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This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. Obviously it started out as a blog about my cross-dressing but it has developed a great deal since then. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the New Readers' Page above this and the tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The power of Machiavelli

In The Prince Machiavelli argued that the most important aspect of anyone's life is reputation. Although the twin forces of Fortuna and Virtu were helpful in shaping the character of one's interactions with peers he postulated that what really counted was how you were seen by others.  More to the point, so his argument went, the out of character actions were what got remembered and so these the ones that truly defined you in the eyes of those around you. Now, he was clearly writing about the rulers of principalities in Italy and about political mud-slinging between powerful people and houses, but his advice, I feel, has some everyday relevance.
Would you mess with this woman? "Whether it is better to be
loved or to be feared, then it is better to be feared." That's closer
but still not it.
His most famous advice was, if I may badly paraphrase: "to be loved, be brutal and mean". It works like this...

If you are known for being kind and helpful and generous and all round lovely then there will come a point where you have to turn someone away. And, in those turnings away, there will be someone who thinks ill of you and publicises that event enough to influence those who know you. Ergo you will be remembered not for all the times you were nice and lovely and all round great but for the one time you acted out of character and turned someone away - you will be seen as bad and generally not nice. Mud sticks.
By contrast, if you are known for being capricious and cruel and evil and selfish then the one time you help someone and put yourself out for them will be noteworthy enough that people will remember it. In other words, although your reputation is poor people will view you with affection because of the one thing that you did that was good. In effect, they will write off your usual behaviour for that one good deed just as they would write off all the good that was done in our first example on the back of one bad deed.

Niccolo Machiavelli in all his rather odd glory.
My first essay on Politics at Uni was on him.
And Machiavelli had a point. I see that a lot as a teacher and with the students I teach. In being open and nice and approachable I, more often than not, face criticism from students when I have to turn them away. My old boss, by contrast, was a dick to the students and generally mean and horrible to them and they would have followed him into Hell. For Christmas he would get showered with gifts from students (his favourite wines and spirits, aftershaves etc) and even from students he didn't teach but had told off once in a corridor. I would get, well, nothing. Maybe a heartfelt card from one or two students but mostly nothing. Now, there were differences here, when my old boss and some colleagues were slagging me off on a school trip abroad in my absence a quiet student who never said anything in public gatherings ever went ape and defended me to the hilt (I had once read what she was writing and given supportive comments to her but never taught her) to the point where all assembled, students and staff, fell silent. Indeed, her out of character behaviour and defence was the only reason I heard of the incident as my old boss felt so guilty he had to tell me what had happened.

Why am I posting all of this?  Well, a colleague has been off on long term leave and so we have had a member of staff covering for them for a short time. I have always put myself out for this member of staff and been on hand to help where no else was. When systems didn't work as they ought or lessons weren't in the right places it was I who made sure there were things in place. I offered to help marking, I spent hours guiding them through mark schemes and lessons that I didn't need to do. Why? Because I am a doormat? Maybe, mostly because no one else was helping.

Today that member of staff left, the colleague returns, and they were handing out presents to say thank you. So far so lovely and unexpected. My new boss got wine, chocolates (big and posh) and a joke present of X-ray specs or somesuch. Another colleague received her favourite wine, some posh chocs, some personal items that they liked and a bow and arrow - silly but connected to their 'fighting spirit'. My final colleague got beer (they're fond of real ale), wine (their partner likes wine to share), sweets (based on a throwaway remark about what they liked three months back) and a set of x-ray specs.  These were all accompanied by thoughtfully written cards with lovely nice things written on them.

In case you didn't know what it was. Amazon reports
it as being nearly a tenner, so maybe it was expensive.
But why? Why this?
I got a "butt-head" game that had been on offer (remnants of the sale sticker remained) and a card saying "thank you". The Department enjoyed throwing balls at my head (I could hardly refuse to use it) and making light at my expense.

I am, to say the least, confused. I have no idea how to interpret this turn of events. Was I such a bastard to this member of staff that they really didn't like me? Or is this because I was the only member of the Department who would 'get the joke' and thus a good thing? Or am I just a bit of a joke in the Department generally? Of course, as you'd expect, I have gravitated toward the less flattering combination of the above interpretations, it's how I roll, but I am a little... well, a little saddened by it all.

Am I such an arsehole?

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All comments are welcome, I have a thicker skin virtually than I do in real life!