comes from their attention and frustrated desire. Play the Virgin Queen: Give them hope but never satisfaction”
Observance Of The Law
In the mid 1500s Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England. For many years the issue of who she would marry was debated in Parliament. In this era it was expected that a queen must marry as soon as possible so she could continue the succession, bare children and rule. After many years of debating the Queen had many noble bachelors come to her side all attempting to prove their worthiness as a potential husband.
The Queen was urged to quickly marry before she was too old to bear children. In the midst of this pressure she did not argue against Parliament, she simply remained a virgin. The delicate game Elizabeth played with her suitors slowly made her the subject of innumerable sexual fantasies and the object of cultish worship as she become known as “the worlds empress”. Elizabeth was executing this law to stringently through her non-commitment to anyone.
Elizabeth even manipulated two French dukes (brothers of the French king) as she kept both their hopes for marriage alive to bide time for a peace treaty to be signed between France and England. For the sake of diplomacy, she allowed herself to be courted by a man whose presence she could not stand and whom she found physically repulsive. She used her ‘non-commitment’ to her advantage to rule her country and see it prosper. “Eventually she was too old to bear children. She was accordingly able to live the rest of her life as she desired, and she died peacefully as the Virgin Queen. She left no direct heir, but ruled through a period of incomparable peace and cultural fertility.”
“Elizabeth knew that marriage can often lead to a female ruler’s undoing: By marrying and committing to an alliance with one party or nation the queen becomes embroiled in conflicts that are not of her choosing, conflicts which may eventually overwhelm her or lead her into a futile war”
Elizabeth had two goals: avoid marriage and avoid war.
“She managed to combine these goals by dangling the possibility of marriage in order to forge alliances. The moment she committed to any single suitor would have been the moment she lost her power. She had to emanate mystery and desirability, never discouraging anyone’s hopes but never yielding. As the center of attention, she
was in control. Keeping her independence above all, Elizabeth protected her power and made herself an object of worship”
“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.” ~ Queen Elizabeth I, 1533–1603
Keys To Power
This idea of non-commitment while being courted brings up the conversation of certain woman who play this game very tactfully through many mediums of social media. This is not to say men don’t play the same game, it just appears woman are far more prominent at courting attention through similar methods that Queen Elizabeth used.
We see this in individuals who have large social media followings. Through posting provocative photos and video’s they attract and court mass attention. Modern society uses the word ‘thirst’ to describe this phenomena. I particularly like Ed Latimore’s definition.
Examples of how many are caught in this web can be seen in anyone’s Facebook or Instagram feed. Here’s two photo’s of courting attention through provocation.
In the time of Queen Elizabeth, we would’ve most commonly found women looking for commitment through marriage flaunt their sexuality and stature to court and manipulate men.
What’s most interesting is that now these habits are not just found within single men and women looking to stir up attention and placate their ego, but among those already in relationships. The first photo of Nicki Minaj is a an example of this.
Understand: To have attention is to have potential power. Regardless of how society attempts to shame and guilt woman (or men) for exhibiting provocative behaviour, you can play the modern day Queen Elizabeth by leveraging strengths such as your appearance to court attention and manifest power, money and influence.
“Remember, though: The goal is not to put people off, or to make it seem that you are incapable of commitment. Like the Virgin Queen, you need to stir the pot, excite interest, lure people with the possibility of having you.”
The possibility of having somebody — the mystery of not knowing what’s going to come next is what’s enticing to so many people. It’s why the opposite sex has so much ‘potential for power‘. There’s a certain power to be said about a woman who can excite interest and entice a man through the unknown. Do I believe the same can be said for men? Yes. But woman have often been represented as ‘sexual beings’, and on the occasion worshiped as god’s through dozens of cultures over thousands of years. This has clearly influenced the manner to which we treat and look at the female gender today.
Which brings up the topic of marriage and the question of whether human beings are meant to be with one person for their entire life? I don’t have the answer, you must do what is right for you. But arranged marriages have long been the norm in Indian society for hundreds of years. On the other hand, there are many today who believe in polyamory — being romantically involved with more than one person at the same time. If you were to take this law literally, maybe you would fall into the something along the lines of polyamory. Though who sais you’re not committing in that case either? Are you simply committing to multiple people or do you remain detached because there are multiple people involved? I don’t have the answer.
Though relationships is not the only application of this law. When Picasso had become one of the most successful artists in the world he did not commit to any one dealer. His talent attracted offers from left and right yet he appeared to have no interest in any one individual service, this increased the demand for his service and thus his prices and notoriety.
