Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Constructed Desires

Recently, a certain question has surfaced in a number of different ways. It's a perplexing question and not an easy one to answer. In many ways it is a very human question, which relies heavily upon epistemology. In setting up this question, it's important to note a few things. First of all, like it or not, we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, a product of our culture. We do not exist in a vacuum, but receive constant feedback and suggestions from others. Second, we are highly susceptible to suggestion, especially of the pervasive and consistent sort. Given these two things, how can any individual determine which desires of his are natural, and which are artificially constructed?

In the modern world, there exist entire career fields that are devoted to convincing people that they desire certain things. Your life is incomplete without a sleek, new car. Your beauty is seriously lacking unless you have the latest makeup products. You aren't sufficiently cultured unless you've read this book or seen that movie. If only you did this, bought that or lived there you would be happy and content. Of course, it's all a cleverly-contructed lie. But, it works. Because of the constant stream of things we're told, we begin to internalize some of these constructed desires. It's not especially hard to know what you desire. You might think, "I wish I had a different job." Or perhaps its, "I would be happier with a more attractive girlfriend/boyfriend." Maybe it's more innocuous like, "I really want a Pepsi." In most cases, you probably do actually desire whatever you think you desire. But, would you desire whatever it is, if you were simply left to your own devices? Another way to ask it is, it your desire a genuine and natural one, or an artificial and constructed one?

The easiest answer is simply to say that all desires are natural. I want a Pepsi because I actually enjoy it immensely. I want a high-paying job at a good company because that would actually satisfy me. I want to wear nice clothes because I enjoy dressing well. But, this answer can't be quite right. After all, both individual tastes and collective tastes are subjective. What is considered a good job varies from person to person, and even varies in its social status perception from one group to the next. To some, being a Hollywood actor is a very prestigious and desirable job. To others, Hollywood actors, while an understandable part of society, are a bit of a joke; they are viewed as people to be pitied rather than envied. Often our individual preferences conform fairly consistently to the preferences of our various social groups. You avoid certain activities, brands or items because of what your peers would think. You tend towards certain activities, brands or items because they are positively perceived by your peers. Obviously, there are a good many desires that are socially-constructed or socially-modified, rather than being natural.

Contrarily, it is similarly clear that not all desires are socially-constructed. Even when doublethink occurs, there is always some underlying natural desire. Though feminism may teach that women can be quite happy and satisfied in pursuing a career-centric life and eschewing relationships, the innate hard-wired desire of women to raise a family and find meaning through a romantic relationship is something that will inescapably emerge, either when there is still hope or too late. Though relentless advertising may have subconsciously linked thirst with a desire for soft drinks, the underlying thirst is still a natural desire. Though the latest technological fads may seem to promise to be the final gadget you'll need to be happy, a promise which it will not fulfill, the desires for satisfaction and happiness are natural ones. Though many natural desires are diverted or distorted, they still exist on some level and, in their purest form, are completely valid.

It is quite evident that, for the modern person, their desires are a convoluted mixture of natural and artificial desires. The artificial desires almost always promise more than they can deliver. This perpetuates an endless chain of striving, while the dangling lure of satisfaction always remains just barely out of reach. They are deceitful desires. Yet, because of social indoctrination and exposure to the ceaseless barrage of lies, we either falsely hope that the next thing will deliver the satisfaction we seek, or we despair in believing that there is no satisfaction to be found. Blind pursuit or hopeless resignation are not the answer. If there is to be freedom and contentment it must come from cutting through the lies and clinging to the truth. That is no easy task, but it is a necessary discipline if we wish to have contentment and happiness.

In order to be free from the culturally-contructed discontent that permeates our minds, we must be able to separate our natural desires from our artificial ones. We must deny the false belief that having newer or better things, people or circumstances in our lives will bring contentment. Contentment is found only in a consistently practiced attitude of gratitude and in the spiritual discipline of resisting the impulse towards self-gratification. Only once we intentionally climb down off the hedonic treadmill and stopping concerning ourselves with social acclaim and approval will it be possible to be content. It's not an easy task, but it is the only way to be freed from the overwhelming drive towards the next thing that promises meaning and satisfaction. A prettier girl, a new hobby, a bigger house or more vacation hours won't really bring the happiness they promise. Contentment will. But it's a discipline, and quite a challenging one at that. It's one that I struggle with daily.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Time For Everything

