TMI and the benefits of privacy

Many years back, while practising law, I got a a very unfortunate phonecall from another lawyer.  “Your client came in to consult with me today. She was looking for a second opinion. I thought you’d want to know.”

He assumed he was doing me a big favour. But he was not. The next time that particular client came in to see me, I couldn’t help but notice a change in my attitude. I struggled with it. I had no reason to feel differently. Talking to another lawyer is, of course, her right to do. She didn’t pull her case from me and the other consultation was never mentioned. But I just didn’t like her quite as much as I did before. I felt betrayed. It was unnecessary, and unfair to her, for me to feel that way. But I just couldn’t help it.

My new, unwanted feelings made me wish that the other lawyer had just kept it to himself. TMI! Not only did he violate her privacy, he poisoned my own relationship with her in the process. If I could have cut him off before he said it, I definitely would have. If only I’d known what he was about to tell me, I would have hung up the phone before he had the chance .

How many times have you found out some fact about a person, which should have been private, and then wish that you just didn’t know? You can’t “un-know” it. It can negatively change how you feel, without giving you any benefit at all.

We each have, or should have, a public veneer. That’s the image that we present once we step outside our front door, and go out there into the world. This is everybody’s basic right. Other than what we choose to share publicly, the rest of our information is, and should remain, private. There’s supposed to be a wall of privacy around our homes. But when this is invaded, all kinds of unfortunate and unnecessary things can and do happen.

We must honour the sanctity of the home and allow people to keep private their private information. We must keep our “data input” about other people strictly to what is in front of us, through ordinary means. And we have to fight the impulse to find out more.

But one thing that people rarely consider, is that to honour the privacy of other people protects YOU. This point is directed at those who might say, “I know that’s an invasion of their privacy. But I need to protect myself! So I have to find out everything I can.” Well, if this is you, then you’re absolutely wrong. The best way to protect yourself is NOT TO KNOW what you have no right to know.

Personally, I never try to find out any private information about others. I prefer to know only what’s being offered to me via regular channels – that is, whatever I see, hear, read, and experience directly. If somebody told me that they had a private file on another person who is involved with my life, such as their medical file or their financial profile, I would quickly tell them to take a hike. I don’t want to know! I don’t need to know. And this attitude of honouring the privacy of others, protects me.

It protects me against unwanted and unfortunate facts, which I never should have found out about about. It protects me from having my existing relationship poisoned for no good reason at all. It allows me to have natural, honest relationships, where I can quickly decide how I’d like to interact, without having to go and check something first.

Most importantly, always honouring the privacy of others allows me to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that someone has said something bad about me. If I never find out about it, then the next time I see them, that information won’t colour our interaction. This way, they can get a second chance to be a decent human being. And I’ll be none the wiser. So I won’t need to waste my energy by disliking them. I’d rather not.

Now, how about this for something irrational and bizarre: a person finds out a private fact about somebody. They shouldn’t know about that at all – but somehow, they do. And then, they take some action based on what they’ve found out.  Then, when it all goes sour on them, they blame the victim of the privacy invasion, for their own decision to act! Yes – it does happen. Blaming somebody else for what YOU did, when that person doesn’t even have a clue, is worse than stupid. It’s insane.

Things have gotten very toxic out there, and I believe that the growing erosion of privacy is the basic reason. The best thing that you can do for yourself, in order to have peace of mind and be a trusting human being, is to quit helping yourself to information which is not rightly yours to have. You’ll sleep better. If everybody did that, I’m sure that we’d all be much better off.

Movie review (caution: spoilers)

I just saw “World’s End” again. It’s the third in a trilogy with Brits Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It got mixed reviews. To me, the critics who didn’t enjoy it seem to have missed the overall message – which is quite clever and some food for thought.

At first blush, it’s just another “aliens taking over the planet” story like so many others. You have to examine it more closely after seeing it, to appreciate all the subtle nuances. It’s actually quite deep.

I will warn you again that there are spoilers here. If you haven’t seen the film, and you’d like to see it, please don’t read any further until after you’ve seen the movie. I don’t want to ruin your experience.

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If you’ve scrolled down this far, first let me first say that I’m amazed you’re reading this. You must be very bored! Now please remember that below is my own personal take on the movie’s true meaning. Here’s what I think the overall statement might be. Others, even the filmmakers, may disagree.

Outline: The move is about five middle-aged men who used to be teenage pals in a small town. The ringleader (Simon Pegg), called Gary King, decides to get the gang together and go on a pub crawl called “the golden mile” – twelve pubs, twelve pints. His four friends are all married and professionally successful, while Gary is having trouble.

Along the way while doing this pub crawl, they begin to discover that most of the townspeople have been replaced by humanoid-like creatures which are physically identical, but which are very easily busted, yielding blue goo instead of blood. A few other people are still human, but they are hush-hush about what’s going on. The mystery deepens. As an aside, the characters discuss how the replacements which look like people are NOT to be called robots, because “robot” actually means “slave” and is therefore a misnomer.

