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Posts Tagged ‘Social’

What is the one thing a society needs to maintain a sense of honor?  Innocence. If you can distinguish naivete and innocence then you can be “as innocent as a dove but as sharp as a serpent.” Also I wish to account for, “where there are many rules, virtue will be lacking.” This is the core of what I’m advocating, what I’m trying to discover. As you can see, my thoughts are far along, but have a few holes in them. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on what I’m overlooking.

Lately I have applied for several jobs and I have been in the enviable position of having many potential employers wanting to hire me.  One of them, the one I eventually signed a contract with, wanted to screw over my headhunter and not pay her fees by claiming to hire another candidate while I claimed to work at another location.

I didn’t do this, for a few reasons.  Chiefly, the headhunter has been helping me for YEARS and if someone treats me very well, I like to treat them well in return.  Partly this is pragmatism, I might want to deal with her again later (she DID get me loads of solid leads).  Additionally, this affects the nature of my relationship with my employer — are we starting off entering into a conspiracy to cheat someone?  I’m not claiming that’s a bad thing a priori, but lets call a spade a spade.  But really, the whole decision came down to my wanting to pay this headhunter for her services rendered.

Now I’ve gotten another offer that might be a better one.   I might actually ditch the employer with whom I’ve already signed a contract, but who hasn’t filled out enough paperwork to make it a big headache (for me) to switch jobs.  Furthermore, I’ve entered into this contract, knowing the exit clauses, assuming I’ll probably leave early, but not disclosing this information.  At least one of my friends thinks my cavalier attitude towards agreements with employers is unethical.  However, I can’t see anything wrong with this.

This got me thinking, when we define something as an evil or bad thing, what do we mean?  I have a working model of kinds of transgressions.  I divide them into two categories:  Bodily transgressions such as assault, murder, rape, physical harm through negligence (a tricky one), poisoning, etc…   Social transgressions such as breech of agreement, deception, omission, meanness, playing legal hardball, refusing to do business with specific people, etc.  The former are things that cause, either directly or through strongly causal indirect means, bodily harm to another.  The latter are breeches of society’s rules, written or unwritten, and are almost always violations of people’s expectations.

Now, in the case of bodily transgressions, I think most humans have agreed on extreme ones being wrong outside of specific circumstances.  It’s generally considered wrong to shoot someone unless they’re shooting at me or my friend.  Social transgressions vary from culture to culture and subculture to subculture.  In some marketplaces, caveat emptor rules and everyone expects you to try and benefit from information advantage (aka “dupe someone”).  Going into the game knowing this, there is really no problem in this environment (as long as the discount on price in this market equals or exceeds my costs from wrong estimates of value or quality, then it’s fine for me to shop there).  At the other extreme, some social groups consider it a serious social breech if you enter into a simple argument that hurts someone’s feelings.  Most societies frown on nakedness outside of specific circumstances, or adjusting one’s breasts or penis in public in an obvious way.  Some social groups would stop reading this because I said “breasts” and “penis.”

There is a big middle ground in all of this.  Bodily harm through negligence is often difficult to determine, and we’ll usually distinguish between innocent and accidental negligence (a genuine accident on the operating table, or during an emergency rescue) and vicious negligence (leaving a child in a locked car in 101 degree heat as a punishment).  What’s more interesting to me is the problem of social transgressions.

Beyond the two categories I already stated, we can divide actions into honorable/innocent and dishonorable/naive actions.  Innocent and honorable bodily harm actions are generally considered completely okay.  Improvised emergency response in backcountry situations gives us occasional examples of this, where the best action known, given available equipment, skills, and conditions, still results in someone’s injury or death.  Also, most people will understand if I hit someone with a baseball bat who is in the process of trying to stab me and steal my Nikes.  Indeed, in these cases, the actions stem from honorable and/or innocent intentions AND no SOCIAL breech has occurred. However, we may judge them in complex ways.  Why did I possess a baseball bat? What could I have done differently to save my wounded comrade? Legal consequences may ensue regardless of ones actual intentions and behaviors. I’ll talk about that later.

