Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fell In Love

When my psychologist tried to reach me through my avowed influence Miyamoto Musashi, and suggested that I 'sleep with 70 women' in some kind of romantic homage to his battle with the 70 students of the Yoshioka school, I was admittedly dubious.
But she was identifying something well known about myself - that basically since my sexual awakening, I have been looking for 'the one' and as terrible as the advice to go and sleep with 70 different women sounds, removing the face value she was suggesting that I basically form a discipline to act contrary to my habitual behavior in order to empirically test the most theraputic question of all 'how's that working for you?'
Because the simple answer was, that it wasn't. I had been single for something like 7 years when my psychologist suggested this. I didn't lack sex drive or curiosity (I mean, I wasn't compelled to sleep with whomever I could though, so maybe by some definition I did) nor did I lack a social environment with attractive women in it. I just had a tendency to focus on very few women of the general population. Pulling numbers out of my head in an attempt to describe my reality, lets say I would meet around 3 women a year I found attractive, but only 1 woman every 3 years would I want to pursue, sometimes for 3 years.
My best effort to break this mental habit was the one time I asked out a girl trying to objectively and cognitively look for evidence that someone was kind, brave, beautiful, honest ... a true constellation of human qualities that would make for a good partner and happy relationship. This was the only time I ever felt I tried to 'force' the chemistry. In my previous relationships I had dated women simply because I could and generally I had discovered over time that attachment was lacking for me.
I don't know if our chemistry can be out-thought, I would like to think it can because that's really all a person with a history of abusive relationships can do - think, experiment and hopefully discover that they can fall in love with someone their attachment style does not predispose them to for the better.

In my case it didn't work out. I got rejected. I found the process of motivating myself to court someone really exhausting and I basically gave up on the concept and just hoped for the best. I was trying at the time to escape someone I did naturally feel attracted to but all the evidence suggested it was destroying me mentally.

I did eventually escape that someone, through no efforts of my own. A better description was to say that they finally escaped me by starting their own relationship, at which point my instinct is to exit the picture to avoid all temptation to undermine someone else's relationship. In being altruistic I was most generous to myself.

To grieve privately though, a relationship that never really existed is incredibly painful because the grief and sense of loss is real but a community does not tend to acknowledge the heartbreak that can arise from somebody you've never dated. I feel sad as I write about this, but curiously I cannot recall why I was attracted to the person in question, in hindsight the miss match is obvious and while I feel for the predicament of my past self I feel no nostalgia for the prolonged and abortive courtship. I hope it means I have healed whatever wound had me pursue that pain.

I unfortunately next fell in love with someone equally unavailable, but only in the ultimate sense. I realised I loved this long standing friend when she divulged to me she was breaking up with her partner. It sent me into a wonderful panic.

But here is the thing, the kind of women I'm attracted enough to pursue, I'm attracted to because I can conceive of being happy for the long term with them. I have the patience to wait for the real deal. And I certainly had the patience to wait for this friend to go through the necessary grieving of ending a long term relationship. I also possess a strong sense of self, despite my fixation on finding 'the one' I do demand of myself some degree of self respect. Put simply, I need my prospective partners to demonstrate the capacity to be alone. I need them to take a risk on me, which isn't to say that they need to ask me out, the simply need to be put in a position where if I don't pursue them, they don't have an on hand backup plan.

This friend never was able to relinquish the role of being primary caretaker of their former partner. Nor was their any evidence they had stepped out of the role of being girlfriend in all but an official capacity. Eventually, the resumed the relationship officially.

There was a take away from this though, after spending a relatively short 6 months (for me) investing time and energy into this person I love, and that was this 'wanting somebody to change for you is at the direct expense of the person who doesn't need to change to be that person.' That's a bit wordy, and less than succinct but imagine if you were in love with Johnny but wished he would stop lying, putting time and energy into hoping that Johnny would become honest is at the expense of Bobby, who is honest and doesn't need to change at all and may love you too. You are making him wait and yourself by sitting around wishing that Johnny would somehow become Bobby.

Enter Yolanda. I noticed her immediately of course. She showed up at my work one day and her personal style screamed out new-age hippy. So I dismissed her off hand. I more or less make snap judgements like this about everyone. Still there was something about Yolanda that was undeniable, she had this bemused look and refreshingly for me, was engaging. Perhaps the single most attractive quality a human being can have.

We were employed by the same employer but we didn't work the same job. So what was incredibly rare about Yolanda, was that she was willing to engage people that weren't on the foreign language team. She crossed cliques. She would come and sit in the break room at work and complain out loud that everyone on break was just looking at their phones. Entirely through her own efforts I would talk to her, and she was delightful and easy to make laugh.

Yet, I wouldn't say I was attracted to her. I only know I noticed her because I can recall her, and our early interactions. The first to notice I liked her was my colleague Giulia, who has an almost Asperger's like ability to call out what she is thinking with no filter, a quality rare in women and even in Asperger's syndrome bearers over the age of 30.

But I was blocking the doorway while talking to Yolanda about having a nice clipboard. And Giulia said I would rather talk to a pretty girl than consider everyone else trying to leave. This struck me dumb, but I just felt it was one more piece of testimonial evidence that I am often a flirt without consciously knowing it.

And that was it really, because I was mostly preoccupied with the pain that my best prospect for finding lasting happiness in a relationship had decided their former partner was better than the wider world of possibilities that included me. That pain eventually resulted in my being ostracized, cut off. It happened some time just before my birthday, almost 3 years ago.

And so it was that my 31st birthday came and went. It was no exception to my ostracism, and I found most of my cognition dedicated to making excuses for this person I loved to not have remembered my birthday, good reasons for them not to care about me while still allowing them somehow, through my mental efforts to care about me despite the evidence that I'd lost out completely.

There is a point where most people who know me, are officially too late to wish me happy birthday, and that is after Bryce sends me birthday greetings. One of my oldest and most precious friends who is nevertheless reliably, but reliably none the less late to wish me happy birthday.

And so I was literally brooding about how I could no longer make excuses and that if someone had not wished me happy birthday by the time Bryce had then I had to face the fact that they just didn't care when my thoughts were interrupted by 'Happy birthday by the way.'

Which is when I noticed I was in the break room and Yolanda was there, and it hit me like a freight train that Yolanda was the person who I was wishing other women could turn into. It was at her expense that I was brooding.

There are some mysteries in life that I quite aggressively want to remain a mystery and how Yolanda knew it was my birthday is one of them. It was later determined that she didn't know my star sign, and the simplest explanation is that she overheard some colleagues talking about my birthday or perhaps saw someone wish me a belated birthday. But I prefer the mystery.

Frustratingly, having determined that I need to ask this Yolanda out, on a date or even to take a break together, she disappeared from my workplace. I didn't see her anymore, and I had no idea what her name is. In a moment of weakness I asked a supervisor friend to do my dirty work for me, and divulge her last name to me. The moment I did I felt wracked with guilt, my friend saw no problem and gave me the name so I could find her on facebook.

Through which Yolanda accepted me as a friend, and I saw she was performing at a gig. This I knew, and gig's are generally a nice quiet venue where by showing up you can get quality one-on-one time with a person and they really appreciate it. So I went to the gig and instead of being the typical quiet weeknight venue with punters sitting around a band room drinking some beers and quietly paying attention to the performers. I stumbled into what was a huge family picnic day type event except in the evening and attended by the entire Spanish speaking population of Melbourne. I was a very solitary white guy who unlike everyone else had absolutely no connections in the room.

It was the most self conscious I've probably ever felt, and all my instincts screamed out 'LEAVE' but instead I found a plastic cup that I could fill with water and a pole to lean against and I locked my feet up determined to wait it out. Yolanda walked straight passed me and I watched her look at me from the corner of her eye and immediately look straight ahead. I realized I had grossly miscalculated.

And so I laughed at myself, and resolved to simply be a spectator of a show I had paid to see. I was incredibly moved by the music and got to sit through the two sets. Yolanda has an amazing voice, especially for somebody her size. She is incredibly small, something that is easy to forget because her presence for me at least tends to dominate a room.

After the two sets I got to talk to her, to which she exclaimed 'what are you doing here?' and 'You stayed for both sets!' both with incredulity. Her friends and community were incredibly warm and welcoming people. But our brief exchanges had me learn that she was studying spiritual science (anthroposophy) a fact that required reconciliation with my world view, and so I texted my sister and 'she studies spiritual science' to which my sister replied 'you're a match made in heaven! scientifically speaking...' which I feel is one of her best calls.

I walked away from that gig alone, but excited, hyper-active even. I was so full of adrenaline I put Faith No More's 'Motherfucker' on my phone and rode home with more energy than I'd had all day.

The next day I asked her to come with me to the next gig of my favorite band. This fb message was ignored. Perplexed, I found a reason, she'd been in Nepal for the gig.. but not sure if I should risk the harassment of a second ask I ran it by my friend Shona in one of my favorite phone conversations of all time.

I explained the situation and read out the message I'd sent asking her to the Canary gig, Shona concurred that it just sounded like a music enthusiast asking a musician to check out some music. I asked her what I should say to ask her out on a date, given that my only available communication channel was facebook. Shona told me the perfect thing to say. I said 'that's perfect! now what did you just say?' and I got her to dictate to me how to ask her out in a manner that was clear and not creepy.

A week passed and facebook told me she hadn't seen the message. Shona was optimistic. She said it was a good sign, it meant that she would have got an email about the message and she wasn't going to open it on facebook until she was ready for the date.

Then a few days later, the message clicked over to 'seen' and I was ushered into the new world of social media sexual politics by Yolanda.

And so I did the only thing a person not wanting to harass a woman they like can do. I gave up.

6 months passed, and then one day I got a bog-standard invitation to Yolanda's farewell party, on the same night as I had another friends birthday party on the other side of town and I was dogsitting a very high maintenance dog. I resolved that I had to go. First to my friends birthday party, then to Yoli's farewell, as was right and just. I was just too curious.

From there I pulled up my bicycle and locked it to a pole in a very dark street somewhere in Essendon or Moonee Ponds or something but a side of town I rarely visit and a place I'd never been before. I had no idea whether my invitation had been an oversight, and I am aware that from a different perspective having a man who had expressed romantic interest that was not reciprocated turn up at your house is an objectively terrifying prospect for a woman. I know statistically the danger suggested by this situation and I was very self conscious of how potentially unwelcome I could be. I walked up to the front door of the house, my face burning with embarassment and my feet moved by a self-aware determination that at the very least this would make for a great anecdote.

Unfortunately when I arrived the entire party was crammed into the living room, right on the other side of the front door watching video performances of Yolanda's group. I had to step into a space directly next to the TV interrupting absolutely everyone as I entered. I stood there for 5-10 minutes asking myself what I was doing and if I could do this. I just knew it would be more embarassing to chicken out and walk away. So I picked the closest moment to a pause in action to enter the door.

As I was saying 'no habla espaniol' Yolanda from the back of the room cried out 'Welcome!' and my mind plummeted into confusion. I could do nothing but find a place to sit and watch like everyone else. Easy enough to do. Then the video ended and the party broke up into various rooms. Here I became extremely self conscious, it was just like the family-picnic gig except that now there wasn't even a gig to focus my attention on. I was simply standing in her kitchen. Yolanda's friends were and are incredibly caring people. One of them told me I looked really serious and offered me a joint.

This highlights another problem I have in terms of meeting women. I don't do any drugs, whether they be illicit or legal, unless a hospital emergency ward administers them to me. This includes caffeine and alcohol, so at a party I am generally blind stinking sober. For quite some time in my sbriety, I felt that I was more or less screwed romantically by this choice, as I consider it poor form to hook up with someone who is much much drunker than you, particularly when you are completely sober - this I believe is called 'taking advantage' and at any given party dependent on my arrival time I have somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes before someone is too drunk for me to hit on.

It's an aside but what I have learned since though is that I can be confident a woman is interested in me if after finding out I don't do any drugs period, they start talking aloud about how they need to quit, especially sugar, caffeine etc. This is the subconscious process of mapping where a person tries to figure out how to map their life onto the person's they are interested in.

But Yoli eventually spoke to me that night, and I could do nothing but stare at her as we talked briefly wondering what the hell was going on with this girl and why she ignored my message yet was so engaged in our conversation now like it had never happened.