When night falls, the replacements emanate blue light out of their open mouths. And they’re coming to get Gary and his pals.

Gary is determined to finish the pub crawl, however, despite all the dangers. At Pub #12, called “The World’s End”, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Two of their friends have been replaced – there are only three left. One of the three left, however, is missing. So we’re down to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Of course.

And then the movie gets into a plot device which some people don’t like: a narrator-like character explains everything. An unseen  “head alien”, with a booming voice, explains the entire plot to Gary King and his buddy. But that’s not what you’re supposed to do, in the Hollywood-blockbuster genre. “Show, don’t tell!” admonishes the disappointed critic. You aren’t supposed to just explain it all like that. As one disgruntled viewer put it, you aren’t supposed to “just shove the message right into everybody’s face”.

The thing is, there’s a ton of sub-text, which is perhaps lost on the non-discerning viewer. The sub-text is so subtle and nuanced, it isn’t apparent until you’re finished watching, and you sit and think about it. Because while the movie is going on, you’re too distracted by the special effects and the characters to really get what they mean. So you have to think about it later. Perhaps there are people who don’t want to do that. They don’t want to have to think; hence, the disappointment from all those who didn’t like the movie.

Here’s what the booming, unseen head alien tells the two buds:

  1. There’s an inter-planetary association of civilizations, comprising the galaxy – and the other planets are very disappointed with planet earth. Humans keep killing eachother off, and overall, we’re very immature. The other planets are all “up here”, while earth is “down there” (the alien shows a diagram with the earth located well below the other civilizations).
  2. The other planets all want humans to improve themselves, and join the interplanetary association as equals. So, these aliens are here to improve us.
  3. The only “small sacrifice” necessary is that any humans who do not comply and refuse to improve, have to be destroyed and turned into mulch, replaced by identical units. But it’s a small price to pay, for all the advantages of joining the interplanetary association.
  4. The benefits that the aliens have brought to earth are very good and are in fact necessary, such as communications and all other technology. They get the credit for all of that.

Gary King responds with anger. He says, “All we humans want, is our freedom” and “Go back to your lego-land” and “Don’t come here and tell US what to do!”

The head alien asks if he speaks for all humans. Gary says that yes, he does. He knows that everybody else on earth feels the same way that he does – he’s a real human. All humans want is freedom. And nobody wants to be told what to do, especially not by a bunch of aliens who don’t even belong here.

The alien then says, “F__k it” and indicates that they’re leaving. They pull out. Everything explodes, then it all goes dark. In the end, all of earth’s technology is gone. Nobody can communicate with anybody else. Nobody knows how many people have survived. Planet earth is back to the dark ages.

Now, here’s the sub-text, at least from my point of view.

The aliens are total arseholes. They are, in fact, well below us, in all the important ways. They have no integrity whatsoever. Just because they’re clever and they know how to make technology, does NOT make them better than us. In fact, there’s ample proof that they’re much worse than the best of humans. And they’re about equal to the worst of humans. Here’s why.

  1. They’ve quietly embedded themselves all over our planet, allowing us to believe that we’re the ones who invented all the technology. We think it’s ours. But it’s apparently not. And they’re prepared to withdraw all the tech, if we don’t do exactly as they say. That’s nothing short of blackmail. It’s manipulation.
  2. They never told us that they’ve been here at all. They just quietly integrated themselves, without letting on. That’s completely dishonest.
  3. After integrating and embedding themselves with all their tech, while completely misleading us by hiding themselves, they give us a choice: “improve” yourselves, to the way that WE want you to be, or else, it will all go “kaboom” and you’ll be in the dark. Some choice! They’ve eliminated freedom completely and have backed the human race right into the corner. That’s aggressive.
  4. The worst part of all, is that they allow Gary King to speak for everyone. Gary King?! That’s not a fair process. He is not representative, and nobody else on the planet chose him. This means that these aliens have no concept of what “justice” means at all. Therefore, they’re the ones who are uncivilized. Not us. They don’t even know how to conduct a trial properly. Their methods are completely unfair.
  5. Finally, not only have they hid themselves and secretly backed the human race right into the corner, and then allowed Gary King to speak for the entire planet, they don’t even TELL him that if they go away, it will all explode and then go dark. They don’t even mention these consequences. They don’t give him all the information that he would need, in order to make an informed decision. They keep all the crucial bits of information from him and allow him to choose, without even realizing what he’s choosing. This is worse than unfair. This is amazingly corrupt. These aliens are complete jerks, even though apparently they are clever.

So, the upshot is, while you’re watching the movie, you become fooled. You think, oh no, Gary King blew it. He said the wrong things. It’s HIS fault the earth went dark. Wow, it might have been nice to join that planetary assocation – it sounds cool. But no. He blew it. Interesting – planet earth is still so primitive, while all the other planets are so advanced.

