Testing Intentions

“You’re testing me, aren’t you?” he said, to my surprise. I was. I was under the assumption that my attempts to provoke him were rather sophisticated. Indeed, I even know how to make men believe that it was their decision to leave me rather than mine (it minimises the risk of revenge). There we were, alone at a restaurant. I had spent the last few weeks with him, but there was always a lingering doubt, a distrust of his intentions and I wanted to find a way to offend him and expose the true depths of his personality, now, rather than later. I just called him a liar.

“No,” I said with my eyes, but I never actually said no. I just stared back at him in pity as rage began to overwhelm him. He was lying. He was being superficial to me, presenting himself inauthentically as an archetypal ‘nice guy’ masked under his real personality. I wanted to know his thoughts, his intentions, who he actually was and to see whether he was willing to converse, to talk things through, to use his mind. I see it all the time, in both men and women, women who have cheated on their oblivious boyfriends and yet delight in complimenting them knowing it will fool them from ever learning about their intentions, or conversely men who intentionally keep people in their lives who only compliment and nourish their egos, avoiding anyone who criticises them to mask their inherent narcissism. People are so good at lying that they actually believe their own lies, so why would I trust them?

After a past encountered with the worst sort of men, I made the decision to create barriers to those permitted into my private life, a gauntlet to test whether they could survive my moral onslaught and prove the integrity of their intentions, to see if they would turn and walk the other way, to see how angry they would get, if they would lie about me, if they would get others involved, whether their ego is more important than reason.

They all fail miserably.

So what is the morality behind testing the intentions of others? Is it an honest practice, or a psychological one that mirrors my own intentions and sets people to fail by default through impossible standards? Is it a form of lying? Would observational analysis suffice, where I simply wait over a period of time before obtaining enough experiences to catalogue justifications that would hold others accountable? Or does the swift testing mechanism early in the relationship enable one to protect themselves from forming emotional attachments to bad friends?

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Motherly Love: An Individuation of Ethics

My experience in Syria and Turkey has transformed me and I am excited to announce that I am in the final stages of my book, Motherly Love: An Individuation of Ethics, a moral philosophy that explains my ethical transformation and how to develop a sustainable and effective form of altruism that would support the disadvantaged in the best way, unlike the rapid, unsustainable burst of money-giving that has limited scope.

I will be embedding a podcast The Moral Traveller over the next few months and will also need to change the website, so please keep an eye out and be patient as I slowly implement these changes.

Thank you for all your love and support! I believe the year 2020 will be my greatest year of accomplishments.

Powerful Change In Me

Something is happening to me and I cannot fully grasp what I am feeling, a combination of exhilaration and depression, of intellectual maturity and madness all at the same time. I am at the very beginning stage of what I feel must be a transformation. A seed has been planted. I have decided that I will remove myself for the entire month of December, to patiently assess this change in solitude and silence, to fast and abstain and deeply re-think the course of my own trajectory and the meaning of my own existence.

After being caught for so long in my own subjective landscape, trapped by powerful emotions, self-pity and indulgence, I feel as though I am ready to courageously seek my ‘purpose’ and it was through my travels to Syria/Turkey that this was awakened. I was so overwhelmed by what I saw, the profound violence and hardship, people with cancer from chemical bombings, men without limbs, women and children burned, so much death, horror and misery. It was abysmal and I underestimated the impact seeing what I saw of the Syrian war would have on me.

In my anxiety, I gave away all my money, could not sleep, felt emotionally hopeless and despairing and that shows to me a short, sharp failure at doing what I should have been doing. It mirrored, for the first time, the meaning of my life because I realised I was not doing what I should have been for a very long time. The question is, what was it that I should be doing? I need time and self-reflection to answer that.

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Qatar, The Man Who Wears Too Much Cologne

Damnation. I have a Birkenstock tan on my feet. I self-consciously run into the swimming pool the moment I notice, pretending the floor is hot as I ooo-ahh my way into the cool water and give a pretend sigh of relief to the family staring at me. As usual, I am too busy being concerned about what other people think that I found myself making the same mistakes, and it was later that afternoon I realised I was once again negligent with the sunscreen. I cursed at myself as I visually toured my body in the bathroom mirror, peering over the tan lines that were all over me from my midriff to the sides of my neck. I look like a harpsichord!

