Henrik Unné

A personal ethical dilemma

25 posts in this topic

I wavered between submitting this post to the Ethics section, and the Relationships section, but decided to post it here, since ethics is more fundamental and, in a sense, more critically important than relations with people.

The ethical dilemma that I have right now involves the question of "white lies". It is not that I am inclined or tempted to tell "white lies" myself. My problem is that my wife, Thi, is. And she expects me to "cover" for her, when that is necessary for her "white lies" not to be exposed.

I will concretize. A few weeks ago, a friend of Thi invited her to a party he was throwing. But Thi knew that another friend of hers, who she was angry with, would be at the party also. Thi did not want to meet this other friend. But she did not want to say that. So she told the friend who was throwing the party, that she and I were going to have my sister over that afternoon, so therefore we could not come to his party. This friend of Thi, was not a friend of my sister, so Thi must have reckoned that there was no risk that he would find out about the "white lie". The day after the party, Thi and I visited her friend, and she told me that if her friend asked about what we had done the day before, I should support her "white lie", that we had had my sister over (of course, my sister had not in fact visited us the day before). Thi´s friend did ask me about my sister´s supposed visit, and I said - "We had a good time."

I did not like telling the "white lie". But I thought that I could justify it by reference to the principle you are not morally culpable, if you do something, which is normally immoral, under duress.

What duress am I under? Well, my wife is dissatisfied with our marriage (or with me, to put it another way), and she has talked about divorce. She also gets *very* angry with me at times. Once she got so angry with me that she threw things, and broke a plastic kitchen utensil, when she threw it to the floor. So I am afraid that if I make a stand against her demands that I "cover" for her "white lies", it might wind up costing me my marriage. Since I will turn 56 on Saturday, I do not think that it would be easy for me to find a good new wife, and I do not want to grow old and die without romantic love. So I am loathe to risk my marriage, even for such a major issue as a minor immorality.

My decision so far, has been that I will cooperate with Thi when she tells "white lies" to her own friends. If that causes her trouble with her friends, it will be her fault and her problem. And I am under duress. But if Thi ever asks me to tell a "white lie" to my *own* friends, who are almost all of them Objectivists, I will draw the line and refuse, even though that might jeopardize my marriage.

You may be wondering why I want to stay married to a woman who tells "white lies" to her friends? Well, I love Thi. She is *basically* a very good person, morally, even though she has some minor flaws. She works hard, she is careful not to spend too much money, she never neglects those household chores which she and I have agreed should be her responsibility (mainly cooking our meals, since I am a lousy cook), etc. And Thi is affectionate towards me, when she is not angry. We have great sex about once a week. The best thing about Thi is that she is a first hander. And as for her "white lies", I reason that it is natural that she should be that way, since she lived all her life, up until 4 years ago, in a dictatorship, Vietnam. In a society like that, telling the truth (when the government is listening) can get you killed or imprisoned. So it is only natural that a habit of minor dishonesty might get internalized in a person who lives all her life in a society like that.

I wonder what the rest of you here on the Forum think of my decision? Do you think that I am compromising my moral integrity? Do you buy my idea that I am under duress? Do you think that I should abandon a woman who tells "white lies", even though I love her, and even though I would probably have a hard time finding a new woman to love? What would you do if "you were in my shoes"?

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Henrik,

It is very difficult to judge a concrete situation such as this from a distance (remotely through brief Internet postings, never having met either of you in person to see anything about it directly, for myself). But there are a few points that can be noted from what you have described.

1. You are not under duress of the kind that nullifies any chance of living rationally, productively, honestly, independently, proudly, with justice toward others and integrity of thought and action in your own choices. Thi is only threatening to end your marriage, not murder you, and she is apparently already threatening to do it anyway, whether you participate in her white lies or not. Over the long-term, your marriage may well be doomed already, whether you stand up to her or not.

