Thursday, January 31, 2019

What Are People?

I went to business school twice. Aside from the specific hard skills of my disciplines, debatable as they are, I also learned a lot of highly translatable soft skills. A wealth of which were in the best semester of my degree - the professional skills program. Being content of merit, it is now, predictably a defunct program. Education is a business after all.

But enough snarkiness, one quite translatable skill is how to prepare for a presentation. A presentation being a presentation of an idea, prospect, etc. implying a motivation that you want the subject of your presentation to be accepted by the audience you present to. Some people might intuitively go for an optimized approach, but I'm guessing the common intuitive process is 1. Recall presentations you've seen and heard. 2. start writing your speech. and with business school students in particular step 2 might actually be 'open powerpoint'.

However, what I was taught was that you start with 'Audience Analysis' the single most important thing is to consider who it is you are actually speaking to. An example of the importance of this, can be found in school - you might present to a whole classroom, but only the teacher is grading you. She might be considered the decision maker to whom you should actually address your case, one of her marking criteria may be 'audience engagement' though, in which case you now have to consider what san that marking criteria were previously mere chairmoisteners as people you have to engage in order to present to the decision maker. Of course, the audience might also include Johnny, whom you have a crush on, and the subject might be inconsequential, to which you don't really care about your grade beyond passing, you care about garnering Johnny's attention, because he is a dreamboat...

At any rate, I'm never going to get to step 2 of how I was taught to prepare: what's your conclusion. Because I have no specific conclusion, just that increasingly I find when I introspect for my own entertainment on the nature of the big intractable problems of modern society: mental health, economic reform, climate change, human capitalization, automation, social justice etc. I'm finding for all of these I have to understand the working material in front of us, and that is people.

Hence 'what are people?' is a question of what anyone wanting to devise a workable solution that involves the efforts of people needs to understand. Misunderstandings of what people are, result in enormous waste it appears to me. People dedicating their lives to proposed solutions that never had a chance of working because they failed to appreciate what they are working with.

Now, I'm conscious that contemplating what 'people' are, is a historically dangerous one in philosophy. It has an air of 'Us/Them' about it, with Us being some intellectual elite pulling the strings of 'them' the puppets. The plebs, the masses, the great heard, Sheeple, I even recently heard someone employing the Role Playing Game terminology 'NPC' which has it's descriptive merits but seems too condescending and pejorative to offer any positive outcomes I can envision, furthermore original thought is quite rare and I suspect unproven that I suspect no individual feels they themselves to be a sheep, but observe that on average people appear to be in large numbers, sheep.

There's reasons to be very cautious about the hubris of dismissing the masses as basically a reactive collection to be steered, and good reason to nevertheless contemplate this mass.

For example, if some giant Japanese vending claw from the sky came down and miraculously plucked me from the masses and dropped me down some chute into the clutches of a Japanese Otaku who then asked me 'What hormones comprise the human endocrine system?' I would respond 'buh?' and not because I don't know the Japanese words for that sentence.

The average human's expertise for any given field is 0. So one thing I feel I can confidently point out about 'what are people' is that any randomly selected human has almost no expertise and has to defer, this is even true of the public intellectuals some refer to as polymaths. I'm an unemployed artist living in Mexico with bachelors degrees in Economics, Finance and Marketing, and if I were honest when asked by that Japanese Otaku about hormones, I wouldn't respond 'buh' I'd have a crack with 'Dopamine, Adrenalyn, Nodrenalyn, Oxytocin, Testosterone, Estrogen, Seratonin...' but I'm not sure if nuero transmitters are hormones, and part of the endocrine system, I don't think my list would be exhaustive, and if I had a phone-a-friend option I'd be calling Robert Sapolsky (he doesn't know who I am).

Here though with some exposition is the (perhaps unripened) fruits of my 'Audience Analysis' as to what are people in general, if you like and you probably will you can just read the headings and skip to the conclusion:

Almost No Expertise and Have To Defer

As above, but it gets worse. On Qi once one of the questions was 'how do you know you're incompetent?' I can't recall the episode where it was asked but it was back in Steven Fry's tenure, and the answer is - you can't. It requires competence to identify incompetence, which really makes sense. One of the unfortunate implications of this finding, is that people in general lack the expertise to identify experts worth deferring to. Deference is highly intuitive I suspect, in my own case I've spent enough time looking at economics to have a somewhat informed filter to listen to someone speak about economics and say 'okay they've conceded this and acknowledged that, this person is worth deferring to'.
The implications of which, is that if you go away and dedicate a lot of time to building a specific domain of expertise, in some cases this will be empowering because there's some sort of expert structure that can identify your competence and you can gain expert power within an institution, but even then your ability to disseminate the information that you are expert is limited by the publics inability to identify it's experts. Really it's limited to fields where your expertise is demonstrable like sports and other physics bound domains. Where you can run faster, or your theories can blow up a city in Japan.
People's need to defer due to their limits in obtaining omniscience, means their beliefs can conform to popular opinion, rather than the truths offered by the presence of an objective reality. The etymology of confidence comes into play here, as described by Robert Schiller in his book 'Animal Spirits' where confidence means 'to trust'. If a belief is commonly held it seems, people gain confidence that it must be knowledge validated by experts. Some examples that come to mind range from the generally obvious except to a minority, like Anti-vax or conspiracy theories, to less obvious like investment in financial bubbles like Property, or Internet Start Ups etc. (The Big Short does a pretty good job at describing how even supposed experts, can not bother to check the reality of the underlying investments) and other non-obvious things like trigger warnings, microaggressions, intersectionality etc. It is very hard to find any experts that originate these concepts and particularly the common sense applications of these concepts. But they've caught on and a randomly selected person simply trusts an expert somewhere knows what they are talking about.
Another thing that muddies the water of deference where we lack expertise, is the role of luck and chance. This manifests in a form of affirming the consequent - seeing someone driving a BMW and wearing a Zegna suit and thinking they must therefore be an expert at business, except the exact same evidence might testify that they were simply lucky enough to be born rich. This mud is all through the finance sector, such that people with no skills, no insight, no competence and owe everything they have to mere circumstance can be invited to be a talking head and espouse their wisdom.
This is the world through which people have to navigate, it is full of avenues that will prove to be evolutionary dead ends, and our vision isn't good enough to distinguish all dead ends from all pathways to the future. Friedman is an Economist, so is Keynes. Both are respected, both would vehemently disagree with the other. Who is the expert? I have an opinion, an opinion that is unquantifiable to a lot of my friends, so they simply have to trust me based on some intuitive feeling, or reject me on the same basis. In turn, my friends could offer me an equivalent situation where I would have to accept or reject based on no knowledge in my actual possession.
There's documented psychological phenomena to describe this general principle including the Dunning-Kruger effect and several informal fallacies like (but not exlusively) Argumentum ad Populum, Affirming the Consequent, Arguments from Ignorance etc that people get caught doing all the time. Daniel Kahneman writes at length about 'substitution' which is when confronted with a difficult problem/question 'which economic policy should I find credible?' we substitute an easier problem/question which may well be the very nature of deference in this case 'do I like the person offering me an opinion?' just to painfully spell out the phenomena, our answer 'yes/'no' is then substituted in as the answer to how we probably feel about Friedman v Keynes.