The Scripture is full of profound perspective-changing wisdom. This morning, as I was reading through Ecclesiastes, I was struck by how strongly our culture wants to live and view the world in an unrealistically positive light. The realist recognizes and accepts life exactly as it is. He does not rail against the inevitable. He does not deny the need, during different times and in different circumstances, to respond to life in very different ways. As you read this, see if you can grasp what perspective is being offered by Solomon, and what perspective our smiley-face modern culture adopts:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
And a time to die;

A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,
And a time to heal;

A time to break down,
And a time to build up;

A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;

A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain,
And a time to lose;

A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;

A time to tear,
And a time to sew;

A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;

A time to love,
And a time to hate;

A time of war,
And a time of peace.
While the author of these words is seeking to remind his readers that a holistic perspective of life recognizes the necessity and value of each half of the pairings, our culture would prefer to exalt and emphasize only one half of each couplet. We love to dance, but don't take time to mourn. We love to love, but forget that there are appropriate times and places for hate. We love to heal, but harbor an unhealthy aversion to killing. We like to speak, but we aren't very familiar with the discipline of silence. We're big on peace, but are unwilling to fight for what should not be ceded. We like to gain, but not to lose. We love to get paid, but we're not quite as excited about working hard. We build up that which should not be built up and tear down that which should not be torn down. We're quick to hoard and slow to give. In this cruel time, we not only despise death, we also despise birth, hence the modern prevalence of abortion. How unbalanced we have become, in our thinking and views!

Yet, if we wish to live life God's way, in accordance with life as it actually is, we must have our eyes opened to see the value of those things of which our culture bears an irrational aversion towards. Death is not something to be feared, but instead should serve as a reminder that our lives are evanescent and fleeting. We must embrace birth as a joyous occasion to celebrate new life, and we must be grateful that God, in his mercy, allows physical death to serve as a reminder that we are both flawed and eternal beings, and that our existence is not merely physical. We must be brave enough to hate what should be hated, and insightful enough to love what is lovely. We must be courageous enough to kill, when it is called for, as well as to heal, at the right times. War is something that, though terrible, is sometimes necessary, hence we must know when, how and why to fight.

Wisdom recognizes that silence is sometimes the best thing to say, and the best state of the heart. Speaking should come in turn, but we must not always be hasty to speak our minds. We must be industrious in our labors and diligent in our work, so that we may be fully pleased with receiving compensation for our duties. We must learn not just to be consumers, but also to be charitable givers, seeking the good of others. We must recognize that both in our own lives and in the lives of others, there are times for encouragement and times for reproof. We must not be afraid to call others to repentance and offer much-needed correction when appropriate. We must not solely concern ourselves with the pursuit of pleasure, but must also take time to weep and mourn. Those times are necessary and good for the soul.

Where there exists within us a tendency to polarize towards either end of the spectrum, we must seek balance and be in a place where we recognize the value and import of those things that are labeled by our culture as "desirable" as well as those that our culture views as evils to be avoided. Both within ourselves and as members of our society, we must pursue balanced thinking and balanced living. For some, their individual calling may lean towards one side of the spectrum. Yet, such individuals must be cautious they they do not despise or oppose those with an opposite calling. Some people are more skilled at tearing down and some at building up. So long as they both do it in the right way, we must not despise either. Maybe you have a tendency to be strongly vocal about your views. That is a good thing, as long as you properly value the silence of others and take time to be silent, yourself. The pages of Scripture, and the wisdom of the ages teach that there must exist balance. Let us not adopt the unbalanced stances of our present culture.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Album Release - Acceleration

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the following news...

Today marks the release of my second studio album, Acceleration. It is a musical journey of epic proportions, with a variety of instrumental progressive rock tracks. Sonically, it offers powerful sections ranging from soaring orchestral melodies to driving metal riffs, with numerous other elements to be discovered and enjoyed. From beginning to end, it is an energetic and rocking album!

Three years of work has gone into the arrangement, recording and production of this album, and I am quite happy to present it to you. All of the artwork for this album was created by the talented Nate Horsfall. Additionally, guest artists Edwin Rhodes and Carl Stanley contributed their musical talents in a collaboration on a progressive jazz fusion track. Three of the tracks featured on this album took first place in music competitions.

If you enjoy progressive rock or wish to support my artistic endeavors, order a copy today! For more information, or to order a copy of my new album, please visit my artist website: TheoConfidor.com

Monday, April 19, 2010

Game - Applicability Within the Financial Domain

As I have written previously, psychosocial dominance, or Game, is something that is useful in a broad array of settings and situations. Today, I was again reminded of the practical value of utilizing Game. Yesterday, when I went online briefly to print out a concert ticket, I had an e-mail in my inbox informing me that I had been charged a fee on my Chase Checking account. At first I was quite puzzled as to what could possibly lead my account to be charged a fee. Then, I logged in online and read the fine print. It certainly wasn't worded the way the banker explained it to me when I opened the two accounts in January. Of course, like all stories, this one begins at the beginning.

