Au Contraire

I was taught once, a long time ago, that contradicting someone was considered impolite.

No it isn’t.

Perhaps it’s a matter of culture.  Having recently returned from the English pre-Victorian years described in Pride and Prejudice, I was jealous of the rules of society.  If you said you would attend a party, you would.  If you couldn’t, you would tell the host ahead of time.  And if you were late you apologized to the host and asked forgiveness.

Recently, I witnessed some instances where the husband was immediately “improved” by his womanly loved ones.  Both wives and daughters are featured here, but the identities have been altered to protect the innocent.

Oh, who am I kidding?  It’s to protect me!

The first instance was during the telling of the sale of our first home.  I mentioned that a large family was buying it, and would have to live in all of 890 square feet.

“No, it was 980,” said the wife.

I noted that I wasn’t going to argue and pressed on.  No matter that it interrupted the flow of a great story, and there were lots of other family sitting around waiting expectantly.  No matter that I am a numbers person and work around machines that use numbers all the time, and she is a manager of people and also works in a pet shelter.  Besides, no matter which number is correct, it was still a small house for a family of five!

Later, I mentioned that we watch relatively little TV.

“No you don’t,” corrected the daughter.

I was telling a story as to why we don’t have a dedicated large screen TV.  We have a large-ish computer screen and stream everything.  Even then, the few hours we see a night is nothing to the average of 5 hours a day.

But what’s the point of arguing?  I was only saying that to reinforce the fact that we use the computer instead of a big screen.  What did our daughter think she was doing, correcting the official record?  Or perhaps she feels we watch more than we should?

I didn’t argue it then, and I don’t think I’ll ever bring it up again, except here.

What’s the point?  Why is it these contradictions have to be made so immediately and so publicly?  Is there some kind of vendetta going on against men by their loving women?  Or does it have more to do with setting a pecking order?

Watching behavior is not only fun, it’s my profession.  But sometimes, at the level of the individual, things happen that not even I can explain.  And I’m not even sure I want to.

Any of your insights would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, yes they would.


Hate, the book: 055

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Two
Chapter Ten
If?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.#7 We all have experienced events in our lives that could prejudice us against some group, some individual, even some process or concept.

It’s important to elaborate on this. For example, because I’m of Armenian descent I have some degree of prejudice against the Turks of around the time of 1915.  I also have personal feelings about some people I’ve worked with, as well as bias against despots, egoists, and dictators.

Should any of the above be brought before me as evidence in understanding hate, my conclusions regarding them should considered be suspect.  That’s why I have identified these biases ahead of time, and will attempt to isolate them from the evidence.

#8 Children are to be protected and nurtured at all cost.

They are our future.  Not an investment, not a replacement for ourselves, and not some kind of cheap labor, retirement plan, or generational army.  I could write a book on each of these aspects, for it seems adults use children in countless selfish ways.  The welfare of our children is my primary concern, as children are our only hope of survival as a race.
It is for them that I continue to work and write.

#9 Finally, I believe it is within my power to be objective and insightful about the subject of behavior in general.

I have been practicing objectivity all my life, and in so doing I’ve seen that it requires a certain amount of training, restraint, and a good deal of an open mind to be consistent.
I’m not perfect, but working to reduce the ego component of my personal landscape helps me readily admit mistakes and develop improvements to my methods of study.
I know it’s possible for others to acquire the ability to mitigate ego; it simply requires resolve and the willingness to be self-aware.

So now you know, as much as is possible right now, who I am regarding my frame of reference.

Now that we know where I stand in our landscape of hate, where do we go next?
That next step is to discuss what hate is not.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 054

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Two
Chapter Ten
If?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.#4 What is truly valuable when studying behavior? A person’s actions.

One’s actions are a far more accurate barometer of truth about that person’s attitude about a given subject than anything he may say about it.  And even though our actions can also be influenced by any number of factors, the likelihood of falsehood slipping through our studies is much smaller if we discount what people say and focus on their actions.

Is this part of the “action speaks louder than words” bias?  Consider this. One’s cumulative actions over the course of a lifetime are far more indicative of someone’s attitudes than actions that same person shows only once.

A life replete with consistent behavior toward something reveals more about that person’s attitude toward that something than anything else that can be studied.

Pick a behavior, any behavior, and track it for a lifetime.  Loving a partner?  Hostilities towards a neighbor?  Flaunting authority?  The study of any of these subjects becomes more meaningful if we focus on a person’s behavioral track record.

Finally, there’s a special class of lifetime behaviors we must consider, if only because this class has so much impact in the world.  And those are behaviors that put the lives of people exhibiting them at risk.

People who risk death as a result of a consistent behavior are to be taken very seriously. Whether they protest their government, indulge in dangerous drugs, or plot terror campaigns, people who are willing to die over what they do are invaluable to anyone studying behavior.  They make it crystal clear that we must pay far more attention to what people do than what they say.

