China, Uncategorized

PPFF #142: Friends

Good morning,

I was listening to this podcast about China and this Chinese lecturer said that China (or Song Dynasty) was so civilised back in the days that they invented gunpowder not to kill the Mongol invaders but to scare their cavalrymen’s horses. Being fascinated (and gullible) I believed him; it sounded so pleasantly pacifist that I really wanted it to be true, so I googled to confirm the veracity of this claim, to no avail and some frustration that it led to ‘Bing’ing (yup, that’s a thing – I Bing’ed – Note to Google: people Bing now when you fail to return the results they expect to see) In any case, that didn’t work either. At first I had no reason to doubt the lecturer; of course, China, ‘the’ peace-loving nation of East Asia – of course, they invented gunpowder as an audio-visual scare tactical device never meant to hurt or kill anyone, not designed to be a deadly weapon, similar to the way North Korea keeps making those nuclear warheads not as weapons of mass destruction but as a visual aid/theatrical device for televised spectacles. Or not. One thing I am sure about is that after this, I’ve grown dubious about the quality of education and information disseminated at London School of Economics.

That fascination was short-lived and I devastatingly disappointed. However, not all was lost, because I ended up learning about the Mongols. But who cares about them. Not I. So instead I conjured up another topic; friendship.

Two weeks ago, I verbally agreed to go on a short excursion with friends/acquaintances and added that this would move us on forward, to the next stage of friendship; Level 3. We chuckled at its arbitrary numerical order as it wasn’t really preceded by 2 or 1. But after the Chinese lecturer’s disappointing ‘gunpowder plot’, recalling this episode prompted an enquiry about friendship stages/levels/mechanisms. How does one become another’s friend?

Amongst the online articles I’ve come across, this one best articulates what we already intuitively know. In summary, friendship begins with common interests, followed by self-disclosure, reciprocity of self-disclosure, creating mutual vulnerability to social costs, mutual supportiveness of identity and self-esteem, and repeat. Basically there’s almost nothing that makes friends faster than telling someone that you’ve done something socially unacceptable (but hopefully not illegal) e.g. telling a prospective friend that you’re an hermaphrodite could fast-track that friendship, if you really are one, that is. But it has to be matched somehow; reciprocity is key to making it stick e.g. the other person would have to tell you in this scenario that he/she, say, has been accused of a murder or something similar. Then you have mutually entered into an unbreakable bond(age). Unless the social costs of breaking the reciprocal secrecy of the two facts is completely mis-matched and therefore one can lose much more than the other, it’s a risky move not to be friends. It’s that mutual vulnerability through voluntarily reciprocal self-disclosure that glues friends together, which is then maintained by mutual supportiveness of identity and self-esteem.

So try it this weekend, go out, pick a stranger who looks like they could have something common with yourself, make your bid and tell them something that makes you feel vulnerable preferably something socially unacceptable. If that doesn’t work, and/or you can’t be bothered with all this, you can always buy a Kirobo, Toyota’s robot companion you can have a conversation with. One caveat – it only talks in Japanese for now. So, learn either the art of making friends in your chosen language or learn Japanese.

Have a good Friday