2. Having to aid and abet her by doing something that you find extremely distasteful and uncomfortable by your standards is definitely a problem that you will need to resolve one way or another, not merely keep quiet about it and give in to whatever she demands. People typically explode sooner or later if they try to hold major problems inside, trying not to show their true feelings outwardly. Have you tried discussing it with Thi, to impress upon her that you really prefer to have her find some other way to solve her anger problems without making you a participant in her little deceptions? (The deceptions themselves don't surprise me. Many women have definite, often very valid reasons for what they want to do, but they don't know of a graceful way to frame it in dealing with others.)

3. Another answer you might have been able to give to your friend when he asked about your sister's supposed visit might have been something like: "I can't speak for Thi, but I personally would have preferred to be here, at your party." Of course, that still lets your friend think your sister really did come, but it's really not his business to know anyway. Just letting him know that it's a personal matter and not his fault should be enough.

4. Some of your description almost sounds as if you consider Thi to be too good for you, and you want to hold onto something that exceeds what you personally have earned or deserve even if it means compromising your own personal values. I would say that Thi is whatever she is. The "chips" will just have to fall where they fall. If she thinks you're not good enough for her, then that's the way it goes. If you feel that she is using you as a "doormat" in a lot of ways, try being more clear and firm about it in your own mind first, then try talking to her about it. If she explodes, then bye-bye. But if you're diplomatic along with being firm, the results may have at least some possibility of pleasantly surprising you.

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Henrik,

It is very difficult to judge a concrete situation such as this from a distance (remotely through brief Internet postings, never having met either of you in person to see anything about it directly, for myself). But there are a few points that can be noted from what you have described.

1. You are not under duress of the kind that nullifies any chance of living rationally, productively, honestly, independently, proudly, with justice toward others and integrity of thought and action in your own choices. Thi is only threatening to end your marriage, not murder you, and she is apparently already threatening to do it anyway, whether you participate in her white lies or not. Over the long-term, your marriage may well be doomed already, whether you stand up to her or not.

2. Having to aid and abet her by doing something that you find extremely distasteful and uncomfortable by your standards is definitely a problem that you will need to resolve one way or another, not merely keep quiet about it and give in to whatever she demands. People typically explode sooner or later if they try to hold major problems inside, trying not to show their true feelings outwardly. Have you tried discussing it with Thi, to impress upon her that you really prefer to have her find some other way to solve her anger problems without making you a participant in her little deceptions? (The deceptions themselves don't surprise me. Many women have definite, often very valid reasons for what they want to do, but they don't know of a graceful way to frame it in dealing with others.)

3. Another answer you might have been able to give to your friend when he asked about your sister's supposed visit might have been something like: "I can't speak for Thi, but I personally would have preferred to be here, at your party." Of course, that still lets your friend think your sister really did come, but it's really not his business to know anyway. Just letting him know that it's a personal matter and not his fault should be enough.

4. Some of your description almost sounds as if you consider Thi to be too good for you, and you want to hold onto something that exceeds what you personally have earned or deserve even if it means compromising your own personal values. I would say that Thi is whatever she is. The "chips" will just have to fall where they fall. If she thinks you're not good enough for her, then that's the way it goes. If you feel that she is using you as a "doormat" in a lot of ways, try being more clear and firm about it in your own mind first, then try talking to her about it. If she explodes, then bye-bye. But if you're diplomatic along with being firm, the results may have at least some possibility of pleasantly surprising you.

I will think about your advice. Have you read my post in the Relationships section "Why I Admire My Wife". That post relates some of the reasons that I value my marriaga with Thi. I do not think that she is a bad person. And I am highly uncertain about whether I would be able to find as good a woman here in Sweden (it is a rotten culture, and there are not so many likeable people here, by my standards).

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What duress am I under? Well, my wife is dissatisfied with our marriage (or with me, to put it another way), and she has talked about divorce. She also gets *very* angry with me at times. Once she got so angry with me that she threw things, and broke a plastic kitchen utensil, when she threw it to the floor. So I am afraid that if I make a stand against her demands that I "cover" for her "white lies", it might wind up costing me my marriage. Since I will turn 56 on Saturday, I do not think that it would be easy for me to find a good new wife, and I do not want to grow old and die without romantic love. So I am loathe to risk my marriage, even for such a major issue as a minor immorality.

