In Chinese Classic novel Journey to the West, Su Wukong, or the Monkey King, was born from a stone and somehow acquired supernatural powers and immense strength at a young age.
He was never just another submissive monkey, living under the heavenly order until being summoned by the rule of Hell. Instead, he robbed the cornerstone treasure from Dragon King’s palace in the Eastern Seas, wiped all the monkeys’ names from the Hell’s book of Death (i.e. order book for the reapers), and subsequently wreaked havoc in the Jade Emperor’s Palace in Heaven, the highest authority in the celestial order.
After the Monkey King single-handedly defeated all the celestial legions, gods and immortals, and continued to wreak havoc in heaven, the Jade Emperor had to call for help from the almighty lord Buddha.
Lord Buddha eventually imprisoned the Monkey King under a mountain for 500 years.
Gone were the innocent days
Now, you might ask, what does that have to do with Mark Zuckerberg testifying on Capitol Hill, being grilled by almost 100 lawmakers over more than 10 hours?
When the Monkey King was finally released, he was made a disciple of Tang Sanzang, using his supernatural powers to protect the Buddhist monk on his epic pilgrimage – the journey to the west.
Gone were the innocent days of romantic belief where every order was obsolete, redundant and to be broken; gone were the innocent days where freedom was defying the overlords using the powers acquired; gone were the days where the Monkey King could wear whatever he felt like.
Looking at Facebook up till now: it has already been a darling of investors and advertisers; it has met a (large) number of (small) setbacks, none of which significant enough to cause a serious dent on the stock price growth; its lobbying efforts kept most hostile bills at bay.
Until a month ago, when the true extent of Cambridge Analytica scandal surfaced.
Media (and the public) has been questioning why Zuckerberg was quiet for almost an entire week before making any response. We believe he was not deliberately dodging the scrutiny – but rather, he (and his team at Facebook) probably genuinely believed that this, like other scandals and revelations Facebook faced before, would quickly dissipate, and be forgotten.
He was wrong – just as the Monkey King was wrong to think that Buddha was just another hapless mercenary sent by the Jade Emperor. Both failed to know the extent of what was coming.
Zuckerberg had to respond. He agreed to the hearing before both houses on Capitol Hill, came very well prepared, very well rehearsed, and, as many have noticed, wearing not his usual grey t-shirt, but a jacket with a tie.
We read news reports of the hearing, many of them were criticising him for being robotic, tactical and dodging the real, tough questions.
However, we think this is a defining moment in Mark Zuckerberg’s personal history. He used to deal with Silicon Valley and Wall Street, who did not see him wearing a t-shirt as a problem, and who were excited about Facebook’s growth (and eager to be part of it through investing or collaborating).
Especially the Valley, almost innately liberal, in many ways defined how Facebook did what it (or its employees) did – conservative ads got censored more than liberal ones (as a few congressmen pointed out), and there was an inherent contempt towards Trump. The idea of Facebook to just create a system, let people express, collect/analyse data, and sell targeted ads is still too simplistic in this complicated world.
“Victorious Fighting Buddha”
Through this performance on Capitol Hill, Zuckerberg demonstrated that he had essentially mastered the art of political diplomacy – a reckoning that will be very important in his (and Facebook’s) future development.
No matter how stupid the questions are, answer them with respect; dodge the bullets while seizing the friendly moments from other legislators; never go into any comfortation; and lobby as hard as possible in the backend.
Similarly, the Monkey King did this after being released from the mountain prison. On the journey to the west, he faced a lot of challenges that a younger self would have simply beaten away with the mighty power. But he can’t – he has a mission in hand (and a group of dumb companions to take care of) – he has to bear with all these in order to succeed.
There were moments where he probably wanted to throw in the towel, as it was indeed frustrating to deal with the stupidity of Sanzang monk, the myriad of alliances of gods and demons, and the mission which sometimes seemed pointless.
But the Monkey King overcame all these debacles, and eventually reached the West, completing the mission and attaining Buddhahood (as “Victorious Fighting Buddha”).
Similarly Facebook and Zuckerberg’s future sailing will not be smooth – at moments the demons will be strong, the gods unfriendly, and inner drive to make a mistake exploding. Many of these could derail the journey to the west but we have reasonable confidence that a grown-up Zuckerberg could eventually complete the mission.
Always a hero
In the eyes of millions of young people in China, the Monkey King has always been (and will remain) a romantic hero, a hero that had a rebellious youth but eventually came to realise that he had to play with part of the system, and attain enlightenment.
In comparison, the assortment of gods, immortals and demons were always part of the system. Many of them were swept away but the system persisted.
Deep in one’s heart, nobody wanted to respect the system – we all wanted to be the Monkey King, but we had to respect, and play with the system. That’s the only way to success.
So Zuckerberg has.
Thanks for reading The Low Down, insight and inside knowledge from the team at Momentum Works. If you’d like to get in touch with us about any issues discussed in our blog, please drop us an email at [email protected] and let us know how we can help.