navigating a world which feels like gravity is working in reverse

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  • Category Archives Economy
  • Speech

    I sat through a rather boring Biden address and I couldn’t be happier. Boring is good, it means things are trending back to normal. The stimulus was basically throwing money everywhere which I think was needed even if people on the right didn’t think so. I also think the child poverty alleviation measure in it was the most important part of the bill. Imagine how much better mental health children will have when their parents aren’t worrying about their next meal.

    I’m actually super grateful the left took power even as I don’t agree with a lot of their worldview. They believe in healthcare which to me is an obvious thing to believe in but people on the right don’t think so for some odd reason.

  • 6 Harsh Truths

    One of the best summaries of conservationism I have ever read:

    Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that part? Yeah, whatever you try to build or create — be it a poem, or a new skill, or a new relationship — you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. Maybe not to your face, but they’ll do it. Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career.

    Well I’m screwed.  Thank you very much.  Because of a visible physical disability as well as invisible ones my main avenue for showing my virtuosity is independent projects.  Once I was promoting my Bible project and the people on the site tore me a new one.

  • Men are different than women

    Imagine if you had the ability to clone adults with technology similar to the Star Trek transporter.  If you cloned a desirable women there would be another desirable women.  If you cloned a desirable man not so much.  This is because you’d have to clone his good job as well and simple economics wouldn’t make that possible.

  • On Rural White People

    I’m the only one I know who predicted Trump could win this thing.  I think it might have been because I was his target demographic, a poor white person who lost his livelihood to outsourcing.  I was ran out of the suburban area I went to college in due to disability and forced to live in a town of ~500 where there were no jobs except a janitor one (which after years finally swallowed my pride and took).  This is when I started working remote for outsourcing wages since there weren’t any local clients, something I continue to do to this day even after having moved away from that town eight years ago.  So I understand where Trump supporters are coming from.  Some thoughts:

    White privilege doesn’t really help the majority of rural white people all that much.  Our media is urban centric and focuses on the white people whose white privilege has gotten them all kinds of amazing things but generally those people had wealth and connections in addition to whiteness.  White privilege dosn’t feel like it confers any benefit at all for the average rural poor white.  This is because for these people white privilege is experienced not as additive but as non subtractive.  Yes, things would be worse if they were a different race but they are already very bad and it would take a ton of introspection or thousands of dollars of therapy (which they don’t have) to see how they could be worse.  Also drug sentencing in rural areas is actually worse for all races than it is in the city so some white guy busted cooking meth and thrown in the slammer for 15 years is not really feeling the “white privilege” thing.  Also, in small towns, getting any job above janitorial or food service depends on your connection to the few families that control most of the wealth in your town.  Most poor whites don’t fare much better than minorities in pleasing these families.  The flip side of white privilege is that when we fail, it’s all on us.  We get no sympathy from the culture or the media.  Poor whites are one of the remaining groups it’s OK to make fun of.

    Poor rural whites are sick of condescension and contempt from the elites.  It doesn’t appear to them that the people occupying most of the surface area of the country might have something of value to say.  Polite society bemoans the rise of the alt right without realizing it’s serving a demographic everybody else seemed to have forgotten.  I don’t agree with much the alt right has to say but I do agree with them that the elite are arrogant.  It might not be something that is politically correct to say but it’s true.  We talk to them but they don’t respond and aren’t willing to “stoop to our level”.  Political correctness is a blessing but can interfere with honest, forthright discussion.  For example, frank and honest discourse on race that goes beyond 140 characters is messy and often involves a lot of political incorrectness.  It’s like sausage being made, not pretty at all and sometimes produces bad results.  But being forthright about one’s racism (which is verboten in the culture at large) is the only way a poor white is going to make any progress away from it.  For example, the state’s denial of the Medicaid expansion of Obamacare.  If people were more forthright about it being so the poor blacks wouldn’t get healthcare maybe a lot of the poor whites would have seen through the logic and objected.  But instead everyone is tiptoeing and trying to be politically correct as possible while simultaneously taking the course of action that is the most hurtful to all involved.

    Poor whites often don’t have the social support of the church anymore.  There has been a precipitous decline in church attendance by poor whites over the last 30 years.  A lot of this has to do with the encroachment of the prosperity gospel into mainstream Christianity.  Poverty is stigmatized and shamed enough in America as it is, the church was the last bastion where it wasn’t, until the people worshiping the dollar got a hold of it.  Even churches that don’t explicitly practice the prosperity gospel have the implicit idea of “God’s plan” to prosper you, and if your life isn’t going according to that plan you are looked down upon.  In rural America there are less governmental social supports so when one loses the church they lose a whole lot more than their urban counterparts.  The precipitous decline of hospitality and community happening throughout America is also felt more acutely in rural areas as there really isn’t much opportunity to form new social bonds.

