Personality Spectra

Throughout this blog I have often touched upon my pet theory of personality spectra. The theory that peoples personalities and opinions exist on a multitude of various spectra. Sometimes I imagine that these spectra have distributions, that there may be a common or indeed universal distribution; whether flat, normal or exhibiting extreme bias.

I have a waryness of extremes. Because extreme views or positions are perhaps unhealthy and stem from taking an idea to ludicrous conclusions. However adopting extreme positions are often easier and logically easier to defend. I generally advocate balance and not being focussing too much on one thing, being a generalist and open to ideas form all over the place.

Two spectra, that I have discussed are animal welfare and sexuality. I have argued that there is a clustering of views on animal welfare at the extremes. For example, no rearing of animals, the vegan position. I have also argued that this clustering is easier. To believe, as i do that rearing animals for food is acceptable if certain animal welfare conditions are met. This is often hard to define and apply consistently in a world that doesn’t readily provide information on welfare criteria. You do feel, neither one thing or another and find few fellow advocates of your own personal stance.

If, the same logic is applied to sexuality, a similar pattern emerges. People generally cluster as either homo or heterosexuals. I have often thought that there should be more bisexuals than there seem to be. Perhaps bisexuals are those really close to the centre of this distribution. Perhaps we are all bisexuals, but during our individual exploration and development of our sexualities,we simply find it easier to adopt a one or the other approach.

I identify as heterosexual. Nonetheless i do experience the odd occasional ‘man-crush’. What is a ‘man crush’? I admire and respect various men and women without any sexual attraction, that isn’t it, though it is often associated with it. It’s not that I desire a relationship of any kind with my crushes. I think it is simply a mild form of attraction. Maybe, if I let myself loose of my personal rules and regulations, lived a completely free existence, I would have the odd rare relationship with a man. I don’t though, probably because, socially, it would be awkward and the chances of reciprocation slim indeed. Maybe such things are not worth the effort of pursuing. The decision to be rigidly heterosexual stems from a  simple cost-benefit analysis.

So, do these spectra have a three hump distribution? the two extreme ends and a bump in the middle? Obviously to test this fully, a large data set would; be required, for now I’ll explore a ‘random’ spectra. Abnegation to Selfishness. On such a spectra I would be a centrist, i believe it is important to help other people and society in general, however I need my own space and my own ideas (I am an introvert after all), so a balance is what I seek. There would be some extreme clustering, there are entirely selfless and entirely selfish people, perhaps more than I imagine. Again, there is the suggestion that the extremes are unhealthy? So, yes a three humped distribution again. This idea does require further analysis.

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(Mis-)Understanding the World

As humans we all think very differently. sometimes i think that it’s amazing that we are able to communicate with one another at all. There is so much misunderstanding in the world. I used to be very cynical about others peoples beliefs. There is so much trouble in the world. I struggled to understand and be distressed by such things as: why people keep electing the same bunch of idiotic politicians, why do people wear fur, why do some Christians struggle with the theory of evolution, why are some people are racist.

One explanation is that people find it hard to understand ideas that appear to contradict deeply held beliefs. That to understand the reasoning behind a set of ideas requires giving up certain ideas or at least considerable modification. People all have different learning styles, decision making algorithms and ways of thinking.

I would argue that there are both good and bad ways of thinking. The difficulty is that some good ways of thinking are not universally applicable. conversely bad ways of thinking seem to work, to lead to truths some of the time.

I used to suffer from chronic anxiety. To overcome this anxiety I realised that this was simply a bad way of thinking. anxiety is also self-enforcing, like a bad habit. It wasn’t easy to let it go and adopt a new way of thinking. It wasn’t easy, partly because of fear of changing other deeply held beliefs though the logic of the new way of thinking.

Really, there is nothing to fear. A good way of thinking, will lead to truths in a better way than a bad way of thinking. One of the things I found unnerving about my change in thinking was being able to understand religion and found that I had become a Christian. i can almost laugh about now; i thought that i might somehow believe that blowing up non-believers was justifiable, but that was a myth.

