The Unnatural World

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The modern world is unnatural. Edifices of stone and steel and glass and concrete surround us. Electricity comes with the flick of a switch, water at the turn of a tap. Food is superabundant, and the only predators we need fear are human. Everywhere safety is engineered into every facet of daily living.

Life is good. Life is safe. Life is convenient. But it is unnatural.

You are a human. You are biologically engineered to survive the harshest of terrain on Earth. Your ancestors walked the savannahs of Africa, the plains of Europe, the jungles of Asia, the deserts of Arabia. You were designed to resist disease and starvation and injury. Your brains gave you the smarts to live the life you are living now. But this life, this modern world, stay in it too long and it rots your brain and entropies your ability to live as your body calls you to do.

Reclaim your humanity.

Embrace Discomfort

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Walk proudly under the sun and bathe in its heat and light. Saunter through a storm, feel the rain on your skin, hear the crash of thunder and track the flash of lightning bolts. Seek regular, hard physical exertion; measure your labours by the pounding of your heart, the rivulets of your sweat, the fatigue in your muscles, and your ability to push beyond and achieve greater heights. Make your personal records a point of personal pride.

Fast wisely and intermittently, and feel your senses sharpen with hunger. You won’t start melting the moment you cease supplying yourself with nutrients. Cut off everything that harms you. Eat only enough to give you strength, shun all foods laden with sugar and hidden calories, and refuse to eat when you are full. Gird yourself against the inevitable social pressure to eat and eat and eat: you are a human, not a goose to be stuffed for foie gras. Develop a nutrition plan, be aware of what passes between your lips, and cease consumption when you’ve hit your goals.

Take cold showers. Sleep without temperature control. Skip unnecessary suppers and desserts and tea breaks. Do not chase the taste of good food, the feel of luxury fabrics, the ease of sedentary living. Take softness and hardness, heat and cold, dryness and humidity, when they come with equal indifference; treat them as forces to be adapted to, not fodder for complaints and grumbles. Whenever the world tempts you to overindulgence, smile and say no. The world cares nothing for your wants and needs; every so often remind your body that you, too, can throw back at the world everything it throws at you.

The Green and the Blue

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Strike for the forgotten corners of the Earth. Seek the places where the green of the Earth marries the blue of the sky. Witness nature first hand and remember when you were a hairless ape. Observe the frolicking of animals and wonder at their instincts, their rituals, their behaviours, their societies. Notice how they interact with other species despite the lack of a common language. Study them at life and play, and wonder how you can return to that state of innocence.

Climb a hill and feel the contours of the earth beneath your feet, the wind in your hair, the sun in your face. Remember and reconnect with the world that made you. This is the world you evolved to live in, not the four corners of a dreary cubicle or the air-conditioned sterility of a modern home.

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Stand before a cliff and study the patterns of erosion and plant growth. Before you is the story of a billion years. Cast your mind through time and visualise the forces of erosion, propagation, climate and rainfall combining to sculpt the rock. Before them, what are you? If even the hardest and most enduring rock can change before the inexorable might of time, how can you avoid change? How can you not be shaped by time? All you can do is recognise it when it comes, and shape your evolution to reveal your truest and innermost self.

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On spoiled beaches observe the infinite variations of waves crashing against the shore. In flooded pits and holes spot the hidden contours of the world and reconstruct the natural rhythms that created them, and the face of the world to come. Know that the litter you leave behind lasts for tens or hundreds of years, but the ocean has been here for millennia and will last for millennia to come. Recognise that the world is greater and older and more powerful than you, and recalibrate your mind to embrace the vastness of reality.

You are but one human striding across the face of this world. You are but a dewdrop in the face of four and a half billion years. You are indivisible yet interdependent, an actor yet acted upon. Have you honoured your body and tempered it to face the realities of a world indifferent to your wants and needs? What role do you play among your family, your tribe, your groups, your nation? What came before you to place you where you are, and what will come after your role has ended?

Depart the unnatural world for the natural, if only for a while, and remember who you are and where you stand in the great dance of eternity.

Stand Tall, Speak the Truth, Never Let Your Enemies Drag You Down

To endure is to win. To endure is to be patient. To endure is to shelter. To endure is to cultivate. That which endures, survive. The inner spirit is untouchable and unbreakable.
-Ivan Throne, The Nine Laws

Last week my fiancee wanted to write a post about her struggles with eczema. But she was afraid. Afraid that people would mock her and laugh at her and tear her down. This is what I said to her:

They don’t matter.

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How far are you willing to go to stand at the roof of the world?

I started blogging when I was 16 years old. I was young and dumb, moved more by hormones and ideals than principles and reason. Even so, I didn’t let self-doubt or fear of consequences stop me. I began blogging and never looked back.

It was the epoch of the Singaporean socio-political blogger. The government promised a ‘light touch’ towards new media. New blogs sprang up all over the place, roundly criticising the government for its failures and shortcomings. Bloggers became the Internet celebrities of our time, with socio-political bloggers billing themselves as the alternative to state-controlled media. They were the people of the Internet age, young enough to be comfortable with the Net, yet old enough to remember a time when the government ruthlessly dealt with even the slightest hint of dissent.

And then, there was me. The youngest blogger of them all, a kid in his first year of Junior College.

We spoke out, gathering allies and contacts in academia and elsewhere. We discussed ideas, organised events, held protests. We formed group blogs: New Asia Republic, Wayang Party, and the one I co-founded, The Online Citizen. The state didn’t stand by, of course. The local press called us cowboys and the lunatic fringe. They said we wanted an online free-for-all when all we wanted was to set up a citizens’ consultative committee to discuss controversial speech instead of reaching for censorship and police powers. When we reached out to government organisations, politicians and ministers for comment, we were met with the same response: silence. And for bloggers who crossed the line of defamation or hate speech, they were on the receiving end of lawyers’ letters and midnight knocks.

We didn’t let them stop us. We carried on.

In school, people learned who I was. I became the Benjamin Cheah, the blogger, the rabble-rouser, good for a laugh since he was the only guy with skin in the game and to him fell the brickbats. Schoolmates mocked my blog on theirs. Trolls descended on my blog, insulting visitors and impersonating me. People talked around my back, getting my schoolmates to relay messages to me. People cheered when I spoke, but otherwise they would never say a word in my defense. One of my teachers liked insinuating that I enjoyed flaming people online. My own parents said it was too dangerous to blog, that the only thing I could do online was praise the government.

I was alone.

I didn’t let them stop me. I continued blogging and writing.

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You wanna git gud, you have to put in the time.

