Thursday, April 30, 2015

Free Speech II

If you have read many of my posts you will have noticed that I don't have much to say about current events. However, I came across this article about dissension within the PEN American Center and thought it might be worth a comment. Several members of this group of predominantly American writers, editors and translators have signed a letter denouncing PEN's decision to give an award to Charlie Hebdo. Apparently, though they support free speech, they feel that the publications of Charlie Hebdo are anti-Islamic and offensive to a marginalized group of people and therefore are not worthy of an award.

It is unfortunate that some outraged Muslims in France killed several of the staff at Charlie Hebdo, but it seems to me that the protesters at PEN are injecting naive political correctness into their thinking about free speech. When speech is restricted for any reason, it is no longer free, and that's all there is to it. Their position seems to be something along the lines of "We strongly support free speech as long as no one's feelings get hurt." This is an astoundingly obtuse way to look at the world, and, unsurprisingly, consistent with some of my earlier posts, several of the signatories are regular contributors to the NYRB.

Fortunately there are other people at PEN who still have their wits about them. Louis Begley said "Well, look, I think that Charlie Hebdo cartoons are vulgar and very often stupid. That is not, however, a reason for assassinating the staff of the magazine. To recognize the fact that they died in the cause of free speech is perfectly appropriate. Would I have chosen Charlie Hebdo to receive this award? Probably not. But that's neither here nor there. This decision strikes me as legitimate." Salman Rushdie more firmly said "If PEN as a free speech organization can't defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name."

For me, free speech is one of the most important elements of a democracy, with the proviso that democracy itself is a defective idea with many inherent limitations. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution wasn't written for fun or fashion. The rationale is that whenever citizens are denied the right to express their views publicly, no matter how offensive or just plain wrong they may be, the door is opened to authoritarian forces such as monarchs, churches or dictators to engage in the anti-democratic control of public discourse. Suppression of free speech is a key ingredient to every oppressive regime that has ever existed. Even the suggestion that a distinction must be made between "good" free speech and "bad" free speech, as the protesters at PEN have done, represents a fundamental violation and misunderstanding of the concept.

Political correctness, as evidenced in this instance, is a form of thought control that attempts to impose itself on others. Looking sociologically at the contemporary scene in the U.S., there are two primary schools of thought. In the media one encounters either the "conservative" viewpoint, which is generally a stand-in for corporate interests and capitalism, or the "liberal" viewpoint, which generally concerns itself with fairness and justice. Although my position is primarily that of an anti-capitalist, I often find the liberal camp problematic. In my view, the capitalists overemphasize self-interest and the liberals overemphasize religion. At the extreme end of liberalism, political correctness manifests itself as a form of inflexible dogma that looks theological and in some ways isn't much better than Fox News. At the heart of many liberal positions is the unexamined adherence to something that closely resembles Christian principles, now expanded to include "compassion," which has a trendier Buddhist ring to it but is of little substantive difference as used in the vernacular.

If I were PEN, I would not give awards to organizations or individuals in recognition of their exhibition of free speech. Free speech is a concept, and they might do better to explain what it means and how important it is, particularly as in this instance some of their own members don't seem to understand what it is. Charlie Hebdo may or may not be an appropriate example of the exercise of free speech, but the particulars of what they said are almost irrelevant. Why doesn't PEN just write an essay on the importance of free speech?

I must also point out that the existence of this blog is an exercise in free speech. It makes a difference to me that I can write exactly what I please without an editor or moderator stepping in and imposing his agenda on me. As it happens, I choose to exercise a degree of decorum so as not to upset some of my readers. For example, even though I know that some of them have religious views that I consider ridiculous, I don't see any reason to assault their views in an offensive or insulting manner. However, that is simply my personal preference, and in an atmosphere of free speech I can be as offensive or inoffensive as I like.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Human Instincts

One of the things that I've noticed for a long time is how people deal with their instincts. This is a complex topic that I can hardly explain in a blog post, but I still think it's worth discussing. Thinking about it can tell you a lot about how unspoken stresses can play out in individuals and how society is organized to deal with them.

