Monday, 14 January 2013
I dislike talking to people.
Some of you folks out there might remember that I'd resolved a little while ago to start trying to speak to strangers a little more to build up my confidence at doing so. A little progress has been made - I've gotten a little friendlier and more open with the local security guards and fellows who staff the food court - but the emphasis is on the phrase "a little".
The problem is twofold. The first bump on the road is that most people in Singapore don't like strangers. People keep their heads down and mouths shut in public; I'd say about slightly more than half of the people I greeted with a nod, raised hand (palm forward) and optional "good morning" actually looked away from me when I did so. There was even a small minority of people, men and women alike, who openly flinched and walked away from me the moment I did so.
The second is that the tiny percentage of people who actually are not only not repulsed by my greeting, but actually want to make small talk (less than 1 percent, I'd wager), are by and large, devoid of much interesting conversation.
Let me explain this. There's a Chinese saying that's attributed to Confucious:
Great men speak of ideas.
Middling men speak of events.
Little men speak of others.
Now, I don't claim to be a great man - far from it. After all, I'm hardly anywhere near the level of being able to come up with any worthy ideas, only filter the ideas others have put forth and seeing which are acceptable to me and why. But at least, I can speak of current events and discuss them. A local scandal involving a town council and potential cronyism/corruption in the purchase of computer systems, for example. The US fiscal cliff. Demographics problems - both in Singapore and beyond, and in terms of more than the usual regurgitated talking points. A recent illegal strike (remember, all strikes are illegal in Singapore) by bus drivers over their pay and working conditions.
You know, events.
People on the street and on campus - they don't seem to know, let alone care. All they want to talk about is what's on TV, what's going to happen to the characters on (insert show here), where to go to get a good eating, how many Facebook likes they have...
Or perhaps I shouldn't talk about current events, but about hobbies. Okay, hobbies. I try to open with my weights training, since it's the most obvious thing about my from my physique, and then faced with the ensuing silence, talk a little about how it's improved me as a person. All right, now it's their turn to talk, and at least some people have interesting hobbies to chat about that aren't either video games or attention whoring on Facebook. Yet, all too often it isn't worth enduring the banal masses to find someone who actually has a hobby and is passionate enough to hold a sustained conversation about it.
And I sit there with an easy smile on my face for about a minute or so, wondering: why does this person feel the need to use a near-complete stranger as an emotional tampon in a face-to-face conversation? (As opposed to an anonymous blog post, where anyone can skip over my more whiny posts) Once it's clear the situation's unsalvageable, I make my excuses and leave.
Part of this is my own problem, of course. I try to hint at men's issues and other red-pill ideas to more receptive folks, but they can't be said out in the open, of course, or else I'd be as much of a social pariah as if I were to suddenly turn a glowing radioactive green. Another part of it is that I really don't care enough about being liked by other people that I'm willing to rot my brain watching tee vee to see which local and international celebrities are fucking who, what's the latest puerile and passing trend, and one hundred and one other soulless and transient shiny distractions from life. If people want to live their lives that way, fine by me, but I'm not going to suffer through a sea of banality for the sake of playing nice.
My father used to complain to me that I didn't speak enough to people, to which I would usually reply that I would rather have a few deep friendships than a hundred passing acquaintances. Fine. Now that I'm trying to talk to people, I'm finding out how so many people don't really have anything interesting about them to talk about.
Well, at least it's some practice trying to tease out a satisfactory conversation, but you can't pull out what's not there sometimes.
I'm not saying that there aren't any interesting conversationalists out there - they crop up in the wierdest of places. But so many people aren't, that's the problem. And there's a by-election coming up in one of the country's constituencies - if this is a snapshot of us Singaporeans, how are we supposed to feel comfortable with any of us voting?