When I entered National Service, I toned everything down. For one thing, I just didn’t have the time and energy. For another, it was against a military directive. During my time, I required a security clearance to carry out my duties. It was completely routine, normally granted to regular people. Instead, the Military Security Department denied my clearance. No reason was given. At that point, I was a model citizen. No criminal record, no history of harassing anyone, just a teenager who maintained a blog about politics. Nobody saw a reason why I was denied. But the message was clear: we cannot trust you.

I kept writing.

After National Service, I went back into blogging more regularly. I wanted to get back into the game, help the local alt journalism scene grow, maybe even create a viable alternative to the news media. But the days of the light touch were over, and few people wanted to support the group blogs financially. The government gazetted the group blogs, slapping on paperwork and legal requirements on what was previously a loose network of bloggers. Fundraising became a significant concern. The government continued its policy of suing people who defamed them and arresting people who spread hate speech.

We carried on. Until they turned on me.

Singapore’s government is centre-left. Its approach to economics focuses on monetary policy and free trade, but its model of governance is reminiscent of democratic socialism. Social engineering is everywhere, from public education to National Service to public housing, and the government exercises de facto control over critical national functions from public transportation to the unions to the press.

However, every dissident I can name labels the government as ring-wing. And they responded by swinging even further left.

When I critiqued the idea of rape culture, I saw the first hint of the divide between me and my former colleagues. Bloggers I thought were rational thinkers started spewing buzzwords, nonsense and insults instead of discussing things calmly. When I criticised SlutWalk Singapore, the social justice warriors came, shrieking and spitting hatred and vitriol all over Facebook. For the first time The Online Citizen had to issue warnings to tone down. When I addressed arguments from feminists on social media, the SJWs returned.

I didn’t start the flame war, but it found me.

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Give them nothing.

Here I learned the truth: the Control-Left does not care about free speech or debate. If you do not toe the party line you are a heretic and you must be crushed.

I also learned another truth: nothing trolls, haters and SJWs say matters.

I have never been aware of their opinions before they announced their existence with a shrieking cacophonous swarm. Every time they swarmed me, they demonstrated why their opinions don’t matter. All the sound and fury signifies nothing. They have exchanged reasoned argument for empty rage. All they have done is to show the bitter, blackened depths of their hollowed hearts. People like that don’t matter and never will.

People like that bully others by manipulating a social script. Most people are conditioned to want to get along. This is natural; this is how civilizations function. So when someone walks up to you, screaming and yelling and denouncing you, it feels like you have somehow offended them, that you are somehow in the wrong. The easy way is to back down and apologise.

But if all you have done is to express a contradictory opinion, you have nothing to apologise for. If all you have done is to speak a hard truth, you have nothing to apologise for. If all you have done is to talk to people who hold different views, you have nothing to apologise for.

These harpies want you to tear yourself down by your own hand. Never give them the satisfaction.

I’m still here. I’m still writing. Nothing they have said will stop me.

People have criticized me for signing with Castalia House and supporting the Rabid Puppies, simply because they don’t agree with the politics of Vox Day, editor of Castalia House and head of the Rabid Puppies. They lied about me again and again. One person even declared he will no longer buy books from CH. They don’t matter. The people who supported me–Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies–matter. Their opinions matter more to me than the opinions of strangers, much less strangers whose only interaction with me is to attempt to drag me down.

With NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS, I wrote a novel that could never be published in Singapore. It isn’t set in Singapore, so local publishers won’t be interested in it. Even if they were, the novel touches on the triple taboo of race, religion and politics. As the series progresses, I have no doubt more SWs and concern trolls will crawl out of the woodwork and try to stop me.

They won’t. They can’t. For people with no skin in the game, people I have no relationship with, people whose values and behaviours are antithetical to my own, their opinions have never mattered and never will.

If you dare to stand and live your truth, petty people will come to drag you down. They lead empty lives and can’t make anything for themselves, so they glory in convincing others to surrender their dreams. They are worth nothing. Success comes to those who endure. Those who weather the storm of backbiting, mudslinging and bullying, those who refuse to let their enemies do their work for them. Develop the capacity for endurance and you develop the capacity for success.

For over a decade I refused to listen to the naysayers, the trolls, the social justice warriors. Now here I am, Singapore’s first Hugo-nominated SFF writer, one of the few Singaporean bloggers of my generation still in the game, and quite likely the most prominent Singaporean on Steemit.

And I’m only getting started.

As for my fiancee? She got over her fears, and wrote and published her post here.

If you want to know more about the book no Singaporean publisher would touch, you can find NO GODs, ONLY DAIMONS on Amazon and the Castalia House ebook store. The novel has 23 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.5 stars of 5. If you think it’s excellent, do consider nominating at for the 2017 Dragon Award here under ‘Best Alternate History Novel’. Thanks for your support.

The Way of Non-Attachment

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In my last post I discussed how hedonism leads to emptiness and suffering. Hedonism is a self-destructive mindset born from attachment to sensory pleasure. The antidote is the cultivation of non-attachment.

In Buddhist thought, craving (tanha) creates attachment (upadana) whose fruit is suffering (dukkha). If you fail to achieve what you desire, you experience suffering. If you do achieve what you desire, you may feel temporary happiness, before descending into suffering.

As an example, imagine an executive who feels unhappy because he can’t afford to live the high life. The latter is the craving resulting in attachment to the idea that he should live a life of luxury. To overcome his emotional distress, he decides to secure five-figure monthly income. He puts in 80-hour workweeks, sucks up to his bosses, aggressively negotiates for raises, and ruthlessly cuts out everyone who stands in his way. He achieves his target income and sinks his money into a magnificent house, expensive cars, club memberships and other pointless trinkets. To maintain his new lifestyle, he has to continue putting in 80-hour workweeks, juggle the bills, play office politics and watch for backstabbers — and in the process wrecking his health and sanity.

Our imaginary executive desired money and prestige, and willingly made himself a slave to money. Despite the outward appearance of success, he suffers immense workplace pressure and puts in crazy hours that sap his energy to maintain his lifestyle, and in the process suffering from even more money-related stress. His attachment to wealth and the appearance of success sucked him into a vicious, self-destructive cycle instead of taking him to contentment.

In Buddhist thought, there are four kinds of attachment: sensory pleasure, wrong view, rites and rituals, and self-doctrine (i.e. assuming that one has a permanent, unchanging self). Pursuing these cravings creates fuel for further suffering, since you will experience suffering either from not having what you crave or when you want more of it.

In light of this, non-attachment is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist thought. By eliminating craving, one removes attachment and therefore suffering. The practice of renunciation, or nekkhamma, enables a person to free himself from worldly desires and gain spiritual perfection.

