Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Custom Cocktails: Tangerine Dream

Normally, since I just mix various drinks for fun, I wouldn't even think of writing a blog about one. However, I was recently inspired by Ulysses' post, Saturday Cocktails, and decided that it would be fun to share my take on custom cocktails. Ever since I turned 21, I've enjoyed trying various sorts of alcohols and developing my own personal palette. As an insatiably creative sort of person, I rarely stick with the basics for long. Hence, for as long as I have been seriously into alcohol, I have been experimenting with various different ways to make drinks.

My philosophy on drinks is that the very best drinks not only taste amazing, but they also look quite stunning. In fact, that's my general philosophy on anything one eats or drinks. While food or drinks that taste good certainly aren't bad, there seems to be an exponential effect that enhances the sensual experience of something of that appeals to more than one sense. The presentation, then, is at least as important as the final flavor of a drink or dish. Of course, it often takes a little more effort to make something sparkle and shine, but that little bit of extra effort goes a long way. Whenever entertaining guests, having a lucky lady over for drinks or even just relaxing with a drink myself, I like to pull out the stops and craft a sensational experience.

A couple of weekends ago, I was in the mood to create a new cocktail. Without further ado, here is the recipe for my new cocktail:
Tangerine Dream

1 measure Vitali or Skyy Vodka
1 measure Triple Sec
1 1/2 measure Orange Soda
4 Ice Cubes
(optional) 3 fresh Blueberries

Pour the vodka and Triple Sec into a cocktail shaker and add the ice cubes. Shake thoroughly and then pour into a martini glass. Pour the orange soda into the martini glass. If desired, garnish with fresh blueberries.

Note: For a slightly crisper, sharper cocktail, use Vitali Vodka. For a smoother cocktail, use Skyy Vodka.

This last weekend, several friends came over for an afterparty at my place, and I quickly whipped up a few of these drinks. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. We sipped on our cocktails while enjoying an old black & white comedy classic. It's always hard to go wrong with cocktails that look as incredible as they taste. That's the way we do it at my villa!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biblical Wisdom: Debt-Free Living

Some things are so deeply ingrained in my worldview, that I scarce can read about the way others handle things without a deep sense of puzzlement. That which seems to be common sense is so consistently and assiduously avoided by many of my contemporaries that sometimes I genuinely wonder whether people even rationally ponder the decisions they make. Today, as I was reading Talleyrand's post on Fairy Gold, I was struck with exactly such a feeling. Talleyrand discusses that which offers illusory temporary wealth at the expense of long-term happiness and financial well-being, and his post hits the nail right on the head. He writes:

Higher education is a form of fairy gold. When student loans started becoming the rage decades ago, the idea was to make higher education “accessible to everyone."

Another example of fairy gold is our governments deficit spending and the deficit spending of the American public, with credit cards and home loans and car loans, all making them feel wealthy on the belief that more money would always come.
While I am always subconsciously aware of the fact that numerous Americans do have large student loans and readily spend beyond their means, whenever I stop to actually think about the implications of such choices, it truly baffles me. Why would any intelligent person take on any personal debt, outside of a mortgage or a business venture? Yet, I know countless people who are overwhelmingly laden with debt. Student loan, in particular, seem to be a ridiculously unwise and burdensome choice, given that one is exchanging a significant part of one's future for an increasingly valueless piece of paper.

However, in thinking about it further, I realize that it is truly a blessing that I have such a strong aversion to debt. Quite obviously, not everyone has been blessed with a similar outlook. My father is to credit for my views on the subject. When I was growing up, in our daily Bible Time, we often would read through the book of Proverbs. As we would read through the chapter of the day, my father would often highlight certain verses and offer his own commentary or stories relating to them. One of the topics that he discussed frequently during our times in Proverbs was the topic of debt. There are plenty of verses on finances in the Bible, and a good number of them are in Proverbs.
Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:26-27 - Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?

Proverbs 28:22 - A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.

Proverbs 23:5 - Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
My father had many stories to tell regarding how people handled their finances and how things did or did not work out for them. His stance on debt was not merely a theoretical one, or one that was merely adopted because of a few verses. Instead, he had extensive practical experience, and had conscientiously avoided debt throughtout his life. His teaching on financial matters, which he based on Biblical principles, has been very influential in my life by helping me to ponder how to manage my own finances as an adult.