Looking back, I felt something was wrong when I was growing up, though I couldn't put my finger on it until much later. Before college I lived entirely in suburban towns, and my exposure to natural environments was limited. I spent little time in rural areas and never experienced a wilderness. Unbeknownst to me, it wore on me that I did not belong to the Boy Scouts and didn't go away to camp during the summer as some of my friends and acquaintances did. I recall endless boring summers living in a paved neighborhood with little to do outside. The monotony was broken somewhat by the nearby swimming pool, but that never felt adequate. My family took few vacations - only three in total from 1957 onward - and by the end of high school I was ready to escape to a new location for reasons beyond my dislike of family dysfunctionality. My college was located in a rural town where it was possible to walk out into the country or the woods, which became my first experience of being alone in the outdoors. That is when I developed a taste for natural environments.

I now think that my appreciation of the outdoors is something instinctive over which I have little control. Despite not having grown up hunting and fishing, the way many rural people do, I probably would have preferred that if it had been an option. I am not unique in this, and urban planners have long recognized, for example, that cities need green areas. Thus large parks such as Central Park in Manhattan were constructed in the nineteenth century and early highways near New York City were intentionally made scenic. Throughout my adult life I've had contact with both rural and urban people, and the differences have always intrigued me. Rural life comes closer than city dwelling to the lives of our ancestors. In this sense, cities breed a certain dissatisfaction. Consequently, as the population has increased, those with the resources have tended to move out to the suburbs, which offer a rough facsimile of a natural environment. Even so, there are resolute city dwellers, and cities have attributes that satisfy some instincts. There is a certain security and feeling of safety in cities that may relate to being in a group and that at some level may be similar to being huddled in a cave with one's clan.

Other instincts are so integral to our lives that we take them for granted without much thought. Among those is the instinct to eat and enjoy food. I have always noticed the effect of food and alcohol at social events. If you don't offer any, not many people will show up, but if you offer both, be prepared for a crowded and boisterous party. Fortunately in the developed world there is an overabundance of food and the problems associated with it have more to do with obesity than with starvation. Food surpluses have led to a different problem, overpopulation, in developing countries, which I won't discuss now.

Sexual instincts are as strong as any other, and they play a more problematic role. Going through puberty is an enormous personal shock when it occurs. At the time you may not understand what is happening, but if you ever have children yourself you have the opportunity to observe firsthand its powerful effects. In the matter of a few months those cute, docile little creatures may be transformed by hormones into uncontrollable monsters. A chaotic, often unconscious mate selection process ensues, with parents and society scrambling to channel it as best they can. It is difficult to know the full extent to which adult male behavior is concerned with attracting females, but my impression is that it is significant. Not being an ambitious person myself, it has never made much sense to me that so many men are obsessed with becoming or appearing wealthy or with attaining positions of leadership. Because it is possible to live a good life without those elements, I am inclined to associate that kind of behavior with an instinctive attempt to attract the opposite sex. A similar process can be seen in women, who are often obsessed with their physical appearance. Women also influence male behavior by signaling what kinds of things will impress them the most about men: money and power are often high on the list. One of the big mistakes of the feminist movement in the U.S. was that it ignored most of the biological motivation behind male dominance, encouraging many women to be successful in positions that they might never find satisfying. Society is interwoven with the process and steps in to minimize the potential damages caused by rivalry and infidelity, with limited success. The expectation here is that there will be one husband and one wife, till death do us part, and this is not necessarily a feasible strategy for maintaining order. Both husbands and wives have had roving eyes since the dawn of mankind, and when people only lived to age thirty, fifty-year marriages rarely occurred.

Another major instinct is the will to live, and this is in the process of adapting to new options that have been created by medical technology. In the past you just got sick or old or had an accident and died, but now your life may be extended by several years. It is conceivable that we may soon be able to become immortal. Such a change would be a radical discontinuity from our biological past, and I'm not sure that it will be possible for us to understand it as mortal organisms. From an evolutionary standpoint, we are about being born, reproducing and dying. If you take the dying out of the equation, living takes on a new, unrecognizable meaning.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


