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Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

Human psychology contains many dualities. One duality is that while people understand the need for change, knowing how important it is to be occasionally renewed, they are also irritated and upset by change. They know that change is necessary, at the very least the novelty provides a relief from boredom, but deep inside, they cling to the past. Change, inthe abstract or superficial, they desire, but a change that upsets core habits and core beliefs is deeply disturbing.

Celebrating the turn of the year is an ancient custom. The Romans celebrated the Saturnalia, the festival of Saturn, god of the harves, between 17 December and 23 December. It was the most cheerful festival of the year. All work and commerce stopped, and the streets were filled with crowds and a carnival atmosphere. Slaves were temporarily freed and the hooses were decorated with laurel branches. people visited one anaother bringing gifts of wax candles and little clay figurines.
Long before the birth of Christ, the Jews celebrated an eight day Festival of Light, in the same season. Long before the Jews, the Hindus celebrated their Festival of Light, Dipavali, when the celebrated the rebirth of the sun and honored the great fertility gods.
In the year 274, the Roman emporer Aurelian established an official cult of the sun god, Mithras, the Aryan god of light, declaring his birthday, 25 December, a national holiday.
The cult of Mithras had spread from Persia to Greece, Rome, the German and Brittish tribes. Numerous ruins of his shrines testify to the high regard, in which this god was held, especially by the Roman legions, as a bringer of fertility, peace and victory.
So, it was a clever move, when, in 354, the Christian church co-opted the birthday of Mithras and declared 25 December to be the birthday of Jesus Christ.

No revolution has gone without a powerful, later, reaction against it, for the void it creates proves too unsettling to the human animal, which unconciously associates such voids with death and chaos. The opportunity for change and renewal seduces people to the side of the revolution, but after their enthusiasm fades, they feel a certain emptiness. Yearning for the past, they create an opening for it to creep return.

For Machiavelli, the prophet, who brings about change, can only survive by taking up arms. When the masses inevitably yearn for the past, he must be ready to use force. However, the armed prophet can not endure unless he quickly creates a new set of values and rituals to replace the old and to soothe the anxieties of those who dread change. Promote change, as much as you like, but give the comforting appearance of older events and traditions.

A simple gesture like using an old title, or keeping the same number for a group, will tie you to the past and support you with the authority of history.

One more strategy to diduise change is to make a loud and public display of support for the values of the past. Appear to be a zealot for tradition and few will notice how unconventional you are. Renaissance Florence had a centuries-old republic and was suspicious of anyone, who flouted its traditions. Cosimo d'Mediici made a show of enthusiastic support for the republic, while he worked to bring the city under the control of his wealthy family. In form, the Medici's retained the appearance of a republic, in substance, the rendered it powerless. They quietly enacted a radical change, while appearing to safeguard tradition.

The solution to people's inate conservatism is to pay lip service to tradition. Identify the elements in your revolution that appear to build on the past. Say the politically correct things, make a show of conformity and do your radical work.

Imagine the cat - creature of habit, it loves the warmth of the familiar. Upset its routine, disrupt its space and it will grow unmanageable and psychotic. Placate it by supporting its rituals. If change is necessary, deceive the cat by keeping the smell of the past alive. Place objects familiar to it in strategic locations.

Powerfull people pay attention to the zeitgeist. If their reform is too far ahead of its time, few will understand it, while it stirs anxiety and is misinterpreted.

Watch the zeitgeist. If you work in a tumultuous time or place, there is power to be gained by preaching a return to the past, to comfort, tradition and ritual. During a period of stagnation, however, play the cards of reform and revolution. Beware of what you stir, fo those who finish revolutions are rarely those who began it.

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