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VIII

Leaving aside claims of what marriage can be like if you choose a very, very good spouse, let's consider what most marriages are like. As people get older they are pressured to find a spouse, especially females to find a husband (because a woman's life, lacking a marriage, has less in it than a man's, because women devote more energy and thought to relationships and less to having personal interests or a career). They are encouraged to stop waiting for someone who isn't coming (ie, a very excellent spouse), and told they aren't getting any younger (a matter prettiness and childbearing age), and they are told to stop having unrealistic expectations. The meaning is to settle for less.

How can a very close, trusting, intimate, knowledge-creating, problem-solving relationship be possible if you settle for less? How could you settle for someone who doesn't understand you well? Who doesn't care for learning deeply? Who isn't trustworthy? Who is bad at solving problems (with you, or generally) and does not have the right attitudes and personality to change this? Who lacks curiosity? Who has bad values or bad moral theories?

The advice to settle for less reveals that marriages don't *really* have all the amazing goodness claimed. They aren't about creating a better situation for knowledge creation. If they were, people would advise only to marry when the prerequisites are present. But people don't advise as such. They advise just *as if* marriage is about being less lonely, getting laid, having kids, sharing chores, sharing a house, and other mundane things (except parenting isn't mundane).

How do you avoid being (slightly) old and unmarried, and thus being pressured to finally find someone that you can be happy enough with? (One implication here is you cannot be happy enough alone. Which again speaks to marriage being chosen not because it is amazing. In this case we see people sometimes marry simply because they fear the alternatives.) The most reliable way, by far, to avoid being unmarried for too long, while maintaining high standards, is to delude yourself. Create a fantasy of what people you meet are like. Marry the fantasy that seems so perfect. I don't mean to suggest people consciously set out to do this. That wouldn't be a very good way to delude yourself. But consider love at first sight, crushes on people who have just been met, "young love", being infatuated, and so on. Further helping this along is sexual repression. When young people do start having sex with someone it seems so new and amazing that they can easily mistake this for having a good relationship, special connection, or their partner having some positive attribute.

By the way, marrying because the alternatives seem worse to you might sound logical. OK, strictly, it is logical. But it only seems this way due to irrational memes. There isn't some good reason that "being alone" should be so horrible. The main reasons it is are either that you want to be married, so you interpret unmarried state as lonely and bad. Or you don't know how to live your own life so your life is empty, in which case marriage will not actually solve the problem.

So get married young and deluded (and also frequently low on perspective just from youthful ignorance), or older and pressured. It takes great luck or skill to do better. So, most people do not do better. Their spouse is no one amazing.

You may say: never mind them. My marriage *is* special. My marriage creates lots of knowledge, more than friendships do. It is a shame many people marry who should not. I even advise them not to. When asked for details, you might talk about how in love you are, how well you can talk, how can can be happy when you are just together even without talking, how much your intimacy helps your lives, how happy you are together, how much you enjoy sex together and have no interest in sex with anyone else, how well you understand each other, how well you coordinate routine parts of your lives effectively and efficiently, how well you help each other through hard times and stress, how much you inspire each other to take up new interests (usually together), how often you tell each other interesting things, and so on. Now, here's the thing: *all those average, normal marriages, based on delusion or settling, that simply are not particularly special* ... if you ask them to describe their marriage, many of them will say *all* of the details I just listed of why the good marriage is supposedly good. The self report that people use to say how great their own marriage is, is virtually the same from couple to couple. And you are trying to claim yours is better but are only invoking the same praise everyone else claims to deserve. You have badly failed to set yourself apart: nothing listed is remotely unique. And further, that you match the claims of most marriages so closely is strong evidence you are suffering the same memes and delusions they are.

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Three huge benefits of privacy are:

1) helps alleviate problems caused by having flaws and irrationalities (including memes)
2) helps manage flaws other people have and irrationalities (including memes)
3) helps with criticism scheduling

People don't value privacy enough in general. Children frequently play privacy-destroying games such as "Truth or Dare" and "Ten Fingers". In truth or dare people are asked questions and under very strong pressure to tell the truth. The questions are designed to be uncomfortable, to reveal secrets. They often embarrass people who have unusual sexual or drug history, or just unusual preferences. They are a mechanism by which people are pressured to have conventional experiences and preferences. Ten fingers is similar: people ask who has done something and if you have you put down one finger. Everyone can see if you've done it.

