Why do rockers treat women with respect?
I had an interesting conversation with my daughter today, who's long been
into rock and metal music. She commented about how she always felt safe at heavy
metal clubs, and how those big, tattooed, pierced men would universally treat
her with respect. This contrasted sharply with the hounding she got at
conventional clubs, where she got quickly and constantly surrounded by men who
tried to press themselves on her.
We mused about why this would be, and concluded that there are several
- No anonymity: The rockers form a stable group where people mostly
know one another. So a person cannot turn up and not be noticed. Also,
within the group if you do wrong, there is no place to hide.
- Differential values: The group is a minority, and so
differentiate themselves from the majority in several ways, including
wanting in-group equality within the group and a desire to protect their
- Shared vulnerability: While rockers may look scary, many have
experienced tough times and know what it is like to be a victim, so they
seek to create a safe space in which members can be non-victims.
- Extended identity: Identity factors that include supporting those
who are vulnerable extend beyond the group setting. Hence rockers are likely
to help women and other vulnerable people in everyday settings. This also
helps them confound stereotypes about them that suggest they are unpleasant
and uncaring, and so feel good about being decent people.
Of course there can be variations and not all rockers are saints, but in my
daughter's experience she has never had any problems in rock and metal clubs
over a number of years, unlike elsewhere.
So, next time you see a person dressed in leather, with piercings, Mohican
haircuts, and tattoos, smile at them and give them a hug!
Stepping up to the mark. Can Donald Trump do
I predicted as much last week. Donald Trump is
now the US President elect. Breaking the odds and the polls, he's pressed the
right buttons and awoken a disillusioned majority. Just as Barack Obama got
people to vote who might not normally do so, so also has Donald Trump called out
a different demographic.
Beyond the analysis of why, the next question is 'What will he do?' The
doom-mongers are predicting terrible things. But then predictions do not always
turn out as expected, as we have seen. It seemed an outside chance that Donald
Trump would become president, but he did. It now seems an outside chance that he
will be a great president. Maybe he will.
The critical question now, is 'Will he step up to the mark'. Even as the
election was taking place, the UK's version of The Apprentice is under way. It
is run by Lord Alan Sugar, who has already expanded into politics and sits in
the higher parliamentary chamber. In this reality show, aspiring business people
are set a series of challenging tasks where they have to both show leadership
and collaborate with those who compete against them. There is no hiding place
for those who sit back, nor is there a place for bullies who cannot get the real
buy-in of others.
A fascinating aspect of this and other reality shows (my guilty pleasure is
The X Factor) is watching how some people step up to the mark, who learn, grow
and develop. These people swallow their pride, listen to the experts and work
hard to become better at everything they do. Those who believe they know it all
or who major on blaming others fall by the wayside.
So will Donald Trump step up to the mark?
Will he collaborate rather than just dictate? Will he be fair rather than
vindictive? Will he lead the people rather than just trying to manage? Only time
will tell. Reality participants, of who he has seen more than a few, are
difficult to forecast. People who seem ebullient wilt under pressure. People who
claim to be expert demonstrate a marked lack of expertise. People who seem nice
can turn really bitchy. And then quiet people can step to the fore. Aggressive
people rein themselves in. A few such people step up to the mark and show
themselves to be true and capable leaders.
Can Donald Trump do this? Or will he blow it? He has the potential to commit
political suicide. He also has the potential to get a lot of people killed.
Pre-judging achieves nothing. Only his actions will prove this particular
He has confounded us once. Perhaps he will confound us again. I dearly hope
We're on the brink of a precipice and might
It's a momentous time in politics, which means it's serious for all of us.
The American presidential elections are upon us (well, they've been piled on us
for quite some time). Here in the UK we are also dukeing it out on our white
clifftops as we try to leave Europe and the world stands by, baffled. It seems
we are no longer in Kansas, and may soon be transported to the strange land of
If Donald Trump gets to be president or the UK continues it's midair plunge
(following the pound into the abyss), we'll be living in a new world of
goodness-knows-what. If you believe the press, it's all going to end in tears.