Today, many people have large quantities of fairy gold. The wealth they think they have is merely illusory. For those who don't have a healthy opposition to debt, what they have had to exchange for that fairy gold is often more costly than they realize. Talleyrand describes the process and its end result:

Now here’s where to people have made a bargain they really haven’t realized they have made.

When they signed up for student loans, they were giving up their children. That was what they were really selling.
And, on a national scale, regarding people living beyond their means:

What was sold for all that debt? America will no longer be a superpower, the standard of living for people in this country is going to drop 30-50%.
Now that the time to pay the piper has come, many people will find that their fairy gold isn't as golden as it seemed. All this could be avoided by exercising a little Biblical wisdom, avoiding debt, working hard, and not pursuing the various get-rich schemes of today. Yet, we are a nation that has forsaken God, forsaken the clear teachings of the Bible, and forsaken wisdom. The only ones we harm by rejecting truth and wisdom are ourselves. God is not mocked. Though it initially puzzles me why people behave the way they do, it ultimately makes sense. My father wisely follows and teaches the Biblical principles pertaining to finances. In a nation of folly, a little wisdom goes a long way. I am greatly blessed to have received wise Biblical instruction in this area of life.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What Women Think They Want

Recently, I went out to dinner with some friends of mine. There were four of us. The first fellow, a stable middle-aged guy (SMG) is quite soundly in the beta provider category. He has a great place to live, is very responsible with his money, throws good parties and is pretty easy to get along with. The second fellow is a player extraordinaire (PE). He has loads of natural game, a well established reputation as a bad boy and a fun, completely comfortable persona. The last person, player extraordinaire's girlfriend, is a nice but fairly typical American woman (TAW).

SMG was extremely excited because he had a blind date set up for the next weekend. He was on his phone texting this girl and setting up a time and location for the date when we first arrived at the restaurant. This was a pretty big thing for him, since he's not very assertive towards women and hasn't been on a date in quite a long time. So, for the first while, he was telling us about this girl and how his friend set him up on a date with her. He was telling us that they're planning on going to a nice restaurant for lunch. Next, he asks this question.

SMG: "Do you think I should get her some flowers?"

TAW: "You should definitely get her some flowers."

Me: "Why in the world would you get a girl flowers on a first date?"

TAW looks at me quite taken aback. She says: "You don't have a girlfriend, do you?"

Me: "Nope. I broke up with her a few weeks ago. She wasn't quite cutting it."
Pointing to PE, I ask her, "Did he get you any flowers on your first date?"

PE, chiming in: "We didn't exactly have a first date."

Next he goes on to casually mention that even though they've been dating for about 7 or 8 months, he's never gotten her flowers, never taken her out for dinner, and typically gets her to pay for him for most things they do. TAW really doesn't say much about any of this, but goes back to the initial question and addresses SMG again.

TAW: "Girls love flowers. You should get her some."

PE: "Or you could get her one flower. A flower that is just beginning to blossom, whose petals are just starting to open up."

PE launches into a story about one girl that he brought flowers for, who ended up being deathly allergic to most types of flowers. She was also allergic to chocolate, so he was quite happy he didn't bring a box of those.

The whole evening was quite interesting, and we had a lot of other interesting interchanges. I am endlessly amused by the vast divergence between what women think that they want and what they actually desire. TAW clearly seemed to think that she liked flowers, romance and nice gestures. Yet, the clear evidence of her relationship shows that none of those things actually matter to her. Instead, she was utterly enchanted with a fellow who is the furthest from "nice" or "romantic" possible. Women swoon for desirable men who have an overabundance of psychosocial dominance. They always think they want romantic gestures, but they actually find a lack of romantic expression, from a fun and engaging man with options, to be far more irresistible.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

American Poverty Isn't About Lack of Resources

The myth that poverty is a result of underprivilege is a common one. However, it is also a myth which is far removed from truth and reality. Homelessness in America, especially, is something that is very rarely caused by systemic dislocation or oppression. Instead, in most instances in America, both poverty and homelessness are the result of consistently poor lifestyle choices. I have worked in various ministries with my church that reach out to the poor, and I also go out of my way to help those who are in need whenever I can. Because of this, I have a lot of firsthand experience dealing with those who are in need.

