Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Learning the Art of Charisma

The boyfriend recently suggested I read a book titled "How to Meet and Connect with Women". Yes, it is a pick up book aimed at men. No, I am not a man. Nor do I have problems getting dates, obviously or I wouldn't have a boyfriend. Or a few ex-boyfriends. As far as I know, as a woman in her 20s, the only thing I need to do to get dates is to socialise enough (yes, there is no one to connect with if you hide in your room) and let people know I'm single. I suppose that is a function of being in the prime of one's life and the fact that our cultural constructs allows women to be relatively passive and still get dates. Whether she finds the man of her dreams, is another matter. But generally a young woman would have to be very physically unattractive not to get a date.

So why did he suggest this title? It's largely to do with the fact that I've been going to several women's networking functions and given that trying to connect with women socially and professionally frustrates me, he thought I might pick up a few pointers from the book.

I've just finished reading the book and in general, I was quite appalled by the book. I know I would not go out with a man who followed this book to the T or at least if he managed to possess other redeeming qualities, he wouldn't last very long in my life. Over all, the book was a waste of good money.

Note, this is a book on how to pick up women and get laid, much more so than how to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with women. I'm wondering how much of that was about pandering to the male psyche and what that speaks of a "modern" man.

The author talks about connecting with women who are more aligned to one's (a man) values and interests. Yet he also gives advice like

Just talk about things that interest hot girls.
You: "Wow, I love papier-mâché. How do you mold it? I
remember doing it in school with balloons but I'm sure you have
techniques that are much more sophisticated."
Bravo! So hot girls are bimbos who can't possibly have serious interests? That smacks of hypocracy. If you're not interested in such topics and just want to get laid by a hot girl, at least have the honesty to say so to yourself. C'mon, who the fuck are you fooling here?

And then there's this:
Her: "I don't know why you act that way."
You: (shrugging) "Some things must remain a mystery."
Her: "Arrgg."

Sometimes a woman deliberately misunderstands as a way to manipulate you. This may be hard to implement if you are in love with your thoughts (as I tend to be sometimes) but you should become unattached to being understood. In fact acting a
bit fuzzy and incomprehensible can be sexy.
OK, here's a newsflash. 90% of the time, that's not being sexy. That's being a retard, fucktard and an all round general pain in the ass. Usually if a woman says this she is genuinely frustrated and perplexed by your behaviour. It doesn't mean she's trying to misunderstand deliberately. Yet time and again, I've come across The rare instance where it applies is when her tone is teasing, behaving in a way the Malays term "manja". Tone makes all the difference.

There were some advice I found rather bizarre and probably not applicable in a business context, or even a social context in women to women relationships.

For example, on disqualifying yourself:

Too often we suck up to a woman. I catch myself doing it. We want to say what we think will impress her. But doing that demonstrates desperate interest. Mention your new condo, your Hollywood connections, your bench press PR or even your success with women and she can easily feel you are trying to prove yourself to her. That is not sexy.

A funny thing occurs when you disqualify yourself. She reacts with surprise. Sometimes she battles you a bit. But then she resigns herself that you are different – somehow above the rules. And then she feels more attracted to you.

When you portray yourself in a realistic light, a woman sees that you don’t care to win her approval.

The only way to win against the perfect man is to discourage comparison, even when you compare favorably. You want to knock the wind out of the perfect man. How do you do that? By focusing the dialogue on being real.

Now it is important to manage people's expectations and not puff yourself up. You may even want to downplay parts of yourself because people don't care what you have until they know that you care. The author goes on to say:

Don’t sound ashamed of your weakness. Saying, “I’m not worthy,” will only reinforce the dynamic that her qualification is important.
This part is quite true and something I do battle with. But to disqualify yourself? I think that's nuts. People may want to know that you're not a spineless doormat who agrees with everything, but the examples he gives are just stupid. Hello, those sound contrived...and you're telling me that's about being real?! Get real, mate. People are going to compare you to someone else no matter what the fuck you do. So get over it already.