Apart from the self-effacing critique worthy of any thespian tragedy, I will admit spending the incredibly hot day on Banana Island after a ridiculous fifteen hour flight from Melbourne to Doha was exactly what I needed. If it weren’t for the gruesome exhaustion, however, I would likely hate this place. The superficiality, the plastic plants, the buffet of cheesecakes made from artificial powder all of which I avoided. Resorts are not my thing, but maybe it is the type of place for families with children who can enjoy the recreational activities available, or the pretentious who want to relish in their wealth. It can cost a hefty amount to stay there, but luckily they offer day tickets for outsiders like me to visit and for 350 riyal, you can get a ferry to the island and some food and recreational vouchers.

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The Paradox of Empathy: Is Good Behaviour Selfish?

Most everyone agrees that a just society promotes equality among its citizens, but blood is spilled over what sort of equality is morally preferable ~ Paul Bloom

Honour is a rather fickle word. As one raised in a country that promotes the individual character, I find the tribalism and public shaming aroused by the misconceptions surrounding honour to be incredibly confronting, particularly since it allows biased men to believe they are permitted or authorised to behave badly, especially towards women. Honour killings, acid throwing, FGM to name a few. Gangs that deal drugs and commit heinous crimes still have a code of “honour” between them and so it raises the question on whether the idea of honour is just moral romanticism. Honour is one of many words – including empathy and love – that we need to question. If we think about extreme political violence and the dehumanisation of groups of people, such as when millions were murdered during the holocaust, it was the false propaganda used against them that targeted empathy – Jews were “bad” because they hurt children and stole money – and so it was empathy that allowed the entire population to believe that they were doing the right thing by killing the “bad” people.

Psychopaths are incredibly successful in manipulating and targeting the empathy in others in order to obtain a desired and often violent outcome, but far greater in our society is the narcissist that – while mostly nonviolent – often target those who are highly empathetic knowing that performing on social cues, they will receive what they desire in return. If a narcissist only cares about admiration, money, sex, and freedom or entertainment, their true character is easily exposed by taking away the very thing they seek and so they become enraged, vengeful and malicious. Narcissists are the individual equivalent to political entities who dehumanise groups, because they do not actually care about others unless they obtain something from them and in the process dehumanise the worth of the other person.

There is a word in Turkish that hasn’t the English equivalent called vicdansız and it translates to someone who is unconscionable, yet, unlike this lack of conscience used to explain psychopaths in criminal law, vicdansız is a type of remorseless behaviour where someone is unable to see their own wrongdoing in all situations, not just criminal and therefore more aligned with narcissism. I realised, however, that an empathetic person who intends to do and seek goodness can actually do more damage without realising, perhaps while assuming they are doing good in much the same way as a narcissist is often unaware. As such, there is a distinction between ethical behaviour and selfish behaviour that needs to be addressed. A good action with selfish intentions does not necessarily undermine the good act, but it resists the authenticity of the act making it ethical, yes, but selfish at the same time. What does that exactly mean?

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Syria: The Past. The Present. The Future?

My brief experience recently visiting Turkey has completely transformed me. With all the challenges that I faced, one of the greatest was failing to understand the sheer scale of the devastation the Syrian war has inflicted on so many innocent people. It is well known that while I have an impenetrable and staunch commitment to human rights, I am also extremely empathetic to a point that I almost feel the suffering of others and this pain has vicariously and rather deeply hurt. I felt helpless, heartbroken, desperate and unable to speak to anyone, the indifference only perpetuated the feelings I was having.

I need to understand the history and the politics of the region that has wreaked such havoc and caused so much unnecessary suffering. The civil war in Syria has seen more than half a million innocent people killed since it began in 2011, with 5.7 million refugees fleeing the country and 6.1 million internally displaced. Thousands upon thousands of people have died that have never had the respect and dignity of a burial. What happened in Syria that caused such horror?

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