Thursday, February 29, 2024

The War in Gaza

The war for Gaza is not going well for Hamas. It is not going well for Hamas supporters, who constitute most of the inhabitants of Gaza. And it is not going well for the Biden administration, which wants it to be over-- the better to shore up its electoral chances in Michigan.

While speaking out of both sides of its mouth, the Biden foreign team has sent crack journalist and useful idiot Tommy Friedman on a round the world trip to assess the level of support for Israel.

Now, Tommy informs us, on the basis of the people who are happy to use him as a tool, that Israel is failing because it is losing acceptance.

One imagines that this means that people around the world no longer think that Israelis are nice people. 

Once upon a time European Jews sought to be accepted by their non-Jewish and largely pagan neighbors. They did not imagine that their neighbors would try to exterminate them, and, by the by, their culture. 

How did that one work out, Tommy? 

In truth, people in the Middle East and Asia respect Israel for what it has accomplished. Many Muslims in the region are deeply resentful of the fact that the Jews built a prosperous modern society in a land where people had previously limited themselves to growing dates and figs. 

Other Muslim nations, through the Abraham Accords, have embraced a concept that I have often promoted. Namely, that Israel is the solution, not the problem to the region’s need to modernize. 

Israel is a military power. Its reputation took a serious hit on October 7, but clearly the massacre happened because the Israelis let their guard down. 

Militarily, Hamas is largely outgunned. Thus, it resorts to terror, to a more primitive form of warfare, one that relies on propaganda, on sapping the morale of its enemy. And thus, Hamas must be eliminated. This is not the same as to say that Hamas must be accepted. Friedman does not say it overtly, but how else, by the terms of his argument, can Israel feel accepted without accepting Hamas. 

It is certainly not for Jews to accommodate the madness that defines the Palestinian minds. It is for Jews to show, beyond any real doubt, who is the stronger and more efficient.

People respect success. They do not respect mealy-mouthed craven pandering, even when it appears in the pages of the New York Time. Right, Tommy?

Being a tool of the Biden administration, Tommy continues to float the Biden solution to the conflict, which involves two states living in harmony.

Of course, this prospect has been floated for decades now. The Palestinians do not want it. They want all of Israel, and they want it to be called greater Palestine. Similarly the Israelis no longer trust the Palestinians to be neighborly.

They already tried it and got seriously burned.

The current conflagration involves the clash of civilizations, the clash between modern Western civilization, the kind that America’s culture warriors associate, obscenely, with white skin, and the more primitive civilizations associated with Islam.

During the past millennium Islamic culture fell behind that of the West, as Bernard Lewis outlined in his book, What Went Wrong?

Now, if Israel were to follow Tommy’s approach, it would effectively be surrendering to Hamas. Many countries in the region and even outside the region are rooting for Israel privately while expressing public chagrin over the destruction that the IDF has produced in Gaza.

One needs to understand that Tommy’s numbers about civilian casualties come from Hamas. Precisely why he would accept them unthinkingly is beyond me. 

As you might have guessed, without reading his mental drool, Tommy blames it all on the Israeli prime minister. He barely pays lip service to the horrors Hamas visited on Israel, but he thinks that the fault lies with Benjamin Netanyahu:

That many civilian deaths in a relatively short war would be problematic in any context. But when so many civilians die in a retaliatory invasion that was launched by an Israeli government without any political horizon for the morning after — and then, when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally offers a morning-after plan that essentially says to the world that Israel now intends to occupy both the West Bank and Gaza indefinitely — it is no surprise that Israel’s friends will edge away and the Biden team will start to look hapless.

We will not list the civilian casualties from other wars, thoroughly ignored by Tommy Clueless. One can list Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo and Dresden-- for starters. And, isn’t there something profoundly stupid about trotting out the concept of the morning after pill, even suggesting that no army can attack a neighbor without a plan for what comes after?

Dare we mention the nations that have been founded by colonial powers, and that have built Western countries on land that had been inhabited by indigenous peoples. Consider the cases of New Zealand, Australia and, of course, Andalusia. And let’s not forget that Indian tribes owned much of what we now call America. Does Tommy want us to end the “occupation.”