Parents don't like to give privacy to their children. That allows children opportunity to disobey. And what do they need it for, anyway? Parents are only there to help. Why hide from your helper? Children especially never have the private use of much money.

Friends pressure each other to reveal secrets, and also to talk about things (especially relationships or upsetting things), even where there is hesitance. Friends "pry". And once they do ask something they don't like not getting an answer. Aren't you friends? Why can't you tell?

Married couples are perhaps the worst destroyers of privacy. They share a room, a bed, financial affairs, their friend's secrets. They are supposed to share their intimate feelings, deepest fears, embarrassing sexual preferences, and anything their partner would feel he has a right to know or would want to know. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" is a common complaint. "You should have told me." And they do it on purpose. They look down on privacy. "Why would you want to hide things from me?" And "We share everything" comes with bragging rights. That is the ideal.

If marriages are really about knowledge creation, at all, they should care deeply about privacy if only because knowledge creation requires criticism *at the right times* and a good way to get criticism of an idea at the right time is only to tell people at the right time.

That shows you the main idea of what criticism scheduling is about. But it also takes place within one mind. Imagine you are trying to write something, say a blog entry. Criticism is part of the editing process. (It's also part of the thought process of deciding what to write, and indeed the process of having any idea at all.) When you edit you look for flaws and problems in the writing and then figure out how to change them. Most people have separate writing and editing phases. Occasionally they will do both at once (or perhaps they are just switching back and forth very quickly). Anyhow, bad criticism scheduling might look like this: you write one sentence, then edit it a lot and try to make it perfect. And the result is you get kinda stuck and don't get much content written down. And also once you have more sentences which the first one needs to coordinate with the requirements for the first sentence will be different so the initial edits probably will have been a waste. At worst people sometimes get stuck and can't write much at all because they always stop to criticize and edit it, but have trouble doing that part well so early. Criticism scheduling within one mind may seem easy. Subjectively it is. But that's only because we do it without thinking about it intentionally. It is a skill that some people are better or worse at. But it's a skill we all have a fair amount of. A bit like speaking your native language seems very easy, but actually it's complex and you are very skilled.

What about flaw management in self and others? How does privacy come into play there? Well suppose someone is bad at chess, but thinks he is good at it, so you don't like to talk about chess with him or play with him, because of his faulty perspective (and you tried talking to him about it, but he seemed irrational and it went badly). You want to manage this flaw by avoiding it. How do you do that? Well either you can never play chess, or if you like chess then what you need is privacy. If he knows you play actively he'll ask you to play, and you'll be under pressure to lie (better avoided). But if you have privacy you can play chess without it coming up with him.

This brings up a common point: frequently if you don't have privacy you will be tempted to lie. This is essentially a way to try to get some privacy back. If you fool someone then they'll act as if the thing they found out was false, which is a bit like they don't know it happened. Or suppose someone asks one of your opinions that you don't want to say. Then if you can't ask for privacy ("I'd rather not say.") then a way to answer the question without revealing your opinion is to lie. This is true whether you have the flaw (irrationally defensive about your opinion, for example), you just don't want criticism now (scheduling issue), or the other person has a flaw (would react badly to your opinion). In all cases lying gets you out of it, but privacy is better.

Why wouldn't you be able to just ask for privacy? Well, people might assume you would only do that if you don't want to answer, and therefore you have an opinion that is offensive. (And they might be right. Some people behave that way.) More generally, people who don't respect privacy keep trying to get the information out of you, and it isn't pleasant to be poked like that. They won't just ask a variety of question, and perhaps spy on you. They will also make guesses and possibly just assume the guess is correct, or also they might ask you about their guesses and try to judge your reactions. And if you keep refusing to discuss they may well get offended. People who value and respect privacy are nicer to interact with, but also if you set the right tone from the start they are more able to get the right idea (if you seem conventional about privacy at first then abruptly want privacy then you're probably just hiding something and claiming you respect privacy in general to cover up).

When people are irrational it's usually awkward to tell them because they are blind to it and will not appreciate the sentiment. Having privacy in general helps avoid such problems. If you only ask for privacy for the specific issues where you think someone is flawed then the act of choosing which issues to request privacy about is giving away a lot of information. It's a bit like if you gave someone a map of your house, and you blurred out 5 different parts where you have something private. If you then let them look through the house of course they will investigate those 5 spots. You gave it away. But if the entire map is blurred, or you refuse to give out a map, then you're safe. Also safe is to have a distinct public area which is all clear, and the rest all blurred.

