Jack: "Xiaoming, why don't you like Tjugito?"
Xiaoming: "Dunno leh. Dun like his face."
Jack: "So if his face was different, you'd like him then?"
Xiaoming: "No la, of cos not la. He is damn irritating can. Even you look like Brad Pitt, if you are a lousy person, nobody will like you wan."
Jack: "But just now you said you didn't like his face - "
Xiaoming: "Is just a PHRASE, ok? Wah lan eh dun like means dun like lah!"
Jack: "Well, I am not disputing that."
Xiaoming: "... huh?"
Jack: "'Don't like' means 'don't like', I am not disagreeing with that."
Xiaoming: "Cheebye that is another phrase can."
Jack: "Actually cheebye is not really a phra - "
Xiaoming: "You wan me to tell you why I dun like you?"
While the exchange appears to be a farcical one, it discloses several truths. One, there are many reasons for liking and disliking people. Two, people are frequently unable to articulate their reasons for liking and disliking people, for whatever reasons (probably strategic, but also encouraged by Facebook's low-requirement, incoherence-engendering "Like" button). Three, the superficial aspect ("his face") is inevitably our first port of call - subconscious or otherwise - whenever we get down to the exercise of judging people (for that's what this is, let us be under no illusions).
Mindful of these facts, I have laboured to construct a system for deciding exactly why some people are disliked by all, some by some, and some by only me. In designing this system I was conscious that it ought to explain as much about the judger as the judged: social life, after all, is nothing if not reciprocal. To a large extent I think I have succeeded in my endeavour.
I call my system the "Five Epsilon System", but the easier to pronounce "We Can No Longer Agree to Disagree About People System", or "WCNLADAPS" for short, appeared to command greater popularity (in beta). In any case the system countenances 5 distinct attributes observable in human beings: Ability (B), Awareness (A), Superficiality (S), Intelligence (I) and Consideration (C). Each individual attribute is measurable along a sliding scale ranging from -100 to +100, to be agglomerated with the following formula:
Like/Dislike Rating = B + A + 2S + 0.5I + 0.75C
The formula above is applicable only to present-day Singapore; it reflects Xiaoming's (and our) superficial bent. Here are some formulae from other places and times:
Like/Dislike Rating in the Old Wild West = 5B + 0.5A + 0.5S + 0.1I + C
Like/Dislike Rating in Outer Space = 100B +50A +0S + 75I + C
Like/Dislike Rating in Prison, circa 1892 = 100B + 100A + 0S + 0.2I + (-|2C|)
The Like/Dislike Rating, or LDR for short, reflects how much you like or dislike someone. If it is positive it signifies liking; if negative, disliking. It is best thought of as not being measured "upon" anything (even though that is theoretically possible), but rather exists as a handy relative gauge for inhabitants of a particular society at a particular time. An illustration:
Jack: "Xiaoming, why don't you like Tjugito?"
Xioaming: "I can't identify with his lack of A and I. He watches MTV with his mouth open all day long."
Jack: "Oh. I am guessing those attributes pulled him down to a low positive?"
Xioaming: "No man, his lack of S brought him to -48!"
Jack: "Oh dear. I never knew you were an S man."
Separately: It was suggested that the convenient acronym "BASIC" be employed instead, but as the passive voice suggested it, the suggestion was canned.
Without further ado, here are the five relevant attributes, each with a short description and accompanying examples.
(NB. This entry could have been "Articulating Like", except that for some reason "like" is not a noun. Also, I am generally a mean, cynical and negative person, so I dislike this title less.)
Competence, talent, leadership - someone who possesses a lot of ability usually leaves you gaping in awe, rather than seething with envy. Usually it is associated with tangible, obviously measurable traits (piano-playing chops, dribbling skills, savoir faire - rather than insincerity - at networking events and other complex social interactions).