My decision so far, has been that I will cooperate with Thi when she tells "white lies" to her own friends. If that causes her trouble with her friends, it will be her fault and her problem. And I am under duress. But if Thi ever asks me to tell a "white lie" to my *own* friends, who are almost all of them Objectivists, I will draw the line and refuse, even though that might jeopardize my marriage.

...Do you buy my idea that I am under duress? Do you think that I should abandon a woman who tells "white lies", even though I love her, and even though I would probably have a hard time finding a new woman to love? What would you do if "you were in my shoes"?

Not exactly scripted out of Dagny and Rearden is it? You could always take it on the road as a 1950s Jackie Gleason/Alice "Honeymooners" re-enactment. Some people would pay for that. For authenticity throw real iron skillets.

Or, you could try talking to her about it and what the two of you want for your lives and your marriage, in terms of what you both expected before being married and the importance of honesty with each other and others. Individuals who are in love don't talk in terms of calculating the difficulty of finding a replacement after next Saturday. When she finds out that you are chronicling all this on the internet, accessible - for free no less - to everyone in the world with too much time on his hands, "frying flying pans" and an obsession with watching sex-spankings will be the least of your problems.

As Phil urged in another context, stop worrying so much about saving the world and straighten out your own life. If you're under additional duress now, it's because you put yourself there.

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As Phil urged in another context, stop worrying so much about saving the world and straighten out your own life. If you're under additional duress now, it's because you put yourself there.

I think that I have straightened out my life very well, given the enormous difficulties of finding happiness in such a rotten society as today´s Sweden, when you are laboring under the handicapps that I have been laboring under (being a former psychotic, being a high-school dropout, being taxed to death etc.).

And since I live in a very rotten society, I think that it is important, for *selfish* reasons to try to "save the world". Actually I am not really trying to save everybody else. I am trying to save myself, plus those relatively few individuals (my wife and the rest of the Objectivists in the world) whom I think are worth saving. I actually think that I am like Ayn Rand in that respect, even though, possibly, I have a more "pessimistic metaphysics" than she had (maybe I am not as strong as she was, I have my flaws).

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As Phil urged in another context, stop worrying so much about saving the world and straighten out your own life. If you're under additional duress now, it's because you put yourself there.

I think that I have straightened out my life very well, given the enormous difficulties of finding happiness in such a rotten society as today´s Sweden, when you are laboring under the handicapps that I have been laboring under (being a former psychotic, being a high-school dropout, being taxed to death etc.).

And since I live in a very rotten society, I think that it is important, for *selfish* reasons to try to "save the world". Actually I am not really trying to save everybody else. I am trying to save myself, plus those relatively few individuals (my wife and the rest of the Objectivists in the world) whom I think are worth saving. I actually think that I am like Ayn Rand in that respect, even though, possibly, I have a more "pessimistic metaphysics" than she had (maybe I am not as strong as she was, I have my flaws).

I do not disparage or dismiss the progress you have made over the years. I am referring to the undesirable situation now that you yourself refer to as personal duress, including domestic violence and irrational outbursts. That is not a normal state of affairs.

You had better not be trying to save the world, because you don't have a prayer of doing that for yourself or anyone else, especially, apparently, in Sweden, and from what you say you don't think so either. Yet you are constantly talking about the state of the world and its "rotten" role in afflicting your life, which seems to indicate that you are putting too much mental energy into worrying about things you can't help rather than focusing on your own personal life. According to your own descriptions you do have a lot in the personal realm to straighten out (or you wouldn't be bringing it up in these threads).

You don't like the "rotten" society around you, but you have made personal choices that put you in the personal situation you are in and which you have described in dramatic terms as undesirable and perplexing. You can act on your own behalf even if that requires burrowing in and becoming a "hermit" to do it, shutting out your social surroundings the best you can while you focus on what you can do for yourself. You can start by ridding yourself of the personal "flaws" you think you have instead of blaming everything on "rotten" society.