By the logic of anti-colonialism, we ought to give America back to the indigenous peoples. Didn’t Susan Sontag famously denounce America in precisely the terms that the radical left is using today to discredit Israel:

America was founded on a genocide, on the unquestioned assumption of the right of white Europeans to exterminate a resident, technologically backward, colored population in order to take over the continent.

She said it some fifty years ago, but it could have been said yesterday. 

Tommy agrees. He bought the notion of occupation, of colonialization, which translates the notion that Israel is illegitimate. As it happens, given the track record of Palestinian governance, no Israeli prime minister could possibly accept returning Gaza to the Palestinians.

The people of Gaza have simply forfeited, for now, the right to govern themselves. The right to self-governance might be God-given, but that does not mean that we need to respect everyone’s right to self-governance. You can exercise a right and you can forfeit the right.

Tommy has this to say:

But now we have a toxic combination of thousands of civilian casualties and a Netanyahu peace plan that promises only endless occupation, no matter if the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank transforms itself into a legitimate, effective, broad-based governing body that can take control of both the West Bank and Gaza and be a partner one day for peace.

So the whole Israel-Gaza operation is starting to look to more and more people like a human meat grinder whose only goal is to reduce the population so that Israel can control it more easily.

Waiting for the Palestinian Authority to transform itself into a functioning governing body is like waiting for Godot. And we know how that turned out.

To imagine that Israel is looking for control is vapid, even for Tommy. Israel is showing the world that it will not allow its enemies to attack it with impunity. Israel is increasing the price of further attacks. Since the rulers of Gaza have shown themselves incapable of doing anything for their people beyond building terror tunnels and rockets, they have left the Israeli government no other sane choice.

One suspects that the vast majority of Israelis agree. One understands that Tommy, for all his caterwauling about the poor Palestinian people-- who made their bed, now they will lie in it-- never shows any real appreciation for the trauma that Israel suffered. 

In the end Tommy blames the Jews. He blames it all on the Israeli prime minister, accusing him of failing to embrace the two state non-solution.

Tommy mentions in passing that Israel is being outmaneuvered by Iran, yet the truth of the matter is that the weak and feckless Biden administration is being played for a fool by the ayatollahs. Doesn’t Tommy know who is funding Hamas and who is funding Iran?

The situation on the ground is simple. Given the serial failures of the Biden administration in the Middle East, Israel has no other options.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Wednesday Potpourri

First, it was only a matter of time before the Biden administration would turn against Israel. After all, its policy is costing its votes in Michigan and we cannot have that.

Anyway, whereas Donald Trump was a great friend of the Jewish state, Joe Biden, not so much.

From the Washington Post:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a reversal of the Trump administration’s position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Friday, saying they are “inconsistent with international law.”

Second, you might not have noticed, but Jewish voters in New York have noticed that the Democratic Party is infested with anti-Semitism. The result, most New York Jews prefer Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

The New York Post has the story:

A staggering 53% of Jewish voters in New York state plan on voting for former President Donald Trump in the November election, a new Siena College poll found

Just 44% of the Chosen People in the deep-blue state will back President Joe Biden in the race, according to the survey, which polled 65 Jews out of 806 total voters.

The spike in New York Jewish voters backing Trump has come in the wake of the murderous Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, with antisemitic hate crimes and anti-Israel protests surging in New York City. 

Third, on the transmania front, Meg Brock takes the measure of grooming in American elementary schools. She offers a succinct summary of how teachers manipulate children, the better to turn them non-binary and transgendered.

She wrote on Twitter:

Kids believe what you tell them. If you tell an 8-year-old there is something wrong with, they will believe you. If you tell a girl she’s a boy over and over again, she’ll listen. If you find trusted adults to echo that message throughout her impressionable preteen years and give her a ‘solution’ to ‘fix’ herself, she’ll follow every word. In her teen years, if you surround her with messages from media, friends, and school, all telling her the same thing: the only way to be accepted and loved is to change who you are by harming your body, she’ll cut her boobs off to find acceptance. By the time she’s 18, she will have spent 10 years being conditioned to accept that only the medicalization of her body can fix her broken self. She will be so entrenched in this lie, she’ll be excited to *finally* have the opportunity to mutilate her genitals, never be a mother, lose sexual function, and become a lifelong medical patient. That’s not helping a child. That’s not informed consent. That’s not ‘medically necessary’ healthcare. That’s mutilating a child’s body. That’s taking away a child’s future. That’s an epic tragedy. Good societies do not allow this to happen to their children. It must be stopped.