+100 examples: Michael Jackson's dancing, Jason Kidd's dribbling, Barack Obama's oration, Jay Chou's everything
-100 examples: Someone who has played Bejeweled for 10 months but still cannot get beyond 100,000 points, people who take up tennis late in life and slice every ball back with a char kway teow stroke, girl who cannot cook, boy who cannot kill cockroach
Arguably the most difficult of the five to define, this attribute is also the most commonly flouted. Fortunately, however, our society at present does not set much store by it. Awareness refers to the ability of an individual to keep up with the non-intellectual nuances of everything. Conversation and EQ, in particular; but also observing things, remembering times, recalling important nouns, making the relevant connections between disparate pieces of information.
+100 examples: People who define acronyms before they use them in the presence of those unfamiliar with them, a good stand-up comedian, men who notice, women who don't mention it when men fail to notice
-100 examples: Person who repeats the same anecdotes/jokes and extends the punchline with unnecessary paraphrasing, individual who is transparent in his self-augmenting motives during conversation (e.g. men who put other men down by saying "actually so-and-so is actually quite short"), women who dress twenty years too young
Without a doubt the most important attribute of - or should that be for? - our gilded generation, superficiality measures everything that can be perceived with the senses - how one looks, how one smells, how one moves. Hygiene, grooming, sartorial style - all of these fall under this umbrella category.
+100 examples: Jude Law with hair, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Lin Chiling, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark
-100 examples: Sea cucumber, man wearing singlet constantly scratching himself in Chinatown, corpse, Murloc
A no-brainer - intelligence measures one's capacity for abstract discussion and logic, as well as one's thirst for knowledge and general curiosity. Mathematical prowess is a great indicator, as is fluency with any non-waffly subject (polygots qualify). Previously I was of the impression that the arts in general were just repositories for morons, until I read Ian McEwan and realized that you can turn poetry, music, wonder - you can turn all of this into math, and beautifully so.
+100 examples: The apocryphal rocket scientist, erudites (not name-droppers), people who use the word "quark" on a daily basis, Einstein
-100 examples: People who don't read, uninteresting people ("my hobby is slping n eating"), people who use the word "quack" on a daily basis, Frankenstein
Kindness, other-regarding values, genuine empathy, heartfelt sympathy - all of these make up the final spectrum that is consideration. There is some overlap between this characteristic and awareness, but while the latter focuses on social awkwardness (superogatory and subrogatory acts), consideration is concerned with ascribing ownership to fault.
+100 examples: The one who pays for everything first and is very embarrassed to collect money from people subsequently, the one who is on time, the one who volunteers for non-self-augmenting purposes (e.g. bringing 7-Up to the picnic), the one who finds out the details
-100 examples: The non-driver who takes lifts as a matter of entitlement, the non-payer, the borrower (see also: the non-returner), the favour-asker ("eh you are going there ah can you help me buy ..."), the presumptuous, the eat-more-than-his-share, the unapologetic transgressor
With this five-way attribute system, we can now solve complex problems that have plagued us since the dawn of time: Why are some people interesting but difficult to be friends with? (High I Low C) Why are we friends with so many boring but "nice" people? (Low I Low A High C) Why do so many women put up with being beaten by their NFL/EPL/NBA husbands? (High B High S Low C Low I) And why do we love and hate Megan Fox? (High S Low ... Everything Else)
Of course, there will be overlaps between the categories. For example, the woman who dresses twenty years too young displays both low A and, consequently, low S. Separately, there will inevitably be apparent internal inconsistencies for each attribute, which makes scaling for that particular attribute that much more difficult: a classic instance would be the genius artist who is unable to file his income tax returns on time (High B? Low B?). Where the genius is truly genuine, however, people will still be fond of the individual. The administrative shortalls serve to make him human and more accessible, so overwhelming is his B. Other inconsistencies for other attributes, by and large, may be resolved in a similar fashion.
Additionally, as has already been mentioned, the system yields value in another fashion: the individual LDR for each appraiser tells us what is important to him or her, and therefore how we should or should not behave around that particular person. This is not sycophancy; it is simply Treating People The Way They Want To Be Treated (and nobody likes to feel like you are treating them in a certain way so that you can get what you want - that is a completely different matter altogether, mind). Without question, the Five Epsilon System can only lead humanity to greater harmony in the new year and beyond. I hear "Nobel".
Now that we are done with the BASICs, let us resolve to dislike more accurately in 2011!