Non-attachment can also be found in other philosophies and religions from around the world. The New Testament of the Bible encourages Christians to exercise non-attachment, following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. The Stoics held material possessions lightly and refused to be controlled by their desires, instead striving to be content with their lot in life. The Dao De Jing notes that people attached to material goods will suffer much, while contented people are rarely disappointed.

The practice of non-attachment is a universal concept. Regardless of your personal view on religion, the practice of non-attachment through renunciation of harmful desires leads to inner peace and saves you from self-destruction.

Ambition and Non-Attachment

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Not everyone is called to be a Buddhist monk, a hermit, or an ascetic, and that is perfectly fine. If you wish to live in the modern world then you need to abide by its norms and customs. You will need food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine, education and so many other sundry things to get by. Quite naturally, you will need wealth to live.

For lay people, material goods and wealth are not necessarily evil if they create the conditions for contentment. It is going to be extremely hard to be content if you have to hold three jobs and work for 16 hours every day of the week just to eke out a living. If you do not need to worry about current and future expenses, your mind is at ease and will more readily find a state of contentment. Thus, for lay people, it is not wrong to be ambitious or to pursue career goals and dreams, so long as they do not lead to suffering.

The key is to understand what you want and why you want it. Armed with this insight you can predict if they will lead to suffering. Thus, if you want to earn one million dollars for the sake of obtaining luxury goods and the trappings of wealth, you can be sure to experience no end of *dukkha*, since these desires cannot be permanently satiated. Conversely, if you wish simply to be able to live a smooth life without ever having to worry about bills and unexpected expenses, you will be less likely to overextend yourself, push yourself to the breaking point and ruin your health and relationships.

Pair this insight with what you truly need for a fulfilling life. This could mean adequate food and clothing, shelter, positive relationships and community, and life purpose. You will realise that few of these things are material objects. Everything else is simply nice to have; there would not be any significant impact on your well-being whether you have them or not.

When you find yourself intensely craving something, ask yourself *why* you want it. What need are you trying to fulfil? Is it necessary to your well-being, or are you simply chasing transient feelings? If it is an essential need like food or medicine or a critical tool for a job, then there is no harm in obtaining it. If you are simply using it as an emotional crutch, then the best route is to let it go.

Your thoughts become your reality. How you think about yourself changes the way you feel, perceive and act. Whatever you turn your attention to becomes so. If all your thoughts are consumed with thoughts about making more money or hoarding it, you become a money-hungry monster. If your thoughts are filled with compassion towards others, you become more compassionate. Thus, if you find yourself ensnared with desire, simply turn your thoughts to something else, or clear your mind through focused meditation. Starved of attention, desire dissipates into nothingness.

This process applies to all forms of harmful desires, be it desire for material goods or casual sex or emotional disturbances. If you find yourself obsessing over something to the point where you experience suffering from it, such as ruminating over your failures or why you can’t get something, simply turn your thoughts to more productive uses — including how to improve your life instead of remaining where you are — and act on them.

You are not an eternal and unchanging being. Your life will change over time. It is inevitable. When your circumstances change, so will your life, your wants and needs. When these change, don’t resist it. Simply take stock of what has changed, understand your new life requirements, and take appropriate action to achieve a state of well-being.

Life is to be lived well. Not in the pursuit of fleeting things or feelings, but in fulfilment and in contentment. To reach such a state, identify the desires that lead to suffering and parse them from your life. With a free spirit and a light heart, you can escape suffering and find contentment in all things.

You Are Not Your Weaknesses

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It’s never been easier to define yourself as a disabled minority. Autism, PTSD, agoraphobia, rape survivor, any and all of a long litany of modern-day maladies. You don’t even need an actual medical diagnosis; just slap the label on yourself, proclaim it to all and sundry as loudly and as often as you can, and only the brave will dare dispute you. If you can pass for an oppressed minority de jour–female, transexual, homosexual, racial or religious minority–more underprivileged points for you. Go on some special places on Tumblr and you’ll see people competing to slap as many labels on themselves: vegan poly autistic queer pangender otherkin diagnosed with ADHD, BPD, PTSD.

But what kind of person defines himself by dividing himself down to the smallest he can be?

Every gratuitous label represents a degradation of the human spirit. It is a narcissistic celebration of weakness. Define yourself by what you can’t do and you tell the world that you are a loser. Identify yourself with special snowflake labels and you tell the world you only crave attention.

I qualify for a number of tumblrina psuedo-labels myself. I will never use them where they are not appropriate. I do not even define myself as autistic. I choose different indicators: author, journalist, thinker, blogger.

I define myself by what I do.

Every declaration of what you won’t or can’t do tells the world that you are not interested in delivering value to others. Thus, the world will not take interest in you. Yes, you can get pity and attention with those labels, but they hold no water with people outside of those narrow circles, and feelgood brings no value to the world or to yourself. Every declaration of what you do and have done tells the world what you can, have and will achieve. It attracts like-minded people to you and bends the universe to your will.

I have achieved far more by drawing people’s attention to what I do and what I have done than to my weaknesses. So can you.

You Are Not Your Wounds

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Never before has the modern world rewarded people for being weak. All they have to do is stick those labels on themselves. Now that they are part of an oppressed underclass, they can organise and demand special rights and privileges. If someone disagrees with them, all they have to do is shout, “You are a privileged cis het homophobic/misogynistic/transphobic/Islamophobic/racist/nazi bigot!”.

This is the logic of social justice and the strategy of cultural Marxism. These people exploit social scripts of compassion, kindness, empathy and charity. By declaring themselves as part of some oppressed minority, they can claim that their demands are legitimate and draw attention to themselves. Anyone who says otherwise with them is a class enemy who must be destroyed.

In-groupers think these labels are power. They think lets them take and take and take from society without ever having to give back. But this is only possible in a society willing to give in. The winds of culture are changing. People are recognising these tactics and the parasites who use them for what they are. When society stops caring about them, what are they left with?

Nothing but shrieks and howls.

With that said, there are plenty of people out there who have experienced trauma, crippling diseases and disabilities, and genuinely need help. I am not unsympathetic. Social justice warriors have appropriated their wounds to wear as armour, and the siren song of power and pity is everywhere in the First World.

But you are more than your wounds. You are more than what you can’t do. If you want to live life fully, you cannot define yourself by the lesser part of who you are.

If you seek to excel, you must overcome them. Mind blindness, social deficits and phobias, sensory issues, what-have-you, these are not things that define you. I’ve seen too many people using them as excuses to justify why they aren’t getting jobs, why they aren’t achieving their goals, why they are wallowing in self-pity and like being losers.

