MLK Was Wrong: Friends Are NOT Allies

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“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 – Martin Luther King Jr.

I saw this quote by MLK online. It made me wonder, are friends also allies – or are they wildly different? As your self-anointed Friendship Yogi (Frogi?), I’ve come to some thrilling conclusions. Let’s with the end and work backwards. 

  1. Friends are not allies and allies are not friends
  2. Both are rare 
  3. There’s a new industry making us think they’re not
  4. Only one reliable type of ally remains

People Are Not Nations

Since the term “ally” comes up a lot with countries, let’s make the distinction. 

In the 1960s, French President de Gaulle said, “France has no friends, only interests.” Not only does this hold true today, but it applies to all nations. 

Nations don’t play golf, get smashed at Smashmouth concerts, or methodically split the odd dumpling at a spiteful restaurant. Nations can’t be “friends”, only people can. Allies are the best they can hope for. 

Even that relationship is tenuous.

By the time Trump made ‘America-first’ and Biden botched our Afghanistan withdrawal, our allies got the hint. They want to ride inside the escape jet, not cling to the wing. France is now pushing Europe to build up its military. Japan just authorized its biggest military budget since WWII. Unreliable allies push countries towards new allies or self-reliance. 

Skittishness is one trait national and individual allies share. Maybe I’ll explore that in the future. Now, let’s focus on PEOPLE.

1. Friends are not allies, allies are not friends 

First, let’s define the terms. I thought I’d need my own definitions, but offers a decent start:

Friend: “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard”

Ally: “a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose”


There are explicit and implicit differences between the two.

What’s explicit is where their loyalties lie. 

A friend’s loyalties are “attached to another” person. Allies aren’t bonded to each other, but to a “common cause or purpose”

If that cause vanishes or an ally abandons it, the alliance ends.

We’ve seen this throughout history with religions. Apostates get excommunicated – if they’re lucky. Murdered, if they drew the fundamentalist short straw. Bonds of faith supersede those of friendship, blood, or marriage.

We’ve seen this with nations, too. In Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and a lesser extent, McCarthy’s America, loyalty to country meant turning in your friends. Same today in North Korea, where treachery is the least of your problems. China has an entire Social Credit System to root out Xihadists, from the comfort of your Huawei. 

In these countries, bonds of nationalism hold, while “feelings of affection or personal regard” wither. Never underestimate man’s hunger for purpose and belonging – and fear of losing them. 

We’re starting to see this kind of fervor in the US. The cults of Wokeism, cancel culture, intersectionality, and personality (like pro- and anti-Trump) are forging tribal alliances, not friendships. You can tell which bonds are stronger by which ones are breaking. How many families and friendships have been obliterated by dissent over these dogmas?

What’s implicit in all this is sacrifice

There’s no such thing as an ally without sacrifice. But not sacrifice for you. Allies might die for a cause…or just tweet about it. That’s the difference between eating steak and being steak. Someone’s past is often a good indicator. But you won’t know for sure, until the dinner bell rings…and a sacrifice is needed.

Allyship is also laden with false indicators. 

Any sacrifice that also benefits your “ally” personally, isn’t really a sacrifice for a cause. It’s a calculated risk. This is common with co-workers. When a colleague helps you secure a budget for a risky project, are they doing it to save the company or a promotion? You might never know. That’s fine – if you accept it. It’s crushing when they’re nowhere to be found when the next battle doesn’t benefit them. 

Friends are different. A friend is expected to be there for you emotionally and maybe financially, not take up your battles and causes. Your life’s journey is your own.

For example, I consider fans who listen to my podcast, subscribe on Patreon, read my articles, share, comment, review – allies in growing my voice. Few will slay my enemies in cold blood. Even fewer are friends. Just like I don’t vacation with my patrons, I don’t hold grudges against friends who don’t support my work, though it’s nice when they do.  

2. Both Friends and Allies are rare

In a previous newsletter/podcast, I explored “Why Our FriendShip Sailed”. Modern friendships are held together by weak bonds of interest, not sturdy bonds of necessity. But it’s not just friendships. All strong bonds are weakening.


Provocative predictions & prescriptions on where innovation, economics & culture will take us. Fearless. Funny.

