Fragile Masculinity Under Attack!

Look, first off…it’s Sunday night.

I’ve got nothing. No deep insights. No deep THOUGHTS, really. My mind is just blank.

However, when things get like that, I like to read things that piss me off. Like I said, I hate myself. And whenever I like to hate myself, I turn to the National Review to provide me with a swift kick to the scrotum.

Whenever I read the National Review, I often question how things got to be this way. How did a bunch of mostly (Ivy League) educated folks come to write such crap? It’s not even unique crap, it’s just the same rehashed shit that was originally written in the 80’s. Those mother fuckers are STILL talking about Ronald Reagan like the Walter Mondale debate happened yesterday. Yet here I am unemployed while a bunch of writers are half-assing their assignments.

HOW DID IT GET TO BE THIS WAY?!!

But anyways, no writer makes me question my sanity more than Ben Shapiro. Again, why am I unemployed while he’s not? How did he get into UCLA and Harvard while I didn’t? Not only me, but how are SO many people unemployed and non-graduates of Harvard, yet Ben Shapiro IS employed and a Harvard graduate?

But Shapiro wrote an article this week bemoaning the concept of “toxic masculinity” and how masculinity itself is under attack. I’m too lazy to go back and link it to my page, so if you want to find you’ll just have to brave the website yourself. But it has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, or sort of like if you vomit a lot and the stench sort of lingers on your beard (if you have a beard). It’s sort of like that. And I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind.

Look, I’ve been a man all of my life. I’ve got a penis. I’ve got testes. Got facial hair…all the marking of what would make one “a male”. Right? And I imagine that when people meet me, they take the assumption that I’m a man. Because it would be completely weird if I whip out my penis to prove to them that I’m a male. I’ve never felt the need to do that. And that’s always been good enough for me to feel like a man. I don’t feel the need to go out and ‘prove’ to anyone that I am…in fact…a man.

And I understand that there are MANY people that don’t feel that way. There are some that are born “male”, but don’t in fact identify as such. And same thing with those those born “female”. And personally, I think that the world is a better place knowing that people are provided the opportunity to identify with who (or is it whom?) they feel their genuine selves to be.

HOWEVER, some (mostly males) feel the need to be, let’s say…extra MALE. So they do things like buy oversized vehicles, work out excessively, tell racist or sexist jokes, etc. And this is what we now identify as “toxic masculinity”. But in an intellectual, sociological, psychological, or whatever sense, we can also identify toxic masculinity as being this state of character where the man must be in complete control, to the point where women are just seen as objects or second-class citizens. OR, to the point where women are just seen as objects for male desire. (Did I say that twice?) And what results from this are things like sexism, rape culture, domestic abuse, and a host of other societal ills.

It basically reinforces the old adage “boys will be boys”.

Now to the conservative folks at the National Review, the IDEA of toxic masculinity is, in fact, hurting traditional masculinity. So now we’re just raising a bunch of lazy girly-men who will never know what it’s like to kill a wolf with their bare hands. And because “modern men” detest guns and violence, they won’t be able to protect their family from guns and violence. Because in the world of Ben Shapiro and the folks at the National Review, the world is a dangerous place and you have to be packing a Glock at all times like they did in the olden days of the Founding Fathers.

It’s the attack on this “traditional masculinity” that has fueled the pro-Trump movement. I mean, like it or not, IT DID. The iron-pumping, Dodge Ram-driving, NRA-card-carrying asshole felt that their sense of “manliness” was diminishing. They felt threatened by an ever changing world where they could no longer objectify women, belittle homosexuals, and whip out their wangs to compare sizes. They felt “emasculated” by Hillary Clinton, so they rallied behind Donald Trump who was so manly that he could punch out ISIS with his dick.

Who knew masculinity was so fragile?

Now look, I’m not the most manliest of dudes. Nor do I pretend to be. Why? Because I don’t care.

What do I have to prove?