Generally, my policy is that if a poor person asks me for something, I will do my best to offer them something, within reason. Typically, I shy away from giving cash, since monetary gifts often are used to support drug and alcohol addictions. However, I am more than happy to take a poor person and buy them a meal, if they are genuinely hungry. My stance on this stems directly from the words of Jesus Christ. "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." (Matt. 5:42)

Last night, I stopped at a gas station near my home, to fill up my car. Leaning on one of the garbage cans was a middle-aged fellow who looked fairly unkempt and wore bedraggled clothes. As I stepped out of my car, he looked at me with a pained expression and mumbled in broken English, "I haven't had a thing to eat all day. Could you give me a little money?" I wasn't feeling in a particularly hospitable mood, so I just simply looked at him and shook my head. However, while I was pumping gas, I didn't feel quite right giving him nothing at all. I quickly glanced around my car to see if I had anything to offer him. There was a half-empty box of goldfish crackers and a full cup of warm tea that I'd just gotten from Starbucks.

After pumping gas, I walked over to the fellow and asked if he was hungry. He replied, "I haven't had anything to eat today. If you could just give me a little money... maybe a dollar or two." I told him, "Would you like some crackers? I have a box of crackers, if you're hungry." He looked a little bit perplexed or confused and said again, "Could you just give me a little money? I'll take anything." I repeated myself, "I have a box of goldfish crackers, if you want. There are plenty of crackers in the box." He looked at me rather unenthusiastically. Thinking that maybe he was confused or didn't know what crackers are, I took the box out of my car and brought them over to him. He took the crackers rather wistfully and set them down next to him. I asked him if he was thirsty, and offered him my tea. But, he didn't seem too excited by that proposition.

He mumbled some other things that I couldn't understand. After fruitlessly trying to converse with him for a minute or two, I patted him on the shoulder and told him, "God bless you. Enjoy your crackers." As I walked back towards my car, he began to mumble something else, and then he told me, "You're an asshole." I hopped in my car and left. I fail to see how offering him some food and a nice warm drink could possibly be considered asshole behavior. It only made sense if he didn't actually want food, but instead was only seeking money. It simply supports my hypothesis that most homeless and poor people aren't primarily in their condition because of mere circumstances. Time after time, this sort of thing is precisely what I experience in dealing with such people. More than 60% of the time, they are lying ingrates. I certainly care about their plight, but in such cases the issue isn't lack of resources. The issue is poor lifestyle choices and a pathetic attitude. American poverty isn't really about a lack of resources much at all.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tower of Babel Phenomenon - Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

As previous discussed, the human inclination to gather together and live in high-density areas creates societal disconnection from nature and isolates people from one another. Another effect of the Tower of Babel phenomenon is the acceleration of cultural penetration. I have previously written on the profound impact of social influence on individuals. While social influence is an inescapable part of human existence, high-density living dramatically speeds up the pace at which ideas circulate and social trends change communities. This acceleration rarely results in positive changes.

Throughout the course of history, it can be seen that novels ideas and advancements rarely come from sparsely-populated areas. A majority of the major discoveries, novel ideologies and significant advancements in human history have originated from people living in metropolitan areas. There are a good many reasons for why this is the general pattern of things. In heavily-populated areas, the benefits of specialized labor and comparative advantage profoundly affect the local community. With the leverage and flexibility offered by these economic gains, less effort is expended in acquiring life's necessities. With the remainder of time and energy that men gain through living in a civilized society, they often devote some of their discretionary time to creative pursuits, innovation and various mental activities.

While in a civilized society there is some discretionary time for a certain percentage of the population, in an advanced civilization the economic gains are even more pronounced, resulting in even larger amounts of discretionary time for a higher percentage of the population. This time is generally spent either in idleness, innovation or ideation. Incidentally, with the possible exception of innovation, these activities all have a strong tendency to result in higher levels of cultural familiarity. Idleness, which results in boredom, leads people to seek newness, either in the form of new experiences or new ideas. This quest for newness, often haphazard in nature, results in greater exposure to different sorts of people, values, activities and ideas. However, the people, values, activities and ideas that are discovered are generally socially homogenous or localized ones.