I am starting to think social breeches often trump bodily breeches. Also, I think they are usually judged in a very clear-cut way. The person who honestly didn’t know he was in a social group where everyone is expected to be super nice to each other doesn’t get a pass if he starts an argument with someone, even if his intention was genuinely compassionate calling someone out on some of their bull$#!! such as an addiction or other harmful behavior. He is likely to be judged as a jerk and never invited to the party again. We find extreme examples of the most honorable and innocent actions being punished by society in our great spiritual leaders from Jesus to Socrates.

I think this is because Social breeches are actually sins against the fabric of society.  Society itself (through its social contracts and leaders who execute them) claims the right to transgress people’s bodies. The examples above, Jesus and Socrates, invoke society’s claim to this right to harm. Society also claims this right by imprisoning people or drafting them, and in some places by physical punishments such as caning, torture, and harsh prison conditions. American society, among others, also claims the specific right to harm people through direct and intentional negligence, as food and medicine are not considered “rights” but rather privileges.

My own moral life seems to be evolving more to pay attention to my own compass of honorable and innocent, and less to social norms. Now this may seem trite, but to say I am ignoring societal norms actually implies that I’m ignoring and often violating what most people would consider “right” and “wrong” or at the very least “offensive.” But culture and subculture is often broken. I personally find it repulsive to let someone starve or suffer from lack of medical care simply because they cannot find enough payed work or inherited money to buy it. I also find it repulsive to try to create an insular group to hypnotize each other into thinking highly of ourselves regardless of merit. I find I have little investment or care for things like other people’s feelings or expectations. So, while I remain a compassionate individual, I don’t bother to pull any punches, cup anyone’s bollocks, or pat anyone on the bum (unless I believe it will actually help them in the long run).

Nor do I bother about the social contracts such as whether a specific arena is caveat emptor, or supposed to play by gentleman’s rules, or we’re all putting (or pretending to put) all our cards on the table. I can trade based on personal reputation, so that matters to me, but all these social and societal concerns are purely utilitarian.

I assume little and choose actions based on expediency relative to my own intentions. I strive to keep these intentions honorable. I treat my three employees well, but we’re pirating and cannibalizing some old designs, no longer patented, in a market where people are playing by some Euro-specific “gentleman’s rules” and creating artificial market inefficiencies. Some might say I’m harming the particular culture, I say I’m evolving it.

Laws are a strange part of all this. It seems in many cases they are kind of farce, where the intention behind them takes second place and the unintended consequences are high. The war on drugs hasn’t kept a lot of my personal friends from getting addicted to soul-stealing chemicals like meth, yet I have seen it ruin a few people’s lives over less harmful drugs like marijuana. Further, dealing with immigration rules has taught me that social intentions underlying laws can be damned, I’m going to write what I need to in this paperwork to get what I want, so long as its either legal enough or legally illegible enough to spare me any consequences. I’ve never stayed a day illegally in Taiwan, yet I’ve circumvented the intentions of a lot of regulations, as have almost all the foreign teachers here.

My ultimate intentions of goodness reside only in my own sense of honor. I find my conscience is cleaner lately, yet I have an almost cavalier practicality and flagrant disregard about social rules, norms, and expectations along with other people’s feelings. I think I offend more people, yet I rest easier at night. I calculate more decisions based on advantages and disadvantages, and I feel less need to run over them again and again in my head to decide if what I did was morally right or wrong somehow.

I can point to timeless virtues, which withstand the eternal reality of change and evolution.  Such virtues include patience, equanimity, innocence, compassion.  I can also point to very real vices. The virtues and vices I can come up with are highly personal in nature, and don’t point to any specific rules or social norms per se.  For example, addiction, impatience, lust, greed and envy don’t point to any specific social norms that could stand for all time. Murder does, along with the other extreme examples of bodily violation, but that’s about it.  Almost everything else seems entirely situational.

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A wonderful observation was made by Venkat Rao. People desire for things around them to be “legible.” He was quoting someone else, but he’s brought a lot of people’s attention to the concept. In this context, Legibility refers to how easy it is to understand the purpose and the meaning of a thing, not just a text, but anything.

