Want my advice?
For whatever reason I find myself giving a lot of advice. Actually, it’s probably because I’m an opinionated loudmouth.
The funny thing is, I pretty much always give the same advice, no matter if it’s about whether to quit a crappy job, whether to ask someone out that you have a crush on, or which city to move to. Namely, I say the following three things (in this order):
- Go for it! (this usually is all most people need, especially when talking about the crush type of advice)
- Do what you’d do if you weren’t at all insecure (great for people trying to quit a bad job or deciding between job offers)
- Do what a man would do (I usually reserve this advice for women)
I was reminded of that third piece of advice when I read this article about mothers in Germany and how they all seem to decide to quit their jobs and stay home with their kids, putatively because they don’t trust their babysitter. I say, get a better babysitter!
As an aside, let me say, I really don’t have patience for the maternal guilt thing. Probably it has something to do with the fact that my mom worked hard, and loved her job (computer scientist), and never felt guilty about it: for me that was the best role model a young nerd girl could have. When the PTA asked my mom to bake cookies, she flat out refused, and that’s what I do now. In fact I take it up a notch: when asked to bake cookies for a bake sale fund-raiser at my kids’ school (keeping in mind that this is one of those schools where the kids aren’t even allowed to eat cookies at lunch), I never forget to ask how many fathers they’ve made the cookies request to. I’m never asked a second time by the same person (however I always give them cash for the fund raising, it should be said).
It’s kind of amazing how well these three rules of thumb for advice work. I guess people usually know what they want but need some amount of help to get the nerve up to decide, to make the leap. And people consistently come back to me for advice, probably because the discussion ends up being just as much a pep talk as anything else. I’m like that guy in the corner of the ring at a fight, squirting water into the fighter’s mouth and rubbing his shoulders, saying, “You can do it, champ! Go out and get that guy!”
There may be something else going on, which is that, although I’m super opinionated, I’m also not very judgmental. In fact this guy, the “ex-moralist,” is my new hero. In this article he talks about people using their religious beliefs to guide their ethics, versus people using their moralistic beliefs (i.e. the belief in right and wrong), and how he was firmly in the second camp until one day when he lost faith in that system too – he becomes amoral. He goes on to say:
One interesting discovery has been that there are fewer practical differences between moralism and amoralism than might have been expected. It seems to me that what could broadly be called desire has been the moving force of humanity, no matter how we might have window-dressed it with moral talk. By desire I do not mean sexual craving, or even only selfish wanting. I use the term generally to refer to whatever motivates us, which ranges from selfishness to altruism and everything in between and at right angles. Mother Theresa was acting as much from desire as was the Marquis de Sade. But the sort of desire that now concerns me most is what we would want if we were absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as moral right and wrong. I think the most likely answer is: pretty much the same as what we want now.
He goes on to say that, when he argues with people, he can no longer rely on common beliefs and actually has to reason with people who disagree with him but are themselves internally consistent. He then adds:
My outlook has therefore become more practical: I desire to influence the world in such a way that my desires have a greater likelihood of being realized. This implies being an active citizen. But there is still plenty of room for the sorts of activities and engagements that characterize the life of a philosophical ethicist. For one thing, I retain my strong preference for honest dialectical dealings in a context of mutual respect. It’s just that I am no longer giving premises in moral arguments; rather, I am offering considerations to help us figure out what to do. I am not attempting to justify anything; I am trying to motivate informed and reflective choices.
I’m really excited by this concept. Am I getting fooled because he’s such a good writer? Or is it possible that he’s hit upon something that actually helps people disagree well? That we should stop assuming that the person we are talking to shares our beliefs? This is something like what I experience when I go to a foreign country- the expectation that I will meet people who agree with me is sufficiently reduced that I end up having many more interesting, puzzling and deep conversations than I do when I’m in my own country.
I’m thinking of starting to keep a list of things that encourage or discourage honest communication- this would go on the side of “encourage,” and Fox news would go on the side of “discourage.”
What about you, readers? Anything to add to my list on either side? Or any advice you need on quitting that job and finding a better one? Oh, and that guy you think is hot? Go for it.