When we are with someone, our instinct is to engage in conversation. We feel an urge to interact as we feel that is the social norm. For some reason, it feels wrong or rude to do something individual in the company of others, such as reading a book, indulging a personal hobby, or even being alone with your thoughts.
That is not to say that social interactions are bad. Some of the happiest moments in life come from a sense of connection through deep conversation and sharing a passion. However, we feel obligated to always do something together. To avoid awkward silences, we fill the gap with meaningless small talk, or force a shared activity such as watching TV. This can be quite burdening for both parties, especially for introverted people who expend energy when socialising, needing some time alone intermittently to “recharge”.
This is why a marker of a healthy relationship (romantic or platonic) is whether you can comfortably share a silence with someone. Whether it be walking side-by-side without talking, or reading in the same room, there is an ineffable feeling of comfort and safety in sharing a space with someone without being forced to interact.
It is a sign that you trust and know each other to the point that silence does not represent awkwardness or dislike. You have a mutual understanding that even though there is no verbal communication, the other person still cares about you while respecting your need to be an individual.
Ironically, silence and the lack of interaction can allow for a deeper connection. Sharing a silence speaks louder than words to say that you like each other enough that you are okay to let your guard down and be yourself. It means that both of you are content just to feel each other’s presence in the same space.
Most of all, it is a mutual agreement that it is okay not to follow social norms as long as it makes you happy and it doesn’t harm anyone. In an ever-increasingly interconnected world, it is okay to be an individual, even in the presence of company.
One of the most basic instincts of a human being is to doubt. We do not easily extend our trust to strangers. This is a natural response that is very beneficial for your survival from an evolutionary perspective (consider the overfriendly dodos that were wiped out by humans). As civilisation has progressed and the size of societies grew, people devised legal systems to lower their vigilance against each other. This was because instead of wasting time being suspicious of others, we devised specialist roles who would do that for us, allowing us to live in peace with each other. These specialists who stay alert and guard us enforce the law and stabilise our society. However, what would happen if the people that protect us from evil become evil? Is it not a scary thought to think that there is no one that watches the watchmen?
Emperor Qin Shi Huang who united China to form the Qin dynasty divided up his people, setting up a mutual guard system to enforce his rule. Informing became a civil obligation. To not report illegal activities was illegal in itself. The system of informing was as follows: five families form a group with each group being watched by an official warden who reports on them. This official warden is carefully observed by an unofficial surveillant. Five groups come together to form a tribe. If it is found that at any level something was not reported, the blame was turned on every member of the group. Thus, a circle of surveillance is formed.
This method was extremely effective and Emperor Qin’s rule of terror was unstoppable. Crime rates plummeted while productivity rose. The problem was that the people’s quality of life was pathetic. Emperor Qin’s system of watching was later adopted by Nazi Germany. The people under the rule of the Nazis had to live in fear of being reported by their neighbours. This method is also seen being used by Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984. Is this truly the best system to keep peace? Laws are put in place for the happiness and safety of the people, yet over-surveillance is an ironic concept that exists for those who hold power rather than the people.
How much should we trust another person? And who will watch the watchmen?
The most potent and frequently used household cleaning product is bleach. Bleach is a diluted solution of sodium hypochlorite (NaClO), which has powerful antimicrobial properties thanks to the element chlorine. This is also the reason chlorine is used to treat tap water and disinfect pools.
Although it is an extremely useful chemical, chlorine also has a very dark side. Chlorine gas is a highly toxic gas, which forms hydrochloric acid when breathed in and seriously burns the respiratory tract. Due to its toxicity, chlorine gas was used as a weapon of mass destruction in World War I. However, this terrifying gas can be made very simply at home. Unfortunately, this is often done accidentally (but sometimes on purpose) and causes significant damage.
The key warning for using bleach is that it must never be mixed with other cleaning products. If mixed with an acid cleaner, it causes a chemical reaction that produces chlorine gas, while mixing it with ammonia creates chloramine, another deadly gas (although dangerous in itself, chloramine can sublimate into chlorine gas too). Therefore, many people suffer a loss of smell, consciousness or their lives by accidentally mixing two cleaning products or cleaning up urine with bleach. A major problem is that these victims tend to be children who unknowingly mix the chemicals, creating a horrible accident. What is more unfortunate is that some people choose to end their lives using this method. If you do find a person rendered unconscious by chlorine, it is imperative to quickly move them to a well-ventilated area, while not endangering yourself. An ambulance should be called right away.
As seen from above, simple chemicals found easily at home can produce toxic gases, which can cause irreversible damage. Thus, one must never mix bleach and cleaning products and should educate their children on the dangers of chlorine gas.