Tag Archives: Philosophy

Plato’s Republic… of Nigeria

Simply Amazing! that Plato guy… Another amazing thing, how people get away with absurd claims with contradictions unchecked. It is worth paying attention when these claims turn into beliefs and then into a way of life. Plato (or Socrates) could easily be attributed with the gift of foresight (clairvoyance) because this guy has predicted so many things; well, not by prophecies but by creating literature works where our fundamental issues of today are explored. Isn’t that the role of a Philosopher to investigate our most fundamental concepts? Or could it be that history is simply repeating itself? In any case, I have heard Plato being commended for his insight but only now have I heard him talking about my Nigeria. Didn’t I say he is amazing? Reading The Republic Book 1 could be read as Plato diagnosing the attitude of Nigerians to questionable/corrupt leaders…

Plato looking a little African

In The Republic Book 1, Socrates (the main character) investigates what Justice is. He takes three perspectives: Older Generation, Midlife Generation and Sophists. Our interest is on the Sophists. Who are the Sophists? Sophists were people in ancient Greece who claimed to know what it means to succeed in life but nevertheless had little or no concrete idea of what success means. This is not a problem for Sophists because to a Sophist, having concrete ideas is not important, however making an idea look concrete is very important. One could say they don’t even teach success, but they teach one how to appear to be successful, and how to convince oneself that one is successful. Today, the closest examples to Sophists are those motivational speakers that sell the formulas to success in life. There are religious Sophists as well. Caution, I am not saying these people are all sophists, I am saying that if there are Sophists today, they would blend in right within these groups perfectly not because of any fault of these groups, but because of the way other people consume information that comes from these groups uncritically! In The Republic, Socrates engages Thrasymachus who is a sophist (at least in training) concerning the definition of Justice and Injustice. By Justice they don’t mean it in the sense of reprimand to balance an injustice committed, but in the sense of what is good, and what is not.

Thrasymachus thinks good guys finish last and that justice is simply to finish first with the most personal advantage. What?! He thinks any other way of looking at it is just naive/idealistic. Doesn’t that ring a Nigerian bell? This is what he says to Socrates:

… You must look at the matter, my extraordinarily simple-minded friend, in the following way: the just man is always a loser compared to the unjust man. First, he loses when it comes to private contracts: when a just man has an unjust partner, and the partnership is at an end, you will find that the unjust man walks away with more and the just man gets less. Second, in dealings with the state: when it’s time to pay taxes, the just man pays more and the unjust man less on estates of equal value. Likewise, when there is anything to be gotten the one gains nothing, the other much. Look also at what happens when it comes to serving in public office: apart from any other loss, the just man can count on his personal affairs suffering from his neglect, while he, because of his justice, makes no profit from the state. To make matters still worse, he is hated by his friends and associates because he refuses to help them bend and break the law. Reason & Persuasion: Three Dialogues by Plato – John Holbo and Belle Waring

How typically Nigerian is that? The exception is that Thrasymachus is actually bold about this position. Many others behave consistent with this idea but are not bold enough to say it.

It has always appalled me how Nigerians talk about questionable/corrupt leaders as heroes! Many (traditional) musicians even make loads of praise songs on them; of course they get well compensated even if no royalties. A melodic sycophancy. This extends to their staffs, family and friends who basically make them believe that they are heroes for getting rich at the expense of the people they serve, as long as family and friends “benefit”. This is all sycophancy and opportunism. On the other hand there is the average person who does not fall under the circles of family and friends of these corrupt leaders, yet they sing the praises of the leaders. This group has nothing to gain (at least immediately), they appear to believe at a fundamental level that what the leaders do is justified. Sometimes they out-rightly praise the scheming abilities of these leaders with an eye towards emulating them if they were to be in that position. Other times they justify the bad of the leaders as necessary evil to be in a position to do good; good sometimes meaning personally doing a fraction of what they ought to be doing officially; e.g. they loot part of a budget for social amenities, then go back to their communities and personally erect structures.

