Longing for Dominance and Loving Dogs

Do you want people to obey you, or do you want them to be independent? Do you want people to nod and do as you say, or do you want people to be able to stand their ground? Do you want unconditional love, or do you value the whims of individuality? In other words: are you a dog-person, or are you a cat-person?

Each morning, afternoon and evening, millions of people are walking their dog: they are pulling the cord that connects them to their most loyal follower. They are yelling at the little creature like there is no tomorrow: ‘Max, don’t shit there!,’ ‘Sit! No, sit!’, ‘Listen to me!’. Why would you ever want a creature like that? To keep such a creature on a leash, while everything in nature screams that dogs aren’t meant to be kept on a leash. So why then do it?

You could also choose a cat, a night-walker, able to save his own ass in every situation. A creature whose nature it is to wander around through life, purposeless and autonomous. Not obeying anyone, just doing as he pleases. An entrepreneur following his instincts, grabbing each opportunity to satisfy his needs. Not interested in your validation, just in his own. Only caring about you in so far as you give him what he wants. The perfect citizen in this capitalistic constellation of ours.

Communism or capitalism. Dogs versus cats. Men is born to dominate: be it in communism or otherwise. We feel superior by watching others crave for our attention, hoping for us to come and rescue them. It makes us feel important. This is a universal need. That means that, if we can’t fulfill this need in our everyday working lives, we need to find different options for satisfying this need. We need to express our dominance in another way. We can do this by beating our wives, rebelling against society or by taking care of a creature that is fully dependent on us. A creature that, even if it wants to take shit, needs our approval to do so.

Do people with dogs have to compensate for something? For a feeling of powerlessness, disobedience, or any other sense of inferiority they experience in their daily lives? A need to execute their dominance, if not over human, then at least over an animal? ‘But he is so sweet,’ ‘He is always happy and wiggles his tail when I come home.’ That might be true, but do you want a creature longing for your validation? You don’t want a spouse that obeys you, no matter what you request, do you? Not if you can also have an independent soul, able to live a life on its own, even when you are not there to grant your permission.

Power structures are everywhere: even in our relation to our pets. Marx (and Darwin) would be jealous.

But what do you think?

Why do People Enjoy Talking about Themselves So Much?

Do you know those people who always seem to interrupt you when you are talking? Those people who always seem to find a way to make the conversation go about themselves? Or maybe you consider yourself to be just that kind of person? And if so, how does that make you feel? Personally, I get very uncomfortable around people using the word ‘I’ more than five times per minute. It makes me feel like I am attending a lecture instead of having a conversation. But do you know what bothers me even more? I am that kind of person.

Too much using of the word ‘I’ can be an indication of either of two things: (1) a lack of empathy or (2) a disproportionately large longing for validation. Let’s start with empathy. Any human being living in this world of ours has a need to socialize with its fellow species-members, whereby socializing consists of keeping an adequate balance between the giving and taking of thoughts. It is an endeavor that allows us to live together in the dense populations we have. However, whenever the balance between giving and taking gets distorted too much, we don’t consider ourselves to be engaged in a conversation anymore. By talking about ‘I’ too much, the conversation has stopped and the plea has begun. By talking about what ‘I’ believe too frequently, you implicitly take away the right of your conversation partner – or even his duty – to contribute to the conversation. And that is what we usually consider to be anti-social behavior.

The other reason for using the word ‘I’ too frequently is that you might have a disproportionately large need for receiving validation from your social environment. This need consists of a sense of ‘wanting to be listened to’ that is significantly larger than what people generally consider to be pleasant. The question is: why would someone do that? Why would someone keep talking about his own ideas while knowing that his interlocutor might not find this pleasant? Well, maybe it is because the person doesn’t understand yet or doesn’t understand why his behavior is considered to be anti-social. Maybe it is because he just started interacting with his species members and still needs to experience the nature of giving and taking which is present in a pleasant conversation. Or maybe the person knows all of the above but still doesn’t consider himself to be anti-social; maybe the person believes that we he says is right and that what the others say is wrong, and that this observation justifies him in talking about his ideas disproportionately much.

However, it often is very difficult to draw the line between what is a healthy contribution to a conversation and what is a narcissistic urge to express one’s ideas. The former is praiseworthy and can function therapeutically, constructively and even emphatically. Speaking is after all the best medium we have at our disposal for us human beings to make others aware of our beliefs. You could of course say that works of art and other human creations also have the capability to pass on their creator’s message. And although that might be true, social interaction in terms of the spoken word still seems to dominate each other medium in making your intentions clear to another human being. Face-to-face communication allows people to absorb the often subtle gestures, facial expressions and tonality that are required in order to truly understand the creator’s beliefs. And, as you might have experienced, passing on a well-intended written ironic statement is much more likely to be misinterpreted than the same message being spoken out loud. The subtleties present in human speech can make all the difference for interpreting a message in either the intended or unintended way.

But although it might be annoying, sometimes we just have to let the ‘I-talkers’ rush out and talk about themselves. Sometimes we just have to let them release the tension that is underlying the painfully unidirectional ‘conversation’ you appear to be engaged in. We might even learn something from it; that is at least what I hope your response will be after reading this self-centric plea of mine.

Therefore the right question to put all the above into perspective would be: what do you think?

What Makes Someone Intelligent?

Who is more intelligent: (1) a construction worker voting for a progressive, responsible and tolerant party or (2) a mathematical whizkid working at a bank and voting for a party whose main goal it is to get rid of minorities? In other words: what is it that makes someone intelligent? Is it how good he is in calculating the inverse matrix of a particular order? Or is it how thoughtful he is about our community and whether or not he contributes to how we as a society might become a more loving/productive institution?

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who I believe belongs far more to category (2) than (1). He spoke to me about his discontent with pretty much every Moroccan around; including the ones he had never actually met. He considered it to be a good idea to send each and every Moroccan back to his country of origin.

In the same week I had a discussion with my uncle. My uncle is a very nice man – just like my friend by the way – and belongs far more to category (1) than (2). And although my uncle admitted to be rather slow in absorbing/processing information – reading, calculating etc. – he also told me the following: ‘Rob, you are free to do everything in life that you want to do. Truly. But please, promise me one thing: never ever vote for those discriminating parties. Ever. Will you?’

I ask you again: who is more intelligent?

Before we might be able to answer this question, we first have to explicate the notion of intelligence. I believe that someone’s intelligence ultimately comes down to his actions. Someone’s actions are, after all, the only objective criterium we have for judging what goes on in his mind. The fact that a friend of you might say, ‘I could have easily passed that English test if I hadn’t just started studying last night’ shows to me that – apparently – this person is not very intelligent. A truly intelligent person would have known better, right? And it is for the same reason that someone who is good in mathematics or physics, or any other discipline we usually associate with intelligence, is not necessarily intelligent. Look at the banking sector, I would say. Have those mathematical ‘geniuses‘ been acting very intelligently lately?

You could of course argue that I am mistaken the concept of intelligence for the concept of wisdom, where intelligence might be about the ‘processing power’ of one’s brain while wisdom might be about the reasonableness of one’s decisions. I would reply by saying that even the processing power of one’s brain can in the end only be judged by the manner in which the person acts. That is the only objective criterium we have for making any claims about that person’s intelligence. No matter how many areas of one’s brain turn yellow/green/red in a f-MRI scan, we are still unable to know the true processing power of the person’s brain. Maybe the person’s brain is just very inefficient, using a lot of brainpower for very little output. That is why the only true test of intelligence consists not of what one’s brain does, but what one does with his brain.

But what do you think?