As humans, we have to accept that as individuals we will never get everything right, our ways of thinking, even good ones should be questioned and re-evaluated every once in a while. We will always have some mental blocks on understanding certain things. We should strive to unblock them, to focus more on the mental process rather than the conclusion. and of course to remember to live and not spend our entire lives re-evaluating ourselves, which I spent too much time doing. Rules are good and useful, we should never rigidly adhere to the conclusions based on these systems, as they are sometimes wrong.

A furry generation

In the news today was an article on the resurgence of people buying fur coats in Britain. I was surprised by this as in the 1980s and 1990s there were massive campaigns against this cruel, abominable trade. New fur clothing became taboo, the animal welfare argument in this arena had seemed to have been won, only for the issue to come around again,  Why?

The article was published in a British newspaper, which contained a lengthy comments section which was filled with criticism of this phenomenon on animal welfare grounds. The comments section was later taken over by trolls. Internet trolls have been around since the early days of the internet, I’ve never quite seen the point of deliberately creating arguments and seeking to rile people up, when this surely has a negative effect on the trolls well being.

In the comments section, there was also genuine debate. Having dabbled on internet forums, these are often places where much misunderstanding occurs anyway, even without the trolls. I think that this is due to people not knowing the background of the commentators and many false assumptions are made. Perhaps especially in a generally British forum where sarcasm levels run very high, which is harder to detect in a solely written format. These misunderstandings are perhaps due to different positions on spectra.

The spectra of opinions on animals welfare are perhaps much like any other spectra. You have the two extreme ends, with small but passionate minorities: Those that believe all farming of animals is wrong and those that support all animal farming with no regard for animal welfare. Both of these extreme positions are coherent and defensible as creeds and you can respect adherents for the moral consistency. However the majority of people, probably, like myself, lie somewhere in between. Unlike a normal bell curve distribution, there are peaks at the two extremes. So when those in between people debate without knowing each other misconceptions arise. It seems that people adopt lifestyle positions without researching the facts, how they act and what they believe become different, which is much harder to defend in an argument.

In the case of fur, it has many similarities with the meat and dairy trade. There is traditional hunting of animals for their pelts to provide clothing for those who live at high latitudes, from sustainable populations of prey animals. I personally approve of this, but with the wildernesses of Russia, Canada, Scandinavia and invasive possums in New Zealand, it cannot provide enough fur to satisfy the demands of the world fashion market. Fake fur has been developed, so this should be the mainstay of the market. Fur lasts a long time, so I think vintage fur clothing can be re-sold. What I strongly object to is the intensive farming of animals for their pelts, in cages where often the animals can’t even turn around. The issue is that the farmed fur trade is very much near the extreme end of low animal welfare and one the vast majority generally find unacceptable.

A difficulty for my position is distinguishing ethically sourced fur from the cruel stuff, again much like the meat and dairy sector. This was the argument in the 80s and 90s; As you couldn’t source the fur, you had no idea if people were openly supporting cruelty to animals or not, so the argument ran that it was better not to wear real fur at all, rather than risk offense.

Some would argue that it is simply the fashion industry. This being the industry that profits from people buying more clothes than they need, made affordable to those in the Western world by being manufactured in sweat shop factories, akin to the Victorian mills of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Has models who are unhealthily thin to be coat hangers and tell young women that making yourself thin is somehow acceptable. This is one of the reasons I’ve never really been into fashion and happy to wear somewhat raggedy clothes on an everyday basis. Really, I don’t understand why there aren’t more charity shops for exchange of clothes, as much fashion clothing is often only worn a couple of times. Being a chap, my choice in charity/ vintage cloth shops is relatively poor.

is it perhaps a generational thing. I wouldn’t suggest that the younger generation are less moral, but maybe how morality is expressed has changed. I am often disappointed with my generation in failing to achieve all that much progress in moral issues against corporate power. However what my generation did perhaps achieve was the acceptance of individuality. My generation cherish individuality, the freedom to pursue our dreams and to be ourselves. Listening to people in their late teens and early 20s, I am so impressed with their acceptance of other peoples sexuality and diversity of lifestyles, they seem to feel less obliged to do things they don’t want to. To some extent this only came about because my generations challenged traditional views and those people that rigidly adhered to them.