Yet Nigerians are very sensitive to crimes, very sensitive. Nigerians are quick to carry out jungle justice on petty criminals like petty thieves, while celebrating the big-time criminals. This is exactly what Thrasymachus, our sophist, says to defend his claim. Thrasymachus continues:

… But the tables are turned in the case of the unjust man. I am speaking, as I have been from the very start, of the man with the power to commit excesses on a massive scale. Consider such a man, then, if you wish to judge can judge for yourself how much more he personally profits by being unjust, rather than just. You’ll see what I mean most easily if we turn to that highest form of injustice—the case in which the criminal is the happiest man on earth, and his victims, and those who refuse to commit crimes are the most miserable. In a word, I speak of tyranny, when, by force or fraud, property is stolen from its owners not little by little but wholesale. Everything goes into one bag: sacred things as well as profane—private and public. Were someone to commit these acts on a petty scale and fail to get away with it, he would be severely punished and regarded with the worst kind of contempt. Those who commit such partial forms of injustice are called temple robbers, kidnappers, burglars, conmen and thieves. But if men will go to the additional trouble of relieving their victims of their freedom as well as their property—enslaving the citizens—why, then, far from being called these insulting names they are deemed happy and blessed, not only by their fellow-citizens, but by all who hear that they have ascended to the very pinnacle of perfect injustice. For it is not the fear of doing wrong, but of being a victim of it, that calls forth people’s denunciations of injustice. Thus, Socrates, injustice, committed on a grand scale, is a stronger, freer, more masterful thing than justice, and—as I declared from the very start—justice is the advantage of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man’s own profit and interest. Reason & Persuasion: Three Dialogues by Plato – John Holbo and Belle Waring

This claim is disturbing to the average person. And trust me this argument is not as easy to dismantle as it appears. It is relief to know that Socrates succeeded in arguing that justice is actually NOT the advantage of the stronger, to which Thrasymachus eventually concedes, reluctantly. Plato’s The Republic is basically a blueprint to a Utopia; the ideal human society. By dealing with Justice in Book 1, Plato underlies the centrality of Justice in a good society. Also, by attempting to clear wrong ideas about Justice, Plato is showing how there can’t be a good society built on a bad conception of Justice. Thrasymachus gave Plato a tough time in Book 1, which means it may be a little difficult to deal with those that think along Thrasymachus’ ideas. What does it mean when you have many Thrasymachus leading you, and even among the followers? You have Nigeria as it is!

Certainly these issues are not limited to Nigeria but it is interesting to see it through the Nigerian lens. The word “Republic” may have originated from the latin translation of The Republic. Isn’t it ironic that Nigeria, which is a “Republic” represents what is wrong with the idea of a Republic?

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A Thought Experiment on Polygamy

Imagine five people tied to a train track and a train fast approaching such that there is no time to reach the people and free them. On a separate train track to the side of those five people, there is one person similarly tied. In front of you is a button which if pressed, would divert the moving train from the path of five people to the path of the one person. Death is inevitable, time is running out! Would you press the button?

Alternatively imagine a similar situation however this time, there is no button and no track with one tied person. Instead the one person is standing beside you, far from the five about to die. But the train has to pass you to reach those helpless five. The person beside you is fat enough that if they were to happen to be hit by the train from your position, the train would slow down to a stop and not hit the five people ahead. Of course the fat person would die as a result. All it takes if for you to push the fat person. Would you?

This is a rendition of a classic thought experiment in (western) philosophy under morality. People vary in their answers, even though there are just about two options, because their reasons for selecting the same answer may be vary considerably. Thought Experiment is a tool of Philosophy which science cannot afford; even though psychology borrows often.