When I was growing up I was not particularly well adjusted academically. Unlike some of my friends, whose parents closely monitored their preparation for college and pushed them to get into the high school honors program or sent them to private schools, my parents had little awareness of the importance of academics. They didn't help us with our homework, barely looked at our report cards and were not involved with my college applications. Neither of them ever set foot on the campus of the college that I subsequently attended. There were few episodes at home of academic relevance that I can recall. My mother liked art and took us to the museums in Manhattan, and this instilled in me an early interest in paintings. She listened to classical music, which made it easier for me to appreciate later on. My father brought home a small telescope and gave me a microscope for my birthday, but we never discussed them and I never used them much. We had a lot of cats at the time, and I caught a flea, which I put on a slide for viewing under the microscope. Other than in science, in which I somehow managed to skip a grade, I think I was stunted academically, mainly because my parents never read to us or encouraged reading. It is also possible that I had inherently greater difficulty reading than my peers for other reasons. In any case, I read very little up until eleventh grade, when the assignments in English classes began to become more demanding.

In college I did better than most, but not exceptionally well. I gradually shifted from a slight academic inferiority complex to a feeling that I might actually be a good student. Most of the students at the small liberal arts college that I attended did not seem particularly intelligent to me. They were predominantly from the upper middle class and were conforming to parental and social pressures in an unimaginative way. Over a period of years I took an interest in the nature of intelligence and its relationship to academia. During my spare time while living in Dixon, Illinois in the late 1980's, before I began in earnest the project of reading literature, I set out to see whether I could qualify for membership to Mensa, which I soon did. I belonged to Mensa for a few years and found that the members seemed smart, but on the whole there wasn't much point to the organization and I quit.

My misunderstanding of how the academic system worked turned out to be a handicap. I didn't realize until it was too late that high performance in school is directly related to the amount of effort expended. This faulty interpretation arose in part from the fact that standardized tests were presented to us by the school as something for which you could not prepare, i.e., they reflect your innate IQ, which can't be changed. I eventually decided on my own that this was nonsense, and part of my motivation to join Mensa, which I would not have qualified to join when I was in high school, was to show that I could raise my IQ, and I succeeded.

During this period I was reading up on intelligence and came across a couple of books written by Robert Sternberg, who was then a psychology professor at Yale. While, like many psychologists (Freud, Jung, Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, for example), Sternberg does not have a convincingly scientific approach, his triarchic theory of intelligence addressed some of the issues that I had been thinking about. In The Triarchic Mind, Sternberg sums up three different types of intelligence by describing three different kinds of graduate students. The first type is analytical, with high test scores and excellent capabilities with respect to academic skills. The second type has a spotty academic record and a lower IQ, but is creative and has a special ability to come up with novel ideas. The third type is neither analytical nor creative to the same degree as the others, but has a unique ability to focus on a situation and make practical decisions in order to get ahead. I had noticed these kinds of people myself and thought that Sternberg's model, though not particularly penetrating or profound, had some explanatory value.

After bouncing around this theory in my brain for many years and observing people, I tend to think that true intelligence involves each of the three aspects and a deficiency in one area can be a disadvantage. In particular, I believe that academia is fraught with problems because of its dominant population of analytical people who were good students but are uncreative and lacking in common sense. There are many academics who resemble George Eliot's Edward Casaubon: they persistently pursue ideas that have no basis in reality only because that is what they were taught. They spend years unimaginatively refining their work in what is often a complete waste of time. College campuses become alternate realities where students and faculty can feast on the delusional ideas of their choice. This can currently be seen in the campus hysteria about protecting women from rape, and is why political correctness seems to thrive at colleges and universities more than in other places. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these are not necessarily smart people, and those of them who venture out into the world often fail. Over the years I have read several journals that were written by and for academics, and I can never shake the feeling that they are engaging in a directionless, inexhaustible form of light amusement. As I have said, American intellectuals as a group have had little of value to contribute to the public good. They seem not to be there when, in theory, they are most needed.

Those who are creative but not analytical or practical may turn out to be starving artists, a group with which I have had little contact. Creativity alone does not offer much of a basis for a life, and I'm not sure it even makes sense to think of a person whose only characteristic is creativity. As a matter of preference, I'm a fan of divergent thinking, but in order to exercise that faculty one needs a minimal context. I like trying to think creatively about the world, whereas creativity is more readily associated with the arts. As I've said, creativity doesn't mix well with academia, which is better suited to formulas and canonical works.

