Pain, Pleasure And The New Culture Of Small Bits

The year was 2004, and we used to wait for someone to write in our Orkut scrapbooks. Broadband connections were nowhere nearly as fast as it is today, but we refreshed our scrapbooks every few minutes.  The arrival of each scrapbook entry made us happy. It’s easy to call us losers, but social networking websites met a fundamental human need. There was a time when I used to wake up at 6 to log into my Yahoo mail account. My internet connection was too slow that I couldn’t read mails before 8.  But when I could, I felt happy.

I spent many hours every day in Yahoo chat rooms. The boys in my hostel found this a waste of time. But I was instantly a hit with chicks. I metamorphosed into an online Casanova. Jocks in my college were worried. They said I was cheating. The plain truth is that I wrote well. Always on the lookout for great genes, teen girls didn’t miss this. Nerd is the new man. I felt pleasure when I was flooded with offline messages when I logged into Yahoo Messenger after many days. When I did not see enough of them, I was sad. Such pleasures and disappointments are what the internet and social media are all about. It is easy to call all this trivial. But this is big deal, because social media is our culture. For a nerd, the cost of sending out an instant message isn’t much, when compared to walking up to someone. Through small chunks of text I sent out and took in, I was creating a whole world inside my mind. My understanding of human nature became deeper over a long time.  Continue reading “Pain, Pleasure And The New Culture Of Small Bits”

Gail Wynand, My Favorite Fictional Character

“Gail Wynand lived with his father in the basement of an old house in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. His father was a longshoreman, a tall, silent, illiterate man who had never gone to school. His own father and his grandfather were of the same kind, and they knew of nothing but poverty in their family. But somewhere far back in the line there had been a root of aristocracy, the glory of some noble ancestor and then some tragedy, long since forgotten, that had brought the descendants to the gutter. Something about all the Wynands–in tenement, saloon and jail–did not fit their surroundings. Gail’s father was known on the waterfront as the Duke. 

Gail’s mother had died of consumption when he was two years old. He was an only son. He knew vaguely that there had been some great drama in his father’s marriage; he had seen a picture of his mother; she did not look and she was not dressed like the women of their neighborhood; she was very beautiful. All life had gone out of his father when she died. He loved Gail; but it was the kind of devotion that did not require two sentences a week. 

Gail did not look like his mother or father. He was a throwback to something no one could quite figure out; the distance had to be reckoned, not in generations, but in centuries. He was always too tall for his age, and too thin. The boys called him Stretch Wynand. Nobody knew what he used for muscles; they knew only that he used it. 

He had worked at one job after another since early childhood. For a long while he sold newspapers on street corners. One day he walked up to the pressroom boss and stated that they should start a new service–delivering the paper to the reader’s door in the morning; he explained how and why it would boost circulation. “Yeah?” said the boss. “I know it will work,” said Wynand. “Well, you don’t run things around here,” said the boss. “You’re a fool,” said Wynand.

He lost the job.  Continue reading “Gail Wynand, My Favorite Fictional Character”

Happy Women’s Day, People

Oh, Happy Women’s Day. But, sorry. It is not true that women are more oppressed in any society—or that they were, at any point in time. It is just that women’s suffering is taken more seriously. These two books are good places to begin:

“I think one unfortunate legacy of feminism has been the idea that men and women are basically enemies. I shall suggest, instead, that most often men and women have been partners, supporting each other rather than exploiting or manipulating each other. Nor is this about trying to argue that men should be regarded as victims. I detest the whole idea of competing to be victims. And I’m certainly not denying that culture has exploited women. But rather than seeing culture as patriarchy, which is to say a conspiracy by men to exploit women, I think it’s more accurate to understand culture (e.g., a country, a religion) as an abstract system that competes against rival systems — and that uses both men and women, often in different ways, to advance its cause.”

Roy F Baumeister, Is There Anything Good About Men?