Some days ago, while discussing the issue of polygamy among Muslims, I came up with a thought experiment which I thought I should share. I had my motif for designing that experiment. I would like to present the experiment as simple as possible, however the issue of polygamy in Islam has deep ideological and cultural sentiments attached to it. Therefore I shall try to create a fair ground (objectivity) in the experiment by providing neutralizing information to the simple experiment. Here is the experiment, simply:

A Muslim man who is married to a woman meets another woman and is overcome by passion for this new woman. This passion can be anything; sexual, intellectual or spiritual. He would do anything to get married to her. It turns out she is available for him to marry, and even inclined to marry him as well. He is certain his life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this woman. Should he marry this woman? Keep in mind one thing: that Shari’ah allows for men to marry up to four wives at a time.

Now the second question

A Muslim woman who is married to a man meets another man and is overcome by passion for this new man. The same passion applies in this situations and she would do anything to marry this man. It also turns out that the man is inclined to marry her were she not bounded by marriage. She is certain her life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this man. Should the woman marry this man?

The following are what to keep in mind (The neutralizing information):

  • The Shari’ah does not allow for a woman to have more than one husband at a time.
  • The Shari’ah allows for a woman to initiate a divorce, and effect it with the approval of the court or the husband.
  • Men and Women are considered equal in Islam because they are essentially souls that will be judged not based on the bodies they were given but based on how they related with the bodies they were given(e.g. how did they respond to their passions; which love falls under)
  • For this experiment, disregard the societal unfairness weighed on women where men can effect a divorce even by slip-of-the-tongue, whereas women would have to go through societal hurdles, juristic restrictions decided by males, and even stigma before succeeding in their plead for divorce. Disregard this in our fair world of thought-experiment.
  • The verses in the Qur’an (Q2:229, Q4:128) that talk about a woman’s right to divorce can be interpreted to empower women much more than it is often presented, while remaining faithful to the spirit of the Qur’an (actually I think it would be more faithful)
  • It is on record that The Prophet (acting as the Islamic Court/Judge) granted the request of a woman who wanted divorce from her husband, not because he lacked in character or his religious duties but because she feared she would continue to “behave in an un-Islamic manner” if she remains with him (Bukhari 63:197). I’d like to think that covers all situations where dislike of the husband festers the mind of the woman to an extent that she wishes evil on him for nothing wrong he has done.
  • A woman who has been married to a man for some time should be able to bring up so many cases to buttress her point of making her “behave in an un-Islamic manner”. Just as we cannot ascertain the sincerity of the man who says he is adding a wife because she is well behaved; not simply out of passion.

It is interesting to note that what men give as reasons for having another wife varies depending on their community and what is considered as acceptable. Some proudly boast that they marry more wives because they like more women and find pleasure in that; that is because their community accepts such statements. Others however would give other reasons. The point is that reasons given are likely no more than justifications, culturally variable, rather than the sincere reason that prompted them to marry extra. Similarly a woman only needs to justify herself properly in the court of the thought-experiment.

I reiterate the situation of the woman:

A Muslim woman who is married to a man meets another man and is overcome by passion for this new man. This passion can be anything; sexual, intellectual or spiritual. She would do anything to get married to him. It also turns out that the man is inclined to marry her were she not bounded by marriage. She is certain her life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this man. Should the woman marry this man even if it means orchestrating her divorce with the current husband?

Whatever your answer, how is that different from your answer for the situation of the man. Remember, in this world of thought-experiment, women and men are essentially equal in Islam because they are essentially souls that will be judged not based on the bodies they were given but based on how they related with the bodies they were given. Should the woman seek divorce in order to marry the other man?

If you haven’t guessed by now, my motif for this thought experiment is that I think simply wanting a different/variety of spouses is not a good enough reason for men to marry more than one wives. Reason here is referring to the sincere reason that may be only known to the person and God, not what the person claims.

 

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Watching Series and Existential Crises

tv-shows

Do I Still Watch Series?

Yes, I still try to find time to. I used to be a Big-Fan of series. Only recently I started to appreciate it. I should ‘ve written this post a while ago, but a discussion today prompted me to articulate it here.