For example, if you have a fair amount of time to kill and nothing particular in mind, you might find yourself surfing the internet in an aimless manner, looking through the TV Guide for something good to watch, or asking a friend for an activity recommendation. To you, whatever you stumble across may be new, but it is not new or original in any real sense. Whatever you find on the internet, television or recommended by your friend is simply a part of your culture that you were previously unacquainted with. Therefore, a person's response to the boredom caused by idleness has a reasonable likelihood of resulting in the person becoming more aware of and exposed to aspects of their own culture.

Innovation and ideation, especially of the sort engaged in using discretionary time, both involve the conscious pursuit of new ideas, either purely mental ones or ideas that will lead to tangible innovation and change. In order to create something new or come up with a new idea, a person first must possess a reasonable familiarity with those ideas and innovations which already exist. The process of innovation entails a contemporary familiarity with what already is and with what sorts of things would offer some utility to contemporary people. Therefore, when one seeks to innovate, extensive familiarity with modern products, methodologies and social conventions is an absolute necessity. Time that is dedicated to innovation almost inescapably leads a person to become more aware of and exposed to aspects of their own culture.

Ideation, though of a different sort than innovation, is largely identical. In the pursuit of observing people, being aware of various philosophies and worldviews, constructing academic treatises and attempting to conceptualize or express things in a new manner, there is no way to avoid become more informed and acquainted with the ideas, paradigms and misconceptions of one's own culture. Whom does one discuss ideas with? Those in one's own community. Thus, time that is dedicated to intellectual and academic pursuits also results in a greater familiarity with one's own culture.

Hence, it is seen that all of the primary discretionary-time activities of a civilization hasten and facilitate the spread of ideas and general cultural familiarity. Higher levels of cultural awareness and familiarity are not intrinsically harmful. However, given the human propensity for evil and the law of entropy, what is seen throughout history is that societies and civilizations trend downwards from more virtuous and orderly states to more chaotic and evil ones. Because that which is evil corrupts that which is good, higher rates of cultural penetration inevitably results in faster social decay. For this reason, the Tower of Babel phenomenon consistently serves to speed social degradation and sow destruction within a society. The tendency of people to gather in high-density areas not only results in disconnection from nature and social isolation, but it also accelerates cultural penetration, which typically results in the demise of a civilization.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On Educational Methods and Christian Schools

Fellow blogger Michael Duenes wrote a great post regarding the importance of training Christian men and properly preparing them for righteous and godly dominion. In his post, he raises an important query:

When it comes to educating boys, whom Douglas Wilson aptly calls, “Future Men,”, we have to follow the same procedure we would for any venture to succeed. We must start with the end in mind. We have to practice “learning by design” here, too. What we are, in fact, doing is training these boys to be “lords of the earth.” That’s what having dominion means. And boys and men have a particular role to play as such lords, but do we know what it is? Do we take our cues from Genesis, chapters one and two? Are we teaching and training them toward that end?

It seems to me that our educational model wants to squeeze young men into the female role, and they rightly resist. If we are interested in training young men to be such lords of the earth, under Christ, then six hours a day in mixed-sex classrooms behind desks and more Bible studies is probably not going to do the trick. Surely being a lord of the earth, for a young man, means a good deal more than passing U.S. History exams and mastering Geometry. Can fathers shoulder this training alone? I’m inclined to think not.

How do Christian schools further their progress? How do we buck the dominant educational paradigm, which clearly isn’t sufficing, and start fulfilling our mandate to help train these boys up, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, into such biblical manhood?
While I have many thoughts on this issue, one specific point that isn't much discussed seemed pertinent to point out. In many ways, regarding education, the structure is the message. When Christian private schools pattern themselves after secular schools, they tacitly agree with many of the methods and aims of secular education. Unless we are aware of the messages that are conveyed by a given means of education and by certain methods of education, we stand thoroughly unable to craft an intentional and well-reasoned response to such messages. Most of the Christian private schools that I am familiar with are almost indistinguishable from their secular counterparts with the exceptions of the sociological composition of those involved and the addition of a Bible class. This suggests that there is a tacit acceptance of many modern paradigms of education, including a vast array of ideologies and methods which should be skeptically regarded.