#5 It is my sincere belief that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve success at all costs.

The opportunity to pursue success at the risk of failure is critical to our evolution.  It is only through the opportunity to succeed in our chosen endeavors that we can hope to realize the full potential of our species.

In a best case world, everyone would have the opportunity to succeed and be objectively measured upon the result.  Should they fail in the process, then they should have the right to live out their lives in some small degree of comfort.

#6 In the light of my preferences, as stated in #5, the harsh reality is that people will more often than not act selfishly and working to satisfy their own needs, particularly when it comes to garnering money, power and sex.

In some cases they will selfishly satisfy their desire for money, power and sex at the expense of everyone around them.  For example, there is a thriving worldwide sex trade selling the bodies of young women to aging men. It seems unlikely to stop anytime soon. This is but one sad of example of man’s corruptible nature.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 053

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Two
Chapter Ten
If?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.#2 Our current understanding of behavior is seriously flawed, so flawed that it keeps us from making any progress.

How is it flawed?  First of all, we have too many man-made categories to study.  For those who worship money there’s economics, for culture there’s sociology or anthropology, for getting inside our heads there’s psychology, and for how we talk there’s communications.  For how to accumulate wealth there’s business, and for how we amuse each other there’s art and entertainment.  These are many but not all of the different ways we have of studying people.

But people are people, and each single person is an individual.  And to varying degrees, aspects of the studies listed above, and many more, are applicable to every individual on Earth.

This fact presents a problem for anyone studying behavior because there are no special sections of our brains separating dance from culture, or culture from money, or money from entertainment.  There’s no evolutionary evidence allowing for us to have an “aggression” gene separate from our “play” gene.

The fact is we bring a little bit of all these aspects of humanity into anything and everything we do. A football player may enjoy the game, but he has his wits, and an agent helping him make money. On the field, he may be exhibiting signs of aggression in how he plays against his opponent. Simultaneously he can move his body and manipulate the ball in ways that can be described as artistic, poetic, even graceful.

All these things are present at the same time.  They have to be, because he is a man.  He contains all the artificially separated behaviors in one compact form: himself.  It’s only the academicians who have so happily diced up this poor man into smaller slices in order to study him.  And this is the wrong approach. Hence, my conclusion, our current methods of studying behavior are far from perfect.

#3 In learning about behavior, we must discount what people say. We can’t trust anyone, including ourselves, when it comes to accurate reporting of behaviors.

We all have terrible memories, wonderful imaginations, and hidden agendas.  We have history, we have peer pressure, and we have a “current situation.”  All of these things act upon us simultaneously to influence our thoughts, and subsequently all that we say.
So, to ensure our ability to learn is at the highest level, don’t trust what people say, even if there’s nothing else to go on.

To be continued …

Hate, the book: 052

Hello Curious Friend.  Welcome to my book about Hate.  The number tells you where you are in the sequence.  I look forward to your comments.

Part Two
Chapter Ten
If?  (Continued)

Stopping it sounds good. But like real stop signs, most people just roll through it.The second reason is more expansive and is the true purpose of any journey of exploration that invites others follow.  By making your beliefs and biases explicit, it makes it easier for the next person to make this same journey.

And when you record your journey and make your biases explicit, the explorer following you will also be able to complete his journey even more quickly.

That said, I want to provide a brief description of today’s landscape seen from where I stand.  But before I do, I want to stress that it’s vital to understand that you and I are part of this landscape.

Even though we do our best to objectively describe what lies outside our personal frames of reference, in order to be completely fair we have to try and describe our inner state as well.

In other words, in order to provide you with a complete picture of my frame of reference, you need to know who I am.

So who am I?  It’s important to understand because if you are to take this journey with me and tell others about it, you must also reveal yourself at that time.

Who am I?  Indeed.

I’m a writer, and a dreamer.  I’m a person who thinks about thinking, thoughts, and learning – in other words, a philosopher.

I’m always curious, in love with the scientific method, and consider myself an armchair physicist, astronomer, and paleontologist. There’s also a bit of me that spends time as an inventor, businessman, and family man.

There. That wasn’t as quite as hard as I imagined it would be. But do these generally descriptive terms tell you much about how I think? Can you really discern my frame of reference from all these adjectives?

Probably not.  I need to tell you more about how I think.  Not about everything, that would take far too long and be far too boring for anyone to read.  Instead I will focus on subjects that are both significant to me and have some bearing on this book.  Therefore please allow me to present you my thoughts in some semblance of order of importance.

#1 Behaviors are natural phenomena and real at the most fundamental level of reality.

This means we can study them using the same tools we use to study plants, fish, or straight lines.  It also means we can exclude the possibilities of unexplained forces that may otherwise influence our actions, such as: positions of planets, past lives, a variety of gods, or magic.  Finally, and best of all, declaring behavior as natural means we can ultimately understand and predict, and that’s what all this book is about.

To be continued …