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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Resolve vs Agreeableness


This is another one of my famous "not even about writing" posts, but I think many of you will find this topic to be quite interesting. Actually that might not be entirely true--there are some aspects of this that apply greatly to main characters, which tend to be an important part of most stories, so in the end it will be somewhat writing-related after all. This post is somewhat political so you can skip the whole thing altogether if you don't want any of that.

The topic of this essay is the two different schools of thought, and to some extent penetrates into "risk vs reward" territory.

In psychology, it's generally widely accepted that men tend to be more disagreeable while women tend to be more agreeable, but these are mostly at the medians and the extremes, and while that distribution of traits is very important, it does not imply that there aren't severely disagreeable women or highly agreeable men.

In order to continue, we need to understand precisely what being agreeable or disagree even means, and whether or not one quality is better than the other is highly subjective.

Both qualities have their advantages and disadvantages; to be agreeable is to be more "fluid" in that you're willing to change your values or actions on behalf of others, and to be disagreeable is to stick to your guns no matter what.

It's easy to paint agreeableness as the virtue of "open-mindedness," as agreeable people are willing to hear others out, to compromise their ideas or actions in response to new ideas and to mold themselves to be better suited to their environment.

But the danger lies in "going with the flow." Agreeable people will "go with the flow," and if the flow isn't particularly good, they'll go with it anyway.

Likewise, a disagreeable person will not go with the flow. They will go their own way and do what they feel is right no matter how unpopular it makes them.

But their is a downside to that, which is that if they're wrong, they'll never know it; it takes a certain confidence and stubbornness to be disagreeable. It also requires an unwavering self-assuredness. A disagreeable person won't compromise for you for any reason--they know exactly what they want and believe and won't change no matter how popular the opposing belief is.

Both characteristics can make fools out of people in their extreme forms.

Let's take agreeableness for example; you might have seen the "social pressure" experiments where a bunch of actors in a group does something that makes no sense to see if the only real person will start doing it too. They usually do.


Now, it's important to understand the real goal of social conformity; it is largely attached at the hip to the idea of Loss Aversion. In psychology, Loss Aversion is the tendency for people to fear loss more than they desire gain. This manifests itself across multiple dimensions of our behavior; for example, the YouTuber Daryl Talks Games does breakdowns of the psychology behind games, and one video of his, this one, to be specific, talks about the reason why players like me gravitate towards brutally punishing games like Hollow Knight, Salt and Sanctuary, Celeste, Dark Souls, Cup Head, Dead Cells, et cetera. And what Daryl discovered is that people who gravitate towards video games with brutally punishing, hellish difficulties don't do it because they really want to win, but because they fear failing more than they desire winning.

Another example of Loss Aversion is the price of items; a person might buy a cup for $8 in a store, but if they've used the coffee cup for a little while, they might--not only not sell it cheaper--but want more money for the same cup later if they were expected to part with it. If they paid 8 bucks for a cup and later were told they had to sell it and part ways with it, they might want $10, 12, 15 or more for it. This is because they place more emotional weight on losing a cup than they do on gaining one.

When it comes to these social experiments, it's not hard to conclude that people don't stand up at the beep without explanation out of a desire to fit in, but rather out of a fear of standing out. The average person tends to lean more on the agreeable side of the spectrum, and social conformity experiments have been done countless times over the course of decades to support this fact. In a situation like this, agreeable people look dumb. The benefit of being a disagreeable person is that a disagreeable person wouldn't stand up at the beep just because everyone else was doing it. They'd say, "Why are you all standing at the beep?" and when the people respond, "Everyone else was doing it," the disagreeable person would say, "Yeah, okay," and would think they were crazy. And then the agreeable people would be in a pickle because they'd start to wonder if they were crazy or the disagreeable person was crazy--after all, they'd have no logical reason to explain why they should stand at the beep.

However, here's the type of situation where disagreeable people would fall behind; you're in the workplace, and it's extremely competitive. Your boss treats you like a slave, and always asks you to come in on days off or stay later than you're supposed to. In that situation, an agreeable person would do better, because they'd put up with that bullshit while the disagreeable person wouldn't and they'd get fired for it. That's generally how these things go; people with power will take advantage of you and if you stand up to them, you'll get fired, making you wonder whether your dignity and pride is worth your job.

But the other issue is when a disagreeable person is wrong. This works both ways by the way. An agreeable person can be gaslit more easily because they're more trusting and more open to accepting other peoples' points of view, which does lead to positive things like open-mindedness, but it also makes them targets and victims of gaslighting because it's relatively easy to gaslight an agreeable person compared to a disagreeable person.

