Why Do So Many People Want To Be in a Relationship?

Why Do People Want To Be in a Relationship?

Why Do People Want To Be in Relationships?

Sharing your life with someone else. Always being together: if not in person, then at least in mind. Sharing in the other person’s pain (but also in their happiness of course). Always having an obligation to someone. Not being fully free.

These are merely some of the consequences of being in a relationship. I wonder: what draws so many people into a relationship? Why do so many people appear to have the urge to always have that other special person in their lives?

Is it is to share your feelings and ideas with someone who truly cares about you? Who doesn’t judge you, who wishes the best for you and tries to help you? That might be true, but it seems like you don’t have to be in a relationship to have such experiences. You might just as well talk to friends – who by definition care about you, want the best for you and try to help you – and achieve pretty much the same results.

Is it for sex then? To have sexual intercourse with someone regularly without having to go through the seduction process over and over again? Maybe, but again: you don’t need to be in a relationship for that. You can have sex with pretty much anyone who wants to have sex with you; also with the same person, so that you don’t have to go through the seduction process over and over again. ‘But’, someone might object, ‘sex with someone you’re not in a relationship with is less intimate in some way, than sex with your girlfriend/boyfriend.’ But is it really? Because why would the fact that you are in relationship with someone, which appears to be nothing but a social construct, add to the intimacy of sex? It might be that being in love with each other does, but then again: you don’t need to be in a relationship to have that experience.

So why then, if not for companionship or sex?

Maybe it is to boost our own perception of ourselves. Maybe it is the idea that we mean so much to someone that that person is willing to give up a large part of their lives, time and bodies for us. And the prettier, smarter, kinder that other person is, the more special it is that that person chooses you. And it might just be that feeling of possession that we, insecure humans, crave for, and why we value being in a relationship with someone.

Or maybe it is because it is just the normal thing to do, according to the unwritten rules of society. But one could question whether this is ever a good reason to do anything.

The best reason I can think of is when you plan on having, or actually have, children with someone. For in case you have children with someone, it might only be fair towards that person to devote all your resources to him/her and your children – if only because it might be best for your children, which from an evolutionary perspective seems an important consideration in one’s actions. However, I doubt many teenagers, or people in their twenties, consciously decide to get into a relationship with someone for this reason.

None of this is of course a problem; not if both parties agree to the relationship. But it might shed light on the not-so-conscious reasons that drive people into a relationship.

Why You Should Always Respect the Dustman

I have been a dustman for a while. And even though my stay in the ‘dustman-community”’ was short, I was long enough to become overwhelmed by the disrespect these people receive from their fellow species members. People are yelling things at them. People are telling them how shitty their job is. People treat them like the true pieces of garbage. I was wondering what the dustmen themselves were thinking about their profession. Were they also disgusted about what they were doing? I decided to ask them.

And this is what they told me: they absolutely loved what they were doing. They were proud of being the dustman of district x or district y. They took care of the streets that fell under their supervision. These were after all their streets, and their streets should not be dirty. One of the dustmen told me very proudly about his dustmen-crew. He said that, within the dustmen-community, his crew could be compared to FC Barcelona; that’s how well they anticipated each other’s actions. Dustman A knew exactly that, when Dustman B grabbed on to a new dustbin, he should be in the process of taking away his bin.

So it seems that people differ, to say the least, in what they like and what they don’t like to do for a living. And that’s a good thing, right? Of course it is. Because the fact that each one of us wants to do something different for a living makes that all the jobs that are required to keep our society functioning are filled. If everyone wanted to become a big time actor, no-one would be cleaning the streets of Hollywood. At least, not for a while. Because the demand for dustmen, and therefore the wages, would increase sooner or later thanks to the ‘beautiful’ mechanisms of the free market.

Also, the fact that people appreciate different ways to make their money provides you and me with the opportunity to make a unique contribution to this world of ours. And – I believe – it is only if you do what you like to do that you are likely to put the most effort in doing it. And, subsequently, it is only when you put serious effort into doing something that you are likely to make a difference. And it the ambition to ‘make a difference’, whether it is by cleaning the streets or by writing an article, that gives that feeling of happiness and fulfilment we are all so desperately longing for.

