首页  | 张欣

Food chain?

中国日报网 2014-07-15 10:33


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “There’s always competition, no matter what your position in the food chain is.”

My comments:

“Your position in the food chain” refers to your social position, either in your office or the wider world at large, a society for poets, for example.

Here, food chain is a metaphor. And because food chain is descriptive of the hierarchical system in which animals and plants eat their food or are eaten as food, “your position in the food chain” also denotes whether your position is high or low.

First, food chain in the original sense.

Rabbits eat plants, and therefore they are considered to be in a higher position than the plants they eat in the food chain. On the other hand, rabbits are hunted by foxes and therefore foxes are even higher up in the food chain.

This is a simple example, but you get the idea. Food chain, in fact, involves all plants and animals in the ecosystem. “Chain” suggests it’s an unbroken link, meaning all plants and animals in the ecosystem as a whole are interdependent.

In our top example, food chain as a metaphor points to your particular position in the social hierarchy. And while animals higher up in the food chain gets more opportunities to choose their food, one’s higher social position also allows one to get their hands on things first – in terms of getting their fair share of food and other resources.

And if your social position is really high, you will probably be able to get more than your fair share.

What a terrible thing to say, I know. But that is a fact of life all humans have to deal with. In the natural world, dominant animals get to eat first. They eat their fill and leave the rest of the food to others. They don’t horde, and therefore there is a much greater degree of fairness in the wild – from the human point of view, of course.

Anyways, the point of our discussion is, for humans, there is always competition for survival no matter where you are in the food chain, or up the social ladder.

Yes, there always is competition, no matter how high or low your social position is.

I don’t have to give examples, do I? I mean, you look right, left and center and you see it. It is everywhere. You feel it. It’s in the atmosphere.

If you don’t feel it, then you must be very insensitive.

But, if you really don’t feel it, it is probably good for you, both health-wise and otherwise.

Anyways, that’s “food chain” plus my two cents worth of idle comments on social competition. Here are media examples to give you a better grasp of the concept:

1. Republican Party loyalty has just been dramatically tested from coast to coast.

In New York’s grudge fight, a Republican mayor jumped ship to save a sinking Democratic governor; that was flat-out party disloyalty. Contrariwise, in California, a GOP presidential hopeful disagreed with a Republican governor on principle: that was in the zestiest tradition of fighting for a party’s soul.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a ’70s Democrat who turned Republican in the ’80s, made another turn in the ’90s to support the last true-believer Democrat, Gov. Mario Cuomo, who is losing. The ostensible reason is that a liberal governor with a taxing habit will be more generous with state funds to the city.

The real reason is that Rudy has come to despise his original Republican sponsor, Sen. Al D’Amato. Al denied Rudy the privilege of designating his successor as U.S. attorney, and Rudy retaliated recently by loosing his investigative hounds on a key D’Amato ally. The rift is intensely personal and irreparable.

When Al’s choice for governor, state Sen. George Pataki, spurted ahead in the polls, Rudy faced a bleak prospect. If his fellow Republican won, the path to the governorship would be blocked for nearly a decade, and the unforgetting Mr. D’Amato would be the state's power broker at the ’96 national convention. Thus, a Republican victory would dim the Giuliani star.

That’s how the eminence grise of New York politics, David Garth -- having delivered Democrat Ed Koch's endorsement to Rudy in his mayoral campaign -- was able to deliver Republican Rudy’s endorsement to Mr. Cuomo at the right moment.

When Rudy jumped ship, he praised Mr. Cuomo as “his own man,” thereby joining the attack on the Republican candidate as merely the cat’s-paw of Mr. D’Amato.

Rudy’s strategy: If Mario Cuomo’s record is the issue, Democrats lose; but if Al D’Amato’s personality can be made the issue, Mario Cuomo (helped upstate by a Ross Perot clone siphoning off protest votes) might slip back in to keep the Albany seat warm for Rudy in a few years. If Republican loyalists’ memories are too long for that, Rudy could follow the Mayor John Lindsay trail and run as a Democrat.