Hedonistic and Romantic

Romanticism I must admit, I understand the least. Probably because like David Foster Wallace's fish analogy, because I live immersed in Romanticism, the question 'what's Romantacism like?' is kind of unintelligible. I don't think about it. But Alain De Botton does and his youtube summaries are fairly good. So in line with being an average person, I'm happy to defer.
I'm probably also showing a cultural bias, underestimating how much of the world's population isn't part of Western Civilization nor eager to join it. My odds of dipping into the global population and pulling out someone from Central Asia are quite high, and they may not be of a Romantic philosophy at all.
I'm more confident as a global trend that pluck any person off the surface of the earth and they will likely be a hedonistic (but not necessarily a hedonist). Which is to say, the most common road taken in the pursuit of happiness is saturation, not deprevation. Aka more.
It is very rare, and counter intuitive to find someone who actually practices 'wanting what they have' and even rarer to find people who's pursuit of happiness is a ruthless prosecution of the minimum resources needed to be happy.
In this regard, even if cultures outside the Anglosphere are less reverent of nature and the individual, there's a similar behavioral pattern in terms of a pursuit of saturation, whether it be in the status conveyed by Modernity or the status conveyed by being 'in touch' with the natural and spiritual world.

Believe in Intelligent Design

This has been the most heartbreaking and isolating for me, though my tendency to see agency, or at least see the metaphor of agency as useful renders me not wholly seperate from the crowd, I have my superstitions. Though it's probably true, most people on this planet are believers in a personal God of some kind, I feel it the applications of Intelligent Design are broader than metaphysics. A hopefully good enough and simple binary switch is to say between design and emergence, most people assume design.
In his book that I leafed through in a bookshop in Dussuldorf a decade ago 'Irreligious' John Allen Paulos deals with 'Arguments from Design' in his second chapter with an analogy to the average person's ability to walk into a shoe store and find a shoe that fits their foot as the ordinary functioning of an economy rather than evidence of a miraculous omniscience that happens to know where we'd be, how large our foot is right when we needed a pair of shoes.
We can get shoes that fit us, almost anywhere because of probability and iteration, once footwear started being manufactured in production runs, intelligent design disappeared instead shoe sizes were standardized and distribution channels started a series of regular sessions trying to forecast demand and match supply. Which is why if you see a shoe in a store on sale for 80% off it almost certainly won't be in your size. The more deviated from the average, the harder it is to forecast demand, will two behemoths with size 18 feet walk in this season or just one? If you do have feet that are beyond 2 standard deviations smaller or larger than the average, you are probably welcoming a new era of 'cobble on demand' internet shoe shopping.
However it is true to say, that the economy is more intelligently designed than people, nature, the universe etc is. A much better known book on the subject is 'The Fatal Conceit' authorship possibly not Hayek, but his basic counter-argument to socialist-idealists and the titular 'Fatal Conceit' is the assumption that economies are ever centrally planned, rather than arising from an iterative and cumulative folk wisdom. I believe it is in the only book probably not by Hayek that I've ever read of his, and he attributes the popularity of centrally planned economic fixes to the fact that intelligent people tend to overvalue intelligence and thus assume intelligent design is at play, psychological phenomena now well documented and verified.
It is the widespread rejection of evolutionary psychology that I have found surprising, and honestly isolating, like I'm the only person in the room that thinks evolution is pretty neat and all the other kids think it's 'gay'. This is the Intelligent Design most people believe in, if not Intelligent Design Classic 'I Ain't No Kin of No Monkey'. But as Jonathan Haidt put it (somewhere) people who are willing to accept that life arose in all it's variety from evolution, often refuse to believe that evolution also shaped the exceptional and special entity that is them.
And unforch, I suspect evolution by natural selection is not a pizza pie you can have a few slices of and leave the rest, but a porcupine that once you start eating you have to finish to the last of its implications, to quote the Zen masters (where did they get a porcupine?).
Of course, if you are into dualism, Evolutionary Psychology is going to be pretty hard to swallow I guess. But to throw it out means the alternative is Intelligent Design, aka Social Constructions aka conspiracies. This isn't quite fair, God, Nations and by certain definitions Gender, are social constructions, however this doesn't mean, like a shoe that fits your foot, it was centrally planned, so much as an emergent strategy that tends to pay off with the constraints of reality.
In a recent interview Michael Shermer, editor in chief of Skeptics Magazine relayed a joke about a devout and pious Christian who died and found himself before the pearly gates, where he was told because of his exemplary virtuous life they would answer any one question he had about all of creation for him. The Christian asks 'who shot JFK?' and God's Messenger replies 'It was Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone from the window of the Texas Book Depository.' and the Christian responds 'This goes further up than I thought!'
People's tendency towards asserting Intelligent Design, Social Construction and Conspiracy need to be contended with when trying to solve big problems, because they suck energy out of the system via people attempting to revolt over agents that cannot be found because they leave no traces because they don't exist to begin with. Scapegoating is unethical because it provides no real solutions to the underlying problems, just offers opportunities for transfers of power. But Machiavelli warns that this is a perilous strategy for acquiring power.
Perhaps more pointedly for considering the persistent and serious problems of the world, People's belief in Intelligent Design is well addressed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Common-Sense Dualists