The moral of this story should be clear: never disrespect anyone or feel pity for anyone because of what they do for a living. Remember that (hopefully) most of us are doing something that we like to do. Be thankful for whatever their contribution to society might be, since it is because of their contribution that you and I can do the job that we like to do. Whatever that might be.

But what do you think?

Why Euthanasia should be Legal in any Civilized Democracy

It recently came to my attention that euthanasia, the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to relieve suffering, is illegal in the United Kingdom. Being a Dutchman, and the Netherlands being a country in which euthanasia is legal, I was surprised to notice this. But even though I was surprised to read this, I was literally shocked to read that euthanasia is – depending on the circumstances – judged as either manslaughter or murder, and punishable by law up to life imprisonment. Just to put that into perspective: assisted suicide is illegal too, but punishable by up to ‘only’ 14 years.

Arguments
Being fully aware of the fact that euthanasia is a controversial topic, I want to make a claim in favor of legalizing euthanasia – whether this is in the UK, or in any other democracy. The first argument for this claim might sound dramatic, but I believe it hits the core of the issue. It is the following: no single individual has decided to come into this world. Our parents ‘decided’ to have a child, and there we were. From this it follows that none of us chose to live a life with perpetual (and incurable) pain, which is the life many terminally ill people live. So, having been put on this world without his consent, and not having chosen for the extreme pains he – being a terminally ill person – suffers, it would only be fair for any terminally ill person to be able to ‘opt out’ of life whenever he wants to; in a humane manner that is, thus excluding suicide.

Note that I am talking about the option of euthanasia for terminally ill people only. And this brings me to my second point, which has to do with the position of doctors. Let’s ask ourselves the question: what is the duty of doctors? Is it to cure people? If so, then terminally ill people shouldn’t be treated by a doctor in the first place, since – by definition – terminally people cannot be cured from whatever it is they are suffering from. Hence, given that terminally people are in fact being treated by doctors, there must be another reason the medical community has for treating them; I presume something in the form of ‘easing their pain’.

Now, given that we have a doctor and that he wants to ‘ease the pain’ of the terminally ill, I assume that he wants to do so in the best manner possible; that is, by using the treatment that eases the pain most, keeping in mind any future consequences the treatment might have. But what if a patient has crossed a certain ‘pain threshold’, and the doctor knows which great certainty that the patient cannot be cured from his disease? In this case it seems that not performing euthanasia would be equivalent to prolonging the patient’s suffering, without improving the chance of recovery (and recovery is, by definition, absent for terminally ill people). It is in those cases, and those cases only, that euthanasia seems to be the optimal method for easing the pain, and should therefore be applied by doctors (in case the patient wants to, of course).

NHS
It is not that the National Health Service (the ‘NHS’) hasn’t thought about these matters. On the contrary; they have a entire webpage devoted to ‘Arguments for and against euthanasia and assisted suicide’. Although I agree with none of the arguments the NHS gives against euthanasia, there is one that I find particularly wrong, and which they call the ‘alternative argument’. The alternative argument states that ‘there is no reason for a person to suffer because effective end of life treatments are available’. Hence euthanasia should be no option. One of the ‘alternatives’ the NHS puts forward is that ‘all adults have the right to refuse medical treatment, as long as they have sufficient capacity to make a decision’ (which, by the way, in practice has the same effect as euthanasia: the patient will die).

But refusing medical treatment is clearly in no way a valid alternative to euthanasia, for the aims of refusing medical treatment and the aims of euthanasia are profoundly different. While refusing medical treatment is about – clearly – the refusal of medical treatment, euthanasia is about wanting (a form of) medical treatment. Therefore, the fact that there might be another way in which the aim of the former can be accomplished is irrelevant and ineffective from the perspective of pursuing the aim of the latter. Also, the cases to which a refusal of medical treatment might apply are likely to be very different from the ones to which euthanasia is applied.