Wounds are not to be picked at and paraded to the world. They are to be healed and learned from. If you want to be great you must step beyond your limits. Identify your weaknesses and reframe them. They are not things holding you back; they are obstacles to be overcome. Know your deficiencies, seek out professional advice to resolve them, and put in the work. Day by day, week by week, month by month, chip away at your weaknesses until they no longer bother you.

This can be terrifying. If you have identified yourself as ‘X’ your entire life, the prospect of changing it could make you feel adrift in the world. And the sheer amount of work needed can be daunting. One method is to identify something better to work towards, something that aspires you to act instead of dragging you into sluggishness. If you are fat, marvel at the beauty and strength of a well-conditioned human body, and work to get there. If you are poor, imagine what you can accomplish if you can increase your wealth tenfold or a hundredfold, and work to get there. Every day, find something that inspires you to reach your goals and take steps towards that, and remove yourself from people and things that prevent you from getting there.

Aspire to be your best self and work towards it.

Be Great

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You’re probably not going to overcome all your weaknesses. That’s okay.

As I grow older my sensory issues have grown more acute. Just today I went shopping for pens that glided smoothly across paper without transferring resistance up into my fingers. When I train with sticks at full power indoors I have to have hearing protection on standby. Once, when shopping for cold weather clothing, I ran my fingers across synthetic down jacket. It elicited a screeching white sensation of disgust overlaid with yellow spikes, a feeling so powerful that it blanked out my brain. These are things that have never happened to me before.

It may not be possible to completely overcome your disabilities. What you can do is strive to achieve a minimum standard of functionality. As a teen I could not stand human contact; today I can power through empty-hand martial arts training and remain functional. When I was younger I had significant social deficits; today I can maintain a healthy relationship with my fiancee. I learned to adapt and overcome, and I’m not done yet.

The wise understand their limits. You may not fully overcome your deficiencies and your weaknesses. What you can do is raise yourself to a level where they will not hamper you, allowing you to exercise your strengths and become the best person you can be.

You are not your weaknesses. You are the sum of your achievements and will become your future glories. Heal from your wounds and mitigate your flaws so they will not get in the way of your strengths. Present the greater part of yourself and leave your mark on the world.

How to Recognise A Soulmate

The modern world has no room for soulmates. The First World has repudiated the strictures of the Church and traditional morality, ushering in an era of free love, rising divorce rates and increasing unhappiness. Corporations have turned Valentine’s Day into an excuse for ostentatious consumption, and with it, an opportunity for immense profit. Skeptics claim love is little more than brain chemistry. Pickup artists laugh at the idea of ‘the One’. Writers in the manosphere advise readers to keep their game tight and prowl for women, marking success by notches on the bedpost. The idea of a soulmate is anathema to them.

They are wrong.

Finding My Soulmate

12 years ago, when I was in secondary school, I was part of the National Cadet Corps. One afternoon we were scheduled for a meeting in a classroom after school. I was the first to arrive; only the cadets from that class were present. I sat at an empty desk, opened my notebook and continued crafting notes on my novel.

A girl sat opposite me. Dark-skinned, short curly hair, an androgynous face. The kind of girl most people wouldn’t look twice at. I kept writing.

“You have nice handwriting,” she said.

Her voice was an electric violet entwined with crystalline greens shot through with yellow, so bright I had to look up at her. She smiled at me.

A strange sensation crept over me. It was the feeling of familiarity, as though I had known her for a hundred lives or more. She was a plain girl, but her eyes were wide and soft and deep, and her smile bursting with joy and warmth. I thought of a photograph dating to the fifties, yellowed with age, of a woman in a pencil skirt and plain blouse, wearing the same smile she did now.

Her classmate wandered over. He was the leader of our company, the one who had called for the meeting.

“Hey Jas,” he said.

A voice in mind, quiet and calm and confident, said, No. Her name is Jasmine.

“This is Benjamin,” he continued.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Jasmine.”

I nodded.

It wasn’t the most romantic of encounters. We never thought that that meeting set the stage for the rest of our lives. But here we are today.

Recognising Your Soulmate

By now a spiritual reader would have recognised the signs and broke out into huge grins. If you’re that person, chances are, you’re going to know what I’m going to talk about. For the rest of you, read on.

To find your soulmate, you must first discard all illusions. Pop culture depicts soulmate relationships as smooth-sailing and effortless. Romance writers like to make everything work out somehow. Fairy tales end their stories with ‘and they lived happily ever after’.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The game gurus of the manosphere have learned to be wise about women. They understand that women are as human as everyone else, prone to frailties, eccentricities and personal failings. They know that the majority of women out there are not suited for long-term relationships with them. They know that women positively respond to specific behaviours and negatively to others, and pass on advice to other men to make them become more attractive. They know the perils of being in long-term relationships with dangerous women, and correctly advise their readers to drop unsuitable mates the second they see the warning signs. They have experienced the suffering that comes from being attached to the idea of any particular woman being ‘the One’ — especially if that woman does not reciprocate their affections — so they teach men to develop the mindset of detachment and abundance.

But those that sneer at the concept of soulmates are mistaken.

The idea of a soulmate is misunderstood by society. Meeting your soulmate does not guarantee a relationship, much less a successful one. A relationship with your soulmate is not guaranteed to be smooth and pleasant. A soulmate may not be with you forever. Meeting your soulmate may be a capstone in your life, but it is not the end. It is, if anything, the beginning of a long and rocky road.

To understand the notion of a soulmate you must understand the soul. It is your essence, the sum of all you are. It is your personality, your worldviews, your beliefs, your habits, your hang-ups, everything that makes up who you are. Your soul is a diamond. And the only thing that can wear down a diamond is another diamond.

When diamonds are unearthed from the ground, they are dull and irregular and plain. Once inside a gem workshop, lapidaries carefully slice away their flaws, wear away rough corners, and meticulously grind facets at precisely-calculated angles. Diamond is so hard that the workmen must use diamond tools to shape diamond. After long hours of labour, the product is a sparkling, opulent gem with a rainbow at its heart.

So it is with your soulmate. A soulmate is a person who reflects your soul in its entirety, both its beauty and its ugliness. When you are with her, it is like diamonds grinding each other down. Your interactions with her bring out both the noblest and basest aspects of your self. She motivates you to exercise your strengths, and she exposes your flaws. And you, too, do the same to her.

Your soulmate inspires you to transform yourself into a glittering diamond of a human being.

Polishing the Diamond

Life with your soulmate becomes a journey of personal transformation and transcendence. But it is neither easy nor automatic. Like the lapidary carefully polishing a diamond, you bothhave to put in the work.

As you might have guessed from the anecdote, as a teen I was surly and antisocial. I was razor-focused on the Great Work of creation. Most people who did not contribute to that simply ceased to be relevant to my life. I had minimal social skills, and I saw no need to be friendly to people.