Despite a spike in interest and practice of Mindfulness, I'm still fairly confident that most people are common sense Dualists. So if 'dualism' isn't something that comes up in people's conversations regularly, it typically refers to a mind-body separation. The prefix of common sense is to allow that one doesn't necessarily need to believe in an immortal soul.
Which is to say, it's a popular intuition but I feel it's more basic manifestation that we believe ourselves to have a mind acting as a kind of homunculus looking through the eye holes of a body that transports the mind around, and this is consequential.
In my experience the core and immediate benefit of meditation is to notice that we don't author our own thoughts, as Sam Harris puts it, thoughts merely arise in consciousness. Consciousness is an act of witnessing a thought process, although it has to be said meditation can lead to a basic 'brake' capability with much effort where we can silence the chatter and be present in the moment. What's interesting to me, is with Dualism our lives are literally more or less a constant collection of data points that suggest empirically that a mind/body divide is fantasy but we tend not to notice.
To move from the number two to the number three, it results in a trinity multiple choice question as to who we believe we are - are we 'What we do' or 'Who we say we are' or 'Who we think we are'?
Ask this question such that somebody puts thought into it, and they will generally respond 'We are what we do.' at least in my experience, I haven't really asked this question cross culturally. The problem of course being, that people who believe they are who they say they are, or who they think they are, then believe that they can say, (and/or think) that we are 'what we do.'
Which is why I feel it is good advice, not generally practiced to give preference to watching what people do.
I would concede there's probably a double standard here: for much of my life I was informed by Shao Kahn of MKII who's demo screen read 'there is no knowledge that is not power.' and thus I feel I was lulled into the common practice of the illusion of asymmetric insight. That if I didn't accurately represent myself, that was like a secret and if other people did, then I would have power over them. Thankfully in my early 20s I was introduced to the Johari Window, and that finally delivered a fatality to Shao Kahn. But I suspect most people judge others by what they do - because they have to, but feel the 'real' them is tucked away inside them. Which makes sense. They believe themselves to be the authors of their own thoughts, in possession of free will and they behave accordingly and consequentially.
It means grappling with the concept of an unconscious self, or an unconscious mind is a confronting process to most people. If you give someone feedback on their behavior, including the effect their behavior had on you, in my experience the most likely response is that you will find that person correcting your impressions, the effect, to match their intent - 'no, this is why I did that' thus most people will slap feedback aside and in this regard are unempirical in their process of determining how to navigate life. Bad drivers remain 'Good drivers' in their own mind and so on.
Jordan Peterson that, for all his flaws, is as far as I can tell a competent clinical psychologist and lecturer, articulates a fundamental of psychology which is 'when someone's behavior doesn't make sense, you look at the consequences' this process is to deduce motivations that an individual may themselves not be aware of. Under common sense dualism however the prevelent attitude is that cause can not be inferred from effect, but effect is solely derived from intent, and the intent is the cause.
I am trained in marketing and marketers bank on the cause of behavior not being consciously acknowledge by a person, much of marketing could be described as giving people permission to do what they feel. Supplying intent.
So this rambled a bit, but the common sense dualism is not so significant in terms of a belief in some eternal soul, out of body experiences etc. but more a wilfull ignorance that the body shapes our thoughts, that physiological states author our thoughts more so than an illusive 'self' does. Blood sugar levels, tooth fillings, alcohol, sleep... all work on the material body to shape our thoughts. Most people haven't concluded this even though it's experienced constantly every day.


By far the single most useful source of accessible information as to 'What are people?' has been the You Are Not So Smart podcast, and particularly the two books it spawned 'You Are Not So Smart' and 'You are now less dumb' which explores all the positive illusions, cognitive biases and fallacies we are prone to, often in order to survive.
There are so many ways in which we are irrational, that it would actually be redundant of me to reproduce blogs and podcasts and books that successfully describe them here.
Most significant though is the habitual way we tend to rationalize and confabulate. From the perspective of engaging populations to tackle problems like climate change or immigration policies, I feel it is best to acknowledge frankly that most people's reasonable position, will in fact be a rationalization as to why they will actually do, next to nothing.
'Rationalization' can be described as starting with the solution you want and working backwards, and thus could also be called 'motivated reasoning' by contrast actual reasoning is starting with the problem and working forwards to the best solution.
A fine example of the power of rationalizing people, is in the Three Christs of Ypsilanti, an unethical case study where three mental health patients whom all believed themselves to be the second coming of Christ were put in a group therapy session. These men did not apply reason to the circumstances observing that it was not possible for all three men's claims to be true, and that all men had equal evidence to substantiate their claims - being personal belief and that therefore the most likely solution was that none of them were the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Instead they each rationalized away the other two men's claims.
Haidt again describes motivated reasoning as a process by where we want to believe things we start with the question 'can I believe this' and then search for evidence to support our beliefs, and when we are motivated to not want to believe something we switch to 'must I believe this' mode where we search for evidence that allows ambiguity.
So if you want to tackle a big problem, we have to figure out how people are most likely going to feel about being a part of the solution, and if they don't feel like doing the proposed solutions they will find reasons to exempt themselves and rationalize away their guilt, sooner than act to avoid feeling guilt altogether.

Irresponsible/Bad Faith

Another general truth about people, is that they are very averse to responsibility, and while there's some variation, there are only four main strategies for avoiding responsibility - denial, or to deny there's a problem. To blame someone else and thus shift responsibility. To make excuses as to why the problem persists and most magically of all, to segway into something completely irrelevant called telling a story or diverting.
These tactics were presented in order from simplest to most complex, and they are employed with diminishing frequency, and having worked over 1000 hours cold calling, I can testify that this behavior holds up in the general population.
Responsibility = Ability to respond, which therefore should be desirable, however people in general desire not to be responsible.
In part it's because we increasingly live in a demerit culture, you get torn down for making mistakes rather than promoted for doing well. This encourages coasting along and doing as little as possible, because doing things can lead to mistakes.
But more significantly I feel is the notion of 'bad faith' which distinct from the more conventional duplicitous definition, is more a kind of faith that nothing can be done. The theory is quite interesting and has broad applications, but the most common is basically a narrative we tell ourselves that render us at the mercy of circumstance - 'I knew I said I'd go to the party, but I think I'm coming down with something and it's started to rain heavily, probably best I stay in.' I've literally told myself that story on two occassions, and as a cyclist, I can be a victim of circumstances in the case where a bit of debris takes my tire out. But in cancelling my work shift or changing my RSVP to a social gathering, I can skip the part where I take responsibility for the choices I still have despite the flat tire - like walking to a bike shop and making the necessary purchases for the necessary repairs and then arriving late. Or locking up my bike and taking a cab or uber or some other form of transport. I (perhaps diplomatically) neglect to mention that I'm not choosing to do any of these things.
Bad faith however, tolerates the persistence of debunked economic models, tyrannical or malevolent regimes, bullying in the workplace or social environments. It is unvoiced complaints and grievances based on a faith that nothing would be done about it anyway.
But most importantly, this bad faith is irresponsibility to the self. In our internal monologue we deny ourselves, blame our circumstances, excuse our abilities or disassociate completely.
So when trying to mobilize people as part of a solution, any efforts directed at them are most likely to be diverted, unless you make it their circumstance.

