Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasies

The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

Such is the power of the fantasies that take root in us, especially in times of scarcity and decline. People rarely believe that their problems arise from their own misdeeds and stupidity. Someone or something out there is to blame—the other, the world, the gods—and so salvation comes from the outside as well.

To gain power, you must be a source of pleasure for those around you—and pleasure comes from playing to people’s fantasies. Never promise a gradual improvement through hard work; rather, promise the moon, the great and sudden transformation, the pot of gold.

As you search for the fantasy that will take hold of the masses, then, keep your eye on the banal truths that weigh heavily on us all. Never be distracted by people’s glamorous portraits of themselves and their lives; search and dig for what really imprisons them. Once you find that, you have the magical key that will put great power in your hands.

Although times and people change, let us examine a few of the oppressive realities that endure, and the opportunities for power they provide:

The Reality: Change is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, a fair amount of self-sacrifice, and a lot of patience.

The Fantasy: A sudden transformation will bring a total change in one’s fortunes, bypassing work, luck, self-sacrifice, and time in one fantastic stroke.

· Promise a great and total change—from poor to rich, sickness to health, misery to ecstasy—and you will have followers.

The Reality: The social realm has hard-set codes and boundaries. We understand these limits and know that we have to move within the same familiar circles, day in and day out.

The Fantasy: We can enter a totally new world with different codes and the promise of adventure.

· To bring power, fantasy must remain to some degree unrealized, literally unreal.

The Reality: Society is fragmented and full of conflict.

The Fantasy: People can come together in a mystical union of souls.

· Promise such a union and you can gain much power, but it is a dangerous power that can easily turn against you. This is a fantasy for demagogues to play on.

The Reality: Death. The dead cannot be brought back, the past cannot be changed.

The Fantasy: A sudden reversal of this intolerable fact.

· Something seems real precisely because the public and the experts as well, so desperately want to believe they are.

The key to fantasy is distance. The distant has allure and promise, seems simple and problem free. What you are offering, then, should be ungraspable.

Reminder: The key to fantasy is distance. The distant has allure and promise, seems simple and problem free. What you are offering, then, should be ungraspable. Never let it become oppressively familiar; it is the mirage in the distance, withdrawing as the sucker approaches. Never be too direct in describing the fantasy—keep it vague. As a forger of fantasies, let your victim come close enough to see and be tempted, but keep him far away enough that he stays dreaming and desiring.

WARNING

Fantasy usually contains an element of play—the public half realizes it is being duped, but it keeps the dream alive anyway, relishing the entertainment and the temporary diversion from the everyday that you are providing. So keep it light—never come too close to the place where you are actually expected to produce results. That place may prove extremely hazardous.

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