Popular things that are actually quite useless
1 - Sarcasm Apart from being a bogus measurement of intelligence and crowd-attracting gimmick, Sarcasm is a rather weak tool for...
1 - Sarcasm
Apart from being a bogus measurement of intelligence and crowd-attracting gimmick, Sarcasm is a rather weak tool for any meaningful purposes. You basically describe things people already know, so there is no new knowledge gained. Then you express your opinion via remarks that are the opposite of your actual belief, hoping readers will understand your subliminal intention. However, some people don’t get your elaborated joke and think you were actually being serious, so you end up wasting more time explaining your original intention while dividing people up and have them fight each other. Meanwhile, the targets of your Sarcasm, not even aware of your existence, still carry out their business as you are too busy sabotaging your own cause. In the end, your sense of Sarcasm hurts you more than it creates any tangible impacts.
When it comes to persuading others, Sincerity trumps over Sarcasm. Telling things as you actually think they are. Without the twists, the ambiguous, the contempt, the urge to cover yourself behind the smoke of mystery. Tell your story with a heart. A clear intention to improve things. A sense of inspiration and empowerment to your readers, instead of making them feel inferior and helpless.
2 - Ancient Wisdom
Ancient Wisdom provides shortcuts to important knowledge that has withstood the test of time, such as in the form of Proverbs (“Không thầy đố mày làm nên”, “Một giọt máu đào hơn ao nước lã”). Yet, because of their concise nature, our ancestors’ collective experiences do not give us any thorough understanding about the mechanism of the underlined knowledge. Tại sao không thầy thì không làm nên? Tự học không được à? Tại sao cứ là người thân thì nên đối xử tốt hơn so với người thường? COCC có đúng không? It’s easy to memorize these shortcuts and conveniently pull them out whenever you face a morally challenging decision, they just don’t necessarily make you a better person. Quite the contrary, they turn you into a judgmental person, hastily categorizing other people as ‘rotten apples’ if they don’t follow your ancient wisdom. Also, your decision making and learning ability will become stagnated if you keep relying on other people’s wisdom to solve your problems.
Ancient wisdom could be a good place to start for people without a firm moral compass. But sooner or later, we all need to develop our own Individual Wisdom, learning from our mistakes to find things that work best for each of us. If you are uncertain about something, do it yourself before judging other people for things you have no experience about.
3 - The Need to be Accepted
We are social creatures. We do need others. We want others’ approval. So we imitate them. Eat what they eat. Say what they say. Think what they think. Sometimes, we follow others at the expense of betraying our own values. Conforming makes others love you and protects you from loneliness. At the same time, it eats away your Identity, blocking your potentials and narrowing down your options for the future. It depends on how important you think your Identity means to you. Just be careful about what you choose to conform, because perpetual imitation will one day become your Identity.
4 - Coolness
While teenagers are the most sensitive to it, everyone is obsessed with the idea of being Cool. Some people are naturally good at it. But the majority of us are clueless, so we have to learn that swag. And the quickest way to learn is via imitation. Works for some people. Not too well for me, as I end up looking like a retard every time I try to act cool. Fortunately, my failed attempts to be cool give me a fresh perspective on the whole idea of Coolness. Sometimes, I see people striving to become the villain, because villains are often ‘cooler’ than heroes. People too good at imitating cool people gradually become unable to distinguish between the “cool” thing and the “right” thing to do. They end up doing things that hurt others, hurt themselves, rationalizing that because “there is no other way”. They become too uncomfortable with the idea of being “uncool”, the feeling of having their cool layers striped off, standing with their naked identity in front of others. They would rather die than to admit their fault.What about the people that are “naturally cool”? If we don’t imitate, where can our Coolness possibly come from? From being ourselves, being Authentic. We speak what we think. We do things with a purpose. We get things we actually want. We don’t care about looking Cool. We care about acting right and achieving goals. Coolness is our by-product, not our goal.
5 - Advice
Strangers give advice. Friends give bad advice. Parents give terrible advice. You give zero f**k about advice. Why? Because advice are not for your sake. Advice reflects what people prefer to see you as. Most likely something that could benefit them. And oftentimes, the closer someone is to you, the more they expect from you, thus the more “advice” they would like to offer you.
Time and time again, people feel lost. They want help from others. So what else can we give our friends in need, beside advice, since we are too accustomed to giving it away that doing anything else seems awkward and forced? Just Listen. Let them talk. Allow them to pour it all out. Give them approvals on things you believe they are right about. Let them figure out their own answer. Offer them your support to achieve their goal.