Sometime in January, I received a promotional offer in the mail. Financial institutions are always proselytizing and marketing their products. If you're like me and have an excellent credit rating, you typically receive about 3 offers for pre-approved, high-limit credit cards every month. This offer was a bit different. In this offer, Chase was offering $250 if I would simply open a checking account with their bank. The free money was definitely tempting, but there was yet another incentive that sweetened the deal even more. Last year, Chase offered a credit card that had a rewards program far superior to the one attached to my Citibank card, and so I decided to change my primary credit card. Interestingly enough, the credit card rewards could be boosted significantly by also having an active Chase checking account. Neither of those offers would have been quite enough to convince me to open an account, but the combination of the two made the deal worthwhile enough that I decided to open an account. $250 free cash as well as effectively doubling my credit card rewards was simply too much to pass up.

Since I never like to do things without proper consideration, I looked into the details of opening an account and talked to a Chase banker, to ensure that I understood the account terms and conditions. The banker recommended that I open a Money Market account in addition to the Checking account. He said that as long as I maintained a minimum daily average of $1500 between the two accounts, there would be no fees. I figured that it wouldn't hurt to have another account setup, similar to my existing one at Citibank. Because I thought the accounts were linked, it didn't seem to matter how I split my money between the two new accounts. So, I happily set up the two new accounts and transferred a reasonable amount of money into each of them. Three months passed by with no incident.

Consequently, I was quite surprised to find that they charged me a $12 service fee last Friday, seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, when I looked at the fine print on the statement, it told a different story than the banker had told me when I opened the account. It said that the daily minimum balance for each account was $1500, and that for multiple accounts the fee would only be waived if the combined daily average exceeded $5000. This was a bit of a shock, but given my inner game state, I knew that it would be very simple to resolve the whole misunderstanding/deception. Today, before making the call, I decided how I would respond to any given outcome. If they were willing to transfer the funds from my money market account to my checking account and refund the service fee then I would continue to do business with them. If they were not willing to waive my fee or quickly and painlessly handle my request, then I would close both accounts and do no more banking with them.

In this sense, subconsciously I held the following views:
- I am a high value customer
- Many banks desire the privilege of handling my money
- I have numerous banking options
- If any bank does not treat me right, they lose my business
- All banking that occurs happens on my terms

As you can see, this mindset embodies the inner game traits of assertiveness, calmness, confidence, independence and indifference. Assertiveness is embodied in the fact that I would be completely clear and up front about exactly what had occurred and precisely what I want. Calmness is embodied in the fact that no matter what they do or say, it will not shake my resolve or negatively affect my emotional state. Confidence is embodied by my realization that I am an excellent banking customer with a proven track record and my business is welcome anywhere. Independence is shown in the fact that I take responsiblity for my own money and am not dependent on any organization or institution. Indifference is shown in the fact that I have prepared for all eventualilties, and therefore am not further harmed or particularly inconvenienced no matter how they respond.

Having prepared myself and thought through all my options, I called my bank and spent the necessary 20 minutes of time needed to resolve the issue to my satisfaction. As expected, reasonable results are nearly always granted to those who are assertive, respectful and dominant in their dealings. Precisely as I desired, they refunded the service fee, clarified the fee policy as it actually stands (rather than being incorrectly communicated as it was initially), and merged my money account into my checking account. The proper application of psychosocial dominance nearly always results in a satisfactory outcome in any area of life. In this case, Game ensured a successful reversal of the unreasonable service fee.

Just like in any relationship, the issue at hand is never the real issue. $12 is never about $12. The real issue is always behavior and relational dominance. Any issue that is properly handled can be nipped in the bud, so that it never becomes a serious problem. In this instance with the bank, I don't ever want any institution to get the idea that they can do whatever they wish with my money. They are my stewards and they serve my interests. So long as they take good care of what is mine, they are welcome to earn a profit from circulating my money and earning interest on it. But, if they ever cross my will and are irresponsible with my funds or unreasonable in their behavior towards me, the business relationship ends immediately.

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Defense of Stereotypes

In these days, outside of the context of jokes, there seems to be much public aversion to stereotypes of all sorts. There also is a great deal of misunderstanding about generalizations. The common aversion to stereotypes and the reflexive inclination to apply needless disclaimers to generalizations seem to be related issues that stem from a fundamental misconception about how the world works and about how the human brain functions.