Then she was dragged away to perform. And I simply sat in in the living room listening to her sing to nothing but guitar accompaniment, and that the clock was ticking and I had a high maintenance dog at home that I needed to return to. I was going to have to Cinderella out of there. It was extremely hard, I just wanted to listen to one more song. Knowing that she was getting on a plane the next morning and that was it.

For the second time in 6 months I was just extremely angry with myself that I wasn't who I needed to be to get a woman's attention. I sat there listening to this beautiful music and all I could articulate was 'damn'. Then I had to go. Just accept the failure.

I wrote her the next morning to tell her that she reminded me of the strongest person I know (my ex girlfriend Misaki) and that I'm sure she was going to be fine returning to Spain. It seemed like a nice thing to do that I would appreciate in the reverse.

Perplexingly this was the message she finally chose to reply to, and we had a brief exchange which resulted in her asking me to draw a picture for her, which I offered to send to Spain.

And that was it. Exit Yolanda. My last attempt to find and secure a relationship with 'the one'. I had to come back to that therapeutic question of honestly assessing 'how is it working for you?' from there on, I was resolved to find a new approach to meeting and falling in love with people. The world of women I naturally fall in love with is just too small.

It is hard to imagine though, what it is you are not doing. So I decided it was simply a matter of faith. If I lead the kind of life I wanted, I would meet the kind of people I wanted to be with and they would want to be with me.

That was the theory anyway, but I can't testify as to it working yet. What really changed was taking stock of what I didn't have. I woke up one day and realized that I had no financial obligations, no relationship obligations and no tennancy obligations. I could pack up and leave.

It was the time in my life where I could be completely irresponsible, quit my job and go off to Italy to live in my city, the only city outside of Melbourne I have ever truly loved.

The moment I made this decision, much changed for me. I was no longer interested in 'the one' as suddenly, forming a long term relationship would be a real spanner in the works for my dreams of that city. It was a dream I didn't want to share with anybody.

But suddenly my eyes were open to casual relationships and hook ups with women I was not particularly interested in. Particularly women that I had no long term prospects with, or was not romantically interested in but physically attracted to, and in one case I was happy to oblige someone I wasn't physically attracted to either.

Thus began and quickly ended my experiments with casual sex, something I'd never done before. My brain is too geard towards pattern recognition to recognize that having multiple novel sexual partners was insufficient to make my friends that did so happy. There was significant evidence that it did the opposite. For myself I have had sex without attachment twice, and found them both to be ultimately hollow experiences that I can happily forego for the rest of my life.

None the less, I enjoyed my new open mindedness to short term relationships. I was looking forward to Italy and maybe having a summer fling with a belladonna.

I cannot describe to you how otherworldy living in Italy was to me. Beautiful women were simply everywhere once I learned to venture out of the historic center populated by much less attractive tourists. Where the Italians live and play, one only had to wait minutes if not seconds to see the most beautiful woman you have ever seen.

I developed crushes, particularly retail crushes, but I was also living in the kind of town where if you saw a person you liked enough to notice one day, you would inevitably see them again a few days later. It was much like my hometown Ballarat in that regard, where the thoroughfares were shared.

I was finally at peace with the Good life, I left the confines of that city far less than I expected. I was at the halfway point of my time there before I took my first train down the coast to catch up with my brother and his partner and my nephew. I had expected to become bored of the city I was in before that. Instead I resented having to leave it, even for a day.

I took a trip to Sicily with my sister that will always be a cherished memory we share. She was also the only person I got to share my city with and one of the only people I'm willing to.

I decided though, to get out of town and revisit Barcelona, mostly because the last time I'd been there I'd had kidney stones that prevented me from seeing much of the city, but also because there was Yolanda.

Although I'd been on a few dates, I hadn't actually hooked up with anybody in Italy. I had only just gotten enough of a social life to start meeting the kind of women I could be interested in. But I had a theory.

Yolanda had only started to communicate with me after she left Australia. I was sure I wasn't so deluded in thinking she liked me that I had completely misfired by asking her out. So to reconcile the two facts, I felt that Yolanda was simply not interested in a committed relationship. Therefore it was possible that if I saw her during a brief visit, she might be up for some fun given no threat of a relationship to follow.

I reached out to see if she was around, and she invited me to a catch up. We managed somehow to coordinate a time and day, and on my trip to Spain I managed to get to her town.

She says I was almost unbearably stressed when I arrived. Completely insensitive as to how her own ambiguous behavior might have contributed to my stress.

It is hard for me to talk about that day, because it is so precious to me. I decided it was ours, and that I wasn't going to share it with anyone else. Just that while I had come thinking I was on the same page as her finally, interested in casual relationships and not serious ones, I discovered I was way off the mark.

At some point sitting in her room listening to her talk, I realized with some frustration that this was the woman I would marry. It sounds crazy, and later I would take to refer to her as my 'imaginary wife' but in my first hand experience, I felt I was understanding what old timers say when they say 'when you know you know'.

It was like this one person had swept all the belladonnas of Italy off the face of the earth absent mindedly. In a panic I returned to Italy feeling both incredibly great and incredibly worried that I basically had lost my ability to see all the characters of my Italian adoptive home as I had wanted to portray them in an exhibition prior to leaving for Spain. I felt deep within myself that I had met my wife, in what that means to me, yet couldn't perceive how it would work.

Thus I tried my hardest to force myself back into the headspace of someone who wasn't interested in settling down. The person very happy with single life. I just couldn't do it, despite the best efforts of the beautiful women of Italy.

I wasn't sure what had happened to me or my life, eventually I found a video by Zizek who I generally find interesting but vacuous, but on this point he managed to describe exactly what had happened to me

So I returned to my home town, both full and empty. A piece of knowledge that this person I'd been looking for existed and no idea how to be with her.

here's what I will divulge about our day together. I knew what she was to me, I had no idea if this day, this afternoon even was all I would ever get. Consider that the love of your life is on his/her deathbed, what would you give to have one last day with her? Four more hours even?

This was salient for me. My dog had been put down the prior year (one of the things that left me responsibility free to leave for Italy) and I knew how much the efforts of the vet to let me walk her one more time in a park meant to me. The knowledge that I got just one more walk with her.

It meant everything. And as I walked behind Yolanda, it was very salient - 'Okay, this is her. Who you've been looking for exists, and this might be it so make the most of it. No regrets, just enjoy her company for this afternoon.'

She would later tell me that when we said goodbye, my hug was really intense. I feel she understands that of the two of us, I understood what was at stake. That it might be our last embrace. That afternoon may have been our whole relationship.

The question as to whether all the relationships I'd foregone, the dead ends I'd pursued, the time and money spent to get to that one day in Gelida was worth it, is laughable to me. You cannot possibly underestimate the value of the knowledge that someone like that, for you, exists.

People who manage to climb Everest get to sit on top of the world for a couple of minutes if they are lucky. Take a photograph maybe. Then they have to make the life-threatening descent. It's completely logical. If you are truly present, a moment is a life time.

Upon returning to Australia, I followed my intuition and decided to write Yolanda a love letter. Surprisingly, nothing I've ever done has attracted more voyeuristic interest than this exercise. People I would have assumed would have told me it was a stupid idea wanted to hear daily updates. With some advice from my dear friend Q, I eventually managed to write the kind of letter I felt reflected me. I wrote it and sent it. It took me 2 months of daily efforts, something like 48 drafts.

I sent it and almost on the day she recieved it she contacted me and told me about it. And that was it.

Then my birthday rolled by, and just as at the beginning, she remembered. It was the only birthday wish I cared about, but when I received it, I was struck by just how much that meant to me.

Currently, in part this blog post is procrastination from a process I have been through 9 times. That process is writing personalized invitations to people for my exhibition. I have at least 70 more to write, and I have already written 80. It's an exhausting, draining process that sends me into the depths of depression. Part of what makes it so hard is the asymmetrical relationship I am forced to accept. Of the 80 invitations I have written, 30 people have accepted the invitation and committed themselves, at least nominally to going to my exhibition. Even so, only about 50% have responded in any manner at all.

I am asking people to do me a favor, so I don't believe anybody can create an obligation on the part of another by reaching out to them for help. What i am aware of is that I generally run a large 'caring' deficit in terms of the thought I allocate to my friends versus what I receive back from them. For the most part, my inner circle more than compensates for the negligence of others, and this is more or less how life works - some people do the work of many and most people are passengers in one context or another through their lives.

Thus, it seems like the most simple and insignificant thing, to wish somebody happy birthday. And many people do, even without the assistance of facebook reminders. But Yoli wrote 'happy birthday dear' something not even my favorite ex Misaki has managed for 10 years.

It is hard to describe what literally happens and at the same time not want to paint myself, or accept that I am a tragic figure. At any rate, through her simple action Yolanda relieved the tragedy. It was the best birthday I'd had in a decade, because the woman I love had acknowledged it. Turns out, that is a big deal to me.

Yolanda was slow to acknowledge her attraction or even love of me. I knew you she did, when she spent her New Years Eve on the phone talking to me, had dressed up for me, in a room alone. I know who you spend your New Years with.

Weekly conversations turned to daily, soon I was being carried through the streets of Spain as my Yoli walked to work or ate her lunch. I would wake up to her and go to sleep with her. Somehow in a long distance relationship I'd always been skeptical of. This lasted 4 months, until Yolanda gave up.

Contrary to what you might expect at a time like this, I can only testify that long distance relationships are easy. Particularly if the relationship commences as one, but I've enjoyed talking to Yolanda on a daily basis more than any other aspect of my life of the last 10 years. Perhaps because distance strips a relationship bare of all but what couples spend the most time doing together - conversing, it allows you to focus on the most essential part.

What is hard to the point of impossible to have a relationship with, is anxiety. Self-defeating anxiety. Allow it into a relationship and in my experience, physical distance plays no role in appeasing it's destructive urge to take control of what you fear to lose.

So this is a sad post, maybe, about precisely what it is I live for. And I got it, enjoyed it, had it and am grateful. Getting dumped changes no facts, simply leaves me with a bunch of emotions that for what its worth, I shall honor by experiencing them. I plan to channel it into my forthcoming exhibition to, in my experience enhance the works themselves with the authenticity with which I feel my subject matter, and seize a pretext to re-enter psychotherapy to process my grief.

While daunting to think that statistics suggest I have another 10 years to wait for my next relationship, I nevertheless have faith in my intuition that Yolanda is the one. I'm left with the same mystery as to what this intuition means as when I left Spain and Italy and returned to Australia. The deep sense of knowing she is the one, with a complete lack of understanding as to how that can be, compounded by her desire not to participate in the relationship anymore - which of course means I can't also.

Thus I have nothing to do but live my life as I would live it. With a complete disinterest to the romantic pursuits for now. Until such a time as my feeling is either validated by some reconciliation with Yolanda, or by some heretofore inconceivable person that may prove to evoke an even stronger sense that they are the one. Given that I was completely blindsided by how quickly and deeply I fell in love with Yolanda that afternoon, I have to allow the possibility that even stronger versions of the experience may exist. But that means it may take 20 years to discover somebody able to evoke such feelings in me.

Good thing I wasn't planning on dying anytime soon.

What is Going On?

Sometime last year or this year, I can't be bothered checking I wrote a post called 'On Gaslighting' and for some reason this post generated views in the thousands. I've never written my blog with a concern for hits, viewership etc. and talking about why I write a blog is I've been assured very boring. But post this 'breakthrough' of generating high numbers next to a symbol of an eye whenever I view my posts kind of took off and not randomly. My suspicion is that the post somehow piggybacked off the post by another blog that I linked to somehow. I'm not interested enough to find out how, nor develop even the skills to find out.

But since then the pattern is to my intuitions at least, non-random, when I write about anything that could be considered within the purview of feminism, views steadily increase up into the thousands and any post not on that topic stagnates at around the double digit mark. The danger of which is that I start writing with a mind to what makes a practically arbitrary stat-counter go up, given that my theoretically most popular posts ever have generated a grand total of 0 comments. Having no impact on my life as a result, this phenomena is only interesting in so far as it seems to support some form of confirmation bias, and it also supports a stereotype of feminism/gender studies being largely academic, which is to say most of the efforts of the people interested in these issues is dedicated to reading about these issues.