I am also puzzled by this belief that a trashy, irresponsible male who just wants to use women for sex and then dump them would be more likely than the average man to get dates in his book. So perhaps these trashy males don't come across as needy desperados, a rather unsexy trait, because they're psychopathic self-centred fuckers who won't think twice about others; therefore on initial contact they come across better. And then there are also emotionally and psychologically damaged women out there who always end up with the wrong crowd. Eurythmics hit the nail on the head when they sang of:
Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused
So I'm thinking, men who ascribe to this philosophy probably don't understand that there are messed up people in this world. Maybe you're one of those assholes who like taking advantage of other people. Well, good for you, you can just stay out of my life.

Get this straight, men, if you can't get dates, it's not because you're a nice man and women can't appreciate nice men. Nice men do not get in last. It's just that your definition of "nice" is just screwed up. Fucked up. Get your head around that. Nice men are not doormats. Nice men are not wishy washy men who beat around the bush hoping the woman he likes, likes him back. Which probably means that your approach to a woman you "like" is significantly different from your approach to making new, platonic friends, men or women. Assuming you have friends and have had relative success making new friends in the past, it's quite clear that your dating approach is just inferior because it scares people away.

The book wasn't entirely bad. He did draw on "common advice" espoused in other books on sales, etiquette, and professional behaviour that people aren't always aware of. He did highlight certain things I didn't quite think through before. He did highlight some aspects of common culture that clearly not everyone is aware of.

So what are some aspects I feel that not all men are aware of?
  1. A woman hates these murky dates. She wants some indication whether your interest is purely professional, platonic or romantic/sexual. Don't beat around the bush. If you have established rapport with her it is safe for you tell her that you are single (lucky for her!) and available. In most cultures, women are generally conditioned to be passive in her romantic life. That is a sad fact that is slowly changing, but for the most part, it still rings true. A man is still expected to lead in a romantic relationship. In any case, as a man, do you really want to cede control like that?
  2. Being friends first, does not work. The longer you leave it, the more she's going to see you as "just a friend". Now I don't agree with everything in the "ladder theory", but in essence, it is generally true that once a woman sees a male as a platonic friend, and the longer he remains so, the harder it is to change her view of him. You, as a male, have to be very good looking, with boat loads of sex appeal, for her to be filled with lust for you even as you remain friends. Most men do not have that. And such men who are blessed with that never have problems getting a woman anyway.
  3. You felt led on because she agreed to go out on a date with you once. Maybe twice. Hey, maybe she felt pressured into going out with you. Again, women are conditioned to be accommodating and play nice from a young age. Don't you know the bullshit women are handed from infancy? If you've read the book "Influence", you'll understand that saying "no" is incongruent for her initially. So she puts off this unpleasant task. But eventually she'll get there. If you want to blame someone, blame yourself, OK? You probably put her in a tight spot where she felt like she couldn't say no. If her body language says no even when she says yes. She really means no. So maybe you don't understand body language. In any case, a man in the same situation, when dealing with a woman, would probably just not return her call or create some excuse. Or "flaking out" in this book's parlance. Same thing that women have been accused off. Want to know why books like "He's just not that into you" can sell? Hello! It's because men do exactly the same kind of bullshit to women. Except the tables are reversed.
  4. Everyone has physical flaws. Fortunately, smart clothes and toiletries can distract from
    flaws. Women do not want to be seen with an engineer who looks like an engineer (aka NERD). They want to be seen with an engineer who looks like a record producer. The world is shallow and packaging is now part of the product. And this is the easiest part to change about yourself.
Some advice in this book that are universal to interpersonal communication; regardless of gender. A lot of it not new to me, although I could do with regular reminders because they're not yet innate in me. It needs hammering into me as an adult because I didn't learn a lot of the fundamentals when I was growing up. So here are the basics:

. Know who you are and what you're worth. Easier to say, harder to do. Seeking approval is for adults with no self esteem or self awareness.