Jasmine showed me how I had gone wrong. And even today I am still learning from her.

For all this, humans are free. Free to cling to their old ways and free to change. Free to defend a fragile ego and free to exercise compassion. Free to stay and free to walk away.

When you are with your soulmate, you will grind away at each other. Your friction and conflicts will expose your deep-seated insecurities, fears and delusions to the light of day. You can choose to stay the course and work things out. Or you can choose to leave.

Neither choice is always right all the time. As she works on you, you too are working on her. You will see her at her worst. Her ideas, suggestions and actions may not be in your best interests all the time. Blindly going along with everything turns you from a diamond into a doormat, and insisting that she listen to you always is to demand the same from her.

Do not count on angelic proclamations, crackles of metaphysical electricity or flashes of mental imagery to signal a meeting with your soulmate. It is nice if it happens but do not assume it always will. Instead, like the lapidary who examines a diamond with a clear microscope and penetrating light, you must examine your relationship and hold it against measurable benchmarks.

Does your mate celebrate your successes or does she belittle them? Does she encourage you to grow your strengths or bury them? Does she motivate you to be healthier and fitter and wiser, or does she sneer at your attempts at self-improvement? Does she cultivate virtue alongside you or does she ignore you? Does she help you overcome your weaknesses or does she humiliate you for them? Does she encourage you to nurture and grow your wealth or does she leech off you? When caught in a dispute, does she seek to resolve matters with you or does she seek to impose blame? When facing a challenge together, does she partner with you or attempt to impose her will? Most of all: are you happy with her?

You must be brutally honest about yourself. The more she builds you up, the greater you can be sure that she is a keeper. if she tears you down, you must point out such behaviour to her and encourage her to change: if she ceases and changes for the better, she may yet have potential. If she refuses, you must leave. A relationship built on denigration and destruction will not last.

Predators and parasites seek only to grind you into dust. Soulmates offer you the challenge of becoming a diamond.

The Great Dance of Life

Jasmine and I have our issues. Plenty of them. We’re not saints, not by a long shot. But for over a decade, we have helped each other overcome great challenges, resolved some of our deep-rooted problems, faced down our fears and built each other up. We’ve had our ups and downs, our arguments and differences, but we stuck it out and invested the blood and sweat and tears needed to make things work. We still do. We aren’t where we want to be, but we are getting there every day, step by step.

A soulmate is someone you want to share the great dance of life with. Someone who sees you for the diamond that you are and helps you manifest your true potential, and someone whose inherent greatness you feel compelled to bring out. Like polishing a diamond, this dance is long and hard and rocky, but if you’ve found the right person, the challenge is worth it.

To all lovers out there, may you help each other become glittering diamonds in the world. And to all the singles out there, may you find your soulmate someday.

When Caught Between Polarities, Find the Deeper Truth

The world is a complex place. The movers and shakers of the world — people, organisations, superpowers — act and speak in strange, apparently contradictory ways, yet the universe bends to their will, and with it the destinies of ordinary people. Oftentimes the world seems caught between polarities: between centralisation and decentralisation, love and hate, spiritual and secular.

To leave your mark on the world, to avoid being caught in the wakes of clashing leviathans, you must discern the truth.

Truth is a strange thing. The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of a truth is another truth. To understand why this is so, we must peel back the veil of everyday reality and gaze upon the underlying principles of the universe.

The Dao De Jing describes existence as such: “From the Dao comes the one. From the one comes the two. From the two comes the three. From the three comes the ten thousand things.”

Observe the yinyang above. It symbolises the duality of nature, portraying how two seemingly opposite forces are in reality complementary and interconnected. The bright fades into the dark, the dark gives to the light, and nestled within each half is the seed that sprouts into the other.

Yin and yang are not binary opposites. One flows into the other, ever turning round and round in the great dance of life. Yin and yang is idealised as being in a perpetual state of balance. The reality is that yin may overpower yang, or yang overpower yin. The cosmic balance appears to be out of order – but the Dao remains, and all that is timeless and eternal remains the same. What changes is the manifestation of different facets of the Dao.

Ivan Throne of Dark Triad Man elucidates the following exercise. Visualise a long strip of paper. One end is white, the other black. In the space between is infinite shades of grey, with one colour transitioning into the next. Spin the paper round and round, fast as you can, and all you see is grey.

The black end represents the supreme manifestation of a given aspect of reality. The white end is the supreme manifestation of another aspect. The grey zone represents the manifestation of both aspects. Each shade of grey represents how either polarity is manifest in varying degrees and combined into a singularity.

Here are some examples to illustrate this principle.

What is the Truth?

The opposite of love is hate. One is the supreme manifestation of affection, the other the supreme manifestation of hostility. They appear irreconcilable until the moment a wild tsundere appears. When faced with her love interest, the classic tsundere switches wildly between both ends of the scale, acting lovestruck one moment and harsh the next. How can two emotions exist in the same person?

Answer: they do not. A properly-done tsundere experiences intense feelings towards her love interest but lacks the ability to properly comprehend or express said feelings. This is the underlying truth. Whenever she feels this surge of emotions, she expresses them in markedly contradictory ways. Confusion (for the love interest) and hilarity (for the audience) ensues.

From the one (unable to process emotions) comes the two (running hot and cold towards love interest), from the two comes the three (how relationship with the love interest plays out), from the three comes the ten thousand things (how other characters perceive her and her relationship to others, how the audience perceives her and her relationships with other characters, how this affects the audience’s perception of the story, and so on).

Now let’s look at the real world. To be specific: President Donald Trump.

In the real world, we see this in perceptions of controversial figures like Donald Trump. Here is a man who is loved and hated, lauded and feared, embodying the growing polarisation of America. The Alt-Right, New Right and other figures love Trump, hailing him the God-Emperor of America. Everybody bluer than left of centre hates him.

This is deliberate.

Trump has deliberately built an image designed to incite extreme emotional reactions. His supporters love him, his enemies hate him, and his supporters love the fact that his enemies hate him – so they will continue to support him. The underlying truth is that a man who can stir up the passions of the crowd is a man who cannot be ignored and will not be forgotten. This is the principle Trump employed to win the 2016 Presidential elections and take power.

Here is another example: be honest in all your dealings, but conceal yourself with a smokescreen.

How can you be honest if people do not know your intentions? How can you hide yourself effectively if you choose to deal fairly with people?

Answer: carefully choose what you reveal and what you hide.

Again, go back to Trump. On the campaign trail, Trump has made a number of grandiose promises: ban illegal immigration and refugees, roll back federal power, strengthen the economy and make America great again. At the same time, Trump is (in)famous for tweeting non-stop, making pronouncements and attacking his critics on the Internet.