In either case, I suspect problems appearing that nobody really saw, broken
promises and real hardship. Worst of all, it could presage an age of division,
and perhaps even a slide into war. After years of greater acceptance of one
another, we seem to have flipped to the other end of the spectrum. Or at least
around half of us have done so. Or have we? It may well be that those who seem
so angry have had their frustrations festering for years, only to be given voice
in Trump and Brexit. The whole of society seems to have polarized, with each
side hating the other and flinging mud and vitriol rather than calmly discussing
I've been listening to the commentary of late that tries to explain Trump and
populism. I've even had a go or
two myself. Brexit was described as a
vote-off between those who had everything to lose and those who had nothing to
lose. It's probably similar in the USA. Some have gained. And some have lost
their jobs or just stagnated. The great American Dream that hard work leads to
success has palpably failed for many people. And, as has often been reported,
the 1% are getting richer while the middle classes are contracting and the
working classes just hanging on with their fingernails.
Migration is often quoted as a cause of woes, and it may be for some, yet
this has been a complaint for hundreds of years and seems a symptom more than a
root cause. It may also be a trigger, as in the Brexit vote. Globalization has
also had its effects, as the open world has led towards a flattening and
equalization of economies. There is far more to go, but the effects of a free
market is that money flows to where it works best, including cheap work markets.
Liberalization is a paradox that seeks fairness in equality of all people, yet
when people who have nothing get something, those who had little before feel
they are paying for this. Concern for the environment and the longer future also
collides with those who are just struggling to get by today.
Will we jump? I suspect we may. Even if we do not, the problems that led to
this suicidal tendency will not go away.
Control, Corruption or Culture, a Common
Before 2001, Kabul in Afghanistan was run by the Taliban using a system of
strong control, with religious police enforcing a strict zero tolerance policy.
Women in particular had a raw deal, held in a subservient, uneducated,
covered-up role. Yet everyone was equal in their poverty and crime was low.
After the Western liberation, the Taliban fled and a local government wad set
up with as much support for true democracy as possible. And yet corruption set
in, big time, even in hopefully uncorrupt organizations such as the army. For
example, there are many 'ghost' soldiers who do not exist, yet their salaries
are still drawn (and kept by those in the chain of command).
Corruption is an uneven system, leading to a few very rich and many poor and
fearful people. Corruption begets corruption. Its methods include bribery,
blackmail and violence. It sucks you in and never lets you leave.
It is the same in many other countries, where the choice seems to be either a
strict system of control or unfettered corruption. Even in those places we call
free are not perfect, with a mostly uncorrupt legislature and moderate levels of
Perhaps it is an indictment of the human condition. Unfettered, our deceptive
skills come to the fore as we major on selfish mores and protecting our gene
pool. Yet suppressed, we are so much less than we could be. Is there no hope for
Building a balanced nation is a difficult task, as other post-liberation
experiences have shown. You can't just set up elections and hope for the best.
We need uncorruptible governmental bodies, or at least ones where corruption is
low enough to sustain sufficiently fair control. One way this happens is with
separation of powers, for example between law-making and law-bringing bodies. No
one person, nor a small elite, can have ultimate power which ultimately
A powerful force for moderation is a culture that mandates fairness, in which
the unfairness of corruption or absolute rule would lead to outcry and popular
revolt. Culture is rooted in belief and is hard to shift, which is one reason
why regime change is so fraught. You can change leaders quickly, but widespread
belief in how the world works and what is right is much harder.
Culture is the third way. It is a major determinant of how we behave. It
shapes whether we are corrupt or not and can override selfish tendencies. It
transfers control from government to society as the system of social approval
and punishment acts as a powerful distributed control system.
Culture is spread through actions, symbols and everyday talk. It can be seen
in the stories we tell, about others and ourselves. It embodies trust and what
this means to people. It is the most powerful and yet least understood force for
I lost the sense of beauty and then found it
again. Here's how.
