Ten Games #10: Powerful Alliances

Powerful Alliances

It's not what you know but who you know!
It’s not what you know but who you know!

“Powerful alliances” is a territorial game humans have played from the beginning of time. But when people start treating friends and natural allies like bargaining chips to win a territorial game in ways that silence others – they cross a line.  It is human nature to cultivate connections with people who seek the same goals we seek to use their power, a voice, or connections to step in when they can help.  Back when I did the original research, technology had yet to invent platforms and industries to dedicated to automating powerful alliances. The gig economy has forced many people to treat friends like assets.  It makes me sad.  But it’s not new.  The minute work life is characterized as a battle then accumulating allies, spies, confederates, pawns, re-tweeters, likes, links, and moles reduces friendships to bargaining chips.

The chickens are coming home to roost.  Blindly recruiting other people to play games on your “tribe’s” behalf as a way to silence, disable, or crush perceived opposition is effective but there are consequences. Once friendships are stripped of intimacy, loyalty, kinship, moral solidarity, and empathetic feedback and replaced with economic reasoning and score-keeping we lose the social glue that holds us together.

The game called Powerful Alliances is the best example of how a territorial game can be used for good or evil (although game players always believe they are on the side of good).  A big picture view of politics today shows tight groups of liberals and conservatives deploying every powerful alliance they can to “win” battles that can never be decisive.  The fatal flaw in pursuing wins instead of balancing continuums is that choosing one “side” or the other prevents the healthy toggle back and forth between contrasting but vital moral paradoxes that work best in tandem.  Territorial game players dont seem to understand there are no “wins” involving paradoxes of human life (safety/freedom, individual/group, relationships/rules, etc) that could possible be decisive without dire consequences.  Worse, it divides the resulting “tribes” to the point alliances are no longer moderated by social norms of discretion, dialogue, compromise and deep trust.

People who “mobilize” their friends into contacts for economic advantage don’t intend to contribute to the global loss of social trust we now experience, but they do. Like everyone else, I hope to attract powerful alliances too.  But only with people who genuinely think my work makes a contribution to the collective wellbeing of us all.  Likewise, I will continue to share and promote your work when it speaks to my soul and helps us lead the business and political environment back to collaboration, mutual respect, and reciprocal generosity.  It’s all I care about. If I can help, let me know.

But please let’s stop reducing human relationships to “contacts” – it’s killing unconditional generosity and cultivating cynicism we cannot afford.


2 thoughts on “Ten Games #10: Powerful Alliances”

  1. Right on, Annette!

    Besides the “name dropping” game, the manifestation of this I am most familiar with is the “not invented here” mentality.

    You see it whenever a new Idea or approach is proposed that challenges an existing paradigm. The response is justified by the belief that “our side” has cornered the market on ideas that are good. So, if you aren’t on our side (not invented here), the idea must be foolish, wrong, or evil. If your idea had merit, one of us would have already explored it. So, you must be nuts.

    It reminds me of the allegory of the cave and how they would act when someone from the outside came in to tell them their reality was wrong.

    Add to that a high-speed digital connection pattern, and the allegory of the cave seems to have morphed into the allegory of the internet.


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