I just have a favour to ask though…

The invitation of magnanimity or beneficence comes with a cost. That much is understood. It is also accepted that such purposeful ambition is normally directed at those from whom a favourable response is likely or expected – either because of a pre-existing contractual association (sometimes called the “consideration” for the promise – that is, “the price for the goods“), the intimacy of the relationship or because of the weight of some prior arrangement (commonly called a “quid pro quo” – “this for that” or less charitably outright barter as in “tit for tat” or even less desirably as “one hand washes the other” – but no longer archaically as a pharmaceutical substitute). What however isn’t so readily apparent is the subterfuge which may surround it. It is this peculiarly nefarious character which contaminates and may even impede the requested generosity.

An insight into the superficial sociability of the liberality requires an examination of its associated back-room details – many of which frequently and deliberately steer clear of the sanitation of sunlight. Trimming the edges of these delicately rendered proposals of reciprocity are the hardened features of code, favouritism and bias. These latter elements are more discernible than the object of their insinuation. It is this overwhelming influence which succeeds to animate what might otherwise be instinctively resisted.

Nonetheless a capable activist promoting self-interest and the disposition of favour in his or her favour will knowingly rely upon the advantage of prior legitimacy and the foreseeable reluctance of the donor to object or resile.

Blind competence in the prejudice and intelligence of those whom one presumes to have both is not always reliable. Distasteful consequences can shockingly and unwittingly arise from what some perceive to be unfavourable alliances. It is quite impossible to predict what others will do when confronted. Each of us is bound by the most elemental and visceral realities. Just as the wanton desire of one person can translate to what in retrospect is a foolish enterprise so too can the deep-seated predilections of another cause unpredictable commotion. Being guided solely by one’s personal desires is not the answer to the evolution of the unfettered lives of others – this is especially so if one presumes to assume that what is good for you is good for others. That is an inductive leap at best. And a dangerous one, the repercussions of which can be surprisingly critical and deadly.

By strange but what upon reflection is understandable coincidence the tales of our most notorious and celebrated personages are reflected in what by Shakespearean tradition is called the sub-plot of its inferior characters. A popular example is the love story of Romeo and Juliet and the sub-plot of the old rivalry between their families, the Capulets and the Montagues. It is therefore a mistake to dismiss the significance of events which capture the public interest as inapplicable to our private occurrences. Increasingly it has become apparent that there is little if anything which separates the humanity of one person from that of another. The most inconsequential affair can upon analysis disclose the same compelling and poetic truth of the greatest theatrical rendition. One need only look with open eyes to see what transpires – and naturally believe what one sees.

The general considered that the girls’ taste and good sense should be allowed to develop and mature deliberately, and that the parents’ duty should merely be to keep watch, in order that no strange or undesirable choice be made; but that the selection once effected, both father and mother were bound from that moment to enter heart and soul into the cause, and to see that the matter progressed without hindrance until the altar should be happily reached.

Excerpt From
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. “The Idiot