But then, if you think about it later, it’s THEM who are really the primitive ones. Look at everything the aliens have done, how they treat us. Even though the technology they “gave” us (while letting us think that it’s ours) is pretty neat, and has become necessary, they’re corrupt, dishonest, aggressive, unfair, and clearly they have no morals at all.

Conclusion? In this film, humans are, in fact, much better than the aliens. The planet is their victim. It was never Gary’s fault. The end.

(There are also biblical / religious overtones as well. The head alien, unseen with booming voice, smacks of what some people have as an image of God. This alien is about as nice, kind, and benevolent as the God of the Old Testament. As an aside, notice that the New Testament God is much nicer. Maybe the Gary King figure is supposed to be Jesus. This would mean that the filmmakers want us to think about this: what if Jesus actually tamed God, who was kind of a jerk, into being nicer? This could be the reason he was adopted as a “son” by the almighty. The fact that everything goes dark in the film, because Gary pissed off the head alien, is kind of like the great flood in the Noah story. Just food for thought there.)

P.S. I like how Simon Pegg wrote in a reason to show off his washboard abs. They didn’t go unnoticed 🙂

 

What religion brings

Well, it’s that time of year again – when atheists sternly tell you what not to believe, while you shrug and ignore them, planning your holiday get-togethers as usual.  What’s up with that anyway?

It’s atheism’s traditional, annual irrational false association ritual – one that I personally find quite annoying.

It goes like this.

Religion is terrible.  It’s the source of all evil.  Because if you look at it, the religious leaders are sometimes bad – and people often do horrible things too, “in the name of” religion.  Therefore, it’s an all-round terrible thing.  And if you believe in it, then you are either stupid, or terrible – or both.  So, please don’t.  Be smart.

Let’s pull that apart, shall we?  This is MY annual ritual.  Applying rational thought to irrational, non-causative assertions is my hobby.  I have to do something with my time.

First, let’s examine the phrase “in the name of”.  This is the reason for people pointing the finger at all Muslims:  some people, calling themselves Muslim, do awful things and while doing these things, they say that they are doing it “in the name of Allah”.  Therefore, they are doing these despicable acts “in the name of Islam” and this means that Islam must be bad.

Are you following me here?  Can you see the error in logic there?  The anti-Muslim goofball tries to make a false association between a) the individual acts of certain soul-broken, damaged-beyond-repair people, and b) billions of other people who don’t even know them.  This false association is created by the bad actor, whose words appear to link him to all the other Muslims, according to him.  And so, the idiotic among us try to tag billions of hardworking, spiritual Muslims with what the sorry human has done to other humans – just because he said so.

Hey, if the criminal actor said it, it must be true!  Right?  So you can see how this false association forms the basis of hatred against a good portion of the human life on this planet.  Clever?  No.  But still, people do it.

This same sort of false association and error in causation is done by atheists, every day.  They wear the mantle of “thinking human” and they “mean well” when they say “religion has caused so much misery and hatred”.  They repeat their mantra especially at holiday time, sincerely believing that if you’re a believer, they are just trying to do you a favour.

Let’s look at the sentence “religion has caused so much misery and hatred”.  This is not true.  What’s true, is that some people cause so much misery and hatred through their actions, while claiming religion to be the reason they do it.  Again, just because they said it, doesn’t make it true.  And their heinous acts simply do not tag those who celebrate religious holidays.  That’s just trying to jam together two things that do not relate, due to bad actors claiming inspiration from something other than their sorry selves.  That does not wash.

So now let’s move to the millions of people who celebrate religious holidays with their friends and/or families, on an annual basis, enjoying eachother’s company.  Shall we tag them with what strangers have done, in the past, “in the name of religion”?  No.  That would be a false association.  Those acts have nothing at all to do with these good people, who are using religious holidays as a convenient excuse to get together every year.

Yes -it is convenient.  Whether you believe spiritually in a certain mythology or not is really irrelevant.  Not everyone believes the same thing.  Some just enjoy the season, without any spiritual belief attached to it.  Some enjoy the season, AND attend church or synagogue, or Mosque if it’s Ramadan.  Some do all of that and have their own private observance of the spiritual aspects of the particular holiday they celebrate.  It doesn’t matter.

Religion is not actually a “thing”.  It’s a huge category, encompassing cultural and social rituals, as well as spiritual belief, and yes – bad actors try to use it too.  But it’s not a “thing”.  It’s a massive set of ideas, practises, symbols, and beliefs.

This set of ideas, practises, symbols, and beliefs forms the basis for annual reinforcement of social and family bonding.  When people get together under the auspices of a religious holiday, they are enjoying one another’s company – not the holiday itself.  The holiday isn’t a “thing”, it’s an occasion.  Let’s use a completely secular holiday for a moment, to make this point.  When you get together on Thanksgiving, for example, during dinner you aren’t all going “Hail to Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving is great!  Let’s think about Thanksgiving, the holiday.  Everybody ponder Thanksgiving.”  No, I don’t think that anybody does that.  Rather, they are enjoying the fact that they are together (or, if they are in a dysfunctional, non-attached group, it could be something worse – true).  The holiday itself is a symbol of “gratitude” as a concept.  So, they might ponder gratitude while enjoying dinner, giving homage to the symbolism of the occasion – or they might not.  But the important aspect of the holiday is the bonding of the group.