Yet if an agreeable person actually is wrong, and someone points it out, they're more likely to actually recognize their mistakes and admit their error, while a disagreeable person will stubbornly stick to their guns no matter how wrong they are, which is infuriating the everyone around them. But again, this is a double-edged sword, because if an agreeable person happens to be right about something, they can be convinced by others that they're wrong even when they're not, and they're often taken advantage of in this way--hence the gaslighting.

Now, in defense of the nice Asian girl in the video above, if someone isn't a local or if they're a foreigner, they might not know what the customs and social rules are, so they'll just do what others do so as not to be disrespectful. For example, in Japan (not saying the chick in the video is Japanese, I'm just using Japan as an example because of their exotic social customs) it's rude to tip people for food. But the reason why it's rude to tip people is because the employees are actually paid well and don't live off of tips like in the West, so if you leave cash on a table as you leave they think it's an insult to the owner of the restaurant, like you're saying they can't afford to pay their employees. It's seen as condescending.

An agreeable person would have no issue abiding by these little changes in behavior for the sake of respect whereas a disagreeable person might try to argue against the very fabric of the culture's social norms just to win an argument with the disgruntled employee who thinks you're insulting their boss. They'd insist, "But I'm not insulting you, I'm being nice! It's a tip!" but wouldn't be able to accept that, in Japan, it just isn't seen that way.

That being said, this is not an endorsement for total agreeableness. This is slightly political so feel free to skip ahead if you'd like.

Anyway, a part of the culture war has been arguing for complete agreeableness masquerading as "respect," i.e., "Do whatever we say or you're rude and an -ist of some kind." That being said, there are actual hate crimes that exist, but cultural Marxists try to change your culture to something completely nonsensical and then call you rude and insensitive for not abiding by it.

So that's where you should draw the line; it would be rude to leave a tip in a Japanese restaurant, and the employees are paid decently anyway so it's no big deal to restrain your western ways for five seconds and not tip.

But if some small, vocal group infiltrates your culture, tries to change your social rules and then calls you a bigot for not following their rules--when your culture never belonged to them in the first place--you aren't rude for not going along with it.

Alright, rant over.

This whole discussion also plays a large role in college. As many know, I fervently despise the current state of academia, and I've been very vocal about that. And this topic can actually explain one of the main problems with it.

This also goes a little into MGTOW territory (not the toxic kind though) but it all ties together, I promise.

At the moment, women vastly outnumber men in college. On average, about 60% of college students are female with only 40% being male, but the graduation rates are much more extreme. Men are significantly more likely to drop out and quit college altogether.

Women are 29% more likely to graduate college than men.

And what disgusts me is that the mainstream media will use this as ammunition against the intelligence of men, saying that men aren't smart enough or that "toxic masculinity" is the problem. The reality is much more nuanced than that. A lot of it has to do with agreeableness vs disagreeableness. In gradeschool, boys tend to have more energy and like to horseplay while that is severely punished by "zero tolerance" policies that will uproot a boy's entire education if he roughs around on the playground or struggles to pay attention in class. Instead of creating an environment where both boys and girls can learn, they treat boys like defective girls. One aspect of agreeableness that manifests itself early on in development is the importance of grades to a kid. A large majority of elementary school girls said that grades were important to them, while less than 50% of boys said the same.

That's because, to a boy, who's most likely disagreeable as males tend to be, grades are just a dumb social construct and they want to play tag with their friends.

Now, whether they're right about that is something I'll leave to your better judgement, but that's how they think. For better or worse, girls will be better people-pleasers. Sure, there are tons of downsides to this, but in school that's actually an advantage. School rewards agreeableness.

As for the "women are smarter than men" argument, I don't buy that for one second, but there is one interesting piece of information regarding that. While this doesn't account for things like emotional intelligence, wisdom, et cetera, we can sstill get some answers from looking at IQ distribution among the sexes.
Just a caveat, I don't think IQ is the best way to measure actual intelligence--what IQ is good for is measuring brain "horse power," but that's about it. Take a car for example. One car might have a stronger engine than another, but if the driver of the "weaker" car with the less powerful engine is a better driver, they'd have a good chance of winning a race against a bad driver who has a better car.