I also still don't think it's a good idea for you to be chronicling your marital problems and criticisms of your wife on a public forum, accessible to the whole world including her, people you know and Swedish public authorities.

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And since I live in a very rotten society, I think that it is important, for *selfish* reasons to try to "save the world". Actually I am not really trying to save everybody else. I am trying to save myself, plus those relatively few individuals (my wife and the rest of the Objectivists in the world) whom I think are worth saving. I actually think that I am like Ayn Rand in that respect, even though, possibly, I have a more "pessimistic metaphysics" than she had (maybe I am not as strong as she was, I have my flaws).

Henrik, as a fellow freedom-lover stuck in the EUSSR, I sympathise. I haven't read it but have heard great things about this book: http://www.amazon.com/How-Found-Freedom-Un...3157&sr=8-1

It deals, effectively, with your situation - how to deal with a government that is complex and loves to encroach on your liberty. I think you might enjoy the "avoiding government traps" part, unless you are already doing what he is recommending. Don't be scared off by the price (I certainly was) - there are used copies floating around for $30 on Amazon and the web.

(although for myself, Ayn Rand is sufficient until I move to Switzerland later this year)

As for the thread subject, I have thus far resisted commenting, but... every woman worth having is an individual, and by the very definition of individual, she is going to be different. Relationships are about compromise between what you value (you might like chocolate ice cream, she might like vanilla - what do you have for dessert?) to an extent. As Betsy said in the other thread, that might mean not doing certain things in front of her. That might mean understanding how she thinks and what will make her happy. A woman that will agree with you about everything is either a prostitute or an empty shell (or an individual with a very repressed upbringing - watch out when it blows!). Is that worth having? You tell me.

And as Ayn Rand pointed out, making your wife happy, beaming with happiness, on a daily basis by taking care of what she values is perfectly selfish, because you value her enormously.

Marriage is only the start. Every day, you must win Thi over all over again. You must be her hero and gain her admiration.

At least if you consider her worth sharing a lifetime with...

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It sounds like an intolerable situation to me, so I don't really understand even entering a marriage like that. You've mentioned that you admire her, but that's really not the same thing as love or compatibility. Pardon me for sounding insensitive but I think to resolve this you're going to have to go through a lot deeper introspection than you have so far. But if you do decide on a divorce just get it over with and move on. The worst thing would be to let this develop into years of frustration and guilt.

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You had better not be trying to save the world, because you don't have a prayer of doing that for yourself or anyone else, especially, apparently, in Sweden, and from what you say you don't think so either. Yet you are constantly talking about the state of the world and its "rotten" role in afflicting your life, which seems to indicate that you are putting too much mental energy into worrying about things you can't help rather than focusing on your own personal life. According to your own descriptions you do have a lot in the personal realm to straighten out (or you wouldn't be bringing it up in these threads).

You don't like the "rotten" society around you, but you have made personal choices that put you in the personal situation you are in and which you have described in dramatic terms as undesirable and perplexing. You can act on your own behalf even if that requires burrowing in and becoming a "hermit" to do it, shutting out your social surroundings the best you can while you focus on what you can do for yourself. You can start by ridding yourself of the personal "flaws" you think you have instead of blaming everything on "rotten" society.

What makes you assume that I do not put forth enough effort to rid myself of my personal flaws and to solve my own problems? I am very much aware that the primary responsibility for my life lies on me myself. And I do not just sit around griping, even though I have invested a few hours during the last few in months writing posts for the Forum which have touched upon things in my personal life. Yes, maybe I am too open about my personal life. I am not the kind of person who is afraid of other people any more, and of what they might do to me.