The tweets are his smokescreen. Every time he says something controversial, the media swarm all over it like vultures. He uses simple, emotive language, leading many critics to deride him as a simpleton. The hostile media spends so much time and resources stirring up a two minute hate against his latest soundbite, they have nothing left when he acts.

At the same time, by acting on his campaign promises and signing so many Executive Orders in his first month in office, he has created the appearance of an honest, decisive executive to his supporters. His supporters trust that he will act on his word.

The question, then, is how to determine which of his words are the smokescreen and which of his words reflect his true self. This is a variation of the Japanese concept of honne and tatemae: honne are your true desires, while tatemae is the facade for public consumption (usually, but not always, politically correct). This keeps world leaders and policymakers guessing, letting Trump build up a reputation for unpredictability — a reputation he can use to his advantage.

Here is a third and final example: always court the spotlight, but the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

People only notice other people who stand out from the crowd, but people who stand out from the crowd are destroyed.

If you want to effect great change, you must be visible and command the attention of everyone around you. However, this increased visibility attracts the wrath of your enemies, who will plot to destroy you. Thus, you must hide your true intent and appear to be aligned with the will of the people, preventing your opponents from predicting and overthrowing you.

Look at Trump. Trump’s signature is to go big and press hard, making bold declarations and policy statements that he knows his enemies and opposite numbers won’t stand for. Between his speeches, announcements and air of controversy and unpredictability, he is constantly in the limelight. Not a day passes when he is not the talk of the entire world. His enemies are legion, constantly seeking avenues of attack. But Trump’s ideas echo the sentiments of the public: they resonate with the Americans who feel bullied by the Left, with Americans who fear the effects of mass immigration, with Americans who want the Federal government to stop encroaching on their rights. Trump speaks in simple language that anyone can comprehend, using the most popular technological platform of the day. Whenever Trump is criticised, his supporters — seeing Trump as one of their own — will rise to the defence of the God-Emperor.

Trump’s true thoughts are hidden in the fireworks. He has always scaled back from his opening positions. This makes his opposite numbers feel like they have won concessions, fence-sitters feel that he is reasonable, and his supporters feel that he has merely enacted the first step of his master plan — or that it is as far as Trump can go for now. And the reason he can do that efficiently is because his enemies can’t predict what he really wants and alter their tactics accordingly.

Find the Dao

The ten thousand things appear bewildering and incomprehensible. But all roads lead to the three, to the two, to the one, and to the Dao.

In the face of seemingly contradictory truths, recognise that they are opposite polarities of the same overarching principle manifested in reality. Discern the underlying facet of reality being expressed. That facet is the principle that guides the situation, such as a drive to gain, hold or express power coupled with the desire to defend against hostile attention.

The world may seem complex, yet it is governed by recognisable fundamental principles. The man who can discern and manifest these principles to suit his needs peers through the veil of reality and holds in his hands the levers of the universe.

Photo Credit:

Yinyang: free image from Pixabay
Donald Trump: Dark Triad Man

The Rhetoric of Provocation and Offense

There are many people in the world who will not be persuaded by reason, and even the most rational humans can be swayed with the right emotional leverage. For years the Left has utilised outrage to dominate the political arena. Now the Right is taking up the same tactics, especially the New Right of America. Case in point: Ann Coulter.

Feel the rage? The pleasure? The amusement? Whatever you are feeling now, let it pass through you. When your heart is calm again, read on.

Coulter’s tweet was deliberate. With that one statement, she addressed three separate audiences, with vastly different reactions.

Her first audience are the people who oppose her. A tweet like that impinges on their beliefs and values, triggering outrage and denouncements. Indeed, the hate-fest on that tweet was epic, even by Twitter standards. That tweet would forever alienate this audience.

But what kind of people will get offended over the use of rape as a rhetorical device? People who sympathise with the plight of illegal immigrants, oppose Donald Trump and his policies, and Social Justice Warriors and progressives of every stripe. In other words: people who would never agree with Coulter’s views no matter what. If she is not concerned about their opinion of her, Coulter incurs no cost in offending them.

The second audience are the people who support her. These people support Donald Trump, agree with his proposal to build the wall, and believe illegal immigration is a scourge. They will support every argument against illegal immigration, no matter how emotional or contrived. This is Coulter’s core audience.

Most of them are regular people who despise rape. In their perception, Coulter’s tweet engineered a subconscious connection between illegal immigration and rape. And Trump’s supporters would be well-primed with facts and statistics pointing to the number of illegal immigrants who are gangsters, drug dealers, murderers and rapists. This tweet activated their sense of moral righteousness, triggering feelings of camaraderie and the pleasure of finding a fellow traveler. Coulter’s tweet spoke to the hearts and minds of this audience, and continues to resonate with them.

The third audience are the people who can view the subject dispassionately. They either do not have a stake in the situation, or are able to step back and view the exchange for what it is: an allegory reflecting the absurdity of the original statement. These are the people Coulter would like to win over — but it is a bonus, not her primary objective.

These people can’t be classified into a homogenous mass. Their politics span the entire political spectrum. Their values and morals are equally diverse. Some may appreciate her use of rhetoric; others will be turned off by her talk of rape. But more than a few will use the discussion as a springboard to further examine the issue and investigate Coulter. And they will learn that Coulter correctly predicted the rise of trump, while the sitting Mexican President has one of the lowest approval ratings in history (12%), has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, cracked down on dissenters, allowed the growth of crime and violence, and engaged in a multitude of reforms that weakened the rights of labourers while consolidating power in the hands of the oligarchs. If Coulter manages to convert any of these thinkers to her point of view, she has profited from the tweet.

This strategy of provocation works on three levels. By speaking to her core audience, she maintains and grows her support base. By offending those would be offended anyway, she gets them to blast her tweet far and wide and reach a greater audience, effectively manipulating them to do her work for her. By prodding the non-partisans, she sways who she can to her perspective, generating buzz that keeps the momentum going.

Let’s examine her tweets at the macro level. These are her tweets before her provocative tweet.

These are the ones after (excluding her retweet of Donald Trump).

Notice the sharp uptick in replies, retweets, and likes. Before the tweet, she had an average of 237 replies, 838 retweets and 3300 likes for her past three tweets. After the tweet, the average shot up to 533 replies, 2566 retweets and 7066 likes for her next three tweets.

But that’s not all. In the following three tweets, there is an average of 376 replies, 1086 retweets and 3666 likes. While the momentum generated by the rhetoric tweet is dropping off, the average numbers of replies, retweets and likes are still higher than before the tweet. When Coulter sees her numbers drop below a given threshold, I predict she will say something offensive again, and keep her base growing.

