There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.
– Dale Carnegie, author and educator (1888-1955)
Dale Carnegie, best known for his extremely popular book How To Win Friends And Influence People, spent his professional career teaching people how to work their way into a society they found threatening, fearsome or unknowable.
I question whether these four are the only ways in which we have contact with the world. They are, however, the ways in which others evaluate us, thus determine whether or not we are worth associating with. To most of us, this is extremely important.
As Carnegie said in his work, these four ways involve learnable skills. In times past there were colleges called finishing schools whose main purpose was to teach preadolescent and adolescent children of wealthy families how to act, speak, use body language and so on to gain the attention of others of similar or higher status on the socio-economic scale.
Those colleges still exist, though their focus has changed with the times toward something more of an academic nature in keeping with the need for today’s young women to be something more than ideal mates for wealthy young men. Private colleges have picked up the slack and teach shorter courses with practical information for those who want to be noticed and to fit into a particular environment.
Though Carnegie’s four points explained how others evaluate us, they don’t explain how we interact with the rest of the world or even how we perceive the rest of the world.
Carnegie may have been a great influence on the society of big cities today where many people tend to believe that the only things of importance in the world are those that somehow involve people.
I live in an area that is mostly forest and lakes, except in the summer and on weekends when city people who own cottages on lakefront property spend much of their time trying to tame or conquer nature to make their wilderness property into a suburban mansion property (a.k.a. cottage or summer home).
One of the first things they do once they have purchased their property (unless they tear down the existing cottage and build one several times larger) is to cut down most of the trees (rememeber, it’s a forest) and plant grass.
They ensure a weed-free yard by putting fertilizer and weed killers on the grass and pesticides on their gardens, all within the drainage area of bedrock that filters these during rainfalls down into our lake.
In turn, the lake empties into a stream and subsequently into other lakes and rivers until the heavily polluted water joins Lake Ontario, the lowest of the Great Lakes system of North America.
None of the property owners drinks lake or river water any more because it is poisonous, though they happily play, swim and water ski in it. They never get caught breaking the law by applying poisons near the water–as they fully expect to be safeguarded from such unpleasantness–because police and conservation officers don’t have time to catch more than the odd one who is overly foolish. Court cases cost tax money, so few people are charged.
They lament that the animals disappear from the property they bought in a “natural wilderness” though they would prefer to see animals only from a distance because they are afraid of them for the most part. Bears, foxes and coyotes (technically coydogs–domestic dogs that have gone wild and mates with coyotes) fascinate them at the dump.
City people have largely lost their connection with nature. Coincidentally, more and more of them question that anything of value was ever created by anyone other than men. They have largely lost their sense of wonder at nature as a creation of a deity because they believe that they are the masters of nature and they can change nature at will. Now that we can genetically alter just about anything, who cares about God?
They no longer fear God, though they may fear their neighbour or strangers who break into their property to find money and goods they can sell to buy drugs. Now these can be “home invasions,” breakins that occur while the owners are asleep in their own dwellings. Usually the breakins are into empty cottages.
In short, a large number of big city dwellers have become excellent graduates of the school of relationships taught by Dale Carnegie.
I didn’t use to lock my home or car doors because there was no one around to bother breaking in. Now I lock both to keep out the city folks who might do anything while enjoying their recreational drugs at their cottages on the weekends.
Dale Carnegie would surely be proud. His graduates know how to get what they want.
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to provide some context for what we see around us.
Learn more at http://billallin.com