As for the "saving the world" thing. Since I am realistic, I do not imagine that I can save the world myself. But I believe in acting on principle. And I cannot stand the thought as the world goes to hell, and I lose my precious freedom, I sit around doing nothing. I feel much better when I fight. And I actually *enjoy* the intellectual activism which I engage in very much. When an entire day has gone, in which I have not written a new debate piece for the debate site Newsmill, or for my blogg, my fingers begin to itch, and the wheels in my mind begin spinning. I cannot help it. I *want* to do something about the state of the world. Engaging in intellectual activism makes me happier, personally. But you are right about the fact that I should not neglect my personal life. I don´t.

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A woman that will agree with you about everything is either a prostitute or an empty shell (or an individual with a very repressed upbringing - watch out when it blows!).

My sentiments exactly. I am glad that Thi is strong, and strong-willed. I do not want a doormat as a wife. And even though Thi is not an Objectivist, she know nada about Objectivism (which is not her fault, she lived her entire adult life in a Communist dictatorship, she was only 15 when the Communists took over) I sometimes think to myself that Thi has some character traits in common with Ayn Rand herself. Thi is a first hander. And she is intelligent (she has learned to speak Swedish tolerably well in just 3 years). And she thinks really hard (I am impressed with how hard she is struggling right now with her efforts to learn the Swedish language still better, so that she will be able to work as an apothecary in Sweden). There are many other things that I like about Thi as well, such as her sense of humor, and her "joie de vivre". I relate in my post "Why I Admire My Wife" in the "Relationships" section one of the things which makes me think that she is a first hander.

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What makes you assume that I do not put forth enough effort to rid myself of my personal flaws and to solve my own problems?

The emphasis in your posts.

Maybe you have answered this before, but why do you stay in Sweden?

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What makes you assume that I do not put forth enough effort to rid myself of my personal flaws and to solve my own problems?

The emphasis in your posts.

Maybe you have answered this before, but why do you stay in Sweden?

Why do I stay in Sweden? During the 1980s, 1990s and up until around the year 2008, I stayed in Sweden largely because I enjoyed being one of the few pioneers who was injecting Objectivism into the Swedish culture. If I had emigrated to America I would not be playing such a key role in the society that I lived in, since there are so many other Objectivists in the USA already.

Also, I would probably have had a difficult time getting permission to move to the USA, given the fact that I suffered from a psychosis when I was a teenager. The American government is, as I understand it, reluctant to let people with a history of mental illness into the USA.

Right now, a factor that prevents me from moving to America, is also the fact that I am strapped for money. I did build up a small fortune of my own during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, by saving and investing in stocks, but I lost that money, and also the money that I had inherited from my parents when they died in 2005 and 2006, when I had an unfortunate love affair with a woman who turned out to be a gold-digger, who pretended to love me, but was just after my money. That woman was of course *not* the woman who is now my wife, after my disaster with the gold-digger, I did not give up. I just moved on and looked for a better woman, and I found one. But as a result of my run-in with the gold-digger, I am now broke.

I did try to emigrate to the USA about 4 months ago. The company which was then my employer, closed down the factory here in Skarpnack, where I worked, in order to move the production to its two factories in the USA and North Ireland, respectively. I asked my employer if I could move to the USA, in order to work in their factory there. They said that they would look into it. But it turned out that I could not get a Green Card (i.e. permission to live in the USA). American immigration law says that if an American employer wants to hire a foreigner, it has to be able to demonstrate that the foreigner in question has valuable skills, that cannot be found in the American labor force. That law is supposed to "protect" American workers from competition from foreigners who might (gasp!) "dump the wages" on the American labor market.

I would definitely move to America now, if you had free immigration, and if I had the necessary economic resources. Moving to America would feel like "coming home" for me. I learned to feel that I was an American when I grew up in the USA in the 1960s. I internalized the American sense of life when I was a child, and I have not lost it. I do feel like an "outsider" here in Sweden. Always have since my return. Of course, I would probably feel like an outsider in the USA as well, since I am an Objectivist. But probably not as much.