And that is why my interest in gender is a morbid interest, generally what I'm fascinated by is why when ever I adopt the position of 'fly on the wall' to much of the openly accessible, readily available feminist op-ed on the internet the most negative emotion I feel is that of disappointment and not fear, perhaps fear presumes too much intent on behalf of the writers I'm judging, but there is a curious absence of any real concern that these thinkers pose any real threat to the status quo.

To expound upon the disappointment, let's talk about this abstract and loosely defined concept of 'the patriarchy', the moment I wrote this sentence I realised I need to also point out that 'feminism' is an abstract and loosely defined concept in and of itself, subsequently it is unfair to say that the stated objective of feminism is to overthrow the patriarchy - that's not a dogma that one has to explicitly believe, I believe to identify as a feminist. I would guesstimate that the generally accepted definition is something akin to 'equality between men and women' which even then is problematic but I'll get to semantics and jargon later.

Okay so 'the patriarchy' does it exist? It certainly has existed, there are moments in European history for example where you could point to a male who was openly and un-apologetically the legislative and executive branches of government, un-elected and reinforced by a patrilinial succession plan - their son was literally expected to be the next patriarch and the female members of their family were essentially living breathing property contracts, securities to be traded etc. Thus literal patriarchies have existed, I don't feel that this is a contentious topic in History.

Historically speaking though, if I, and you may want to try this yourself as an English speaking citizen of the commonwealth try to name as many English Monarch's as I can there is Queen Elizabeth the presiding Monarch, then King Henry the VIII, Queen Victoria, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Ist (that Virginia is named for) and King Richard the Lionhearted. Of course there's a trick here in so far as that if King Henry is the 8th of that name I could cheat and name 7 more Monarch's that logically must all have been called Henry, but at the point that King Arthur is more readily recollected by me than other Monarch's that I'm not sure are literary inventions or not, I'm stopping. But I feel, at some intuitive level that the 'big 3' of English history are probably Henry, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. 2 out of 3 being women.

Notice that this isn't a denial of the existence of 'the patriarchy' or that men unfairly dominate most societies on earth with respect to power and influence over public policy, law enforcement or the command of resources. My understanding is that succession in the English Royal Family has always been to the eldest son, yet look at how much more successful this rule of succession has been at elevating women to at the very least an undeniably pre-eminent figure head status in society than the world's democracies have. From a purely historical point of view, it seems the odds are much higher that the eldest male heir will be a woman than that a woman would win an election campaign for the highest office.

But what is the shape of 'the patriarchy' in the current day? Surely my female friends, including transwomen do not believe a conscious overt conspiracy of men that all pay homage to a patriarch. It's an abstract concept that might allude to a predisposition of men to cooperate at the expense of women. It doesn't have a geographic location one can go to, I would hope that people don't believe for example that the President of the United States has unlimited power. Nor that Hillary's theoretic occupation of the role would overthrow the patriarchy. Who is 'the Patriarch'? There's no one person at this point in History we can point to and say with any real confidence 'Putin, it's Putin!' or Kim Jong Un, or Donald Trump or even as thought leaders Noam Chomsky (there's just too much evidence his influence on public policy is 0, if not negatively correlated) or public intellectuals like Malcolm Gladwell or Sam Harris, captains of industry like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Phil Knight or the Coak brothers etc. and in all these non-governmental and governmental fields there are female analogies albeit less of them. (Merkal, Morrison, Rinehart etc.)

There's just a general numeracal advantage of men at the top of various heirarchies, and the more abstract concept of 'privelege' an informal version of a first class citizen that is not ensconced or enshrined in any existing laws in most of the contries liberal enough for feminism to openly take place.

The patriarchy is thus some kind of network in the modern era, analogous to Islam or Quaker beliefs where there is no central living authority at the top of the food chain. There possibly always exists people of ambition that wish to centralize and organize the patriarchary much as it seems there are communities that wish to reestablish a Caliph. Putin may have designs or ambitions that he or his named successor actually be some kind of Emperor etc. These ambitions may be more concievable than whatever 'overthrowing' or indeed 'smashing' the patriarchy may look like.

For me though, I like to consider the historic persons of Ieyasu Tokugawa, and Miyamoto Musashi who lived on the same Earth at the same time and in all probability never met, though one almost certainly affected the other. Both for example were present at the battle of Sekigahara the decisive war that established the Tokugawa Shogunate, the military government that was first to rule over a unified Japan and was a literal patriarchy. Making Tokugawa Ieyasu the patriarch of Japan. Miyamoto Musashi is the most influential thinker of that time and place and culture in respect to shaping my own ambitions though. Ambitions I regard as higher than that of being a patriarch. 

Miyamoto Musashi was free. He lived a life of self-experimentation that culminated in some rich understanding of himself and his human potential. And that's it. He was free to do so, actually spend his life being human. The society in which he was free to do this was a patriarchy and he was free simply by being not only born a man but also into the samurai class. It appears that he was able to practice martial arts and also cultivate land and practice the fine arts of sculpture and illustration. He was neither an indentured servant obliged to cultivate rice in order to feed himself, his family and meet his tax obligations to the government, nor was he at the opposite end of the spectrum where he was Shogun obliged to preside over the administration of the government to manage and nullify all ambitions to shake up the status quo and satisfy the population as insurance against rebellion and overthrow.

This then is my disappointment I feel when reading feminism op-eds. I often share common ground with the authors insofar as we are both disappointed if not horrified at the quality of political leadership, industry leadership and even thought leadership in modern society. My private hope though is that feminists aspire to the office of leadership on a basis of a desire for competent leadership and that they, unlike me might be hungry for it, perhaps for the novelty of being both female AND a competent leader. 

I would simply like to see competent leadership, perhaps to a level that illuminates my own incompetence to lead with would further confirm that my best interest is to not take a role of responsibility in our society and instead just be an artist and live the good life, having successfully delegated the job of removing a person like me's obstacles to doing so to a competent and willing leader. 

Thus I'm disappointed by most of what I read, and don't even find it threatening. In all honesty, I see little behavioral difference between the conspicuous forms of feminism that have sprung up around me in the past decade and how the girls at my high-school used to conspicuously consume cosmopolitan magazine or vogue. The details have changed but the behavior is the same, a pissing contest for displaying one's relative prowess in command of knowledge, designed much like sports to mainly impress one's standing in one's-own-gendered hierarchy. Perhaps more polarizing though because you can generally find male voices critical of how sports is glorified in sporting communities along with female ones.

This is not the case when my morbid curiosity sends me looking for who is being critical of, I must admit mostly progressive concepts rather than strictly feminist ones, but critical of concepts like Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Microaggressions etc. and lest it get clunky, let's expand the scope to the most disappointing phenomena of all - 'progressives'. I feel like a formal logic statement might be that 'feminism is progress, progressives embrace progress therefore all progressives are feminists.' may actually hold up. It's just such a vague concept to me that I'm not confident to speak as to progressive dogma, a term progressives would surely reject because dogma doesn't sound progressive. But I would guestimate that if you identify as being progressive you would disavow being sexist, racist, ageist, you know... all the ists. You might be flexible as to whether you are morally obliged to be a vegan, because this is the most progressive dietary lifestyle and to not hold the welfare of animals as equal to that of women, jews and brown people is specist, or something.

The point being, I don't know but I'd be willing to bet that a progressive more or less has to identify as feminist. Even better though is that a white cis-gendered hetero normative male can identify and claim a place in the progressive community and even through demonstrating how 'woke' they are to their privilege hold a place of privilege in the progressive community. If I had to name the public face of being progressive, it would be Jon Oliver. I also see savvy media executives ensuring that other white men like Stephen Colbert can reach this influential sub culture by employing much of the lingo and demonstrating enough self-awareness eg his segment 'Stephen Colbert White-Mansplains Beyonce's Lemonade' I have no idea why they bothered to title this section as such but you can go watch it and see where 'mansplaining' comes into the picture. I couldn't.

Once again clawing back to what I was talking about, progressiveness stands exposed as an ironic name. It's basis appears to be that all people have a moral obligation to be conscious of the latest understandings of everything. Yet, when I observe a phenomena such as trigger-warnings being employed enough morbid curiosity will eventually be aroused to find out what they are.

I've written at length about trigger warnings in this post so skipping basically to the conclusion, trigger warnings are clearly etiquette with an overlaying of rationale, that it is somehow helping people with trauma triggers. However, on the topic of trigger warnings alone, you can objectively identify that the behavior has arisen, spread and sustained itself with no fact checking as to it's potential benefits and harms. It is the intellectual equivalent of being anti-vaccine. Albeit users of trigger-warnings have more likely never checked as to what the health authorities have to say on the usefulness of such a strategy, whereas anti-vaccine advocates (however they characterise themselves) understand quite lucidly in my experience that they are rejecting the authority of medical science. 

From this observation, you get phenomena/ideologies that arise that have the same foundation, ideas I don't really understand and don't find enough merit to not dismiss them off hand out of my own sense of consistency - 'safe spaces' 'microaggressions' and even to an extent 'intersectionality' all of which from my admitedly shallow analysis seem to require that you reject psychology as a valid science.

If I imagined the pressure to conform for a young person arriving in a progressive scene, to play out something like this 'you like progress right?' 'Yeah sure, who doesn't like progress?' 'Well if you like progress then you need to understand that this is what progress is...' blah blah blah, and I can see the new recruit to the cause of progress signing on with no real application of critical thought or fact checking. 

Consider the correlation between being an evangelical Christian and voting for Donald Trump in the Republican primaries. My source of information that this happened is admittedly Donald Trump himself, but it does appear to be one claim that was not fact checked by the media, who focused more or the fact that Donald sighted the phenomena of religious people voting for him as proof that he himself is religious. BUT, while on the one hand it may seem perplexing as to how somebody who makes fun of the disabled, is on trial for fraud and by his own testimony sexually assaults women could be voted for by those who claim to follow he example of Jesus Christ, is it so surprising that people who have dedicated their lives on gaining entrance to an eternal paradise - the details of which are vague and unspecified - voted for somebody who promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with 'something terrific'? In both directions you are not seeing any scrutiny of what it is exactly that is promised.

I believe people identifying with progressiveness are demonstrating the exact same psychological phenomena. Group think and deference. By some accounts progressives are centered around Tertiary campus life, it is understandable to me that if you come into such a social environment from the outside knowing nothing about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy etc. that it is reasonable to defer to an assumption that academics have done their research. In much the same way as if you'd never used an electric fan before because you lived in say... Northern Alaska and suddenly arrived in South Korea, you may consider that Koreans knew what they were talking about when they insist that fans have a built in timer to prevent fan-death. It appears inconceivable that an entire culture could regulate to prevent a form of death that is physically impossible.

Just-so, I'm entirely sympathetic that somebody emerging from the rigidness and general nature of secondary education into tertiary education would assume that their senior peers know what they are talking about, and don't believe in garbage. It's far easier to stand on the other side of that window and imagine that the probability that a collection of people studying similar subjects all within a 3 year age window have any real understanding of the world, let alone human conscious experience and what is best for it, is near zero even before delving into the details.

Where the question 'what is going on?' gets genuinely curious though, is when I search for dissenting voices and notice a clear pattern in what characteristics the dissenting voices all share. Consider that the most vocal and public dissent comes from people like Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, Gad Saad, Jonathan Haidt etc. and to me there is something troubling about the fact that it is only predominantly white heterosexual males that are offering dissent or even skepticism. In an effort to 'go looking' for counterexamples and out of suspicion that search algorithms might be fucking up my ability to see female and minority voices of dissent I tried quickly searching for Naomi Klein and Ariel Levy as two female public intellectuals that came to mind, I did eventually find an interview with Camille Paglia whom I've never heard of, but nevertheless appears to be an intellectual and female.

Okay so a few friends of mine was one of the hosts of a collective that ran a local public radio segment called 'Queering the Air'. Those friends of mine are no longer friends for reasons entirely unrelated to any of our respective politics, and to be perfectly honest I don't ever listen to the actual radio show, but if you are unfamiliar with Queering the Air, take a moment to imagine and form expectations as to what demographic Queering the Air would be dedicated to. If you are like me, then Queering the Air would have something to do with same-sex relationships, predominantly and 'Queer' implies it would expand to LGBT issues and representation, if considered in isolation but I at least, can imagine that this radio station might have a seperate chunk of programming specializing in Trans-issues etc. 