On the very legible end of things is something like an office chair, or a cup of coffee.  These are designed by humans, completely contrived for the types of purposes that anyone can plainly gather from their adaptation to these intentions.  On the far side of illegibility is the pattern of plants in a forest.  Not to say that it’s random, but without an extremely specialized understanding, the patterning, the whys, the meaning of it is indecipherable.  The only other way to access a complicated image like a forest or a city is to simply experience the gestalt of it, the sense of it as you are there, in the moment.

Rao gives us examples of problems that arise when we humans try and impose legibility. His easiest example is the growth of a city.  Old cities have grown in such a complex pattern over decades, centuries, even millenia, and with such a collection of complex human interactions, that their patterning is as nuanced as the trees and ferns of the forest floor.  When planners come along and try to work out a method to set up a city artificially, it so often fails miserably because there is a forced legibility (indeed, it’s hard to imagine making policies about things without first rendering them legible, but for policymakers to grok the complexities necessary to understand things like city growth is more than most mere politicians can muster).

The important points here are that legibility is highest in man-made things and that people desire legibility.  In fact, Rao cites an interesting incident at a neurology clinic where a black and white checkerboard pattern is used to establish a “baseline” of someone’s brain activity, a “calm state.”  When the patient asked the doctor “shouldn’t you use something more neutral, white noise, perhaps?”  The doctor responds, “Oh no, people’s brains go wild when we show a random pattern, because they work hard to grasp at some underlying structure.”

Perhaps it is the fruit of Maharishi’s meditation on who am I? perhaps it is my vows, or just observation.  But recently I have found myself truly switching identity experiences rather easily.  After actual decades of wanting so much to be a woman, and an entire decade of being mostly submissive, I find myself being a true switch.  I can stop what we’re doing at home to force slap her ass, make sure she’s knowing she’s in submission, and leave her begging for more as we’re walking into town. Yes, I can still kiss a whip, scrub someone’s floor, and pine to get held down and fucked.  Honestly, I could beg God for either role just as sincerely, or forget the whole thing entirely.  All of it is surrender!

If you don’t build it deliberately, but let it form, like actions of nature, it isn’t going to have the same kind of legibility of an invention.  I smile this smile that old ladies and children seem to find irresistable.  I alternatively flush a bit from some men’s heat, and then wet some girl’s panties by our immediate mutual knowledge that I would chain her up alongside the others and perhaps horsewhip the living hell out of her in half a second.  And I gain trusting giggles and secret intimacies when I unwrap my Arab kuffiya and smile a blushing conspiratorial sister smile.  No one seems to try to cheat me anymore, in fact it seems they’re mostly quite generous with me.  My employees are artistic and seem satisfied.  I drive hard bargains with a shy voice.  My students mostly do what I say, alternatively seduced, in love, and afraid. My personality is a forest rather than a coffee cup, mysterious to even myself.

Then this all generalizes into other things.  I find myself more generous with money, and managing it all quite differently because I don’t even know what it is anymore.  It seems to have no value at all.  I don’t mean that in a naive sense, but in the sense that we’re all dying so quickly, what the fuck?  Perhaps I will find the capacity for even more generosity, or that great fabled freedom to just cast a fortune away in a moment, without a thought, and the power to create another kind or another kind or even a different kind than that….  How can I lack patience in this case?  How can I worry any sense of morality?  I tested this by lying outright a few times, and find the only thing I have that could be called a “conscience” is confusion brought on by blood sugar levels.

My friends seem to stumble with their reactions.  And I think it’s because I’ve become illegible.  So I do try and maintain some consistency around them lately, but it feels so stilted, and I notice that any real observer should be able to see through the plastic of contrivance. People want you to have an identity though, something to pin down and relate to with a known set of codes.  My girlfriend, fortunately, is blessed with enough innocence to just tell me when she doesn’t get what’s going on, and to roll with it.  She’s uncaring about social norms enough to either not notice or not care when I mix gender, dominance, social class signals, fashions, and actions with the kind of attitude that I would pack a backpack for a walk in the woods.  Toilet paper is good for so many things, I’ll bring a whole roll of that with me for even a day or two in the woods.