Same goes for Christmas, or Hannukah, or Ramadan, or any other annual ritual provided by a religion.  It’s the togetherness that counts.  And yes, there is a certain conscriptive or authoritative aspect to it – if you don’t come home for it, that’s frowned upon.  Or worse, you could break your mother’s heart if you don’t show up.  The religious holiday does have a certain responsibility attached to it and again, this is valuable for bonding purposes, because people are very busy.  The religious holiday provides an excuse for you ducking out of something else – gotta go.  It’s Christmas.  Can’t help you today, it’s Hannukah.  It provides a source of glue for heart-attached groups of people, to reinforce their bonds and enjoy the energy thus created.

So why would atheists try to pull apart this sort of social/familial bonding?  I guess they would have many reasons for that – some sinister, some simply unaware of what they’re doing.  But I think that the efforts of atheists to “disrupt” religious holidays are completely futile anyway.  So why did I give that any energy today?  Simply because I wanted to throw in a rational argument for why religious holidays are good, and for why you can’t assert that “religion is bad” because of what SOME people do while naming it as their source.  With any act of aggression or hatred, the bad actor firmly sets himself apart from everybody else and this will never change.  In conclusion, atheists are sending an irrational message, based on false associations, for reasons which currently escape me.

(bonus thought:  If you are thinking to yourself “She’d better just shut up!” right about now, then I have to wonder … why you are reading this?  Isn’t it optional?)

The girl who wouldn’t do math, part 2

MWs (math wizards):  Well!  It’s about time!  Do you have the answer yet?

G (girl):  Hold on there.  This is just an exercise, right?  You haven’t really put me in charge of this life-and-death decision, have you?  And by the way – yesterday I spoke to one of you.  But today there are five of you.  Why is that?

MWs:  We have decided to gather the council of elders in order to deal with you.  We use the number five, so that there will be a majority when we render judgment.

G:  Judgment?  I didn’t realize that I am being judged.  Would have been nice if you’d told me.  Am I on trial?

MWs:  We realize that we have made an error.  We never should have put somebody like you on this mission to take down the “beast”.  This is not a job for somebody who does not understand math.

G:  I understand math, you silly old men.  I love music – music is based on math.

MWs:  (muttering all at once)  Not all of it.  Not all music is based on math.

G:  Don’t tell me I’m dealing with complete idiots here?  Did we not agree yesterday not to allow our discussion to become bogged down with abberations or exceptions?  Well?

MWs:  We did.

G:  Then …. how is it that one small sub-set of music, modern jazz – which seems to be independent of math – renders my point about music and math null and void?  How would one small subset of music be AT ALL relevant to my point?  Are you going to do that every time I say anything, or can we actually have a lucid intelligent discussion?

MWs:  All right.  Point taken.  Music depends on math for its rhythm.

G:  And that’s not all.  I am good at mathematical problems.  I’ve been tested at quite a high level, and I passed with flying colours.  And that’s almost 40 years since I studied math in school.  So don’t tell me that I don’t understand math.  This seems to be a deliberate misunderstanding of me.  Why would you do that?  Never mind.

MWs:  Fine then.  What is the answer to our question about the “beast”?

G:  I will answer that, once I’m done with my trial here.  Or will you judge me without even letting me know the charges against me?  Do you really need to cheat like that – is your procedure really so flawed that you can’t even let me know that I am under scrutiny?  That seems so very weak.  So, then, you are indeed as weak as you look. (surveys the panel of white-haired, pale, overweight or skinny men)

MWs:  There is no need for insult.

G:  Not when you’re the target of it anyway, right?  But you feel quite entitled to level insult at me though – is that right?  Well – fire away.  Allow me to defend myself at least.  Now it’s out in the open.  What exactly is your complaint?

MWs:  You have demonstrated within your personal life that you do not follow a logical budget.  You set a poor example for other people, with the unsound decisions you make.  And your personal appearance makes it obvious that you do not take life very seriously at all.

G:  Just how did you come upon factual details of my personal life?  Have you been breaching my privacy?  What entitles you to do that?

MWs:  Well, it’s important that we know exactly whom we are dealing with.

G:  Will you allow me the same advantage?  What about YOUR personal life – and yours?  And yours?  What are the details?  Do you follow a budget?  Prove it!

MWs:  (silent)

G:  Now, let’s not bother ourselves with private lives, shall we?  Hmmmm, well all right – I will give you one thing.  Have you ever heard of Gone With The Wind?

MWs:  Some of us are slightly familiar with it.