But over the past year and a half I would guesstimate, I've noticed from the programs posting to facebook that simply being gay or lesbian is not enough to get on the program for Queering the Air, most of the posts and call outs for contribution appear to me, to be dedicated to Queer persons of colour (QueerPOC) and I also get an impression that being indigenous ads points to being a QueerPOC. 

Which is interesting, because if I had to imagine the most marginalized member in my society it would be a disabled aboriginal trans lesbian struggling with chronic mental illness. Here what is fascinating is to consider that there might be a threshold such that once you are so marginilized from a society that contains people like me (able bodied heterosexual white males) you actually rarely interact with the society I live in through several degrees of separation. Transparently, 'my' society controls all the bureaucratic infrastructure and law enforcement as well as owning almost all the property so you more or less have to interact with it, but perhaps not socially. But the program content of Queering the Air offers my speculation that at some point in the middle you become not spurned but sought after as some kind of moral authority.

Which is of course, logically invalid. Who you are does not lend any weight, strictly speaking, to your arguments. Any individual only really has definitive authority to report their subjective experience. Provided somebody wanting to design policy is willing to listen to the reports of other people's subjective experience, they can design good policy whether they are a QueerPOC or a Straight White Male. I'm happy to concede that there is reason enough to believe that Straight White Males are less likely to have done the requisite listening before designing policy, both historically and contemporarily speaking, including myself.

Consider this article posted to fb by Queering the Air moderators. I find it so jargon heavy I find it hard to follow despite it including the phrase "I’m not a scholar, so occasionally I get left behind by academic terminology used to define my identity." if somebody writing an article that contains a term like 'intersectionality' in it's title and quotes the scholar that possibly coined the phrase or defined it says this, I can only laugh at their pretensions to non-scholarship. 

While I'm rolling on terminology, I just want to point to a basis of my impression that much of feminism behaves in compliance with fashion trend behaviors. Seasonality, buzzwords and a need to keep up. A simple hierarchy that demands tribute through adopting the latest terminology, even when that terminology can often be traced back decades to obscure research papers. Last year I had the impression that 'mansplaining' was the designated field of battle for feminists to meet the patriarchy. As of now, I feel like nobody is talking about mansplaining. Out of curiosity I plugged the word mansplaining into Google trends, it's fallen off by two-thirds since roughly this time last year. Compare that to 'intersectionality' it's spike in the zeitgeist was much more recent, co-inciding I suspect with the women's march, and when mansplaining was enjoying its hey-day it was barely spoken of at all. Of course, everything is too recent, and neither display the sheer spike and drop off in interest of Pokemon Go, if you wish to look in google trends and see a real bona-fide fad. 

Now, the importance of Jargon here cannot be overstated by me, because I don't feel that mansplaining has gone away because of some decisive victory. That the vigil can be relaxed because no future generation of man, nor man walking the earth will dare ever again to explain to a woman what it means to be a woman, nor in broader definitions of the term speak to a woman in a condescending tone while explaining some shit. I feel that the thunder of those women riding high on the moral crusade against mansplaining was stolen away by whatever issue came next. 

There's a Miles Barlow's Review (little known ABC comedy program, look it up if you must) episode where Miles reviews vanity, and depicts a process whereby Miles captures all the attention of partygoers by bringing a pet piglet that he cradles in his arms, only to be outdone by a couple with their newborn baby. As a result, Miles goes through the process of adopting his own baby so as to win back the attention of the scene. Though satire, I suspect that feminist and progressive thought leaders are subject to a similar competitive pressure to command the attention of the scene. There are others waiting in the wings to get their specific gripe on the agenda and improve their standing.

Progressives, do not look like Martin Luther King Jr's civil rights movement nor Gandhi's civil disobedience movement because there's no clear cut organisational hierarchy and no clear cut objectives and strategies where resources are mobilized to methodically achieve clear cut concrete goals, be it riding buses, attending schools, making salt or ending British occupation. 

Instead we have articles about 'Microagressions' and I can only testify personally, but in my media environment these highly specialized complaints are more visible than articles about sexual assault. What do I mean by 'highly specialized?' I'm glad somebody asked. As far as I know, one's race, gender, sexual orientation and sexual preferences are relatively independent of eachother, so consider the proportion of the population that would ever need to use the information contained in an article about enduring microaggressions from your white same-sex partner. You have to multiply a racial minority, by a sexual orientation minority, by a statistical minority of the phenomena of interracial relationships (I'm making an assumption that that is the case). So you have a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the population that at any given time could find this info useful. 

Yet in many ways the smallness of the effected population means that such specialised information is thus incredibly valuable, if you are the target market. The question is, why do I know it exists? Well simply because I'm a voyuer, and this indeed was where I learned the terminology of 'microaggressions' and most usefully, there's within an article a flow chart that explains microagressions. And where we come full circle to the importance of semantics in rejecting the science of clinical psychology.

And that's crucial because that is where 'progressive' as a statement of political orientation is almost certainly a misnomer. There are meaningful and accepted definitions of 'trauma' for example, or 'depression' or 'anxiety' and recommended ways of dealing with such that are backed by quite a large amount of empirical evidence including clinical practice. Almost all matters regarding mental health and well being are matters of a spectrum. There are few binary examples of mental health issues - hearing auditory hallucinations or not are one that comes to mind that you either do or you don't. 

However there is a large and meaningful difference between being a Sudanese refugee who was tortured by the police and now faced with the trouble of integrating into a culture where there is some measure of rule-of-law, vs the son or daughter of Chinese immigrants that arriving at University is asked by a white or black person 'where are you from?' Or a trans woman on a road trip that is asked by a store attendant 'why are you dressed like a woman?'

I am not qualified to say which of those incidents qualify for any clinical definition of trauma as opposed to less severe human emotions like embarrassment, indignation and mere offense eg. 'I take offense to that'. but chances are, neither are the authors of articles and diagrams about microaggressions. In fact of my experience there's a flagrant disrespect for clinical psychology excelled only by Scientology and Alternative Medicine. 

Do a quick search of microagressions on Psychology Today, and you'll find qualified psychologists with a dedicated column to microaggressions in everyday life. You will also find dissenting voices by qualified psychologists that argue in respect to cognitive behavioral therapy. Nobody is denying the phenomena, just the severity of its impact and whether or not it needs to be addressed. Even the column dedicated to identifying the phenomena 'Microaggressions in everyday life' does not propose any kind of activism beyond raising awareness. 

So let me once again indulge my martial mind. Allow me to hypothetically concede that a person might be traumatised by being asked where they are from by a white person. The best that I can say of a campaign to stamp out microaggressions is through consciousness raising, pointing out to the patriarchy that they are hurting the wellbeing of individuals it is assumed they care about. 

In which case, microaggressions might be a sensible strategy because you are shattering the illusions of people that profess to care about you or see you as equals. The very fact that people push back on these issues rather than accepting them indicates that people care about what the complainants think of them.

What if they don't? What if they enjoy their privilege and seek to oppress? What if there was a real patriarchal drive out there in some loosely networked sense? Well you are telegraphing a degree of fragility that is frankly laughable. You are also alienating your closest allies by shattering their illusion that they share the same values as them. Identifying well meaning people as your enemy.

This is a principle that I observe falls out along gender lines, a seemingly non-shared intuition. Us/Them divisions favor the oppressor. The privileged or dominant class benefit by having a wall drawn around their membership. Thus shoring up those walls between Us/Them is reinforcing the patriarchies rule. 

And so let me speak strategically of 'intersectionality' a tale on two hands. On the one hand, it is very logical - you don't want to replace the ruling class with just a different ruling class. An oppressive patriarchy toppled and replaced by an oppressive matriarchy, novel, but as illegitimate as the current status quo. Thus, those who would form the New World Order need to demonstrate that they are competent to address the shortcomings of the system that excludes and marginalizes other groups.

This is what I intuit intersectional-whatever to be about. What good is it to get women in power if only white women can rule? what good is it to get women in power if only heterosexual women can rule? what good is it to get women in power if only able bodied women aspire to the pinnacle? Hence LGBT has in just a few years grown to LGBTIQA+ and I haven't looked up the A yet, and I'm sure the + will not prevent further letter growth as right now, a campaign is being waged to get another letter affixed to the movement. (I couldn't resist and just looked it up, there is now a P on the end before +)

Tactically speaking, purely, sociopathically, amorally speaking in pure tactics, this Intersectionality reminds me of the rational logic puzzle the 'Pirate Game' it relies on all the players being rational, rather than emotional and stipulates strict rules but it can illustrate how gross inequality can arise counter to our intuitions. When pirates are proposing how to divide up the loot, with failed proposals resulting in being thrown overboard. Please just click the link and read yourself up, it's better than anything I've written in descriptive power. However my intuition is that if you are the Pirate Captain, or Pirate A, you would have to offer everyone an equal share of 100 coins, so 20 coins each for the proposal to be accepted on grounds of fairness. However it turns out you have Pirate A getting 98 coins, B gets 0, C gets 1, D gets 0 and E gets 1. 

It's not realistic, nor historically accurate. Typically the Pirate captain got something like a 2 share, the first mate and navigator 1.5 share and everyone else a 1 share or something. You can find the pirate charters, Pirate ships were also some of the first functional democracies in the modern sense, so who knew.

But where the Pirate Game is relevant is that the person closest to power is robbed of their power by the person under them, and so forth down the chain to pirate E who is truly in every simulation, powerless. Thus can you envision, in the abstract how the patriarchy, able bodied straight white males get to enjoy most of the worlds resources and sleep soundly knowing that their women are under attack by women of colour, who in turn may be under attack by queer women of colour, who may in turn be under attack by disabled queer women of colour. 

the implication being, that there are so many canaries in the cage for the patriarchy, which first has to have it's tyrannical values and ideologies overthrown within an incredibly marginalized group in order to validate the trust and support of an even more incredibly marginalized group. Just imagine being an indigenous physically-disabled lesbian, who has to first champion the rights of a indigenous physically-disabled lesbian with chronic mental illness before you are free of the charge of hypocrisy to fight against your own oppression. 

My intuition would be, that if white women got rid of white men, then the world would be an incrimentally better place for everyone except white men. Now, it may be that this places white men in the best position to overthrow the new order, that depends on how much prejudice the patriarchy is terminated with. 

Which brings me to the greatest tactical oversight I perceive, I can only perceive it because I'm Miyamoto Musashi, not Tokugawa Ieyasu, I have no motivation to put down the rebellion but I can ridicule its execution. Anyway that is the employment of 'privilege' as an ad hominem attack. Which is to say, dismissing dissenting views because they come from people with privilege. 

Imagine that you wake up tomorrow to hear the inevitable media recap of presidential tweets and one of them was 'catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion, I'm concerned talk of microaggressions is symptomatic of this distorted thinking.' this would be amazingly coherent for the president, but just because it A) disagrees with you and B) comes from a privileged individual does not render it an invalid argument. Because it comes from Trump, you would probably want to fact check it, and find out that yes, catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion often treated with CBT, and that by the definition of catastrophizing believing that a microaggression may traumatize a person leaving them psychologically scarred for life, would seem to fit. But you can't just assume that an argument is invalid because one of the most privileged people to ever live said it. Much less the many reasonable things that people with relative privilege utter all the time. 

This tactical error is no more apparent than when you watch a panel of leading scientists gathered for some massive event. Where giants of the industry sit around a stage like Bill Nye, Neil De Grasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins ... we know why the leading public intellectuals are all men - privilege. However we have to also concede the Matthew effect and indeed Halo effect, that imaginary advantages can and tend to translate into real advantages over time. Men of this age were educated in a system that excluded women and for the most part people of colour. The best funded and leading educational institutions on earth were almost solely located in the United States, the wealthier nations of the Commonwealth and Europe. Thus the odds that the world leaders in any scientific field would wind up being white men were very heavily stacked in their favor. 

Crucially this does not invalidate that they are the leading experts in their fields. It doesn't mean that Bill Nye is not a competent engineer, or that Lawrence Krauss and Neil De Grasse Tyson are not competent astrophysicists. Nor does it mean they have any desire to maintain the status quo and only have male successors. 