A stereotype is, "a commonly held public belief about specific social groups, or types of individuals." Definitionally, a stereotype is more generally accepted than a mere generalization. Apart from that, all of the standard limitations that apply to generalizations also apply to stereotypes. Namely, that there are always exceptions, and that the strength of a stereotype is determined by how consistently it correlates with reality.

Generalizing is a necessary and useful component of human thought. It is what enables us to contemplate the world, and it is what differentiates human thought from computer processing. Computers process information on the basis of established and invariable rules. Because of this, computers are very effective at processing information that requires linear processing or computation. Computers excel at adding number, performing queries, retrieving data and manipulating information sets. However, computers are generally quite weak at pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is something that humans excel at, precisely because we generalize.

If you show a person three different bowls, they are able to easily internalize the concept of what constitutes a "bowl." From that point on, if you present that person with any sort of bowl, regardless of color or shape, they will consistently be able to recognize the object presented as a bowl, even if they have never been told that the object specifically presented is a bowl. Likewise, suppose a person is presented with a lemon, a lime and a orange and taught that all of these fruits are citrus fruits. When you present the person with an apple, they will correctly deduce that it is not a citrus fruit. When you present the person with a grapefruit, they will note the vast array of similarities to the other citrus fruits and correctly categorize it as a citrus fruit. This cognitive pattern recognition is intimately tied to the human capacity to generalize.

In fact, all human critical thinking skills rely upon the cognitive ability to generalize. Generalization is used in problem-solving, in object-identification, in answering questions, in envisioning new approaches, in creating new things and in developing heuristics. In interacting with the world, we interact with objects, people and challenges by using generalizations. Proper cognitive processing is a necessary prerequisite to performing proper actions.

If we threw away mental generalizations, then we would be unable to function in our world. For example, let us suppose that I learned to program on my computer at home. When I go to work and am given a workstation and told to program an application, I would be unable to do it if I assumed that this strange box in front of me was entirely dissimiliar from my computer at home. I would be unable to program if I assumed that different computers require utterly different types of programming. If I threw out all generalizations, then I would have to re-teach myself everything from the ground up, since I would assume that all my previous knowledge only applies to the highly limited set of conditions under which it was learned. It is quite impossible to function in the real world without generalizing.

Similarly, a stereotype about a specific social group is simply a commonly held generalization about how individuals in such a group appear, act or think. There are many possible examples of stereotypes. Women are short. Blacks have dark skin. Corporate executives are highly-paid. Young men drive fast. As with any generalization, a stereotype may be strong or weak. A stereotype that is nearly always true is a strong stereotype, and therefore is more useful than a weaker stereotype. A stereotype itself is simply a statement that describes how things appear. Also, it is important to note that there is nothing intrinsically judgmental about using a stereotype. If I say that women are short, my statement may be valid or invalid, but it casts no judgment on the fact. I haven't said whether it is good or bad for women to be short. The only legitimate question is whether my stereotype accurate reflects reality.

Now, usage of a stereotype may depict an unpleasant truth. If I say that lawyers are greedy, the proper question is not whether I am judging lawyers but whether or not my statement is generally true. If I say that women are romantically irrational, it is of no use to jump all over me for stating such a thing. The proper question to ask is simply what precisely I mean, and whether or not my observation is generally true. If the stereotype matches reality, then my statement is true, regardless of the implications of such a truth.

Unfortunately, some people have a relexive aversion to all stereotypes. They are more than happy to dismiss any unpleasant truths simply because they are stated as a generalization or because they express a stereotype. This is an cognitive error. Last week, in response to a statement I made about men and women, someone responded:

Saying that all men are goal-oriented and all women are relationship-oriented is a gross generalization that can't be taken seriously. Haven't we been over this before?
That something is a generalization or even a "gross generalization" has no bearing on its veracity. The question is not whether stating that men are goal-oriented is a generalization or not--of course it is! The question is whether or not it matches reality. If it matches reality, then it is an accurate generalization. If it is commonly held and correct, then it is an accurate stereotype. This vital distinction is lost on those who emotionally react to all generalizations and stereotypes.

Just as generalizations are necessary for accomplishing tasks and interacting with the world, stereotypes are necessary for guiding personal interactions. By categorizing people and create mental depictions of those categories, we are able to develop useful heuristics for how to deal with various sorts of people. One should interact with women differently than one interacts with men. One should interact with friends differently than one interacts with teachers. One should interact differently with strangers than with family members. One should treat lawyers differently than firemen. This is common sense. Common sense declares that stereotypes are a very useful way to establish a metnal framework for relating to any new person.