G:  Are you aware of the “drapes” scene?  Scarlett O’Hara needs money, because her entire way of life has been destroyed in the civil war.  She was born and raised as a landowner and this is her skill set.  But she has had to let her “employees” go, and now she fills their tasks as well, working in the fields.  She has had to learn their jobs.  This results in a very different physical appearance than she is used to.  She tries to preserve her former appearance, and lifestyle, by sewing some clothing out of drapes.  And she goes to meet with her old flame to ask him for a loan.  He tells her – “You are a sight for sore eyes!” and he is almost fooled by her drape-dress.  But not quite.  He sees that her hands bely her, and that she has had to do work with which she isn’t accustomed.  He realizes that she is even worse off than she claims.

MWs:  Is there a point to any of this?  Get on with it!

G:  I am wearing drapes.  They are green.  I am doing what I can to reach the best outcome possible, for myself and my family, while insisting on a physical appearance which suits my personality – to preserve my sense of self.  Yes, this is not easy – but I am up to it.  The decisions I make, are the best decisions for my future.  So how dare you judge me?  And how dare you pry into my personal life?  You certainly are despicable.  But since we are here, I will answer your question from before.

MWs:  Finally.  If you are done acting like a hysterical woman, let’s examine the issue.

G:  Hold on – when I object to YOU, I am hysterical.  But when you object to me, you are being rational.  I need you to see all the different ways that you are a bunch of hypocrites – and there are so many.  Shall I list them all?

MWs:  No, just get to the point – we have things to do.  You have said that you refuse to be backed into any corners, and that you reject “binary” “either/or” thinking.  Well, which is it?  Do you reject binary thinking, or do you embrace it?  You must choose one.

G:  (laughing)  Oh, that’s a good one!  You’ve given me a binary choice, involving binary thinking.  You’re wrong.  I can choose when and where to employ binary thinking.  Sometimes it’s suitable – sometimes it’s not.  This depends on the arena we are working in.  This is a public discussion, being disseminated using binary data – do you think I don’t know that?  Please.  I use binary every single day of my life, of course.  It’s quite useful.  But when you seek to understand me using binary code, then you will surely make serious errors.  Because I am of course a living being, with a living brain – changeable, shifting, constantly growing and sometimes reducing.  You will never pin me down, nor any other living being.  Whenever you do, you make mistakes.  And you’ve made a whopping few.

MWs:  Fine – whatever.  You pick and choose when binary code suits you.  Now, what about the answer to our question?

G:  You already know my answer.  I’ve given it to you – several times already.  The answer is, change the “beast” or wait for it to change.  Because change, it will – as long as you allow that and facilitate it.

MWs:  That has been tried, and failed.

G:  Did you try to use threats, insults, judgment, assumptions, and binary while attempting to change it?

MWs:  (silence)

G:  I thought so.  Has it ever occurred to you that this so-called “beast” is a living being, with a conscience?  Did you ever consider that maybe it’s gotten wound up in this web without meaning to?  And perhaps it’s looking for a way out – a dignified way out, with honour?

MWs:  That thing has no honour.

G:  How do you know?  Are you just assuming that it has no honour?  You are the kings of assumption, after all.  In fact – the entire problem that you posed yesterday was absolutely filled with assumptions.  You assume that people can’t extricate themselves from this web.  You think too little of them.  You assume that the “beast” will always remain the same – but that’s because you expect it to stay unchanged.  You assume that the only way to help the situation, is with violence.  And finally, you assume that your choices are A – take down the “beast” with its web, or B – leave it to devour everything.  I reject those choices.  I say, we choose C – allow the “beast” to redeem itself.  Redemption is very powerful.  People almost always choose it, when given the chance.  Have you even tried facilitating redemption for those involved in this situation?  No – I thought not.

MWs:  We will consider your words, thank you.  But we are unlikely to change our minds.

G:  I know.  And that’s why I dislike you so much.  You are static beings – are you even human anymore?  You’ve been here far too long.  You’ve become jaded and dried out.  You’ve fogotten all about your hearts.  I tell you what – I’ll give you a lesson in “heart math”.  You really need it.

MWs:  What is “heart math”?

G:  It’s basically “un-math”.  It’s a calculation, which doesn’t calculate anything.  It’s an equation which isn’t equal.  It’s a procedure which has no process.  It’s alive.  And it can only be created “heart to heart” between living creatures.

MWs:  (glancing at eachother in confusion)

G:  I’m going to have to use numbers to illustrate this point, even though it really has nothing to do with numbers.  Let’s take two groups of people.  One group, group A, has “detached” from other beings and from one another, as their “guru” has instructed.  They instead embrace a nebulous concept called “universal love”, of which their “guru” is the recipient of course.  They carefully guard themselves from “attachments” or true affection, caring, for other people.  They relate to one another at arm’s length, even though sometimes they do bizarre rituals which involve physical contact.  Are you with me?

MWs:  (nodding, looking guilty)

G:  Now, let’s talk about group B – this is a family unit, with parents and children, consisting of healthy people who deeply care for one another.  We can say that they relate through their hearts.  They connect with their hearts.  They embrace being attached to one another, without fear.  Every day, they do things to support one another and express their love.  They don’t know “universal love”, which really has no definition – but they do know love.  And they love eachother.  I don’t suppose any of you are familiar with that.