“Sexism negatively affects not only women and girls, but also men and boys. While the former manifestation of sexism is widely acknowledged, few people recognize or take seriously the fact that males are the primary victims of many and quite serious forms of sex discrimination. Male disadvantages include the absence of immunity, typically enjoyed by females, from conscription into military service. Men, unlike women, are not only conscripted but also sent into combat, where they risk injury, both physical and psychological, and death. Men are also disproportionately the victims of violence in most (but not all) non-combat contexts. For example, most victims of violent crime are male, and men are often (but again not always) specially targeted for mass killing. Males are more likely than females to be subject to corporal punishment. Indeed, sometimes such punishment of females is prohibited, while it is permitted, if not encouraged, for males. Although males are less often victims of sexual assault than are females, the sexual assault of males is typically taken less? ?seriously and is thus even more? ?significantly under-reported. Fathers are less likely than mothers to win custody of their children in the event of divorce.?”?

David Benatar, The Second Sexism

 

Your Privilege, Check It

10416589_361962470645963_5020838959368742314_nThe quality of the debates on blogs—or even Facebook—is much better than the quality of the debates in the mainstream media. This is true even of the debates among non-academics. Today’s pick:

Maureen Smith I’m starting to think the men I know are actually far more sensitive, and idealistic, than women I know and that they are less likely to admit it out of fear of seeming ‘weak’.

Spence Aaron Of course we are. Why do you think so many of us are so easily duped into throwing away our lives in wars over ideologies?

Scott Bowers Actually, you are hanging out with boys……not men.

Shanu Athiparambath That is evolutionary.

Eli Harman I think men are certainly more idealistic. Women might be better at appealing to idealism to get what they want, which would make sense considering who they’re usually trying to get it from, and qualify as a sort of pragmatism.

Freya Wilde I don’t find either more sensitive than the other. But I’ve noticed individuals differ.

Wil Stewart Abrams Evolutionarily Men can afford to be. We produce a billion sperm a day with no real stake in where they end up. Women produce one egg once a month and if it’s fertilized its a life time commitment. We have the evolutionary leisure time to be sensitive and idealistic. Evolutionarily woman have had to be selective, realistic and able to make the tough choices man are not required to make.

Ryan Underhill It may be not one’s underlying philosophy, Maureen, but rather the projection thereof. 

“Oh Rational Thought,
Which Are In My Brain,
Lead Me Not Into Anecdote,
And Guide Us Away From
False Generalizations. 

In Lao Tzu’s Name,
Namaste.”

Eli Harman I think part of the explanation has got to be the relative certainty of maternity compared to paternity. 

In our deep evolutionary history, when men and women alike were promiscuous, women knew for certain who their children were, while men knew only that some of the tribe’s children could be theirs.

Consequently, women were free to develop a more perfect egoism. While men had to rely on abstract proxies like “the good of the tribe.”

Some people have noted a stronger tendency, among women, towards socialism and collectivism.

Given women’s risk aversion and security seeking, this is explicable purely in terms of rational self-interest. 

Conversely, men support relatively more individual initiative and responsibility not only because it *may* prove more beneficial for them (emphasis on the uncertainty), but because it’s ascertainably certain that a certain amount is necessary to make the tribe competitive with others, whatever the individual cost.

Eli Harman Ayn Rand was wrong, her individualism is a form of altruism and egoism leads to communism.

Eli Harman How many states have been built by women?

The whole issue is riddled with contradictions.
History and literature are permeated with the trope of men going off to war, and women pleading with them not to. This has been offered as evidence of women’s moral superiority. I think the explanation is rather more simple. War, even at its most necessary and just, represents paying a personal cost, for a collective benefit. Women, the ultimate selfish pragmatists, are less likely to see this as a worthwhile trade.

Shanu Athiparambath Individuals differ. But, does that mean that groups do not differ? The people who do not judge others by their group affiliations will not react so hysterically to true generalizations. 

Mike Green Manalishi You may be confusing “sensitivity” and “idealism” with “Don Juanism”.

Eli Harman Also, the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women. Women frequently give voice to the fear that men – being shallow – might “trade them in” for a younger model, or whatever. But the evidence would seem to suggest that they’re projecting.

