Sunday, February 28, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 5

Wanting What We Can't Have

Ever wonder why we have desires? A true Buddhist monk who is truly enlightened supposedly has no worldly desires. They leave a peaceful life, and have no cravings of an iPod, or a 100-inch flat screen, or the latest model of Ferarri, or a pair of double-Ds. Wouldn't the world be a better place?

We are not here today to try to convince everyone that the world will be a better place without any desires. If anything, without the wanting more, things like cars, lighting, roads, computers, the Internet and what not would never even have been invented. And I would not even be typing this right now. So naturally, desires can be wonderful things.

However, just recently, I read a comment by a friend, that said:

I think a veiled woman is a wondrous creature. She protects her body. She protects her beauty. She protects her dignity.

Here is my reply to the comment:

While I may or may not agree with the message, I replied to the comment with something that I think people should think about:
Without offense to any religion or culture, just expressing a radical viewpoint which may or may not be mine, do you think it is possible that by intentionally concealing what people want amplifies people's desires? This does not only apply to women or the opposite sex. It is just human nature. 
Even children throw tantrums when their parents hide away their favorite toy, or refuse to buy them ice-cream. Add on another 20 years, the same case still applies. The animal instinct in humans encourages humans to seek what they can't have. While human reason serves as a control and check over their animal instincts, it is merely a denial of one's nature. 
Most people always want more. If you have a bike, you want a car. If you have a Viva, you want a Myvi. If you have a Myvi, you want a BMW and so on and so forth. Unless you truly have a pure soul that is free from life's vices, the desire for more applies. 
Just a point to think about, what makes women's breasts more appealing than men's chests? While we can comment about its shape and size, it is somewhat arbitrary. Who dictated that breasts are private parts? Why is it that men's chests are not private? Maybe it is because of the fact that the concealment of breasts led to the very desire of them which further leads to their concealment and the cycle goes on. If women's chests were exposed all the time, would there still be a desire for them? 
I singled out breasts as an example. I respect the rules of religion, please do not misunderstand me. The same argument applies for the withholding of any object of desire, be it a body part or otherwise. 
Just food for thought. The above statements are not exactly what I truly feel about the issue, but it is just something to think about. For arguments' sake or perhaps academic or philosophical purposes. 

In all fairness, I will also include the reply to my comment and I will add on my reply in parentheses where I deem necessary:

Don't worry. I've been waiting for this kinda comment to pop out. Definitely to quench the unbeknownst mystery among non-Moslem; academic discussion for sure. Human nature flourishes hand-in-hand with lust. Undeniable to be the solace for men. Nonetheless, it should be treated with boundaries. (Like I said, the gift of our minds serve as a control to our instincts. We are not animals and thus have no reason to succumb to fickle desires)
When you said by unveiling the body of women only to eliminate certain enigmatic 'arousal' to the curious and thus to alleviate that, one must not conceal it; that reflects the animal instinct of men. It comes with the nature that men are attracted by curiosity, I agree. BUT, does it really serve the purpose to quench the curiosity? Like you said, MEN WANT MORE. It would never tame the beast inside; only to fire up the flame even more. (I disagree. It is not to quench the curiosity. In fact, the curiosity would never have existed in the first place if the body parts were not concealed at all. The question still remains, why is it that men's chests are nowhere near as mysterious as women's? I do however agree that we will always want more, which is in fact, the title of this week's article. We always want what we can't have. So what I am trying to say is that if we give everyone a free and full viewing of "private" areas, thus it would totally dissipate the desire to view them. As an aside, when I said "Men want more", I am using the term "men" to  refer to both genders, without loss of generality)
Men are aroused by looks whereas women are aroused by thoughts. To say that ' If women's chests were exposed all the time, would there still be a desire for them?' certainly is not the mirror to the reality. Like you said, men want more. Just imagine, if every Malaysian women is to dress up scantily-clad and reveal their boobs; men would start having pervert impression towards women ALL THE TIME whereas when a woman who dress up in ALL BLACK and covers up her body does not trigger sexual aspiration as much as the ones with revealing-boobs. (Therein lies the problem. What I was advocating was the complete removal of all coverage, and not to conceal them with "scantily-clad outfits". The argument above merely supports my own because the partial concealment of certain areas would only serve to further amplify that desire. I am not comparing a woman who covers herself with one that doesn't. I am merely suggesting that if ALL women do not cover up at all without discrimination, there would be no desire for the "private" areas)
One simple test. Imagine there are 2 women in front of you. A she-taliban. And Pamela Anderson. Which one would you go for? :) (Once again, the same argument applies. You midsunderstood me in thinking that I am comparing a woman that covers herself with a woman that doesn't. I am comparing the case that ALL women cover up against the case that ALL women reveal everything)
It's not to feed the 'humanistic' purpose. It's not about to shun men's basic needs. It's not about liberation towards 'girl' power. It's about what God knows the best. Men are aroused by looks and women are aroused by thoughts. :) (How much evidence is there to support such a statement? Without any offence to any religion, I'd like some more concrete scientific evidence of that claim. In fact, a simple counter-argument to that would be all the oogling that goes on in high school about "hot" Korean boybands. Clearly, women are also aroused by looks)

Now that I have replied to all the comments made, I am still open to more feedback on this issue. Clearly the views expressed here are radical, perhaps overly so, but I personally think it is engaging and worth thinking about. Of course, asking everyone to go everywhere without clothes would be absurd. Or is it? But that is an argument for another day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 4

Sitting on the Fence

The first thing that comes to my mind when I read or hear something like sitting on the fence is that it would be a very painful thing to do. In any context, literally or figuratively speaking, sitting on the fence is not a fun thing to do. In this issue of Economics @ Home, we will be discussing the issue of taking sides when handling conflicts and what are the things that we have to think about before making decisions.