Confidence, which is a follow on from self-acceptance. Appearing confident is not about expressing confidence. It’s about confidently expressing everything else.

Be comfortable with being alone and that you're not desperate for company. Desperation doesn't look good on anyone.

Life is about Negotiating
. As a collary to #3, almost any dealings with people is a form of negotiation. In negotiation, the one who can't maintain the freedom to walk away from the table is the one who isn't likely to get what they want. i.e. the more desperate you are, the more you concede, to the point of losing yourself.

Progressing in a relationship or what the author calls escalation more or less follows this pattern:
  1. Say hello
  2. Make it personal and find out more about the other party (in sales parlance it's "fact-finding")
  3. Make a clear statement of intent (give people a good reason why they should want to meet up with you again)
  4. Make plans/exchange phone numbers
  5. Call her up
  6. Set up an appointment
  7. Reinforce that statement of intent in the appointment
  8. Whatever follows depends on what kind of relationship you're hoping to deepen.
  9. These steps will also vary depending on the venue and particular interaction but they more or less follow the same basic cycle.
The other party must know why you want to progress a relationship. You talk about what you have gained from her as your reason for wanting to escalate. You must explicitly base this reason on her or else you put yourself into a corner. Without finding a unique reason for continuing the relationship or the conversation based on the other party, the conversation will quickly wither. You have to explain the reason behind that interest. She must feel as if she has done something to deserve your interest otherwise it comes across as insincere, fake. And you need to say specifically what you want to do.

Give off the right vibe. This is also related to confidence. You want to give a positive, engaged, warm vibe when approaching strangers. That requires smiling at the right time and opening up the body language. Telling people that you like them directly.

Engage with everyone.
Not just the people you're interested in. By engaging with someone you don't have a vested interest in first, you get to warm up and it would make you appear to be an all round friendly person.

Use a centrepiece, something that will naturally draw someone's attention. Find something you anticipate the other party's focus is going to be on and you get there ahead of her, ready to drop a witty comment or a smart question.

Have a two-way relationship.
You want the other party to focus on and be entirely into the moment with you. Both parties should making similar amounts of effort in a conversation.

Q. How to prompt the other party to make an effort:
A. There are a few ways to prompt the other person to make an effort. One of the simplest is called the vacuum. You create the vacuum by asking big questions and keeping silent. The vacuum sucks words and actions out of him because people are uncomfortable with silence and want to fill it. Using the vacuum begins by asking an open-ended question. After you ask your question try not to wobble or fidget. Stay silent and still. Don’t grin or grimace. Have a look of quiet expectancy on your face. This is the vacuum.

He may say, “I don’t know.” She may try to offer a canned response. This is him testing you to see if you have the resolve to compel him to make an effort.

Him: “I just do it.”

You: (Returning to the vacuum) “Yes, but how? I’m

Getting to know someone is like playing a game of poker
. After the initial niceties are over it’s time to get down to business. You ask him to ante up. And the larger the ante he makes, the more difficult it is for her to walk away. With his money sitting in the pot he becomes attached to the outcome of the hand. His efforts, words and creativity are his money. If you can get him to put these things out there near the beginning before you put too much of your own effort into the relationship, even better. Not only does his effort commit him to playing the game with you, the very act of prompting him to make an effort generates attraction towards you because only a person of power and confidence ever asks for so much. Psychology 101 at work.

Appreciating her.
Everyone craves appreciation. You ratchet your interaction towards an outcome while appreciating her. Timing is important. Show new, growing interest in her immediately after she makes an effort towards you. Knowing when to reward and when to ask for more is also important.

You: “That’s crazy but I like a woman who takes chances.
You’re on the frontier of hair science. I should color my hair to
keep up with you. Is turquoise hard?”

Her: “Its easy. You just mix blue with green.”