Car accident
Imagine, for example, a car accident, in which one of the victims is severely injured, and needs acute medical treatment in order not to die. This is an accident, in which no terminally ill people are involved. Refusing medical treatment seems a reasonable option; euthanasia not. Now imagine the life of a cancer patient, who is terminally ill, and who realizes that his suffering will only become worse. Euthanasia seems a reasonable option; refusing medical treatment not.

To end this post with a personal note, I would like to say that I hope that, in this 21st century we are living in, where everyone gets older and older, and prolonging life seems to be the preferred option a priori, irrespective of the specific circumstances, I hope that we can engage in a healthy discussion about a topic so relevant as euthanasia. Of course, many of us are still young and hope not to experience severe illness soon, but looking at the people we love and seeing them suffer unbearably seems to me sufficient reason for not condemning euthanasia straight away.

But what do you think?

Depression: Thinking Too Much and Doing Too Little

Why do dogs never appear to be depressed? Why do they always seem to be happy, no matter what it is they are doing? Well, the answer might be very simple: because they are always doing.

Dogs are always involved in one activity or another. They always got their little heads occupied with all kinds of biologically induced juices – whether they (consciously) know it or not. And it is because they’re always ‘busy’, doing whatever seemingly irrelevant activity it is they’re doing, that they are happy. It’s because they’re always busy, that they feel the effects of that constant stream of dopamine, rewarding them for their evolutionary beneficial action: the act of acting itself.

Not acting frees the mind from the duty to allocate resources to the execution of actions. However, the mind cannot simply do nothing. In fact, doing nothing – as in thinking about nothing – might be one of the hardest things to do for the brain. And that’s what you expect, right? After all, not thinking about anything can hardly be beneficial to our – and therefore our brain’s – survival. While we’ve got our brain, it’s better to use it, than to let it be idle, like an empty fridge waiting to be filled with postponed protein-intakes. That’s why the brain will do anything in order to try to be busy, even if there are no actions it has to be focused at. It is at those moments that the brain ‘thinks’ it is good idea to use this ‘break’ to think about your worries, your goals in life, your purpose and other fundamental questions. And it is at these moments that your mind explores the deepest purposeless of life, and triggers the feelings of depression that haunt us.

So – in case we want to get rid of the seemingly unproductive (and surely depressing) reflections on life – we must keep the mind, and therefore the brain, busy. We have to make sure that there’s no time – or no capacity – for it to become filled with soul-searching thoughts. Because although a little soul-searching might be good, and might point us to what it is that we should do with our lives, too much of it inevitably results in feelings of purposeless and depression. Hence it is only by being busy, by avoiding boredom and by don’t risking to become drowned in the most existential questions of our being, that we can live a  ‘happy’ life. It is only then that we can unleash the dopamine flows triggering those feelings of happiness we’re longing for. Or, to return to the fridge, it’s only by filling the fridge to the maximum, that we feel it is a worthwhile investment.

But what do you think?

Note: this article has been published at Rod Peek’s “Finding Personal Peace“.

The Ego and The Id: Beauty and The Beast

There it is again: that feeling of purposelessness. What to do about it? I might go on with whatever it is that I’m doing right now, hoping that the feeling will eventually fade away. But I know that that won’t help: it never does. Or I might try to grab some sleep and possibly feel fresh and productive again when I’ll wake up. But I don’t want to waste my precious little time on this planet sleeping just to get through the day. I might go read something, and possibly become inspired by some great stories. But there’s not that much interesting stuff around to read, at least not much that really gets down to the core of where it’s all about. So, what choices do I have left? Not many. So I guess I just have to face the feeling head on. Get my head straight, figure out why it is that I have this feeling, and possibly – as in a therapeutic Freudian manner – calm down my unconscious drives by ‘channeling’ them through my Ego. The drives won’t leave by themselves, so it’s better to find a way to use them in a constructive fashion, than to suppress them and let them linger on in my life. So that’s what I’m trying to do by writing this article.