To throw out stereotypes when dealing with people is as dangerous as throwing out generalizations when approaching tasks. If I meet a new girl and I assume that she is entirely different from any other person I have ever met before, then I will be absolutely clueless as to how to treat her. If I throw out all assumptions then I cannot even assume she speaks the same language as I do, nor that she gets hungry and eats food, nor that she is even a human being. Instead, in order to relate to her at all, I must assume that she is mostly similar to other American girls her age. Though there certainly will be some differences, the differences will be fairly minor and the applicability of stereotypes will be nearly comprehensive. 11 Minutes has written an insightful series on this very topic. He persuasively argues that no-one is as unique as they think they are.

Therefore, it is evident that stereotypes are useful and necessary for informing social interaction and social analysis both on the personal and cultural levels. To reject stereotypes simply because they are stereotypes is to commit an error in logic that will consistently lead to poor ways of interacting or, in rare cases, an ignorance-based passivity. There is no intrinsic danger in the use of generalizations and stereotypes. There is great danger in whimsically or categorically rejecting them.

If there is one danger related to stereotypes, it is the error of inaccurate stereotypes. If a stereotype does not generally correlate with reality, then it is a commonly held misconception. Misconceptions are dangerous since they constitute a distorted view of reality. The danger of inaccurate stereotypes, then, is not that they are stereotypes; the danger of inaccurate stereotypes is that they are inaccurate. The danger of inaccuracy is a large one, and one which serves as the basis for nearly all fundamental worldview differences. Inaccurate views of the facts is what causes the divide between Catholics and Protestants, feminists and traditionalists, conservatives and progressives, capitalists and socialists and nearly any other ideological schism you can recall. People fundamentally disagree over what is observed. When such disagreements occur, at least one of the views must be incorrect. The danger of inaccuracy is an epistemological issue and is by no means limited to the confines of stereotypes.

We are left with the conclusion that stereotypes and generalizations are both useful and necessary for thinking about our world. They are useful and necessary for interacting with people, solving problems, dealing with new situations, advocating social change, and encouraging people to be true to their natures. The sole danger in stereotyping or generalizing is simply that they may be inaccurate. Since this is a danger that inescapably applies to all of life and perception, it is not a danger unique to generalizing, and therefore is by no means a reason to oppose the usage of stereotypes. On this basis, the only rational and reasonable recourse is for stereotypes and generalizations to be readily stated and utilized for the purposes of understanding, discussing and relating to social groups. The common modern aversion to stereotypes and the reflexive desire to add excessive disclaimers is irrational, unreasonable and actively harmful, since it inhibits frank discussions and the quest for truth.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gender Roles and RPGs - A Discussion

A few days ago, I had a very interesting discussion concerning whether a Biblically-modeled patriarchal family structure necessarily implied that women are worse than men. The discussion also touched on whether or not a Biblical view of gender roles is sexist.
TheoConfidor: I believe that the patriarchal structure is what results in the most fulfillment and happiness for both men and women. A man should be a man, lead his household, be respected by his family and make a difference in the world. A woman should help a man in his goals, submit to his leadership willingly, love him passionately and respect him.

Corax: Are you then implying that women are innately inferior to men in regards to familial leadership? It sure seems like it, that a woman's leadership, "wearing the pants," seems to result in "discord, sadness and strife" in a family, to your eyes.

TheoConfidor: I am not implying that women are innately inferior in regards to familial leadership. In some cases, a wife may be more capable of leading her family than her husband. That isn't the issue. The issue is role-designation and not innate ability.

Since we are all gamers, please allow me to use a simple RPG example. Sometimes my brothers and I play D&D. Each of us has a specific class-role. The cleric should do the healing. The fighter should provoke the enemy and absorb attacks. The barbarian should smash dangerous enemies. The wizard should help by wiping out minions and doing some mobility control. Now, it might be that the fighter is built in such a way that he could do more damage than the barbarian. However, if he chooses to focus on killing enemies rather than taking the enemy aggro, more damage might be done, but it might also leave the more fragile party members open to attack. Stepping out of his role occasionally might be a good thing, but if he continually focuses on dealing damage rather than on tanking, the party will suffer and everyone will be less effective than if he stuck to his designated role.

It's the same way in the family. A man has his role, and a woman has her role. To the degree that each one fulfills their natural role, they will derive fulfillment and also contribute great to the group's success. To the degree that each one steps outside of their role, the family will be less effective and less fulfilled in the long run. Unlike with an RPG where each player can choose their own class, men and women are hardwired to perform their divinely-designated roles.