So perhaps I’m not the best person to come to if you want to know how to be “manly”. But I am comfortable in my own skin. I pay my bills. I may be a fuck-up but I try to be a good person in this world. So what if men today aren’t the same kind of “men” like they had in the wild west? Those men were also butchers and rapists. Why would we want to be like them?

So being a man today doesn’t require anything special. Just be a good person and be true to your genuine self. No one gives a shit about your huge engine, biceps, and collection of guns. In fact, if you have those things, you really just look desperately pathetic. I mean, the only people who think those things are cool are other men who also have those things. Everyone else thinks you’re just compensating.

Also, REAL men shouldn’t feel so fragile about their masculinity that they complain about being “emasculated”. Now that IS pathetic.

BTW, I posted some random video of Ben Shapiro. You are welcome Ben for the free promotion (I sense that he probably Googles himself). And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

“Political Correctness”: The Politics of Self

“Political Correctness”

Perhaps I’m a dumbass, but I really don’t know what that means.

It appears as if everyone is guilty of this. It’s not monopolized by one side of the political spectrum. As Steven Pinker pointed out, even the Right has it’s own free speech taboos.

I’ll lift an example from an episode of BoJack Horseman. BoJack buys a box of muffins that a Navy Seal (A literal seal) called “dibs” on. The seal then ratted BoJack out to the media. Of course, the media sided with the seal because he was a veteran and was therefore deemed “a hero”. This provokes BoJack into saying something to the effect of “just because you’re a veteran, that doesn’t make you a hero”. Naturally, the media spins this into him saying “veterans aren’t heroes”.

This would be an example of right-wing “political correctness” (although the Left would probably pay some lip service to that outrage as well). Not only would questioning the sanctity of veteranship be taboo on the Right, but so would joking about abortion, the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and so on. So despite mocking the Left for its “political correctness”, the Right is every bit as guilty as those they bemoan.

Pinker (in the video above) indicates that right-wing political correctness can usually be found in the media and other public spheres, LEFT-WING political correctness (and the kind that gets all the attention) usually runs rampant on college campuses.

In my prior post, I criticized universities for essentially making themselves obsolete in the age of the internet. They are a relic of a by-gone era, when only the wealthy and extraordinarily talented were allowed to be educated. But my primary concern was that colleges were just instruments of further institutionalization (not necessarily indoctrination). At a time when everyone with a college education is riddled with debt and lack necessary skills to succeed in the “real world”, going to college is simply not the smarter decision.

But Pinker seems to be addressing an even larger problem with universities: namely their aim to become ‘indoctrination’ programs (or enabling students to find and develop a “soul”). Few within academia would openly embrace an ‘indoctrination’ objective. Nevertheless, that’s what professors are doing when they label opposing views as “microaggressions” or “weaponizing of language”. Pinker doesn’t think that the objective of universities should be to ‘indoctrinate’, but to expose students to ideas and methods of discussion, so that we can DEBATE the validity of those ideas.

In my argument, universities just aren’t necessary for that end anymore. They are still important apparatuses for knowledge, but the need for a typical “brick and mortar” experience is obsolete. A typical classroom is no longer necessary to learn. I would go so far as to say that most of the learning done towards the end of obtaining a degree is NOT done in a classroom. Fraternities and sororities are a blatant holdover from a by-gone era, and only contribute to inequality and rape culture on campus. AND, it’s too damn expensive. A literal college experience is not necessary for obtaining a liberal (as distinguished from ‘leftist’) education.

But also, as Pinker pointed out, the problem with political correctness on campus (or anywhere really) is how we internalize politics. We identify OURSELVES by how we vote and therefore we see differing opinions as a direct attack on US. Therefore shutting down any conversation that can be had on the subject.

And this is something that both sides are guilty of. In 2012, I had a co-worker that got hoppin’ mad that Obama got re-elected and took it so personally that he left work. I have no doubt that there were a few Clinton supporters that took Trump’s victory personally. We project onto a candidate and politics our own identity, to the point where there can only be a narrow road for discussion. And if one deviates from that road ever so slightly, there can be no discussion. And this is likely how we got to where we are today, on a path towards national divorce.