Still, I do not feel that Sweden is a bad place. The political situation has definitely improved since the dark years of the 1970s (the heyday of the nihilistic New Left here in Sweden). And, partly thanks to my efforts, there are perhaps 50 active Objectivists in Sweden now. So there is hope. And as I see it, the problem is not reality, the problem is people. Or - the problem is not Sweden, the problem is (the majority of) the Swedes. And they can be changed, since most of them are pathetic second handers.

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As for the "saving the world" thing. Since I am realistic, I do not imagine that I can save the world myself. But I believe in acting on principle. And I cannot stand the thought as the world goes to hell, and I lose my precious freedom, I sit around doing nothing. I feel much better when I fight. And I actually *enjoy* the intellectual activism which I engage in very much. When an entire day has gone, in which I have not written a new debate piece for the debate site Newsmill, or for my blogg, my fingers begin to itch, and the wheels in my mind begin spinning. I cannot help it. I *want* to do something about the state of the world. Engaging in intellectual activism makes me happier, personally. But you are right about the fact that I should not neglect my personal life. I don´t.

I beg everyone´s pardon. I should have written - "Since I am realistic, I do not imagine that I can save the world *by* myself." That is what I intended to write, but I slipped up and did not proofread my post carefully enough, before I posted it.

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But it turned out that I could not get a Green Card (i.e. permission to live in the USA). American immigration law says that if an American employer wants to hire a foreigner, it has to be able to demonstrate that the foreigner in question has valuable skills, that cannot be found in the American labor force. That law is supposed to "protect" American workers from competition from foreigners who might (gasp!) "dump the wages" on the American labor market.

Oh, I feel your pain there!

Same thing for me, just this year! Two dozen interviews cancelled - and I was in NYC at the time! This is probably slowing my career by 4-5 years... (Europe is not too bad but less meritocratic, even CH)

It's actually probably worse today. I was told even during boom years, just an H1 cost $5,000 in legal fees, although that figure has skyrocketed to $40,000 today. Which employer is going to pay that? You'd have to be a serious asset... or working in finance at VP level or above :)

I've been tempted many times to open a thread on the subject but, as it applies only to a limited number of us, and because it would mostly sound like a rant saying what we all already know.

That being said, there are two ways in. First, an office transfer (the details of which I am unsure), easier if you have worked for your company for a while. Second, start a company in the US, and sign yourself up as a non-executive director. This is not counted as salary for some odd reason and therefore you can pay yourself in the US without requiring a work visa. I don't know how long these loopholes will remain, especially in the face of an administration so hostile to property rights and therefore entrepreneurs.

However, the most common solution, which I have seen done by very large numbers of Europeans, is to marry American. This gives you a green card within 6 months. But you have to be seriously meticulous with your prenup. You can buy it for $2,000 (obviously a highly dangerous move), you can fall for a wonderful American (very easy, I think - capitalist women! Who would have thought!) or you can have a rational friend do a special arrangement for you (against cash if both of you are sufficiently capitalist-minded - a value for a value).

I'm old fashioned and do not really believe in gaming the system yet, so will wait until my skill set and experience warrant somebody paying for me. But perhaps one of the above is a solution.

And yes, every single day of vacation I will take this year (probably whatever is the minimum mandated under Swiss law) I will spend on US territory :)

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I forgot, the last way in is to study in the US (perhaps a postgraduate course for you, Henrik), and the visa it gives you is easily convertible into a work visa at minimal expense, perhaps because the US government is not so keen on seeing talent it has trained go back and add value elsewhere.

(it then beggars belief that it is so hard for talent trained elsewhere to come to the US!)

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I beg everyone´s pardon. I should have written - "Since I am realistic, I do not imagine that I can save the world *by* myself." That is what I intended to write, but I slipped up and did not proofread my post carefully enough, before I posted it.

Henrik, remember Newton's words - "I stand on the shoulders of giants".

Ayn Rand's work is influenced by earlier libertarian writers and classical economists. She did not develop the concept of freedom all by herself. It was centuries of work that she added (substantially, in my view) to.