You: “I like how you twist your hair when you say that. Lets
go sit down over there, away from the crowd, so you can tell me

Focus his attention. If your words say one thing while your expression says another, this distracts him from what you are saying. If your words, expressions and tone harmonise, you put
across a clear, genuine vibe. His mind has to puzzle out your ‘real reason’ for approaching her. If he has lost his focus you will have to resist the temptation to gun him down with questions or insist that you indeed, truly are fascinated with the weather. You would be
fighting his focus. It’s better to start from where his focus is and hijack it there.

Amplifying your expressions. You have no problem communicating with your friends.
That's because they can read you. But communicating with a stranger is different. She has not experienced any history with you. She cannot read you. Subtle communication is lost on her. When you express in an everyday sort of way, you effectively communicate nothing.
Without anything for her mind to focus on, she has only the thoughts in her head to guide her and those will be unhelpful, anxious thoughts. If you look at good actors, their expressions are exaggerated. In a sense, all good acting is over-acting. You are able to pick up on emotions more easily. Being expressive makes that happen.

People like to think themselves as a unique snowflake. Portray yourself as someone who is interested in the unique qualities of the other party and not generically interested in people.

Showing the genuine interest depends largely on timing.

Imagine the following snippet of conversation in your head.

John: (smiling) "What's your name?"
Jane: "I'm Jane."
John: "Nice to meet you Jane. I'm John."

Did John come across as fake? Smiling at the wrong moment makes you seem too generically interested. Holding back his smile back a bit until after she gave him her name, would have allowed him to reward her after she made an effort and demonstrated genuine interest.

Let's look at it another example.

John: "What do you like to do?"
Jane: "I like shopping."
John: "Shopping. Yeah cool. I like shopping."

Jane has not said anything special. John's response demonstrates heaps of desperate interest and no genuine interest.

Forcing conversation also qualifies as another form of desperate interest. A good technique is andwiching questions between rewards and statements about yourself. Also do not to double up questions all else it would seem interrogative. All together these things make the other party feel comfortable enough to say and do some unique things, which in turn allows you to show some genuine interest. (and I'm guilty of forced conversation.)

Project genuine interest in your relationships with groups of people as well.
If someone's talking to you and another person comes over and interrupts you as your new friend is in mid-sentence. The polite thing to do would be to silently acknowledge the other by way of a smile, raising your index figure, lifting your hand up in a "wait" sign and let the topic of conversation with person A run its course before engaging the other person. That would demonstrate genuine interest and that making a real connection with a new friend was more important than jumping on the first opportunity to talk to another person. (Something I'm also guilty of doing sometimes, partly because I don't always know how to end a conversation gracefully.)

With a group of people, asking for introductions sometimes is a natural way of ending a conversation with a person. (Something I've missed out on doing. )

Use specifics in conversation. Don't just say, "France is great." Instead say, "I have a French friend who manages a vineyard and can drink more wine than any man alive And he's very fond of blue cheese and baguettes." Painting pictures with your words and acting stories out with your body helps her visualise what you are saying. This shows her you are genuinely interested in what you are talking about and will help her participate in the dialogue with you.

Ask interesting questions. Too often we ask questions about things we don't care about in the least just to begin conversations. Try to limit that. Instead ask interesting, provocative questions. (OK, I do need a lot of work on that.) It doesn't always has to be a deep conversation. That applies to fun, light conversation as well.

Create a strong presence. Presence is created when you limit your unintentional words or movements (nervous tics). When you do this you render your intentional words and movements more discernible. Your communication becomes uncluttered. This will make your expressions more powerful and easily understood.

Eliminate useless words and phrases from your vocabulary. Using phrases such as, "you know" and "see what I'm saying" broadcasts insecurity by subtly checking for approval. Fillers like "uh" and "and" clutter up your message. You are creating a constant stream of sound to pin the other person down. She cannot change the subject or tell you she wants to leave. You are denying her the choice to listen to you or not. This will cause her to squirm away at the first opportunity.

Speak in plain language whenever possible. Advertising and words in pop culture use common, easily digestible language for a reason. The people who write these are adept at connecting quickly with people. Another benefit in using plain language is that you will be free to concentrate on the vibe you are projecting.

