Insensitive or disingenuous?

I read a lot of personal essays from people in their late teens. The theme of hurting people’s feelings versus being honest preoccupies many of them.

It’s all the more fascinating for me because I’ve experienced two cultures that have opposing views on this.

I’ve often seen Irish people choose to err on the side of sugarcoating reality and lying by omission in the name of being kind. Around here, you will be forgiven for being misleadingly delicate, but not for being insensitive.

On the flip side, the brutes from the old country would soon forgive someone for not considering someone’s feelings given that it is in the name of integrity. I’ve heard a lot of Russians retrospectively end friendships while accusing the perpetrator of “how could you not let me know that”… <my ass looked too big in that>, <our mutual friend didn’t invite me to the party>, etc. The “it’s not my business” defence doesn’t cut it for them.

Looking at it from a skin in the game perspective, you make a much bigger gamble when you risk offending someone by being straight with them.

At the same time, people often get carried away with their opinions to the point of forgetting that it is, after all, just an opinion, not “the truth”, and so communicating it may not really be that beneficial for someone else. Realising the insignificance of our humble opinions may be key here. Not sure you can do that to facts that your friend would prefer to know.


Assumptions: you know each other very well and solicit your friend’s opinions.

Who would you rather as your best friend? The insensitive swine who won’t hide their thoughts or the kindly sweetheart that weasels around the truth to avoid hurting you?

No Frankensteins. You have to choose.

On social constructionism

What is a social construct? A rather arbitrary intangible concept created by society. Therefore, under the assumption that X is a social construct, one interpretation of X is not more truthful than another. For example, if gender is a social construct, by definition, the idea that there are 50+ genders is neither more or less truthful than the idea that there are two.

The concept of social constructs is itself very much a social construct – as is any sociological theory. Therefore, calling X a social construct to show that X is irrelevant is… irrelevant.

Those who claim to be at war with a given social construct, on the basis of it being a social construct, need to do more than highlight its arbitrary nature, because their proposed views are equally arbitrary, or offer an alternative that is qualitatively different than just a new set of social constructs.

If you substitute the word culture for social construct above, it’s easier to understand. Of course, if you feel that the concept of social construct is qualitatively different to the concept of culture, please convince me, so that I can stop worry about theory and just join the cool kids.

Looking at the broader picture of social constructionism, I don’t really buy into its fundamentals because I don’t think that perception changes reality, just like I don’t think that Photoshop takes the cellulite off Kim Kardashian’s behind.



Beliefs I’ve grown out of

Continuing the discussion of ideologies that silently grow into our lives and take hold, I will admit to my own.

I was brought up in a culture where education was the centre piece of the altar. I think this is still the case for a lot of people. In theory, education is the answer to a lot of problems, but difficulties come to the fore when you realise that there is big difference between education and formal education. I suppose the difference is analogous to the difference between morality and organised religion. Even when you go to educate yourself, the authority-loving methods learnt during formal education betray us. It took me a long time to start reading books without looking for ready-made answers to life’s problems.

When I got a little older, I went on a major health kick, only to realise that humans did not evolve to be orthorexic with a regular HIIT exercise schedule. I rejoice at articles like this.

In my late twenties, my ideological difficulties centre around the subjects of family and meaningful work. Family has always been a confusing subject for me. I think that families are fascinatingly different. Second wave feminism was going strong as well when I was a child and I am sure it affected me. I was recently reading a memoir of a woman who lived in the Ukraine during the October Revolution. It seemed that nothing really mattered to her so long as she had her family. I also read a lot of essays by secondary school (high school) students and interestingly the film Juno is on the curriculum. Most students conclude that your friends are your real family, not your biological relatives – and not just from Juno, but in their personal essays as well. Is that just a sign of the times?

One thing I learnt is that it’s dangerous to become too focused on just one aspect of life, even if it is the most virtuous thing you can think of.

Anyway, I am more interested in hearing about ideologies that you lived through and debunked.