People are drawn to drama. Rhetoric provokes conflict and conflict leads to drama. On social media, retweets and likes are the lifeblood of public figures. They provide a gauge of how that person’s ideas are viewed. Replies are secondary — almost nobody has the time and energy to go through hundreds of responses. The retweets and likes are a rough-and-ready measure for everyone else to see how well-liked and socially-acceptable a tweet is, creating a bandwagon effect that recruits more people to their point of view.

There are many people who insist on decorum and reason — in other words, dialectic. These are nice sentiments, but social media is not the place for dialectic. Every social media platform is designed for entertainment and consumption. Twitter has a hard limit of 140 characters. Gab offers 300. Facebook emphasises one-liners with larger fonts and hides longer statements. Social media is not inherently designed for the rigorous arguments and logical thought processes required to properly deliver dialectic. That is the province of books, blogs, websites, speeches, podcasts, videos and debates — but not text-based social media.

Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalising one. After deciding his values and ideas he will invent reasons to justify his faith in them. To make this work for you. you must trigger a powerful emotional response linked to a specific idea. This will sway someone to your side, making him more receptive to follow-on arguments — if he will not create his own arguments.

The key players of the Alt-Right and the New Right understand this. They know the Left, especially the Control-Left, has used this strategy for years without fail. They scorn the Old Right who refuse to use such tactics in the age of Twitter and Tumblr; by refusing to adapt the Old Right has conceded the culture war to the Control-Left. The New Right, with the Alt-Right as their vanguard, is turning the Left’s tactics against them. The rise of the New Right, with Trump as their God Emperor, reaffirms their use of provocative and offensive rhetoric. They will continue to rely on such rhetoric while taking measures against the real-world consequences of uttering fighting words.

The culture war is upon us, and offensive rhetoric is the weapon of choice. Understand this, or be swept away by the inexorable forces of history, politics and human nature.

Drop the ‘Strong and Independent Female’ Label

Progressives, social justice warriors and feminists love gushing over strong, independent females in fiction. It’s an affirmation of their beliefs and ideas, a reflection of their worldview in popular culture. Critics constantly highlight the presence of such strong, independent females everywhere they appear: books, games, films, everywhere. What is truly remarkable about this phenomenon is that the phrase ‘strong, independent female character’ means nothing at all.

Let’s break it down. We have ‘strong’, ‘independent’ and ‘female character’. The last is self-explanatory. The former two, in the context of fiction, make little sense.

Let’s look at ‘strong’. When pertaining to people, the Merriam-Webster dictionary says:

1:  having or marked by great physical power

2:  having moral or intellectual power

3:  having great resources (as of wealth or talent)

6:forceful, cogent<strong evidence><strong talk>

10:ardent, zealous<a strong supporter>

11a:  not easily injured or disturbed :solid

11b:  not easily subdued or taken <a strong fort>

13:  not easily upset or nauseated <a strong stomach>

While ‘strong’ makes for a convenient shorthand, the word carries so many connotations that as a descriptor it is vague to the point of meaninglessness.

A female character may have an IQ in the 99th percentile, but if she can’t even lift a 20kg barbell, can she be called ‘strong’? A female character may be an Amazonian, but if she runs away at the first sign of conflict, can she be called ‘strong’? If a female character is a billionaire with a talented staff of hundreds, yet squanders her wealth and time chasing frivolities, can she be called ‘strong’?

The word ‘strong’ requires context for a complete understanding of the character. Why not simply use more specific words?

What about ‘independent’? Merriam-Webster says:

:  not dependent: as

a(1):  not subject to control by others :self-governing

(2):  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>

b(1):  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion>

(2):  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3):  not bound by or committed to a political party

c(1):  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents>(2):  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>

d:  showing a desire for freedom <an independent manner>

The character doesn’t need other people to make decisions for her. She is capable of making her own choices and driving the plot through her actions. By being self-reliant, she stands out from the other characters, and her will sometimes clashes with theirs, creating the drama that feeds fiction.

In other words, she is a major character.

‘Strong and independent’ basically means ‘plausible major character’. There’s no point in celebrating main characters just because they happen to be female; all it means is that you’re only concerned about appearances. The label of ‘strong and independent’ will not make female characters stand out. The term has been used so many times, semantic satiation has set in, rendering the label little more than fluff.

In the realm of fiction, words are currency. If you are a writer, marketer, reviewer or otherwise involved in the industry describing a female character, seek superior words to more accurately reflect the character and make her stand out from the crowd.

Is she a sharpshooter and a martial arts expert? That makes her a human weapon. Is she capable of defending her dignity and achieving her goals in the face of widespread prejudice? That makes her assertive. Does she have an IQ of 180 and regularly invents world-shaking inventions? She is a genius. Has she survived major trauma and bounced back? She is resilient. Can she turn her enemies against each other? Then she is manipulative.

In other words, describe her as though she were a man.

Male characters aren’t described as ‘strong and independent’; they are described by skills, history and worldview, making them stand apart from each other. When freed of fluffy shorthand labels, they all become unique.

By contrast, female characters who labelled ‘strong’ and ‘independent’ are reduced to three words: strong, independent and female, signifying nothing of import. Their identities are erased, and they are all damned by faint praise.

This post isn’t about sexual differences or sexual politics. It is simply about crafting a brand for major characters through the use of powerful descriptors.

Don’t settle for the ‘strong and independent’ label for females and males. Seek more accurate and impactful words, and make the characters shine.

Inducing Flow Through Mindful Writing

You have finite time and energy. The world has infinite distractions. How, then, can a writer stay true to his calling?

I began writing my first novel when I was 13. Every day, I sat at my beat-up second-hand laptop and wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I was done. Then I went to bed, got up and did it all over again. When I wasn’t doing homework, studying or tending to other activities, I was writing. A year later, I had a 300-page manuscript.

The year after that, I completed a shorter novel in nine months. This year, I wrote the equivalent of three full-length novels, each over 120,000 words long.

I strive to be mindful in my writing, to develop and maintain moment-by-moment awareness throughout the act of writing. When I write, I write with the union of mind, body and soul, racing to the moment when consciousness implodes into a singularity of being, where the story and I are one and the same.

This is a state of flow. It is energised focus and total involvement, enjoyment and wonderment that goes bone-deep, a thousand seeds blossoming into ideas and characters and actions and turns of phrase. It is the hand of the muse and the voice of God working through you.

The best stories come from the place of eternal stillness within. It is the throne of the muse and the palace of the soul. It is where your subconscious processes and integrates every idea floating in your head, spinning threads of pure gold. In that place there is no room for distraction or excess motion, only the truth of your vision and the truth of the world. From this stillness comes flow, and from flow comes mastery.