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So I was considering what to do with my job situation. I asked my supervisor for an opinion in order to strike up a conversation to keep the lines of communication open in case I wanted to sign another contract with them. Also, I needed to know something about the number of vacation days on the contract which, as it is written, is quite ambiguous. Depending on the interpretation of that, I was ready to sign up again immediately.

She was initially almost in tears asking me if I was going to marry my girlfriend. This threw me a little off, because I thought my supervisor had gotten over her attraction to me and just considered me a friend. I made a pretty dismissive comment about the idea in order to calm her down and then proceeded to talk to her about the amount of vacation time I would have.

Now, I’ve been in friendly enough terms with my supervisor that she already knows I want to take a ten day Vipassana meditation time. Also, she knows I was speaking with a Zen teacher a well. What was interesting was the amount of condemnation she ended up heaping onto my wanting to do these things. She is, herself, a Buddhist and had scheduled a meeting with a famous teacher on the South of the island during Chinese new year. Instead of attending the meeting, she cancelled it and rode horses all week long.

Now, what’s interesting is the elaborate reasoning she comes up with about my spending time meditating. The thing is, she does it in a way that appears quite well-meaning, and remarkably sincere. Her favorite is, “you probably already have the answers” to which I responded, “yes, perhaps, but I am looking for a teacher or some time to spend to help me see them for what they are” and she goes on that I’m impatient (to which I respond, I’m not hurting to wait, but I’m also not trying to waste any time) or that I’m being selfish (to which I respond, I am kind to others, but it seems that if I’m completely lost, I may not even know what kindness IS) or that I think too much (but anyone whose spent time meditating has discovered that yes, you think WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH, and meditation is the only hope you have to get that chatter to cease)….

How sincere and reasonable she is in all this, enough that I found it unsettling. Mind you, it didn’t seem like “attacks” or anything at the time. I am sure that in her mind, it’s all kindness and “realistic” ways of thinking of things (as if pragmatism demands selling one’s soul to join some world of conformity). I was thrown off by all this until I remembered the beginning of the conversation. Then I remembered that she is in love with me and wants me to stay near her, and every things she says is to serve that purpose. Does SHE even realize this?  My guess is no.

Pretty much everything is a tactic, a ruse, or a strategy. Even being honest just gives one a personal sense of justification, and a socially granted one as well. Ghandi, along with plenty of Jewish scholars and Christian theologians, pointed out that Jesus’s ideas about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving someone who sues you for a cloak, your shirt along with it might have been very strategically useful for the oppressed Jews of his time. I’m not saying that it’s ‘wrong’ in any sense, to use whatever method one feels is most congruent and effective in order to finish a task, I’m just saying that it is what it is.

I teach kids. I see this every day. Doing well on a test gets appreciation and acceptance from teachers and parents, and a boost to mood and feelings of personal security and well-being. 99% of my kids don’t give a shit about learning ENGLISH per se. When someone sees a reason to learn it, like my student who loves computers and noticed that the BIOS is always in English, my job is easy and they learn quickly. Until they get inspired, I just manipulate social cookies to coerce and convince them to do what I want them to. It’s a sickening game sometimes.

“Following the rules” may be anything from a way to manipulate others into giving one what one wants to a way to feel justified in self-pity when things don’t go one’s way. “Nice” is a nice way to create a reality that believes oneself to be a “good person” or some such crap. At the worst, ones self righteousness is a game to build ones own ego without reproach because you can threaten anyone that gives you a well-deserved ass kicking else with state violence. The thing is, I’ve played all these games, and I watch kids do it, and I watch people do it, and I’m sick and fucking tired of it, in myself more than anybody else!

So, it’s hard as fuck to know what I’m doing right now. I’ve looked inside myself and seen the same thing. I, yes I, use an immense amount of sincerity as a means to an ends… I use a ‘pragmatic approach’ sometimes, or a ‘ruthless’ one, or ‘the one that fits the situation’ but it all seems to be ego-gratifying as well as basically self-serving WHATEVER I do. What I would give right now to know my own truest intention!