If asked, I would say watching series is a waste of time. This answer is not free from the context it is asked, or even who is asking; so different people might get different answers. The reason is that those different people are likely to be the different me at two points in my life; when I was simply a Big-Fan, and when I began to appreciate. Many people I know are simply big-fans of watching series.

During my Big-Fan days, I was simultaneously following about 30 series that were currently airing, so I had about 30 episodes to download and watch every week!

Many Big-Fans are the epitome of time wasting. The average teenager/youth with access to series spends three hours daily watching series (no data, just estimation in my head). Someone once pointed out to me how computer-savvy my generation is; pointing to the proliferation of young people with laptops (in Nigeria). That is misleading, because most laptops are simply dvd-players or a (flat) tube for watching series (and movies). Some computers have never even seen a word processor like Microsoft Word, some have the trial version of Microsoft Office that came with it and it is not surprising to click on Microsoft Word only to be prompted that it has either expired or that it should be setup for the first time of opening it.

Apart from entertainment, a major reason big-fans have is to while away time. We are slaves to the clock (not time): when we setup alarms before going to sleep; when we race to meet lectures/office because the clock tells we are running late; when we watch the time expectantly towards end of a lecture/work-day… We usually start our day by paying homage to our master by futile attempts to trick him when we snooze our way into his favor, five minutes at a time. Later on we pray to God. Our relationship to the clock is slavery, because it either demands haste from us, or we seek delay from it. However we are strangers to time because it is soft spoken compared to the Clock, though insidious When faced with “free” time, many of us are clueless what to do with it. We avoid confrontation with time because it might get us to contemplate about those meaningful things that might shake the foundations of our existence. So we shy away from intimacy with time using past times as distractions. A very popular past time is watching series, and the most shy among us are the Big-Fans!

Definition: For the sake of this post we shall describe Existential Crises as that moment in a person’s life where they seek answers to the foundations of their existence. This is the moment where people’s response makes them become either born again, or “Ustaz”. Managing Existential Crises properly is important because it has lead to fanaticism in the past. From the Muslim view of the natural state of man (Fitrah), Existential Crises is bound to happen when the soul yearns to find meaning, which is the souls way of seeking God. However, many other things have been used to quench this yearning.

2010-04-01-the-existential-crisis-of-an-apple

Being a Big-Fan is a symptom to be taken seriously. It indicates a deep psychological crises, a life lacking meaning, a numb and tranquilized mind, an anxiety towards confrontation with time, a fear of intimacy with time; murkiness for reflection. The natural (correcting) order of things, through contemplation on our lives, would have demanded some form of meaning in our lives by triggering an Existential Crises. However watching series numbs that corrective tendency. The cathartic and continual property of series makes it so easy for us to extend a piece of our lives into the series that we feel an empty space whenever a series finale runs. We feel a hole is created in our souls. However, there has always been a hole which is to be filled with life meaning/purpose, instead with fill it with the next available series. Unfortunately, series cannot fill a hole not meant for it, rather it takes our attention away from the hole. We remain un-whole.

It is interesting that in Arabic, series is Salsalah, which also means chains. Are we simply watching series, or are we chaining ourselves (souls) in the process?

In contrast to feature films (movies), series are just bad investment of time! Every time you make a decision to begin watching a series you are not only investing the time to watch one episode. No, you are investing the (future) time you don’t have yet to watch all the other episodes as they are released. You are also investing time in the coming years which you must use to follow up on the subsequent seasons. Say you started watching the season 1 of the series 24 in 2002. Then you would be committing yourself to spend 24 hours of 2002, and 24 hours for each of the subsequent 8 years. Therefore by simply taking the decision to watch season 1, you are investing 194 hours of your life to Jack Bauer and CTU :).

