Saturday, 25 September 2010

"That's mean!"

When we suggest that something is 'mean', we tend to disassociate the meaning 'to be average' with nastiness, lack of generosity or cruelty.

But if we think about it - these terms are linked. When we lack generosity we might only be giving the average and not over stretching ourselves. When we are being nasty, we are detracting from an abundance of possibilities and belittle that person. When we are cruel, the cruelty lies in hindering the other person, stopping them from fulfilling their nature or full potential.

To be mean is about control. By controlling something, we limit and inhibit. That 'the mean' is one form of average used in math, indicates something about the nature of mathematics and the naming of entities.

Think of the following statement: "On average, a UK citizen will cheat on their spouse twice in their lifetime."

This tells us nothing of the many instances of 'cheating', nor about the various reasons why people might actually cheat. The statement lacks imagination. Nor does it question what is meant by cheating or why couples choose to make a commitment to each other. This statement really is mean.

Friday, 17 September 2010

"You're an idiot!"

There is little more idiotic than calling someone a idiot. What exactly is the name caller trying to do? Consider a few possibilities:

(1) The person being called an idiot really is stupid. So what? What would such affirmation actually achieve, apart from upsetting the victim?

"Gee, thanks, I really never thought about it that way before. Cheers for your feedback!"

(2) Then name caller feels a little insecure and can't work out why 'the idiot' is talking and behaving in a certain way. In these circumstances, the fault lies with the person doing the labeling. If you cannot understand someone, this does not mean they are behaving in a stupid way - the contrary might actually be true.

(3) The name caller probably has an emotional insecurity and needs to reaffirm his supposed superiority. Yet, this stance actually betrays the name caller's lack of authority. If one person is less intelligent than another, this does not make them a lesser person. The most clever person may have evil intentions, forever finding creative means of manipulating people. But this very person, becomes less lovable, because of how they behave.

Given a choice, I would take affection over intelligence any day.