Gut tensions: self-other, considering-obeying

In this workroom the relation between what we do and why is scrutinised. Reasoned judgement may be complicated by deeper seated drives. The scrutiny of this process is organised around personifications of four different responding modes. Each of these represents commonly and cross-culturally found moral responses. All four may very well be found within the same individual, although there may be a personal hierarchy in implementation and a tendency for one to predominate.






External deference


Follows the lead and instructions given within family, school, peer group, neighbours, religion, state

Other considering


Takes the needs and interests of others as primary whether near or far

Internal authority


Follows an internal sense of duty or obligation, sometimes associated with guilt, purity or shame

Self considering


Reckons what will bring maximum personal advantage in both the short and long term



These are illustrated with reference to Mobile Phones. The four characters respond to issues regarding

  • whether one can be afforded
  • it ringing whilst you are watching a film in a public cinema
  • sending a naked ‘selfie’

There are many different words for ‘mobile phone’ such as mobile/mobi/mob; cellphone/celli/cell; pocket phone, handy, hp – but the issues are the same. Here are some initial examples of characteristic responses. Please send in additional ones to




Paying for a mobile phone?

YESSER “My Ma says they cost too much” “If you get one, you’ll only lose
it/it’ll be stolen” “You’ll waste your time as well as my money”
“It’s forbidden for me to take one into school” “Everyone else
has one”
PROTHERO “It means this person can always reach me if they need to” “Every time I phone or text I put a penny in my giving box”
“Without it I’d be inaccessible to family/friends who might want
to be in touch during the day”
GOTTO “However convenient a handy might be, I’d rather spend the
money on actually meeting up” “I would feel bad if they couldn’t
reach me” “Being connected is what humanity is properly all
GIMME “I don’t want to be left out” “It’s cool to text when I want”
“I’d miss out on a lot that’s happening” “My parents bought it for
me and pay the contract”


How to react regarding phone ringing during a public film show?

YESSER “Never, ever leave your cell switched on if you’re in an audience
watching/listening!” “I read this warning about mobiles as we
came in” “Some people never bother with rules”
PROTHERO “I know that people get upset if a phone goes off on a public
occasion so I always turn it off” “It’s such a distraction when this
happens – for everyone else, and even the person whose phone
it is”
GOTTO “I’d feel so embarrassed if it rang, I always leave it at home”
“When it rang, I smothered it under my arm and with my coat
and pretended it wasn’t mine”
GIMME “It’s no big deal. I can switch it off in a few seconds” “I’ll check
who it is and then either answer or click off”


Should I send a photo of myself naked to someone I really like?

YESSER “No way, this would be against what I’ve been told about sex”
“My friends are doing this all the time” “There’s no law against it”
PROTHERO This would be tempting someone to do something that would
be wrong” “It might seem innocent fun but I’d be letting my
parents down”
GOTTO “I’d feel dirty if he sent it on to others” “I’m proud of my body;
shame doesn’t come into it” “It would just be wrong”
GIMME “I’m really hot for her and I think this would turn her on for me”
“If I did this I’ve no control over who else sees it” “I’d like to be a
model so this might be good to do for lots of reasons”


It is also possible to identify religious variants of each of these characters and characteristic ways of thinking and behaving:

YESSER The Priest, the Guru, the Imam says so.
Advised/decreed by umma, sangha or obligations of caste.
This is what Bible/Gita /Qur’an/ Adi Granth teaches.
PROTHERO Love of neighbour; caring for poor, the sick, the stranger and lonely. Exemplified in the likes of Buddha, Amos, Krishna, Mahavira, Jesus, Muhammad
GOTTO ‘I can do no other’; It’s just wrong I know deep down’; mindful compassion, conscience, voice of God within, eternal Tao.
GIMME Reputation. Prospects beyond death: heaven/hell, higher/lower being. Impact on family / inheritance.



You may like to try playing with each of the characters in turn. You might do this with the instance of the mobile phone and/or with others instances that you think of. Similarly, you might play with religious versions of each of the characters. Anyone can do this – on their own or in a group.

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