First and foremost, we must understand why we have an inclination to take sides. But what is taking sides? What does it mean to support a side? Without getting too distracted with philosophical details, taking sides just means what it intuitively means. We generally support the side that we align our beliefs to. It could even be in the form of supporting a football team. Nonetheless, the repercussions of taking sides are much less serious when it comes to sports.

Today, we will talk about something a bit more serious, which is taking sides when it comes to friendship. In what scenarios do we have to take sides when dealing with friends?

First, when you have two friends who have conflicting interests. To have a more constructive argument, let us consider a more tangible example. Consider the case of two best friends, Rachel and Monica. Let's say that Rachel recently found out that Monica has been dating Rachel's ex-boyfriend, Danny for 2 months. Rachel and Danny broke up six months ago. Ethically speaking, no one cheated on anyone but Rachel is uncomfortable with Monica and Danny dating because of their history and the awkwardness when she has to be around them. Rachel confronts Monica about this but Monica feels that Rachel and Danny are over and is adamant about dating Danny. Rachel and Monica's relationship soured and both of them feel distanced but are too arrogant to admit it. Now, this is where you come in.  Both friends have confessed how they felt about the situation and seek your advice on the matter. Each one feels that they have their own right to feel the way they feel.

If you think the question I am going to ask is "So how do you advise them?", then I hope you are not disappointed. The real question is not what you tell them, but what are the things that we have to think about in situations such as this? Obviously you would want to take care of the feelings of both parties and can abstain from picking a side by simply advising them to talk it out among themselves. This may or may not be the right solution but it is what I classify as sitting on the fence. Because this is an example, it is easy for you to feel detached from the scenario and say that it is not your problem and they should dish it out. Try to engage yourself a little bit and you will realize that sitting on the fence simply entails the feeling of helplessness, resigning to the fact that you can't or won't do anything to help them.

But that's not the real issue yet. Imagine yourself feeling that Rachel should just move on and let Monica have her shot with Danny. I am inclined to feel that way. So the real issue is, do you go out and support Monica and suffer the consequences of being alienated by Rachel or do you sit on the fence as described above? I wonder which is less painful.

Another difficult situation is when one has to choose between a colleague (which inevitably is your friend), and an employer. Let us first establish that conflicts in the workplace are almost always unavoidable. Also, having your own cliques within your workplace is just as natural. Some personalities just gel well together, while some others just don't. Imagine that Sarah has been working at Company A for about two years. In this two years, she has performed her role satisfactorily, nothing extraordinary, but meeting every single expectation. One fine day, because of some personal issues on the home front, Sarah turns up to work in a foul mood and makes a reasonably costly mistake. Approached by her boss, Jim, Sarah becomes defensive and soon, tempers flare up within, but both refused to budge. Nonetheless, the issue was settled by a mere "I hope it doesn't happen again".

Ever since that moment of friction, Sarah and Jim's relationship had been tense. Now, this is where you come in. At lunch or in the break room, when you and Sarah are alone together, she casually brings up several of Jim's habits and makes jokes about them. As innocent as this may seem, it is possible that she may have raised these remarks out of spite, or for whatever reason. While trying to appear supportive and at the same time, fearing that Sarah might label you as being over-sensitive, you did not confess your discomfort about her making fun of your boss. Not that this gossiping and bitching out sessions are very often, but they do occassionally occur and innocently, you let it pass and this goes on for another few months.

Because of the regularity of such sessions, and your closeness with Sarah, naturally, your opinion of Jim begins to change as you start noticing more and more bad things about him, while forgetting the positive qualities that you may or may not once admire. One day, while thinking about it, you realize that Sarah and Jim used to enjoy a productive working relationship. Ever since that moment of conflict, their relationship became cold and one that was strictly over-professional, if such a thing exists. You also realize that Sarah is becoming anxious over her career prospects at the company because of her friction with Jim, especially if Jim is both your immediate superior. At the end of the year, Sarah confessed that her bonus was a little lower than expected. She felt that she was being treated unfairly since her "retaliation" that one time. She said Jim began ignoring her and they no longer enjoyed the fun working relationship they used to have. She contemplates handing in her resignation.

Herein lies the issue. You realize that in part, Sarah, with her pride and sometimes short fuse has in part to be blamed for the crumbling of her working relationship with Jim. Also, in your own experience, Jim is a great person and you felt that your proximity with Sarah has also led you astray from the relationship you enjoyed with Jim. Nonetheless, Sarah is your closest friend at work and you'd hate to lose her as a friend. You have also tried to raise this issue up with Sarah in hopes of her reconciling her working relationship with Jim but Sarah denies having any problems with Jim and believes that it was entirely Jim's fault that she was in that predicament.

What this example intends to illustrate is that it is almost impossible to choose between your boss and your friend. Do you support Sarah's resignation in hopes that you will no longer have to face sitting on the fence, not knowing whether to side with Jim or Sarah? Do you urge Sarah to stay and convince her that she will be making a mistake and she has to wake up while risking your friendship?

These are just two very difficult issues that many people face in their lives and sometimes treat lightly. If you feel disappointed about the lack of a solution or a proper ending to this issue, please note that even I do not have the solution. It could be the case that there are many solutions and it varies from person to person. But that doesn't say much. One can only wish that one was taught how to handle these tough situations in school.