Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Great Evener called Society

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Some time back, I found myself wondering about the self-regulatory nature of markets. Many free market advocates have applied this concept to weight their arguments. Today, of course, in light of the global recession, this argument will sway fewer people; but it remains correct, I think. A self-regulated entity will inevitably oscillate between good and bad states, precisely because it is self-regulated. Anyway, this got me thinking about something else, something far more primeval than market forces and something that is similarly well regulated. Human society.

Why aren’t smart people good at everything they do? OK, before I continue, let me clarify my usage of ‘smart’ here: A smart person is one who has better processing skills (or understanding potential or grasping power) than average. This definition is neither complete nor completely accurate but I merely intend to use it in this sense, not generalize. Returning to the question, if a person has superior grasping skills, then won’t he be able to use this to become better at say, socializing? Can he not use his superior understanding to realize that women are attracted to strong men, and use this knowledge to gym his way to romantic success? A smart person should be able to play sports better because he can analyze situations better, right? Yet the stereotypical image of the college geek, of a rail thin person with fat spectacles, whose brain temporarily vacates premises in the presence of a pretty girl, and someone who can play enough football to trip over one, remains accurate more often than not.

The levelling process begins with school. Notice how the smart guy in school is battered into accepting his complete uselessness in any matters approaching romance. He withdraws into himself, with the unfortunate side effect that his socializing skills only become poorer. The levelling isn’t limited to the ‘smart’ person: the school bully is universally assumed to be a dunce with the emotional depth of a lamppost. The likely end result of an ensuing social evolution would be that the school bully indeed turns out that way. A similar view is held of pretty women. All they can do is coo and compare nail polish colours, right? I have a rather controversial observation to make here. Sometimes smart women do dumb themselves down to conform to the stereotype. Again, we see the great evener at work. The levelling works the other way too. People absorb confidence from things like personal appearance or wealth, and this confidence frees their mind. A confident person can be much more effective at what he does than someone doubtful, hesitant and conventionally ‘smart’. The levelling never stops, and strives ceaselessly to maintain equilibrium in a chaotic world.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

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Once upon a time, in a place far, far away, there lived a man. Superficially, there was nothing special about him. He went to work in a big shot software firm just like everyone else, he paid his taxes just like everyone else and he went to the temple on alternate weekends just like anyone else. But he suffered from a peculiar ailment. Everything in the wide, wide world either disgusted him, or offended his delicate sensibilities. He would see the long haired young man, with his low slung jeans and moan loudly at the deplorable decadence that had crept into human culture. He would see the billboard advertisement showing a couple in close embrace ostensibly selling jeans (again!), and moan loudly at the deplorable decadence that had barrelled into human culture. He would see the young woman chattering away on her cell phone, oblivious to the fact that that day was the Holy Religious Day of Silence (as ordained by Book X, Chapter 9, Sentence 666), and moan loudly at the deplorable decadence that now seemed to have nuked its way into human culture. Once done moaning, he would start wondering, with rising apoplexy, why those dunderheads in government didn’t moan along with him. They would have done something about this shocking state of affairs. Just when he would get down to calming down, he would hear someone on the street describe the latest punk rock sensation in lurid f-word filled terms, and his fury would swell again. He would open the window to remonstrate with him, only to be hit by a cloud of smoke from the aforementioned punk rock fan. It wasn’t the fact that smoking was a recognized killer that would offend him. Oh no! He was a card-carrying member of the neighbourhood cigar club himself. That honour would be reserved for the observation that the smoker was a woman. His face would turn the colour of overheated beetroot, and he would close the window before he scorched the entire neighbourhood with the force of his righteous indignation. Work would occupy him temporarily, but his sensibilities won’t be kept down for long. On the way home, he would shout at a stationary driver for having the temerity to park his car in a nondescript corner of the street to replace a punctured tyre. He certainly wouldn’t notice this of course, he would assume that the guy was simply texting his morally deplorable live-in girlfriend. At home, he would switch on TV to watch something sensible (like Fox News) only to be offended thoroughly by the latest reality show on offer. He would alternately fume at the ungodly clothing and speech of these people, and smile at the knowledge that an especially painful section of Hell awaited them. A thought would occur to him. What sort of monstrous influence can such TV shows have on the unspoiled mind of a hypothetical child? Finally he would decide that matters would have to be taken into his own morally pristine hands. He would compose a letter to the Editor lamenting the falling standards of morality and the rise of ungodliness, and explaining how beating up women in pubs was actually the only solution to this menace. He would fall into a reasonably restful sleep. The barking of dogs would wake him at dawn, and he would moan loudly at the deplorable decadence that made human society adopt these mangy, flea-ridden creatures as pets…

P.S. These are the people I'm talking about. Why do I think these people only increase in number everyday? I hope to hell they aren't evolutionarily favoured.