Monday, August 13, 2012

Dictionary of Micro Rants: Mistake

Mistake: what business graduates who lack a refined vocabulary call an act of vice.

When you pull your underwear on backwards, add a quarter rather than the needed half of a teaspoon of sugar to your sauce, or make a left turn instead of the needed one on the right, you make a mistake. That is, you absentmindedly fail, usually in some minor way for which there’s little or no culpability. But when you’re a politician, a businessperson, or a lawyer, for example, and you naturally lie, cheat, and steal your way to the top, you don’t err at all but knowingly play the social games that require perverse excellence in vice, that is, great demonstrations of selfishness, deceitfulness, cold-heartedness, brazenness, short-sightedness, and so forth.

When a Machiavellian power-player gets caught practicing those dark arts, he invariably seeks to avoid responsibility for his choices by labeling them mere mistakes. For example, western CEOs are notorious for pretending to be dunces or ignorant figureheads when they’re caught trying to pull off billion dollar frauds and their companies blow up in their faces. They then act like they never even deserved the hundreds of millions they were raking in thanks to their hand-picked board members who rubberstamp their pay packages, like they had no knowledge that their company was engaging in the very frauds that have become standard operating procedure in so-called post-industrial, financialized societies. Instead, they humbly concede, before senators who are equipped only to “grill” and never to roast, boil, or skin--so says the mass media’s meme--that they’re guilty of a mistake or two, albeit a mistake with disastrous consequences, but nevertheless an innocent moment of absentmindedness. To be sure, a power player never publicly owns up to her year after year of accrued experience at honing the vices that’s a prerequisite for advancing any politician or free market businessperson within her hierarchy. Moreover, because few people want to admit that most sectors of their society consist of just such practically amoral hierarchies, a nihilistic or sociopathic Machiavellian is quickly forgiven for his or her “mistake.” After all, as the saying goes, anyone can make a mistake (i.e. everyone sins in a declining, corrupt society).

The first such mistake was committed by Satan, the Prince of Evil, and I happen to have the transcript. “Verily, Lord,” said Satan to God, “I’ve jealously watched you waste your divine powers on this petty Creation, on these beasts you call humans. I’ve burned with ambition at the thought of what I would do instead were I seated on your throne, and I relished the prospects of waging an angelic war on your hosts and then either of unseating you and becoming master of all or of losing my station in a blaze of glory and then of marshaling all the demonic forces of Hell to sabotage every one of your foolish endeavours. Nevertheless, I say to you now with respect to all of that, on this Judgment Day at the end of all things, with the blood of trillions of your humans dripping from my claws and fangs, that I merely made a mistake.”

God is then reported to have grilled Satan for hours in front of TV cameras, before punishing him with a fine of 0.003% of Satan’s total net worth.

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