Category Archives: Aesop is not your friend

The last line of defense

The prime minister had enemies. Lots of enemies. Powerful enemies. Dangerous enemies. Enemies that could and would go the distance. The kinds of enemies that are not your friends.

But as Plato said: it is not your friends that teaches you to build high walls.

So he built the best wall of them all.

He named his successor, in no uncertain terms, and declared that if anything untoward were to happen, the successor would step in, effective immediately, with full ministerial authority. Which, to be sure, is how it usually goes, but know this: the appointed successor was the kind of person no one wanted in charge of anything, at all, ever, at any point in time. No one.

Including the aforementioned enemies.

Over the next few months, things changed. The prime minister at one point discovered his health care plan had been upgraded. The meals he ate at state functions and lobby lunches became five notches healthier. Every gym, spa and retreat found indirect ways of letting him know that his future payments would default to “on the house”. And somehow, by some feat of magic, there always seemed to be an available seat whenever he rode public transit.

Things improved. In many subtle ways.

Sometimes, the best defense is a good enemy.

A deal too good to be reused

Over the years, many have tried to game the system. The most notable examples – that is, there are more than one who have tried this – are those who sold 49.9% of their soul to the devil. Their reasoning was as follows: if Robert Johnson could sell his soul for an ungodly ability to play the blues, there should be room for negotiation.

After all, most people don’t need an ungodly ability, and could do very well with just a modest increase in skill level. And the devil, in a similar motion, could do more with just about half a soul than no soul.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Well, as the ancient saying goes, the devil is in the details.

So this one person sold 49.9% of his soul for the ability to summon musical instruments at will. The devil obliged, but left in this caveat: the only instruments summoned would be of the kind the summoner couldn’t play. Even with practice.

Another person tried the same deal, and found himself being able to cook the best pasta of the lands. The caveat? He’d forever be distracted from eating it for just long enough for it to become slightly too cold.

Another person tried to get ahead in television. The caveat? She would forever be casted to successful TV series that ended after one season.

Another person wanted to become Twitter famous. Turns out there are more than ten thousand bots out there. Twenty, thirty, forty thousand. And they like to talk.

So if you ever find yourself thinking about going out to the crossroads around midnight and wait for that opportunity to game the system – don’t. The system knows what you are doing, and knows how to counter it.

In detail.