Month: March 2017


When All We Have Is Each Other

In the modern world, with the breakdown of community and the eclipse of religion as a large part of life, all we have left is the society we make. If the society is unfair, then resentments have no outlets.

I have said before – people will put up with a lot if they know that we are all in the same boat. But when some people have it all and are riding rough-shod over the rest, then there is no society. There is just a fractured mass of people.

I said something along these lines yesterday, in conversation with a woman that Tamara and I met in a cafe. And then last night I read a similar statement in the newspaper. There must be something in the air.

That ‘something in the air’ kind of goes against the statement that all we have is each other. Funny old world,



Originally published here 15th September 2013

This is a quick rundown of the main points of The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Reciprocity – We are more likely to be persuaded to do something when it involves repaying an obligation – a waiter/waitress in a restaurant will elicit more tips if he/she gives a mint to customers, especially if it appears to be a spontaneous act of generosity

Scarcity – Point out the benefits – tell them what’s unique about what you are offering – show them what they stand to lose by not taking up the offer

Authority – It’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgable authority before you attempt to influence them – get someone to praise you. – the person who praises your can even be related to your business (e.g. receptionist who refers to your expertise) or likely to benefit from praising you.

Consistency – Once one gets someone to make small voluntary, active, and public contribution towards something, it is easier to then get them to do something bigger towards that goal.

Liking – We prefer to say yes to people who are similar to us, who pay us compliments, and who cooperate with us. Do these before negotiating or talking about business.

Consensus – For example – 75% of our guests reuse their towels, please do so as well. / 75% of our customers order again within a month. Please use this code when you reorder…


Eric Hoffer and The True Believer

Originally published here 24 Oct 2011

Eric Hoffer was an American, born in 1902. He went blind as a child after an accident and then recovered his sight when he was a teenager.

He lost both parents at a young age, and was a bum on Skid Row for years until he decided to turn his life around.

He was a migrant worker during the Great Depression, so he saw life from the bottom.

Meanwhile, he read and read, borrowing books from public libraries as he moved around the country.

He wrote The True Believer, which was published in 1951.

In the book he analyses what it takes to make someone into a true believer in a mass movement. Just to be clear, he doesn’t use the phrase ‘true believer’ positively. In his view it is an unhealthy state of mind.

In his view, it doesn’t matter whether the mass movement is a religious movement, a fascist political movement, a communist movement, or any other kind of mass movement.

It’s any movement where the individual loses himself or herself in the movement.

Health, Indpendence, And Freedom

Hoffer says a person is psychologically healthy when he has self esteem.

Of course, societies vary in how much freedom they give to individuals. Some freedom is necessary, isn’t it, in order to have room to explore a sense of self esteem?

It must be difficult to have much self esteem when you are physically terrified all the time, such as in Cambodia in the 1970s or the death camps during WWII.

Or maybe not. Maybe, as Victor Frankl says, sometimes the only option is to suffer. And even in suffering, it’s possible to have a developed sense of self esteem.

Well it sounds good in theory – but if you subscribe to the two-dollar-watch theory (that human beings can be broken very easily – like a two dollar watch) – then maybe it’s pie in the sky to suggest that people can enjoy a sense of self esteem when they live in terror.

Back to Eric Hoffer – He says that when the individual is allowed to be free, it brings problems if he has low self esteem.

This is because freedom includes the freedom to feel inadequate.

So to distance himself from feelings of inadequacy, a man joins a movement that tells him that today is bad but tomorrow will be better – within the movement.

Tomorrow may be when the revolution is won, or in the next life, or at any time that is in the future and always unreachable.

Being within the movement is more important than the truth of the message of the movement itself, which is why Hoffer lumps fascist and communist movements together with religious movements.

In Mad Men a few seasons ago, the psychologist working with the main character says that all of life is a balance betwen what we want to do and what society demands of us.

In Civilisation and Its Discontents, Freud has a lot to say on the subject of what society does for us, for the good and for the bad. I’ll write about that next time.


Pulling Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Forbes reports that one of the latest advertising firms to pull money out of Google YouTube advertising is the UK arm of France’s Havas, one of the world’s largest ad agencies, whose clients include Domino’s, Emirates and the BBC.

It has done so because Google will not pull the videos that are obviously hate speech.

Meanwhile, the Sami have convinced one of the largest Pension funds in Norway to pull its investments out of the company that is pushing the Dakota oil pipeline.

It’s an interesting and good thing when people with money choose to be ethical in where they put their money.