I partly blame social media and online culture for this mess. Social media particularly has secluded us from tactile interaction, to the point where we dehumanize those that disagree with us. Additionally, it has created a “ME” environment. The Self is the center of attention and you are made to feel that ALL of your opinions matter. Anyone that disagrees is only a picture on a screen, they are neither intelligent nor an actual person. All that we come to know of others is the words that they type. We are neither aware of their humanity, nor is it of any concern to us.

Simultaneously, we also become OVERLY reliant on the opinions of others. An idea that implicitly permeates society is: if the internet doesn’t know about it, it didn’t happen. We might not explicitly believe this, but this is how we behave. So although we don’t acknowledge ‘the other’s’ identity as independent of their opinions, we still rely on their opinions to validate OUR existence. Therefore, we require other people to acknowledge our “rights” if we are to have any “rights” whatsoever. So we fail to give ourselves any value outside of the existence of other people.

Therefore we rely on the external world to provide us with “rights”.

And this is why we often complain that our “freedom of speech” is under attack. We want to believe that it is the world of government and politics (that only exists in this domain of shared imagination) that gives us our rights. But it isn’t true. Free speech is something that can’t be given to you….you have to give it to yourself.

I hope that you were able to follow all of that.

One of the things that has driven me crazy over the last few years is a lack responsibility that we take for our rights. I have written about this subject before (which I’ll post below). Because we have linked our sense of self to attributes that others identify, this has eroded away our own sense of identity. And we become forever linked to an identity we are born with, and therefore we are forever trapped within our static identity.

Forgive me, I know that this post is a mess.

Freedom of Action is not Freedom From Consequence

It’s not difficult, people.

I know in our highly politicized world, we want to believe that our freedoms are being eroded away. It makes us feel good because it enables us to win arguments.

That’s fine. It’s also idiotic.

What’s really stopping you from committing arson and ramming your car through your neighbors house? Think about it.

Keep thinking.

Is it the law? If you answered yes, then try again. The law can only offer consequence for committing an action, it can’t prevent it. That is, unless the CIA or NSA are tracking your every move. In that case, they might be able to prevent your action, but they can’t remove the intention to action. So keep thinking.

What did you find?

Yourself?

That’s absolutely correct. The only person that can stop you from a disgruntled rampage is yourself. Now, of course fear of the law and consequence might prevent you from committing an action. Yet that fear is entirely generated within you. So again, only you can stop you, unless there’s a literal physical force there to stop you. But, that physical force can only prevent the action. It can’t prevent the will to action.

“Well what about people in prison? Asshole.”

Sure, their freedoms are severely restricted. But it’s the same story. The state can’t prevent the will to escape or take over the prison. The only power at its disposal is the physical force towards prevention. What citizens fail to realize, is that they have the same power at its disposal. The state might have greater power, therefore generating fear WITHIN the heart of the citizen. Which, in turn, might deter any such physical action. But, the will to action or the fear from action is entirely in the hands of the individual.

There are all kinds of crazy scenarios where we can envision the state taking away the will of the individual. Science fiction is loaded with these stories. And what we find is the individual becoming entirely dependent on the state to provide them with ‘rights’…which are just imaginative constructs of the state that aren’t found in nature.

And by the way, I’m not demeaning the idea of ‘rights’ or the power of the state. I find these things necessary evils. However, I appreciate these things for what they’re worth…a product of our collective imagination. I don’t actually believe that there is any metaphysical or supernatural power that validates them.

But what we find in these doomsday science fiction scenarios, and indeed in our very own political environment, is that people are reliant on the state to provide them with their individuality. The state has to provide them with ‘rights’, otherwise they lack any freedoms whatsoever. They actually believe that the state provides a ‘freedom of speech’.

