navigating a world which feels like gravity is working in reverse

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  • Category Archives Economy
  • Unemployment Distribution Graphs

    The economy added 151,000 jobs and the unemployment rate went below 5%.  Sounds nice but a lot of us are curious as to what quality of jobs those added are.  After all, 151,000 more people flipping burgers for less than a living wage is not an accomplishment to boast about.  I think they need a graph like below (I know it would take a lot of work but we have people and computers that love crunching numbers).


    And the unemployment statistics don’t give you a good feel for the amount people are working.  Whether they are marginally attached to the labor force or over working.  The U6 unemployment figures are a step in the right direction but we could go further.


  • Getting a Job

    The conventional means of getting a job will almost never work for those on the spectrum:

    Unless you’re lucky and land a job right out of school your employment history is likely not going to have contiguous periods of full-time employment.  When you apply online to jobs, resumes without contiguous periods of full-time employment get winnowed out right away, usually by the software itself.  If they can’t tell you may get a phone interview where they will ask you more directly about your employment history.  Keep in mind hundreds, if not thousands, of people are applying for the same job as you so they can be picky.

    Assuming you do land an interview your chances are generally dead on arrival.  Within the first minute of a job interview the interviewer has decided whether you are worth hiring.  I had someone who is now a CEO tell me this and read it in a prominent marketing book Selling the Invisible.  People call this “trusting their instinct”.  And naturally this “instinct” is informed by their prejudices.  If you are on the spectrum they are going to sense something is off about you right away.  They’ll rationalize that you aren’t a good “cultural fit”, a political correct way of saying they only hire neurotypicals and generally people just like them.

    What about unconventional means?

    What they generally mean by this is networking.  Never eat alone, always be having lunch with someone who is high status that can advance your career.  The problem is, networking is the thing those on the spectrum are very poor at.  This is particularly true because, in my experience, the high status people are the ones the most rejecting of those on the spectrum (or anyone different for that matter).  I can carry on a conversation with an Uber driver or an accounting major fine but anyone high status will be cold and shut down.

    What can companies do to hire more people on the spectrum?

    They can realize that the only word that means anything to us is PLACEMENT.  Teaching us interview skills is like teaching someone how to go up against an AK-47 with a butter knife.  If companies are truly serious about diversity hiring they’ll designate a point person that people far from privilege can go to to circumvent the traditional resume/interview process (someone on the spectrum applying online with a less than stellar employment history will just get their resume thrown out by the software).  I know this seems unfair but it’s also unfair that so many people on the spectrum with skills and smarts languish un or underemployed.

  • used on you

    There is often a very easy explanation for the beliefs one uses to navigate this world of ours.  How beliefs are used.  People figure if someone is using a belief on them it must be good enough for them to use.  A few hypothetical examples:

    Susie is a 23 year old college graduate who is 30 pounds overweight.  She double majored in math and psychology.  Like many women her age she has body image issues and doesn’t have the metabolism needed to become slender.  She has seen therapists before who told her she was fine just the way she was but she called bullshit on them.  In conflict here is business to business (b2b) verses and business to consumer (b2c) psychology.  Susie absorbed the messages from advertisements vetted by b2b psychologists and felt their direct and indirect (mediated by male and female peers) effects of a thin-obsessed culture.  For Susie poor body image isn’t an anomaly, it’s something handed down deliberately with the aid of b2b psychologist by a culture obsessed with thinness.  A b2c psychologist would stick the pejorative “insecure” label on her.  This same therapist might tell her she has innate worth regardless of her weight but outside the psychologist’s office this belief is not being used on her.  So she doesn’t use it.

    Bill is an unemployed 26 year old who had to move back to a town with no jobs to take care of his dad who had a stroke.  His parents are religious and are always trying to get him to go to church.  Bill goes to a few services and the church talks about how there is hope for everybody, even the least of these.  However the people in the church treat Bill like he’s invisible.  They use conjecture to assess his future and come to the conclusion that he has none.  Bill assumes rightly that if conjecture is ultimately what’s going to be used on him, it’s worth him using.  Bill tunes out all the blathering about hope and stops going to church.

    Nathaniel is a 28 year old working at a small local animal rights nonprofit.  Every day he’s writing grants and soliciting donors.  He wanted to work in a nonprofit to get away from the dollar driven world but it just didn’t work out.  When he gets home he’s greeted with oodles of mail from places he’s donated to once asking for more money.  Eventually Nathaniel succumbs to the idea he was running away from so hard, that money is the most important thing.

  • Sizing Someone Up

    Great tool for sizing someone up.  Breaks social class down to components.  I’m high on the education level for having a B.S. but that’s about it.

    This tool is great for those of us on the spectrum who may not be privy to social cues (I wasn’t in high school).  Of specific interest is the first gauge of occupation prestige.  A lot of my hunches were confirmed (like doctors being highest and blue collar things being lower).

  • Our Generation

    Article on millennials and boomers and the pressure on our generation:

    The boomer mentality goes like this: get a good education. Get a well-paying full-time job. Find a stable partner. Buy a house and a car. Preferably, have a child. Failing any stage of this process is a reflection of your self-worth and indicates a lack of moral fibre.

    With regional variations, millennials have absorbed our parents’ world view. We consider these expectations reasonable, and we blame ourselves for not living up to them.

    And never mind that the point of this ideology is to discipline young people’s behaviour through weaponised self-loathing. Instead of demanding better, we engage in futile competition over crumbs. Instead of questioning why life often feels meaningless, why we feel so alienated and inadequate, we turn these beliefs inward. Instead of using this shared experience to build solidarity with each other, we feel shame.