I personally find it heartening that you, Brad, and other members of this Forum continue to fight (even though it is a fight for your life, which really leaves you no other option). I hope to join the fight once I have the resources both financial and time to do so!

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Have you tried Canada? I might be wrong but I thought their immigration policies were less strict there. Anyway given your views on "the majority of mankind", Sweden has not been good to you, claims of improvement notwithstanding. I understand that being a pioneer for Objectivism is a value to you, but it makes no sense to sacrifice your happiness, the ultimate value, for something like that.

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I forgot, the last way in is to study in the US (perhaps a postgraduate course for you, Henrik), and the visa it gives you is easily convertible into a work visa at minimal expense, perhaps because the US government is not so keen on seeing talent it has trained go back and add value elsewhere.

(it then beggars belief that it is so hard for talent trained elsewhere to come to the US!)

If only my parents had not decided to send me back to Sweden, after I developed serious psychological problems at the age of 15, I would have stayed in America, and eventually become a citizen of the USA by the process of naturalization. So I lost a golden opportunity. But I am not dissatisfied with my life in Sweden. I am proud of what I have done over the last 30 years, injecting Objectivism into the culture, and perhaps thereby playing a key role in saving Sweden (although we certainly are not out of the woods yet, neither is America, for that matter).

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I forgot, the last way in is to study in the US (perhaps a postgraduate course for you, Henrik), and the visa it gives you is easily convertible into a work visa at minimal expense, perhaps because the US government is not so keen on seeing talent it has trained go back and add value elsewhere.

(it then beggars belief that it is so hard for talent trained elsewhere to come to the US!)

Are you sure about this? I work with a number of Indians here at the university who are getting their PhD's just so they can offer something valuable enough for the government to let them stay. I don't think it's easy to stay here after you graduate -- it's my understanding that you still need the employer to pay some $10k fee to transfer your visa, and he must demonstrate that American workers can't perform the same work. Disgusting, in my opinion.

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Have you tried Canada? I might be wrong but I thought their immigration policies were less strict there. Anyway given your views on "the majority of mankind", Sweden has not been good to you, claims of improvement notwithstanding. I understand that being a pioneer for Objectivism is a value to you, but it makes no sense to sacrifice your happiness, the ultimate value, for something like that.

In case there is any misunderstanding here, I do *not* think that I have sacrificed my happiness, by working hard to spread Objectivism in Sweden. I *love* the exercise my gray cells get whenever I write a new debate piece on some philosophical or political subject. And I love the satisfaction that I feel when my debate pieces get read. And, of course, the greatest happiness that I derive from my intellectual activism is the pleasure I feel whenever I get a new "recruit" to Objectivism, although it has been about two years since it last happened (of course it is possible that some individuals have discovered Objectivism since then thanks to my efforts without my knowing it).

I view myself as a very happy person. My life has gone mostly uphill since my parents died in 2005 and 2006 (yes, I am happier now that my parents are gone, I curse their memory).

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I wavered between...
I don’t buy the idea that you’re under duress – not to say that you aren’t, but to say that it is no justification for lying. Any relationship that has to be maintained via lying is better to end, with the obvious caveat of physical danger (e.g. you might yell “fire” to get her out of a house if in fact there were a noxious gas leaking, but no time to explain). You shouldn’t lie because a proper relationship, just like a proper person, should be in accordance with reality. If it’s not – if you have to lie or evade to keep it going, the relationship (and the people involved) will become more and more toxic over time based on my relationship experiences. The reason is obvious – reality becomes your enemy, and its facts regrettable.

What is the reason for her lying? Perhaps because she did not want to involve the mutual friend in her dispute. But I do not see a reason here to lie. The only reason, save criminal actions, that I can conceive of to lie is in an effort to maintain privacy when some snooping third party wants access that he has no business in, which will in some way make life difficult for you. But my friends do not make life difficult for me – they support me when I’ve a difficult decision to make, offer good advice when it’s solicited, and are always discreet. I don’t know what kind of friend she couldn’t tell something like this to, and it seems gross to ask one's spouse to do things which make him feel uncomfortable because one maintains questionable or untrusting friendships.