In a sense my entire blog is a quest to do just that: channel my uncontrollable and inexplicable drives by promising to give them what they want: answers. And even though my Ego knows that there are no answers, or at least no definite ones, my unconscious Id doesn’t know. My Id is retarded in the sense that I can’t think properly, given that it would be able to think at all. The Id is an iPhone you carry around all day and that starts beeping when a new message is received. And although you don’t want to listen to it, because you just want to go on with your life, you just can’t ignore whatever it might have to say. Because, although it might be smart, the Ego can’t set any goals. The Ego is like a calculator, calculating the most efficient route to whatever goal you might have. And this ‘whatever goal you might have’ is determined by the Id, the part of you that bases its decisions on evolutionary induced impulses, pushing you to the refrigerator and to the internet (if you know what I mean).

But what if they could work together? What if they could live happily ever after in harmony, dividing the mental labor as if Adam Smith was there to delegate it? That would be great: Beauty and The Beast working together. Beauty being so consciously aware of its environment, and the Beast just taking her wherever he wants to. Great, let’s do that!

What do you think?

We’ve Got You God!

Life is a joke. And a damn good one. If you were a God, and you would want to have a laugh, and you could create anything you’d want to, what would you do? What would you create? I know what I would do: I would create a world with little ‘things’ on it, give these things a limited capacity to think, and then just see what happens, just see what they will come up with. Just watch them running around. Each morning and evening I would take a look at them, look at how they deal with the situation I’d put them in. Watching them form alliances, working their asses off, fighting each other and thinking: thinking about why it actually is that they are there.

Think about it: if you would have to create an absolute absurd situation, and you would have unlimited powers to do so, what would you come up with? Probably not a series like Family Guy, right? No, you would strive for the best: for the most absurd thing you could come up with. After all, why would you create Family Guy, if you could create a world, put creatures on it, program these creatures so that they think they are able to discover the world’s secrets but – without most of them realising it – make them incapable of doing so. Maybe you would put a few ‘natural laws’ in order: the law of gravity, electromagnetism etc., or come up with a few ‘elements’ (protons, neutrons, electrons etc.) that make up everything in the creatures’ world, including themselves.

But you would never reveal everything: you would never explain the purpose behind all of it, because you don’t want the creatures to unravel the mystery you have created. There has to be a point at which their limited abilities fail. Them knowing about electrons and other irrelevant entities is okay, but having them know anything of real value would just spoil the fun. They shouldn’t get the feeling that they get it. Just enough for them to believe that they’re the most intelligent things that have ever walked ‘their’ earth. And just enough for them not to kill themselves in total despair.

But what if the creator has underestimated the little creatures? What if the creatures would be able to see through the facade? What if they would come to see that they’re part of one big joke? And what if they would even enjoy the the fact that they are part of a joke? That would spoil the fun for the omnipotent and ever joy-seeking creator, wouldn’t i? So he must make sure that they don’t come to believe that their lives are nothing but a joke: he must create enough misery in their lives to remind them that their pain is real. He must make sure that the minds of the creatures are occupied with impulses to stay alive, impulses telling the creatures what to do with their lives and how to run their societies. Everything to keep their thoughts away from the joke.

But we have got you God. You can quit playing now. Just take some rest and come back to us when you’ve a better one, okay?

But what do you think?

Culture and People being Good or Bad

Are people intrinsically good or bad? If there wouldn’t be any laws or social conventions, would we start killing each other and stealing each other’s property – the state of war as Thomas Hobbes described it? Or would we “still” be loving and caring towards each other? Would we “still” be willing to share our well-earned income with others, even if we weren’t “forced” to do so by means of legislation; would we “still” be altruistic like our Christian brothers seem to hope for? Or aren’t there particularly “social” and particularly “anti-social” actions? Can’t actions be “absolutely” evil or “absolutely” good? Do the “demons” committing the “evil” actions believe they are fighting the good fight, that they are the angels, promoting the values they find to be worthwhile dying for? What, for example, about Al-Qaeda? We can assume that the terrorists flying into the World Trade Center at 9/11 did so because they believed that this was the right thing to do, right? Because their God, and their norms and values, promote this sort of behavior, right?

