Tests of loyalty

I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s still relevant:

[About the Qin Dynasty politician Zhao Gao:] Zhao Gao was contemplating treason but was afraid the other officials would not heed his commands, so he decided to test them first. He brought a deer and presented it to the Second Emperor but called it a horse. The Second Emperor laughed and said, “Is the chancellor perhaps mistaken, calling a deer a horse?” Then the emperor questioned those around him. Some remained silent, while some, hoping to ingratiate themselves with Zhao Gao, said it was a horse, and others said it was a deer. Zhao Gao secretly arranged for all those who said it was a deer to be brought before the law and had them executed instantly. Thereafter the officials were all terrified of Zhao Gao. Zhao Gao gained military power as a result of that.
— Burton Watson’s translation from “Records of the Grand Historian

[…] when Trump was newly elected, he tested the loyalty of spokespeople and other sycophants by sending them out to praise the unprecedented size of his inauguration crowds, even though anyone with eyes could see the distortion.

So, loyalty is a function of disparity. The greater the disparity between what actually is and what someone attests to, the greater the loyalty demonstrated.
Eliza Mondegreen

Loyalty tests like this are present in power struggles and other dysfunctional groups. There’s a similar dominance game that is familiar to many, the Group Monkey Dance:

In this ritual, members of a group compete for status and to show their loyalty to the group by showing how vicious they can be to someone perceived as an “outsider”. It is purely a contest to prove who is more a part of the group by who can do the most violence to the outsider.

To someone who has never seen, investigated, or been involved in the [Group Monkey Dance”, it is hard to describe. It is hard to explain how completely inconsequential the victim is. Once the dance starts, the victim is literally a non-person. Any action – pleading, fighting, passitivity – will be interpreted by the group as proof of “otherness” and further justification to escalate.
— Rory Miller, “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence

And this doesn’t have to be physical violence.

Reject it all.












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