Most of us are lemmings.
Most people have far fewer influence on their own actions than we assume. Our behavior is the result of the function that includes all of our stimuli and experiences. Most of our experiences and stimuli have been forged not by conscious thought, but by impressions made by others.
We are being forged all day. We turn on our phones first thing in the morning and we check for updates from friends – regardless of whether the people on our social media truly are our friends. We compare how we’re doing to them. Are they doing something we want to be doing? Do they own something we want to own? Mark’s new watch is awesome. And girls like Mark. We begin the day with wanting.
Then we go to work. We put in 8 hours working for our company so that we can afford our rent or mortgage, Mark’s watch that we saw on social media, and anything else that comes up – either emergencies or new-found wants.
Our job is to create and sell products or services to other people and companies so that our company makes money so that we don’t lose our jobs. We do this by creating demand for our product (through marketing and advertising) and by filling that demand (by creating quality products and getting it to our customers). We create wants. Every other company is doing the same thing. They need to sell, or they die.
When we go home, we turn on the TV. We watch the shows our coworkers are watching so that we will have something to talk about. We subscribe to the networks (Netflix) so we can watch those shows. We see the lives of the TV stars and imagine how our lives would be if we had a beautiful girl and a house with glass walls.
We check for deals on Amazon for a watch similar to Mark’s. It’s not that expensive, so we buy it. We go to bed looking forward to our new watch we can share with Mark and the coworkers.
Our reality is shaped by sociopaths.
The owner of the corporation we work for has a lot to consider. He wants to make money so he can do everything he wants in life. He wants to leave a legacy. He wants happy employees. He wants to be liked. The CEO’s first responsibility is to the shareholders of the company.
If shareholders don’t view the company as more valuable than the competition, they will leave and invest their money in the competition. If shareholders invest their money in the competition, the competition will have more funding for projects, new employees, and growth. If the competition grows faster than your company, your company will die. If your company dies, the employees will be unhappy, the CEO’s legacy will be ruined, and he won’t be liked. He may make a lot of money, but he will have failed, and he doesn’t want to fail.
So, the CEO must maximize shareholder value, above all else in life. Your needs and my needs, as workers, are far less important than maximizing value. If value means growing in one segment and shrinking in another, we better hope to be in the former. The CEO’s job is to not prioritize the workers in the shrinking segment of the company. His job is to prioritize the value being presented to shareholders. The CEO must be unemotional in his decision. He must be firm and decisive. If he considers the employees in the unproductive business units, he will keep the failing unit and lose to the competition. So, he doesn’t consider them.
The CEO is unempathetic in his behavior, even if that isn’t what he is thinking. He is a sociopath, even if he aches for the employees that are let go. A true sociopath – an individual that doesn’t have empathy for others, will thrive in this environment, and a sociopath with ambition often does end up at the head of companies for this reason – he’s willing to make decisions that influence others, and he’s willing to do this with his intentions in mind. At a CEO level, these intentions often align with shareholders. Even when this sociopath isn’t in control, the role dictates sociopathic behavior in order to succeed by maximizing value.
A little more on this. I argue that it is more likely to be an actual sociopath that ends up in these positions than normal, empathetic people ending up in these positions where they are forced to make sociopathic decisions. Psychotherapists estimate that 4% of the population is sociopathic. Of that 4%, a much larger amount end up in positions of power. Sociopaths are willing to make social sacrifices that others aren’t willing to make. They are willing to compromise their relationships and status within one social circle that individuals who have strong empathy are not willing to make. The sociopath is willing to make difficult decisions without batting an eye – and makes them in his own interest. This is a good quality for an executive.
When companies need to grow, they need to sell more products or services. To sell more products and services, they must create that demand so that customers realize the need to buy. To create a demand, corporations target the psychology of individuals.
People are susceptible to emotional decisions. Emotional decisions are how products are sold. We don’t have a physical need for clean clothes, a new car, or a watch as beautiful as Mark’s. Companies make us want the car and the watch by making us fear.
We fear what would happen if we were ridiculed for having dirty clothes. We don’t want to look silly. So, we buy clothes. We fear dying alone, or being stuck with a life partner that isn’t our equal. We buy the watch to show our status. It’s status that gets the hot chick in the movie. So we buy a watch. We are sold an image of a happy family waking up on Christmas to the new car with the oversized bow and a puppy. So we buy a puppy. And a car, with a large bow. The puppy needs the latest toys so that he doesn’t seem inferior to the other dogs at the dog park.
We constantly chase status because we fear the consequences that would result if we aren’t seen as filing that status. We have fear because the sociopathic companies instill fear so that we will buy more products to settle our insecurities, because the company needs to sell so that they don’t lose to the competition.
If we don’t play this game – if we don’t get the watch, the car, the clothes, or the puppy, we are “losers”. We are rejects that can’t keep up with the Joneses. We fail to get the status that is sold to us. When we don’t have the status, we “can’t” get the girl. We “can’t” have the happy family. We “can’t” be happy.
This is what corporations want us to think. The amoral systems with sociopathic leadership don’t want us to be fulfilled and not want things. Because then we won’t buy things. We are sold the images of happiness. We are sold the idea that if we buy this one thing, then we will be happy. If we aren’t happy, it’s because there’s “one more thing” that we need. Surely it’s not because we haven’t confronted our own insecurities and absolved ourselves from needing things. Right?
Most people are lemmings being herded along through a fake social reality that has been created by sociopaths. We are wired to follow the safe, proven road, and it’s difficult to go against that. The safe, proven road, is often the manifested idea of unemotional, unempathetic systems that benefit a few individuals at the expense of others.