 

 

Voters Are Like Adolescent Boys

amrita1Many decades from now, my fondest memories of elections in my youth will be that of the indelible ink mark on the fingers of conscientious people littering my Facebook newsfeed. According to the Election Commission, the polling rate in the 2014 elections is the greatest in the history of independent India. Before you sing loud hosannas to the voter who carries a part of the Indian society on his shoulders, remember: voters are like adolescent boys. It is dangerous to give them what they crave. 

There is nothing more dangerous than asking an adolescent boy whether he loves his girlfriend. He might swear he will go to the ends of the world for his love, because deep down, he knows his plan will never get off the ground. The adolescent girl is far more reticent because she will ditch him and marry someone else when she grows up, which will be soon. The adolescent boy votes with his heart. For him, love is “near”, marriage is “far”. He is a visionary, but he is also a deluded hypocrite. But the adolescent girl votes with her feet because her vote is, after all, decisive. For her, love is “far”, marriage is “near”. 

But then, it is impossible to give voters what they profess to like without aggressing against them, as it is impossible to give the teenage boy what he “craves” without aggressing against the girl. The aggression might as well be worth it if that is what they genuinely want. But, what if it is not? Of course, the difference is that unlike the teenage boys, the sanest among us learn to live with what the average voter chose when he was knocked out of his wits.

Read My Column In DNA.

How many batteries do you have?

How many batteries do you have?

I read a story about an eight-year-old Aspie boy in Tony Attwood’s “The Complete Guide To Asperger Syndrome”:

The door bell rang, heralding the arrival of another guest for Alicia’s birthday party. Her mother opened the door and looked down to see Jack, the last guest to arrive. It was her daughter’s ninth birthday and the invitation list had been for ten girls and one boy. Alicia’s mother had been surprised at this inclusion, thinking that girls her daughter’s age usually consider boys to be smelly and stupid, and not worthy of an invitation to a girl’s birthday party. But Alicia had said that Jack was different. His family had recently moved to Birmingham and Jack had been in her class for only a few weeks. Although he tried to join in with the other children, he hadn’t made any friends. The other boys teased him and wouldn’t let him join in any of their games. Last week he had sat next to Alicia while she was eating her lunch, and as she listened to him, she thought he was a kind and lonely boy who seemed bewildered by the noise and hectic activity of the playground. He looked cute, a younger Harry Potter, and he knew so much about so many things. Her heart went out to him and, despite the perplexed looks of her friends when she said he was invited to her party, she was determined he should come. And here he was, a solitary figure clutching a birthday card and present which he immediately gave to Alicia’s mother. She noticed he had written Alicia’s name on the envelope, but the writing was strangely illegible for an eight-year-old. ‘You must be Jack,’ she said and he simply replied with a blank face, ‘Yes’. Continue reading “How many batteries do you have?”

Every time, her bosom seemed a little softer

Every time I stare at her breasts, I feel tenderness.

At the age of twelve, I found my bench-mate’s descriptive style appalling. My moral sensibilities forbid me from delving into a detailed analysis of his power of observation, but it was often about our English teacher’s breasts. I remember that one day, when I did not take the textbook with me to school, she said, “No punishment for anyone today. I am letting you go with a warning today, because I cannot think of doing anything to him.” The boys in my class settled the scores by writing my name in the list of the boys who made “noise” in the classroom. Once when the boys stood up, turning around to take their textbook from the bags when she entered the classroom, she said staring at her textbook, “Quick. I do not want to see your backs.” It left me thinking, “What is going on?”

When a young teacher was taking classes, this boy asked me whether I would want to sleep with her, if she had entered my house. When I said, “No”, he asked whether my decision is final, or whether it would change if it were a rainy day. But, I have always had fixed opinions, on everything. I do not intend to mean that I have ever had any respect for age differences or social limits. In my mind, I have pictured every beautiful girl I have known since the age of three, irrespective of their age, though not quite in the same pornographic detail in which pre-adolescents would have had it. Continue reading “Every time, her bosom seemed a little softer”

My Experiences With Homosexuality

They have a disease called homosexuality. Do you know what it means?

In junior high school, the lunch break seemed all too short. When we were thirteen, every boy liked to play, except the class topper, a freak who never needed to study, and the wayward backbenchers. They did not leave the classroom when everyone else did. My only friend in high school once said, “He, and his friends, they have a disease called homosexuality. Do you know what it means?” I said, “Yes. I have read about it.”