“Do not commit do anyone” can additionally be related to one’s values,opinions and beliefs. Humans can be very stubborn creatures stuck in comfortable habits and thought processes. When we don’t question our beliefs we find ourselves overly committing to one idea or philosophy as ‘the only truth’. In an effort to break this stagnating habit and become fluid with one’s ideas, try this method of ‘self-questioning’.
Can you argue the opposing point of view as well as you argue your own?
If you were to believe the opposite of what you believed, could you create rational reasoning why one would believe that? For example, if you were a vegan, could you argue for the point of view of someone who eats meat?
The point of this is exercise is to distinguish the strengths and weaknesses for each argument in an effort to deploy understanding and empathy to the other side all whilst staying detached from your own.
Part 2: Do Not Commit To Anyone Stay Above The Fray
“Do not let people drag you into their petty fights and squabbles. Seem interested and supportive, but find a way to remain neutral; let others do the fighting while you stand back, watch and wait. When the fighting parties are good and tired they will be ripe for the picking. You can make it a practice, in fact to stir up quarrels between other people, and then offer to mediate, gaining power as the go between.”
Indian Fable: The Kites, The Crows, and the Fox
“The kites and the crows made an agreement among themselves that they should go halves in everything obtained in the forest. One day they saw a fox that had been wounded by the hunters lying in a helpless condition under a tree, and gathered round it.
The crows said, “We will take the upper half of the fox.”
“Then we will take the lower half,” said the kites.
The fox laughed at it, and said, “I always thought the kites were superior in creation to the crows; as such they must get the upper half of my body, of which my head, with the brain and other delicate things in it, forms a portion.”
“Oh, yes, that is right,” said the kites; “we will have that part of the fox.”
“Not at all,” said the crows?” we must have it, as already agreed.” Then a war arose between the rival parties, and a great many fell on both sides, and the remaining few escaped with difficulty.
The fox continued there for some days, leisurely feeding on the dead kites and crows, and then left the place hale and hearty, observing, “The weak benefit by the quarrels of the mighty.”
The fox prolonged his life by turning the kites and the crows against each other. The kites and crows had committed to one side — to one idea of having a specific portion of the fox, when of course, it really didn’t matter in reality because both were going to eat. As a result of their commitment and steadfastness to not change their opinion in light of their pride, conflict arose and many died. The essence of this story occurs every day. People frequently commit too far to one side letting their ego and pride drive them. They may not die as a result, but they may lose a friend, money, spouse or simply an opportunity.
Keys To Power
The following is one of my favorite highlights of The 48 Laws Of Power. There is an incredible amount of truth and wisdom about the human condition to be learnt.
“To succeed in the game of power, you have to master your emotions. but even if you succeed in gaining such self control, you can never control the temperamental dispositions of those around you. And this presents a great danger. Most people operate in a whirlpool of emotions, constantly reacting, churning up squabbles and conflicts. Your self control and autonomy will only bother and infuriate them. They will try to draw you into the whirlpool, begging you to take sides in their endless battles, or to make peace for them.
If you succumb to their emotional entreaties, little by little you will find your mind and time occupied by their problems. Do not allow whatever compassion and pity you possess to suck you in. You can never win in this game; the conflicts can only multiply. On the other hand, you cannot completely stand aside, for that would cause needless offense. To play the game properly you must seem interested in other peoples problems, even sometimes appear to take their side. But while you make outward gestures of support, you must maintain your inner energy and sanity by keeping your emotions disengaged.
No matter how hard people try to pull you in never let your interest in, their affairs and petty squabbles go beyond the surface. Give them gifts, listen with a sympathetic look, even occasionally play the charmer — but inwardly keep both the friendly kings and the perfidious Borgias at arms length. By refusing to commit and thus maintaining your autonomy you retain the initiative: Your moves stay matters of your own choosing, not defensive reactions to push and pull of those around you. Slowness to pick up your weapons can be a weapon itself, especially if you let other people exhaust themselves fighting, then take advantage of their exhaustion.”
“Often times when a conflict breaks out, you are tempted to side with the stronger party.” The want to side with the one with that offers the most advantages is a natural instinct. Greene notes why this can be risky.
“First, it is often difficult to foresee which side will prevail in the long run. But even if you guess right and ally yourself with the stronger party, you may find yourself swallowed up and lost, or conveniently forgotten, when they become victors. Side with the weaker on the other hand, and your are doomed. But play a waiting game and you cannot lose.” How often have we seen great sports team’s notorious for winning fall to a superficially ‘weaker’ side.
When people rush into situations quickly committing to one side, maneuverability is lost. Commit to often and to haphazardly and people begin to lose respect for you. This behaviour tells other’s how easily you give yourself away physically and mentally.