I once wrote a blog, titled ‘I
have studied myself cynical’. I felt I had lost a lot of the wonder I once
had. I started as a graduate engineer and then gained four post-graduate
qualifications, as well as reading non-stop for fifty years or so. And as I knew
more, I seemed to appreciate less.
So, as an engineer, I thought ‘this is an interesting problem’ and
(paradoxically) studied it more. In brief, I found it was related to two things.
It firstly is about the familiar and the strange. When we are young, many
things are unfamiliar, and so we gaze at even the simplest thing in wonder.
Familiar things are safe, but boring. They do not grab our attention. They have
little ‘wow’. Strange things can be scary, so we ignore them or pretend they are
So one thing I did to increase the strange in my life was to travel more. I
also sought to deliberately meet people from different backgrounds, and listen
to their stories.
In addition, it is about perception. In creating familiar understanding, we
simplify and force-fit the world to our fixed mental models. It is in how we
interpret and create meaning that beauty is perceived.
So I decided to learn to
see beauty where I had been seeing familiar. For this, I took up photography. This
aligned with my travels and added the dimension of looking creatively at
everything in front of me.
Here are some of the photos I’ve taken on my travels:
Why do I get sad when TV series end?
I got asked this recently. This is what I wrote...
Same reason you got sad/emotional when you left high school. And when
somebody dies. It’s about attachment and loss.
As a part of identity development we form attachments to people, things,
places and so on in our lives. Our sense of identity is not just about us, but
the connections and attachments we make. This is who we are.
When you meet people, you may tell them about your job, family and so on.
These are attachment items. So also are TV series, which are produced
specifically to cause attachment, so you keep watching them (and the adverts, of
course). Key aspects that causes attachment include:
- Characters that you like (and even some you don’t).
- A storyline into which you project yourself.
- Tensions and excitement that you don’t have in your life, but which you
can sense vicariously.
See more of the theory of attachment at:
When attachments are broken, you feel a sense of loss, like a hole in your
identity where the formerly-attached item is missing. This can tip you into a
grief cycle, where you go through stages such as denial, anger and trying to
find a way back.
Loss is not all bad. It reminds us of good times. It brings us together.
There is also an odd pleasure in it as we experience deep emotion which can be
better than flat boredom. This is one reason why TV series kill off major
characters now and again.
Loss also makes us seek replacements, such as getting a dog when our children
all leave home. In TV series, we tend to look for replacement watching, often of
similar types of series. This is how, for example, when a person gets hooked
(=attached) on a superhero series, they end up watching lots of such series.
See more about grief at:
Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle
The polarisation of society and a way back to
Have you noticed that politics has got rather fractious of late? Politicians
are taking extreme views and refusing to work with one another. Little real work
gets done amid the fruitless cat fights, which contributes further to electorate
contempt. And not content with that, in-party schisms are commonplace, often as
ever-more radical wings rip away at the traditional body as toleration gives way
to right or left extreme ideals.
The electorate, too, split and raucous, see opposition politicians and their
supporters as bad and even evil, rather than wrong or misguided.
This intolerance is also seen in society and religion and may even be visible
in terrorism and consequent reactions. The internet, too, is bound up in this
malaise. Anonymity and remoteness enabled extreme views to be expressed without
fear of recrimination. Indeed, the simple buzz of power that trolls get from
being nasty reflects the baser potential of our nature. Social media has also
encouraged more extreme views in the shock-horror of gossip. In the search for
affirmation, we band together into online tribes where we stroke one another's
egos and attack out-group others lest we, too, are castigated for not being true
enough to friends and tribal values.
Polarization is a classic us-vs-them tactic, where taking an extreme position
casts those who do not do likewise at the other extreme, making them clearly
'not us'. This extreme psychological distance enables us demonize and dehumanize
them, reducing them to faceless 'things', such that we can harshly criticize
them, unfettered by common decency and social values that constrain our
interaction with humans.
In other words, polarization is an easy short cut for the lazy and
thoughtless who need approval more than reason. It is also the refuge of the
insecure, who find the complexity of the real world too much to handle.