When the primary learning a child receives occurs in the artificial environment of a classroom, many subliminal messages are communicated. The process of learning in the classroom is of a very specific kind, bearing a very specific structure. The teacher, as the certified instructor is, for the children, the source of truth. Children are rewarded for behavioral conformity to the classroom rules and they are rewarded for intellectual conformity to the teacher's and/or the state's ideas. This pattern establishes a dangerous epistemological reliance on institutions and credentialed people. Most classroom teaching also encourages a passive reception and regurgitation of information, rather than stimulating an active and passionate pursuit of truth.

Additionally, what is taught in the classroom is generally decontexualized information, stripped from its real-life context. When a student's education consists primarily of decontextualized information, it is very difficult for the student to take his learning seriously or see the practical value of what he does learn. Since classroom learning is requirement-driven and mandated rather than student-driven and optional, the forced learning of decontextualized information often does more to innoculate a student against true learning (which he hasn't experienced), than it does to prepare a student to face real-life challenges and scenarios. The prevailing paradigms utilized in today's Western education are very stifling and restrictive, in terms of required hours of classroom attendance, targeted-testing, narrow academic standards and limited class selections.

So long as Christian private schools remain largely identical in structure and methodology to their secular counterparts, they should expect to see largely similar results in the outcomes of their students. If Christian schools do wish to further their progress and increase their capacity to effectively prepare young men and women for adult life, then those involved in the leadership of such schools must be willing to step back and challenge modern educational paradigms. If Christian schools wish to offer a truly different scholastic experience, they cannot do it by adding one little class, hiring Christian teachers and marketing to Christian families. Instead, there must be a radically different structure and atmosphere that is specifically designed to raise up young men and women to follow God's precepts, boldly seek truth and courageously confront lies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On Breakups and White Lies

The threads of alleged niceness that are taught and encouraged today are, in actuality, anything but. This point has been brought up ad naseum by numerous authors and bloggers, so I will not spend any time supporting such a transparent fact. In this post, I want to take a brief look at the idea that using white lies is the best and kindest recourse, when instigating a breakup. Readers of my blog already know where I stand on the use of vacuous phrases utilized in the midst of a breakup. Yet, there are some who take the stance that it is better to cushion the blow and use white lies, rather than risk upsetting or hurting the self-esteem of a soon-to-be ex.

While it might seem that using trite, unaccompanied, meaningless phrases such as, "I just don't feel we're meant to be together," "It's not you, it's me," "This is just not quite working out," would be the kindest way to end a relationship, it really is anything but. My first objection to such a method is that it is primarily concerned with keeping the peace and avoiding confrontation. From a Biblical standpoint, one's primary motivation in any action or method should be love and a genuine desire for the best of the other person. When one's motives are skewed, it is certain that one's methods will be far from ideal. A fear-based mentality that seeks to avoid conflict is a selfish one rather than an others-centric love-based mentality.

If one does have a genuine care for the well-being of another, then love dictates that one's actions should be more concerned with helping a person and pointing them in a direction of personal growth, than of attempting to help them avoid unpleasant feelings which might be stirred up in the process. That some truths are unpleasant and uncomfortable does not mean that they should not be faced or dealt with. Similarly, if one does have a true love for another, such a person will limit their statements to that which can lead to real change and growth. Alternately, it is a sign of malicious intent if one expresses things simply to cause pain or inflict emotional distress. Wisdom then reveals that the most loving method of breaking up involves a clear and candid statement of those real reasons for the breakup which offer the opportunity for personal growth, stemming from a motive of love.

Secondly, a problem with the use of ambiguous or misleading language in the midst of breakup is that such verbalizations often cross the line into dishonesty and deception. A person of integrity may not fully reveal their entire stance, but they will never willfully deceive or mislead another. When the reason for the breakup is stated solely as, "It's not you, it's me," this is generally a flat-out lie. The intentional deception of another person is something that is not kind, loving or righteous in any regard. It is an evil of the highest sorts.

