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Probably one of the most important days of my life was spent with my grandmother in the kitchen in my early-20s.

She was trying to cook and I was trying to help her. You see in my grandparents' (I was raised by them - a lower working class family) my grandmother would prepare the meal and serve everyone (as a side, she also had a full-time job as a cleaner, making MORE than my grandfather). She would eat (she still does) after everyone else.

It was a fight, a big fight. Now it struck me, you see nobody was forcing her to behave like this. Indeed my grandfather is a bit macho, but she had (has) more money, was/is financially independent and in an environment (surrounded by urban elites) where social support would be on her side.

But she was actively the biggest enforcer of the status-quo. For me (a materialist-rationalist troskyist at that time), this was a massive revelation. Suddenly male-oppression narratives were giving way to voluntary servitude ones.

Ten years later another idea struck my mind: I was making my grandmother distressed and unhappy with all my attempts of shared cooking. A nice old lady that deserves some peace.

Monday I will be lunching with them. My grandmother will be making the food, cleaning the dishes. I will be eating everything and smiling. They will be happy and I will be extremely happy because they are happy. I will be able to bear this for a couple of days at most - but they will be profoundly happy and that has to count for more than my liberal bigotry, right?

Of course there are consequences: probably my biggest shame (really) is that I do not cook. And being lazy makes me not act on this. I am profoundly embarrassed by this...

Now, lets change gears and fast-forward to the hyper-liberal, hyper-progressive (and if you do not believe this, just see the voting records in areas where students/faculty live - start with Cambridge and Oxford), hyper-rationalist environment of British universities (which deserve to be considered some of the best in the world). I have been to plenty of them for considerable time. Suffice to say that I tend to compare Academia to North Korea. It is a highly hierarchical environment (and getting worse through reasons that I will not discuss here). This is supposedly in the place where rationalism is bred.

The painful conclusion that I have taken in my life is that we are just a garden variety of primates with a strong sense of hierarchy and very little reason.

If you believe in the fairy-tale of the nice, rational, pure human which society spoils, then you are in for constant disappointment. It is the base material that is not up to your standards.

But, on the other hand, if you see a species with primal instincts (like any other) which is endowed with (a little bit) of reason than there is cause to be both pessimist and optimist. Pessimist because that tiny bit of reason can make ugliest part worse. But optimism because reason can make the sharper edges a little bit less sharp (though I would not say, soft).

What we would need is an educational programme devoted to the idea of softening the edges. This is a completely different perspective from the enlightenment view that human material has in-born all the qualities that just need to be nurtured. This is also a completely different perspective from the conservative view which seems to want to sharpen the edges.

by cagatacos on Thu Jun 19th, 2014 at 05:01:53 AM EST

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