One of the most fascinating statements I've heard all year was (and I paraphrase) 'many women don't like evolutionary psychology because they find it condescending to women' I cannot empathise with the experience of hearing a description of evolutionary game theory in which an evolutionary psychologist says 'male or small sex cell organisms have less sexual investment and female or large sex cell organisms have more sexual investment and so they have to be selective. Hence males are going to tend towards focusing on their ability to command resources in order to be selected by females...' I do not know what it feels like to hear such a theory of gender roles and not like it. But what takes the teeth out of feminism is a suggestion that upon hearing lines of inquiry they don't like, they simply ignore it. 

I'm of the martial opinion that strength and weakness do not so much matter intrinsically so much as your ability to accurately appraise it. The concepts of advantage and disadvantage are pretty fluid if you can stand far enough of an emotional remove to incorporate the lay of the land. To concede that a position of privilege is not arbitrary, but may have a long history behind it, is not the same as conceding that it is just, fair, legitimate or ethical. 

I feel I've said everything I have to say on gender and progressive politics, feminism in general. This should tie me over for a few months at least. In conclusion, when I close my eyes and imagine that I am 'the man' sitting in my palace and hearing reports from my scouts as to the state of the rebel forces opposing the patriarchy, nothing I see or hear calls for any countermeasures to be enacted. Hubris perhaps, but that's how I'd bet.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On Consistency

Inconsistency fascinates me. Ever since I read a book called something like 'Secrets of Ninja Mind Manipulation' which I remember little of, except that it stated at the core of Ninja mind manipulation was an understanding that human minds desired consistency and this was the secret to unraveling it I've managed to find intellectual consistency to be a conspicuous behavioral trait albeit seldom achieved. And I should add the caveat that, for fear of ninja mind fucks, I don't personally aspire to be rigidly consistent, the side effect of which has been the delightful discovery that if mid-argument you simply change sides with mind boggling speeds it infuriates people more so than if you had bludgeoned them to death with rational debate.

Now that I have a feel for issuing challenges, here's just a small list of oft-correlating positions on otherwise independent issues that I feel place an onus of reconciliation to achieve consistency:

Reconcile Gun control and Drivers Licenses

Reconcile Abortion rights and Capital Punishment

Reconcile Misogyny and Islamophobia
Reconcile Young-Earth Creationism and Astronomy, Geology, Chemistry etc. (for the record, I don't believe that Ken Hamm has managed to do it. If you find his arguments compelling I would be delighted to hear why.)

My difficulty ratings should suggest that I have in part done the thought exercise to reconcile my positions on all the above issues. So I'm not going to run through a reconciliation for all but what is immediately juiciest and most morbidly fascinating to me. Which is having to reconcile my position on misogyny and 'Islamophobia' - but although I've rated it as 'hard' this is my general observance that people who tend to be anti-misogyny tend also to be anti-Islamophobia, and I'll disclose I am anti-misogyny, and I chose this language because I feel it is easier to define than a term like 'feminist' of which I don't identify, it also clarifies that one need not identify as a feminist to abhor violence against women in general. As I've stated before here, there are probably definitions of feminist broad enough to include me, but to err-cautiously on the side of honesty, I don't identify as a feminist and frankly speaking my experience of men that do is that of pure lip-service in the interests of getting their end into a meat market that validates their status aspirations with the literal sole exception of a trans-man I have met, who struck me as actually willing to pay a price to support feminist causes. This is not my experience of male-feminists in general.

'Islamophobia' is a meme that earns its scare quotes because it's grammatically and psychologically invalid. 'Islamophobia' is not akin to Arachnophobia, Agoraphobia, Aquaphobia and so on through the alphabet of psychological conditions that have practical meaningful definitions and describe real psychological phenomena. Homophobia doesn't get scare quotes from me because it is much more likely that there are people with irrational fears of homosexual activity, for whatever reason. I'd concede that this might be true of a concept like Islam, for example, the existence of a person who is afraid to touch a copy of a Koran and knows this fear to be irrational... but in general parlance this is not the specific behaviors 'Islamophobia' refers to.

Thus let's delve into the nitty gritty, for example if you feel an argument like 'not all men' (which I currently understand to be a man refusing to take ownership of violence, discrimination etc. perpetrated disproportionately by men.) as invalid this would describe my position too.

Namely it is a bog-standard response to a complaint to avoid responsibility through blaming or deflection etc. It also falls under the purview of an informal fallacy known as the 'No true Scotsman' fallacy, though not quite. Given that 'not all men' is consigning a pattern of behavior to statistical insignificance, or denying a masculine culture that is problematic etc. It is an invalid argument insofar as it does nothing to actually deny the existence of a pattern of violence correlating strongly with gender and/or sex. Thus, when faced with criticism of male behavior such as sexual assault or physical assault on women and the prevalence of it, pointing out that it is not universal is invalid strictly unless it's in the face of some universal preventative measure like a 'man-ban' executive order.

As to the question of owning a problem, my position is that we should aspire to responsibility and thus the best thing to do when someone comes to you with a problem, regardless of the problem is respond 'what can I do?' and not in an imploring rhetorical answer that implies we both know the answer is nothing. However I do defend the right of people not to care about shit, and while not as admirable by far, I would respect someone who responded 'I don't care' in a way that I don't respect somebody who clutches at an argument like 'not all men'.

Now you can watch Ben Affleck's high rating attack outburst, you only need to watch a minute or two before the 'not all men' argument is made. One does not have to search the internet long or deeply to find examples of the No True Scotsman fallacy touted. It's a fallacy all human beings are intuitively prone to. Lest you think that attaching the word 'informal' means that it's no biggie, the distinction between formal and informal fallacies, to my understanding is that 'formal' fallacies are like Mathematical equations, 'If all Mercedes drivers are rich, and Bill Gates is rich, Bill gates must drive a Mercedes.' etc. however to commit an informal fallacy does not make your argument any less invalid.

Thus it would seem that if you are going to call on men to own and acknowledge the problems of misogyny, the consistent thing to do would be to call on Muslims to own and acknowledge the problems of Islam.

To be honest, I was very surprised the first time I came across criticisms of Islam being characterized as racist. I live in a by and large secular society, and move in social circles where non-agnostic /atheistic beliefs are rare. It is still my view that in my social environment the correct opinion a member should have on Islam is in fact, no opinion. The impact of Islam on our lives is negligible to non-existent. Most people in Melbourne know far more about Islam than they will ever need to, with respect to not believing that Islam is the true religion and faith in Islam is the only path to salvation or whatever.

My opinion does not reflect reality, the prevailing attitude among my peers is that people for reasons unexplained need to be informed about Islam. Junkee media are a recent phenomena that are 0/2 of the two videos I've seen shared on social media produced by them, one of which is this video for which I want to apologise in advance - I punched into youtube's search engine 'junkee sharia law' and found the closest to the original video shared on social media was this, and although the video is unedited the description in the bio appears to be an ad-hominem attack to suggest Yassmin is some kind of stooge and therefore her expressed views in the video should be dismissed or discounted.

Ad hominem is another form of fallacy which suggests that you can't dismiss an argument as invalid based on who the speaker is. Eg. If Donald Trump says 'China is artificially suppressing its exchange rate' you can't dismiss the claim based on the fact that it was said by Donald Trump.

But you do have every reason and right to be skeptical, and an argument should be accepted and rejected on its intrinsic merits. You would also be perfectly rational to think that Donald Trump is not likely to come up with a workable solution to China's artificially suppressed exchange rates should the claim prove to be true.

So to, even knowing little of Islam, I find Yassmin's video intellectually vacuous. So much so, it's hard to know where to begin. And if you are interested in investing time and energy into convincing yourself that you have good reason not to convert to the faith of Islam, I'm sure youtube and the internet at large have plenty of material for you. I would also before moving on suggest that before sharing another Junkee video, ever, you should check out their webpage for a lesson in basic fact checking as it turns out Junkee are more or less a merciless force of marketing and advertising.

It's circumstantial evidence at best, but the impression Junkee's website left me with is that they are quite cynically on board with progressive issues by and large, and knowing that market research budgets often dwarf actual research budgets it seems to support my intuition that people who hate 'not-all-men' defenses tend to employ 'not-all-muslim' defenses.

Let's get back on point. Every theist, which is to say, every believer has their own onus of reconciliation/consistency best articulated, perhaps for all time by Samuel 'Mark Twain' Clements: 'The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.' which is why I'm surprised that people feel they have an obligation to learn, understand and defend Islam.

I know very little, but I have no inconsistent thinking to reconcile. I believe in an indifferent Universe populated by no personal Gods. Thus I don't have to figure out why the testimony of one Prophet is valid and another Prophet's can be ignored. I don't have to conceive of a way in which the true faith could be delivered to one isolated community of humanity and a completely different true faith could be delivered and endure for generations, indeed civilizations to another isolated community of humanity etc.

I'm convinced by evidence sufficiently accessible to me, that the events described in Genesis did not occur. I'm confident enough to defer to archeological scientists that the events described in the book of Exodus did not transpire. Beyond that, when entertaining claims that a person was the son of God, or received the direct word of God and didn't bother to invalidate the claims of Genesis and Exodus as I would expect from a historical figure that had unprecedented insight into the creation of the Universe, that the claims of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism become increasingly unlikely to be untrue.

'What's going on?' I hear you say, did you move onto reconciling creationism with the physical sciences? Let's breathe and reorient.

I was surprised the first time I heard a friend conflate criticism of Islam with racism. This is because, criticism of religion is so commonplace. It seems most logically consistent that if you spent highschool with the cool kids saying 'I don't think Jesus even existed, it all bogus' I would have assumed the consistent thing to do is apply this same mindset to any religious belief you were presented with.

I am only for religious freedom in so far as I don't believe in thought crimes. I don't for example believe religious freedom extend to exempting someone from hate-speech for example, or that it might exempt them from the local legal system in any capacity. I myself hold many superstitions with the conviction that they are completely irrational but nonetheless exert some kind of placebo effect on my psychological life. I would hate to be persecuted for being superstitious. I would extend this freedom from persecution to people who believe with conviction that they have knowledge of the divine or supernatural etc.

What though, is a religious belief? Do you for example believe that being a Christian means anything you want it to mean? Practice suggests that it does. But most of us would assume that at bedrock it means you believe that Jesus was the son of god, that the 10 commandments were the word of God and that after you die your soul goes to heaven or to hell give or take a belief in purgatory. A belief in Judaism might at the very least necessitate that Jesus was not the son of god, and at some point the king messiah will be born to restore the chosen people to the holy land and blah blah blah. Does Islam require you to believe that there is no god but Allah, and that the name of his prophet is Mohammed, the last prophet and that the Koran is the perfect word of God? I genuinely don't know.

I don't know if Yassmin would say that the Koran is the figurative word of God subject to interpretation. I also don't know if she possesses any real authority to say so. Or any of the things she claimed in that video.

In this case, I have a right to say 'I don't care.' I'm not particularly concerned about my immortal soul, or about terrorism. I'm fairly committed to not hurting anyone in an act of physical violence and I would risk my life to protect a stranger from physical harm provided I am in the immediate vicinity. I do not for example dedicate much effort to preventing infant deaths in foreign countries by donating to mosquito net charities, so I'm less concerned about the moral implications of these acts of omissions wherever I'm a bystander.

While I would not apply an ad hominem fallacy to religious texts, and find them as likely as any other literature to contain wisdom and useful instruction, I find all theism basically indefensible, which is why I am not a theist.

I would expect that if you nod along and like content that suggests 'not all men' is a ridiculous dodging of responsibility, you would do the same for this dodge in all its manifestations.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Following On

I feel compelled to point out the obvious, which is to say, my last post was in part facetious. And one part cynical, and just one part earnest.

Although open to the possibility to the questions asked having answers, I'm quietly confident they don't. Or perhaps loudly confident, as many people remind me that I've been talking about the irrationality of the property market for years. The truth is probably closer to over a decade.

However for most of the last decade, if asked 'when is the bubble going to burst?' I would have responded with very high fidelity something like this 'I don't know, the problem with an irrational market is that if there is no reason for prices to be as high as they are, there's no reason for it not to continue.'