Watch it; we have got to prudent here. We’ve got to watch out for “a dangerous territory” we’re about to enter: the territory of cultural relativism, the view that “our ideas and convictions are true only so far as our civilization goes.” If cultural relativism would indeed be true, we would have no right whatsoever for claiming that our “Western” set of beliefs is superior to the “Islamic (extremist)” set of beliefs; they would be equally true or equally false; what people find good or bad simply depends on what they’ve been taught at school. And that’s it.

Although cultural relativism might appear to be counter-intuitive – after all, many of us seem to believe that murder is “just” wrong, irrespective of the culture one is raised in – what if it would be right? What if there indeed are no absolute values we could turn to in order to decide – for once and for all – what’s wrong and what’s not; what if each culture has its own set of “absolute” values to turn to; are we then still legitimized in saying that “those other cultures are just crazy”?

Maybe cultural relativism is more than “merely” a philosophic concept used to explore the absoluteness of our ethics and knowledge; maybe it’s the reality we live in. After all, what evidence do we have for there being absolute norms and values? The Bible? The Quran? These prove to be already two conflicting value systems,  so no absoluteness can be attained by following the religious path. What about science; what about empirical data? Isn’t it true that many societies consider things like “rape” and “murder” to be wrong? Isn’t that an indication of the absoluteness of value? Maybe, but what about war? Is murder – or even rape – still wrong in case of war? And If so, why are so many people still violating these rules while in war? These people don’t seem to find it wrong, do they?

Maybe we have to face the truth people, no matter how hard it might be. Maybe we have to accept that we aren’t always – or fully – right in our beliefs. That, even when “the enemy” does things we find absolutely disgusting, they do these things because they think they should do so. And why “do they think they should do so”? Because that’s what they consider to be the right way to act; that’s what you do in war; that’s what you do for defending your system of beliefs. So although we might differ in what actions we find good and bad, our intention is – no matter how twisted it might seem – always good. No matter whether others agree with this notion of “good”. And that’s a weird but true conclusion we have to live with.

Thus the answer to the question this article started with is “Good”.

But what do you think?

Banning Cars from City Centres: Utopia, Here We Come

London, New York and Amsterdam: what is the difference between these three cities? Yes, only in the latter you are allowed to smoke pod legally. But that’s not what I mean; I am talking about the use of bikes in the city traffic. Why is that? Well, surely, Amsterdam is (way) smaller than cities like London or New York. And surely, the “infrastructure” – in the sense of the small alleys prevalent in Amsterdam – is more suitable to bikes than cars or any other vehicle. So residents in Amsterdam are more or less forced to travel by bike (if they want to get somewhere on time). But is “the infrastructure” really the main obstacle for cities like London and New York to make the shift to “big time bike riding”? I doubt it.

Let’s focus on London: in 2011 there were 2.5 million cars in London, which is about 9% of the cars in Great Britain. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in London, but let me tell you: a city like that isn’t made for cars: congestion and pollution are two big time (negative consequences) of our compulsive “traveling by car through city centres” behavior. Besides that, in 2009 3227 bikers were killed or seriously injured on London’s roads; not necessarily an alluring prospect for those considering to travel by bike. From 2002 to 2005, an average of 1.1 Dutch bikers was killed per 100 million kilometers cycled. In the United Kingdom and the United States these numbers were respectively 3.6 and 5.8. That’s what you get when roads are filled by big-ass vehicles and only a few of those “annoying, arrogant little bikers”.

But let’s think about it: why would we even allow cars to drive in major cities like London or New York – or Amsterdam for that matter, although I can assure you that there is hardly any driver stupid enough to travel through Amsterdam by car. Imagine what a city like London could look like if all cars were banned from town, if you were only allowed into – the centre – of the city by bike or public transport. What would happen if we’d do that? Probably not as many bikers would be killed in traffic, since it’s very hard for bikers to kill each other in collisions.