Corax: Problem with that would be that it still assumes and implies that women are inferior to men in leadership roles, particularly family ones. And that's called sexism.

TheoConfidor: The Bible never teaches that women are inferior to men. Different, yes. Inferior, no. There is no sexism in taking a Biblical stance on gender and gender roles.

Corax: I should also point out that I and no one else is proclaiming that women and men are exactly the same, and no rational feminists would state that either; that's not the point of feminism. Feminism is the pursuit of the end of discrimination against women. Which is based on the notion that men and women are equals (which seems to contradict your views Theo, given your descriptions of domination and such. "Loving" or not, it's still inequality).

TheoConfidor: If women are different than men, then it makes sense that one should treat them differently. Equality (of worth and value) does not imply equality of condition, equality of capacity in all areas, nor equal roles.

Again, in the example of an RPG, would it be reasonable to say that the cleric is more valuable or better than the fighter? Is the wizard better than the rogue? The simple fact is, they all are necessary and needed. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. One is good at healing and protecting, one is good at absorbing attacks and restricting enemy motion, one is good at controlling and special effects, and one is good at delivering the stabby-death. If the party is missing any one of it's members, it will not function as well. Each one is different, but each one is equally needed and equally valuable to the party.

The Christian worldview doesn't have such a limited view of "better-worse" hierarchies as the modern secular person does. In Christianity, all the members of the body of Christ, though possessing different gifts, are all equally valuable and necessary. The janitor who sweeps the floors is is necessary as the pastor who preaches. Those who have the gift of mercy and compassion are as crucial as those with the gift of prophecy. The weak are as valuable and treasured in God's eyes as the strong. The poor are as necessary as the rich. None is better or worse than any other. Each one has been given different gifts and different callings. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Rom. 12:4-6a)

In the same way, within the family, both the husband and his wife are necessary and valuable parts of the whole. The husband is not complete without his wife. The wife is not complete without her husband. The parents are not complete without their children. The children are not complete without their parents. Together, they are a unit. Each member of the family is necessary and indispensable. However, the husband and wife have different roles and therefore, on the basis of their roles, MUST be treated differently. Discrimination (that is, treating one person differently than another) is a necessary thing as long as one believes in different roles. Would the rogue ask the fighter to heal him? Would the wizard ask the cleric to charge headfirst into battle? Preposterous! Different roles necessitate different treatment.

Corax: You've already stated that men should "lovingly dominate" their wives and wives should "submit to their husband's leadership." It also doesn't help that the Bible says that "Women were created for men." But even then, let's say somehow that purely what the Bible says isn't sexist. That men and women are just different. But wait... the wife is below the man, is supposed to support him and submit to him. Isn't that the definition of inferiority? Doesn't that make her less than the husband? Much as a human being is less than God, he/she is inferior.

TheoConfidor: Hierarchically inferior, yes. Of less value, merit, capability or importance? No.

Returning to my D&D analogy, in Neverwinter Nights, our party was always required to have a designated party leader. Sometimes the fighter would be the designated party leader. Other times the cleric was the designated party leader. Hierarchical leadership was required, but the hierarchy did not imply that one character was better than any other.

Similarly, though I have a boss at work, outside of the realm of work, we are peers. Though, when I am on the clock I submit to him and obey his orders, this does not imply that he is smarter, more capable or better than I am. In fact, in my area of expertise, I am far more capable than he is. The hierarchy exists to best accomplish the task of earning money and creating good products. Within that hierarchy, we each have our roles and responsibilities. My supervisor is the designated leader. Outside of that hierarchy, we are equals and peers. He is skilled in his areas, and I am skilled in mine.

The family structure is the same. Within the hierarchy of the family (which, like a company, has a specific purpose: to raise up godly offspring), the husband is the designated leader. He gives the orders, his wife willingly submits. Outside of that hierarchy, there is personal equality. The wife has her own specific talents, skills and areas of expertise. The husband has his own specific talents, skills and areas of expertise.
A lot of people have an culturally-indoctrinately objection to the concept of submission and the concept of dominance, especially in romantic relationships and the familial structure. These objections are almost always due to a fundamental misunderstanding of submission and dominance. The simple fact is that divergent roles do not imply personal inequality. People function best when they play a role that suits them and groups function best when each person plays their own respective role.

Men are hardwired by God to be leaders. They are inescapably leaders of their own families, and often leaders in other aspects of life, as well. Those men who lead best are the happiest, most successful, most fruitful and most fulfilled. Women are hardwired by God to respond to men who lead well. Those women who have a good husband and who submit to their husband's leadership are the happiest, the most fruitful, the loveliest and the most fulfilled.