Emotional Incompetence

Here I can confidently say I am but another face in the crowd. Emotional competence is the ability to identify and name distinct emotional states, and recognize how they are effecting our thinking. People are particularly prone to being bothered by one stimulus - say a disagreement with a family member, and not realizing that it is effecting their response to another stimulus - an overdue account at work.
Again a naive belief in dualism I feel is partly to blame, but also because we tend to think of our thoughts as linguistic, verbal a conversation we have with ourselves and I suspect for most this internal monologue draws our attention toward its contents and away from the unintelligible emotions or physiological states.
This is like throwing dice into all human interactions, it makes predicting peoples behavior in response to ours quite difficult. It also means various things have a significant impact on outcomes, anything that can alter moods and emotional states - age and lifecycle, the weather, the news of the day, the sharemarket, the money markets, your resemblance to other people in their lives etc.
This is a source and possibly a subset of implicit bias, why handshakes - a to my knowledge a practice from Greco-Roman antiquity, was believed to establish trust by demonstrating that no weapons were in hand or concealed in sleeves or bracers or something. This has survived milennia to the point where a bad handshake in my experience can really prejudice me against someone, despite this being totally irrational. I've never been checking for weapons, but a limp wrist causes me to infer a bunch of shit about someone's character. I don't know if it's accurate or not, because I don't give these people much of a chance.
But the fact is, we all think emotionally more often than not, and more often of consequence. Yet we tend to do the aforementioned rationalizing or confabulating in real time to convince ourselves we are being reasonable people instead of emotional.


I've spent a lot of time trying to come to terms with addiction, even though I myself would not normally be described as an addict. Here in Mexico I'm eating sugar again, because when in Rome trigger Type 2 Diabetes. But back home I was no sugar, no caffeine, no pornography, no alcohol and no KFC. I'd also never smoked dem' cigarettes or done any recreational drugs (that weren't administered in an emergency room while my shoulder was out of it's socket) and even then, I was an addict with the notable vices of video games, and I still largely ate for pleasure rather than fuel or nutrition.
As with the general prevalence of hedonism, addiction is largely the false equivocation of pleasure and happiness. When we say addict, we are usually talking about individuals who are self medicating through substances that relieve symptoms but cure no underlying pathologies.
This probably does describe the majority of people already, anyone who has a glass of wine at the end of the day to de-stress. Or regularly takes painkillers to treat migraines and headaches, sleeping medication to treat insomnia. Caffeine is ingested by an estimated 80% of the world's population on a daily basis.
All this behavior is generally a stop-gap, short term solution to a more systematic problem. The more dysfunctional forms of self medicating: opiates, amphetamines, crystal meth, crack are exhibiting garden variety addictive behaviors amplified generally in proportion to a trauma.
Meditation with it's recent boom while much more healthy than self medicating through substance is still utilised by many as self-medication and enthusiasm for meditation can indicate the presence of the mental and emotional pain it is treating. I have yet to personally experience or witness meditation and mindfulness functioning as a cure rather than a symptom reliever, though if you are going to have any vice, make it meditation by all means.
Under given circumstances, common addictions also take the form of gym-junkies and workaholia. Exercise can be an addictive behavior particularly if it coincides with catharsis (venting anger) but can also be a way of gaming one's own internal narcotic system by activating dopamine receptors. Workaholia is more a medication based on disassociation, if a job or task requires high concentration it can function as a way to still unpleasant thoughts.
With so many avenues and opportunities to self medicate, I feel it a safe bet to describe people as being basically default addicts. Some addictive vice is almost unavoidable, it is only a question of degree and long term costs. It should not be ignored that there can be long term benefits that arise from self medicating too, but every drug advocate I feel has an ethical obligation to weigh that against the costs and be honest with themselves - I'm not holding my breath though.
One characteristic of particular consequence with addictive behavior however, is that it is an alternative to processing trauma. The medical analogy used by Dr Gabor Mate the most articulate speaker on addiction, is that of Insulin and Diabetes, Insulin can relieve the symptoms of Diabetes for a patient but does nothing to cure the underlying disease. You will need more Insulin in the future.
So too may meditation calm your mind and relieve your anxiety and stress bringing you into the present moment, however it does not repair your relationship with your mother, nor necessarily make you any better at picking romantic partners.
Self-medicating, or addictive behavior is addictive because it pays off now, and kicks the can up the road. While addiction doesn't completely overlap with hedonistic behavior (heroin addicts don't wish to shoot up more heroin in one particular session and similarly alcoholics don't necessarily prefer drinking Moonshine over Wine) there is some element of insatiability at play.
Here Hedonism, Addiction and Risk Aversion interplay, and it describes the general population well. Mark Horstman of the Manager-Tools Podcast often refers to people's addiction to food, clothing and shelter when talking about the responsibility of managers to create job security.
If addictive behavior can also be described as pre-occupying, then addiction is of consequence with any people based solution because they are likely to be pre-occupied on a daily basis with the lower need categories of Maslow's Heirarchy, security needs like shelter through paying rent and mortgages (making the population at large susceptible to pleading the Nuremberg Defense) and Belonging/Esteem needs by conforming their behavior to the cues of their peers - which makes for a critical mass/momentum hurdle I believe consciousness raising campaigns and consumer activist campaigns by intuition or design are attempting to jump.
This needs to be understood, because for a lot of campaigns the only material you may have to work with are those sufficiently well off to have reached 'positive psychology' targets, namely people who are attempting self-actualizing because one way or another they have satiated their security, belonging and esteem needs. And given a bias toward Hedonism, most people are incapable of satiation because they are going for saturation - they will continue to invest energy in securing their shelter beyond what is necessary because their shelter can never be secure enough. People who can never have enough job security, food security, social security etc.

Risk Averse

This is one of the best substantiated generalizations about people. There's agreement and convergence between Economics and Finance, Psychology and Biology. Risk aversion predicts that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That people will take a sure $1000 over a 50/50 chance at $2000. That at an emotional level, people feel more pain at a loss than they feel pleasure at a gain.
One of the simplest ways to substantiate that people in general are risk averse, is that more people are employees than employers. Albeit increasingly we have to assume that an Uber driver and it's other gigging equivalents is not a self-employed entrepreneur  but basically one of the most job insecure employees of a corporation.
But considering the ratio by which most people will need gains to placate the pain of loss, we can establish the intuition toward insatiability, Baby-boomers leaving the security of a salary and steady income cannot have enough assets to secure their future against a sudden drop in spending power.
The other issue of consequence with risk aversion, is that the market rewards risk, in finance circles they talk about a 'risk premium'. With some exceptions (like arbitrage and rent seeking) there's a direct relationship between risk and return such that the more profitable something is, the riskier it must be too.
This is easy to observe with the odds on Horseracing, or Sportsbetting which increasingly appears to be the foundation of the Australian economy. The longer the odds, the higher the potential profit.
So one easy way to establish the general disposition toward risk aversion, is the general acceptance of 'hard work pays off' despite a lack of empirical evidence. For me I've come to understand hard work as a synonym for risk aversion, as in general the purpose of hard work is to decrease the variability of outcomes. As my specialist mathematics teacher oft said 'there's only so many ways to test for this knowledge, so if you do a million problems, chances are there won't be too many on the exam that you haven't seen before.' and indeed this is basically how my highschool reduced the variance of the distribution of academic results. In the August/September holidays students were sent packing with phonebook size copies of practice exam papers for Physics and Maths.
Thus it's necessary to understand that the general character of people's efforts is working hard to mitigate any variance in how they are graded - accumulating material wealth to avoid fail grades in social status, overworking and presenting excess hours at work to avoid fail grades in performance reviews at work, accumulating certifications from educational institutions to avoid fail grades in job interviews and promotions.
Which might be a bit abstract, but most people are paying the risk premium that accrues to the lucky risk takers.
There are various points where I feel almost convinced that everything is reducible to the phenomena of risk aversion. But I've never quite had it all click into a unified theory of everything.
This aspect of the population at large needs considering with problems like bullying, where proposed solutions like 'calling it out' or 'standing up to bullies' are most likely to fail or achieve very little penetration because the solution is asking members of the general public to take on more risk. Although you may get lucky and have someone bullying you stopped by the intervention of a brave young girl, this would be the exception not the norm.