The more clear and uncluttered you can make your message the more people will enjoy listening to you.

In general taking up space makes you look more confident while being hunched into yourself makes you look more timid. Concentrate on expressing with the parts of your body that
you need to get your message across while keeping the rest of your body still. Reducing the noise increases your signal to noise ratio.

Keep your hands low so the other person does not feel threatened. Unless you are sparring in a martial arts class, make any strong outward hand gestures to an angle away from her, not at her.

Pointing at a person in conversation is an intense move. An alternative effect can be accomplished by turning your hand over whilst you roll your palm and fingers outward toward her. This creates a nice and-now-to-you effect and is smoother than pointing a finger.

Move your hands in sync with your words. When you say, "the park feels too big, but I like the way this garden puts me in a peaceful mood," sketch out an encompassing gesture with your
hands followed by a smoothing one or some such equivalent. Performing gestures with your words lends power to both.

Keeping your hands still while you are listening shows your calmness. Freeze your hands in
dramatic positions for a second as you pause for your point to sink in.

Care about other people but don't take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. Have fun. OK, this is seriously hard for me to do, but whatever.

In a telephone call, make the other person commit to an undistracted conversation.
You: "What are you doing right now?"
Tanya: "I'm working on saving the world."
You: "Will you put it aside and talk with me for ten minutes?"

Allowing yourself to converse with a distracted person shows her you don't value yourself enough to insist on her full attention. Make it a life rule not to have conversationswith distracted people.
Some new things I picked up from this book:
  • Replace the word 'need' with 'want'. No matter how desperate you feel, you WANT, maybe you WOULD LIKE but you never NEED. Even if you stagger out of the dessert, you don’t NEED a glass of water. You WANT one. Saying ‘need’ implies there is a bigger, more important authority behind your request. ‘Need’ is the word of the weak. Use the word ‘want’. That says you are important enough to ask for it on your own authority.
  • Replace service questions with service statements. Asking the taxi driver, "Can you take me to the airport?" is a way to avoid letting him know your wants are important. Try a direct "Take me to the airport please."
  • Don't steer people’s answers to your questions. "Is that food good?" is steering an answer. "How is the food?" is better.
  • Negativity is for the weak. You risk nothing by being against things but you can gain nothing either.
  • Limit your use of modifiers. Say, “That movie was good,” instead of just saying, “That movie was good.” We use modifiers when we are afraid to misunderstood.
  • Making a presumption is a good way to introduce a topic of conversation. Of course you may be wrong. Being wrong is OK. Presumptions allow you to sound surer. It is better to sound sure than to be right. (Actually, I find that debatable)
  • Positive presumptions also show you are accustomed to dealing with interesting people. Women will want to live up to your expectations.
  • Where a positive presumption is a good way to begin conversations, a negative
    presumption is an evil way to deal with nasties. Just presume something unflattering and ask a sincere sounding question about it. Example: "Hey I know you. Do you work at the in the city or north shore Burger King?"
  • By saying what you want you are leading. Saying "Do you want to come back to my place and have a drink?" is weak. "I would love for you to come back to my place and have a drink." is leading.
  • You have to allow people to make the choice to be involved with us. Commitment to something they choose is much stronger than commitment to something that is pushed on them. Know the difference between leading and pushing. If you feel as if you are doing everything, you are pushing. Pull back and let the other person make the decision to continue. Generally, you do this on a high note. You stop talking and wait.
  • A great way to talk about anything that is foreign or to a person's understanding is to relate it to something he is familiar with first. Start where he is. Not where you are. Example:
    Her: "So what do you do?"
    You: "Do you use a computer at work?”
    Her: "Yes, for patient records and such."
    You: "Well in a way I make it so that you can exchange
    records with the pharmacist and the hospital."
  • It is good to give a little extra. Talk about real, concrete things that the other person can relate to. What can seem like magic coincidence is many times just putting enough of yourself out there until something catches.
  • You take the time to relate your answer before you give it. Relating always trumps being interesting. I guess that's because deep down most people only care about themselves.
  • When you are talking to a group of people keep in mind that the leader of the group is not the one everyone listens to. It is the one everyone talks to. You can gauge your relative power within the group by noticing if people are talking to you. If no one is talking to you it is indicative of having a lack of power. (Yes, true, but the real question is, how do you be that ringleader.)
  • When talking to a group, play to the people who are paying attention. Don't try to win over the ones who are not listening. That would come across as trying too hard. It is better to give more to the people who are already listening.
Some things to consider when talking specifically to a woman
This is also something new to me. What he says of women doesn't really apply to me much. I keep forgetting that not everyone is like me. I'm not exactly sure if all this is true, but I'm going to experiment the next time I talk to a bunch of women. Empiricism trumps rubbish!
  • When a woman you just met asks you about yourself she cares little for the facts. She just wants to hear you talk, get a sense of your personality and have fun. Instead of feeling as if you must be accurate, answer all questions with, “Yes,” regardless of the truth. “No,” creates an ending that just seems to take the rhythm out of a dialogue. But “Yes,” creates a continuation that can set you up to deliver a punchline.
  • Listening to a woman takes a different type of listening. You do not evaluate information in the same way. If your first instinct is to argue about truth you are not dominating anyone's reality but rather are coming across unsure of your own otherwise you wouldn't need for other people to agree with you. A helpful mind-shift that you could make when dealing with
    women socially is that reality is relative. The accuracy of details is unimportant. Relating to the feeling behind the thought is what counts.
  • When talking about women's passions talk more about the processes and the feelings rather than the results.
The book also gives a lot of advice I'm not sure about.
Things like:
Don’t try to sell yourself. Instead, enjoy telling stories about your mistakes or most embarrassing moments. No one does this but rock stars who have nothing to prove.