That's actually a pretty nasty oversimplification, but that's one of the best ways I can view it. This is an unpopular opinion, but I don't think highly of Stephen Hawking's intelligence in the slightest. He had a massively high IQ, but he overthought basic principals to an extreme degree and came to really absurd assumptions. He thought he was infallible because of his high IQ and thought he knew everything. Interestingly enough, his ideas were at odds with other geniuses like Einstein and physicist Richard Feynman, so before you say, "Stephen Hawking is way smarter than you, you have no right to criticize him," what are you supposed to do if two equally high-IQ individuals have completely different views? Whose side do you take? If two experts entirely disagree, if you side with either of them then you're opposing the other, and I don't think anyone should be above criticism or having their ideas challenged, not even Stephen Hawking. (I'm more of a Feynman fella myself, anyway.) High IQ doesn't amount to much if the person wielding it is too cocky, or too insecure to pursue valid pursuits, or plagued with mental illness. Or if they simply don't think things through very well. A person with a relatively average IQ can be much more intelligent than a person with high IQ if they're intellectually curious, humbled before the pursuit of knowledge, have a deep interest for learning and discovering the truth, and study voraciously. In many ways, a person's intelligence is the conglomeration of all that they know and understand, whereas IQ is more of a metric of possible potential. A person with a high IQ has more potential than a person with an average IQ in general, but if a person with average IQ maximizes their potential and the high-IQ individual does not, it becomes a matter of efficiency. Who is using their brain the best? That will determine who is more intelligent in the long run.


Anyway, there is some value in IQ measurement (even if it's abused by pretentious snobs who think IQ makes them infallible or themselves incorruptible). And data like this is the reason why. You see, men are simultaneously smarter and dumber than women. This is because of how their IQ is distributed along the bell curve; women are vastly near the center of the bell curve. Most women are not super smart, but not super dumb either. The IQ of men are distributed largely at the extremes; most men tend to either be extremely intelligent or extremely dumb, with little in between. This also makes sense; the vast majority of extremely intelligent inventors, scientists, philosophers and writers are men, but at the same time, if you turn on Jackass you'll see--surprise!--almost exclusively men acting like fucking morons. Men live in extremes--if they're not brilliant, then they will likely be absolutely retarded.

Just to clarify, this isn't a hard caste rule, just a general distribution. But in practice it is accurate for the most part. Of course there are exceptions; there are women who are extremely intelligent (Candace Owens, Judit Polgar, Galatea van Outersterp, Emily Dickinson, etc.), and there are women who are extremely retarded (Cassandra Clare, Anita Sarkeesian, Alexandria Cortez, that one chick in my history class who thought that the continent of South America was in Africa, etc.), but for the most part women tend to be moderately intelligent while men tend to either be brilliant or slower than cold molasses on a winter morning.

I also find it fascinating how college highlights this; it's really easy to find out who the smart people are in college. It's not through their grades, though. (Exclusively, at least.) On any American college campus, there's not that many smart students, but the smart ones stand out like a sore thumb. (And why the hell does a sore thumb stand out?) The rules for the distribution of IQ among the sexes doesn't apply as much to college campuses as it does in the real world, and the reason why is because only two types of people go to college for the most part.

The first type of person is the type that only goes to college because it's legally required for their job. If they're trying to become an engineer and the job requires a degree in engineering, they'll put up with the bullshit on a college campus just to get their degree and gtfo. They don't care about art appreciation courses or writing an essay on colonialism. They just want to get their engineering degree so they can leave and become an engineer already.

Then you have the other type, and I suppose this type can actually be broken into two, but they both fall under the same umbrella. These are people who are going to college either for a useless degree or have no plans whatsoever and are going to college just because they're expected to and they're "going with the flow."

But then they're predestined to become very lost souls. That graduation date is only going to get closer and closer, and they don't have a tangible goal in mind. One day they think, "I know, I'll major in this!" then the next it's "No, I'll major in this other thing!" and when they start a new class and the professor asks what their major is, as is custom in every first day of class, they'll shrug their shoulders passively and say "I don't know yet."

Then one of two things typically happens; either they pick a major and set their sites on whatever job would come with it, and spend the next 10 years in this random field wondering if they made a mistake, if they made the right choice--or that graduation date creeps closer and closer and they still have no idea what they want to do with their lives. This is because meaning and fulfillment do not come from jobs or majors (although you can derive meaning from almost anything, including your job, but that is not the primary source of fulfillment for most people), they come from a plethora of incorporeal sources. Family, relationships, religion, hobbies, purpose, those are the driving forces behind finding any semblance of meaning, not what major you pick.

So these young, usually not-very-bright students start going to college with nothing at the end of the tunnel. Then when it comes to those who did pick a major--but a useless one like gender studies or liberal arts, or even--sadly--music--they discover that no one in charge of businesses gives a shit about their degree and they just wasted four years of their life slaving away over something so pointless and unrewarding. What I've generally noticed is that young women are typically the ones getting useless degrees, and likely their friends and family misled them into going for it and they don't realize how big of a waste of time and money it will be, and the ones with no goal in mind are the men. Why? Because if an intelligent man is going to college, he's only there to get a mandatory STEM degree like math or science, and only puts up with college because he has no other choice. This is usually the case because men are more disagreeable, so even if family members and teachers in high school try to pressure them into going to college, they don't do it unless they actually have a reason too.

