Recently in Culture Category
The harsh truths are delivered with foul language, but that just might be what it takes to reach its intended audience. Some expurgated highlights:
"Either you will go about the task of seeing to [the] needs [of others] by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving, and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold.
"Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness -- don't those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can't get elsewhere....
"...I'm asking what do you offer? Are you smart? Funny? Interesting? Talented? Ambitious? Creative? OK, now what do you do to demonstrate those attributes to the world? Don't say that you're a nice guy -- that's the bare minimum.... Saying that you're a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn't make you sick. You're like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is 'The actors are clearly visible.'...
"Because that's the step that gets skipped -- it's always 'How can I get a job?' and not 'How can I become the type of person employers want?' It's 'How can I get pretty girls to like me?' instead of 'How can I become the type of person that pretty girls like?' See, because that second one could very well require giving up many of your favorite hobbies and paying more attention to your appearance, and God knows what else. You might even have to change your personality....
"...Because in my non-expert opinion, you don't hate yourself because you have low self-esteem, or because other people were mean to you. You hate yourself because you don't do anything. Not even you can just "love you for you" -- that's why you're miserable and sending me private messages asking me what I think you should do with your life.
"Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being....
"Being in the business I'm in, I know dozens of aspiring writers. They think of themselves as writers, they introduce themselves as writers at parties, they know that deep inside, they have the heart of a writer. The only thing they're missing is that minor final step, where they actually [-------] write things....
"How many of you are walking around right now saying, 'She/he would love me if she/he only knew what an interesting person I am!' Really? How do all of your interesting thoughts and ideas manifest themselves in the world? What do they cause you to do? If your dream girl or guy had a hidden camera that followed you around for a month, would they be impressed with what they saw? Remember, they can't read your mind -- they can only observe. Would they want to be a part of that life?...
"And so on. Remember, misery is comfortable. It's why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.
"Also, courage. It's incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don't create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created...."
He concludes by calling on his readers to pick a skill that would be valuable to others and work hard enough at it in 2015 to get good enough to impress others. "You have nothing to lose, and the world needs you."
Brief and unsopisticated, but fairly on point. "It's nothing more than a Utopian vision: Things aren't perfect now, but when WE are in charge of them, then we can make them perfect. The fact that perfection is impossible never enters their minds.... We have a preexisting social infrastructure as a nation, and if they mean to replace it with big government, the existing structure must be destroyed. Government must be the only answer to the question 'Who takes care of the people?'... The Progressive elite, the white upper and upper middle class, they don't practice what they preach. By and large, their lives are still structured around the traditional family.... They know that the family is the key to prosperity...." A point that he missed: Families (and larger-scale mediating institutions, too, like extended families, churches, neighborhoods, small towns) offer help in the context of standards of responsible behavior -- we'll bail you out, but we expect you to change the way you live so you won't need this kind of help again. The Lefty is content to help people who continue to wallow in irresponsibility, as long as they vote to keep him in power.
An ER Doc takes competitive parents to task:
"I know, I know. Your family is different. You do all these things because your kid loves to compete, he loves the travel basketball, she loves the swim team, it's her life, it's what defines him. Part of that is certainly true but a big part of that isn't. Tens of thousands of families thrive in this setting, but I'm telling you, from what I've seen as a clinician, tens of thousands don't. It is a hidden scourge in society today, taxing and stressing husbands, wives, parents and children. We're denying children the opportunity to explore literally thousands of facets of interests because of the fear of the need to "specialize" in something early, and that by not doing this your child will somehow be just an average kid. How do we learn to rejoice in the average and celebrate as a whole society the exceptional? I'm not sure, but I know that this whole preoccupation is unhealthy, it is dysfunctional and is as bad as alcoholism, tobacco abuse, or any other types of dependency."
A word of encouragement from 1936 that deserves frequent review:
"Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job -- in fact, he had asked for it -- but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so -- if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start -- was there any sense in starting it? 'Ah,' the Lord said, 'you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.'...
"The certainty that the Remnant will find him, however, leaves the prophet as much in the dark as ever, as helpless as ever in the matter of putting any estimate of any kind upon the Remnant; for, as appears in the case of Elijah, he remains ignorant of who they are that have found him or where they are or how many. They did not write in and tell him about it, after the manner of those who admire the vedettes of Hollywood, nor yet do they seek him out and attach themselves to his person. They are not that kind. They take his message much as drivers take the directions on a roadside signboard -- that is, with very little thought about the signboard, beyond being gratefully glad that it happened to be there, but with every thought about the directions....
"Even admitting that in the teeth of history that hope of the human race may not be quite exclusively centered in the Remnant, one must perceive that they have social value enough to entitle them to some measure of prophetic encouragement and consolation, and that our civilization allows them none whatever. "
Megan McArdle ponders the bread-bags that Sen. Joni Ernst (and I!) wore over our shoes when the weather was wet and what that tells us about the rise in American living standards.
"I am a few years younger than Noonan, but I grew up in a very different world -- one where a number of my grammar school classmates were living in public housing or on food stamps, but everyone had more than one pair of shoes. In rural areas, like the one where Joni Ernst grew up, this lingered longer. But all along, Americans got richer and things got cheaper -- especially when global markets opened up. Payless will sell you a pair of child's shoes for $15, which is two hours of work even at minimum wage.