From a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, means is irrelevant. You are always choosing means anyways, to serve whatever intention you have. And until I am coming from a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, even honesty is a lie.

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Why would I ever make someone pay for knowledge I have that could potentially improve them? I think of a blogger I know who sells “how to live an extraordinary life” ebooks and travels from the profit. Basically life porn for people too scared or naive to make the leap (judgment I guess). He certainly has knowledge and can profit from it.

I think back to Thoreau’s recounting of the indian in Walden. The Indian makes baskets and tries to sell them in town and gets miffed that people are not buying them and Thoreau thinks he should have asked why go into business in the first place? (Thoreau is a smart ass though ;).

What of the coupon-clipping wife bloggers? The ones who sell seminars to teach women how to buy $300 with of groceries for $20 using coupon and promotion tricks. What of them? If they have the secret, shouldn’t they give it out. And what of a life playing off of primate-created technicalities like grocery rules?

What of guest bedrooms and their necessity? What happened to guest tents?!!?

Do I need money to live in this world? It sure seems like I do.

M

My Reply:

M,

I watched Zeitgeist 3 and I was so turned on by it that I almost turned my synth project into all open-source stuff…  I basically think capitalism as we know it now is going to prove itself to be a sinking ship.

Then I put a lot of focus into what Jesus said, “be as innocent as a dove but as wise as a serpent.”  I realized that if I cut my own profits I wouldn’t be getting more instruments to poor college students who just love electronic music, I’d be saving money for egotistical gear whores who want to think they’re cool because they have an unauthorized Buchla copy.
So I’m keeping the trade secrets and selling the sizzle ofunauthorizedclone.com to those people…  because frankly, they want it.  It’s like I’m a prostitute giving them a blow job.  If I stopped selling blow jobs, they’d go pay somebody else or maybe date rape a girl or something….  so I’m just going to peddle my wares as long as there are people who are slaving away under the illusion that you get what you pay for, and if it ain’t expensive it isn’t worth having.
And eventually I can make bigger runs and get plastic housings
made and probably get the synths out to poor college kids.  Plus, with the money I have, me and my sweetheart can spend time fucking in a lot of different countries.  Eventually, maybe I can fulfill my age-old dream of helping child prostitutes, but I have to have some cash on hand before I can do much for them.  I think Steven Covey refers to all this as a “win-win.”
Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about if you “should” “make someone” “pay” for “your knowledge.”  If I was working in a leper colony I wouldn’t dare charge those people a dime.  And they’d probably offer me all the food and free place to stay that I could ever want.  But, we’re currently trying to operate in a specific system, and instead of “lepers” we’re just playing Jesus….
….to the lepers in their heads….
Oh yeah it’s one love, one life….
Okay, so the U2 break doesn’t really cut it but like, seriously, if you’ve got something to offer, people might not even value it if you give it away.  What do you think is the difference between a $150 an hour escort and a $1000 an hour escort?  Have you ever looked into escorts before?  You can get an astoundingly beautiful woman for $150 an hour.  Yet senators and such want the exotic $1000 an hour ones.  Maybe they beat them up, or get beaten up or piss all over each other or something, I don’t know.  And all the same, I’m sure I’ve spent the last coupla years having better sex with my lovers than they’re going to get for all that money.
Still, there’s a demand for the $1000 an hour prostitute.  Do you need some kind of moral judgement to prevent you from fulfilling that demand?  Who is doing the judging?  Why?  What would such judgement do for you?
Love,
J

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Rule Number One

I’ve been messing around with this for awhile.  It just seems to summarize everything I’ve learned about people up ’till now, from being a pick up artist to trying to empathize and love people as they stared at and hated themselves…  even in learning to love myself and just chill out with people.

Jeannine’s Rule One:  Everyone is fucked up.  There are very few exceptions.