But the handful of men who are agreeable also end up on a college campus, because when their teachers and parents tell them that they should go to college, they just obey and do it, and once they're finally there they have no clue what the hell they're doing. But the reason why so many guys on college campuses are timid, agreeable NPCs is because the vast majority of men--the disagreeable ones--immediately say "Nah, college isn't for me" and start a career, business, or say fuck it and join the military or something. That's kind of the male equivalent of a woman becoming a stripper.

The ones that do end up at a campus--unless they're there for STEM--are only there because they're going with the flow. But you know what? Fuck the flow. What has the flow ever done for us?

I can appreciate the subtle, horizontal subliminal messages here.

 Sure, if some of your views happen to align with The Flow™, that's all fine and dandy I guess, but if almost every single one of your views or opinions happens to align with The Flow™, you might want to ask yourself if your ideas are truly your own, or whether you've just been a Yes Man or a Yes Woman and let the world mold you into a perfect little obedient sheep.

However, let's look at resolve, because this is interesting. It is the title of this post, after all. When it comes to success, you could very well argue that agreeableness is actually a good thing. We've already established that in school, being agreeable is good for passing. Agreeable people are more likely to participate and do as instructed, and will pass their classes. They'll also do better in work environments that promote (force) obedience; if your job demands that you put up with copious amounts of bullshit, an agreeable person might swallow their pride and take it while a disagreeable person wouldn't and would get fired.

So let's say a Chinese girl is raised by a father that demands very specific things of her; from the moment she could walk, she was repeatedly told over and over again that she had to become a doctor when she grew up. If she gets anything besides straight-As he'll explode on her, and knowing nothing else, she has no choice and inevitably becomes the prodigy kid that gets perfect grades. Then she goes to college, studies hard, and after nearly a decade she becomes a doctor.

Here's my question: was her success the byproduct of resolve, or agreeableness?

It's a trick question by the way, the answer is both.

Her life path was chosen for her, she had no real say in it. She was basically indoctrinated since childhood to think becoming a doctor was her only option in life, when in reality she could have been an ecologist, or a hairdresser, or a teacher, or a bartender or a stay at home mom. She could have been any number of things, but didn't acknowledge the full breath of her options because of her childhood indoctrination.

However, becoming a doctor is extremely difficult, and this leads to a conflict: willpower vs agreeableness. An agreeable person will do whatever they can to be a people-pleaser, but what if the people around them are demanding the impossible? What if they're being pressured to do things or expected to do that which they are not capable of? You only have so much willpower, and there's only so much you could take before you snap and go off the deep end. (That's the plot of Office Space and Falling Down, both amazing films.)

"I'm the bad guy? But I did everything they told me to."


However, what fascinates me is resolve that isn't in the flow. It doesn't have to be directly against the flow, but resolve that is completely separate and divorced from any type of social construction, expectation, or obligation.

In "Why You Keep Playing Brutally Tough Games," Daryl talks about the psychology of loss aversion in gaming, explaining how even though not a single soul on the planet asked you to beat Celeste, you obsess over doing it anyway.

Well, not you, maybe you, I don't know if you, the reader who can be anyone, have ever played Celeste before, but the royal "you," as in people in general. (Yeah, yeah, I know, there is no actual "royal you," only the royal "we," but IDGAF.) We know millions of people have Celeste, and that it sold more than 500,000 copies right after release, so obviously there are some people who have played and conquered it even though no one told them to or expected them to.


While a certain amount of resolve is required in order to do challenging things that are expected of you, it's hard to determine how much of it is resolve and how much of it is agreeableness. But that guy who exercised everyday and lifted weights regularly to get ripped? Odds are nobody told him he had to do that or expected him to, but he did it anyway of his own volition.


Nobody told Vincent van Gogh to be a painter (in fact it was exactly the opposite), but he never stopped. Even when he was poor and broken, he painted.


Nobody told the employees at Laika when they were growing up that they had to join a stop-motion studio and spend countless hours making hand-crafted sculptures and moving them fluidly between shots in excruciating detail.