Prefer Slave Morality

Because a tiny minority of people are non-risk averse, this results in great social inequity, because not just markets but life pays out a risk premium. 'Slave Morality' is a concept of the much loved/hated German Philosopher Nietzsche. But under certain philosophies 'Slave Morality' would be considered no morality at all. It might also be considered a manifestation of a demerit cultural system.
Because very few people willingly and consciously take risks, very few people feel powerful - where power can be considered 'the ability to act or do'. This ties into Sartre's 'Bad Faith' insofar as most people thus feel at the mercy of circumstances. Slave Morality is a demerit system of morality, which is to define yourself by what you aren't, rather than what you are.
An example might be that a man who risks a lot of rejection and subsequently has much sexual success doesn't accrue virtue for his positive actions. Instead his reputation is dismantled through an incident of harassment - which is to say rather than resembling someone virtuous through positive action, they resemble someone infamous through positive action and their moral character is discounted.
So if the general public does not feel by-and-large empowered or powerful, in order to live with ourselves, we will consider ourselves a kind of 'default decent person' and people we view as powerful will generally appear as antagonistic to someone. So morality becomes a project of not resembling antagonists.
This is very stressful if you need people to step up and take positive action, because those that do run the risk of being torn down by those who don't. For purposes of contrast, you can turn to any of the martial philosophies to find the alternative to Slave Morality, which is basically 'Morality' a set of behaviors that recognize one's own power and it's limits, and impose self-regulation. Usually in some form of chivalry.
Slave morality takes more the form of 'don't be like Hervey Weinstein.' It's significant though because of it's propensity to become immobilizing, where the easiest way to be ethical is to have no power, to basically stay at home and make sure you aren't a fossil fuel lobbyist, that you aren't a murderer-rapist, that you aren't a pedophile, and that you aren't powerful, the last of which is usually an act of denial as Eleanor Roosevelt put it 'Nobody can make you feel inferior, without your consent.'

Tentative Conclusion

When trying to understand what people are, perhaps the most valuable thing to do is to disperse what people aren't and what people generally aren't are rational, empirical, stoic, classical polymaths. Most people will unassumingly concent to playing the game they are presented with. This 'game' is generally the economic model which could be understood as the enforced system of incentives.
Because Economics itself is historically one of the worst disciplines at describing 'what are people?' and thus many of our problems are actually emergent rather than designed, because they are byproducts of what our economic system was designed to do.
Thus people are incentivised to not solve these problems, and that's important to consider. Most people believe and assume someone is in control and redirect human efforts if only they were 'good' or benevolent. There are certainly agents that have more influence, but there is little evidence to support that anyone is in control, or even 'the most powerful'.
Directing the course of human history is probably, best case, attempting to conduct surgery with a scalpel embedded in a sponge cake that's on the end of a pool cue that is taped to the end of another pool cue.
Furthermore, the influential social surgeons are likely, to have more in common with people in general than not. However if they depart, for example by having a cognitive appreciation of empiricism or a willingness to take risks, they may be more useful targets for solutions than to simply target a grassroots-bottom up solution.
As you can probably guess, I'm not a fan of egalitarian popular movements, and this is largely because the difficulty of disseminating arguments and ideas, the friction of getting people to work against market incentives, compensating for the optimism with which the public expects change to take place and the ethics of exploiting people's psychology makes me blink at the prospect of asking people to act rather than react.
And having said all this, I assume my error in analyzing the audience is that I've been insufficiently pessimistic. Hence in trying to conceive solutions to the more persistent problems we face as individuals and societies, it's to be cautious, stay humble, because it remains a very dangerous idea to think of the people that walk this earth as something we need to work around rather than something we have to work with. And yet, that seems the more promising avenue.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Dislocated Shoulder

I would maintain that the worst part of dislocating your shoulder is wearing a sling for 6 weeks. But that's probably I misuse of 'worst', I for the record, don't wear a sling for 6 weeks or at least don't anymore.

Yes it is painful to have a dislocated shoulder, and while the shoulder is out, you are persistently conscious of the fact that it should be in, but in terms of debilitation, it's actually the rehabilitation of which advice is very inconsistent.

I've had doctors tell me I should be sleeping in a sling with the joint completely immobilized, and other doctors advising me not to play tennis or hockey while the joint heals up. I tend to follow the advice of the latter.

Why have I had so much differing advice? Because it's a recurring injury, that tends to recur in novel situations as I learn the limitations of my now stretched ligaments.

Now if I were to find a magic talking sandwich that granted me a modest wish in return for saving it from being swept in the trash, would I wish my experiences of being out of joint away?

Probably not, and not because it has given me legitimate circumstances under which to alter my state of consciousness through pharmacology. I've been injected with morphine and huffed it, inhaled NOx and on one occassion, been dosed with ketamine and sent into the k-hole while my arm was reduced. 

But I actually prefer the two occassions where my shoulder was put in drug free. Once in Kyoto where the doctor asked me if my shoulder usually goes back in easy, and I said no they always have to use drugs, and he said 'we'll let's give it a go' and I said 'okay' and then a nurse pinned me down, and I yelled out 'itai itai itai itai' and he completely ignored these and just pushed through my pain.

A few days ago here in Guadalajara the second doctor on the third attempt got my shoulder back in drug free while the other doctors refused to pin me down (a request I made based on my positive Japanese experience) and the only aneasthetic I was administered was the doctor who could speak the second most English repeatedly assuring me to 'relax bro.'

I have picked up enough Spanish to relay between attempts to the doctor 'Lo siento, mi mente es el enimigo' (I'm sorry my mind is the enemy). 