In considering the effect to the self-esteem of the soon-to-be ex, we must first consider the proper place of self-esteem. Proper self-esteem is a right estimation of oneself and one's standing in life. Viewing oneself as more perfect or less flawed than one is, results in an attitude of pride. Viewing oneself as more flawed or less capable than one is, needlessly inhibits one's ability to function in the world. Self-esteem, then, is only a good thing if is it founded on facts and built on a proper assessment of oneself. If a person's self-image is skewed, their self-esteem will be based on an illusion rather than truth. Therefore, the very best thing for a person's self-esteem is that it be based on a right estimation of self. It is necessary to be cognizant of one's strengths and weaknesses in order to rightly estimate oneself. In the process of a breakup, then, the best thing is for a person to be made aware of those strengths that they do not realize and also of those shortcomings, of which they are unaware. Anything else ensures that a flawed self-image is retained.

Regarding the clear exposition of reasons for a breakup, there is no mandate that such a thing occur. However, it is in the best interests of the other person that such an exposition be made. When vague and ambiguous reasons are offered, the person on the receiving end of the breakup lacks the peace of mind to know what caused the breakup. In the long-run it is far more troubling and emotionally painful to be left in the dark than it is to come to accept clearly-stated reasons given. Additionally, when no reasons are given, there is nothing that a person can do to attempt to avoid a similar future outcome. When clear and specific reasons for a breakup are given, a person is able to recognize their own flaws and deficiencies and grow in those areas. The correction of character and personality flaws in oneself increases the likeliness of better future relational outcomes. For those two reasons, it seems that it is far better to offer clear and specific reasons for a breakup, as opposed to explaining nothing.

Therefore, despite the initial attractiveness of the use of white lies or statements of ambiguity to preserve the feelings of another in a breakup, rational minds will conclude that such an approach conflicts with love and a genuine desire for the well-being of another. Lies, motivated by fear and selfishness, are incompatible with a love of truth, a pursuit of integrity or a lifestyle of love. Avoidance of real issues rather than a candid addressing of such issues robs someone of real opportunities for personal growth. As such, a clear and specific exposition of the issues leading to a breakup, offered from a heart of love, out of a genuine desire for the best of the other, is the most wholesome and caring method of ending relationships.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Women Are Sponges

This past weekend, I went with two of my brothers to a card game tournament in Las Vegas. Being the observer of humanity and gender dynamics that I am, I ended up having a few different discussions with one of my brothers about the various girls who attended the convention and played in the tournament. Initially, both my brother and I were surprised that there were as many girls as there were, given that most players of the game are men. For this reason, there were more women who were volunteering at the event as judges and program support than who attended it as players.

There were several other observations that we made in short order. All of the girls who attended the event as players had accompanied their boyfriends to the event. Hence, there were no single girls who attended the event as players. Most of the girls who played in the tournament placed in the bottom percentiles. Most of the girls played more for the enjoyment of the game than out of a strong desire for competition or victory. The overall average attractiveness of the girls at the event, both those who played and those working as event support staff was below general population average. Of course, most of those observations were fairly straight-forward and intuitive.

However, there was one interesting observation that my brother made not long after we left. Of the girls who played in the various tournaments, their competitive skill was highly correlated with their respective boyfriends' competitive skill levels. Given the other observations that we made, I would have expected all of the girls to remain very poorly competitive. However, the correlation between the skill level of the boyfriends and the skill level of their respective girlfriends was too high to be ignored.

- The one girl who was most competent and competitive at all the various game types was dating a fellow who also was a fairly skilled and experienced player.
- The girl who was the most fun and personable, but only moderately skilled was dating one of the most positive and fun fellows at the event. He was extremely friendly and relaxed, but lacked sufficient experience or competitiveness to rise above the average level of competition.
- One girl who consistently placed close to last was dating a guy who was a decent guy but a bit below average at the game.

