29 December 2015

In the Name of Understanding

When you think to yourself, which name, if any, do you give yourself? 

Is your identity mostly derived from your personal, preferred name, or from the activities that form your life, or from the archives that have been gathering your life history for posterity?

Your name(s) may sometimes cause misunderstandings.  I know mine do!

There are many reasons why people search for understanding of one type or another. What does it mean to understand, in your view?

Usually, as far as I am concerned, understanding is about solving a puzzle or a problem, especially an emotional or physical one.  I especially search for understanding when things have gone wrong in life somewhere along the way.

Language is often about labels, symbols and mental imagery.  It is also about efforts to muddle through in the midst of misunderstandings.  Yet global understanding requires that we develop communication skills that show an awareness of the wider world's use of words, symbols and intentions.


17 December 2015

In the Name of the Family

The family is one of the most political of social institutions.  Whether it is rivalry between siblings, or arguments over money or acceptable standards of behaviour, the complexities of human relationships can be very challenging.

There can even be disagreements over what to eat, who to spend time with, and what to believe. There are many challenges to be faced when living within family households, and with family expectations more widely.

There are also plenty of conflicting attitudes to be faced when members of households interact with the wider world.

Here are some links about families and society:

Sociology and your family

Family diversity

The idiom of black sheep in the family

Dark clouds - the abuse of power within families, and in other relationships

Violence in family life


It is rare for a family to be entirely free of politics.   How do you respond to incidents of abuse that have occurred in the past in your family, particularly when exploring and reflecting upon your family history?

15 December 2015

In the Name of Spite

There are people who go through life carrying spite with them.  Why is that?

What does spite mean, apart from being mean?

Why has the British navy had so many ships named Spiteful?

Why did the British airforce call the proposed replacement of the Spitfire the Spiteful?

Are you ever spiteful?

There are people who are spiteful even if they are unlikely to benefit from that spite.  There are also people who act in an ambivalently generous yet hurtful manner.  There are people who offer hospitality who later impose themselves upon former guests inappropriately.  There are also former guests who subsequently impose themselves on their former hosts in an manipulative, exploitative way.

In economic situations, there are many ways in which spite is expressed.  There are people willing to make the lives of others miserable in order to derive a spiteful pleasure from the consequences.  They deliberately spoil or block views of beautiful scenery.  They deliberately make things ugly to annoy people.  They spitefully put up fences and buildings in a deliberate effort to make other people unhappy.  They spitefully intimidate others through threats of legal action, or even conduct malicious prosecutions.  They spitefully create more noise than is necessary when pursuing an activity.

There are spiteful people whose main sentiment is resentment.  This is often expressed as an appeal to spite.  It is communicated through the crab mentality and malicious joy.  Spiteful people act out feelings of hostility in socially harmful ways, and even personally harmful ways.

Spite can also be expressed in relation to jealousy, envy, revenge, self-harming activities, self-destructive anger and criminality.  Spiteful people may also begrudge successful people in other ways, especially if successful people are perceived as snobbish or arrogant.

Snobbery itself can be viewed as a form of spite.  Conspicuous consumption is often a maliciously way to display material success.  It is aimed at encouraging envy.  Advertisements are therefore spiteful when they encourage the purchase of status symbols.