I am a 21 year old perfect English/French bilingual intellectual, widely read in philosophy/psychology/anthropology/world literature. I offer the following services, all in both English, and French:
Do you have a teenager interested in the big questions of life, or just want to delve deeper yourself into the world of ideas? I relate major philosophical ideas to one’s own life; show how what one thinks, defines who one is, and help resolve intellectual conflicts and conundrums by teaching what, and how, one can “know” in the 21th century.
Photography: See my portfolio: http://xxxx.xxx.xxx
I offer high quality, cheap(ish) facebook portraits, model shoots, band shoots, etc etc. However, my camera was recently stolen so unless you have an digital SLR, I can’t shoot.
I also teach digital photography, lighting, composition, how to control all the possibilities of your camera. You can learn a lot from me in 1 hour.
Photo Retouching with Photoshop: again see my portfolio:http://xxxx.xxx.xxx
English/French conversation training. How does a real, non text-book conversation unfold? How does one explain to another what interests me, in the search for common ground and intimacy? We will delve into the vocabulary which is important to you in an immersive yet understandable environment.
Having lived my first 9 years in England, and my last 12 in Belgium, I am a perfect English/French bilingual with a deep understanding of not only each language on their own, but also how they relate and interact with each other. Prices vary with length of text, just send me a mail to find out.
This is a classifieds post by a young man calling himself Grandman who started a thread advertising his skills on a Berlin expat website. The thread has since been deleted but he has also proposed a weekly philosophy discussion group. He titled his classified ad simply “Multi-talented Intellectual”. Predictably, the post was met with derision and ridicule, and predictably, he came back with a few comments of his own.
While I was perusing the site for jobs, I found Grandman’s post and decided to throw in a lazy barb.
I can offer you lessons in humility for free, if you like. You could learn a lot from just about anyone in under five minutes.
Despite my complete lack of credentials in the teaching of humility, I got a bite. Of all the dozens of taunts that had been directed at him, Grandman deigned to reply to mine.
Why is humility a virtue? Is one humble, because one knows the other loves humility? Does one feel attacked when another talks about himself in a way which makes one feel inferior? Who is at fault, the humble, or the proud?
All I have done is present what I believe about myself. These beliefs may be false; but if you want to judge me, meet me, and talk to me, then come to your own conclusions. What if I am what I say I am? Then, wouldn’t I be allowed to say so? Or must I pretend that all men are made equal; must I hide from others, their own mediocrity?
That the responsibility of my existence does not lie in my hands changes nothing to what I am. I do not believe I made myself; I simply am. Who or what controls my behavior is unknown to me, as it is unknown to all. But I am ambitious and I know it. I believe in my potential and will strive to fulfil it: I am aware of my own mediocrity, and I fight to change it. As I have nothing else to believe in, I attempt to give my life meaning by believing in myself. Does this make me selfish? Does this make me bad? Does this make me the appropriate subject of derision?
I spent the next hour sitting in my underwear in the dark, cackling with glee as I typed furiously at my laptop, my pasty face lit only by the glare of the screen as the sun set on the outside world. I was utterly consumed by the urgency of crafting the perfect response to this pompous internet brat. In the passion of the moment, my desire to school this brat felt more like a moral obligation, a task for which I had been chosen, a burden which I alone had to bare. Someone had to take this obnoxious prat down a peg, and – cometh the hour – it fell upon me.
When, an hour later, my response was ready to post, the very worst had happened. The thread had been locked by a moderator and my post sat in my browser window in draft, the frustrations collected within, unreleased still. The unfinished argument gloated at me with the youthful, self-certain face of a self-righteous teenager. His remark that he was the only 9 year-old he knew who “read John Stuart Mill (except [John Stuart Mill] himself maybe)” became a refrain in a very loud internal dialogue which refused to end. I was filled in equal measures with impotent rage and deep shame.
I initially shrank in the realisation that I had wasted an hour of my own time considering how to respond to this bigger-than-thou adolescent ego, lending it the validity it craved. But later I realised that the reason I had responded with such passion was because the issue he raised was one which I myself think about often. That I now feel the need to write a blog post about it is not only testament to the fact that I have too much time on my hands, it also suggests that the ego-brat raised a stubborn question which, even if it is neither new nor profound, is not easy to answer.