Perhaps this individuality has been taken to an extreme beyond the motivation behind it’s development.  my generation did view the world as a society, there was a feeling that we wanted to make the world a better place, here we failed.The younger generation have come to accept more that the world/ corporate power can’t be changed. There is less a sense of the possibility of the mass of the democratic public simply saying no to something in sufficient numbers with enough vigour to bring it about. That people feel that there is no longer a society to look after if you are able, a sense of local and international community. That one can perhaps only act at an individual level or within a peer group. Hence, whilst there may be as much despair at people wearing fur, people are perhaps less willing to challenge people who wear it. With the powers that be, monitoring us all on the internet and in our daily lives with CCTV, everyone is perhaps too afraid to challenge immorality.

What happens if no-one challenges immorality, if there is no cost to anti-social behaviour. I believe in animal welfare because I believe how people treat other sentient beings reflects on how we treat each other. It is only a small step between keeping an animal in a cage to having no qualms about a child being injured whilst working for a pittance in a factory on the other side of the world. Isn’t it time society stood up again for something? Fashion should be about fun, style and looking good, not draping yourself in the skins of mistreated animals.

Do you remember the first time?

Having just returned from my first ‘Marina and the Diamonds’ gig in my old haunt of Hackney, London. I wish to record my thoughts. I discovered the singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis  just over a year ago, what a year it has been!

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I love live music. Live music is very special. It is more ‘real’ than listening to recordings and gives the attendee such an uplifting buzz. I have loved Marina and been a fan (a Diamond) for just over six months. I think Marina is amazing because it is rare to have an artist to write such heartfelt songs about her own personal experiences. She is very special to me because I have connected so closely with those songs. It is only by writing in the pure way Marina does that this is possible. Of course everyone is different, so not not everyone will relate to the songs, hopefully there are other artists for such people who fulfill a similar role. Having now seen her live I have realised that she is an even more wonderful, talented and beautiful person than I gathered from listening to her songs/ videos/ interviews. I have such a natural high from the experience. 20150311_215054 Attending a gig as a fan and then hanging around afterwards in the hope of an extra personal contact with Marina is a really nice experience. Nice, because of the camaraderie with fellow Diamonds, in particular a mother / daughter pair, a guy who came all the way from Qatar and a girl from Liverpool. I like many others had traveled down to London, alone,  from various distances. It was great to have the opportunity to socialise with so many people who you instantly have a lot in common with. what was interesting was the diversity in people at the gig; young and old. Marina has touched and improved the lives of so many people and we all came together for a really great party. We are all different and all have problems communicating with other people who think differently to ourselves, so it’s great to find a community of like minded souls.

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After the gig, there was a large crowd of people waiting for their chance to connect briefly with Marina, far too many than she could actually have the chance to interact with. So many people wanted to connect with Marina as they have connected with her. I got the sense that everyone wished to be polite and respectful, but it is human nature that a scrum formed around Marina. Marina is so lovely that she wants to connect with the fans, sign things, have pictures taken together etc. Sometimes it’s not possible for such a big crowd to all get their moment, often the less pushy people ended up crying. Really though these people were still pleased to have been relatively close to Marina. I did get the briefest of moments, the venues security, decided that Marina needed to get away, so the interactions ended, however I followed her a little longer as I could see that she was with a couple of the people I had been chatting with, who wanted to deliver a letter to her, so had the chance for her to scribble her signature on a CD inlay card I had brought with me. Incidentally it is the first time I have done such a thing. I did feel guilty as whilst Marina was so positive it must have been a fairly harrowing experience, but Marina smiled at me, which made me so happy.