Fourth, the most recent science on puberty blockers tells us what we suspected all along. They are bad news. As for what is dishonestly called gender affirming care, it causes serious mental health problems.

From the Twitter account, called Two Genders One Truth:

Increased suicidality & major depression in children follows increases in “gender affirming care.” According to trans activists, we should see declines in suicidality with more children on blockers & hormones than ever before. The exact opposite is occurring. A sharp increase of depression begins in 2017 when: - The number of youth gender clinics in the US increased from 41 to over 100 between 2017 and 2022. [1] [2] - The % of children who identified as trans increased from .07 to 1.4% from 2017-2021 [3] - 121,882 U.S. children ages 6 to 17 were diagnosed with gender dysphoria between 2017-2021. 42,000 were diagnosed in 2021, up 70% from 2020. [4] - Double mastectomies on minor girls increased 13 fold in a 7 year period, with the majority occurring between 2018-2020. [5] Telling children they were born in the wrong body, stopping their natural puberty, doping them with hormones, and mutilating their body is creating the problem “gender affirming care” pretends to solve.

Fifth, in her new book on Bad Therapy Abigail Shrier explains how schools have become grooming factories. This excerpt comes to us from Bari Weiss’s Free Press:

Over the past two years, I have been so inundated with parents’ stories of school counselors encouraging a child to try on a variant gender identity, even changing the child’s name without telling the parents, that I’ve almost wondered if there are any good school counselors. One parent I interviewed told me that her son’s high school counselor had given him the address of a local LGBTQ youth shelter where he might seek asylum and attempt to legally liberate himself from loving parents.

Sixth, once upon a time, and it was not very long ago, our vaunted military decided it was going to stop the Yemeni Houthi terrorists from disrupting shipping in the Red Sea. We are tough and strong and intense virile. Obviously, we can easily dispatch the Houthis.

Apparently, not so fast. The New York Post reports that the Houthis are making us look like fools:

Houthi rebels in Yemen have knocked out a series of underwater cables over the past few months — causing major communication disruptions between Europe and Asia, a report said.

The Iranian-backed militia — who launched a missile attack on a British-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden last week — damaged four submarine communication cables in the Red Sea between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti in East Africa, according to Israeli outlet Globes.

Yemen’s government warned this month that the Houthis were seeking to sabotage crucial infrastructure, including the internet cables in the Red Sea.

One understands that the Biden administration tends to avoid anything that might discomfort the ayatollahs in Iran.

We are paying a price.

Seventh, according to an academic psychologist named Clive Boddy, women can be just as psychopathic as men. Apparently, Villanelle is not an anomaly. I am sure that the thought will brighten your day.

The Daily Mail reports:

According to Dr Boddy, female psychopaths use deceit and sexually seductive behaviour to gain social and financial advantage more than male psychopaths do. 

'Psychopaths are driven by a need to have power over and control other people via whatever resources they have available to them,' he told MailOnline.

'For male psychopaths this may veer towards physical domination through violence, bullying and threats.


'For female psychopaths this may veer towards manipulation through seduction, relational aggression, and spreading rumours and lies about people aimed at gaining personal advantage and preferment over those people.' 

Eighth, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears was presiding over a meeting of the Virginia House of Delegates. A delegate, named Danica Roem asked her a question. Sears responded.

So far so good. And yet, Roem is transgendered-- he thinks he is a girl-- and Sears misgendered him. She called Roem: Sir! In truth, Roem is the first transgender member of the House of Delegates, elected in 2017.

So, Roem took grievous offense by being called “Sir” and quickly walked out of the chamber.

If only he had stayed out of the chamber.

Ninth, remember the National Health Service in Great Britain. It has been touted as the royal road to socialized medicine.

Yet, problems arise when you get sick. You get a place on a waiting list, not proper care:

People in the UK have been treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy less often than patients in comparable countries, and faced long waits for treatments, according to two new studies published in The Lancet Oncology.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Christian Nationalism

One remarks, with considerable chagrin, the advent of leftist anti-Semitism. In colleges and universities, in newsrooms, on America’s streets, people who hate Jews are out in force, threatening, abusing and harassing.