The point I'm trying to make here is that resolve is most bonafide both in writing and in the real world when the goal in mind is something that the person or character is completely determined to achieve no matter what, regardless of whether it's popular or not, but especially if it's unpopular. But it's also one of the major facets of what makes someone human; there's a lot to be said about predictability, both in philosophy and in writing. In writing, if the characters seem generic or stale, the reader will lose interest quickly. They want something interesting and exciting, so if your characters are "normal" they won't even have any reason to really read the book. (Unless it's cleverly plot-driven.)

But in the real world, it's more complicated than that. No one California girl who likes "Disney, adventure and the beach" think that they sound cliche, and if asked why they like those things, they probably wouldn't say, "Because everyone else does," but it's hard to believe otherwise when everyone in a certain category thinks the same. Now, if someone say, liked some popular stuff but also liked a good amount of unpopular stuff, the popularity is no longer a common factor and it's clear that their affinity for some popular stuff is organic and not superficial. Likewise, if someone only likes unpopular stuff, regardless of the quality of some popular stuff, it makes it seem like they're a hipster going against the grain just to seem edgy and unique, which is its own form of trend hopping, where they hop on the trend of whatever is deemed edgy and fringe at the time.

I won't go that much into the writing fiction side of this topic because I already devoted an entire essay to it, and you can find that essay here: https://www.writingislikelife.com/2019/10/humor-tragedy-and-dynamic-story-part-six.html

 (I couldn't insert the link as a single word like I usually can because Blogger is being fucking retarded with the formatting syntax.)

Resolve is one of the most rare and underappreciated virtues; it's an amalgamation of both bravery and determination, but usually requires some level of wisdom as well. The "resolve" character, or a person in the real world with tremendous resolve, has to be at least discerning enough to know that the thing they're resolved to do is worth it and that it's noble enough to justify with their effort.

There are some exceptions to this, of course, namely moral ones.

For example, a person might be extremely hard-working and determined, and maybe they're determined to get X degree in something and will put in tremendous effort and sacrifice countless hours of time, effort and struggle to accomplish their goal, but maybe they wouldn't literally kill somebody. Unlike Thanos from the MCU and Roland from the Dark Tower series, they wouldn't literally sacrifice a person's life to get to their goal, and you could argue that they aren't 100% determined then, but that's a pretty dumb conclusion because you could retort with, "They're 100% determined to reach their goal in the confines of basic human decency," meaning they understand that their goal might be the most important thing to them, but isn't literally the most important thing in the universe, and to apply Thanos-logic or Roland-logic to our real world actions is solipsistic in a negative way, although I talked quite a bit about using solipsism in a beneficial way here: https://www.writingislikelife.com/2020/01/humor-tragedy-and-dynamic-story-part.html

Although that does lead to an interesting question, and this is one that applies to writing fiction too and can be quite difficult to answer.

It's widely known in quantum mechanics that something can not be determined by nothing; with this in mind, what determines what a person or character is "resolved" for? How is their goal decided? Well, in Thanos's case it was just him being a massive SIMP. Because Thanos in the comics was just trying to kill trillions of life forms to impress Death, who of course is a hot goth chick, so he was pretty much just trying to wipe out millions of planets to impress her. I mean, I can't really be surprised, because for a lot of guys there is literally nothing they wouldn't do to get laid, or even just have a slim chance at getting laid, which is pretty sad and pathetic but it's just the reality we live in. Simps are everywhere.

His motives in the movie make no fucking sense because he's like "The universe is overpopulated so I'm going to use my omnipotence to make it less populated" but didn't even put 2 seconds into considering other ways of fixing the problem, such as:

1. Creating more resources.

That's it, that's the whole list. That would have literally solved the problem.

Now, you can argue, "But Dylan, if they took the obvious route there wouldn't be a movie," and to that I say, "That's because his motivations are poorly-thought out garbage and they should have addressed that."

As stupid as it is, at least in the comics his motivations are logically sound. You might think him wiping out planets to impress a woman is ultimate simpery, but at least his actions make sense and there's no obvious plotholes with that.

Now, I think the whole "Eliminating half the population" thing could have actually worked if he made it about consumerism and mass growth. If he said, "When a population gets too big, its civilization stagnates and becomes complacent," now he's making commentary on the nature of people to become lazy and stupid the more advanced the civilization becomes, and is saying he wants to cut the populations in half to force them to be innovative again instead of it being a purely resource-based decision. That would be a little tough to pull off but wouldn't contain any massive plot holes like the current movies do.

Thanos just wanted a big-tiddy goth gf. I get it.

In The Dark Tower, Roland seeks, as implied by the title of the series, the dark tower, which is the entire multiverse contained in a single location, and the reason why he's after it is because he has reason to believe it's being toppled over, and he wants to prevent that because it would literally be the end of all existence if it did fall. So to him, there is literally nothing more important, because no sacrifice of lives would be worse than the sacrifice of literally the entire universe.