"Perhaps that sounds like a lot to you -- two whole hours! But I've been researching historical American living standards for a project I'm working on, and if you're familiar with what Americans used to spend on things, this sounds like a very good deal....
"...The Ingalls family [of the Little House series] were in many ways bourgeoisie: educated by the standards of the day, active in community leadership, landowners. And they had nothing.
"There's a scene in one of the books where Laura is excited to get her own tin cup for Christmas, because she previously had to share with her sister. Think about that....
"Imagine if your kids had to spend six months out of the year barefoot because you couldn't afford for them to wear their shoes year-round.... I'm not talking about making sure your kids have a decent pair of shoes to wear to school; I'm talking about not being able to afford to put anything at all on their feet....
"In 1901, the average "urban wage earner" spent about 46 percent of their household budget on food and another 15 percent on apparel -- that's 61 percent of their annual income just to feed and clothe the family. That does not include shelter, or fuel to heat your home and cook your food. By 1987, that same household spent less than 20 percent on food and a little over 5 percent of their budget on apparel. Since then, these numbers have fallen even further: Today, families with incomes of less than $5,000 a year still spend only 16 percent of the family budget on food and 3.5 percent on apparel. And that's not because we're eating less and wearing fewer clothes; in fact, it's the reverse."
"If there is any one proof of a man's incompetence, it is the stagnant mentality of a worker (or a professor) who doing some small, routine job in a vast undertaking, does not care to look beyond the lever of a machine (or the lectern of a classroom), does not choose to know how the machine (or the classroom) got there or what makes his job possible, and proclaims that the management of the undertaking is parasitical and unnecessary. Managerial work--the organization and integration of human effort into purposeful, large-scale, long-range activities--is, in the realm of action, what man's conceptual faculty is in the realm of cognition. It is beyond the grasp and, therefore, is the first target of the self-arrested, sensory-perceptual mentality."
-- Ayn Rand, "The Cashing-In: The Student 'Rebellion'" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
(For an approach to organization and management grounded in similar insights, look into "Requisite Organization," as developed by Elliot Jaques (the man who coined "mid-life crisis" and the first to use the term "culture" in a management context) and Wilfred Brown, among others.
"The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement's dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement's longevity that many of its allies are worn out. 'It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,' confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. 'There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I'm far from alone in feeling that it's typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.' Goldberg wrote recently about people 'who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] -- not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.' Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, 'Everyone is so scared to speak right now.'
"That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree."
Conservative blogger John Sexton writes that political correctness has its roots in the primitive instincts of altruistic punishment, referring to Douglas Preston's book, Trial by Fury: Internet Savagery and the Amanda Knox Case:
"Altruistic punishment, simply put, is the expression of negative emotions toward those who fail to cooperate with the group. It is a pressure tactic designed to whip people into line with the tribe and its goals.
"...Altruistic punishment may have developed as a way to discourage... freeloading. But with the advent of social media, it seems to apply to everything and everyone who fails to get in line with the group's priorities.
"The scary thing about altruistic punishment is that human beings seem wired to take pleasure in it. If you've ever wanted the simple answer to why there are so many unpleasant jerks online, it's because they get a genuine rush out of being unpleasant jerks online. They are convinced they are doing something important, even noble, by punishing the tribe's detractors...."
Leftist Fredrik DeBoer is bothered that well-meaning college students are driven away from the Left because they aren't perfectly politically correct yet:
"I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20 year old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn't a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20 year olds from rural South Carolina aren't born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone....
"I want a left that can win, and there's no way I can have that when the actually-existing left sheds potential allies at an impossible rate. But the prohibition against ever telling anyone to be friendlier and more forgiving is so powerful and calcified it's a permanent feature of today's progressivism."
And this is why people hate lawyers and Harvard grads: Edelman was charged more -- a grand total of $4 -- for Chinese takeout than the prices listed on the online menu, demanded triple damages, and suggested he would report the restaurant to the proper authorities. boston.com reports that this isn't the first time Edelman has gone all lawyerly on a restaurant: In 2010, he took on a sushi restaurant for not interpreting a Groupon deal as generously as he did. The sushi restaurant fired back by threatening to call the cops to escort him out as a trespasser if he ever set foot in the place again.
"But this should lead Americans, even as we are forewarned, about the fact that an Ebola cases has happened here, this should also lead Americans to be very thankful for a public health apparatus, an entire public health system that is attribute to the achievement of human civilization. And as Christians, we are mindful of the fact that that kind of social system requires a certain worldview to undergird the entire culture. You take away the worldview, you take away the social cohesion, you take away the culture, and that means you also take away the public health system. I for one look at the news coming out of Texas and I am fairly reassured that American health authorities can indeed handle this challenge. If I were elsewhere in the world, I wouldn't have that kind of confidence. And for that reason, we need to recognize that confidence is hard-won; and we also need to remember that it can be quickly lost."
"Whole Foods tries to bring to market the best products an area's surrounding farms and suppliers have to offer, in a socially conscious way with high-touch customer service at the point of sale. Yet in doing so, they've brought out the worst in the people who are attracted to that idea. Or perhaps more accurately, their idea attracts the worst kind of people."