    If all this is our own fault, what’s the point?

  • What is True?

    There are a lot of people trying to make truth claims.  The irony is the more they shove bullshit down your throat the more obvious the actual truth becomes.

    Something is true if those in power are doing everything in their power to convince you that it’s false.  Why do those of power and privilege encourage you to pray but discourage you from community organizing and collective bargaining.  They know the former won’t harm them but the latter could.

    If something’s true it comes into play at critical junctures such as a job interview or a date.  Yes you can lie your way through either but the point is even in your lies you are showing them truth (because being able to put up a front is a valuable skill).  If you have a disability it’s going to manifest itself the most acutely at these critical junctures and cost you the most dearly.

    Things that are true have a heavy influence on the cadence of communication.  As the status differential increased between me and my close friends they stopped returning my messages.  They would never tell me directly that they no longer wanted to engage me because of my low status (plausible deniability!) but their actions and cadence showed what they really thought.

    Things that are true are generally backed by empirical evidence.  This should go without saying but some people think things shoved into your brain via force and conditioning are the most true (things like consumerism and religion).  Society is extremely uncomfortable with people who think for themselves because they are harder to market to (70% of the economy revolves around consumer spending).

    Things that are true are ugly or beautiful.  According to the Greeks truth correlated with beauty.  It is very difficult to come away from good art without finding some semi-objective standard of beauty (not that everyone agrees upon what is good art, just that lots of people cluster around different forms of good art).  Things that are true can be incredibly ugly as well but it is important to realize that they capture you without being pushed on you.

    Truth points to an objective system of morality.  I’m starting to sound like Pat Robertson but there is a certain moral framework all of us can agree on.  Forces reacting against organized religion may have muddled things but while lots of us recoil at the concept of sin we can largely agree on what is evil.  Not to say all morality is absolute, a lot varies from culture to culture but we can all agree that slavery, killing, and torture is evil.  Of course doing what’s right is always the hardest thing.

  • code

    I think it’s a waste of hope to tell people to learn to code so they can get a good job.  What they should be told is they should learn to code so they can express themselves better.  Programming languages are modern-day paints.  And just like conventional painters you may not make money but you will make art.  In America we worship the dollar (even self-expression is put in terms of what products and media one consumes) so a narrative that truly puts other things front and center is seen as strange.  But it is needed.

  • The Business to Business / Business to Consumer Psychology Divide

    Dell sells laptops.  They have business models that are a little tougher and the have consumer models that have more features for the price point.  Whether you are a business to consumer client of Dell or a business to business client you are still getting a laptop.  Just one optimized for different use cases.

    Psychology is not like this at all.  A business to business (b2b) psychologist will tell their client the opposite of what a business to consumer (b2c) psychologist will.  A b2b psychologist might be hired by an advertising firm to create messages that make women insecure about their appearance in order to get them to buy the firm’s client’s products.  A b2c psychologist will tell a paying client that their worth comes from something other than their physical appearance.  The point is psychologists are saying opposite things depending who is on the payroll.  They are hired guns, psychology might take advantage of science and truth but it itself is neither.

  • Why do so few people think logically?

    We didn’t evolve to think logically.  We evolved to survive and reproduce and this involved filling the gaps of our knowledge with magical thinking.  This is because magical thinking helped group cohesion and kept people from the unknown.   How many aboriginal cultures do you know that were discovered practicing atheism?  Logical thinking was pioneered by the Greek philosophers and got a boost in the 18th century.  However it has always taken some effort to do so and so it has remained a trait of the more intelligent and reflective.

    Consumerism and religion.  These are ever-present forces that will do everything in their power to keep you from thinking logically and deconstructively.  Their life depends on it.  If everybody realized how idiotic buying all the shit you didn’t need to impress people you didn’t like was, the economy would collapse.  Similarly, if people started thinking logically about religion, a lot of them would leave it and religious institutions would lose a lot of their power.  In fact, in modern society religion and consumerism are often intertwined (just look at the megachurches where it’s more about pleasing the parishioners than instilling virtue).  Both these forces are deeply rooted in society and if you stop playing lip service to either you’ll be scorned (though the scorning manifests itself differently for each force).

    Romantic love.  If you’re rich and you think logically about the poorer partner, you’ll realize that they only like you for your money and if they marry you they’re made because they can either stay and have the money or leave and get it.  So the poorer partner will do everything in their power to get the richer one to stop thinking logically.

  • men, Christianity, and money

    There is really no non-chauvinistic way to put this.  Modern Christianity in America (especially evangelicalism and Mormonism) is geared toward women (that’s why they make up almost two thirds of some churches).  And I (as well as many very Christian people) think what we have now in the faith is entitlement and consumerism with a cushy afterlife.  And I think almost all women are more than happy with it being this way.  It effectively pre-screens men for them.  The men who are too poor and/or eccentric are preemptively weeded out.  Even the stragglers in the faith aren’t considered being “Good with God” because they aren’t wealthy and settled down.  It makes sense that men would be the ones with a vested interest in weeding American Christianity of some of its consumeristic elements because we are the ones who lose out.  We are the ones looked upon as a balance sheets.  Women are objectified less in the Christian world than in the secular world but men are objectified equally in both.  And then people wonder why there aren’t any “good Christian men” out there.

    Further reading:  The Church’s Missing Men