I will not deny the possibility that there may be outliers. There are always exceptions to any general principle, and as such, there may be occasional instances where a woman must lead and will find fulfillment in leading. But, the existence of exceptions does nothing to invalidate the general principle. Both Scripture and practical life experience teach that in romantic relationships, men must be dominant and women must submit. Those who deny this crucial fact of life are destined for pain, relational dysfunction and heartache. Those who recognize that this is simply the way life is are able to develop relational habits that capitalize on the differences between men and women, which will result in the most holiness and happiness.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Douglas Wilson on Marital Dominance

While I have been aware of Douglas Wilson for quite some time, until recently I had only read 2 of his books. Last week, I borrowed Reforming Marriage from a friend of mine and I have been quite impressed with the depth of insight that Wilson clearly demonstrates. He clearly has a firm grasp of the proper model of marriage as well as the cultural lies that have utterly eroded our society's ability to successfully handle marriage and relationships. He also has a very interesting perspective on marital dominance, which I have never before seen voiced in precisely this manner. Wilson writes:

The Bible says the "husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church" (Eph. 5:23). Paul most emphatically does not say that husbands ought to be the heads of their wives. He says that they are. In this verse, the apostle is not telling us how marriages ought to function (that comes in the verses following). Rather he is telling us what the marriage relationship between husband and wife is. Marriage is defined in part as the headship of a husband over a wife. In other words, without this headship, there is no marriage.

Meditating on this is a very valuable thing for husbands to do. Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage. He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord--Dominus--at the cross. If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table? If the marriage is one in which the wife "wears the pants," the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage and home. His abdication dominates.
These are difficult words. And even with the qualifications, it is probable that a number of readers have reacted negatively to the earlier use of the word dominance. The fact that this is so is simply another testimony to how much the Christian church is influenced by the propaganda of feminism--whether the man-hating secular variety or the sanitized, "evangelical" kind. Nevertheless, the dominance of the husband is a fact; the only choice we have in this regards concerns whether that dominance will be a loving and constructive dominion or hateful and destructive tyranny. Arguing with the fact of the husband's headship in the home is like jumping off a cliff in order to quarrel with the law of gravity. Marshall the arguments on the way down however one likes, he will eventually find himself refuted in a messy way.
Douglas Wilson demonstrates a clear grasp of many important concepts:
1. A man must be the leader in his household
2. Women are hardwired to respond to dominance
3. Patriarchal structure is necessary for familial health and happiness
4. Feminism is a rejection of the natural and necessary relational structure
5. There are various faces of feminism, both the women-worshipping sort often espoused by conservatives and the man-hating secular sort

Either to be in accordance with God's design, or even simply to make a marriage or LTR work, the natural order of male-female relationships must be understood and respected. Men are inescapably called to lead. Women naturally respond to leadership and displays of dominance. A man who leads well will be attractive to women and will be respected. Dominance can either be expressed in a gentle, firm and loving way, or in a harsh and destructive manner. Both ways of expressing dominance will likely be effective, but one will be constructive and nourishing while the other will be harmful. Either for societal stability, familial success or personal happiness, a man must resist the pernicious lies and the vast array of modern cultural propaganda that deny and oppose these fundamental truths.

Douglas Wilson also introduces the intriguing concept that even in seeking to abdicate leading, a man still is inescapably the leader of his family. Though his dominance may be weak and feeble, yet his leadership still sets the tone of his familial relationships and directly impacts his wife and his children. The same principle can be clearly applied to LTRs. The health of a LTR is determined by how well a man leads his woman. A man's dominance, or lack thereof, is what determines the quality, tone and longevity of his romantic relationships.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Approach Technique: Limit Your Vocabulary

The other evening I spent a nice relaxing night out by myself, acquiring some new music and doing a little pleasure reading. Whenever I go out, I always take the opportunity to meet some new people and work on my approach technique. For the most part, I was just doing my own thing, but I managed to work in three approaches quite effortlessly.

The first two were fun, simple, short and playful. I always imagine ridiculous scenarios in my head, and I'm quite unafraid to verbalize them. In the first instance, there was a cute, young cashier who looked either a bit bored or tired. When I was at the front of the line, I looked her in the eyes and asked: "A bit bored, are you?" The moment I addressed her directly, she brightened up a bit and looked substantially more energetic. She replied, adamantantly: "No, never!" Me: "Never bored, eh? How do you manage that? Do you entertain yourself by throwing things at unruly customers?" Cashier: "Of course not! That's against company policy." Me: "Let me guess. Next you're going to tell me that you always follow company policy." With that she chuckled a bit, and unconsciously adjusted her hair.

