Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Reverse Projection

Most of what most people think about other people is projection. You get upset when a person does something, so you assume they would also get upset in your shoes, so they are quite morally culpable for doing what they are doing. You get excited when something happens, so you assume that other people get excited about the same thing.

Generally you can use this fact to find things out about people by reversing the projection. If someone constantly thinks that other people might be lying, they probably lie a lot. If someone is unusually vigilant about theft, it is more likely they are prone to theft themselves.

When I was in grade 11 I took the Fermat, a math competition by the University of Waterloo. I had gotten the highest score in my zone in on the grade 8 equivalent, placed competitively in Canada on the grade 9 one, and done quite well in grade 10 as well. Anyway, I didn't do well on the Fermat, by which I mean I only placed 4th in my school. This might not be 100% accurate, but I am pretty sure the people who came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd were the people who had come in 2nd, 3rd and 4th, in that order in grades 9 and 10. The person who came in 3rd - who was accustomed to coming in 4th by this point - came up to me to gloat about having beaten me.

All I could think when he was gloating was, "Is this how you felt I was acting the last two years? That somehow I was rubbing it in your face?" I hadn't done anything to rub it in his face, but it was obvious he was hurt by my superior placement, or he wouldn't have had any reason to try to hurt me with his. Anyway, I didn't write the Grade 12 contest and in my final year I found out that scholarships to Waterloo were heavily based on the competition, so I wrote it, staying for only 45 minutes of the 3 hours to make sure I got a good enough mark on it to get a scholarship. It turned out it was a damn good thing I did since that also let me participate in the advance math program there and I would not have enjoyed the regular math program.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the kinds of arguments that I see from people who have different politics than me. Often I see people adopting the same form of argument that is used by progressive thinkers but with content that doesn't make sense. This morning I thought that however little sense what they are saying makes, what they are being told makes equally little sense to them.

That might sound like I'm calling them stupid. If I can understand what is wrong with the argument they make and they can't understand what is right about mine then I guess that is evidence I am smarter. But it's dangerous to generalize from one skill to general intelligence, and somewhere between absurd and evil to generalize from intelligence to worth. The whole thing makes me think of words that end in gry. We can't just communicate badly and then be smug when we are misunderstood.

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