MWs:  (shaking their heads, looking sad)

G:  Here’s the un-math.  First, group B.  Let’s say that your personal efforts, your actions, your acts of service, by which you care for the others in your immediate group – and others – carry a sum.  We’ll call it 25.  So, we have a small group B consisting of only 2 people.  One, the parent, brings 45 today.  The offspring brings 25.  Is the total 70?  No.  The total is something more like 7,000.  Because the energy that is created by loving service, kindness, respect, and attachment, is like a living being which multiples by itself, showering the group members with as much energy as they require – shielding them from damage, healing them when they are damaged, and giving them hope.  Now let’s look at group A – the sad group which only relate to eachother on a superficial (and sometimes bizarrely physical) level.  Let’s say it’s a group of 3.  If each of them brings 25, they should have a pool of 75 from which to draw energy, correct?

MWs:  (nodding)

G:  Wrong.  There won’t be 75.  There will be less.  Because the energy that’s created by such a group, becomes a consuming creature which feeds on them – rather than nourishing them, as in group A.  They will find that what they create together is hungry, rather like a cranky orphan.  It won’t be very much use to them at all.  As a result, they will all become defensive, and they will guard what they have from one another, rather than sharing.  That’s un-math.  Do you see?

MWs:  Well thanks for coming out today.  Obviously you have nothing to offer us.  We have a meeting in five minutes – gotta go.  (scurrying out the door)

And so ends the girl’s trial, quite abruptly.

 

A Frank Discussion (in ancient Greece)

A:  I’m the man.  I’ve been hired by your rulers, to convince all of you why you should be ruled.  They give me room and board, good food, and all the boys I want.  It’s great.  Now, listen up.

W:  Wait a minute – if they’re paying you, isn’t it obvious that you’re obliged to come up with reasons for why they are “better” than we are?  Why else would they be paying you?  You aren’t doing any hard work and come to think of it, neither are they.

(Crowd begins booing and hissing at W, who is a woman, shouting things like “Go back to your kitchen!  You aren’t allowed here!  Where is your veil?  See how ugly she is!  Shameful!  I heard that she has relations with horses – it’s true!  She’s crazy!”)

A: (with a generous sweep of his hand) No wait – let her speak!  She has no husband to defend her or feed her.  So the least we can do is hear her out.  And keep your hands off of her.

W:  Thank you, sir.  I have been listening to you.  It’s true that I have no husband, however I work hard to support myself, doing the best I can.  I am beholden to nobody.  I sew clothes for a living, working from sunrise to sunset. (She holds up bloody, scarred, bruised hands.)

The crowd goes silent, except for a few younger men who are shushed up by the others.

A:  You were saying, woman?  What is your name?

W:  I am Naomi.  I have been listening to you through my window over there (she gestures to a nearby hovel).  I have heard your words and your wisdom.  I have a few things to add – may I?

A:  (smiling)  Of course you may.  I am nothing if not generous when it comes to matters of the mind.  The more I hear, the more I think.  And “I think” is my personal motto.  I am paid to think by the King.  He thinks that I think real well.  Now go ahead, sewer.  (this is pronounced “sow-er” rather than “sue-er”, denoting that she sews clothing)

W:  You have said that all humans are inherently selfish, and that if the aristocrats and their progeny did not rule over us, then we would all destroy one another through fighting.  But I have seen quite the opposite.  With my own eyes and ears, I have seen that this is not true.

(A begins to frown, crossing his arms … a few men begin shouting again, but he gestures them abruptly to be quiet.)  A:  I said to let her speak.  It is not often that we hear a woman speaking – I find it fascinating to hear.  True, all women are inherently stupid, childish, and emotional, which is why we have them locked away in our homes and out of public view, and which is also why we do not allow them to vote.  However, this one seems to be an exception.  Maybe she is a man in disguise.  (At this, men begin chattering excitedly to one another.)  I said be quiet!  Maybe she is an oracle.  I have heard of such things – a blind, stupid woman can sometimes access the dream world, and bring back wisdom.  If she is such an oracle, and we refuse to listen to her, this might be at our own peril.

(A does not look happy – he has painted himself into a corner, without realizing it … this woman must be a sorceress!  And now he has no choice but to let her speak.  He does not like where this is headed, but there’s nothing he can do.)

W:  I see many people, both men and women, throughout my days as a seamstress.  They all have several things in common:  they all, without exception, take pride in their work and their contribution.  They all strive towards co-operation, and most of them abhor conflict.  They all care deeply for their families, except for those with mental problems – and those people have been traumatized, explaining their aberrance.  We should not occupy ourselves with aberrant people, but instead focus on the majority, when formulating theories about the nature of humans.  Will you allow this point?

A:  Of course.  We should not focus ourselves on aberrations, when discussing the nature of humans.  On this I agree.