Practical intelligence is what one encounters most often in the U.S., because it has melded so well with capitalism. Until recently you haven't needed to be analytical or creative to succeed here. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are two of the wealthiest men in the world, and though their analytical faculties are probably well developed, they are not intellectuals and certainly are not paragons of creativity. At the other end of the spectrum of practical people there is a full roster of unsavory characters who made out like bandits, often literally. I am reminded of the apocryphal answer by Willie Sutton to the question "Why do you rob banks?": "Because that's where the money is." This is the kind of thinking that has made America home to Jesse James, Charles Ponzi, Al Capone, John Dillinger, John Gotti, Enron and Bernie Madoff. In the more mundane business world that I experienced, the companies that I worked for did fine without much analysis or creativity, and the emphasis was usually on expediency. You can get by quite well in business without much intellect or imagination as long as you have a practical sense.

This emphasis on practicality, which led to the accommodation of commerce in the U.S., has had a positive impact with respect to economic development, but there has been a price paid for it. The cost is seen in what I have come to recognize as mediocrity in the arts, anti-intellectualism and a pervasive atmosphere of philistinism. The philistinism runs so deep that everyone now takes it for granted, and many do not even realize that there are better alternatives. No one is surprised when businessmen, politicians or professional athletes are exposed as crooks or cheats. A large number of people could reasonably conclude that their employers and political representatives don't care at all about their well-being. A cautious person might sensibly walk out of his front door every day prepared to confront an army of con men, liars and opportunists. Pollyannas, who are in denial of all this, can be just as dangerous these days. True human intelligence, I think, entails understanding this morass and coming up with a strategy for dealing with it effectively. Artificial intelligence may be a different story.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Armenian Genocide

I am watching with interest public reactions to the one-hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Starting on April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Turkey were arrested and subsequently executed at the inception of what became its largest campaign. Yesterday, Pope Francis became the first pope to describe those events using the term "genocide," predictably setting off a diplomatic uproar in Turkey, which has fabricated its own version of history. Although Turkey was still part of the Ottoman Empire at the time, the evidence clearly points to a deliberate plan for ethnic cleansing. A cover-up was supported by Mustafa Kemal, the George Washington of Turkey, after Turkey was founded in 1923, and that version of history has never been questioned by most Turks.

Many Armenian-Americans are observing closely to see whether Barack Obama will officially come out on this. In 2008, during his first campaign for the presidency, he said "I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence." However, Obama has been reluctant to use the word "genocide" in reference to Turkey since he became president. Turkey is a key ally in the Middle East and would be outraged, causing strategic repercussions in the area. Furthermore, Turkey has spent millions of dollars lobbying in Washington against a resolution in the House of Representatives that would officially label the event as genocide.

I don't have much at stake in this personally, though I am partly Armenian. My mother was 3/4 Armenian but did not have exposure to Armenian culture and considered herself Greek. She married an Englishman, making me 3/8 Armenian. I never thought of myself as ethnic at all when I was growing up, though it must be said that my physical appearance is somewhat Armenian and may have prejudiced some people against me over the course of my life. However, any prejudice would have been based primarily on appearance and not on any cultural associations. My mother's mother's father escaped an Armenian massacre in Turkey in the late nineteenth century and was already established in Athens by 1915. He came to dislike Armenians and wanted to disassociate himself from them; his wife was French/German. My mother's father's family was still living in Turkey just before the 1915 genocide, but they were tipped off and had time to sell their belongings and make their way to Athens via Bulgaria before the genocide reached them.

The situation is different for those cousins of mine who still live in Athens. They were Armenian on both sides, making them 7/8 Armenian. Here is my cousin Philip's account of what happened to their grandparents on their father's side: Krikor Boghossian's father [Philip's grandfather] was slaughtered by the Turks and his brother barely survived, being beaten up and tortured, before fleeing to Greece. My father arrived as a newborn baby with his mother in France in 1922 or 1923, but his mother soon went insane and died. He was raised in an orphanage close to Bordeaux, where he was found by his uncle, who brought him to Greece in 1938 (it seems that at that time Armenians traveled around Europe visiting orphanages, in an effort to assist reunifications of Armenian families; hence the word of my father's existence in France reached his uncle). Understandably, both of my Greek cousins are quite anti-Turkish. My other cousin, Isabelle, actively participates in the local Armenian culture.