Polarization can also be seen in the distribution of wealth, at least in the
'western world', where there has been a gradual return to elitism with the 'one
percent' super-rich, more people struggling to get by, and a general collapse of
the middle classes. Where once a booming middle class with enough wealth for
some luxuries was an aspirational possibility for many, now it has been eroded
to the point where markers of affluence, for example home ownership, are
becoming more and more of a distant possibility.
When you take away hope, you get hopelessness. While many resign themselves
to this fate, others are rebelling and may yet become a powerful political force
who represent the have-nots, and who will powerfully confront the minority
haves. For a long time the political right have fooled many with emotional
appeals and empty promises that play to their fears, yet there also is a rising
anger that may yet find a voice of its own. It is this voice that many are
hearing and following in the new populist rebellions against traditional elitist
government. Yet this replaces one extreme with another and is likely simply to
perpetuate see-saw politics.
The pressures of an ever-faster life leads steadily from moderate positions
to the easier extremes where we only have to look in one direction. Yet that
polarized position brings new dangers. In a moderate society you can trust most
people, even those who are not like you, to be civil and kind. But when things
polarize, you see enemies at the gate and even inside the citadel. Where the
defining emotion of moderation is love, fear rules the polarized.
So how do we get back? How do we create a kinder, more considerate society.
The hardest first step is to stop fearing others, which leads to hating less.
Yes, when you extend your hand to those who you have reviled, they may well try
to bite it. But then moderation is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage
and conviction to face critics from all quarters without slipping back into more
extreme places. It comes from appreciating and accepting others, even as they
attack you. It means being strong while also being kind.
Many of us know and prefer moderation, even as the world polarizes around us.
We consider kindness and civil society a great thing. Yet our fears hold us back
as we paralyze into the silent majority. But if we are to avoid an extreme world
that is driven from the political right or the left, then we can no longer be
silent. The middle must reinvigorate. Reason and humanity must be brought back
into the mainstream. It will happen, of course. The nature of society is more of
a pendulum than a final slide to one end or the other. Good leaders will appear,
even as despair sets in. All it takes is that thoughtful and civil people come
out of their bunkers and talk. It means standing up for a balanced society that
does the best for all while realizing that nobody can get everything, and
certainly not at the expense of others.
All you need to do is talk, then do. Find moderate others. Discuss the
situation. Then find things you can do. Even small things, like helping the
local community or supporting new businesses. And when you are ready to step
further, then look for leaders who can promote moderation, and go help them.
A shoe negotiation, and how to turn happy
customers into irritated ones
Recently, my wife decided to return a pair of Merrill trainers to the store
after the upper started coming away from the sole. The shoes were just over a
year old, but they had a two year guarantee, so we headed for the Cardiff
We got in, presented shoes and receipt and were told to choose a replacement
pair. After trying on a number of shoes, my wife found a pair that felt right.
We took them to the counter, which is where things got interesting.
The assistant looked a bit sheepish and called the manager, who explained
that due to the wear on the shoe, he could only offer 50% of the original price
towards a new pair of shoes. How fascinating, i thought. Time for some
I pointed out that our expectations had already been set, and that anything
less than a replacement would be disappointing. He reiterated his point, saying
the wear was excessive. I asked if the shoes were designed to last one year, and
noted that the problem was not about sole wear but upper detatchment. I then
paused, letting silence increase the tension the manager was clearly feeling.
Then he cracked, saying that as we had been promised a replacement, we would
not have to pay extra. I thanked him for this good customer service.
Then something extraordinary happened. He told us that because we had gained
this advantage, it would go on our record and be taken into account in the
future. Amazing! In one swoop we went from delighted customers to insulted,
appalled and never going there again. I was so shocked, I lost track and just
muttered about not taking advantage.
He then scanned the replacement and was surprised to find it cost only 60℅ of
the original shoes. Now it was his turn to be embarrassed as he asked if we
wanted more expensive shoes. No, my wife said, these were fine.