Which it is, as has been explained to me on other occasions, the shoulder wants to go home it wants to go back in, it's just that the muscles tense up and won't let it. This is why the day after your shoulder is put back in place it often feels worse for the good night's sleep. It feels like you've pulled every muscle in your shoulder because you have.

The experience is valuable though, because it's a very visceral way to experience many important aspects of healing - healing can be painful and frightening, your own mind can work against you, you might have to trust people your ever fiber of body is fighting against.

Excruciating pain, is it's own consciousness altering state, but unlike say a pleasant escapist trip, my motivation is to return to sobriety.

And this is what I had to do. I had to force my breathing, force my posture, force myself to lay down and just let the doctors hurt me, I had to tell myself that my arm wasn't being ripped off, but being put back. I had to relax "bro".

Our medical systems for the most part separate body and mind. And treat them differently. I'm sure I've probably thrown together a sentence before to the effect that, if I was to collapse and convulse at home or on the streets, I would probably be bundled into some vehicle and treated by professionals. Same if I broke my arm or leg, or in this case dislocated my shoulder, except that I walk to the hospital when my shoulder is out.

The fact is, with maladies of the body, we are much pushier against what people may believe, albeit there are phenomena of recent times like the anti-vaxers and homeopaths and all that junk. 

But I personally am alarmed at the number of young people I interact with, that suddenly resemble a cranky old man saying 'I don't need no doctor!' when it comes to maladies of the mind. 

To me, there's a ridiculous, but instructive analogy to be drawn betwixt my fellows who 'tried seeing a psychologist but it wasn't for me.' and instead have figured out a way to cope with pain through some form of self-medication, and if someone were to be like 'I tried having a doctor reduce my shoulder, but it was painful and didn't go as easy as I expected, so I just leave it out and take heroin.'

Ridiculous I know, but I've never been able to understand why people debilitated by the more common, less dramatic but quite treatable mental maladies, would rather a daily debilitation than taking one of the many practical steps of treating it.

I suspect it's because often those steps are quite painful, quantifiably painful compared to the familiar dull ache, the death by a thousand cuts of staying as is. Drinking at the end of a working day, or staying in a disappointing relationship or what not, might in the immediate term be preferable to having to have a conversation with a kindly stranger in a comfortable office where one confronts the painful fact that their parents don't love eachother, or perhaps in practice... them, or that they love them but don't particularly like them...

And perhaps most painfully of all, there's a sunk cost type scenario going on where people are afraid to have their own bad faith disavowed and discover that through some talking therapy, through some CBT and changes to their physical and social environment, much of their suffering proves meaningless and unnecessary?

There's no equivalents to being dosed with Morphine, some kind of amnesiac drug, or sedative, where one regains consciousness to find their shoulder back in place for the mind. I mean you can take ketamine and maybe have a great time, but you'll come back down to reality and discover that shoulder socket in your mind is still empty. Perhaps the closest is Ayahuaska it's the only one I've heard credible testimony as to it's ability to induce a trip that actually potentially solves a real world problem.

I mean, recent resumptions in the clinical applications of psychadelics sound promising, but there's plenty of promising treatments out there already - CBT, talk therapy, Family Systems Therapy. Even garden variety situations that can go terribly wrong, like break-ups oftentimes involve a grieving process, but for some unlucky few can be a catalyst for unhealthy thought habits getting out of hand and into the drivers seat. I would guesstimate the incidence of people who get stuck in a relationship grieving process to be common enough that everybody knows someone like this, if they haven't experienced it themselves.

And perhaps there too is the best analogy of the situation - when a person keeps someone who passively makes them miserable - just by innocently existing - in their lives, rather than go through the pain of maybe missing some social functions, sheepishly telling people the relationship didn't work out or worse. 

To me joining a new social sporting club or other group seems far less painful than the visceral experience of having a dislocated shoulder reduced. Therein lies the reason I would say 'no magic talking sandwich, I don't wish for tighter shoulder ligaments, I wish to eat you, for I am hungry.' Once every couple of years or so, having to go through the process of trusting strangers, telling my shoulder to relax while it believes said strangers are going to rip it out, is just too instructive a metaphor for the daily suffering that is being a human in this chaotic world. 

Gotta do stuff that sucks today, so tomorrow will be better. Speaking of which, I should do some of that tedium that makes my tomorrows better...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

On Belonging

This post is an amatuerishly skeptical look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and why it seems some large contingent of the population cannot move past 'belonging'. I'm positing but not asserting that the need for belonging explains far more human behavior than say, a sincere conviction in any particular ideology.

The internet was around when I was a teen, but you had to call it up. I by 1999 I came to know one guy in the year above who had used a credit card to buy stuff off the internet, and he was a bit of a freak. In the late 90s internet shopping was treated with the kind of skepticism driverless cars were, or I'm told, horseless carriages were.

I tell you this because you may have forgotten or never known a world in which you couldn't import your fashion from New York, London, Tokyo, Paris or Portland in the time it takes a warehouse to dispatch and a postal service to deliver.

So how did teenagers know what to wear when blogs and look books didn't yet exist, you had to wait a good 14 seconds for a single jpg to depixelate into a readable resolution, and just about nobody mail ordered anything ever? For the most part, the Ballarat solution (and near as I can tell, the Geelong, Bendigo, Bairnsdale, Sale, Shepparton et al. solution) was surf brands and surf shops. Oakley glasses for all, billabong, rip curl, roxy.

I recently caught up with a friend from highschool and he was reminiscing about the Rip-Curl Tracksuit Pants epidemic. I tried to google me up an image for you, but it seems Rip-Curl continue to exist and manufacture tracksuit pants, and these things were no Levi 501 classic timeless designs it seems. But my friend was talking about how he had a borderline tantrum to get his parents to buy him a pair, and how they were just about mandatory.

Though at this catch up, I was still wearing shorts. He seemed to have forgotten that around that time I was already established as a freak who always wore shorts. I was probably going through the phase where I had one pair of shorts I loved so much, I didn't want the inconvenience of washing and drying them to put them out of rotation, so I was coloring in food stains on them with a sharpie.

There was also a day, my beloved mother, with the best of intentions, took my brother and I to 'the' store for cool teen fashion. I forget what it was called now and it no longer exists but something like 21 Jump Street but obviously not that. Much like the surf brands though, what was for the most part 'cool' then was innocuous geometric designs of a limited range of pantone colors. I found these boring, the most exciting surf brand, Mambo had probably already been ruined by releasing it's Dad collection.

I vividly remember announcing in store 'I don't like any of these clothes, Dad and I are going to check out Target.' and the look of horror on my mother's face. It was quite satisfying, and worth the trip. Mind you, these were the days when I wanted nothing more than to bring a girl home that my parents would disapprove of.

I can't recall if it was before or after this, that one such girl introduced me to the op-shopping scene. And here I get to if not the meat of this post, the end of a disclaimer.