In recent years I have done a little reading on the genocide. In particular I found Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide, by Donald E. Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller, quite affecting. The Armenians were suddenly deported from wherever they lived and forced to walk in caravans:

When the caravans reached the city limits, the men were often separated from the groups; gendarmes tied their hands and escorted them away from their families. Wives and children heard shots ring out, and then the gendarmes returned alone, forcing the remnant to resume their journey. (This was a typical scenario, although in some deportation groups men were allowed to remain with the caravan.)

The remaining deportees were marched in circuitous routes, through mountain passes and away from population centers. The destination for many caravans was Aleppo and, beyond that, the deserts of Syria–especially towns such as Der-Zor. But the more fundamental goal of the deportations appeared to be death through attrition. Turks were not allowed to assist deportees, on pain of imprisonment. And gendarmes were often sadistic, for example, refusing deportees access to water.

The actual butchering of deportees was often left to members of "Special Organizations." Created by an order of the Ministry of Justice and the Interior, these units were made up of criminals and murderers who had been released from prison in the Ottoman Empire. Morally suited to the task, they were led by officers of the Ottoman War Academy. Two nationalistic physicians, Drs. Nazim and Shakir, played a key role in organizing these killer units of chété, as they were called. Although these groups at first fought against Russians in the Caucuses, the Turks found a better use for them in massacring caravans of Armenian deportees. These men were heartless, butchering deportees in ravines and on narrow mountain passes, raping women and stealing what few possessions they still carried. Kurdish tribal groups were similarly encouraged to raid caravans. The gendarmes who were supposed to "protect" the caravans either disappeared during these attacks or joined in the assault.

In addition to Drs. Nazim and Shakir, other physicians were involved in the genocide. For example, Dr. Ali Saib was accused in postwar trials of having poisoned and gassed infants and children. Numan Pasha, also a physician, was accused of having poisoned sick Armenians in Erzerum, Sivas, and Erzinjan. Tevfik Rushdu, a brother-in-law of Dr. Nazim, had been responsible for disposing of bodies by putting them in wells and covering them with lime and soil.

As deportees continued on their enforced march, they began to encounter remnants of earlier caravans–the rotting bodies of deportees who had died of exhaustion were now littering the roadways. By this time, some caravan members were naked as a result of continual raids; others were walking skeletons. Survivors ate grass that grew along the roadside or picked grains out of animal manure. Many had dysentery or typhus. Their hair was filled with lice and they scarcely appeared human.    

Caravans that had started out with thousands arrived at Aleppo with hundreds, or even less. Deportation was a very effective method of genocide, although there is a great controversy about how many died. Armenians calculate that 1.5 million perished between 1915 and 1923. Some scholars believe the number was lower, perhaps as few as eight hundred thousand. Much of the discussion centers on the size of the Armenian population in Turkey at the time and whether to consider the period from 1894 to 1923 or the narrower time frame of 1915-16. An accurate generalization, however, is that approximately half of the Armenian population of Turkey died as a direct result of the genocide. Worldwide, one-third of the total population of Armenians died. Surviving Armenians included the several hundred thousand who were living in Constantinople and Smyrna who were not deported, children who were adopted into Turkish or Kurdish homes, perhaps three hundred thousand Armenians who escaped across the Russian border, and the pathetic remnant that survived months of deportation.

One startling aspect of this genocide is that it was specifically directed at Christians, yet British and American authorities, who were well aware of what was going on, did nothing to stop it. Records of the atrocities appear in a report prepared by the British historian Arnold Toynbee and in U.S. State Department reports. Many of the anecdotal records from survivors and other witnesses are even more gruesome than what I've included here. Since the deportations occurred during World War I, resources may not have been available to address the genocide. Even so, I find it appalling that, because we have so few allies in the Middle East, Turkey has been able to get off scot-free for a century. While the Armenian genocide was not the largest in history, it served as a model for Adolf Hitler and could be used so again. We'll see whether Obama rises to the occasion and uses the "g" word later this month: if he doesn't he will sink even lower in my estimation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hermitry Sans Misanthropy

I've returned from another trip to Missouri, which perhaps will be my last. This time was more madcap than usual, with an assortment of misadventures. Greg was suffering from shingles and had been bedridden before I arrived but managed to revive himself enough to participate in activities. On the way to cut and remove trees that had fallen on the barbed wire fence surrounding the farm, Greg's new tractor got stuck in two feet of mud that had formed after a heavy rain the previous day. Not long after Greg was towed out by another tractor, Greg's son-in-law's pickup truck also got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out. Anne, who went to Grubville once years ago, did not accompany me this time; she aptly refers to it as "Mudville."