That's a motivation that's easy to follow because most people would agree that, generally speaking, it's better to save as many people as possible, and with this in mind the lives of the few are not more important than the lives of the many, which is a dark but widely accepted truth. That being said, while the average person can understand and agree with Roland's motivations, most people wouldn't have the bravery to do what he does, so that's where his resolve really shines. We actually see the same thing from Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero.

Also to any weebs out there who haven't seen any Fate, here's a weird recommendation with a caveat. The Fate franchise as a whole is a steaming pile of shit, but Fate/Zero is an absolute masterpiece and one of the best series I have ever seen, animated or otherwise. You don't need to watch the others to understand it because it's a prequel, so watch it but don't watch any other Fate shows or movies afterwards because they're legitimately awful. The only exception is a spin-off show called Garden of Sinners, and that's only because it was written by the same man who wrote Fate/Zero, Gen Urobuchi, who did Psycho Pass, and because it was also animated by Ufotable and the music was handled by Yuki Kajura. It's tied with Fate/Zero in terms of how much of a masterpiece it is, so essentially these two shows are equally fantastic in basically every department, from writing to animation to music, and that's literally just because they were the only Fate-related series to be done by Gen Urobuchi, Ufotable and Yuki Kajura, the Holy Trinity of anime development. The rest of the Fate shows, movies and spinoffs had poor writing, animation or music, or sucked at all three. (Most of them had good enough music though, but all of them had terrible writing.)

However, this isn't so easy in the real world. It's hard enough in fiction coming up with a good motivation for your character; in my manuscript Desolation's Reach, that's actually my biggest problem. I'm cracking away at it now, but for the first draft my character just seemed to be going with the flow, and that's a problem. As we've established earlier, "Fuck the flow."

If the main character just goes with The Flow™, they exist merely at the whim of the plot and make no interesting or important contributions of their own. You could similarly apply this philosophy to people in the real world.

So it's vital then that our protagonists especially do things their own way for their own reasons. What those things are and why they do them is something you will have to decide for yourself, but it has to be something worth doing.

One of the brilliant things about Don Quixote is that it gave us something that we didn't think was worth doing--buying a suit of armor and gallivanting around the Spanish countryside while acting like a medieval knight--and managed to convince us over the course of the story that it was a worthy pursuit worth doing. That is another sure-fired way to create an interesting and dynamic story; formulate the plot like a persuasive essay.

Make the story seem like something isn't good or is pointless at first, then gradually introduce things that make the reader question their own worldview.

This isn't to say it should or has to be used for political propaganda, rather it could be used for things the reader has never even thought of before.

I've been slowly working away at this "persuasive essay" idea with my manuscript Enid. I wanted the reader to disagree with the main character's worldview on martyrdom at the beginning of the story and then end up agreeing with them and seeing it through their eyes by the end. That's not the main goal of the story, of course, which is to entertain and teach, but it's one of the things that I would like to accomplish with it.


That being said, there is a very fine line between persuasive and propaganda. If the piece of art flat-out tells you what to think or what the "correct" answer is, it's propaganda. If it shows both sides of a nuanced discussion and lets the reader /viewer decide, it's art. So even though I have my own philosophy on the various facets of martyrdom, it's a concept that will be explored very thoroughly and the reader will have to decide for themselves whether they agree with the protagonist or not, because strictly-speaking there is no "correct" answer even if I have my own opinions on it.

One example that does this well is in The Witcher 3 when it talks about something called "The Last Wish." In the story, Geralt makes a wish to a wish-granting being, and the wish is that he and Yennefer--both immortals--will be bound by fate forever. But they also seem to be genuinely in love, so it's not entirely clear whether they have actual organic chemistry or it's just the wish keeping them together. During the quest, Yennefer wants to undo the wish to find out if their love is real or whether it's just the wish, and the player has to make that decision.


I'd like to change gears for a second and talk about where resolve comes from. And talk a little about something I'd call "misplaced" resolve. Something could be considered misplaced resolve if it's only done to protect your image of yourself. Each person has an image of themselves--the way they perceive themselves. And one thing I find quite interesting is how, apparently, people will act--in the future--in a way that aligns with how they perceive themselves. The sad thing about that is that it implies that a lot of the time we aren't making "decisions," we aren't sitting down and calculating the pros and cons of each option and making a choice that way. Instead we're acting within our own boundaries, but simply doing what we think is in-character for us. It's like each of us is in a play and playing the part of ourselves and we aren't allowed to deviate from that script.

