One of the surest ways to start a conflict with someone is to start talking about politics with them. Taxation, state secrecy, police powers, welfare, immigration, traffic laws, healthcare, voting rights, industry regulations, minimum wage, tariffs, separation of Church and state, etc… these are all wonderful topics that can ruin a friendship in just one night. Yet why do political conversations seem to raise the stakes so high that even good friends can become bitter rivals? What is it about politics that makes it only a safe topic to talk about if two people share exactly the same political views as each other?
Well, I could do a well researched piece into this and talk about the neuroscience, but I’m eager to simply finish my blog entry to watch some TV so instead, I’m going to write about something I remember hearing on the History of England Podcast where the people were arguing with the kings repeatedly over the issue of the laws always changing. This struck me as odd because I’ve always lived in an era when the laws seem to be changing all the time. It never occurred to me that there might have been a time, indeed centuries, where the laws hardly changed at all, and that these state of affairs was seen as the ideal.
When it comes to the topic of narcissism, you might be surprised to learn that psychologists still hotly debate what narcissism actually is. Some say they have very high self-esteem, others that they have very low self-esteem. Others that they are self-aware and clever, others that they’re cognitively deficient and barely aware of themselves as active participants in their lives at all. Object relations theory suggests something is fundamentally wrong in their perception of objects both internal and external. Some say they don’t have any empathy, others that they have empathy, but they just don’t care. More importantly for a therapist; some say they can be treated successfully, but others that they are completely beyond rehabilitation. Then there are countless others who take up various positions between those ranges, and some additional views that I haven’t even mentioned. The only things that psychologists seem to agree on regarding narcissism is that they’re very difficult people to get along with; they tend to avoid therapy, they’re very easily offended, they are horrible parents, they’re almost never happy, and they’re controlling and destructive.
So when I talk about narcissism it is important that I am clear about what I am talking about, but also I often think with all the debate and disagreement among experts in the field maybe I should use a new term altogether in referring to them. I tend to use the term “tyranni” to refer to narcissists because for me the most distinctive aspect about a narcissist is not their supposed “self-love”, which is hotly debated, but their pervasive desire to dominate and subvert all their relationships: to act as little tyrants so to speak, hence I call them tyranni meaning “the little tyrants”. For this article I will use the term narcissism, but rest assured if I ever write a book about them I will probably call them tyranni instead.
One of the surest ways to get yourself in an awkward or aggravating situation these days is to bring up the topic of gender. Gender, once exclusively the domain of grammar, not biology, has become a political issue of the most taboo kind, especially if you are in university. In fact, the gender debate played a large role in my decision to withdraw from my PhD candidature and leave the academic environment. It wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in the ideas surrounding gender, but even though I was fascinated in the topic, and wanted to explore it, I did want to explore the topic in directions completely different to what is currently considered acceptable on university campuses.
The traditional view of gender, if there is indeed such a thing, is a difficult concept to pin down. I often muse to myself that maybe grammatical conventions started it all because words with a pretty ending were generally called “feminine” while words with a strong ending were called “masculine” and if people couldn’t agree if an ending was sufficiently pretty or strong to be either then it was “neuter”. I bet those early grammarians had no idea the chaos that would be unleashed on future generations thanks to their colourful scheme used to classify nouns. But I digress, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that there is a traditional view of gender and that femininity is emotional, empathic, relationship focused, and receptive. Conversely, masculine nature is rational, assertive, systematic, and mathematical. Yes, many people, myself included, would dispute these definitions as being too narrow, but this is just for illustrative purposes.
Now, let’s ask ourselves: how many men and women actually have genders that match these descriptions? Continue reading
A friend of mine has been urging me to take up blogging again to share my thoughts so more people can benefit from them. It’s a nice idea, but what should I write about? Fortunately, providence stepped in for me as I was walking home from the chemist this evening. There in a shop window was a large sign saying, “Every child deserves a happy life.” After reading such a fascinating sign I realised that I would have to write about this as soon as I got home.
In context, this sign was asking for people to donate to a charity that provides Christmas presents to children from poor families. Clearly, they were engaged in some form of flattery to suggest that giving such an unfortunate child a gift from a random stranger would somehow also give that child a happy life. While such subtle flattery is a sound strategy to get money from people, it is with sadness that I suggest that whatever the root cause of the hypothetical child’s sorrowful condition will far outweigh the impact of one random gift.
That said, I commend the spirit of such a charity. It might not be capable of giving an unfortunate child a happy life, but it could nonetheless shine a beam of hope and gratitude into their heart which could help them find happiness for themselves later on.