Does this head-note remind you of a video game? Well, you’re right! You just won, for yourself, an add-on version of the same (in virtual reality). Have fun as you relish the moments again and again. For those who, on the other hand, never played Street Fighter, I hope it’s okay to say you missed a bit of “our kind of fun”.
I marvel at the creativity of Capcom®’s theme makers, to have formed the characters in the movie-turned-game. Usually, all I want to do is play, smash, beat, defeat…[you may guess]. Looking closely at each character, you admire their calm posture and fighting tactic. Simply fantastic! Yet a closer look, and you’re captured by the character named Guile. May we share some thought.
Paul Ekman’s research, supported by a Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH06092), led to several publications. In a particular work titled Why Don’t We Catch Liars?, I love the following quote:
“Liars may actually tell the truth, but that is not their intent. Conversely, truthful people may provide false information — like bad advice from a stock broker (or other advisor) — but that is also not their intent”. According to Ekman, concealment is just as much “a lie” as falsification, if there is an expectation that sensitive information may be revealed. Concealment and falsification are different techniques for accomplishing the same objective. The issue really is the motive, not the technique employed to accomplish it. If the motive is to mislead, then the choice between falsifying or concealing is simply a matter of which technique may work better in the given circumstance.
The Collins Cobuild Advanced Dictionary defines guile as “the quality of being skilled at deceiving people cleverly”. We play games on TV and console, but think that’s about as far as it goes. We quickly forget that one of the skills we have come to master is the art of playing games on people’s minds. In Street Fighter, Guile is known for discharging pseudo-friendly ‘rings’ that eat away at the opponent’s life-meter with every contact [fireball is called SONIC BOOM]. We do just the same; only that we do it to supposed loved ones rather than limit it just to rivals in the face of apparent contests.
Deceitfulness has become rampant among humans. Essentially, anytime you find yourself employing a form of ‘Guile’ to deceive or manipulate people, you’re dishing out ‘Sonic Boom’! For a good start, let us analyze the average human experience. You’re born, you start to grow, then develop several forms of expectancy at successive levels of life. You begin to see people get disappointed or possibly get hurt, yourself. The more you try to live as a “normal” human being, the more likely you are to get bruised, over and again. Sometimes, you even question if you live amongst the species of man, animal or manimal (a hybrid of both).
The price to pay for being true seems to be vulnerability, always. Notice that people who possess some level of guile (especially in their silence) seem to have the upper hand in some aspects of life. They hardly bare their minds, so we quickly assume that they are mature and have very rich content on the inside […after all, we say empty barrels make the loudest noise; whereas wisdom is ascribed to the quiet]. In fact, schooled liars use “diplomacy” to cover the “duping delight” that may otherwise reveal the behavioural clues that easily betray their concealed intent.
How terrible it is to celebrate furtive, sly and devious characters. This has fast become a bane in society; in the family, in academia and even industry (‘boot-licking’ at the workplace, manipulation in sensitive areas, to mention but a few). To detect dishonesty in people and guard against cheats, we tend to set a defense mechanism around ourselves. We however cement our guardrails so tightly that we get locked in extreme paranoia. Then in our cynicism, we wonder how to live free and yet safe. There’s got to be an unwritten code; a solution that’s rightly encoding and liberating.
This piece focuses as much on people who practise guile as those who get beguiled. I’m aware that people can take better advantage of you when they know your thoughts. But then, even being jaded would yet be another extreme. This makes life a bit more complicated, doesn’t it? Kindly allow me drive through the Nature versus Nurture paradigm. By natural instinct, people have the innate capacity to trust and accept fellow human beings. We continue to live and grow under this serene mental climate until (…SNAP!) someone cheats you, breaks your heart, or takes undue advantage in some way. Our experiences then shape our thought patterns in dimensions so drastic that we almost forget to give others some benefit of the doubt. That’s a classical example of how life nurtures us into relentless skepticism.
Tunde Baiyewu (of the Lighthouse Family) cited in the second verse of his song Great Romantic; how the rare chance to get a fresh start finds you trembling as you ‘hide behind the door’, so unsure of what you used to know fear. You sometimes feel you are ten steps ahead in every move; because paranoia has eaten in so deeply that you feel the need to really slow down. It is simply because of how experiences have nurtured you into being an extra-careful person. I have learned that the most beautiful thing in life is a child’s INNOCENCE; it is invaluable! Children may not score a hundred percent in analytical methods of problem-solving, but they sure have a way of perfectly capturing your heart; their purity beats you. The question is…who and what influences the person you presently are (or who you’ll become)?
You may observe that people don’t live by the heart anymore; seldom open in genuine communication. We would rather conceal feelings and let the other party guess that something exists when it really does not. However, those who are deep in thought would have observed that it is almost impossible to live in peace and longevity, as long as we retain this plastic lifestyle. Little wonder friendships hardly last a lifetime anymore.
If there is anything worth adjusting, it would be our character. No doubt, most of us have stories to tell. We have met the biggest frauds, learned the hard way how not to trust people, and have decided to “save the last dance”. Unbeknownst to us, the supposedly ‘straight’ ones, we start to develop crooked ways and flawed integrity. It’s okay to say “once beaten, ten times shy”; but it is funny how we get frozen in our self-made coolants, neglecting our own excesses.
Character deficiency does not knock on the door; it skulks into the very essence of our being, just when we think we are only being ‘careful’. What then is the way to live? Could absolute openness be one sure answer to our unending questions. Indeed, we make ourselves extremely vulnerable to deceitful people if we open up. To block such loose openings, we often get to tell a thousand supporting lies just to cover up one opening lie. Before long, we become worse than the ones who gave us our very first blows. How different are we, then, from the ‘cheat-ers’ we castigate? Worse still, the bigger question: how many ‘sonic boom’ fireballs will we roll out on fellow ‘street fighters’ before your time on earth expires? What exactly are we trying to protect, by the way? Shouldn’t we be so secure, that we choose the “ever-giving” posture all the time?
If you think corruption has eaten too deeply into the sinews of society, it’s best to stop complaining about the darkness; rather, turn on your own light! In my view, choosing to play the sly game is centered on a sense of pseudo-security. It does not really solve the problem; it has been found to only be a palliative move. In the end, it exacerbates an already existing issue. Needless to mention, character adjustment is the most crucial exercise in which each person can engage. As you incorporate many things into life, you must expunge GUILE; Sonic Boom is negative energy! It frustrates YOU [as a person], stifles your existing [and yet-to-be-formed] relationships and ultimately ruins the very heart of humanity.
★This article is an excerpt from APOLOGETIX, a psycho-analytical adaptation of Nature’s Cardinals©; intellectual property of Green Tempers Initiative®, of which Damilola MacGregor is a Registered Trustee.
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