At the least, we should emphasize that the war against Israel, which is what it is, is not being led by Christians. It is not being led by Christian white supremacists. 

The people who despise Israel and who thrilled to the October 7 massacre were not Christians.  In truth, Christians often took the lead in supporting Israel.

This suggests that the current frenzy about Christian nationalism was designed to cover up the anti-Americanism of certain other groups. Similarly, the frenzy about January 6 was designed to cover up the riotous insurrection mounted against the country in the Spring and Summer of 2020. The BLM insurrectionists were not Christian white supremacists.

Someone somewhere has pointed out that the opposite of Christian nationalists is pagan internationalists. Nicely put. For the record God said this to Abram:

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.

Also, in the book of Exodus Moses led his people out of the empire called pharaonic Egypt, to found a new community based on one set of rules, not on adulation of a human idol. 

The opposite of nationalism is internationalism. At a time when the current administration refuses to close its borders, presumably because it considers all people to be citizens of the world, internationalism is ruling policy. 

One notes that the hordes who are invading the country are invariably not Christian white supremacists. Surely, for people who resent the white race, that is the point. 

True enough, Trump was a nationalist, though considering him a representative of Christian nationalism is a bit of a stretch. Those who trot out the presumed slander mean to emphasize abortion policy, recently become more salient thanks to an absurd decision by a court in Alabama. 

Dare we say that white Christians, in Europe and America, have produced a great civilization. Dare we add that those who were not white Christians resent them bitterly for having done so. It is precisely analogous to the situation in Israel, where white Europeans produced a great nation while Muslim have produced nothing of consequence. 

In today’s America’s the living symbol of American achievement is a builder named Donald Trump. Those who are incapable of building anything are hard at work trying to destroy what Trump built, and have blamed it on white supremacy. 

As I have pointed out before, Israeli success has made Palestinians look bad. It has shamed them. Rather than emulate the Israelis they have chosen the pathway of destruction-- destroying what others have built.

Those who see the ghost of Christian nationalism riding over the landscape believe that certain Christian groups want to take over the world, to impose their values and their religion on the nation.

That this has never been the case in a highly secular America does not bother them. The important point is much simpler, if you ask which religion wants to impose itself on all others, the immediate answer would not be Christianity; it would be Islam. 

Dare we mention that the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, has an Islamist wing, a group that is working hard to impose itself on the nation. 

Lest we forget, the armies of atheism are alive and well in America. They control the media and even the academy. They are constantly maligning the achievements of American Christians and Israeli Jews. Theirs is a defamation factory.

By their warped reasoning Israel has never achieved anything. It is a colonial power, an illegitimate imposter that has succeeded because it has oppressed Palestinian peoples.

This absurd mythology has occupied the minds of far too many otherwise intelligent people.

So, Islam, in particular, along with the totalitarian political movements that wreaked so much havoc during the twentieth century, are hard at work discrediting white civilization, discrediting free enterprise and the Industrial Revolution-- the better to make themselves feel better for having failed.

Evidently, they are horrified that Israel is fighting back against their slanders. Similarly, many American Christians, tired of seeing their culture maligned and defamed, are fighting back. 

In political terms, Democrats are associating Christian nationalism with abortion politics. Surely, they would prefer to make abortion central to the upcoming campaign, not immigration.

As noted, anti-Semitism is alive and well on the American left. It has pride of place in today’s Democratic Party.

True enough, Donald Trump is being supported by certain Christian groups. Most, if not all of them are full-throated supporters of Israel.

It is worth recalling that half of Trump’s family is Jewish and that he was a strong supporter of the state of Israel. At a time when the Biden administration has denounced Israeli West Bank settlements, Trump embraced them.

Besides, speaking of Abraham and of the Abrahamic religions, with Trump we had the Abraham Accords. With Biden we had piles of dead Jews on October 7.

With Trump we had a series of alliances wherein Muslim nations recognized the legitimacy of the state of Israel. With Joe Biden we had the October 7 massacre, followed by a war where the Biden administration has tried to play both ends against the middle.

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Bad Therapy

If you are reasonably sentient and well-informed about psycho matters you know that young Americans are a mental health mess. They are suffering from an accumulation of anxiety and depressive symptoms. 

They do not get along with their peers or even with adults. As I noted yesterday and previously, they feel detached and alone, isolated and dissociated.