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This last year has been a very positive journey for me. Most of my life I have struggled with anxiety and scared to be myself. Seven years ago, after my mother tragically committed suicide, I went to Madagascar for three months to re-evaluate my life, because I suffered from the very same anxiety and didn’t want to die because of it. Living on a camp in a primary forest, cataloging species. This experience changed me, living in such an amazing environment, with Lemurs waking me up in the morning in my open air hammock with their ‘golden showers’.  I learnt what happiness was, to not worry and that I didn’t need to be concerned about who I was or spend so much time worrying about myself. Since then I have had many happy times, but still some anxious unhappy times. I had tried to explain my journey to various people, but no-one seemed to understand this transition I had made, During the bad times it seemed to be just in my own head, that this happiness was not real, that I was deluding myself. Then last year, Marina began releasing material for her new album ‘Froot’. She did an interview where she stated that she had made a progression and realised that bad things about herself, were not a part of her. So, something similar had happened to someone else, I at last had validation outside my own thoughts that I too had progressed to be a better way of being. Then Marina released the song ‘Happy’ which perfectly expressed my transition too. Whilst it may have been depression for Marina, it was anxiety for me, however it is a very similar progression. This is the whole concept of the ‘Froot’ album and I love it and want to support Marina for doing this. The world needs open honest artists, so many people need this external validation by connecting with something outside themselves at whatever stage of development they are at. Sadly there are not enough artists, open enough and unencumbered by the art itself or genre conventions to do it. This is why it is important to have artists prepared to express themselves. Marina’s new album ‘Froot’ is released on 16.3.15.

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So, Marina, if you ever read this. It is long and it is what i wanted to say to you after the gig, but I quickly realised that I wouldn’t have the opportunity and that it’s rather long for such a frenzied time. I wish to thank you: Firstly for favouriting my tweet about similar progression do happen to others people, that meant so much to me. Secondly, for being a great singer, songwriter, performer, artist and such a wonderful person. I am also so pleased that someone who grew up, like me, in rural Wales has found success, being themselves and doing such good things in the world. Really Marina has been the inspiration behind this whole blog and my new found freedom from fear of expressing myself.

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Meaty Intolerance

Sometimes, I find it a challenge to be tolerant of people who are intolerant of vegetarians. Particularly such arguments as: Humans are omnivores, it’s ‘natural’ to eat meat. These arguments smack of the highest hypocrisy as the implication is that industrial intensive farming, rearing animals in cages on high growth diets is somehow ‘natural’, it isn’t, To many it’s intolerable. Yet veggies are labeled as being awkward people.

I grew up in rural Wales, in a community of small family farms, rearing animals in a traditional free range way. When I was fifteen I discovered that much of the meat I was eating was from intensive factory farming. I found this intolerable and became a vegetarian. Many years later I felt able to ethically source free range meat. This means I now eat meat once, maybe twice a week. Actually the traditional pre-industrial diet.

It annoys me sometimes that people still regard me as ‘awkward squad’ as I don’t eat meat at restaurants. when I first meet people I identify as practically vegetarian to not cause offense, until people get to know me better. The thing is that when I explain my food preferences to people, or expose urban people to the reality of food production, they tend to agree with me, but don’t act. Two reasons are often given:

1/ It’s too expensive. Well yes, but you don’t have to eat meat in every meal, meat should be a treat, not an everyday thing. It seems people are not prepared to make the changes in how they shop or cook.

2/ It’s too difficult to ethically source meat. This is true for the majority of places in the U.K. But if no-one doers this, there is no market pressure put on food production systems, so abuses of animals welfare perpetuate.