It is a classic adolescent habit to treat such ideas as discoveries of which they, and only they, were the brave pioneers. But anybody who’s mildly more intelligent than average, anyone with the ambition to be more than mediocre has asked themselves the questions he asks about false humility. I can think of at least a handful of people who would derive great pleasure from compiling a very long, very embarrassing list of (mostly drunken) remarks I’ve made, albeit with slightly more self-awareness, which amount to much the same argument. Such proclamations are often, after all, among the first murmurs of precocious intellectual adolescence, and I’m only just beginning to emerge from mine.
Berlin is a city full of artist slash writers. Many of the foreigners, in particular, who come to Berlin do so to make art slash write, or at least to live cheaply in bohemian surroundings while they pose as artist slash writers. It is a city full of people who put themselves on that self-indulgent pedestal, who advertise themselves as people worthy of your attention. In short, Berlin is a city full of people who think much the same way this young egotist does. I am no different, as I acknowledged in my first blog post and in my About page. Still, even in Berlin, a city full of pretenders, pretentiousness of this magnitude is rare and unusual. Moreover, unrestrained self-aggrandisement this extravagant is very aggressive: when you tell people how good you are, as this young man was so unusually happy to do, you are telling other people how bad they are by comparison.
The reason why such a high value is placed on humility, even on humility at the expense of honesty, is that conceitedness leads logically to conflict. Simple economics tells us that value is always weighed by comparison. When someone directly and aggressively asserts their self-certified right to tell the world just how cosmically awesome they are, the competitive instinct of the human ego leads inevitably to a clash with other egos. It is true that humans are not created equal, that some are smarter, better looking, more athletic than others, but evaluations of this kind cannot be made by the individual in question, they must be made by the community, by consensus.
The Russian linguist, Mikhail Bakhtin, has a theory of social interaction and personal psychology which fits this argument well:
Restated in its crudest version, [Bakhtin’s model] of subjectivity is the tale of how I get my self from the other: it is only the other’s categories that will let me be an object for my own perception. I see my self as I conceive others might see it. In order to forge a self, I must do so from outside.
(Michael Holquist, Dialogism, p. 28)
When our adolescent friend proclaims his general awesomeness, he preempts our own right to form a judgment. In social terms, he is, in his self-proclamation, shoving words into our collective mouths. Even those rare individuals who are universally acclaimed will almost always defer judgement to the consensus of others. True, there are some who, like this young man, lack modesty and will unilaterally declare their own greatness, but these are the great men who are considered great in spite of their personality defects.
There is little doubt that one of the reasons why such an excess of self-confidence is so confronting is that we are all, in some measure, insecure. When he justifies his conceitedness by projecting it onto the insecurity of others, Grandman attempts to nullify the counter argument by forcing those who make it to acknowledge their own shortcomings. It is cheap intimidation, but in accusing his detractors of insecurity, in demanding justification from those who would deny him his right to freely express his conceitedness, Grandman exposes a related issue which is every bit as interesting as the question of false humility. Just as the adolescent asks what is wrong with justifiable arrogance, the question may reasonably be asked what is wrong with insecurity. Why is it that accusations of insecurity can in themselves be used to refute a position? Why, the adult might ask, is insecurity bad? Am I evil for not being certain of my own greatness, for worrying that other people’s version of me may not correspond to my own?
These are, of course, two sides of the same coin – the dialectic of arrogance and insecurity. In excess, either arrogance or insecurity are seen as undesirable personality traits, as flaws of the character. A well-balanced individual is able to negotiate the tension between self-aggrandisement and practical self-assertion as a matter of course. Reality is never something that we can assert unilaterally, it is always something we must negotiate with our social peers, and inability to predict social reality and negotiate one’s own mental version of reality with social consensus is a mark of extreme immaturity, of pathological egotism, or of autism.
Grandman chose to flout this particular social convention not because he didn’t understand that it exists, not because he was autistic, but because he didn’t care. In other words, he was quite happy to knowingly make other people feel inferior. It would be interesting to meet this young Grandman, if only to determine whether his conceitedness is a symptom of some underlying psychopathy, or merely a mark of the uncoothness of youth.
And perhaps he could, after all, teach me something. I certainly wish I had a fraction of his self-confidence. But only a small fraction.