I'm at a distinct disadvantage when talking about the psychological need for 'belonging' because there is so much observable human behavior, that I have simply never experienced. I'm not immune from belonging, long periods of social isolation get me down. The most depressed I've probably ever been was 3 months I spent travelling through Asia, where every human interaction was a commercial transaction etc.

But I don't understand how a person can pick up a shirt, from a pile of identical shirts in a store and say 'cool shirt, this is going to be my look' are they secretely hoping that the retailer made a massive blunder in ordering said shirt, so niche in it's appeal that the 8~10 others would go unsold? In a big city like Melbourne, 10 shirts maybe triggers an intuitive calculation of the odds you'll ever see one of the other patrons in your shirt on the same day, but in Ballarat a city that literally has 'the street' to 'go down' the odds of you seeing someone dressed identically to you and making you feel like you've voluntarily put on a uniform is 10/10.

I don't understand it viscerally. And I'm not sure I understand it intellectually. Problematically it's also one of the most dangerous philosophical ideas/conceits that has it's own disastrous history - that there's a thinking elite and a cud-chewing herd. The temptation to look down on 'the plebs' is a disastrous act of hubris, and it's also great hubris to ever assume one such as myself possesses any particular insight. Sufficiently removed, there's probably a perspective that can see I have no less tendency to conform than anyone else.

Let's introduce some of the theory, from the now increasingly ignored and dismissed field of scientific inquiry psychology. Starting with the big dog in this fight - Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

I studied this in my marketing degree. And marketers while having many methods of demographic and psychographic segmentation, use one dichotomy of segmentation that is 'opinion leaders' and 'opinion seekers' that I've always found the most descriptive of consumer behavior and easiest in a practical sense. Do people lead or follow?

To reconcile the two, Maslow's heirarchy in brief says, if you have a broken leg, you don't give a fuck if the roast pork has another hour before it's done. If you are in perfect health but standing in the rain naked with nothing to eat, you don't much give a shit about the new Yeezy colorway dropping this friday. If you do have food in your belly, a roof over your head, walls to keep the draft out and a door to shut on any that would murder, molest or rob you while you sleep, then you start worrying about being the only Jew in the village, and maybe it's time to accept Christ as your savior - bam this is where Maslow's hierarchy hits 'Belonging' and those who bothered to click through the link may notice that it reads 'Love/Belonging'

Is it a verticle heirarchy then or is it a tree? Do we read that '/' as 'or' or do we read it as these two things are synonyms? because I'm fairly certain they are not. While probably an arbitrary compromise betwixt two students of Maslow's theory charged with creating an svg graphic file to be released into the commons, I'm going to suggest this might be a possible explanation betwixt 'opinion leaders' and 'opinion seekers'.

Specifically, how much belonging is enough? It should be pointed out, that much of marketing and economics, in a rare overlap of the schools basically feel there is never enough. And this is how are markets are based. Hence in the world's wealthiest countries we have obesity epidemics, but also that people can never be rich enough and thus we have some multi-billionaires, phones can never be functional enough hence we have 2 models of iPhone released a year etc.

Economics argues that your basic person consumes to the maximum of their utility 'curve' and that there's no satiation. Marketing by suggesting their are opinion leaders and opinion seekers, takes a slightly more optimistic view of our common humanity.

Can someone ever belong enough? Can they be satiated with belonging? In a eulogy delivered last year I made a very arrogant claim that I'd narrowed down my list of two people I'd go against the rest of the world for, unquestioningly and now one of them was dead. It's impossible to do the affect forecasting of being that unpopular, however, I do believe myself sincere in saying, those are two people I'd never even risk betraying, even in death.

My satiation point is probably a bit higher than 2. But if you are the only Jew in the village, I imagine it's a very different story of Christian conversion (assuming away Christian pogroms, which I know, is a big assumption) if you are a member of a large, loving, functional Jewish family, or whether you are an orphan or exile with no attachment.

This has been an overcomplicated way of getting at - if you are getting your belonging needs met somewhere, then you don't need to get it elsewhere.

Now I've had to do a bit of reading, not even rereading, because all of my life I've been a terrible student, attention was basically extended only so far as I could be confident I'd pass the final examination.

After social belonging needs, comes Esteem and esteem in the hierarchy is described on Wikipedia as "Esteem needs are ego needs or status needs. People develop a concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others. Most humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy. People with low self-esteem often need respect from others; they may feel the need to seek fame or glory. However, fame or glory will not help the person to build their self-esteem until they accept who they are internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can distract the person from obtaining a higher level of self-esteem."

Which all I'm saying is, if it was me, and I was concerned about inattentive people like me passing potentially expensive tertiary education subjects, I probably would have divided 'esteem' into the social need for belonging, and self-esteem as next up on the heirarchy.

But when I think about it, this is probably another either/or. You can observe people in the wild who need esteem from their peers, and those who seemingly, can provide it for themselves.

I have not studied enough psychology to assert with any confidence where self-esteem comes from. Whether it is nature or nurture, and I couldn't even make a bet with any confidence extrapolating out from my own experience. I suspect the positive psychology of Maslow here would intersect with the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget and John Bowlby. Probably a great deal of the shame research Brene Brown has done and the differences between shame and embarrassment or humiliation.

I guess my basic position is that some people unable for various reasons to esteem themselves, get on a hamster wheel of needing constantly to be esteemed externally by peers. This hamster wheel has probably grown more strenuous by the application of social media platforms and smart phones, but other people appear to be, if not immune to the hamster wheel, quite resilient.

And psychology provides many many tools, frameworks from which to posit and speculate, and most importantly - test what might be the driver of whether one does or doesn't take to the hamster wheel. Correlations between the big 5 personally traits, studies of adverse childhood experiences and yes, though you may dislike it, differences between genders can be tested for.

Now, whether a 1990s teenager in Ballarat buys a pair of Rip Curl trackie dacks or not is one mysterious phenomena. What about whether they buy into an ideology? A political party? A set of values?

Because, of course, the kids that bought their clothing at op-shops, and wouldn't be caught dead in late 90s Balifornia wearing surf clothes where themselves not immune from a sense of belonging, a need to be esteemed by peers. It's just that their peers weren't the majority. By and large, the kids that didn't wear surf clothes did sit up the back of the oval smoking dem cigarettes. They wore black nail polish and/or lipstick, tried to bend and break school uniform policy with too short skirts or passing off doc-martins as school shoes. They died their hair the same colors, or had chains to their wallets. They were easy to know and recognize, their behavior could be just as easily predicted. They were simply the alternative, unpopular tribal option.