And if you have listened attentively to expert analysis, you would know that this problem had been caused by social media, by techno gadgets.

And yet, as I have been saying all these many years, it feels too easy to blame it on social media. Thus, I found myself especially impressed by the arguments put forth by Abigail Shrier in a summary of her new book, Bad Therapy.

According to Shrier, the kids are not alright because they have been therapied to within an inch of their sanity. They have been brought up in a therapy culture; they have lived their lives according to therapy; they have been coddled and swaddled by well-meaning professionals who care for their tender, traumatized psyches.

Also, they have learned bad habits. They have learned how not to get along with other children. They have learned how not to socialize and fraternize. 

Truth be told, I have been denouncing the therapy culture and its deleterious impact on child rearing for years now. I am certainly not alone. Now, Shrier has written a comprehensive guide to the impact of therapy on childrearing. 

I have not read her book, but I would point out that this specific phenomenon really began in the post-World War II era, in the time of the Baby Boomers. Then, you might not recall, a child-rearing manual, written by a Freudian pediatrician named Dr. Benjamin Spock, became a bible for young American mothers. 

The result was a psychologically ruined generation, the Boomer generation. I recommend the book about the boomers, by one Helen Andrews.

Anyway, Gen Zers, the group analyzed by Shrier, are the children of the Boomer generation. By the time Gen Z came along we were not just dealing with an influential book. We were dealing with a therapy industrial complex that had insinuated its way into all aspects of child rearing, from the nursery to the classroom to the playing field.

Millions of us bought in to this dogma, believing it would cultivate the happiest, most well-adjusted children. But instead, with unprecedented help from mental health experts, we have raised the loneliest, most anxious, depressed, pessimistic, helpless and fearful generation on record.

How bad is it? What is the clinical outcome for the children who were brought up according to therapy culture principles:

This is a generation strikingly different from those prior to it, says Dr Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University. According to her, members of Generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2012 – are less likely to go on dates, get a driving licence, hold down a job or socialise with friends in person than millennials, born between 1980 and 1994, were at the same age.

We have often remarked on the simple fact that Gen Zers have no real work ethic. Therapy taught them to follow their bliss, and that does not include showing up for work on time:

Bosses and teachers confirm this analysis, reporting that members of Gen Z appear utterly underprepared to accomplish basic adult tasks – including showing up for work.

The truth is that these mental health interventions on behalf of our children have largely backfired. At best, they have failed to relieve the conditions they claim to treat. But far more likely is that they are making young people sicker, sadder and more afraid to grow up.

Obviously, Shrier pays some attention to outcomes. Studies suggest that the generation brought up by therapy culture principles is largely dysfunctional. And depressed:

I'm not the only one to have found something fishy in the fact that more treatment has not resulted in less depression. A group of academics led by Netherlands-based psychiatrist Johan Ormel noticed the same in a 2022 study.

The authors noted that treatment for major depression has become much more widely available (and, in their view, improved) since the 1980s worldwide. And yet in not a single Western country has this treatment made a dent in the prevalence of major depressive disorder. In fact, in many countries it actually increased.

The next time you read some heart-felt plaint about how mental health treatment is not sufficiently available, keep in mind that more therapy has effectively produced more distress.

For young people, the picture is bleaker still. Between 1990 and 2007 the number of mentally ill children rose 35-fold. And while overdiagnosis, or the expansion of definitions of mental illness, may partially account for this, it doesn't completely explain the pervasive distress felt by young people today.

If the purpose of therapy were to produce more business for therapists it would be a rousing success. Failing to treat or to cure, while creating a cultural ambiance where everyone believes that he must go to therapy is good for business. 

Therapy has cleverly told people that if treatment fails the fault lies with patients, not with therapists.

Of course, the standard therapy question, asking people how they feel, and encouraging them to introspect, is bad practice. It causes people to withdraw from their lives and to get lost in their minds.

Michael Linden, a professor of psychiatry at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, believes that routinely asking children how they are feeling is a terrible practice.

Moreover, Shrier correctly remarks, it is not always a good idea to talk about traumas. This despite the fact that trauma talk has become a national obsession:

And it's not always best to talk about your 'trauma' either.

'Really good trauma-informed work does not mean that you get people to talk about it,' mental health specialist Richard Byng tells me. 'Quite the opposite.'