It would require some catalyst, like China's economy tanking and sending a shock through the Australian markets employment wise. China's growth has been slowing for years though, but it isn't tanking. Frankly I don't care about the trigger and I never have.

What do I care about?

Go down to any intersection in the Melbourne CBD, and you will in fairly short order witness the following - 1. A person jaywalks, in a pedestrian crossing against the lights. 2. Another batch of jaywalkers follows behind them. 3. A car enters the intersection and honks their horn at the second batch of jaywalkers, at which point they look up and hurry out of the way.

I would almost gauruntee that it would happen, but Good Friday is coming up where the Melbourne CBD is populated almost solely by confused Asians walking past closed businesses. So there are no doubt exceptions.

But considering that 1-3 sequence, you can see that for all the shit president Trump takes for blundering into lies uncovered by the most casual of fact checking, it's that assuming what we want to believe is true is a very common human foible. Most people are shitty jaywalkers, and a shitty jaywalker isn't somebody who gets hit by a car and killed, it is somebody who effects traffic by crossing the street. Fuck, there are people who are shitty pedestrian crossing button pushers.

That second wave of jaywalkers though, that happen on a daily, perhaps hourly basis (I've never been that bored or academic) to get honked at by a car that they didn't see even though it's exactly where one would expect it to be, are beneath shitty. What error did they make? They observed the first jaywalker and based their decisions on what happened to them. They didn't look at the traffic. The first jaywalker may have, they may have just been lucky. It doesn't matter.

I just want people to learn how to jaywalk. It's simple, look in the direction that traffic comes from.

I imagine with home buying, jaywalking gets more complicated. There's FOMO, and incredible pressure to do as the herd does. That's why it's not even impressive if you answer 1 of my questions about real estate. It's only impressive if you can do all five.

The Australian Housing Bubble may not burst in my life-time. I'm happy to hedge against that position, I would describe based on this ad:

That we are entering a new era, where banks have tapped out people's incomes to afford housing, and we now need creative solutions, like getting a loan with a 'mate'.

The RBA appears to be acknowledging the housing bubble, along with the OECD and APRA. The RBA wanting an orderly 'correction' to housing prices.

I believe arresting an asset bubble without it bursting to be somewhat of a holy-grail, a unicorn. Because it assumes the reason people are buying property at these inflated prices, is not because they want the prices to keep inflating. It assumes that once people stop buying, the game isn't over.

The CBA's ad, implicitely confesses that mortgages are onerous. They are attempting to address the belief that 53% of their sample doesn't think they can afford the mortgages? What does that mean? They can't sacrifice the income required to repay a mortgage at these prices even if they believe that capital gains will continue. Half the herd, has apparently already dropped out of the stampede, and the CBA is promising creative ways to get you charging headlong in again.

It smells desperate to me. But that's just me.

And the world is crazy, as a friend pointed out to me last friday, that hipsters complain about not being able to afford housing anymore, while eating a $25 smashed avocado breakfast at a cafe.

But upon reflection, the state of the union is this. A lot of people are finding that if they give up on home ownership, they have enough disposable income to live a life of largess. Which given that it might be triple the cost to own a home as to rent it, is not really that surprising.

I don't know what comes next. I don't know how it works. The more I studied economics, the more I felt confident that economists know less than the people on the ground.

If you saw the movie adaptation of the Big Short, you may remember that one of the opening lines was 'this is the story about a small group of people who did something nobody else thought to do: they checked'

I'm pretty confident most people don't check. They don't look for oncoming traffic, nor take that extra step of looking both ways. Like Bertrand Russell's Christmas Chicken, what they check is that the farmer gives them grain every day, right up until Christmas when the Chicken gets cooked.

I'm told people just go to auctions, that's their fact checking, and they see bidders bidding up prices and extrapolate all of reality from there. They notice Chinese people and concoct stories of Chinese billionaire's stashing their cash in the ground.

But can money be poured into the ground? We dig coal and iron ore up from out of the ground, ship it off across the ocean and then take the proceeds and 'invest' it in land that doesn't have coal or iron ore underneath it. And that Coal and Iron Ore is gone.

But I'm beating up, and I have come to not respect atheists that beat up on believers. Having said that, I see it as no contradiction when I pick sides. And when confronted with the mysteries of the universe, I respect the side that says 'I don't know, and I don't know anybody that does know' more than the side that says 'I do know' or 'I know a guy that knows all there is to know and he told me that all I have to worry about is doing right by him.'

Thus, for the people that engaged in my Questions (they only really tackled q1) it bolstered my confidence that none of the questions have compelling answers that describe the way the world sits right now. I won't take the gamble others so confidently make, but I respect the gambler that knows they are gambling. I don't respect somebody who feels like they are being 'smart'.

Yes the market may never crash, prices may continue to soar forever, somehow. I'm okay with that, largely because a landlord provides no real value, I'm not ever going to be comfortable with being one no matter what it costs me financially.

Lest I become a braying property shit heel, that's all I'm intend to say on the matter, here, for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

On Property

What do you know about Property? Particularly private property?

I suspect the answer to this question, will prove to be: nothing.

The foundation of my suspicion being, that I know nothing. Although this post has been on my 'to write' list for a while, it was as recent as yesterday that I watched developmental psychologist Paul Bloom's talk 'religious thinking isn't special' my relevant takeaway the prevalence of what he called 'double deference'. He defended a Republican Lynn Westmann's inability to name the 10 commandments in a Colbert interview despite sponsoring a bill to have them displayed in the Senate and the House. Just to be clear, he defended the inability to name the 10 commandments while still thinking them important enough to be displayed, rather than the proposal to display them. Simply because it is possible to believe something is important and valuable and true without understanding it at all.

Much like many people who believe that it's important to teach children the theory of Evolution and the Hot Big Bang etc. would quite likely not be able to explain these theories, and many may have a very misguided notion of Evolution, even though they feel it is important. Hence most of us will trust and defer that scientists do science stuff and that what they say is true and correct. And I should say, that if you are ever going to defer to an authority, let it be a scientific authority, because they are actually supposed to base their statements on experiments that are reproducible. Including photographs of the big bang. I feel the scientific community is the most worthy of deference by the lay, unless that scientist is, of course, an economist.

But you have probably done this with property, and sorry in advance if the one thing. The one decision you feel you have got right in life, was buying a property. It doesn't mean you're wrong, I'm just trying to establish whether you know anything about this thing you bought.

So here are my property Millenium Prize Questions, published 17 years late and with no prize money. The questions I can't answer myself. I would love it if you the reader had a go at these, and I'll have a go at them myself below. So in no particular order can you answer:

1. How does property make money?

2. How can 'house prices' increase faster than rents over a sustained period?

3. How can rents appreciate faster than wages over a sustained period?

4. What value does a landlord provide?

5. Why do banks lend money to people to buy property, instead of using those funds to buy property directly?

6. If property prices are to always go up, why does anybody need to get in to the property market?

notes: When I use the word 'how' I'm wanting a description of the mechanism, for example 'How did humans descend from apes?' 'Evolution' demonstrates no knowledge of evolution, this is a deference. Questions 2 + 3 address expectations, so while the answers may be obvious in the short term, I'm looking for a demonstration of knowledge as to how these occur over the long term. When I say 'value' I'm asking not for a description of services a landlord provides, but how these services are beneficial. eg, a cleaning service provides value not through cleaning the house, but by providing a service at a cheaper hourly rate than if I were to allocate the time to doing it myself.

In the time I have allocated to writing this post, both ASIC and the RBA have come out cautioning against a potential property market crisis. I've been a naysayer of property investment for years, as many of my friends disdain me for and may even avoid my company. But a catastrophic property market crash in Australia, while validating, would still be catastrophic. Many people I know and care about would be wiped out financially. Locked down in negative equity for decades.

If I had to describe what most people believe, I have only an impression, and it forms the basis of my suspicion that people can't answer the 6 questions above, as I can't. They simply don't think of them and it hasn't occurred to them. Even though they are aware of terms like cisgendered and have nuanced understandings Sharia law etc.

But I suspect the average property owner thinks houses make money from capital gains, and that landlords provide housing because they are smart and only suckers pay rent. Banks lend money because property must be a sound investment and house prices go up for some grounded reason. It is plain to see that they are.

And that's it. aka - people know nothing, but are literally willing to mortgage their lives at this level of understanding.

This post is effectively done. But my attempted answers are below. They took longer than all my VCE exams combined and they fried my brains in a way that school never has.

[Have a go, I have an economics bachelor degree and I can't answer these questions, but many people who don't have economic or financial qualifications are sufficiently confident to take out loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase a house that is mortgaged against repayment of the loan + interest.]

When you are ready or resolute that you don't want to attempt to answer these questions, here are my best attempts:

1. There are seemingly obvious answers to this, the number one being rent. Charging people some portion of their income for exclusive or shared use of the space. This just doesn't track with reality. So using my home suburb as an example, the median buying price is $AUD 2.2 million, and the median rent is $710 pw. Plugging these figures into a mortgage calculator with a 3.7%pa interest rate and 25 year loan period resulted in weekly repayments of $2614 pw. Deduct $710 (paid either as rent to the mortgage holder or realised as savings on rent for owner occupier) and the mortgaged party need to find a remaining $1904 pw to service their debt.
Thus rents can't explain how property makes money in isolation, because crucially if you were to do nothing else in my home suburb - the rental income would not pay off the loan. So rent in isolation is a no go. By comparison I understand enough of the share market to know that any company I look up on the exchange should have a price earnings ratio, which is the net profit made by that company divided by the net worth of all common shares issued. So you can get a P/E ratio of 20 for a company, this means for every $20 of shares you own, you get $1 back a year, which in turn means that it would take 20 years for the investment to pay you back, on the 21st year, you start making 'money for nothing' holding everything else constant.
Now this is complicated the only 'earnings' of a property are rent, and this figure is obviously Gross, because there's a bunch of taxes like land rates and maintenance costs and what not. But per year this rent income translates to $37,440 generating a P/E ratio of 58.76. Or it would take 58.76 years for the property to pay for itself, holding everything else constant. My mortgage calculator only offers a 30 year horizon, and I can't find one with a 60 year horizon to bring into line this P/E ratio with the loan repayment frame.
So I don't know enough, let's forget about mortgages and say that our buyer, not me can just buy the property in cash, outright. Then the question is answered, for an initial investment of $2.2 million, the property makes me $710 pw either in the $710 pw I don't have to pay in rent anymore because I live in the house, or from the rental income of putting a tennent in the house, assuming that both these situations can be held constant, then the house will have paid for itself in just under 59 years time.
Again, although ostensibly the question is answered, it still doesn't track with reality. For one thing the easiest way to guarantee income is to live in the house myself and realise them as savings, but that requires me not to move for 6 decades, and in 6 decades I will probably be dead. It also assumes I'm out there working in the real world and earning a lucrative income. If I were just to collect a pension (somehow) it would however ensure that I would get all $400 per week most pensions amount to. But I don't know the law as it regards owning a multi-million dollar property and collecting a pension.
There's a big difference between owning a home, and owning a biscuit factory. A biscuit factory makes money by producing biscuits and selling them, potentially to many many people, this could improve or decline over time but it is risky. A property only makes money by getting tennants, and in the case of owner occupied, as savings on rent paid. It is very limited in its ability to make more or less money. Furthermore, tenancy contracts are usually fixed agreements over a period of time and there's many conditions that need to be met to alter the agreement etc. A biscuit factory can vary it's production figures, prices, distribution channels with a much higher degree of variation. It can even relocate and alter it's shipping contracts etc.
There's one seemingly obvious way property can make money, that I haven't mentioned thus far - Capital Appreciation. and that is because, I don't understand it.
I mean there's a simple term for buying something expecting a return in capital appreciation aka movements in price - that is speculation. But we are talking about people my age and even younger speculating with hundreds of thousands of dollars they don't have. That I don't understand.
When I try to understand it through the framework of a P/E ratio, it looks something like this - You have a high price say $2 million, and low earnings like $500, this could be rational as a gamble if you have some reason to believe at some point in the future, the earnings are going to jump up dramatically, considered in isolation, for me to invest any amount of money, I'd probably want it to pay me back within 20 years, adjusting for inflation (of course) so I might sink 2 million if I had some reason to believe that $500 a week were to jump up to $2000 a week ($100k a year) BUT that would justify the price I paid to a prospective buyer, for them to buy it off me at a higher price - they would have to believe the income was going to increase even more than it had.
Here I would note, that this is about me and other market agents acting on beliefs about the future, and price remains a function of earnings - so I would initially purchase something with a high price and low earnings because that makes it appear overvalued, however I believe it undervalued because of information I presumably have about how the earnings are going to change. I can then sell it when the prices adjust however I would need to believe it to be correctly valued, or overvalued based on my beliefs about future earnings and my buyer (whom I sell to) would need to believe it to be undervalued.
Those are the conditions of rational speculation. I don't understand it though. Further complicating things is Efficient Market Theory, which basically says all information about future changes in earnings should already be factored into the price.
And this is where I begin to stroll into a black hole of my personal understanding. If you were to reverse engineer the 'information' that is fueling the beliefs about future changes in rental income that is driving the high property prices, then any property owner that contributes income above that of the rental income they are earning or saving from their property believes something to be true about those rents increasing in the future.
But this belief must be so widespread that the information it is based on should be just about common knowledge, furthermore these poor P/E ratios have been the case for 10 years plus in Australia so I should have observed by now the massive adjustment in rents and the stabilization of property prices. Being unable myself to explain the current high prices, nor explain why I'd expect future high prices or future rent increases.
I have a basis for capital gains making money off property based on anticipated positive shifts in rent but no evidence to support that. I can explain the basic model whereby somebody holds a property for so long the rental income pays them back, but that is highly conditional on somebody taking little or no mortgage out and needing some reason to buy property rather than shares in more profitable enterprises, like an owner occupier that can hold the property long enough to save enough on rent to wind up with the savings plus the asset for resale... I think, I don't know.