It has to be said with humor though.  Because the point is not to judge.  I started thinking this when I was with my ex girlfriend last year and she kept talking about how problematic she was, and all the things that were wrong with her.  I would often tell her, “everyone is crazy, unless I start taking robots for lovers, it’s just part of all this.”  I’d smile.  Usually she’d still be upset, because she was upset at herself.  But sometimes she’d calm down and relax, be loved, laugh at herself a little, and ease up on herself.

Then I realized that I could give myself the same space.  God, it’s so easy to compare myself to other people and think I’m lacking.  Also, in social situations, it’s easy to feel inadequate, or like there’s something wrong with me.  But here’s a post from a lady on a message board I am on:

“I am considered to be attractive, and I attract lots of people who
like me physically and women who want to be friends with me. The
problem is that I make almost all men and women feel uncomfortable
when they make an effort to meet me. They think I’m rejecting them,
but I’m not. I have social anxiety that they don’t know about. I am
ready to start interacting with new people and I want them to feel
comfortable enough to approach me and to talk to me. I’ve missed out
on some good opportunities to get to know some real nice people. These people thought that I blew them off. Feelings were hurt and I feel awful that I had any part in hurting their feelings without even
intending to. It makes me very sad when I see them or when I am
reminded of these people. I don’t want to have any more of these kind
of regrets. I’ve been noticing that people feel so good when I step
out of my comfort zone and pay attention to them. It makes me feel
good that I can make people feel happy by simply acknowledging them so I want to be able to that more.

My husband is very attractive and gets flirted with and hit on by many
women all the time whenever we do anything social. Men also find me attractive enough to really like me, but my lack of response to them seems to intimidate even men who are confident and outgoing. I don’t want my husband and I to seem so out of balance in social situations anymore. I’m starting to make eye contact and smiling more, but I could still use a boost. Most of the time men just stare at me wide eyed and wait for me to smile at them. Although that’s starting to change and I’ve been noticing more men smiling and flirting with me, but I’m still shy so I usually pretend I didn’t see most of them. Most women smile at me. It usually doesn’t get past the stares or smiles though. I do very well with the few people who actually feel comfortable enough to come over and talk to me to the point that it seems to confuse the ones who I was too shy around when they tried to get to know me by being friendly with just smiling at me and taking it from there.”

I like her post because she is honest and also because it reveals just how different people can perceive a person from how that person actually is.  Yet so commonly people mystify the situation with others as if someone else has their shit all together or something.  But in reality, they’re probably as crazy as you are.

Reading that quote I think of one time when I was working really hard to be friendly at a party, with some new teachers who had just come to Taiwan.  It was a festival night and we were all out eating Sushi.

Some people thought I was a social genius and super cool and fun to hang out with, with tons of creativity.  My girl thought I was a huge flirt and couldn’t be trusted.  And my own feeling was of putting in a lot of effort just to be social and try and help the new people feel welcome while finding a way to feel like I could “fit in” with my own queer image.

I would have preferred to eat sushi, drink wine, and just talk a little with people I liked.  I picture my dream version of that night with me sitting in the corner, having a couple of quiet convos and saying sweet things with my lover between wine and sushi.

Oh yea, I also remember there was one really popular guy in that party and I tried really hard to impress because everyone liked him.  I told a subtle joke about myself alone with him, talked about computers with the geeky guy, talked about artsy crap with the hipsters, and talked about Southern soul food with the other Southerners.

My point is, I was just a normal person, with huge insecurities, trying to feel good about how I thought other people felt towards me.  Some people thought I was oh-so-subtle, and others might have thought I was a jackass.  Later my girlfriend didn’t even trust me.  But did anyone actually know what went on inside of me?  And did I know what went on inside of them?  Just like with the lady I quoted above, and so many other people, no and no.

I dislike how all our humanity and realness is lost in that kind of calculated and complicated social interaction.  Maybe this “rule” will help keep me a little more grounded in reality, and remind me to accept myself and be real with other humans.

As for the “rule,” lately I’ve been feeling a little too upset to take it as lightly as I originally meant it.  So on bad days, when I might forget to take it all lightly:

Rule Number One (for bad days):  It’s Okay.

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