One of the most significant failings of psychotherapy, he says, is its refusal to acknowledge that not everyone is helped by talking.

A dose of repression appears to be a fairly useful psychological tool for getting on with life for some – even for the significantly traumatised.

Rarely do we grant children that allowance. Instead, we demand that they locate any dark feelings and share them.

Dare we mention that when you make a fetish of dark feelings you are telling children that their dark feelings are their truth. Thereby you are depriving them of the chance to put such feelings and even the associated traumas behind them.

Moreover, busybody therapists have taught parents to invade children’s privacy, to subject them to constant surveillance.

Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College, Massachusetts. 'At home, the parents are watching them. At school, they're being observed by teachers. Out of school, they're in adult-directed activities. They have almost no privacy.'

Actually, Gray says, adding monitoring to a child's life is functionally equivalent to adding anxiety. 'When psychologists do research where they want to add an element of stress, how do they add it?' he asks. 'They simply add an observer.'

Therapy culture turns family life into a perverse, tragic melodrama. Shades of Freud. It teaches children to distrust their parents, to imagine that their parents do not want what is best for them.

Family estrangement strips the adult child of a major source of stability and support. Worse, it leaves those grandchildren with the impression they descend from terrible people. People so twisted and irredeemable that Mum and Dad won't let them in the house.

Generation Z has received more therapy than any other. In the US, nearly 40 per cent have received treatment from a mental health professional, compared with 26 per cent of Gen Xers – those born between 1965 and 1980.

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

The New Socialization Apps

It seems like it was only yesterday, but it was two days ago that I took some exception to Charles Duhigg’s recent book about supercomunicating. 

By his reasoning anyone can learn to engage in a functional and profitable conversation with anyone else… as long as they become supercommunicators.

Of course, as happens with many slightly lame theories, this one misses the obvious. It does not define human beings by their places in society, their roles and duties, but sees them as autonomous human monads who can get along with just about anyone. Who can and who would want to….

It fails to notice that when we meet someone new, we want to know who they are, where they come from, what their reputation is, and where they do or do not belong.

There are lots of people in this world with whom you do not want to communicate. The economics of time management make you want to spend more time with some people and less time with others.

Yesterday, the Financial Times offered an important article by Bethan Staton. It corrects the naive simplicities of Charles Duhigg. Her subject was loneliness and her question involved whether we can find a cure for it by using apps. 

So, loneliness is a problem. If you need to meet some new people, there’s an app for that. You will presuably feel less lonely and more connected to your fellow humanoid creatures if you attend a dinner meeting comprised of random souls, all of whom are looking to overcome their loneliness.

To her great credit Staton concludes that these meetings do not really work to produce connection. Any more than dating apps produce true love and lasting marriages. 

Neither she nor I would suggest that it never happens, because lightning can strike in the most unforeseen circumstances, but the chances are, meeting people through apps, whether for a dinner or for an affair, fails.

The app is called Timeleft. It is working in London, among other places. One wonders why it is not called, Timeright. Staton describes it:

Timeleft was launched in Lon­don in Janu­ary after start­ing in con­tin­ental Europe, tak­ing its place among a new group of start-ups seek­ing to innov­ate a way out of loneli­ness. It defines itself against social net­works and apps that limit com­mu­nic­a­tion to our phones, stak­ing a claim to open­ing the door to something new and real — “the magic of chance encoun­ters” with “people you wouldn’t have met”, the web­site says. Its aim? “To com­bat loneli­ness, depres­sion issues, and broken fam­il­ies.

This random assortment of strangers seems not to have been comprised of supercommunicators. When the group got together people discussed why they were there. In short they discussed something they had in common.

Charles Duhigg notwithstanding, they did not ask deep, probing questions. They began, as most normal people would, with small talk:

To get the con­ver­sa­tion going, our table of thirtyso­methings has been issued with a list of icebreak­ing ques­tions. But for now, at least, we do not opt to explore each other’s child­hood memor­ies or views on whether friend­ships between men and women are pos­sible. What really interests us is why we are here. “Meet­ing new people,” says Elena, who moved from Mel­bourne a few years ago and works in the food industry, invent­ing new products. “Lon­don’s a lonely city.”

And yet, these people had little in common. A group of random strangers will surely share some qualities, but none of them will be connected to anyone you know. This means, you do not know whether or not you can trust them.