The mayor's maneuver has made him a citywide hero because the bumptious Al D’Amato has become anathema to the intelligentsia and a certified media villain.

Sorry, you D’Amato-bashers, but there’s a there there. Al supported Baltic independence when most liberals were horrified at the thought of a breakup of the Soviet Union.

He was scorned as “Senator Pothole” until more remote solons came to appreciate the virtues of what they now call “constituent service.” Al D’Amato ferreted out the untruths in Treasury officials' recent testimony. As banking chairman he would bedevil Clinton cover-uppers until the Whitewater scandal was exposed.

He gave me this deliciously malaproprietary reaction to Mr. Giuliani’s double-cross: “Rudy’s worried some Republican’s gonna get ahead of him in the food chain.”

- Loyalty and perfidy, BaltimoreSun.com, November 02, 1994.

2. The business world is very similar to the wild nature, where the big fish eat the small fish and not so small, in order to stay on top of the food chain, but unlike nature where it suffices to show teeth to present your position in the food chain, in the business world also influences the speculation factor, and one of the speculation is starting to sound stronger the possible purchase of Nvidia by Intel.

According to Bright Side of News both Intel and Nvidia are negotiating the future acquisition of the latter, take the current negotiating cross-licensing tried to keep both companies (established after the division would end Intel chipset from Nvidia NForce) a new level where both companies would combine to meet the future challenges of the constantly evolving world of computing.

If realized this Rumor would see the birth of the biggest fish of the business realm, and the best part of the rumor is that the person in charge of this beast would be none other than Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s current CEO (remember that a fact identical concrete prevented Nvidia acquisition by AMD , which opted for ATI ).

- The craziest rumor 2012: Intel plans to acquire NVIDIA, TechNewsPedia.com, December 14, 2012.

3. In my last post, I postulated that CIOs need a makeover, implying that they need to be more collaborative and to be seen more as “allies than adversaries,” as one story put it. Not everyone agrees with that idea. There is also an undercurrent of support for the CIO being more assertive.

Even more Machiavellian. Gartner research vice-president Tina Nunno recommends CIOs channel their inner manipulator. As noted in this CIO New Zealand article about Nunno’s new e-book, The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing: A Machiavellian Strategy for Successful IT Leadership. “Machiavelli implied one is either a predator or prey and the animal the leader closely resembles determines his or her position in the food chain.”

Nunno recommends that, based on her analysis of highly successful CIOs, that they should go all out and model their behavior on predators to avoid being prey. The wolf is “an ideal balance of an intelligent, social creature that can inspire loyal followership and create group affinity; and the ruthless predator that can lead a pack of strong fighters, win in a competitive environment and command a large territory,” Nunno said, adding, “Machiavellians know there is no safe middle ground in leadership. By going to extremes, a wolf CIO can help bring a dark enterprise to the light side.”

John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is all for taking this stance. Admitting that “CIOs are typically not very popular and are not known for their charismatic leadership,” he sees it as highly necessary as he faces a host (no medical pun intended) of new regulatory dictates in health care (i.e., ICD 10, Meaningful Use, HIPAA updates), all designed to make the medical industry more responsive and efficient. In order to implement these changes, he believes he’s going to have to be a lot more assertive:

“Over the next few months, I expect my waning popularity to wane even further. I will lose the popularity battle. However, when the regulatory mandates are done and the institution’s longevity is assured, my career will be intact. Losing the popularity battle but winning the career war for the benefit of the institution sounds like right long term strategy but certainly will require strength of will, a thick skin, and constant communication.”

- Is It Time For CIOs To Be More Assertive? By Howard Baldwin, Forbes.com, October 25, 2013.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Follow the money?

Behind the eight ball again?

Reading the riot act?

Keep his power dry?

Finest hour?


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)



Finest hour?


Raw end of the deal?


Keep his power dry?


Reading the riot act?


Behind the eight ball again?


Follow the money?

中国日报网 英语点津微信
中国日报网 双语小程序