There were also a few other girls playing in the event who also seemed to match our observation, though neither my brothers nor I interacted with them much. In any event, these observations seem to match the experiences of Alte/ButterflySquash in her post on women being empty vessels. She observed that women generally adopt opinions, interests, and mannerisms from the people around them. Our observations this past weekend not only support that observation, but extend it even further. Not only do women generally absorb opinions, interests and mannerisms from their boyfriends/husbands, but their knowledgeability and competence regarding such hobbies, interests and stances are directly correlated with the knowledgeability and competence of their men. This lends even more support to the idea that men are naturally hard-wired to be dominant leaders and that women are hard-wired to follow, learn from, and support their men.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tower of Babel Phenomenon - Part 2

Continued from here.

In addition to the disconnection from nature that a mass aggregation of humans living in an area necessarily involves, there is also the unexpected effect of the isolation and alienation of people from one another. It is a counter-intuitive effect because it would seem to be that where there are more people, individuals will feel more connected and more social. Yet, observation of actual human behavior and interaction reveals a very different effect. This alienation is caused by several powerful factors, working in conjunction with each other.

One vastly noticable difference between highly-populated areas and and less-populated areas is the general demeanor of people. In larger cities and more urban environments, people are generally more aloof, distant, hurried, busy, and even uncaring. In smaller places, people are much more likely to be friendly, relaxed, genuine and interested. This isn't simply an American phenomenon. Even in countries such as Romania, Nicaragua or Columbia, the difference in general demeanor correlated with population density can be witnessed. Economic theory explains that things are valued relative to their scarcity. That which is relatively plentiful is not valued as highly as that which is more scarce. As such, it follows that when there are vast quantities of people, each one seems less valuable, less interesting and less important, on average. Similarly, where there are fewer people, fewer potential friends, fewer potential lovers and fewer potential business partners, each individual is perceived as more valuable and more important.

Another part of living in a Tower of Babel area is the relative anonymity that accompanies such a life. In a lower-density area, there is a higher level of connectivity. In smaller towns or communities, everyone knows everyone else and everyone else's family. In highly populated areas, you can easily go out without seeing anyone you know. Unless you frequent a local venue, there are numerous places you can go where everyone is a stranger. Additionally, people are generally regarded as individuals rather than as part of a family. You can have friends you've known for quite a while and never have met their families. You may have little knowledge or connection with the family of a significant other. These factors combine to offer higher incidences of feeling disconnected and isolated for those who live in urban places. There are often times when people feel (and not completely without validity) that no-one truly knows them or cares about them.

Similarly, because of the increased focus on individuality instead of collectivity, most of the groups and communities that urbanites participate in are synthetic groups rather than natural groups. Synthetic groups are ones that are formed by individuals on the basis of similar interests, hobbies, pursuits, values or outlooks. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with synthetic groups, there is a danger of being involved in too many synthetic groups and too few natural groups. Natural groups are ones that are more transcendent, binding individuals together based primarily on blood relationships and geographical location. Natural groups typically consist of people with a broad variety of characteristics, with a higher degree of natural divergence than synthetic groups, which tend to be more homogenized.

The higher incidence of participance in synthetic groups and the rarity of high levels of participation in natural groups results in a socially smaller world, even for those people who are very socially connected in a high-density environment. G.K. Chesteron expresses such a sentiment in his book, Heretics. He writes:
It is not fashionable to say much nowadays of the advantages of the small community. We are told that we must go in for large empires and large ideas. There is one advantage, however, in the small state, the city, or the village, which only the wilfully blind can overlook. The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan. But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell. A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises. It is, in the most literal sense of the words, a society for the prevention of Christian knowledge.
For these many reasons, it is thoroughly evident that not only is the Tower of Babel phenomenon an evil one because it invariably involves a disconnection from nature, it also is an evil one because it causes very real social and personal harm to those who live in close proximity to too many other people. It promotes a mindset that devalues people and views them as unimportant, uninteresting and thoroughly replaceable. It disconnects people from naturally-emergent community and leaves them on their own devices to connect socially. It reduces personal accountability through the relative anonymity of the urban environment. It fosters a general attitude of distrust, avoidance and apathy towards strangers rather than allowing the natural attitudes of curiosity, friendliness and genuineness to grow and flourish. And it encourages people to live in a relatively small world consisting primarily of homogenized synthetic groups, rather than offering the wisdom and breadth of natural groups and communities based on blood relation and geographic location. In short, urbanization isolates and disconnects people from one another.