The only thing necessary for a woman to like you is for her to believe you like her. It is just that she usually doesn’t believe you like her. You have to follow through and make it believable.
Surprisingly, a hot-women acting badly creates a golden opportunity to show some genuine interest. The secret to dealing with girls who are behaving badly is to act SWEET but also TOUGH at the same time. Show interest but in the next breath
destroy her behavior. Mix in the sugar with the medicine. That is a great way to show her you are being a sincere man. She can't possibly imagine you are sucking up if you are also acting tough.
Hmm...Perhaps that applies to all people, not just women? I also didn't get a good sense of what that last section meant about dealing with mean mouthed people.

Finally, there was a sentence that struck a chord in me. It is taken out of context but still bears thinking about:
Those who have a strong attachment to being understood can be manipulated by others who decide not to understand them.
All in all, I'd rather put my $40 into a nice meal than buy this book.

Book Resource

I just found a few good e-book resources which I am going to fully utilise. My reading list is now a mile long and is piling up. I can just see myself reading till my eyes bleed. I will try my best to post book reviews and summary as I finish each of them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Computers Going Spastic

Windows XP strangely needed activation the other day when I booted up my PC. This was several months after I've been using it and I've already activated once before. Anyway I had to get on the line to speak to someone from Microsoft. I swear, they only hire monkeys to man their call centers. The monkey who picked up my call sounded like he was reading out from a predefined script who wouldn't deviate from it. I'm surprised they didn't just have a machine to replace these monkeys already. I finally got it reactivated after much internal hemorrhage.

I am so pissed off because I was working on something which I didn't save, went away for a bit and when I came back the stupid computer wanted my activation key. Which of course didn't work and I had to spend too many minutes of my life on the phone with morons from mars.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Shirtless Dining

A friend marked her birthday by doing something slightly risque tonight. She organised a birthday dinner at The Manhattan, a restaurant tucked away in Martin Place, the heart of the financial and business district.

