Create Inevitability

I read an interesting article about Montenegro, a country which I know nothing about. Montenegro only recently became an independent country, after an election in 2006. (This was not the first time Montenegro was independent, but until the election it was joined with the much larger country of Serbia). The point of the article was that approach used by the supporters of Montenegrin independence. Polls in the early 2000s showed only weak support for independence. The EU decided, seemingly arbitrarily, that independence would only occur if 55% of the population voted for it.

The supporters apparently reached their goal by acting as though it was inevitable. Years before the election they started acting as though Montenegro was a separate country, declaring their own economic policy, negotiating agreements with other countries, and so forth. They created a flag and picked an official anthem. The effect of these actions was to make independence seem natural. Thus by the time of the actual vote, voting for independence seemed natural. The vote was still close—they barely got the 55% they needed—but it did pass.

More interestingly, this is not the first time this has happened in Montenegro. Montenegro started out as, essentially, four small districts more or less in the middle of the current country, hundreds of years ago. For whatever reason, those districts decided to create the trappings of a government. They proceeded to make treaties with other countries, and started to aggregate the surrounding districts. Eventually, over a couple of hundred years, they grew to the country’s current size. By acting as a real country, they were able to become a real country. This was mostly within the Ottoman Empire, although they managed to negotiate some independence within the empire. Later they became fully independent, in 1878, before a series of political shifts eventually left them as part of Yugoslavia and then Serbia.

I’m sure I have some of the details wrong. But the idea I find interesting is this notion of acting as though what you want to happen will inevitably happen. This is quite different from going around arguing that it should happen. It is an argument by action; people will tend to go along with you just because it’s easier. Your goal will seem increasingly natural, and will eventually be achieved. Of course, you can’t ignore what other people are telling you, and indeed you must adapt it. Still, you assume that your goals will win out in the end.

This will work best when you care much more about what you want than other people care about stopping you. In general that is of course always a good position in which to get things done. But I like the approach. It seems much gentler than constant argument, while still achieving your goals.

3 Comments »

  1. ncm said,

    December 30, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

    As I understand it, that’s what the Eye in the Pyramid on the U.S. dollar bill represents: “that which exists because it is belived to exist.” Even if you don’t have any other reason to believe it exists, if enough other people act as if they believe in it, it does exist. That’s pretty close to the definition of a “social construct”, a term that long post-dates the symbol.

  2. Ian Lance Taylor said,

    January 3, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

    I thought the eye in the pyramid was some sort of Masonic symbol. I just checked Wikipedia, though, and they do not agree.

    A good example of something which exists because it is believed to exist is paper money.

  3. Caso e Inevitabilità « strategie evolutive said,

    March 20, 2008 @ 2:20 am

    […] Dall’articolo su Linux rimbalzo su un articolo sull’indipendenza del Montenegro, nel quale si osserva come l’indipendenza del piccolo stato balcanico sia stata raggiunta attraverso una campagna di opinione, nella quale i sostenitori dell’indipendenza semplicemente cominciarono a comportarsi come se il ragiungimento dell’indipendenza fosse inevitabile. Years before the election they started acting as though Montenegro was a separate country, declaring their own economic policy, negotiating agreements with other countries, and so forth. They created a flag and picked an official anthem. The effect of these actions was to make independence seem natural. Thus by the time of the actual vote, voting for independence seemed natural. The vote was still close—they barely got the 55% they needed—but it did pass. […]

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