And we left. Not delighted, as we should have been, but puzzled and more than
a little irritated.
Collectible pins and the selling of holidays
It was recently a significant anniversary for my wife and I, so we did a big
'bucket list' tour across Canada, including a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer
train and a short cruise up to Alaska.
On checking in for the train we were each given a rather nice enameled pin in
the shape of a maple leaf, the Rocky Mountaineer logo and the year. I am seldom
enthused by cheap giveaways and quickly bin them. But this pin was of good
quality, so I kept mine. My wife put hers on her hat.
This says a lot for spending on quality giveaways. If you want people to keep
and display them, they should be attractive, stylush and robust. Anything with
your name on it should reflect the message you want to send, and in particular
about the quality of your offering.
Then on the cruise, we were given another pin each, this time with 'Holland
America' and 'Alaska' on it. And it struck me, this is more than about brand
quality -- it's about collectibles.
People love to collect things. Even if there is little intrinsic value, the
pleasure of possession, the anticipation of collecting a set, and the
opportunity to chat and compare with other collectors makes collecting a joy for
many. And the exclusivity of only getting this pin on this trip adds much
The bottom line for the vacation companies is that customers are now
significantly more encouraged to go on more holidays in order to t more pins.
I'd guess that the return on the cost of these pins would be tremendous.
There is also potential for the companies to encourage this, for example by
facilitating collector conversation and by using the pins for some kind of
exclusive club membership.
Hopeless, zoos and the down-and-out
I was recently in Canada, and noticed in several cities that, while many
seemed affluent and happy, there was also a very visible underclass of homeless
people, with many begging on the streets. Mostly men, and many old. It must be
such a sad existence.
We went to the zoo in Toronto and the aquarium in Vancouver, where it struck
me that animals there also seemed trapped and hopeless. People in the cities
that we saw begging or just loitering often did so on the same bit of pavement,
hemmed in by an invisible cage. Sometimes they rocked or made repeated pointless
movements, much like the zoo animals.
They knew their neighbours and perhaps regular passers-by, some of who might
give regular donations. Generous as this is, I wondered if these contributions
acted as an anchor, keeping the recipient hopefully in the same place. In the
same way, zoo keepers formed odd bonds with their charges, even teaching them to
do tricks for their dinner. As families laughed and clapped, I wondered what the
animals made of it all.
Cities can be zoos, too, with mutual voyeurism a passive sport. Citizens
can't help ogling one another's lives, and might vaguely wonder what it is like
to be a stockbroker, taxi driver or beggar.
Me? I wondered, gave a bit, and guiltily got on with my holiday.
Tanzanite, Ammolite, Korite and the marketing
I was on a cruise once around the Caribbean and noticed lots of places
selling Tanzanite jewellery, both on board and in the tourist shops on the
islands. I listened to the pitches, telling how beautiful and rare these gems
were, and how their version was the real thing, unlike the cheap tat you might
In other travels, this time in Canada, the heavily-promoted 'gem' was
Ammolite. I have also seen Korite, Amazonite, Csarite and Morganite in the same
context. Again, they were twinkly or shiny stones that looked nice in the
various settings available.
This got me thinking. Are there other '-ites'? A little searching says yes,
indeed. Lots. So perhaps you could add your own. Find a nice stone. Polish it up
and set in gold. Make up an -ite name (or perhaps an -ine one). And then sell
the heck out of it.
Diamonds once were little more than a geologist's curiosity. Then De Beers
cornered the key supply in South Africa and invented mandatory uses for them,
such as in the solitaire engagement ring. When the Russians turned up with
smaller stones, De Beers roped them in and invented the eternity ring. Their
'diamonds are forever' strapline, coupled with the marketing of diamonds as
exclusive and luxurious, is brilliantly persuasive and one of the most
value-creating phrases in history.
It's all in the marketing, of course, though it takes lots of money and
courage to make it work, and for every rip-roaring success there are others that
fall at the wayside. But in the end, it's all just rock.
For more, see the ChangingMinds Blog! Archive or
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