“But”, you might say, “what about the old people? You can’t expect them to travel by bike, can you?” True, you can’t. That’s why we can decide to let old people – 65+, or younger if you have got certain handicaps – to travel by bus or metro for free. Just pay some extra tax money to make sure this Utopia becomes a reality. If you would implement these two things – the (1) prohibition of cars travelling through the city centre and (2) using the “space on the roads” to implement bike-friendly, and public transport friendly, structures, I believe you have created yourself a beautiful little solution to deal with the huge amounts of traffic required in a town like London (or New York).

Surely, people will resist this idea: “We’ve always done it this way; travelling by car. Why would you change that?” Well, we’ve indeed always travelled by car, but “in those times” traffic wasn’t so damn crowded; in those times there weren’t so damn many cars driving through our beloved city centres. So it’s time for a change, isn’t it?

But what do you think?

What We can Learn from Children

There is a lot we can learn from children. To name a few things: children don’t mind who they play with, as you as they can play. Children don’t mind what team they are in, as long as they are in a team. Children don’t mind about letting their imagination run free. They don’t even think about it. Children aren’t judgmental regarding others’ dreams; it’s okay if you want to become an astronaut or a rock star. Children are true artists; they have a direct connection between their creative minds and their bodily powers (read: “muscularly finger powers”). Children just go for it; they want to complete their collection of Pokémon cards (or FarmVille animals or whatever it is kids are doing these days). They don’t care – or even think about – the difficulties in “obtaining that goal”. They just wait and see where their ambitions will lead them.

Where did it all go wrong? Where did we get so caught up in our socially conditioned dogma’s? Why is it that we all want to get “a job by which we can make a decent living”? Why are we prepared to put our dreams aside in order for “normal lives” to interfere? Life is a game; and although children might not “consciously” realize this, they act according to this principle. They “understand” that the game of Monopoly and life are intertwined; that you can have pogs (“flippo’s”, for the Dutch readers) and that you can lose them at any time. They understand that you have to take risks (read: bet your pogs) in order to make progress. But we don’t. We don’t want to bet our pogs because we are afraid that we might lose them. We might lose the pearls of our efforts, the sweat of our creations, by taking a bet; by risking what’s at stake. But how can you ever make progress if you are afraid to lose what’s at stake?

I would like to ask you to watch an episode of Sesame Street. To look at Big Bird (“Pino”, for the Dutch readers) and try to feel his or her (I don’t know what Big Bird is) sense of naivety; its sense of not thinking about anything, and just doing what comes up in its big feather-like head. Big Bird always lives “in the now”; he’s a damn good hippy. And when you’re done watching Sesame Street, go watch an episode of Pokémon (or whatever series you people in the USA looked at while you were a child). Not only will you get overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia; you will also come one step closer to the truth: the truth of “Gotta Catch ‘em All”; a motto that isn’t just applicable to the Pokémon world.

And oh, to the people in North-Korea: if you are reading this (which – for some reason – I doubt), why don’t you try to be a littler nicer to everyone else? I mean: Cookie Monster is also angry sometimes – at Elmo or Kermit or whoever stole his cookies – but he isn’t threatening to use nuclear weapons or so. He just comes up with “good” arguments in favor of why his cookies are his cookies; and not someone else’s.

The moral of this story is: although children can be a pain in the ass in transatlantic flights, when they just can’t seem to stop kicking the back of your seat, they are damn much closer to “the truth” than we are.

But what do you think?

Financial Markets: Keeping Up the Illusion of Confidence

Financial markets are trading grounds on which not products but ‘packets of confidence‘ are exchanged. Do you dare to face the uncertainty, or do you rather pass the opportunity to some guy more manly than you? Who is the 21th century knight, galloping over the battlefield of fallen companies, always leaving just in time not to get hit by the sweeping sword of bankruptcy, but just long enough to receive the fortune and fame? Who has got the balls to take the risk? That’s the question.