These criticisms of watching series (not necessarily the ones above) have lead some to make watching series almost sinful. I disagree, even though there’s more negative stuff to be added about watching series. One important criticism to add here is the consumerist feature of popular series; it is like the more series you watch, the cooler you are. But it is not only consumerist from the consumer side, it is also from the producer side because the series are designed to tease and meet your carnal fantasies, give you the gossipers ultimate reality (knowing every juicy story about someone’s life), pausing episodes/seasons just where you will be craving for more… More of what?!

More entertainment. Less time. Less life meaning. More numbness of the mind. More impotence of the soul.

Before I go into my justification for such an ostensibly bad habit, let us explore some aspects of the entertainment industry. Given it’s consumerist doctrine (as listed above), it relies on controlling the consumers. Consumers, in media as in other products, are controlled with one key assumption, that they give in to their psychological insecurities and sweet sins: e.g. the sweetness of gossip makes us want to know how Ross will finally propose to Rachel (Friends), or if Bree would take Olson back after all he has done (Desperate Housewives); our fantasies on fame and sex want to live the life of Vince (Entourage); Our un-doable immodesty in the real world want to take a peak at Shirtless Mc Steamy (Grey’s Anatomy); We won’t be caught having sex, at least not that way, but we don’t mind the sex scenes between Ann Boleyn and King Henry (The Tudors) etc. The point is: without conscious awareness, will and effortful control, we are robots at the hands of the series/movies industry (as in other industries).

One other aspect that is capitalized on so much is (what I call) our gossipy-curiosity which is the reason we get “hooked” to a series. We DO get addicted to some series. We project our lives into the fiction, at the expense of awareness of our real world. It is not unhealthy to “escape” reality once is a while, but it is something else to feel uncomfortable/anxious in reality that one craves to go back to fiction; as if the fiction is the person’s reality. Many lovers of TV have reported being depressed with their lives, but they don’t feel depressed when watching series; you might have experienced depression after watching a season especially in a short time. I wonder what gives some of us the moral high-ground to criticize how absorbed kids get into cartoon channels these days. So I identified gossipy-curiosity as a major tool used to control me.

On the other hand, series (and movies) expose us to a lot of new experiences; even if fictitious and virtual. It is like travelling without moving. The issue then is how accurate is the depiction of reality in series? (This same question could be directed at international news channels). However experiences are not limited to representation of facts, but also the experience/insight of new concepts and different philosophical worldview. It then becomes imperative for one to equip themselves with Critical Thinking before delving into series in order to avoid being misled; philosophically and fact wise. With a modest mind of Critical Thinking, watching series can provide opportunities to broaden our horizons.

In light of all these goods and bads of watching series, I have prepared a formula (or philosophy) for myself on how I engage with series in the following two statements. I only watch a series if it brings something new to the table (my head; can broaden my horizon). I focus on the concepts/themes/facts rather than the juicy story line so that I am not vulnerable to gossipy-curiosity.

Once upon a time, I would simply get any series and start watching episode with only a vague or no idea of background information, as long as the video looks entertaining. My new philosophy requires me to first find out what a series has to offer me that I am not already familiar with because my time is precious. The new philosophy has also allowed be to be able to quit watching ANY series after the first season, without a haunting regret.

Let me illustrate with an example. When Game of Thrones was recommended to me, it took me a few months and repetitive recommendations before I decided to look it up on the internet. I was immediately excited (and surprised) to find out that it was produced by HBO. HBO has produced some of my best series because of how realistic they are; The Wire and The Sopranos etc. So I was expecting realism but then Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy world. I was interested in how these will come together. This is bringing something new to my table; or rather mixing two things already on my table in a way I had not envisioned. Now I have watched 2 or 3 seasons of it, I am quite satisfied with how it has broadened my mind, but now I can’t be bothered to follow up with other seasons; even though it’s the type that you get hooked-on. Another example is Boardwalk Empire which brings to the table a fact-inspired history of USA Organized crime and its part in politics and economy of the country; features historical figures like young Al Capone, young J Edgar Hoover, Ponzi (of Ponzi Scheme) etc. I watched the first two seasons, and I feel no urge to continue… but I might. Then there is Downton Abbey which also brings to the table a fact-inspired history of England through the domestic life of a Yorkshire aristocratic family. Very nice. However I can’t be bothered to follow up with the romance of Lady Mary and Mathew.