Dwindling faith, community, and family opens the door to Bitcoin, Wokeism, psychedelics, mediation, politics and countless other pseudo-religions I covered in The Future of Belief. These recreational faiths shift friends to allies because their bonds are stronger. But only by comparison. 

Stronger doesn’t mean STRONG. Don’t expect jolly Jihads, cutthroat Crusades or incurious Inquisitions. Our new allies will celebrate our edgy ideas, research, and ventures from the safety of their safespaces. 

All the people yelling, “Promote women!” “Elevate LatinX voices!” LatinXs?? I don’t even know what LatinXs are! And neither do Latinos. Because you made it up seven seconds ago. No one’s risking their job for your cause. Sure, a few poseurs will post black squares on Instagram from the comfort of their parents’ vacation home in New Hampshire, but no one’s elevating anything unless it elevates them too. 

It all goes back to sacrifice. We’re lucky to live in a time that demands so little of it. With few existential threats, loyalties rarely get tested. But I suspect when push comes to shove, most “allies” won’t even wait for the push. You’ll look around and they’re gone. “Hey! We weren’t even…pushed…!?”

If you get fired, cancelled or somehow impaired, only a tiny handful of allies – those co-dependent on you, may be willing to risk resources, career, or reputation to support you. Yes, our allies, much like our new faiths, are recreational.

There’s also flipside to sacrifice: reciprocity. I’ll cover that in my next newsletter and podcast.

3. The Ally-Industrial Complex

Our hunger for purpose and belonging is ripe for opportunism. Meet The Ally-Industrial Complex.

It takes just a smattering of Tweets from anonymous losers to scare a corporation, feign a movement, or sack a scapegoat. Yes, even fake allies produce real results. If only this power could be harnessed…

Well, it has.

We’re in a Grifter Renaissance. Every Tweet is a tiny gust of wind that powers a fleet of politicians, talking heads, profiteers, trainers, activists, and every imaginable interest group towards piles of money, power, fame, and status. 

But Tweets need causes. In the absence of existential ones, performative ones can be crafted from gripes, grievances, and Trump Tweets. The more impossible their demands, the more outrage they’ll generate when they inevitably fall short. 

Stephen Pinker’s head would explode trying to explain how we’re living in miraculous times. Disease, poverty, and war are disappearing. No. One. Cares. The dinghies of discontent are built, and they will reach shore.

And the more causes there are, the more incoherent the discontent. Hypocrisies start to tumble and collide, like Rugrats on meth.

Science and conspiracies are adopted or denounced based on what channel they’re on. 

from Jonathan Haidt

Some identities flow like rivers, others are locked in granite, for eternity. And strangers online decide which is which.

Trust and hate of government are equally fluid.

Inconvenient histories are re-written or erased.

Female empowerment is a huge priority, just not in countries with a dollop of oil. 

Corporate power is too great, except when it’s just GREAT!

Groups invite you to stand with them for one cause, then kick your privileged ass out for another. “I’m P.O.C.!” “No, no, I’m not… I’m so sorry…”

Even math is guilty of something and must be stopped.

Yes, my friends, we have become imbeciles. Puppets to profiteers. Patsies for power-seekers. Unworthy allies.

Yet the Allyship Industry perseveres. Strange, incoherent, manipulative. Fueled by that which destroys us. Its goals are not ours.

It’s not too late. There are just causes and worthy allies. But they demand reason, not ideology. And our actions must be moral and principled. Maybe start by asking what cause you’d be willing to – OK, not die – but lose your job for? I discussed mine here.  

4. The Final Alliance

There’s only one consistent source of worthy allies. Our genitals. 

Family is the last bastion of strong bonds and reliable allies. Few others will do more to help you find work, protect you from bullies, take you in after a bad breakup, babysit your kids, or help pay for rehab. It’s a powerful hybrid of friend and ally.  

Nearly every one of our new causes would start to vanish if we got family right. You can see this in practice. Pick a day when people are looting Target in your favorite city. Then, start driving. The further you get, the more schools and playgrounds, the fewer flaming big box retailers. Would you rather help someone make Molotov cocktails or watch their kids while they get ice cream? 

Unfortunately, family is waning in the west. I’ll explore this in future episodes. Coming next in this series: reciprocity, trust, and dogmas. Until then, please subscribe, share with others, and support on Patreon.


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Provocative predictions & prescriptions on where innovation, economics & culture will take us. Fearless. Funny.