Google image search the term 'Gender non-conformist' and unless the algorithms work differently for you than I, observe the degree of conformity within a non-conformist community. And this makes sense under Maslow's hierarchy, because this is a group that cannot fit in and then progress up the hierarchy. But through the internet, or moving to certain metropolitan suburbs they can get their esteem needs met and move on to self-esteem by being both connected and themselves. They are non-conformist, but not alone in doing so, even though every single departure from a gender role is gender non-conformist, it does not in practice seem to be a self-identified term associated with moving away from something, so much as toward something else. Perhaps a synonym could be 'Non-binary conforming'?

Now, let's take the Bryan Kavanaugh confirmation hearings as a powerful demonstration of belonging needs. I feel the situation was over-analyzed. Here's the rub, the Republican primary process leaves them vulnerable to the party being hijacked by non-establishment candidates. This happened with Trump. Trump isn't just non-establishment, but completely incompetent, he didn't 'tap into' his base, he is his base. He doesn't understand how the government of his country works and based on his behavior in office, probably thought the President could do whatever they want.

In an act of doing whatever he wanted, he just randomly bicked Bryan off a list of acceptable candidates presented to him by a conservative think tank. A list that functionally was 'people who will keep the republican base happy.' And he thus picked the wrong one.

Now even if you believe that given the importance of the office, and what is known about human flourishing, every name on that list is in some sense 'the wrong one' BK was the wrong one even from a Republican perspective. And thus Mitch and pals got lumped with a fucking disaster that coincided with their one and only chance to confirm a republican pick to the supreme court.

They were faced with a dilemma, do we confirm some arsehole who happens to be on 'our team' even though he as an individual is reprehensible? or do we investigate him thouroughly, demonstrating our strong conviction and belief in justice and the sanctity of the office to which they could be appointed?

They chose belonging, over and above esteem, self-esteem and self-actualization. Even in Maslow's hierarchy, they went low, instead of high.

And thus, the United States of America has on it's supreme court a living embodiment of their lack of regard for 'justice'.

Now earlier in the week, I drew this design for a sticker:

For those who do not Habla Espanol, (like me) the bubbles translate top-to-bottom as 'I'm a feminist' and 'Me too'. The downside of this design is an implicit message that women are nothing but prey, and men nothing but predators. I don't personally believe this, for me it's an illustration of two dangerous subsets of people but I don't get to enforce that it isn't a broad generalization as it stands alone. And I'm okay with that, it's intended to offend.

I was not to know, that in my home city of Melbourne, possibly around the time I published this, another young man would stalk and kill a young woman, again in the northern suburbs.

The police have arrested her suspected killer, and the press coverage seems to be confident they have their man because they are publishing pictures and excerpts from his social media posts, which included this one:

"Shoutout to all the men going through a lot, with no one to turn to, because this world wrongly taught our males to mask their emotion & that strong means silent."

Presumably it was included in the article, not to demonstrate that Aiia's killer was 'woke' to Toxic Masculinity but to establish that he was possibly mentally ill.

I don't wish to go trawling, nor needlessly expose myself to all the vitriolic hate of the peanut gallery that can comment on shit, but the thing is, I can see the same person that crafted this sentence saying 'come on guys, this is our problem it's time to step up.' in the wake of Eurydice's murder on social media.

To me the relevance is that it's easy to say shit. In the wake of this latest crime, the easiest hand washing station has been offered by popular author Clementine Ford.

Because when I posted my sticker design, I was thinking specifically of the men who 'spoke up' on social media in the wake of Eurydice's death last year, about 'checking your mates' and 'calling out toxic masculinity' and 'stepping up' and shit, because I was wondering after these fine words, what these men had been doing, what was phase 2 of ending violence against women? What positive, affirmative deeds had they been carrying out?

I don't know. But one of these men linked up Clemintine Ford's offering of absolution. Intent does matter, I sincerely believe Clemintine doesn't wish to absolve men, but wants to see an end to male violence against women, but functionally I feel this particular editorial about as effective as my facetious sticker design. And again to be charitable, my understanding is that the editor, not the author choose the title of a piece.

But apparantly, all you have to do is pick sides. I could not have chosen a better illustration that most of people's professed political beliefs are a manifestation of social belonging needs and external-esteem needs.

In the case of men specifically, it's a need to be seen to be on the right teem that results in wolves in sheeps clothing. In the same article, Clemintine asserts with more confidence (perhaps for good reason) than I have, the relationship between becoming a Codey Hermann or James Todd is:

"You want to know the common thread linking every man who decides to rape and murder a woman just making her way home at night? They’ve laughed at sexist jokes. They’ve agreed that "women ain't shit". They’ve liked a comment online that says "feminism is cancer" or "that bitch needs a dick in her mouth to shut her up".

If all I have to do though, is pick sides, I picked my side a long time ago. It was a pretty easy and obvious choice, one might even call it intuitive. Nobody ever swings by to check my credentials, my qualifications, my devotion to the side. Much as I can call myself a Carlton Supporter, and have never been a paying member and to have attended a whole 3 Carlton games in my life. Most of what I do as a Carlton Supporter, is not support my team. Is Murphy still captain? I don't know.

In my life, I've heard one guy remark 'all women are sluts, they just don't know it yet.' Yet I know plenty of stories of guys that have partaken in abusive relationships, that outwardly are paragons of male feminist virtue.

As evidenced by Nike, Cosmo-Uk, Disney, and most recently Gillette, the fact is Progressive values are what Rip Curl Tracksuit Pants were in 1998~99 Ballarat. They are what all the kids are doing, and while it shouldn't be discounted as an indication of actual progress, it is still functionally a garment that is easy to wear.

And I am yet to see evidence, that being both male, and a feminist requires anything of men. Though skeptical, sincere male feminists may exist. At the very least men who sincerely think they are male feminists.

But despite the 'best' 'efforts' of some of my male counterparts in the wake of Eurydice's death last year, another woman's life has been snuffed out in an extreme act of selfishness. What I can only offer as explanation as to why Melbourne has not become safer but a more dangerous culture for women to live in (statistically speaking) is because much of the behavior is about belonging, not actualizing values held by the self. Furthermore, I'm pessimistic that women can do more than call on men to call on other men, because most people are preoccupied with lower hierarchical needs, like food and shelter.

I mean I could have made this point much more easily by pointing out the sheer number of people who want something done about climate change but haven't bothered to change energy companies. But a woman has been killed by a man, again.

To female feminists and in particular, women who are leaders, high status women if you are frustrated by all the fucking lip service muddying what you are trying to achieve there are a lot of historical male leaders that struggled with this very phenomena and generously wrote about it for future leaders, including but not limited to Machiavelli addressing sycophants at court, Marcus Aurelius wrote much of the problems arising from the human material we have to work with, as did the Stoics in general. There might be something in the Eastern Traditions too, but none spring immediately to mind. I go East for martial philosophy generally.