A financial market is a special market. In contrast to ‘normal’ markets – markets at which tangible goods like tables or computers are traded, or services like car-washing and theater – this market is build on top of confidence, or at least the perception of it. Surely, through such things as valuation techniques, financial considerations play a more than average role in deciding whether or not to buy stocks, derivatives, obligations or other financial products. However, just as it is in science, there is always a leap of faith required to take the final step: no matter whether it is in jumping to the conclusion on the basis of data, or making the purchase of a stock based upon a ‘reasonable’ level of confidence. No absolute truths and absolute values exist.

Thus – given that confidence plays such an important role in financial markets – you might expect that regulators overseeing these markets will try to do anything in order to keep this fragile little entity up and running. Just like a friend might gloze over the truth in order to keep you – and therefore himself – happy, so a regulator might tell investors that everything is going according to plan; that there’s nothing to worry about. And although lying might be immoral – according to Kant’s Categorical Imperative at least – that’s exactly what he (the regulator) should do, right? If not, the whole house of cards will collapse; investors become (more) insecure and run away as fast as they can. So you need a Santa Claus kind of figure; someone who, above all, should be trustworthy; someone who, no matter how naughty you have been, will always be there to comfort you. Of course: it wouldn’t mind if he or she would have at least some understanding of financial markets, but that’s just only a bonus (you get it? That was a joke).

So, what would happen if, instead of Santa Claus, you would put a politician in charge of regulating the financial markets? A guy like, let’s say, Jeroen Dijsselbloem? A guy who says that, ‘If the banks can’t do it, then we’ll talk to their shareholders and bondholders, we’ll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and – if necessary – the uninsured deposit holders.’ Then shit is getting messy, right? The insecure investors, longing for a pat on the back, or at least a little sympathy, start running; like Forrest Gump, the investors get the sign to ‘Run, investors, run!’

Honesty is not appreciated in financial markets, so don’t even try it. Lie as hard as you can. Do everything to keep the rat-race going. Do all that is required to ‘restore the confidence in the financial markets‘; be the 21st century Machiavelli. Don’t listen to the crowd yelling that the banks must bleed for their sins. Just assure that they – the crowd – will get their money back. Illusion leads to confidence, and confidence is king. So lie as hard as you can mister regulators; Go for it!

But what do you think?

The Coercive Power of Money

The Webster’s New Collegiate dictionary defines ‘to coerce‘ as ‘to compel to an act or choice’, or ‘to restrain or dominate by nullifying individual will’. We all have some kind of idea of what it means to coerce someone: to force someone into doing something they don’t necessarily want. When I hold a shotgun to your head, and tell you that you should give me your iPhone, that could very well be interpreted as an act of coercion. But there are also more subtle acts of coercion. If you told me a secret, and we would get into a fight, I could force you into doing something by threatening to make pubic your secret. But there are even more subtle acts of coercion. Acts that all of us experience on a daily basis. And the leading actor in this play is omnipotent and all-known: it is Mister Money himself.

Where does voluntary engaging in a deal stop and coercion start? When you offer me 300 dollars for me to repair your car, I could voluntarily decide whether or not to accept your offer. I might feel forced to do so, since I am short on money, but I am still able to compare the pro’s and con’s of your offer and come to a rather autonomous decision. It becomes a different story when I am an employee of a car repairing firm where you turn to for getting your car fixed. In that case I have no vote in deciding whether to accept your offer. That’s the boss’ decision: I just have to do as he says. But you could still claim that I voluntarily decided to go work for the company, so in that sense my ‘forced decision’ to repair your car would still be voluntary. Note that you could doubt these two examples of ‘voluntary’ action by claiming that, although in theory I might have decided whether to take the job or not, in practice I was more or less obliged to do so. I might have needed the money in order to stay alive, which could have forced me into accepting the job. But Iet’s not focus on that.

Because I want to provide you with a different case, and that is the following: imagine that a big construction company decides to build an apartment block next to where you live. Now I ask you: how much of a choice do you have in accepting this deal? Not much, right? Even though you aren’t offered any money, or anything for that matter, you are still supposed to accept the company’s plans. You have no authority at all. Your ‘individual will is nullified’ by the domination of the construction company. Thus it seems that money can force you into accepting an offer. That is, when parties engage in a deal, even though this deal might be executed voluntarily by the offering and accepting party, the will of other parties is rendered irrelevant. It’s nullified. And although this might not be a big issue if the deal is relatively small (like your neighbor buying a new car), the consequences can be much more severe when the parties involved are big and powerful (like the construction company and the government).