With that in mind, I'd be willing to bet a lot of resolve comes merely from people being determined to protect their image of themselves and not step out of line with how they usually behave.

But this has some incredibly interesting implications; this means that not only can true resolve be determined by somebody acting against the social grain, but also when they act against their own grain. Each person has their own ebb and flow, but when someone breaks their usual routine--usually one that isn't working out so well for them--and does something that they never would have done a week ago, that's a pretty strong indicator that they're exercising actual free-will and not just doing what they usually do. It's all too easy to fall into a pattern where everyday is, for the most part, pretty much the same as the last, and the same as the one that will come tomorrow, and the day after that and the month after that, but when people make radical changes out of nowhere, it's proof that free-will still exists and can be tapped into at any moment.

Although with characters it's a little bit different, because you don't want them to be just "random." They should have a set of definable characteristics behavior-wise. Although luckily this whole thing about going against your own grain doesn't really apply to fiction, because unlike the real world, in a story you, the reader or viewer, don't start the story with their birth and sit through decades of complacent average everyday life. You start reading or watching wherever the story starts. So if the story starts with the protagonist setting out on an epic adventure, you get to hop into their life right where the adventure begins, not the countless years before where nothing interesting happened.

Although you still can apply it to fiction if you wanted to; a large part of my next story The Pen Pal is going to be about how his life was so monotonous and boring that he just kind of snapped and went crazy. It's similar to movies like Office Space and Falling Down in that regard, where the vapid emptiness of their lives is what makes them say "Fuck it" and go off the rails.

Although those are movies where the characters chuck-it-in-the-fuck-it-bucket to a comedic effect, while a movie like Joker (2019) does it for a serious and dark tone. (Although Joker is highly overrated IMO, yes the acting was fantastic but the writing was really cringey at times and came across like a generic edgy pity party.)

I think it would be interesting to rename "agreeableness" to something else, let's call it "bullshit tolerance." Agreeable people will put up with more bullshit than disagreeable people, whose bullshit tolerance is 0.

Although, while in theory it would be best to be disagreeable and have 0 tolerance for bullshit, the sad reality is that we don't always have the luxury. Maybe it was hard getting the job you finally settled on, and you barely scrape by as it is and don't have the luxury of quitting to escape the bullshit. A disagreeable person might be impulsive and make rash decisions in the heat of the moment the second they come in contact with even a trace of bullshit. There's simply too much bullshit in the world to say "Screw it" every time you encounter it, because then you wouldn't be able to do anything. I feel like in many ways that's all a homeless person is (in America at least). Sometimes when homeless people ask for me money, I'll offer to give them a lift to the nearest shelter so that they get free food and clothes and don't have to beg on the streets, and they always say no. I feel like that's because they don't want to be a part of society, they've made their bed outside of the system and want to sleep in it there.

That doesn't mean I'm implying homeless people love being homeless, just that, to a lot them, perhaps even most, they will refuse government assistance because it would mean giving up their freedom or nomadic lifestyle and integrating into society by getting a job, being tested for drugs, etc.

I have a theory that homeless people in general are nihilistic, and the bad thing about nihilism is that nothing matters, but the good thing about nihilism is that it means there's no responsibility. A person who has given into nihilistic dogma no longer has to be responsible for anything or anyone. Total and complete freedom.

From what I can see, it seems most homeless people were just normal people who became extremely nihilistic and gave in to that impulse to say, "Screw society." They don't want any part of it. The downside is--well, not having a home or good place to sleep, or any money or sense of security, but that's a price that a lot of people are willing to pay to avoid being re-integrated back into the system via homeless shelter and government programs. The only real good thing about being homeless is that you have complete freedom and absolutely 0 responsibility. You don't have to report to anyone, put up with anyone, pay taxes or give a shit about politics because you have your little corner where you sleep and you don't need anything or anyone else. Because freedom and a lack of responsibility is the only positive thing about being homeless, which is otherwise a terrible thing, I have to conclude that the reason why homeless people often don't want help (unless it's cash)  is because they'd lose those two things.

There's something tremendous and substantial about determination--it's a virtue that's never talked about. We hear a lot about "bravery," which is very important, but very few bring up the link between the two. Bravery is the fortitude to take the risk of starting something, but determination is the iron-will to continue what you've started no matter what.

And that's the ugly side of the coin that not a lot of people want to address. I've noticed in my own life that I am brave (not trying to toot my own horn here), or at least brave enough to take leaps that others might not, but I don't usually have the fortitude to stick with something once the going gets rough. And that's a problem.