We shared a cordoned off corner with a hen's night party, where we were served by 2 fairly young and buff waiters. They wore singlets, a bow tie and a jacket to start off the night. And as the night progressed, the ladies warmed up with alcohol and start clamouring for the waiters to doff off the top half of their clothes. The waiters were obliging and by the end of the meal, they'd taken their tops off and posed for photos with the ladies. There wasn't really anything you couldn't already see at a beach and even if there were, I doubt I'd have been much thrilled by it. Frankly, I thought the visual display was rather boring.

For $30 per pax, we could choose our food from a 3 course meal set. I chose squid tempura for the appetiser, perch fillet for the main and strawberries and vanilla ice cream for dessert. The food was just terrible. The appetiser consisted of 4 stringy pieces of deep fried squid rings, a dash of sweet chili sauce and a few leaves of lettuce. The main had bits of vegetable (rather dried carrot and green beans), a smattering of potato chips and an overdone perch fillet that tasted none too fresh smothered in sauce. The dessert was less than a scoop of ice cream, a handful of strawberries and a bit of cream. Quality control was clearly lacking as some received melted ice cream and excessive cream while others like me, had hardly any cream but a marginally more generous serving of ice cream.

The service was decent although not particularly noteworthy. Ambience was OK although on first impression, the place seemed a bit seedy as one walked down to the basement; and the music was a bit too loud for quiet, polite conversation. Not exactly the place to have pleasant conversations without going hoarse.

Clearly, patrons who do go there for dinner are not there for the food, no more than men frequent Hooters for their food.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Libertarian View

Let me just state that I'm nonpartisan towards any kind of politics. The names are but easy labels for defining others, not me. I have views towards various public policy but only as it impacts people.

I was surrounded by a whole bunch of self-acknowledged libertarians last night. Talking to them, I discovered that they believed that people should be or are to be socially responsible and also have the freedom to do whatever they want in their lives. Today I see this article in the news about "authorities" handing out money to people who have chosen not to make provisions for emergencies or disasters in fire prone areas. They have the freedom to not provision emergency funds for themselves and they have exercised such a freedom. The problem as far as I can see, is that everyone who clamours for personal freedoms do not address how, by exercising their freedoms, affect others as well. I have yet to hear good reasons from any of these libertarians why, for example, younger people should be paying for the older (unrelated) people's pensions when these people should be making provisions for their old age. If you believe in personal freedoms so much, then you should also believe that a person should suffer the full consequences of whatever actions they should choose to take.

Of Women and Men

A couple within my social circle recently broke up. The girl came to me for solace and advice, either of which I was really uncomfortable in giving. I didn't think I was equipped to give her good advice and that her course of action should be determined by herself. Wisdom dictates that to guide her on her path, I should not be telling her what she should do, but by asking pertinent questions and by her thinking through the answers, help her to shed light on her situation. Solace and comfort, well, I hesitate to say that I'm capable of providing either to someone in grief.

By providing a listening ear, inadvertently, she started me thinking about relationships again, something that I've been trying to hide in the mental closet. What is love? Talking about it and mulling over it has given me no insights. If it's something that you're meant to feel and know instinctively, perhaps I lack the faculty for it. How did it feel for her, to perceive that she was more in love with the guy in question, than he was with her? Would she have been better off not getting verbal reassurances of love if he could not give her any, if she was feeling content and happy with his company? Would he have been better off? How did he really see her anyway? Questions I can't really ask directly, as it is somewhat awkward.

I am somewhat fascinated by the love lives of friends since part of me hopes, that by listening to them talk, I might get some insight on my own life. Sadly, it has sprung more unanswered questions that I don't know how to begin answering.

In social settings, it is best to mingle in a group of evenly mixed genders. In social groups where one gender dominates, I've noticed that men and women behave differently, and often for the worse. Even so, for reasons I cannot entirely put my finger on, I'm more comfortable with men than women. Perhaps it is because I had a lonely existence at school -- I was in an all girls' school for the most part of my early education and I've never quite fit in. I was enrolled in a degree where men greatly outnumbered women and there, I didn't exactly fit in either. Still, I think the propensity to seek out men in my life came about because the males in the earlier part of my life have been kinder to me on average.

