So what does it mean to be a good obvyatel in this world?
It seems that the model of being a shrewd but principled businessman or woman who through competence and cleverness creates an enterprise that helps many others maybe disappearing as a serious possibility as the process of ponerization continues. As more and more psychopaths gravitate towards positions of power, positions whose prequisites are increasingly suited to psychopaths, the space to navigate amongst them in their world without seriously compromising one's principles diminishes. Maybe the tipping point for empires from rising to falling is associated with the moment when normal people no longer can successfully navigate those waters. It is just too poisonous. Then the only survival strategy in this game is to find a new game, i.e., revolution. I mean this in the sense that this maybe is what has happened in the past. We now know that psychopaths not being attached to any ideal other than power and dominance can blend into the new revolutionary system and start the whole process over.
As I was wondering about what a good obvyatel is, I was thinking of a carpenter I knew long ago. It was during the housing boom in the US, and it was practically a household stereotype of the dishonest contractor. Make sure you have a good contract or those guys will rip you off. And left and right, these housing developments were popping up. Bland, cookie-cutter homes with shoddy construction... Impersonal neighborhoods with huge lawns... And if you lived in one of those developments that had a planning commitee and a charter, you might not even be allowed to do something useful with your lawn like plant a garden.
Many who called themselves carpenters were simply the guys pounding nails into these template homes.
Well... This carpenter was one of those truly skilled handymen who could plan and build a home at every stage including the plumbing and electricity. It would be sturdy and would age well. He had left the house factory business long ago, and his skills were properly appreciated by the affluent. So he would do a building project for some rich folks for which he would be well reimbursed, and in between, he would do other projects at a sliding scale for those who needed help but could not afford the standard rates. Sometimes he would advise folks trying to build their own homes for free about problems they could expect or about how they could make this or that part of the project better.
In a sense, he had found a way to survive in the environment he found himself in and still give back.
I see the obvyatel question as being sort of like waking up in a strange environment and not knowing how you got there. By the time, you know how to ask this question then you have woken up a little bit to the world around you, and just like this imaginary scenario of waking up into a strange place, you have only what you have at that moment no matter what may have passed before. Now you must decide the best way possible to live in this environment you find yourself in and you start exactly from a position defined by your skills, resources, and limitations.
There may still be times when the shrewd but principled businessman is the way to go, but I am not sure it is the only way to achieve "success" in this world.