The other issue is nihilism, because you cannot be a nihilist and simultaneously be determined to do something. Resolve largely stems from a faith that what you put yourself through will all be worth it in the end, and you can't believe that if you think that your existence is meaningless.

Your goal has to be meaningful to you in order for you to have any chance of seeing it through.

This largely ties into my essay about obscurity, because you have to be willing to be the only person doing something if it's important to you. You can't rely on social norms to make it convenient; if there is something deemed necessary enough to warrant your complete, unbridled determination, you have to be willing to carry it out by yourself if you stand alone on it.

This requires being extremely disagreeable and having tremendous resolve, and the shortcoming this comes with is a stubbornness that could lead to you being wrong. It's possible that you or the character you're writing will be completely mistaken in their pursuit, but they're too set in their path to listen, change course or stop.

Yet, in fiction even when the character is completely wrong, it's much more interesting watching a resolve character who is completely wrong acting out their will than one with no such resolve.

This also applies to the real world... for better or worse. I'm not condoning it, all I'm saying is that being insufferably stubborn and disagreeable is a much more interesting life than going with the flow, even if it makes you a complete jackass.

Wait a second, I wrote an entire post condoning just that, wow I'm really inconsistent 0.o

Let's just pretend I'm not.

The last thing I'd like to talk about is failure. Determination is Bravery's ugly step-sister that no one likes to talk about, and failure is Determination's even uglier step-sister who's shackled in the basement making weird barbaric noises through the floorboards.

Failure is the vessel through which growth occurs; there can be no success without it, and Determination means nothing if you never fail. How can you say you possess great determination if your willpower has never been tested? Without a gauntlet of grueling failure, how can you know what your limits are? How far you can make it?

There's another issue.

The human spirit, body and mind all yearn for stimulation, for a challenge. The human form was precisely designed to conquer obstacles and climb mountains. It needs something to overcome, otherwise it becomes stagnant and aimless, feeling empty and void of purpose. Having a tough challenge to overcome is something we practically lust for by our very biology.

Many people might seem content just taking the easy way out and avoiding any challenge, stimuli or anything that might be inconvenient. In the pursuit of convenience, we've regulated all the challenge--and, by extension--all the meaning from our experiences.

Let me ask you something--do you enjoy any board games or family games? Monopoly, chess, Mario Party, Twister, Scrabble, anything? Or even remotely competent at any of them?

For most people, they'd have a good time playing at least one of these types of games or activities (and all of them are fun drunk, especially Twister), but would you have the same fun if you could only play against 5-year-olds? If you could only play Scrabble, Monopoly, Mario Party, Chess or any other board game or family game with a young child, would it still be just as fun?

Probably not. And why is that?

Because you'd effortlessly wipe the floor with them in every activity you tried. Even if you suck at some of these games, the massive disparity between an even below-average adult and a 5-year-old is so huge that there would be no effort or thought needed on your part to beat them every time.  It wouldn't be fun.

There's no pride or achievement, no sense of accomplishment. If the only goal was to win, then we would all be playing these games exclusively with severely under-whelming players, but the goal isn't to win, it's to win against a worthy opponent.

You wouldn't brag about beating a little kid at Mario Kart, but you might if you beat that sibling of yours who never loses. No one is impressed that you beat Luigi's Mansion, but beat The Radiance in Hollow Knight and now we're talking or Sans in Undertale and now we're talking.

This doesn't just apply to video games or personal goals, it applies just as much to learning. Cultivating a scholarly mind is no easy feat, and requires tremendous dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. The horrible curse accompanied by this is that when you become knowledgeable of certain topics, you begin to see all the ways in which we're being lied to. It's generalized that, on average, you're lied to about 100 times a day, with the lowest numbers being about 10 and the highest spiking to 200 or more. Being lied to 10-200 times a day and only catching a few of them regularly is a pretty bad success-to-failure ratio. However the more you educate yourself, the more of these lies you'll catch, and the more disagreeable you'll have to become in order to adapt. Once wool has been lifted off of your eyes and you discover things you wish you didn't, you have to either blissfully ignore them and undo the progress you've made, or you have to change the way you see and interact with the world in light of this new information. Especially if you learn things that most others have not, because if you're one of a select few who found out something, you can't bring it up without being dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. That being said, there are conspiracy theories out there that are so stupid they should just be ignored, but not every one of them is wrong, and willingly being a conspiracy theorist in light of new information is not something that's easy to do. It means resigning yourself to fighting against something that virtually no others even know exists let alone fervently believe in, and it means accepting the consequence of potentially being ostracized and outcast for this very reason.

"There is no courage, no faith and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient." -Jordan Peterson

And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

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