Monday, August 31, 2009

the privy dilemma

Something happened not too long ago that got me thinking. The seemingly mundane event went as follows:

I sat down with some others to watch a video that we just bought. Upon inserting the DVD into the player the hostess of the house glanced at the cover or the inset and exclaimed, "Oh, this is so-and-so who does so-and-so. I read about him a while back in such-and-such magazine by chance.". (Some specific information is left out deliberately of this recount). This exclamation resulted in the other parties being in on information rendering the experience of the video ineffective posed with the intentions and surprise ending found within its content. It is my assumption that the person in the shoes of disclaimer had no intention of ruining (for lack of a better word and not nearly as dramatic as ruin) the video. It was more of deflating the experience than ruining it. She merely reacted uninhibited to her knowledge and bestowed it openly as a knee jerk reaction of sorts. Like telling someone the murderer in a who dunnit mystery, the video was deflated with the inevitable and now pseudo climax of the video. The information rendering the climax artificial because the irony or shock was no longer able to exist as such.


Although this little event happened almost two months ago from the date that this is written and posted, for some reason my mind took me back to it and few objective questions arose. If someone were to find oneself in a similar position to the above mentioned hostess, what are the conscious or subconscious instinctive reactions to the understanding of being privy to some kind of information that, although insignificant, could alter others experience and/or give away something of some significance? I write significance somewhat reluctantly since this was a somewhat insignificant video but in the context of viewing the video the information carried much significance. The four decisions when in this situation, which I will now call the privy dilemma, that I have been able to formulate up to this point are: 1)Exclaim such information as was done; 2)Exclaim that you are privy to information but assuring the others that you will not tell them; 3) not say anything at all until after the irony or such has played out and then exclaiming that you knew all along; or 4) not saying anything at all, before or after.

Although an attempt is made to dissect the signs of personality through the decisions listed above, it should be noted that these are just speculative and knee jerk reactions to this situation in and of themselves.
What do each of these 4 choices or reactions in response say about the individual in the position of being privy?

1) This reaction seems to show a desire to assert a minor sense of superiority through knowledge over those in company. This is not at all necessarily at all malicious or intentionally harmful but the instinct of superiority in some small amount of exceptionalism could be extracted from this choice. * After all the privy in this case is the exception and by putting the information towards the others effectively changing their experience is a way to assert further the exceptionalism that the knowledge had bestowed.

2) This reaction seems to show a similar desire to #1 with a heightened narcissistic quality found in the reaction. So, it is exclaimed that their is privy knowledge present but by not revealing the information, the privy is showcasing their ability of thinking about others interest and of coarse by doing this is subversively thinking of oneself in so far as ratcheting up the perceptions of those in company of the privy by giving them reason to believe that he or she is compassionate or selfless. This would still alter the experience of the event. There would be heightened anticipation were there would have been none if the others were none the wiser that something was going to happen. I suppose that it could be argued that this might even enhance the overall experience by bringing a heightened sense of anticipation, thus resulting in greater sensory sensitivity used during the event.

3) By retaining the information, the privy is allowing for the others in company to have a genuine, uninterrupted experience of the event. Leading up to the point of climatic irony or such in the event, the privy may be swelling with a sense of pride that he or she has resisted temptation of existing in either #'s 1 0r 2. When the irony has passed and it is revealed that the knowledge was retained in the interest of the others, the privy is now showcasing a hindsight version of evidences of compassion or selflessness, thus grasping the chance to profit on the ability to mold the others perception of themselves. And in doing so directing the attention back to oneself and the underlying desire for acknowledgment of will power to preserve the ironic treasure the others were to experience.

4) By retaining the information and not ever bestowing that it was fore known to the others, the privy is keeping the sense of self pride and not jumping at the chance of molding others perceptions. This may stem from an indifference towards the maintenance or cultivation of the way that others perceive him/herself but that the perception of self is in need of some reassurance. Knowing about oneself, that oneself is capable of such acts of consideration towards others may be the healthiest decision out of the 4 mentioned here. After as has been mentioned more than once prior on this blog, there is no such thing as altruism. That being said, where is the harm in reaffirming one's own sense of self worth by basking in personal good sumaritanism or the like? It can be argued that we don't really hold the door for others entering a building after us for their own sake of easier/more convenient entrance to the building but rather for the ultimately non altruistic gain of knowing that we have done something good today and getting joy out of that.

* At the above asterisked point while writing in this post a series of events played out that relates to the content of this post and I thought that it would be anecdotal and ironic to include it. As I started this post my girlfriend (who incidentally was the only other, other in the above recount of video spoiling) was trying to get a fire going in the wood burning stove. We are in Norway and even though it is August, a fire is a welcomed luxury in comfort even this early in the year. She was not having as good as success as she normally does and I pointed out as she quickly acknowledged that she new all along but wanted to try anyway that the one big log in the stove was not the best of strategies to start off with in getting the fire started. Smaller pieces of wood would allow more air to circulate in the stove thus helping things out, I mentioned, something that I am sure she already knew as well. In her usual state of determinism, she ended up taking out the big log and replacing it with three others that lit better. At the point of the asterisk, she went down to fill the wood bin. The flame on the smaller wood now in the stove was flickering poorly and was at the risk of going out. As she was still absent from the room, I went over, rearranged the logs just slightly to help out airflow and used the fire place blower to give a boost. Seeing that she was determined to get this thing going, now not only because it was cold but because it became a vendetta of sorts between her and the stove, I found myself privy to information regarding the state of the fire in relation to her efforts. Had I not asked her to read this post to see if she could guess the above mentioned event that she was also at, I may have picked #4 but there is a good chance that #3 will be the one that happens to pan out.

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