To reach that place of stillness, you must emulate it.

Approach writing as a ritual, with all the sacredness that entails. Block out a time and place for writing, when you are sure you will not be disturbed and have the time and energy to write. This may be early in the morning, during lunch, late at night, or whenever it pleases you. Set yourself a writing goal, be it to write for a set period of time or a set number of words, and get to it.

Once you begin writing, do not blaspheme this region of spacetime with the noise of the world. Brook no distractions. No chatting with people, no switching to YouTube at whim, no wandering down Wikipedia articles, no people coming in and disturbing you. There should be nothing in the background; every additional stimulus saps attention, energy and time from your work. Sink yourself fully into your work. Where attention goes, energy goes; where energy goes, mastery goes; where mastery goes, success goes.

The exception to the rule is if that stimulus helps you write better. Some authors work best at a standing desk or on a treadmill. Some find inspiration in music, others in the chatter of a lively cafe around them. If such background stimuli engages your brain and helps produce better work, then seek out and create these conditions. As for myself, the sight of words appearing on the screen, the texture of the keyboard and the clacking of keys is more than adequate simulation to propel my fingers along.

You may find yourself distracted while working. That is fine. The fact that you are aware of yourself being distracted means that you are being mindful. Simply redirect your attention to your work carry on. Do not let your thoughts linger on self-recrimination; the emotional energy is more profitably spent on your work.

You may not always meet your writing goals. You may occasionally exceed them. Neither event should leave much of an emotional impact on you. Allow yourself to feel regret or jubilation as appropriate, then reconcile yourself with the fact that the time has slipped away and there will be more opportunities to write in the future. Approach these sessions as lessons: if you have failed to meet your goal, think about how you can improve; if you have exceeded your goal, see what you did right and do better. No matter what happens, the computer, the desk, and the page will still be waiting the following day. There is always a story waiting to be written.

When you are done, walk away. Return to your mundane life, absorb fresh ideas from the world, and re-energise yourself. Energy is wealth and energy is limited; if you do not recover, you cannot create.

Mindfulness leads to flow, flow leads to productivity, productivity leads to success. Cultivate mindfulness, create and sustain the conditions for flow, and produce the best work you can.

Cultural Appropriation Enriches Everything

Lionel Shriver gave a speech critiquing the concept of cultural appropriation, leading to this temper tantrum filled with politically correct whining. I’m amused that people think ‘cultural appropriation’ is an intellectually honest concept.

What is cultural appropriation? From Shriver’s speech:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

But let’s go deeper into progressive-speak and take Everyday Feminism‘s definition of cultural appropriation. (Emphasis theirs)

In short: Cultural appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own.

But that’s only the most basic definition.

A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.

That’s why cultural appropriation is not the same as cultural exchange, when people share mutually with each other – because cultural exchange lacks that systemic power dynamic.

It’s also not the same as assimilation, when marginalized people adopt elements of the dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don’t.

Some say, for instance, that non-Western people who wear jeans and Indigenous people who speak English are taking from dominant cultures, too.

But marginalized groups don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun.

Even with this more specific definition, cultural appropriation is nonsense. Culture is intangible. It is a set of ideas and practices. If a stronger party adopts elements of culture from a weaker party, the weaker party is not in any way further diminished. If anything, the weaker party spreads its memes and ideas to the stronger party, giving it influence over the latter.

How is this not a subversion of the dominant culture? How does this undermine the weaker culture?

The concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ suggests that there is a deliberate effort to steal cultural ideas, but this is clearly not so. Is there an equivalent of an Archchancellor of Cultural Warfare who decrees that the people of his empire should unanimously adopt the practices of a given oppressed people in a certain year? Is there a grand conspiracy that decides which cultures to promote and which cultures to ignore?

No. It’s simply people deciding to adopt the ideas of another culture after finding them useful to their lives.

Looking at the three concepts of culture promulgated by Everyday Feminism, you will see that they are saying that dominant cultures are evil for taking ideas from a weaker culture and for imposing those ideas on a weaker culture. In other words: heads I win, tails you lose. The only way to win is to not play — or to be a self-designated victim.

As an idea to grapple with reality, ‘cultural appropriation’ is intellectually bankrupt. It is simply an excuse for an arbitrarily-designated minority to point and shriek at an arbitrarily-designated majority under the guise of cultural protection. It is a tool to justify affirmative action of the basest kind: to tear down or promote someone else’s work not because of its merits and demerits, but solely on the basis of identity. It is a weapon that self-declared ‘progressives’ use to erase the vibrancy of humanity.

In Singapore, the local patois is Singlish,  English organized along Chinese grammatical rules with loanwords from Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects. Singaporean cuisine is a fusion of every culture that has passed through the land. You can find Chinese selling nasi lamak, Indians cooking Western food, Malays preparing curry chicken, and a vast array of restaurants offering food to suit every palate, be it Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, vegetarian, even kosher food. Peranakan people are of Chinese descent who settled in the Malay Archipelego, speak a creole of Malay and Hokkien, have Chinese religious customs and adopt Malay fashions, and developed a distinct cuisine. Among the locals and foreigners who pass through Singapore, English (or Singlish) is the language that bridges everybody.

The world would be a far poorer place if people refused to adopt ideas from different cultures.

Where writers are concerned, the first thing they should do is focus on the story. Not the PC harpies shrieking about cultural appropriation, not the elitists who sneer at anything that isn’t capital-L literature, not the social justice warriors who project their narcissism and inadequacies on everyone.

If you’re a writer writing about a culture you’re unfamiliar with, you have to do your research. You have to capture nuances of behaviour, the idiosyncrasies of language, fashion sense, cuisines, social hierarchies, everything that marks a given culture. To do anything less is a disservice to the story.

Dressing up the setting of your story in foreign clothes but making everyone sound like you doesn’t enrichen the story. Kubo and the Two Strings, for instance, has the dressings of Japan, but everyone speaks and acts like Americans, and the weapons and armour are period-inappropriate. This is not cultural appropriation, though — this is simply a failure to do the research, or else a deliberate stylistic choice that detracts and distracts from the story.

Writing about a foreign culture is a road to growth and empathy — the opposite of SJWs who would demand that everyone shut up and stay in their little boxes. Done right, works about different cultures contribute to the wonder and the majesty of art — the opposite of SJWs who would rather everything be reduced to grey, flavorless mush. Stories of different peoples allow readers to see through the eyes of others — the opposite of SJWs whose insistence on arbitrary identities require that everyone become soulless, narcissistic blobs incapable of empathising with anyone.

If you like an idea from a different culture, don’t be afraid to use it. Never let the harpies keep you from greatness.