2. My best attempt at answering this is the anticipation model of capital gains, it makes sense to pay a higher price for a property if you think that rents will increase in a disproportionate matter. eg. You might be willing to pay 15% above the real value of the property if you expect rents to increase by 16% - or 15.01% whatever.
That's short term though, how could this happen over the long term. You'd have to be expecting higher and higher rents occurring successively. But that would only explain property prices increasing more or less in line with rents, but with periods where the prices may increase ahead of rents for successive windows. The P/E ratio of property would remain stable over time.
This is what EMT would predict, even with a 'new era story' like the population is increasing faster than the housing supply, or that Chinese/Saudi/Russian etc millionaires are buying up all the properties and other popular stories (rarely verified). This again would suggest that the market would incorporate these factors into property prices.
The only one that potentially gives insight is the foreign investor new era story, typically wealthy people trying to move money offshore by purchasing foreign real estate. Here they are simply looking at property to function as a store of wealth, or bank account. The motivation being to have money in a safe asset that they can convert back into cash should they need it. As such they may buy existing properties and not rent it, restricting the overall rental market. This may in turn cause a rise in rents as the rental supply diminishes. BUT the market has a new piece of information, the potential for those properties to re-enter the rental market and relieve pressure on rents, which means property prices should reflect this potential already.
Furthermore, to the foreign investors, price rises in the assets they hold must reduce liquidity, and they can't be relying on their asset further appreciating by more foreign investment in the market because it becomes tautalogical, or is it a truism.
If you will picture the financial advisor of this Russian Oligarch saying 'you should buy Australian property because you are buying Australian property, and the demand for Australian property is driving up the price, so demand more of it.' It can seem less circular when you take Vladimir Putin and divide him by the millionaire population of China, but even so, what are the Chinese millionaire's being told? The new era story that involves them? Buy it because you are buying it!
I can't explain how property prices are outpacing rents in growth over a sustained period of time. Just to hold steady as an 'investment' that means if your property value has increased 14% for the year, rents need to have increased 14% as well. I just checked and last year rents increased 3.8% in Melbourne (prices rose 13.68%). My brain is not capable of doing the maths, but for these price increases to be rational, and compliant with EMT, for every year property prices increase by 10% more than rents do, the rents need to increase more than 10% the following year. Like those compare the pair Australian Superannuation ads which is to say if you had a period where property prices increased 10% for 5 consecutive years and rents held constant, then the market would 'correct' by having the rents leap up by 61% just to get them in line with where they stood at the beginning of the 5 year period.
Under Australian law there are certain obstacles to that happening, there are limits by which a landlord can increase the rent on an existing lease and limits to how often this can occur. At any given time most of the rental market is not in transition, so you would need a shock to the system - basically all existing tenants deciding to move, break leases and negotiate new ones to have the avenue for such a drastic increase in rent. The other thing being that this would not quite be a musical chairs scenario - all those tenants would be creating a huge upswing in rental supplies. The market would also be anticipating no Government intervention to such a drastic increase in rents.
Given that that makes no sense, I can't really explain how over a sustained period property can appreciate faster than rents do. Particularly if property is being purchased on mortgages meaning that $1900 gap between rental income/savings and mortgage being repaid has to grow by 10% per year, making mortgages less affordable.
I'm even less convinced of my partial answers to question 1 having walked further through this phenomena. I can get an explanation of the short term - a shock in the market. But I can't answer that sustained part. I can't explain how.

3. So last year rents increased by 3.8% which is not insignificant. But wages increased nationally December 2015-2016 by 1.9 pc. So the phenomena does exist, at least in the short term. That it's been happening for a few years is a bet I'd be willing to take, though it may be me using an availability heuristic.
Anyway, if rents increase faster than wages, that means its eating into people's disposable income. eg. rent is $100 and after paying it the tenant has $150 left, if rent increases to $103.80 and wages increase $254.75 , so both landlord and tenant are better off the landlord by $3.80 and the tenant by 95 cents.
If you adjusted for inflation though, The landlord's position has improved so that they are wealthier than they were before (3.8% is greater than inflation 1.5%, which incidentally the RBA is worried is low, hence the cuts to interest rates) and the wages seemingly increased faster than inflation as well but 80% of that wage increase is captured in rent, so the reality for the tenant is that their income increased 0.4% so they are poorer after inflation.
But that helped, wages must be larger than rents, so a lower percentage increase in wages may yield sufficient money to cover a higher percentage increase in rents.
However there's a ceiling as to how much the rents can increase and be absorbed by tenants - I can't do the math in my head, but in the above hypothetical a 4.75% rent increase would be the limit.
It's an aside to this specific question, but such a rent increase ceiling would invalidate the Efficient Market Theory prediction that property prices are factoring in a massive increase in rents UNLESS, it is factoring in an even more massive anticipated increase in incomes.
Blah, where was I, oh yeah, There's a second ceiling though, should the first rental ceiling be exceeded, and here's the simple answer to the question - rent increases can exceed wage increases until they've eaten up the disposable income. How much disposable income is around is ambiguous. I mean if somebody has $150 spending money after paying rent, and utility bills and other overheads break down to $30 a week, we have $120 which is about $8 a day for food or something and lets say a person can meet their nutritional and caloric needs with $4 a day, so you can say half of the food budget is disposable income - the human tendency to consume at the highest possible utility level.
But the $90 is there for the landlords grabs, but no more. Afterwards the average tenants become unable to eat... technically you might be able to grab more, provided the tenants have recourse to charity - eating at homeless shelters etc. This would be called the process of 'externalizing' which is where your business model depends on somebody else picking up the bill, like the Church, the wages of volunteers and the budgets of NGOs. You could see employers feeding their employees to create more disposable income, which provided the business has cash flow to cover it, would be tax deductible, so it would be at the expense of the public in terms of government expenditure on social programs.
So the government or philanthropy could pick up the bill, to maximize a landlords claim to the income of individual tenants.
As it stands, having to get to this 'absolute' ceiling would take time, however even this plan is conditional. It requires almost mass coordination, so that a tenant has no recourse to pursue a cheaper lease or move in with their parents (basically to use market forces to ensure their rents stay low). It also presumes that the erosion of incomes won't reach a threshold where it becomes politically untenable to not regulate further rent increases, popular revolt, cancellation of debts and redistribution etc.
Which needs mentioning because my attempt at establishing a ceiling for disproportionate rent increases may have sounded cruel, brutal, unethical and unjust. However that's not a system redesign, it's basically the negotiation of a contract between two individuals we have now, it just requires a circumstances to be such that tenants have almost no leverage. To be skewered between not eating and living on the streets.  There's some credibility to such a skewer, given that upon living on the streets it is almost virtually impossible to maintain a job, so the tenant would be losing their income anyway - this points to another source of recourse for the tenant though, to sacrifice their job and collect social welfare. I have to confess ignorance as to whether a person with no address can receive welfare, but it should be acknowledged on the landlord's side of the equation that the real limit of disposable income they can eat into is probably at the threshold where holding a job provides no utility over being unemployed. An individual could obtain more leisure time while having equally no disposable income as if they are working and paying higher rents.
There are of course some tenants that have children, who cannot generate an income and thus are already eating into the income generating parent(s) disposable income(s), and such tenants probably cannot entertain the option of going homeless. But this just means there is less disposable income for the landlord to obtain should their tenant have dependents. But landlords may literally have the ability to take food out of babies mouths, by negotiating more favorable lease agreements.
Again, its a complicated and highly speculative exercise to imagine basically how society can absorb higher rents than wage increases over a sustained period of time.
But I'm beginning to get answers that aren't generally discussed. For example, if we assume that the property market is not facilitated by lending, then property prices can appreciate faster than rental income, because you don't need to be repaying the interest and principle over time, so you don't require additional income above and beyond the rent (or your own in savings on rent) and in turn you don't need your income to increase faster than rents do, because you have simply converted an asset into another (cash to property) so your personal income is irrelevant.
This does fit the new era story of Billionaire's arriving from outside the domestic economy and buying property without loans, however this only works for those Billionaires, and not for people who both live and work in the domestic economy.
Those working in the domestic economy need to be anticipating some future significant growth in wages (just as in the previous answer, property prices need to be anticipating some future significant growth in rents) in order to restore what economists call 'equilibrium' and we would subsequently expect that growth in rents would be some function of growth in real wages (adjusted for inflation) provided the market is efficient - in this case you don't have a significant and non-transitional amount of homeless people, and you don't have a significant and non-transitional amount of vacant housing.
Thus 2 and 3 are more or less the same. But you can human centipede them together to create a kind of nested equation - property prices need to be a function of rent - f(rent) if you will, and rent needs to be a function of wages - f(wages) so property prices become a function of a function of wages.
There's a caveat I have to mention as well, all my back of the envelope equations have been dealing with averages, and there's some chance that the variance might be more significant. Such that the median house price does not align with the median rent etc. and that average wages don't align with average rents, or property prices.
Even though it isn't an official question, let's entertain in the spirit of completeness a theory where most property is bought with home loans, and whether they are owner occupied or rented, the debt requires servicing with an income, at risk of defaulting and maintaining the debt while losing the underlying asset, or declaring bankruptcy and losing the underlying asset.
In which case last year property prices increased by 13.68% and wages increase 1.9%. Comparing a $55,000 annual wage and a $500,000 property the absolute amounts = $1,045 increase in income and a $68,400 increase in property price. More than 1 extra year of earnings and a difference of $80 in mortgage repayment per week (using the same assumptions 25 year mortgage, 3.77% interest rate). The wage increase of our property buyer before tax amounts to $20 per week. But they pay tax as well and using a simple tax calculator $340 of that $1,045 wage increase goes to the tax man, if they can't deduct it through negative gearing but worst case is that the effective wage increase our property buyer has to service the higher mortgage with is $13.50. So best case, $60 has to come out of their disposable income a week. I can't make a fair comparison to the increased burden on a tenant without recalculating the orange numbers into apple numbers. $250 income a week is not a 55k annual salary and $100pw rent is probably not proportional to a $500,000 property. But hopefully your intuitions are strong enough that it is going to be about a tenth of the sacrifice of disposable income for the tenant or thereabouts, aka a landlord is subsidizing your living arrangement in pursuit of the long term claim to the underlying asset.
Of course these changes only effect buyers, if the buyer bought the property for $500k two years ago, and it's valued at $568,400 one year ago, that doesn't effect their mortgage repayments unless they refinance and up their loan (effectively buying the property from themselves) which they have no incentive to do so, unless they need emergency surgery or to buy a boat or some shit. But it does mean that they can increase the rent by 3.8% (unless an owner occupier, in which case they would have to increase their savings) and their wages increase by 1.9% and thus they have more disposable income after deducting their mortgage repayments. They would probably be better off though just selling the house and realizing the capital gains, provided they don't then buy another property.
My brain is broken again, so I'm happy to throw in the towel on this one, and say I can't explain how rents can increase faster than wages for a sustained period.
Which is to say, I can but to borrow Nassim-Nicholas Taleb's terminology my explanation would 'fragilize' the economy if not almost all social contracts and almost inevitably shatter it.