The crowning fiasco occurred the next day, when four of us decided to take a paddle-wheel boat on a tour of the lake. It was a small, plastic, air-filled boat probably designed for teenagers, but in this case there were three overweight adult passengers plus me. With great effort and very slow progress we made our way down to the opposite end of the lake, where we could see a beaver dam and a few turtles sitting on rocks. About halfway back, Donny, the school bus driver visiting from Tennessee, informed us that we were taking on water at his end of the boat. Before long, the well in the boat where Donny had been sitting filled with water, the boat tilted backward and Donny fell into the lake. He floundered there for a minute before I could grab his hand, and shortly after that the entire boat flipped over and all of us were thrown into the lake. We were in over our heads, and I helped tow the boat to the shore, where two walked back in the water and two walked back on land. There were no injuries, but Donny seemed shaken up for the rest of his visit.

The following day the door opener to my rental car, which had been in my pocket when I fell into the lake, stopped working. My rental car from the airport was a new VW Beetle and had no keyholes visible on the exterior. I removed the battery cover and dried out the opener with a hair drier to no avail. As the hour of my plane departure approached I called Hertz and was informed that there is a keyhole hidden under a piece of removable plastic next to the handle on the driver's side, and sure enough there was. I made it on time to the airport without incident.

Other parts of the visit were more enjoyable. Donny had come with David, a friend of Greg's sister. David is a cattle rancher from Jackson, Tennessee and has a good sense of humor. As a gift, he brought two donkeys, which his father had been trying to get rid of. We sat next to his truck and trailer and listened to country music. I tried moonshine for the first time, and it wasn't bad at all, though not fine liquor by any stretch. Greg's neighbor, Mike, stopped by, and he likes to talk. Mike is a good example of the complexity that can reside in a person. He is a retired pipe fitter, usually carries a pistol in a holster and likes to hunt. Many would assume that, living in rural Missouri, he must be an NRA member and a conservative Republican, but they would be wrong. Mike used to be a pot dealer and still smokes it. He likes Elizabeth Warren and hates Dick Cheney. If you look beyond stereotypes, this country is far more complex than it seems, particularly if you rely on the news media for information. David and Mike's wives were a nice change from the starchy Yankee wives of Vermont. They exude a Southern warmth that doesn't make it this far north. I have to give the South a few concessions after all. We also managed to get in a game of croquet, which used to be a tradition.

Most of Greg's family was assembled, and he has been the patriarch since his father died. As mentioned in an earlier post, they're an unusual group. Over the years I have come to like them individually, even though we have little in common. I had hoped that more friends from college would be there this year but they weren't. One died recently, and the only one who showed up is a regular, Greg's closest friend.

Thinking about all this for a few days, I've decided that, rationally speaking, there isn't much reason for me to keep up with these people anymore. On the whole they are less thoughtful than I am and incapable of engaging in the kinds of discussion that I appreciate. They are interested in me to some extent while I'm there but do not think much about me or anything that I've said while I'm away. They are unlikely to visit me in the future. From my point of view many of their habits are ones that I tired of decades ago. I don't care about March Madness or sports at all. I have broader interests than they do and would not make many of the choices they made. Those who were in a loose sense friends during college have drifted off permanently. The same happened much earlier with high school friends. The prevailing judgment I have is that neither I nor they would benefit much from future contact.

You will have gathered from many of my posts that I have some of the characteristics of a hermit. To me this is perfectly acceptable, and, for the sake of clarity, I think a distinction must be made between being a hermit and being a misanthrope. Although I prefer being alone, I actually like and am interested in people. Sometimes it even seems that a minor paradox exists in that I like people more than they like me. However, I have to admit that they wear on me quickly, and I must soon be on my way.