When you are irrational you probably don't want to talk about it, at least with most people. Unless they are sympathetic it isn't much fun! And commonly one mechanism irrational memes have is that if you consider doing otherwise then they make you feel bad. So if people manage to persuade you that rationally you should change your mind, a likely result is to find yourself unable to do so and to feel very bad about it.

That's irrationalities other people disagree with. Another scenario is you are making progress in getting rid of your hang up, and it's a conventional hang up, and then you should want privacy from people who have the same hang up, because they would pressure you to see things in the old, normal way, and try to make you feel bad about changing, and also they might be offended that you are trying to be better than them and think their way of life is bad. You could also label this a kind of criticism scheduling. Once you have changed yourself and are solidly the new way you might not mind to get flak from conventional people anymore. You may have finally fully learned how to handle it (perhaps by running test conversations with the conventional voice in your head).

Privacy about age is nice for dealing with ageist people. This is hard in person, but fairly possible online. This is another example of managing a flaw in another person. Also if you were a bit ashamed of your youth, and perhaps felt you were not adult enough to do serious, important things, then again privacy can help because at least other people won't be able to bother you about the shame or encourage it. If you are being hard on yourself that is difficult enough, you don't need the added burden of trying to defend yourself (while not even sure you should be defended in what you are doing!).

Privacy about medical records is a commonly respected type of privacy. It's no one's business but your own and your doctor's, if you have an illness. Unless you have reason to want to tell them. That's a good attitude. You don't need a special reason to have privacy for your records. It is your right. I expect that you approve of medical privacy. So take a moment to think about why you approve of this privacy, and whether that attitude logically should also apply to other types of privacy.

The privacy of one's bedroom is also respected in general, except for laws against sexual deviants (gays, sexually active young people). But that mostly applies to strangers. Your friends very well may ask about your sex life. Be wary. It is important to be free to try your sexual preferences (with consent of partner) and not to repress them. Knowing that your friends will ask, and it will be difficult to avoid telling them, is an extra mechanism by which people are under pressure to keep their sex conventional and repressed.

There is nothing to gain from having little privacy. Tell people things when you want to talk about them (and think it's safe enough). Other than that, what do you have to gain from a policy of not taking seriously and protecting your privacy? Remember that you can always reveal some information later should you find a reason to do so, but you can't take it back, so when in doubt keep it private.

You should take steps not to ask for private information, and not to be told private information. If someone is gossiping about a third party you should interrupt and see if it's OK for you to be told this. If your friend says, "oh, she wouldn't mind" that isn't good enough. You need to take responsibility for yourself, and form your own opinion of whether this would be minded. To do so you'll want to ask for the *reasons* your friend knows the third party wouldn't mind, and see if they are good.

Try to notice when you are getting information out of people. Even if they don't seem angry that doesn't mean it's ok, and it especially doesn't mean it's *best*. Often people tolerate invasive friends without complaint, and will say it's fine if asked, but if they really had control of the situation, and they were under no pressure, they wouldn't tell. Pressuring information out of people is like rape. And it's well known that rape victims often fail to stand up for themselves (and this creates many borderline cases where the person didn't want to have sex but didn't clearly or verbally communicate that fact. but anyway you don't want to be either person in a case like that!). And rape victims often blame themselves. Anyway, mind rape: just don't do it. And after social nights think back on what happened in the conversations: noticing such things after the fact is a lot easier than in real time. A lot of people pressure their friends and don't realize it. So if you're thinking you don't do it, that isn't sufficient. Maybe you, too, don't realize it. You better analyze some situations you were in thoughtfully to make sure.

You might think if someone really didn't want to answer your question, they wouldn't, and that isn't your responsibility. This is the wrong way to look at it. If a computer program tried to get a secret out of you by asking the same 5 questions over and over on an infinite loop then yes it would fail, and people who answered would be people who wanted to answer. That's trying to get the answers *non-creatively*. But when people ask, and then ask again in a different way, and again, what they are doing is using creativity to make each question as hard to answer as possible. And the answerer is using creativity to try to avoid answering each time, but it's hard: the path of least resistance is often just to answer. In this creative battle of wills either side can win. The defender starts with a number of advantages, sure, but they can be overcome. And the aggressor has advantages too. Often numbers. Often social convention.

Elliot Temple on July 19, 2007

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