Basic Universal Principles – Iguanas “r” Us (or Them?)

For those not familiar with iguanas, they look rather unbecoming… and one day I had to “usher” a particularly large and ugly one out of the house. It looked ferocious and seemed like it came out specifically to get me. The solution I chose consisted in strategically placing pieces of cardboard and other objects to make a path out of the house. Then I put the animal under pressure and it fled. Done deal. “Easy”.

Being older now, it’s even clearer how much of that “fight” was only in my head. But as a general rule how do you deal with things/people you don’t know/trust and especially who’s intention you have to guess from their outward appearance (or from a report on tv). Is this entity rational, moral, dangerous, God fearing? What are its true intentions?

We often fear what we don’t know, but not always. What is certain is that the less we know, the easier we can project our own ideas onto it. I have thought of a number tricks we can play to handle unknown entities:
– being as powerful as possible
– being as friendly as possible
– being as knowledgeable as possible
– handing destiny to some higher power
– being optimistic/pessimistic

They seem to always entail some mind trick designed to placate ourselves or hedge our bets.

I propose what could be a mind trick of its own. However it seems so all encompassing and universal that I find it very attractive. It is as follows:

  1. All beings/systems are completely logical and predictable within a given set of internal/internalized constraints and external stresses.
  2. The relative strength/weight of constraints vary in function of circumstances.
  3. The higher priority constraints at any given time are put in evidence when the system is under stress.
  4. Important constraints are highlighted/discovered under stress
  5. Desired behaviors are induced playing to those constraints under the right stress

I doubt anybody would disagree with them. That is why for example, people say there are no atheist in a foxhole, or you show your true colors when you are powerless/destitute etc…

The originality of my proposition is that these statements can explain how everything in world works.  As a result, there is no need to fear evil in the world but view any actions as the logical consequences of a specific stress and specific constraints.

The most practical use of these statements is to remove “Evil” or “Good” as immaterial agents in the mix of things to consider when solving any issue. It discourages dogmatic approaches while serving to remind us when dealing with people or beings that seem very unlike us, that in fact we are ourselves, are no different. We are just responding in varying degrees of complexity, strength and beauty to a variety of constraints and stress conditions.

My statement is that every single person, and every single society or entity that has ever existed or ever will on earth will behave pretty much like the iguana if we know or can solicit their higher priorities.

For example:

Face with a difficult child, we can try to find out what are his/her higher priorities:
– being loved?
– feeling important?
– survival?

Faced with societal issues such as gang violence or immigration, civility etc… on a macro scale the first step towards achieving the behavior desired is to find out the higher priorities of the group that needs to be controlled and then, put that group under the right stress to induce the desired outcome.

This is no different than the carrot and stick approach. Except that the carrot and the stick have to be complex enough and calibrated to the goal sought without the inevitable unintended consequences. The problem is that while the carrot and stick seem intuitive we often can’t help thinking that is not sufficient. I contend that, when properly understood, there is nothing more to it.

It is possible that some goals will conflict with others and that is when the entity wanting to cause the behavioral change must identify its own priorities and focus on what is achievable and important (possibly subjecting itself to stressors that will highlight those constraints and important issues not yet identified).

To take the example of the iguana, no matter how much stress one would put it under, if at the end the door was closed, iguana would not escape. If I were not able to open the door, then I would have to learn to live with an iguana in the place. It is that simple.

Are there iguanas in your life, your community, your country?  I will post later some of the common Iguanas I have identified and what seems to be an easy way out, once we decide what behavior is the one we are interested in inducing.


Note: This is article is part of the series “Basic Universal Principles” for more information click here.
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