Positive Manipulation

10 Apr

In the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, specifically Part 2/Section 8 entitled “Continuation of the Account. . . . Begun at Passy 1784” we find a story detailing the account of the Pennsylvanian Public Library. This was a tale told earlier in the Autobiography, but at the same time it is strikingly different for certain particular reasons. Firstly, it’s post revolutionary War. Secondly, the audience of the autobiography has shifted to the Public. As such, we find a commentary upon morality, industry, and public service. Through this tale, and the section as a whole, Franklin illustrates his path for what is best for the advancement of society. And what is that? Essentially, get rich quick such that one has the time necessary to address societal woes. Focus on the inner before you work on the outer, sort of thing.

So, what does all this have to do with anything? Well, we return to the tale of the Library. Back it those days, there was not a public library in every little town begging and harassing you to get a library card. No, back in those times there was basically no access South of Boston short of ordering from England. And that shit would takes months or even years. Can you imagine? Nowadays people flip a shit if their overnight shipment arrives a few hours late. Imagine waiting months for the amazon shipment?1 How did these people live?! But back to the story, we learn that there’s a wrinkle with founding a library. See, this is a noble undertaking bound to raise the reputation of those who undertake it. We can’t have that. Apparently nosey busybodies worried about being out-shined will shut that nonsense down without a second thought, public good be damned. So what does Franklin do?  Hides “in the shadows” so to speak without taking direct public credit. What a nice guy. Seriously, through simple manipulation he was able to push through something that would greatly serve the community. It’s not like he suffered for it long term. But sometimes these little ‘sacrifices” need be made to better the world we live in. As Mr. Franklin states, “the present little Sacrifice of your Vanity will afterwards be amply repaid.”


2 Responses to “Positive Manipulation”

  1. Michael Chu-A-Kong April 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Franklin’s actions are commendable as he portrays a true leader, not a manager. By this, I mean he leads through example. He’s not worried about controlling other people’s lives or persuading them through his words. Rather, his actions speak louder than his words. Imagine if everyone decided to sacrifice self-glory for the sake of the public good. This place we call earth would be a lot more communal. Growth in the human race would reach heights we’ve never seen before.

  2. col87 April 11, 2013 at 5:02 am #

    Colleen Egan: What was really interesting about how Franklin went about improving himself is how he faced the same problems everyone faces to some degree when we try to improve ourselves. We back peddle, make mistakes, possibly find more flaws that need to be dealt with and wondering if we should be satisfied living with a flawed character when it becomes difficult. Instead he kept going and benefited from his improvement. Plus he created his own system of self improvement based on what he felt was important for a person to add to society as was his view of a good moral person.

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