Of course you should speak with your wife and discuss what you’re comfortable with and explain why this makes you uncomfortable. Shouldn’t a caring person respect this? And if she’s not that considerate or rational enough to get it, perhaps it would be more selfish to find someone who is – even at the risk of being alone awhile.

That’s a difficult situation – I hope you figure it out.

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Of course you should speak with your wife and discuss what you’re comfortable with and explain why this makes you uncomfortable. Shouldn’t a caring person respect this? And if she’s not that considerate or rational enough to get it, perhaps it would be more selfish to find someone who is – even at the risk of being alone awhile.

That’s a difficult situation – I hope you figure it out.

Thank you for the good advice. The practical problem which I expect that I will have in carrying it out, and I do think that I will carry it out if Thi ever asks me to tell a "white lie" again, is that I am not at all sure that she is enough of a philosophical thinker to be able to understand why it is wrong to tell "white lies". But she should be able to understand that it is unreasonable to expect me to cover such "white lies", and that she owes it to me not to make such demands on me.

Another practical problem is that This Swedish is not very good, and I do not speak a word of Vietnamese. so it may also be difficult for me to even communicate my views to her. We often misunderstand each other when we talk, and it sometimes takes several minutes for the one of us to figure out what the other meant.

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You could try demonstrating to her, more concretely, why lying is bad - even the smallest lies. She probably looks at it morally as a floating abstraction, separated from reality. Most people do. Probably because the morality of lying is usually inherited from religion, where lying is wrong "because God says so". If, on the other hand, you can show her why lying is damaging to herself and people around her, then she may understand your position better and hopefully stop it.

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Are you sure about this? I work with a number of Indians here at the university who are getting their PhD's just so they can offer something valuable enough for the government to let them stay. I don't think it's easy to stay here after you graduate -- it's my understanding that you still need the employer to pay some $10k fee to transfer your visa, and he must demonstrate that American workers can't perform the same work. Disgusting, in my opinion.

Definitely. I considered a Master in Finance in NYC/LA for that reason exactly (and know a few people doing this).

I think it has something to do with the way recruiting is done in the US, via on-campus only. It's definitely the case with banks, who have "online" applications but do not bother reading them. Companies seem quite willing to spend the cash - indeed I've seen many people in non-Ivy colleges with fully paid education AND a "salary" sponsored by industry.

I'll get my blue passport eventually...

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You could try demonstrating to her, more concretely, why lying is bad - even the smallest lies. She probably looks at it morally as a floating abstraction, separated from reality. Most people do. Probably because the morality of lying is usually inherited from religion, where lying is wrong "because God says so". If, on the other hand, you can show her why lying is damaging to herself and people around her, then she may understand your position better and hopefully stop it.

I strongly suspect (but do not *know*) that Thi´s "laidback" attitude to relatively minor dishonesty has more to do with the fact that she has lived all her sdult life (Thi was only 15 when the Communists took over South Vietnam, Thi lived in Saigon) in a Communist dictatorship, than with the fact that she is religious (Thi is somewhat religious, she has a quite secular lifestyle, she wants to be happy in this life here on Earth, but she has told me that she believes in both Christianity and Buddhism, I do not know how she combines those two distinct religions).

I a dictatorship, like Communist Vietnam, it stands to reason that all but the best members of the general population, will automatize a habit of being dishonest and even lying. After all, in such a society, you can get yourself killed or imprisoned, if you say the truth, when the government is listening. This is the main reason that I tolerate Thi´s minor elements of dishonesty. I cannot really blame her if she has internalized a policy of lying, at least in minor ways, whenever that seems called for, given the kind of society she has lived almost all her adult life in (Thi came to Sweden 3 1/2 years ago). It is much easier for you and me to be habitually truthful, since we have lived in free societies all our lives. So I don´t blame Thi.

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