Later, I was at a coffee shop in a fairly SWPL area. There were a couple of trashy-looking college girls, wearing excessive make-up and lipstick, who sat near me and were discussing various recent dalliances. Typically, I consider it a waste of time to even bother opening such girls, and at the time I was quite happily engrossed in reading The New Division of Labor. A bit later, they moved to one of the couches across the room that had just been vacated. Half an hour later, when I was about to leave, I was gathering up my things and I noticed that there was an iPhone on the seat next to me, where one of the two girls had been sitting. Given that I would have to approach them to return the girl's phone to her, I figured I might as well try to strike up a conversation.

A few sentences later, I used the word "ensconced," which was met with a quizzical look on both girls' faces. Apparently, neither of their vocabularies was broad enough to include such a word. While I could have cut my opener and gone on to a new topic, a sizable amount of momentum had been lost by the fact that I used a word they were thoroughly unfamiliar with. Obviously, I overestimated the articulacy and intelligence of the average SWPL college girl. Just because a certain demographic views themselves as educated and intelligent doesn't make it so. As a result, I have decided that a useful approach heuristic would be to limit my vocabulary unless a girl has demonstrated a reasonable grasp of the subtleties of the English language.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Game Takes Consistent Effort

Recently, I came across an interesting conjecture about the relative difference in required effort for maintaining an LTR compared to the necessary effort to maintain an active sex life through an endless string of casual relationships and STRs. Talleyrand writes:

Entropy always enters into a long-term relationship. The fact that it is often repeated that long-term relationships take “work” to be successful is evidence of this. It takes more energy over the long-term to keep an active sex life going if you are married, while it is easier and more frequent while the excitement and passion of a new romance is sizzling.
One of the simple facts of life is that entropy affects every aspect of existence, not just long-term relationships. Entropy is an inescapable force which requires regular effort to overcome. Now, while it is true that not as much effort is directly invested in any given relationship for those who engage in casual sex or STRs, it is not true that any less energy is needed. I have had experience with both LTRs and with casual dating. While one's energies are directed at different things, in both LTR game and STR game, effort must be consistently put in either to maintain the status quo or to improve one's results.

In a LTR, energy is directed towards getting to better know each other, towards building attraction, towards establishing and maintaining good relational habits, and towards better fulfilling one's relational role. It takes consistent effort to keep physically fit, to ensure continual physical attration. It takes consistent effort to keep one's mind active and to be interesting. It takes consistent effort to be growing spiritually. It takes consistent effort for a man to offer wise and consistent leadership to his woman. It takes consistent effort to cultivate a relational unity in the pursuit of oneness of mind and spirit. It takes consistent effort to ward off threats to the relationship that come in many forms (spiritual attack, cultural lies, social pressure...). Most certainly, establishing and maintaining a happy and healthy LTR or marriage is a challenging endeavor.

However, is it really any easier for the man who devotes his energy to continually meeting and bedding new women? Not at all. He must always be at the top of his game. The player must dedicate time and energy to ensure that he always has excellent physical presence, be keeping his body in shape, dressing well and utilizing proper body language. He must always be ready with routines, interesting conversational topics, and stories that demonstrate high value for whenever he meets a new girl. He must have a mental list of great meeting venues and comfort-building locations. He must regularly practice his game by going out and approaching attractive women. The chase and the challenge never lessen, therefore such a man must always consistently game well and sharpen his skills to ensure successful seduction.

With both types of Game, which utilize similar but somewhat different skillsets, there is a significant learning curve. However, to the degree that one properly learns the principles of Game and applies them habitually, the amount of mental energy needed to develop new relationships, attract girls or maintain one's LTR drops to a minimum. Yet, practically, time and energy are always required in relationships with women. You never get something for nothing. In a LTR, you must seduce your woman again and again. In the pursuit of STRs, you must meet and seduce new women again and again. In a LTR, you have to dedicate effort to being consistently attractive to your woman. In the pursuit of STRs, you must dedicate effort to be consistently attractive to many women. In both STRs and LTRs, the quality of the relationships and the regularity and quality of sex is extremely dependent on how good your Game is, and how much consistent effort is applied.

The idea that single men need utilize less energy and effort in pursuit of sex than married men is a fallacious idea that neglects the effect of entropy on any man's attractiveness. The simple fact is, having an active and fulfilling sex life takes consistent energy and effort for both the single man and the married man.