W:  Well then – the only people I ever encounter who seem to be selfish by nature, are the aristocrats themselves.  It seems that the more they have, the more selfish they become.  They tend to cause conflict wherever they go, unlike the common folk.  And they tend not to look after their own families, instead enlisting other people to do this for them.  In fact – all of the good qualities that I have seen in each and every common person with whom I have dealt, are completely absent in the aristocrats.

A:  What is your point, woman?  We have things to do here.  (Many of the surrounding men begin to walk away.  The crowd thins out.  People have stopped listening.  They have been made uncomfortable by her truths, and they worry about being caught listening to her.  They worry that they will be punished for listening.  So, they disperse.)

W:  My point is that you, in asserting that people are inherently selfish by nature, are simply doing what you’ve been hired to do – rationalize the aristocracy.  In fact, it is not possible to prove that all people are inherently selfish.  That is an unproveable fact, which you have however stated as fact.  Then you rationalize your arguments, coming to the conclusion that since all people are selfish, therefore the aristocrats are necessary to keep order and prevent people from fighting.  Your argument simply goes around in a big circle, and really goes nowhere.  And the entire rationalization is based on one single, unproven, unproveable fact:  that humans have a bad nature, and therefore must be told what to do.  I find your arguments are not only unpersuasive, they are in fact ridiculous.

A:  GUARDS!  Take her away!  Put her in that tower, lock her up, and throw away the key.  She has no husband anyway, so there’s nobody to miss her.  (He backhands her across the face, hard, breaking her nose and causing her to lose two teeth.)  Nobody will ever hear from you again.  You’ll be lucky in you don’t die of starvation.  You have now officially disappeared.

And so ends the discussion.

Attitude is everything

I read something the other day which I found very disturbing – a “TED Talk” about how to have the wrong attitude about other people.  It was a “how to” of “making people do what you want, in the civic arena”.

One of the most pervasive problems that we have, collectively, is this sort of attitude towards other people.  “Making them do what you want” shows that you have made yourself too “large” and by the same token, have minimized the free will of other actors.

The terminology smacks of manipulation of others.  This is precisely the wrong attitude to have, in any arena.  I’ll try to describe the main reasons why this is so.

In any situation there are multiple actors at play.  Each brings to bear their own experience, their personal knowledge, their style, their “take” on what’s best to do.  Collaboration always yields the best, most lasting results, because when a solution is the product of collaboration, nobody involved will be tempted to undo it.  If everybody had a say in coming up with the solution to a problem they mutually face, then they would be much more likely to feel satisfied with the outcome.  So the first point to make about the wrongness of this attitude of “making” others “do what you want”, is that in holding this attitude, you are automatically minimizing what others want, while aggrandizing or enlarging what you want at their expense.

The second point to make is that viewing yourself as the player, in a complex scenario, who has the most to contribute is a form of psychosis.  Think of a 3 year old in a “play” situation with other 3 year olds.  You will see them playing side by side, or alongside one another, without directly interacting very much.  This is a relatively young stage of human development.  Each 3 year old is completely absorbed in what they are doing, although they will permit others to be physically close to them.  They might casually glance over at the other children, but they will persist in their own activities.  As children develop cognitively, they become more able to include others in their play behaviours.  As they grow up, playing WITH others, as opposed to playing ALONGSIDE others, becomes the preferred norm because the other children bring more richness to the play situation.

Deciding, therefore, that you want to devote yourself to “making others do what you want” denotes that you have regressed to toddlerhood, doing what you will despite the free will of other people, and leaping straight over their potential contributions.  It’s insular in nature, which is the last thing that anybody should be doing in complex situations that affect many people.

Certainly the civic arena is an obvious sector where anything that happens can affect the lives of many citizens.  So this is the last place where anybody should be going off on their own, and coming up with methods of manipulating other people into doing what THEY have individually decided should be done.

Finally, this instruction of how to manipulate people and situations in the civic arena reminds me of the so-called “law of attraction”, which teaches us (erroneously) that we are the centre of our own universe, and that we need to order our thoughts to “make” goods and resources come our way.  The “law of attraction” is also psychotic in nature, and just like this business of “making” others do things that you “want”, it automatically, by definition, minimizes other people in your view.  Because when you “attract” something, it had to come from somewhere else.  When you gain, somebody else had to lose.  Rather than trying to use some magical formula to “make” things come your way, it’s better to focus on the mundane reality of hard work.  The problem I’ve always had with “magic” is that it seems to be simply an attempt to avoid work.  That’s unbalanced in nature, and it shows that you feel that you are so important, compared to other people, that you think it’s fine to indiscriminately “make” things happen your way, no matter who else will lose out in that scenario.  The “law of attraction” is psychotic in nature because it’s a form of “magic”, or “getting things” without working for them, and without collaborating on the mundane level with others.  All of that is hugely problematic, and it’s the source of a lot of problems in our world.