And it’s horseshit. The state doesn’t provide any such freedoms. That’s only a freedom that you can provide yourself. The best that the state can do is provide a set of consequences (or a lack thereof) should that freedom be engaged. Whether or not you heed to those consequences is entirely up to you. The state might outlaw freedom of speech altogether, but all it can do is promote fear of consequences. Until technology is developed that can literally prevent free speech, you do have the power to engage it regardless of consequence.

Again, the state can only promote fear. Whether or not you subscribe to it is entirely in your hands. But once you start arguing from the perspective that only the state can provide freedoms, then you don’t have any freedoms.

We all have the freedom to action. But what none of us have is the freedom of consequence. So please, stop confusing the two.

 

 

Higher Education is Failing Us

Higher-Education Enrollment is on the Decline from the National Review

First things first: I hate the National Review.

So why do I keep reading it? Because I hate myself.

Well actually, I once thought that it was a decent publication. I might not have agreed with its politics, but at least there was some acceptable analysis. Which is more than I can say about literally EVERY political opinion piece that I have ever read, ever. Now it’s just turned into a regular conservative mouthpiece, so none of it makes any sense.

What’s changed? I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve changed.

And while I typically disagree with every right-wing position under the sun, I do agree with them on one thing: Colleges are increasingly becoming useless, self-important institutions.

The truth of the matter is that everyone should be jumping aboard this ship. Both the left and the right should be in total agreement about the need to re-think how we approach higher education. Of course, both do in fact agree that SOMETHING has to be done. But because the Left has such a stronghold in university halls, they believe that the problem is a lack of diversity (which is true) and the type of cultures that fester themselves on campus (also true). Ultimately, it’s about sending more people to college. And that’s not going far enough.

(Meanwhile, the Right bemoans “safe spaces”, “political correctness”, etc)

In our era of the internet, where knowledge is easily accessible, universities should be finding themselves in awkward positions. This idea that knowledge should only be accessible to the “best and the brightest”, is in my view, becoming an out-of-date practice. Basically universities are becoming a symbol of an old-world order. A time when only the elite were allowed to be educated. While colleges and universities have become greatly accessible to people of all backgrounds, it still maintains the image of being a club for the stuffy, elbow-padded, turtleneck wearing, armchair intellectual.

While progress is touted within its halls, they are still organizations that are slow to progress themselves. If they are truly interested in becoming “open institutions”, then they should become focused on becoming, you know…OPEN! Knowledge cannot be contained within academic halls. Although there’s a strange stigma attached to online education, that is really the only (and best) way forward.

I will maintain that the internet is a far better teacher of knowledge than the average professor in our day and age.

Additionally, I would challenge the WAY how higher (and even primary) education is being conducted and evaluated is becoming insufficient. But that’s a story for another day.

When we consider rising costs of tuition, problems of on-campus culture, and a sense of delayed adulthood with younger generations, perhaps going to college ISN’T the smart choice in modern society.

It’s been a busy day, so I didn’t really have the time to write a full post. But I have addressed the problems with higher education in the past, notably on the podcast My Life With Kant. Below is the transcript from a specific episode where I talk about specific problems, and ways how to fix it. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors.

My Life With Kant

Many people found college to be some of the best years of their lives. And fuck those people. But really, I just couldn’t get into it. What was most bothersome to me, was this strange, cult-like bubble that everyone evolved their lives around. Everyone’s lives centered on this place, and everyone was wearing clothes that promoted the school. It was supposed to be a place where you’re supposed to meet many new people, yet it felt like everyone felt the same. And if you went to a NCAA Power 5 school, it was that much more obnoxious. Because you always come across the boat-shoe, short-shorts wearing dude, whose dad was probably a fan of the sports team, and is therefore bankrolling their son or daughter to go to school there. If it wasn’t them, then it was either nerds or hippies, and those people just needed to get laid, so they were never fun to be around. But it was like there was a greater devotion to the school, rather than towards any sort of education or personal development. Additionally, I’m a college sports fan, but sometimes there’s this illusion that universities are sports teams with academic institutions attached to them….rather than the other way around.