So it seems that money truly is power: coercive power.

But what do you think?

A Short Reminder of the Shortness of Life

Because if you wait too long, it's game over

Because if you wait too long, it’s game over

The average person wanders around 28.000 days on this beloved earth of ours before (possibly) going to some place else. So the question is: how close to this number are you? Are you in the second half of your 28.000, or did you just pass a quarter of it? If you are in your early twenties – like myself – you are likely to be a couple of hundred days short of reaching the ‘amazing’ milestone of 10.000 days. But that’s quite close to the 28.000 already, right? It’s not like we just started. And if I would ask you to look back upon those thousands of days that you can call ‘my life‘, then what is it that you truly remember about them? And more importantly: what is it that you want to remember about – let’s say – the upcoming 10.000 days? That’s the truly interesting question, because this question – in contrast the former – doesn’t have a definite answer yet: it’s yours to fill in.

Let’s take a look at how our lives have been up till now, shall we? Let’s start with the first 1.200 days. Well, these are just one big blur: so let’s skip this part of our journey and move on. What about the next – let’s say – 3.500 days of our lives? These are likely to be filled with all sorts of happy memories, right? This is the period of your life about which – looking back – you’re not sure whether it all actually happened, because part of it could have been a dream.

Now we have come to the period between the age of 3.500 and 6.500 days old. This is likely to be the period in which you have experienced your personal ‘traumas’; those negative experiences you have tried – or are still trying – to eliminate in the subsequent part(s) of your life. Because think about it: most of the insecurities people have appear to have come about within this period of their lives. Ideas such that they are not smart enough, that they are ugly, that they don’t have any friends etc.

But that’s the past: let’s look at the future! After all, we – or at least I – hope to have another 20.000 days ahead of me. But is that really true? Do people in their early twenties truly still have 20.000 days of living ahead of them? The number of days that we are fully alive – in the most vital sense of the word – is likely to be less, right? That is: in the last five years or so of our lives, we are likely to be not so happy anymore. We will get ill, we will see our friends dying and we will come to realize that our own finishing line is getting closer and closer. That means that – reduced for inflation – the number of real days of living still ahead of us lies around 18.000.

But let’s be honest: from our mid-forties to our mid-sixties, we are really just continuing whatever kind of life we started before, right? And what is life when you are not creating anymore, when you are not truly struggling with what to do with your life anymore, when you have come to terms with the monotonous life you are living? Then you are just dead, right? You are nothing but a walking zombie. And what about the age between 35 and 45? Those aren’t very exciting years either, are they? I mean: do you think that you can still meet your future partner after you have passed the age of 35? Or become a parent for that matter? Nah, don’t think so. So those years don’t really count either.

So: what do we have left? We have restricted our ‘true lives’ to the period of between approximately the age of 20 and 25. That is the age in which we truly decide what to do with our lives. The remainder of our lives is just a tasteless sequel. But wait: 20-25? That’s how old I am! Shit: I better start doing something!

Let me ask you: what is wrong with the line of reasoning as pictured above? Let me give you a hint: it is everything except for the last sentence. After all: is it really true that we will be unable to find a partner after we have reached the age of 35? And is it really true that we cannot – in any fundamental sense – change our lives anymore after we have reached the age of 25? And who says we will live for 28.000 days? It is just an average. We might reach the 35.000 or we might die tomorrow. That is for the biggest part completely beyond our control.

So, and here comes the moral of the story, instead of making the limiting and paralyzing projections about life as the figure in this story did, maybe we should just start doing what we believe we should be doing right now. No long-term planning, no thinking about what our lives might be like when we’re re 40; just doing what we find interesting and worthwhile to do right now. Because: how can you plan your life if you don’t know how long you’ve got to plan for?

But what do you think?