I first read of homosexuality in a memoir in which the author, a scientist once met a friendly middle-aged man in a wine bar. The middle-aged man insisted that he needed a place to sleep. When the author said that there are many hotels in the city, the “friend” said that they are very expensive. The author took this man home, where he was staying as a paying guest. When the author decided to sleep on the sofa, asking him to sleep on the bed, the “friend” claimed that it made him feel guilty. He insisted that they could sleep together, puzzled, asking the author why he took him home when he had no intention to sleep together. The scientist did not understand what was going on. When he was asked to leave, the friend said that he needed money. The landlord woke up hearing the verbal duel, paid the friend, asked him to go, telling the author that there are many maricón’s in the city. Homosexuals. After this incident, the landlord and his daughter did not talk to him much. Continue reading “My Experiences With Homosexuality”

Sexism And Other Victimologies

Vitamins, Darling! I always get my vitamins.

I still remember my first day in primary school. The “male chauvinists” in my class insisted that they will not be sitting with the girls anymore. I was the only boy who was willing to sit with them. I have always had a very exact mind, a mind that took words literally, a mind that judged an idea on its own merits. The other boys said, “If you love them so much, why don’t you kiss them?” I sat there, feeling alienated—feeling cut off.

I was convinced that this “attitude” was transmitted from father to son, but the Indian economy was at the cusp of liberalization. I felt that it would take a few more years for the country to undermine, and eventually wreck the remnants of the patriarchal culture. But, I was wrong. On my first day in middle school, I walked into the classroom, and found a place without noticing that there were separate rows for girls. The girls looked at me with intense disapproval, and said that my handwriting was “very bad”. It hurt me so much. Continue reading “Sexism And Other Victimologies”

Spanking In Popular Literature

In later life, she always associated this with snow.

As a social experiment, I occasionally share a scene in Mon fils a moi on my Facebook wall. A controlling mother enters the bathroom when her twelve-year old son stands naked. When he covers himself up with his hands, she asks him to take his hands off. She strikes his legs with a towel, and when he tries to pick up his underwear, she snatches it and gives it to him. When he wears it staring at her face, trembling, she shakes her head smiling. She then leaves the room after stroking his hair.

Everyone ignores this when I share it on my wall, even though it is a visual. Ordinary people love visuals more than text. Yet, they ignore it, because they are not doing so because they are indifferent to it.  A lady once told me that they ignore it because it is something to be enjoyed, but not to be talked about.

For people to ignore something that bothers them, it has to be something that really bothers them, something that bothers them to the point that they are compelled to ignore it. This is an important concept that has much wider implications. Continue reading “Spanking In Popular Literature”

The Madness Of The Crowds

Rape has roots in male sexuality.

The mainstream media is busy popularizing the myth that rape is a tool of domination and subjugation. Sexual crimes against women are blamed on everything from judicial failure to the innate depravity of the Indian male. But, what is missing in their “analysis” is a fact known to every self aware man: Rape has roots in male sexuality. In other words, Rape is primarily motivated by sexual desire. This is not just the evolutionary psychology explanation for rape. This is common sense. Only fanatics can deny such obvious truths.

But, there was not a single Indian journalist who was willing to state this with the authority of scholarship. This, of course, means that almost everything that is written on the issue is nonsense. But, how is this even possible in a country with a population of over 1200 million? Part of the explanation is that almost all of them are duds. But, it is also because they are not very curious about the truth. They are not even aware of the expert opinion in the issues they write about. They don’t read.  This is the most underrated moral failure of our times.

Observe the results. The  “Rape Is Not Sex” view is now considered the expert consensus by feminists, journalists, activists and other such weak-hearted people. But, this is just a popular delusion that gained currency only after the publication of Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 work, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Sensible thinkers never took much to it. Sensible men never found it convincing enough. There were many important works that rejected this view, like Donald Symons’ 1979 work The Evolution of Human Sexuality and Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer’s work A Natural History of Rape. Continue reading “The Madness Of The Crowds”