Not all men I've dated have been able to accept this and I'm not too certain that any of them have. One was quite clearly threatened by it quite early on. I gave him up because I treasured the friends I have more.

Yet, I've never been quite happy with my love life. Perhaps I haven't met the right person. Perhaps, as a friend suggested, that the problem stemmed with me and I needed to get my own life sorted out, that I wouldn't be happy with anyone so long as I remained the way I am. Or perhaps I'm not cut out for the normal, expected life.

I don't have the great friendships that some people apparently have, and for that, I'm somewhat envious. I don't have that small, close knit group of best friends, something that apparently women have, the notion as popularised by the Bridget Jones story. Still, I enjoy the friendships I have. Sometimes I have been disappointed and wished some things panned out differently, but if I were to describe how I felt about my friends, it would have been "mostly contentment". That's something I haven't really felt about my romantic relationships. Instead, I experience a complex, unidentified emotion that has elements of resentment and anger mixed in with some fondness and the occasional longing for that person's company.

I guess I have been very close to it once upon a time. A certain domestic bliss with the apparent beloved for some of the times. One who lived apart from me but spent a great deal of time at my place. A certain simple comfort from just doing simple, everyday things with that someone, like cooking together. Still, there was something lacking, and if I walk down the aisle today, it would be more from social pressure to do so, than with any great satisfaction with the man I've involved myself with.

What to do? Perhaps a part of me is never quite content to be by myself, especially at my most vulnerable, which is why time and again, I'm tempted into relationships even when I think it might end in grief and emotional instability. I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel for myself, so I wonder why that poor girl thought that I could help her. Would it have been better for her if I'd turned her away?

Spectator Politics

Attended a talk given by M Costa last night. He argued for a smaller government, less layers of bureaucracy and for more community involvement in politics but stressed that it cannot happen overnight and that people who want to effect change should look at constructive feedback and changing things bit by bit through policies that made government more productive, efficient and transparent.

He also thought that the dominating 2 party system was here to stay and that the rise of fringe political parties were unlikely here, unlike other parts of the world. He felt that the best way to change the political system, for an aspiring politician, was to lobby for significant reform within either of the major parties. I think he pretty much dashed the hopes of the Libertarian party people there. A couple of libertarian party members I spoke to were hoping he'd make his political comeback through their party as they felt his political leanings were in line with their political ideology.

Two things that sprung to mind last night. M felt that, unlike Europe, fringe political parties were unlikely to gain much credence or power in Australia, because of the differences in histories and cultural mores. I was just wondering what those differences are, and whether it's really inconceivable, since we've had One Nation and the Greens making their presence felt before. Apart from that, he didn't quite address how, as a concerned citizen, one might participate in and support political reform without getting into politics or working as a civil servant. Perhaps part of the equation is about personal influence on key political figures and given the current political system, your everyday citizen has no real voice.

Tonight, it looks like I might be attending a Q & A panel made up of a couple of local political figures, media players and a rouge (if you believe what you read in the media) business head. Not generally that interested in political discussion but was more keen on tonight's topic as they were going to address the economic policies of the current and previous government. Some really interesting questions raised in the blurb on the topics for tonight, but I still can't think of any questions to ask, insightful or not. I wonder if it's because my grasp of economics isn't too good yet and I need a review of macroeconomics.

Which brings me back to a topic discussed with someone last night. With the current (un)employment situation, would abolishing minimum wages really encourage businesses to hold on to employees at reduced wages? Or would it be more rational for business owners that as business slows, they reduce the number of fulltime employees but possibly re-engage them as contractors or part timers to suit the demands of work. Is handing out money to businesses really an appropriate incentive to keep on apprentices, trainees and other staff. A tax cut in a way, is like giving money back, but indirectly. It has been shown in psychological studies on decision making that people view levys, tax cuts and handouts quite differently even if the implementation of either 3 result in the same net income for them.

I feel compelled to ask a question tonight, but what should I ask?