Friday, 3 October 2014

Most of my morality comes from YouTube

I'm not sure what I'm about to write, but before I write it you should know I've just watch a Ted talk titled Does Money Make You Mean?

Go watch it, the speaker (Paul Piff) talks about loads of mad psychology experiments all asking the question: does money make you mean? It's only 16 minutes long and, in the interest of good science, he should have gone into a bit more detail on some of the studies rather than just making shocking statements and claims. But whatever. He went ahead and made shocking statements and claims and got me thinking. Go Paul Piff. 

What he got me thinking on (rather than wealth birthing corruption and the burgeoning horrors of social inequity and that oh god we're horrible people and what must our grandmothers think) was fate. His speech finishes with a bit on how we can stop perpetuating the sense of entitlement held by the priviledged and here's a quote:

"...we've been finding in our laboratory research that small psychological interventions, small changes to people's values, small nudges in certain directions, can restore levels of egalitarianism and empathy."

Basically when someone's given a reminder to be good, well, they're good. He calls them nudges of compassion and bumps of empathy which is kind of adorable. I'm thinking his speech was in the category of massive shove of benevolence.

In the research people are shown a short clip and then later tested on whether they'll help a stranger (secretly monitored, of course). Good news, they help the stranger! Hurrah!

However, in real life there's no short clip. 

All of these nudges and bumps just come to you by chance in books, songs, films, art* and -maybe most importantly- people. We're not just talking about your levels of compassion here, it's everything. It's your whole mindset and outlook on the world that's totally dependent on what happens to have happened to you. Totally terrifying right? Would I have forgotten to give to charity if I hadn't been binging on Ted talks videos? What other moral slip ups can I reprogramme myself for on YouTube?

It's a helter skelter of thought which ends in me wanting to watch Sliding Doors (only gets 6.8 on IMDB, whaaa?) and imagine how different a person I could have been had I, say, not taken up swimming as a kid. Whether that person would have been nicer. Whether I could force myself to become that nicer person now. Whether I want to be nice.

Conveniently what having a blog has made me want to do is have CONCLUSIVE THOUGHTS. I'll have a brain scramble like the above and feel very worried about Life, The Universe and Everything. But instead of collapsing onto my bed and accepting the world is doomed, now I'll try to find a conclusion. Actually I still collapse onto my bed (tricky as it's only a single, I need to fall quite precisely to avoid injury) but I also give my thoughts conclusions. Prepare yourself for a round up**!

Part one: You have to keep reading and watching and listening and talking and keep finding out what you think about things. As a kid I was under the impression that turning 16 made me an adult and I'd know everything there was to know. When it didn't happen I kept my fingers crossed for 18. Not long now until I'm 21, I might as well keep hoping. But in the mean time I have to keep absorbing as well.

Part two: You gotta hang out with the good nudges; the good eggs; the good people. And you gotta be a good nudge / egg / person.

But hold on, what even is 'good'? The world is way too confusing to have any black and whites like good and bad. And how do I influence people in a good way without knowing if the very influences that have influenced me are bad? Suddenly starting to feel a bit woozy, a bit strange, a bit worried about Life, The Universe and Everything... *clonks head on side lamp whilst collapsing into bed*.


*I'm kind of bluffing this one, I've never really had my life changed by art. I mean I've really liked art, it's just never altered by world view. If anyone reading this has a story of finding something like that in a work of art pleeeease leave a comment. You can even do it anonymously. Pwease.

**This is something I'm going to practice: telling stories with a beginning, middle and end rather than many beginnings smooched together.


  1. it is possible my life was changed by repeated visits to Kelvingrove Art Gallery (cheap Saturday morning entertainment provided by my dad while my mum slept off her night shift) - would this count? Dali's Christ of St John made my childish self proud to be Glaswegian...

    1. On the same principle my life was changed by the begonias at the botanics down the road I suppose (you're reading this right, dad?). Totally counts. And thanks for leaving my first proper comment Dougie!

  2. Interesting piece Katie. I know what you mean about waking up one day hoping you will know everything; it does not happen. Too many adults think that they do know it all and close their minds to anything new. Life is a journey of learning from start to finish as long as you keep your mind open and are inquisitive. You are never too old to be amazed or inspired by something. I tell my (now adult) children to never lose touch with the child within themselves; question things, challenge things and never stop having fun.
    As for art, I suggest you get some paint and paper and have a go. There are no rules, just try it and you might be amazed.

  3. The great composers were 'just' humans connecting with their fellow humans, though music. Watch anthing you find by Leanard Bernstein - a lightning conductor of their thoughts as well as their sounds; and a bit in love with himself, but you can't have everything. This, especially the final section ~31:19 is an amazing description of profound music about life, and its opposite.
    Also read anything about Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and ponder what a stupendous human thought about our condition.
    If I'd known that art was 'just' humans with something important to say, I wouldn't have spent so much time wondering what they were on about.
    Not that you need much help, what with asking all the right questions already. All the best.