On the other hand I don’t see why I should waste time watching umm… they are too many to mention but you know them; they are all those that would be difficult to make a case for bringing anything new to the table, if anything at all. Even with comedy series, one of my best is The Office (UK and US), and that has brought a novel approach to making series. Then a series like Big Bang Theory is only worth the time spent when they make the geeky science jokes; so it kinda refreshes your science memories. Then UK comedies are quite good and worth wasting some time e.g. Yes Minister which gives such an insight into public service in the UK, at the time.

All I have been trying to say is accept that watching series is a waste of time, then examine if what it brings to the table is worth spending time on. It might help productivity in your life to seriously consider breaking free from the gossipy-curiosity tendencies. Perhaps it might break us free from the chains (Salsalah) of series and allow for intimacy with time which will eventually trigger the long overdue Existential Crisis you need to give your life some meaning! We need a revolution of Consciousness!

[Perhaps we should discuss how to manage Existential Crises soon :)]

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What is the Last Price?

What is the Last Price?

Alternatively: Wetin be de las price? [Skip to the next paragraph if this statement brings market memories]. This is a common phrase used in Nigerian market (the physical markets). It is an invitation to bargain. Every product has at least two “prices” in the market: its Price and its Last Price (others have Last Last Price and Final Last Price). Just some technical terms for experts in the art of market bargain. Other technical terms include Customer which is used to refer to the seller (to whom one displays loyalty) instead of the buyer, as in the conventional sense. For clarity, let the jargons be put aside and let us use the terms Buyer and Seller. The buyer asks the seller how much a thing costs, the seller mentions a “price”, then the buyer asks what is the Last Price, then the seller estimates and reduces from the Price. Now the tedious bargaining begins.

Wuse Market Abuja

Me, I am quite thrift in my spending. I know that because it is not common around my acquaintances. Thrift should not be confused with miserliness or bargaining prowess; thrift is more about being un-wasteful. I used to confuse thrift with bargaining prowess, thinking along the lines of: if I save money by not spending as much as I would have, then I must be reducing waste. According to that logic, it is waste if someone (the seller) gets my money! There goes a hint of the underlying problem with my logic; I will come back to that.

I used to be somewhat skillful in my bargaining ability. I recall this was pointed out to me by my mum (perhaps to encourage this discovered virtue) when I was (less than) 10 years old; after bargaining my way and purchasing a football officially priced at N250 for N150. Since then I wore the crown of bargaining, proudly. Eventually I started to become frustrated with the bargaining process, perhaps because of the mental gymnastics involved which usually leaves me frustrated even after getting a good price. If you get a really good price, the sellers leave you feeling that you have cheated them. I wasn’t comfortable with that, even in a game of wits, in which they are simply delivering their final blow by planting in me the seed of guilt. I would sometimes wonder if I had indeed cheated them.

The mental gymnastics involved in this activity is that you must change/adjust your world view in order to go through this unscathed. Your world view must believe/assume that all sellers are trying to cheat you; hence at the end of every transaction one party must be left feeling cheated (or pretending to feel cheated). More importantly, this leaves you frustrated upstairs, unless you have no better ideals than the priestly quoted, ludicrous and expediently accepted truth that: All humans are intrinsically selfish! Yuk! I am not claiming that people don’t ACT that way, because they do ACT that way, after all we act according to our beliefs. How did this skewed view of the world come to gain so much acceptance?

Well philosophers from ancient times have expressed ideas of the selfish individual. Adam smith (dubbed father of modern capitalism) created an elaborate theory based on that assumption; although experts on Adam Smith point that his theory provided for a correcting mechanism. Adam Smith’s popular Invisible Hand relies on such assumptions. However, I think the rendition of this world view that has affected us the most is that which was forged in the volcanic mountains of the WW2 (World War Two)! It was in this dark times that this world view was packaged so nicely with antique binding that it began to resemble the Qur’an and the Bible. This is Game Theory.