When you collaborate, you can offer a solution to others, to broaden their options and increase their potential choices.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  By offering a contribution without trying to “make” anything happen via manipulation, you are honouring their free will and their right to choose, making your contribution but then standing back to allow others to do the same.  This shows that you value other people equally, as yourself.  Collaboration demonstrates that you consider yourself on the same playing field as the other people in a complex scenario – no longer operating at a toddler’s level, but being a real grown-up.

I am alarmed that this “TED Talk” is being put out there as a viable attitude to bring to the civic arena, and hopefully people will recognize sheer manipulation as the primitive, anti-community, anti-progressive action that it really is.

Disagreeing with Neitzsche

Agreement rarely fosters creativity, while disagreement can really get you rolling.  This I found to be the case when reviewing a summary of Neitzsche’s (“N”) philosophy – which is steeped in despair and angst.  N never really strays from the established ways of understanding human relations, and he therefore doesn’t invent anything new.  He does come up with new ways of slagging people and what he sees as inevitable human tendencies.  It’s as if he searches for ways to explain negative choices – either, he argues, we don’t have any choices at all, or if we do, we are simply reacting to what’s been done before us in inescapable ways.

Where I disagree with N is in how he understands human interaction and human nature, in relation to the existing distribution of resources.  He seems to be resigned to the fact that the way that material things have been divided between people is the only way; and therefore, given that this can’t change, we are bound to see the world as either masters, or slaves.  It’s buying into the historical ordering of things as if this is the only way that it can ever be done, while despairing that whether one is a master or a slave, it’s never going to be very good.

I researched this because I am trying to figure out if there is another way to understand the concepts of “wealth” and property.  Currently, ensuring that there is the possibility of inherited material wealth is the only way to provide future support for your offspring.  But there is starting to be a different way of understanding how to provide support:  providing emotional resilience.  This has arisen due to the seemingly random nature of what happens when you work hard all your life and gather up property – you might be lucky and get to keep it, or else, you could experience random misfortune and lose it all through no fault of your own.  Here I am envisioning what it would have been like to own property and then run into a serious health problem in pre-insured America; or, work your whole life in a factory town, only to see the only gig in town close up and move shop somewhere else, leaving everybody unemployed.  Material wealth can evaporate in an instant in today’s global economy, and so there needs to be an alternative way of ensuring the survival of your kids.

Arguably, the most valuable asset that we can impart, as parents, is emotional resilience, the ability to cope or “roll with it”.  Creative imagination is also valuable these days, as people need to come up with alternative ways of making a living, since the days of lifelong, secure employment might be behind us.  Of course, there are many people who have accumulated so much material wealth that their kids needn’t ever really worry.  That is certainly one way of doing it – however this option is foreclosed to most people.  Millions find themselves in the other boat, wondering what to tell their kids about how to get through life when the boat is rocking so hard.

So perhaps the new way of understanding wealth, given all of these harsh realities, will be to say that one is “rich with contentment”, or that you are “loaded” if you are well able to pick up, dust yourself off, and move on in the face of misfortune or disappointment.  Maybe in the future, you will be said to be “well off” if you are very sure about how best to support yourself emotionally in rough times, and if you have a good support network of friends who have all pledged to help one another out if need be.

A word about “how”.  Young parents might ask, how will I do this?  How will I ensure that my children are resilient emotionally, mentally strong, and creative?  The only answer could be: “Only you know best how to do that”.  There are infinite ways of ensuring emotionally healthy kids – as many different ways, as there are parents.  This has to be an individual formula … but as a parent, I might add that the key core components would be understanding them or at least making it obvious that you’re trying to, paying attention, showing your interest, caring about the little things, being available to listen, and sharing what you know – about anything and everything.  You’re a team.  And all of that can start in infancy.

What does all of this have to do with N, the philosopher, you might wonder?  It’s that he writes about an “either/or” type of existence which seems to be now becoming obsolete.  His definitions and concepts as to what position you are in, seem to be based on an old order which, although still existing, isn’t the only way to think about life anymore.

There are alternatives, but I do not espouse “crashing” anything.  People rely more than they think upon the current systems that we have in place.  There are aspects of daily life which are hidden from us, due to the seamless way in which developed regions are administered; in other words, it would only be by virtue of its absence that we could ever really appreciate what governments provide us.  “Crashing the systems” surely isn’t the only way of working around what seems to be the intractable, unchangeable divisions of material resources.  For example, finding a way to swap goods and services in challenging circumstances doesn’t mean that you are bent on trashing the economy.  The old can co-exist with the new – and I would argue that this is the only viable way to achieve change, while avoiding the kind of damage that would ruin all of our comforts and security.

I’ve written before about how it’s important to avoid “either/or” thinking, if we are to create progressive change without unduly hurting ourselves and our way of life.  The better way to think about it is with the word “and”.  Keep the old ways AND invent new ones.  Use the existing systems AND skirt around them, when necessary to keep afloat.  Opt out of the “grid” AND use the roads and sewers which are funded by your taxes.

Keep both the baby AND the bathwater.  This is definitely doable.