From small talk about white-col­lar jobs in tech and HR, it is dif­fi­cult to know what else we have in com­mon. The thread that runs through every­one’s story, woven into dif­fer­ent cloth, is the desire for con­nec­tion.

We connect less because we belong to fewer social organizations. We do not attend religious services and as Robert Putnam famously explained, we no longer join bowling leagues. 

As though on cue, Abigail Shrier has a new book called Bad Therapy. According to the excerpt from The Daily Mail, people today are alone and detached, lacking connection with other human beings, because they have been brought up according to therapy. Nothing quite like therapy to turn you into a self-absorbed, self-involved, detached human monad-- craving connection.

Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, the younger generation, the one that is trying out socialization apps, is disillusioned with dating apps.

Tired of con­stant scrolling, stil­ted meet­ings and the per­petu­ally elu­sive prom­ise of true love, users are dis­il­lu­sioned: a small US sur­vey last year found that nearly 80 per cent of respond­ents exper­i­enced “emo­tional fatigue or burnout” when online dat­ing. 

One professor has offered an explanation for dating app fatigue:

At Ari­zona State Uni­versity’s rela­tion­ships and tech­no­logy lab, pro­fessor Liesel Shar­abi explains that dat­ing apps are effect­ive in broad­en­ing the pool of poten­tial part­ners, increas­ing the chance of meet­ing someone. But they can also cre­ate a loop of dis­ap­point­ment. People, she says, are “sick of swip­ing, sick of hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions that don’t go any­where”. They want to actu­ally “meet new people instead of spend­ing all their time on the apps”.

It might well be, as Staton points out, that we have too many options. Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz famously showed that we are more likely to make good decisions when we have fewer options. 

The prob­lem here is the para­dox of choice. In a clas­sic study, people shop­ping for gro­cer­ies were presen­ted with two dis­plays of jam, one with 24 vari­et­ies, the other with six. Although more were drawn to the stall with two dozen jams, those given fewer options were more likely to make a pur­chase, and be happy with it when they did. This, says Shar­abi, shows the over­whelm­ing effect cre­ated by apps that offer quant­ity but little improve­ment in mean­ing or qual­ity, and that incentiv­ise us to keep search­ing for “per­fec­tion . . . because it’s so easy to meet some­body new”.

The process of dealing with a band of strangers is discombobulating and alienating:

But the poten­tially infin­ite pro­ces­sion of strangers, offered out of con­text by a machine, makes me feel tired. It makes me feel lonely.

Social net­works, dat­ing apps and meet­ing plat­forms now mean we can meet, and remain acquain­ted with, a seem­ingly infin­ite num­ber of people. But all rela­tion­ships require effort, and when that effort is spread too thinly, it gets harder to be secure that we are giv­ing the people who need us what they need, or get­ting it ourselves.

And, she closes with the following astute observation. Why would you choose to meet more strangers instead of working to get to know those you just met:

It’s not a bad idea. Although my Valentine’s Day com­pan­ions cre­ated a What­s­App group to stay in touch, I think we would struggle to find a date to meet again, and a one-to-one might be too much. But I would be happy to sit next to any of them at another din­ner. It would cre­ate famili­ar­ity, a step, per­haps, to real friend­ship. Still, I’m not quite sure I need an app for that. And if loneli­ness really is the prob­lem, I have to ask myself why I would rather meet yet another group of strangers than get to know these ones a bit bet­ter.

Working to get to know people with whom you have very little in common, working to get to know their friends and the friends of their friends, feels fruitless. 

But it is tir­ing to hang out with strangers. It is tir­ing to con­stantly be cal­ib­rat­ing what can be said and not said, to see your­self reflec­ted in the eyes of people you don’t know. I know this is the cost of mak­ing friends, and con­nect­ing with people. But as my new com­pan­ions dis­cussed their plans to book for the fol­low­ing week’s Timeleft, I wondered what desires these weekly intro­duc­tions would sat­isfy. It is enjoy­able to meet new people, but is it a fix for loneli­ness? How many strangers are enough?

And besides, when you have no one in common you will have less concern for your reputation. And that means, you will not necessarily be on very good behavior. If you can get away with being rude, crude and lewd, the chances are that you will try to do so.

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