Friday, January 23, 2015

Eat Pray

On New Year’s eve, as we waited around the dinner table for the countdown to usher in the new year, we played charade. Soon we got tired of the guessing game. Before we adjourned to the courtyard to watch the display of fireworks, my younger daughter grabbed some pieces of papers and scribbled something. I did not ask her what she had written. It was to do with some New Year resolutions.

We often learn from our children. Earlier in the afternoon, I made a terrible mistake by saying,“ You know what ? There can never be gender equality…” The outburst was made when I became exasperated seeing that my younger daughter was  trying to juggle her time to meet a male friend who had trouble getting to their appointed place. Before I could explain and elaborate, my daughters were appalled and the disgust look on my younger daughter’s face made me feel rather ashamed of having uttered the statement. I am not saying that there are things that are exactly the male thing  and the others are exactly the  female thing.  Men and women have different attributes and as women become increasingly self-sufficient so we can guard our independence, we have to take care not to overdo things. I believe that due respect must be given to both men and women equally but the concept of gender equality can be abused by some men who are either misogynists or have been given preferential treatments in the families they have been raised in or that there is a lack of role models for them to act differently. 
Traditionally, the patriarch of the family has been brought up to be the breadwinner and the one whose words must be obeyed whether by custom or religion hence they  are somehow more aggressive, combative, predatory  and goal oriented generally. Although  women are now able to negotiate their roles at home and outside home, the domestic domain remains the primary responsibility of the women in general; consequently some working women find themselves having  to constantly juggle their time between their work, their household duties and their extra-curricular activities . It is important that men and women must respect that we all possess different attributes, strengths and weaknesses regardless of our genders, and in a healthy and working relationship, we must have sufficient regard to every individual’s right to lead the life they want for themselves.

On the plane, I watched a German comedy entitled “ Miss Sixty”.  As I write this , I recall that I did not get round to finish watching the film. The protagonist, a successful molecular biologist is forced to retire as she turns sixty years old. She decides to have a baby  using her frozen eggs from her youth.  She feels discriminated as a man of her age would not be ridiculed if he became a father at sixty but not for a woman. She also laments that a man could have  a career and a family while a woman cannot quite have it all.

In many ways, the society is getting more enlightened and both men and women are working towards eradicating gender bias. But because patriarchy has existed for so long, it takes time and conscious effort to change certain entrenched social expectations about how women should behave and what  men should do and want to do. I ought not have said what I said although my intention was purely maternal. I must not assume that my daughters do not already know what I know. I must not reinforce the presumptions and prejudices that I might have witnessed and encountered for my generation of women so as to give the next generation a chance to make gender equality sustainable and thriving.

 I resumed reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion from where I had stopped. It is hilarious and not sure why I had stopped reading it in the first place. Perhaps the timing was not right when I started reading it.

Don Tillman, a thirty-nine year old geneticist, devises The Wife Project with the help of his colleague at Melbourne University, Gene and his psychologist wife, Claudia. Don meets  Rosie who  is appalled when she finds out that he  is on a mission to find a suitable wife with a detailed questionnaire for that purpose.  Rosie responded upon hearing about the questionnaire,

I can only hope that enough women realise their civic duty and take the test.”
Rosie became angry and chastised Don for treating women as objects.

The question is : Has Don designed the detailed questionnaire to find a woman who might accept him or to find a woman whom he could accept? Don is socially challenged and has Asperger’s attributes. While Rosie fails on almost every score and does not meet all the  criteria for a suitable wife, Don gets himself involved in assisting Rosie in finding out who Rosie’s biological father is. As Don is wired differently, he approaches the Wife project in a methodical way. He also watches romantic movies in order to learn about social interactive behaviour. The story is a charming one and the fictitious character  endearing   indeed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bon courage

I literally panicked when October came and then November followed by December. As an avid reader of fictions, I dream of becoming a fiction writer. I have made little progress on whatever I have been writing.  Another year has ended and  a new year has begun.  
 New Year Countdown to 2015 London

So I sit here trying to churn out something. I was away for three weeks, I had a nice time but I really miss writing. I have to get to work early and I should really get to bed but I need to write something. I went to French conversation class yesterday evening. That is another heart breaking project.  I cannot even remember things in English let alone in French. In London, I met up with a friend from school days as we both happened to be vacationing there. My daughter dropped by Monmouth coffee place just as we were leaving the coffee shop. She asked my friend if she had enjoyed the coffee in Mandarin and my friend was surprised. When my friend had left, I asked my daughter why she had spoken in Mandarin to my school friend although it was nice, she said it was because she had heard us conversing in Mandarin. I said, “ No , we conversed in English.” I then recalled that I might have asked my friend if she wanted to get some fresh coffee beans and her response was in Mandarin. Did I ask her in Mandarin? I cannot remember. It came naturally amongst most of  my school friends as we learnt Mandarin as our primary language in school. When I travelled to Shanghai, I read some signboards in Chinese language and did not realise that they were  in Chinese even though I think and process information in English. Now that I am learning French,  I find myself answer “Oui” when I should be answering ‘Ya” that  meant yes in Malay. Odd indeed.  Maybe it is because my left brain has been in an overdrive state or that I am simply not able to switch from one language to another these days. My mind is getting too cluttered just like my laptop . Too many ideas at any given time. Thoughts flow in and out in a flash and I find myself getting distracted easily.

Though I am not one who  think things rationally, I resume reading The Art of Thinking Clearly written by Rolf Dobelli  with the hope that  some of the articles  will set me back on track. Several of the author’s essays strike a chord with me and the Myth of Like-Mindedness is one of them.

Rolf Dobelli writes, “ We frequently overestimate unanimity with others, believing that everyone else thinks and feels exactly like we do. This fallacy is called the false – consensus effect.  He quotes from his personal experience about his novel Massimo Marini . He was completely convinced that his novel Massimo Marini would be a resounding success or at least as good as his previous books but the public was of a different opinion and he was therefore proven wrong.

Often whenever I thought that  I might have done better in certain test papers or essay writing in school or some food  I had  prepared or whatever tasks I had executed in my adult years, the  reality was I had not done as well as I had thought.

Cafe Sant'Eustacchio, Rome
The author further writes : The false-consensus effect is fascinating for yet another reason.If people do not share our opinions, we categorize them as “abnormal.”  And he writes that with the false-consensus effect, no outside influences are involved and it still has a social function in that “Whoever seemed courageous and convincing (thanks to the false-consensus effect) created a positive impression, attracted a disproportionate amount of resources, and thus increased their chances of passing on their genes to future generations.”  Dobelli’s conclusion : Assume that your worldview is not borne by the public. More than that :Do not assume that those who think differently are idiots. Before you distrust them, question your own assumptions.

Her Majesty's Theatre London
I would add that while it is good to question some of our assumptions, we must believe in our conclusions when we arrive at them. On the other hand we should be prepared to acknowledge that we might have been mistaken and adjust our past views to make way for new deductions or observations.

Dobelli writes in another chapter,“ You Were Right All Along” that ‘no matter how tough we are, admitting mistakes is an emotionally difficult task’.  He writes : But this is preposterous. Shouldn’t we let out a whoop of joy every time we realize we are wrong? After all, such admissions would ensure we will never make the same mistake twice and have essentially taken a step forward. But we do not see it that way.

In the same chapter, Dobelli advises that it is safe to assume that half of what we remember is wrong as our memories are riddled with inaccuracies. I cannot agree more with that statement as I do doubt my own memories when I recall an incident or event.

We do not want to be wrong about our judgments or conclusions all the time but there must be time when we want to be proven wrong.   Perhaps ' chill'  is the word.