6 - Motivate by trashing on Self-Esteem
Bad move. Do you know how people like me react, when someone keeps saying we are just not good enough, that we are dumb and lazy and trashy and irresponsible ? No, we don’t actually improve anything to prove him wrong. We regard that someone as an asshole for turning something we might be doing anyway into a pointless exercise to boost self-esteem.There are people like me who need an actual Reason to do things, not just to be “good at it”. You can be good at eating raw shit, for all I care. That’s what I think about people who do things purely for being “good at it”. And since I don’t like raw shit, don’t motivate me to eat it.
7 - Social Etiquette
The proper ways to speak, dress, behave, and think in the presence of others are usually not the proper ways to solve anything else beside earning people’s affection. Don’t get me wrong, earning people’s affection is a natural and good thing to do. But when there is an important decision to be made, turning your Etiquette mode off might be a good idea. Leave it on and you limit your available vocabulary, your range of expressions. Leave it on and you limit what you can do in a circumstance. Leave it on and you will always get stuck in a particular social ‘plot’, designed to trap and control people who over-value Etiquette like you do. When someone gives a public speech and all you can think of is how to laugh at his jokes, how to “awww” at pictures of Cats, how to accept everything he says as Biblical knowledge, how to ask ‘popular’ questions such as “What would you say to young people like us who blah blah”, then you are just playing the role of an expendable extra in some American soap opera. If the message of that speech is important to you, stop acting and start Thinking for Yourself. Say things that are not programmed in your Etiquette mode. Listen and respond to the content, not to the tone. Ask questions with a clear intention.
8 - Respect
Respect is a beautiful thing. It’s such a beautiful emotion actually, that sometimes you just want to indulge in that emotion forever, sanctifying the shit out of a normal human being for the sake of Respect. When you talk to Him, a feeling of admiration flows throughout your body. Your eyes sparkle, your mouth wide open, your palms soaked in sweat and your whole body trembles as you can only focus on His presence, His black turtleneck, His rebellious voice, His rimless glasses, His balding head. Everything hits you like WOW! You’ve finally met this Man in person. Who cares what he is actually talking about? You’re gonna agree with him anyway! What else can be more important than the fact that the Man himself is standing right there, 5 meters away from you?
The more your Respect someone, the less you try to Question him. Whatever the hell he says instantly become teachings to be memorized. You might rationalize that if I can Question what he is doing, why would I be Respecting him? Exactly. If you can Question what he is doing, then there is no need to Respect him. You learn more when you Question things, filtering them through your values to evaluate it from your perspective. The moment you stop Questioning something, it ceases to be something you can learn from and becomes something exist solely for the purpose of being worshiped.
9 - Fear
Fear exists because it helps us survive. It helps us recognize threats to avoid them. It certainly was important to our ancestors, living in a time of constant struggle with beasts, warriors and natural disasters. Even though most of our ancient threats are now much less dangerous or completely eliminated in modern society, the instinct to Fear is still encoded in our DNA. Our Fear, without the physical source of threats to be activated, now manifests itself in invisible, most of the time harmless, things like Public Speaking, Failure, Rejection, etc. And as nature intended, it does an (undesirably) phenomenal job of persuading us to run away from things we have no real reason to run away from.The important question is, how do we overcome the useless, uncomfortable emotion known as Fear? It does save lives in some cases (e.g. during war). But the majority of the time, it only prevents us from making optimal decisions in stressful circumstances. I don’t say you should pretend that Fear doesn’t exist. I’m saying that you Confront it, accepting the Fear you have, swallowing it down and carrying on whatever you evaluate is the best thing to do. It takes practice, but it gets better every time you choose to Confront Fear.
10 - Nationalism
There are people whose sole purpose in life is to serve their country, and probably the majority of us also think we have this responsibility to serve our country unconditionally. I am not arguing about that. I am only arguing against the sensation known as Nationalism. The urge to be biased about everything our country is about. Best culture, best education, best history, best people. If something is not the best, we create the new best things. Sometimes, we insult other nations, comparing them to our country’s greatest traits and feeling ‘proud’ about it. Some other times, other nations insult us, making us feel inferior so we decide to switch the target of our Nationalistic worship to those nations (e.g.“Ở các nước văn minh”, “Người Nhật họ rất”).
Ironically, Nationalism is what slowly destroys the identity of a nation. Nationalism can only look up or down, but not within. To look within for our individual identity is difficult enough. To look within for our Collective Identity as a People is an astounding feat, if such a thing even exists. But it’s still the more rational thing to do than to assume a shallow inferior/superior tag to our identity as a nation. How to look for Collective Identity? I guess it starts with finding your own Individual Identity, then finding something in common (Principles, Beliefs, Values) among all of those Individual Identities.