    Poor whites don’t have any forces countering the bad information they take in.  Where there is solidarity there is a check on bad information.  For example the black church can counter narratives seen in the media with better ones.  It is an open secret that the poorer you are, the more bad information you are exposed to on a daily basis (and because you’re poor you also have less tools to fight it).  This makes sense because power comes from utilizing good information as powerlessness comes from utilizing bad information, and those in power will do everything in their power to keep the powerless powerless.  For example for me going to the indigent clinic where they say a back ache will just go away if you wait it out, and then taking the bus home and seeing a Michigan Lottery ad in the red ticker.  TV is the worst for this, all kinds of predatory lenders and other shady people advertise on the shows they know poor people watch.  Denying that there is truth always serves the oppressor.  Because power is spoken to truth rather than the other way around.

  • my dad says part 2

    One of the things my dad used to say is, “it’s only money”.  Basically we have always been poor (at least for Americans) and so much of what one needs to advance in life requires significant financial outlay.  For example going to school to get another degree or even getting a therapist that specializes with adults on the spectrum.  I was also thinking about this today because there is a great recipe API I could use to make a site for people with food allergies but its cost structure is such that I could never make the site free.



    The second had to do with actively verses passively failing.  Basically existentially trying and failing feels worse than not trying at all.  People talk about taking “social risks” and such but they don’t often speak of the emotional fallout of repeated failure.  It took me seven years to find friends here and some of those years I just quit trying.  It was just luck, not effort, that brought me the few friends I do have.  Getting back to the point people romanticizing trying often gloss over the fact that some people (especially as you get closer to the bottom) are going to fail so much that for them it would have better if they hadn’t tried at all.  Not something I’d put on a motivation poster but true.

  • Shaming Unworking Men

    NYTimes article on men not working:

    Mr. Eberstadt would also like to intensify social pressure on the cadre of men who have stopped looking for work. “Why haven’t we had the same sort of conversation about stigmatizing or shaming unworking men that we had 20 years ago about mothers on welfare?” he said. “They were not idle; they had little kids.”

    Hahahahahahaha!  As a man without a real job I get shamed all the time.  I’ve been called a charity case by my brother and law and my closest friend from college dropped out of my life because I’m low status.  One of the conservative tropes I do think is relevant is “culture of work”.  My family and friends have a huge culture of work.  If I was in a different situation where few people worked perhaps I wouldn’t feel so bad.

  • Church Week

    Every week after I attend a church service I tend to have an extra measure of depression.  I’m not sure if it’s beamed directly from God or it’s something more mundane.  This time it was a Catholic church where we were ignored and they spent 12 minutes asking for money.  Their economic model is such that there is very little extra outlay for each additional attending member so what they should be doing is reaching out to the community.  Even if the people they get give little or no money to the roles they won’t have lost anything.  People tend to view every economic model like your relationship to the government (where you are either a net gain paying more taxes then you take or a net drain taking more).  They extrapolate this on situations where the economic model doesn’t work this way (like at a church) and do a lot of harm.  Just because you are a net drain on society doesn’t mean you are a net drain to the church but people generally don’t do the math in their heads to get this.

  • Stigma of Joblessness

    There is a chart from a Pew Survey that asked the question, “is today a good day?”.  Richer countries scored lower than poorer ones, by large margins.  A lot of countries that scored high had very high unemployment.  I think people might be happiest where they don’t have job stress and they have less stress of joblessness.  In rich countries you choose between the two.  Even if your physical needs are met, being jobless makes you an object of scorn.  In poorer countries employment is so low that there is a critical mass of people not working which makes for much less stigma.

  • egos and change in education

    The dizzying pace of change is making the proverb “pride cometh before fall” more true than it used to be.  And not for reasons of slighting some god but for pragmatic ones.  Ego was a luxury reserved for when change happened slowly.  Take the four year college for example.  Most people know we’re far past peak college and the whole thing is going to come crashing down in the next five years.  But colleges are veritable ego nurseries (I know, I went to Wheaton for four years and worked for it two more).  The status quo is unsustainable simply because the younger generation is realizing a four year degree (particularly at a private institution) just doesn’t offer a return on the exorbitant investment.  Before I went to college in 1998 I had access to the internet but back then there wasn’t social media or an easy way to get the perspective of those after college.  Now with Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter there is (see lostgeneration subreddit).

    Udemy (an online course vendor) just lowered its prices on courses drastically.  For many subjects such as Computer Science, the quality of instruction is better than most colleges.  Anyone with a laptop and a tablet (it’s nice to watch the videos on a tablet while having the code editor open on the computer) with enough discipline can learn just about anything.  The future of much of education is just computer labs with dual monitor setups running Udemy (or a similar vendor’s) courses with facilitators walking around to help (perhaps people in the industry who are either paid or volunteer depending on the funding source of the school).  What this future of education leaves out is all the administrative layers that have pushed up tuition to sky high levels.

    But the people at the top of schools don’t want to hear this, they’re going to keep riding the gravy train of higher education until the tracks mysteriously disappear.

  • Water Rant

    People can’t get their head around our depleting fresh water resources because in the U.S., besides a couple small California communities, the tap hasn’t run dry.  When things fail in capitalism it’s more of a gradual thing.  Supply goes down, price goes up, things get scarcer and scarcer.  But running out of water isn’t like this.  It’s binary.  There is running water and then there isn’t.  And you can bet if LA or Las Vegas suddenly ran out of water there would be mass hysteria.  But nearly running out of water feels just like having all the water in the world (because of the way the taps work).  So people are easily fooled.