Thursday, February 12, 2009

Human Instrumentality

I was thinking this morning how multitasking is a defence mechanism. It seems like the past couple years have really made me aware of how frightened most people are, and it seems like fear is somewhat closer to the surface for women, which has led me to wonder if there's a correlation between that and the myth that women are intrinsically better at multitasking than men.

The way society has worked out the dynamics of gender, it makes sense that women would be more frightened than men and require a more complex and deep rooted system of defence mechanisms. For more reasons even than the fact that it's popularly considered impossible for men to be raped by women, there's the lingering stigma against "easy" women even in our supposedly sexually matured society. There are a thousand ways in which a woman needs to worry about her self-perception, which most people create based on the perceptions of others. So it makes sense women are more likely to want a lot of friends from a variety of different worlds--if the perceptions of one sector of friends lets you down, you can go to another group who will reinforce your positive self-perception. And I've seen girls who turn right around and show more love to the group who'd previously offended when another group has proved to be a letdown.

This is human frailty. I don't think people ought to be looked down on for it. People do what they need to do to survive. What bugs me are people who take pride in it, and have grown to believe that dividing one's attentions among multiple things is more rewarding than focusing on one thing at a time.

It's true, there's a greater element of risk. The more you need to rely on only your own internal voice to tell you you're not as bad as all the awful words a former trusted friend or lover throws at you in the heat of anger, the less credible such a possible self-image seems. But in my opinion, it's worse to have your self-image falsely propped up by friends whose opinions you'll always know are based on second-hand accounts and the desire to make you feel better. I think networking in this manner inevitably leads to a disconnect from one's own heart. I've seen people who feel increasingly removed from their own lives because of it.

I remember trying to watch a movie with one girl when a guy friend of hers unexpectedly came over. The guy constantly talked during the movie, and it was obvious he was the sort of person who isn't comfortable giving himself over to experiencing art. I could tell the girl wasn't comfortable with his chatter, but she wouldn't tell him to be quiet or do anything very assertive to let him know she actually wanted to watch the movie. She didn't want to have to choose between the friend she watched movies with and the friend who did whatever this guy did for her. She missed out on experiencing the movie properly and on having a proper conversation with the guy, but more importantly, she had no identity to present to the both of us. She did not have a sort of core self-image, if you will, that she was confident in presenting.

It's only natural people like that hurt a lot when they're alone for a long period of time--the trouble is, solitude is one of life's inevitabilities. For smart people especially, who invariably become aware of the tenuousness of the delusion a group promotes to support its members. And, of course, when someone betrays an especially important member of the group, or when the group has reached a consensus about a person's wrongdoing, it's almost impossible to forgive that person. Because it's far easier to get together to talk about how bad someone's been than it is to get together to talk about how you'd like to forgive that person.

In the past, I've simply despised such behaviour. The past couple years, though, as I said, I've come to realise how frightened most people are. The idea of being isolated is tremendously frightening to people, and I feel sorry for some of the things I've said to people to disparage the actions they took in fear. There are people I care about who'll never speak to me again because I had no respect for that fear, and it's very likely that hurts them, too.

I watched the second episode of Battlestar Galactica's third season last night. I enjoyed about sixty percent of it. I liked Baltar's dilemma about signing the execution authorisation, and Starbuck being psychologically frakked with seems to be endlessly valuable territory. But there were so many things about the episode that either went a little too far or not quite far enough. Starbuck reaching for the Cylon's hand was a little too far (unless it was Starbuck trying to manipulate him again) and made Starbuck seem kind of dumb. Baltar's relationship with the Cylon woman didn't go far enough--we need to have had at least one scene so far telling us what their relationship is like. There's also not been enough about Boomer's feelings about the occupation.

There's a shot of a forest in the episode, too, which seems to call into question the planet's supposed inhospitablity, not to mention the fact that we haven't seen it rain once, and no-one seems to need to wear anything heavier than a jacket. There isn't even any wind rippling the tent canvases.

Also, it's not fair marching out Roslin to be shot when I know the whole time she's not going to be. It's cruel to get my hopes up. Something about her really brings out the Eric Cartman in me.

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