The idea at the heart of Game Theory has been around for millennia, its evolution to its present state has been so for centuries. What is typically referred to as Game Theory can be traced to the genius John von Neumann. Before the second world war, Neumann had set the theoretical (mathematical) basis of Game Theory. He was one of the think tanks involved in the war, on the side of USA; this was a time of high mistrust and suspicion in international affairs including economics. During the war, he adapted his theory to be used in social sciences as models representing the real world: economics, politics, and even bargaining! At the heart of Game Theory is that agents (e.g. buyer & seller, voters & politicians) are constantly in a state of competition with each other trying to maximize their individual advantages; hence the common phrases “Politicians just have selfish interest”, “Sellers will always try to cheat you”. Game theory is the science that give these popular beliefs the credentials of “Truths”.  Long story short (This post is getting long) an eloquent mathematical model of agents found its way into social sciences (Economics, Philosophy etc) which deals with humans. The human being presented by Game Theory is the competitive human who only cooperates as a compromise. What started as “assumptions” in a model has since left the confines of academia and taken the guise of “fact” in the real world. The more people believe it, the more they act it, and the more it appears true.

This state of the world did not settle well in my head, not because I had a better argument but it left bitter taste in my mind’s tongue. I realized people are on auto pilot, like bargain-seeking zombies, on their quest to get the best bargains that they do absurd things like: they would bargain for anything from sweets to houses if they could; they would spend hours bargaining when their time could be better spent; they would swear by their gods to convince their opponent; they would argue about prices not because they know the cost but because they assume whatever price they are told is extortion… I felt this was all psychotic. Seriously, I think it is psychosis!

Slowly coming out of my frustration with the nightmare that is bargaining, I had an idea: I would only bargain if something is “worth” bargaining for. At the same time I was going through another transformation: I disliked the idea of needing (or depending on) anything/anyone, except God that is. With the two ideas I deduced my own philosophy/attitude with regards to commercial bargaining. The philosophy addresses my concern for this pervasive psychosis that destabilizes spirit, and my appeal to lack of dependence. However I exist within a certain economic context and I am no way omnipotent. The premises to my philosophy follow.

First, I don’t need anything that is not necessary for my survival, which is most things. Second, even among the things I need, I could survive on the most basic of them. Thirdly, if one is to bargain, they should have a good idea of the cost, else don’t bargain. Fourthly, a seller is entitled to making reasonable profit, else what’s the point of serving you? Based on the third point, my attitude to bargaining depends on whether I know about the cost or not. Adam Smith (given his assumptions) argues that the price of stuff is determined by the Invisible Hand (one might think he is talking about God, he is not). I am more inclined to set my own price; I call it my Decisive Hand! With all this, my philosophy can summarized in two sentences:

If I know the price of a thing that is not crucial to my survival, and I would like to acquire it, I state a price I think is fair and purchase or walk away. Secondly, if I don’t know the price, my Decisive Hand decides on a price I am willing to pay, then ask for the price, if the price is lower than my own I pay, if not I mention my own, then purchase or walk away.

Each time I walk away, I remain conscious that it could be mistaken with a bluff, which is a common “tactic” in this war of bargain and profit. I make a point of clarifying to the sellers that this is neither a bluff nor done out of spite, it is just an a plan that didn’t work, an equation that was not solved, a relationship that did not work out (“it is not you, it is me”). I don’t expect them to understand it, and I am just articulating it for the first time perhaps on this blog, so I wouldn’t have given them the link to this blog. But I leave there feeling better about myself for having tried to explain it to them, even if they don’t get it.

I leave not victorious or cheated, but always with my spirit un-conflicted and no less a survivor. This is my Last Price.

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