Really, it comes across to me, that people are intolerant of vegetarians yet when forced to think about it  they agree, but are simply not prepared to follow through on these convictions. I appreciate how how odd it is to go to a supermarket and ignore the vast majority of the meat section and all the products containing meat, to be lumbered with feeling an irritating sense of superiority in such stores, to feel like an outsider. But really, there is nothing wrong with being right, honest with yourself and true to your convictions. Being not true to yourself to support industries you find intolerable, is to me one of worst ways of living.

Teenage Fantasy

Having recently dabbled into teen fiction, I thought I’d have a bit of a look around. I believe that children’s or young adult books can produce great literature as much as any other fiction ‘genre’.  There appears to be quite a sub-genre of dystopian fantasy. When I was a teenager I read George Orwells ‘1984’, which had a profound influence on my understanding of the world, it is one of the classic dystopian novels.

I love Science Fiction. I love to immerse myself into different universes. I believe there is value in using created universes to explore concepts and also to compare and contrast such societies with the real world. There is also the appeal of escapism and anything involving spaceships! I have also identified more with SF, as opposed to fantasy. The key difference between the two genres is that in SF the worlds strive to be coherent and possible within the universe, or possible with particular defined differences. With fantasy, anything is possible, which makes for great stories, however they are perhaps often less useful as social commentary, due to not trying to be possible.

Both SF and fantasy seem to appeal particularly to teenagers. If teenagers are defined as people engaged with discovering themselves, wider society and the process of fitting in with society. Perhaps due to the pressure of the process,  a desire to escape, to create a space outside of the process is sought. Fantasy fiction can provide this.

I was interested in exploring  contemporary teen dystopian fiction, from an older perspective.  I read ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth. I feel that is i had read this as a teenager i would have hated it. Hated, because it isn’t a coherent universe, the society described is not possible, as such as a teenager I would have struggled to make sense of it. However, transcending this incoherence and immersing with the story allows the reader to appreciate what the novel does say, even if a fantasy.

Spoilers. The society of ‘Divergent’ is a dystopia consisting of a society divided into five factions, which are purportedly stable, as each faction offers a way of avoiding conflict, though in the novel this stability is breaking down as the factions evolve away from their founding principals. The factions  are based on five  human lifestyle guiding principals: Knowledge, Honesty, Integration, Bravery and Selflessness. At sixteen members of this society choose which faction to join. However rarely, there are ‘Divergents’ who do not have a single dominant principle and divergents are alleged to be dangerous to the social order. This idea of rare ‘divergents’ is where the coherenece of the society breaks down , as the majority of people in our universe are divergent and value more than one thing.

Nonetheless the idea is appealing, perhaps particularly to the teenager, concerned with finding themselves, how to act in society and a fear of conforming to a disliked lifestyle. Indeed, much of the novel concerns the protagonist being initiated into a different faction from her youth, where the behaviours of the faction of her youth are discouraged and new ones encouraged. Essentially some aspects of the  individuals personality are encouraged and others repressed. Thus, individuals conform to their faction, which is what most people do in the real world. For the divergents, they learn how to act as members of faction do, rather than conform. So, the novel actually, effectively explores some of the major issues of being an adolescent. It is an enjoyable, fast paced, action adventure novel.

The lack of coherence of the world still irritates me, the fantasy, the unreality. This is an objection i have towards contemporary society generally. We are offered incoherent fantasies as opposed to balanced accounts of the world. From politicians, from the news media, from the internet and popular entertainments. To be fair, these problems were probably just as bad as when I was a teenager. Perhaps I am frustrated that the world hasn’t improved, so when I discover another fantasy, rather than a thought through coherent world vision, I am frustrated. This puts me into a cynical mode, so I see how in ‘Divergent’ the story panders to the teen ‘market’, rather than as a work of art.

It is very very sad, that the world is now so tapped into commercial culture, that art, books and music, have to be ‘commercial’. so much is there a compromise between quality and commercial appeal. Yes, artists need to make a living. Yes, many artists do an amazing job of balancing these two facets of their work in ingenious ways. The problem is that the pressure towards commercialism away from value seems to be increasing.