Beyond ‘Carrot and Stick’

May 27, 2018 Empathy, Motivation No Comments

Carrot and stick have a long history. Going beyond, one can foresee a future based on a more realistic view on human being.

Reward and punishment

are efficient means to make someone comply to rules and authority. So has always been thought and taught. Reality may have been quite more complicated. In the face of the carrot-and-stick authority, the ‘subordinate’ quickly learns how to take advantage: by letting the former think it works. Because if he thinks it doesn’t, more punishment and maybe less reward may follow. Thus, within the illusion of the authoritarian, the subordinate frequently gets his own way. Or:

in the illusionary world, both perform their act on stage.

Manipulation from both sides. At the deeper level, non-consciously or partly consciously – as perfect accomplices – they perform their parts of another act, the one on which the stakes depend of what is really happening in present and near future.

Did we know? Consciously not, unconsciously yes. This is beyond guilt. Also and at the same time, the ‘subordinate’ may act out his resentment in other ways. Much may be happening in parallel. It frequently does.

From a mechanical view

Carrot and stick are straightforward. They come from a straightforward view on human being:

  • Push it to here and it will go to here.
  • Draw it from there and it will go to there.

Easy enough?

People of course are much less straightforward than this. Such simplicity is a comprehensible chimera but a chimera nevertheless.

What lies beyond carrot and stick

being within the circle of the caring one. The mother cares for her child through experiencing it as part of herself. If in the mammalian world she doesn’t do so, the child will die. So for the child it’s of utmost importance to be accepted., to be ‘part of the mother’. One could say: to feel loved.

This then widens to kin, family, group… In the human case also to culture and even beyond. All the way through, it’s important for the individual to ‘belong’ and to feel loved. This is accomplished through being ‘approved’ in one way or another. Human flexibility is very huge. At the same time, people remain very sensitive to approval – belonging – versus disapproval – being ostracized.

At the very same time, people remain very sensitive to… love and feeling loved.

This is generally NOT instrumental. Therefore it lies ‘beyond carrot and stick’. Perhaps still surprisingly, one can conclude that:

carrot and stick purely by themselves (as push or pull) are most probably hardly effective.

Instead, they only appear effective because they are:

  • an immediate communication: this is right; that is wrong
  • a possible vehicle for ‘love’. They are the vase, not the water in the vase; they are form, not content.

The content is ‘deeper meaning’. This is the effective part. It can be hugely powerful. One can see this in the degree that people can be so highly culture-impregnated as to feel the own culture as ‘sanctified’ beyond doubt, while seeing other cultures as incomprehensibly alien and ‘bad’. Soldiers give their lives for such. Jihadists forget human dignity.

How to reach for the beyond.

Insight and practice. ‘Love’ is not for free. It demands a lot of work while not knowing there will be any reward at all.

Then it comes without your knowing what it is a reward of.

And that’s OK.

In the OK lies the way beyond.

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