4. Again there's a seemingly obvious answer, which is that a Landlord 'provides housing' however in contemporary society this isn't true, and probably hasn't been true historically. Developers and construction companies provide housing by erecting shelters. Architects too by a degree of separation. Hence 'providing housing' is a misnomer, the landlord by definition is leasing out their superfluous housing. Like if it was raining and I had two umbrellas, I can use one for myself and could sell the other when it is raining (a demand spike) or rent it during the rain.
But I am not creating an umbrella for other people's use.
A landlord simply owns a house, is that of any value? There are more concrete services a landlord provides, for example they have to take responsibility and upkeep of the property and fittings. They also absorb the 'risks of ownership' which may be the exorbitant mortgage repayments, a landlord may be subsidizing the shelter of their tenants.
On the question of maintenance though, before I tumble down a rabbit hole, is similar to an insurance scheme. Say you get a dental extra on your health insurance, resulting in an extra $1000 a year in premiums. Then you go to the dentist and have your cavities filled and discover that your $300 bill is now reduced to $230 thanks to your insurance. Is this of any value?
No, you paid $1000 to save $70. Suggesting you didn't do your research properly.
Now in my own experience and from anecdotal testimony, the maintenance services provided by a landlord are often neither timely or to a quality standard. Furthermore there's a compliance cost too, of putting in the maintenance request and then following up and then coordinating the repairs or maintenance.
Thus the question of value is how is paying rent for upkeep and maintenance services more valuable than not? Or, if you think as rent like a maintenance insurance - where if you need a plumber, electrician etc. you pay monthly premiums of hundreds of dollars and in turn get a free visit from a tradesman once or twice a year.
Let's keep in mind that a modest rent in my hometown of $160pw is $8320 per year, with a bond lumped on at the front end ($793). Yes you can get the bond back, but how many electricians and plumbers and how many fittings would you need replacing in 12 months to fork over $8320 to a middleman.
Of course, we aren't factoring in the savings of whatever it would cost to live in a hotel for a year, but that is because a landlord just buys a house. A house (or room + communal space) that is surplus to their own needs for shelter. Hence why doesn't a landlord simply sell the house to the people that want and/or need to live there? They in turn can then sell the house to whoever needs to live their after them.
This turns out to be a good question, if we go back to the hypothetical mortgage repayment of $2614 weekly mortgage repayments vs the $710 rent paid to the landlord.
Here the value kind of becomes obvious, the Landlord is paying an extra $1900 of their own income per week for the privilege of letting you live in the house that they do the upkeep and maintenance for. They only retain the rights to the asset if they manage to pay off their loan.
A landlord pays most of the rent to the bank subsidizing the cost of shelter for the tenants. This only works taking a very narrow view, and in this regard I guess when the costs of ownership are higher than the rents collected a landlord does 'provide housing'. by taking on the financial burden that the tenant my be unable or unwilling to.
That is an answer, however it doesn't work the moment you plug it into a larger context. Without which we aren't talking value so much as pure altruism.
Simplify. Let's consider 1 house 1 bank 2 bidders same salary, and to boot both bidders know that whoever loses the auction has to become tenant in the house living with and paying rent to the other as landlord. Neither party has recourse to live somewhere else, find temporary shelter, live rough etc. Now you could play out the auction in a state of ignorance, where neither party knows they have the exact same limit as the other, and do not know the other will have to rent, in which case the auction will play out like an 'eenie meenie' rhyme where whoever bids at their max limit will by default win the auction because both have the same. The loser of the auction then approaches the other about renting.
If we throw up some numbers, let's say the two bidders earn $11,001 dollars a year after taxes and expenses, they both can secure a 10 year loan for $200,000 at 10% fixed rate interest, for a mortgage of $220k, with annual payments of $22,000.
In which case, should the bidders pay top dollar for the property, the landlord can charge the other tenant $11,001 in rent (the max the other can afford) as they have no recourse. They then pay $10,999 of their own income to service the mortgage and per year the winner of the bid is $2 better off than the loser. The real winner of course, being the bank.
If the two people cooperated and agreed to bid the minimum reserve and have the tenant contribute slightly less than half of the mortgage repayments, you could have a system where both prosper at the expense of the bank (albeit the bank is already getting a 10% return) but relatively speaking both parties win.
But really, the Landlord does no favors to anyone by owning shelter that somebody else needs. They simply entitle themselves to rents. Sure the world is crazy at the moment when people are willing to pay far more for the entitlement to the economics rent than the economic rent will actually provide them.
What I can't wrap my head around though is whether the gap between rent and mortgage repayments is purely inflated by having a completely superfluous agent - here called a landlord - thrown into the mix. Simply put, if we didn't have a pool of competing investors buying up the rights to rent existing property to people who actually need it, would anybody pay for the service of having a landlord? Somebody they need to ask permission to make modifications and carry out non-urgent repairs. Somebody they pay a constant retainer for services that require no individual expertise or qualifications?
I can think of one very bounded circumstance where a Landlord provides value - for transitional life-cycles. Eg. Imagine somebody has to obtain tertiary education in a locale for a short period 3-5 years, that is not near their home or where their future jobs will be. In such a case, it may be worth paying rent to somebody willing to take on the upkeep of a property over the long term that you only require for a short time. The same may be said for temporary work environments.
There is however a conceivable alternative - which is to say, imagine a world where property prices are very cheap and property turnover is highly liquid. There is adequate housing near educational institutions so you simply buy the house for roughly the equivalent of a years rent, then sell it at the end of your degree for roughly the same price.
That would be called an efficient market, where the assets are owned by the people who need to use them and transferred easily when circumstances change, buyers match sellers etc.
There's no real value I can think of that landlords provide. I can imagine a world without them that would probably be much improved. There is a fake value that landlords provide and that is when it costs more to own a house than to rent one. - $2500 mortgage against $700 rent, but this value is artificial and I don't believe the enthusiasm for home ownership that I witness has any basis in altruism. I suspect that for some reason the landlord believes that there is somebody eager to pay an even higher mortgage that will compensate them for their losses through capital gains on the asset pricing. Why they believe this is the subject of questions 1, 2 & 3.

5. So in my above answer I talked about a 1 bank 2 bidders 1 house scenario. That kind of is the answer to this question, but think about it some more. Because if you believe there is an answer to question 1, that houses somehow 'make money' and that there is a good answer to question 4 that landlords contribute a valuable service that tenants willingly would pay for rather than simply own the housing the need and take on that service themselves, why wouldn't a bank just buy the property hold them as assets, and employ people to fulfill the valuable functions of being a landlord.
In a scenario where two people approach a bank and say they need a loan to buy a house they have to live in, and that they both can afford 11,001 in rent a year, but they could buy the house and rent out a room to someone else and blah blah blah. The bank could just buy the house for the cheapest possible price (given that it can deny the two bidders a loan) and that way would only have to make a minimal investment of it's cash reserves and could charge both parties the max rent.
So why would a bank choose to lend $200,000 to one or the other parties? To get the 10% interest? If the monopoly is sound though, the bank can use the market mechanisms to extract the lost interest payments via rent. They can only rationally loan what the tenant can afford to repay, so the only difference is in what they pay for the asset?
A bank would do this in such a scenario. Why wouldn't it do this in real world, messier scenarios?
I feel this is a really good question. If the answers to 1, 2, 3 and 4 are so plainly obvious to most people and I am particularly stupid. Why do banks lend money to plebs to buy homes off each other when they could use those funds to buy the property themselves?
Consider how safe the banks are though, under a mortgage arrangement. If you fail to make your payments as and when they are due you retain the debt, the bank can then repossess and sell the house and if that doesn't cover the amount owing you, or your guarantor still owe it plus all the legal and sale costs with interest.
Thus I imagine the reason why the banks are willing to lend money to people is because the underlying business model of home-ownership is unsound. Rents can't increase faster than wages, and house prices can't increase faster than rents over the long haul. So the banks don't buy, they lend. They lend money to people who sacrifice ever growing amounts of their disposable income, and live under ever increasing austerity to service the loans that grow faster proportionately.
The banks are confident to do this, because they are confident that encouraged by the increasing prices, more people will apply for even greater loan amounts. Hence the interest rates can shrink as house prices grow. The prices are sustained by people's income, salaries for doing things that are valued by the productive sector of the economy, then channeled into speculation - betting on price increases to make money through 'flipping'.
Consider that Melbourne house prices grew by 14% yet you can obtain a loan for 3.77% why are the banks willing to accept 10% less return per annum on money they already have?
The answer must be, though it would be very complicated to figure out, that that 14% can only be achieved by lending money to the buyers.
If there were only 4 buyers in Australia (the big 4 banks) or even only a couple of thousand, if buyers were institutional I doubt you would have $2.2 million price tags on properties that can only charge $710 per week rent. Assuming the house can be sold for $2.2 million after one year that nets a return on investment of 1.68%. This would not cover the interest paid on the savings the banks hold.
The banks would have an obligation to their shareholders (and creditors) to invest in asset classes that yield a higher return and that are considered lower risk, like companies that make things that can be sold. Industries that manufacture things that are useful (possibly the construction industry) or to buy properties at much lower prices than the current market.
Because you don't invest to break even, and an institution like a bank needs to beat the rates they are offering on cash deposited with them, while also providing for the liquidity gap (a property loan lasts for 25 years, whereas a person may draw on their cash deposits the next day - thus you need to reserve some cash to service withdrawels, you can't tie it all up in long term investments).
So instead, the bank loans money to people to buy at prices that transfer their income to the bank in greater amounts than if the bank was to buy at prices and charge market rents.
If the property market worked like that, property prices would move in line with rents. This doesn't happen. But if property was what you believe it to be - the bank would not lend money to consumers to buy the assets, they would just buy them themselves.

6. A banks willingness to loan is based on confidence. The worst thing that can happen to the bank is for the asset to plunge into what is known as 'negative equity' - where the asset price is not sufficient to repay the debt owed. The debtor has little to no recourse but to default or declare bankruptcy.
If house prices are always going up, though, the bank has nothing to fear.
Therefore, it doesn't matter if the price of houses just went up by 14%, because we can expect them to be worth even more in the future. Therefore, the bank should always be willing to lend me as much money as necessary at any given time to purchase a property knowing that the price will continue to increase in which case, any chance of default can be written off by future growth in prices.
Under the circumstances that property prices always go up, there can be no such thing as responsible lending. If the bank is as confident as the consumer, there is no need for me to furnish it with a deposit, provide my bonafides, or work in a secure profession on a long term contract.
Should I lose my job etc. it doesn't matter, just sell the house, pay off the debt and eat the profits.
Sounds magical right? Because it is.
This doesn't happen, because there are no apparent answers to questions 2 & 3. But it is kind of the inverse of Keynes expectations theory. If people expect prices of goods to fall further, why would they buy today anything they can put off until tomorrow? This was a question that couldn't be answered by classical economists during the great depression, and similarly when you change it from goods to assets, I can't answer the question as to why there is any rational urgency to buy in to the property market if it is just going to continue to rise indefinitely.
A being of pure reason would say, as Benjamin Graham, student of Keynes and teacher of Warren Buffet pointed out - if an asset is always going to rise in price then it's value is infinite and it is effectively priceless. Vis a vis, any price of something that always increases in price is a good price. Even a bargain price. So why buy today? If you can afford your rent or whatever current living arrangement you have. Then just chill. It doesn't matter if you buy today or tomorrow, or the next day. Time period n+1 will make you money. So there's no need to put a foot on the ladder of an escalator that does the climbing for you and continuously. The very fact there is any liquidity in the property market at all suggests that property prices can go down.
Perhaps the real question is, how devastating is the difference between something that always goes up and almost always goes up?