So I always felt that universities were just further instruments of institutionalization, despite the fact that I spent 2/3rds of my life being institutionalized. And what’s amazing, universities are loaded with adults, willfully paying to be there, and they willfully live under constant stress in believing that the school is providing good experience for the real world. With rising costs of tuition, and people tripping over themselves to pay it, universities hold all of the power and seemingly exist for its own benefit, rather than for the benefit of its student body and society as a whole.

Now I firmly believe in the saying “What’s the point in living if you can’t overdo it?” And I don’t even care if that’s a real saying or not, because that’s what I practice. Now as you become an adult, you have to make some sacrifices. But there’s this grace period, between 18 to 22, where you’re old enough to do MOST things, but your shitty behavior can still be excused for immaturity. People will still judge the shit out of you, but I think they would be more understanding of your plight. Now, I’m not saying that you cease being stupid after 22, because, hell, I’m an example of that. But being in college is a get-out-of-jail-free card, and you have to take an advantage of that. Or, at least I did.

“You only live once” is such a cliché, that people overlook…that it’s true! And while youth isn’t the end all, be all, that some make it out to be, it’s still something that shouldn’t be wasted. And sooo many in college are wasting pivotal years sitting in classrooms and stressing out….over pretty much, nothing. Which is completely the opposite of what some colleges try to sell you. To me, the whole experience was just a crash course in what stress can do for you. Unless you had a great time and got by on mediocre grades, or thought that the whole thing was easy….in that case, you just pissed away $20,000 (at least) like most of us did. You could have skipped school altogether. But if you had college paid for you….then fuck you, no one likes you. You just spent four years in a plastic bubble, and came out to face a world that you were ill-prepared to succeed in. Plus, you wasted money that could have been better spent elsewhere.

Now of course, I’m not saying that colleges are completely useless. In fact, I would argue the complete opposite. Obviously, if you are going to become a doctor or a scientific researcher of some sort…then you definitely want those guys to go to college. But if we want justify our degrees, then surely the knowledge we gained alone was worth the price of admission. And that would be the justification of your university…knowledge for the sake of knowledge. And I suppose that that’s true to an extent. Actually….no, scratch that….in a liberal society, a knowledgeable person is a valuable person…regardless of that knowledge’s applicability. And institutions that provide that knowledge are highly valuable AND necessary.

….

The problem with these old-school (no pun intended) brick and morter colleges is that they are receiving competition from a growing number of agencies…namely the internet. The information and knowledge that used to be relegated to dusty, old academic halls is now largely available to anyone with a computer. Now, the academics would argue that you would need the proper guidance of application and interpretation of that knowledge, but that raises a new set of problems.

Nearly everyone that went to college, spent the 12 years prior going through an indoctrination program, also known as primary education. That’s not me being snobby towards the primary education system…it’s an extraordinarily necessary program to help people function and succeed in society. Without it….we might not even have a society! But make no mistake…it’s an indoctrination program. And just because it is, doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but that this is the process of getting us institutionalized. The problem is, that once we are successfully institutionalized, there’s no formalized process of helping us think independently. Now ideally, primary education is supposed to help us think independently, but it only help us to do so WITHIN the academic setting. Which, as we all know, the real world and the knowledge gained in the classroom, can sometimes be two different things. But the objective of primary education is to give us the basic knowledge and socialization skills to get by in modern society. And ideally, or at least LEGALLY, further institutionalization is unnecessary, and would be preventative of further self-development and exploration.

And colleges…once again, IDEALLY….are supposed to facilitate this exploration (albeit in an institutionalized setting), and are supposed to prepare students for specialized vocation. That’s their (colleges) practical utility for society, but their REAL importance is for being apparatuses for knowledge…for the sake of knowledge alone. However, the current status of higher education has failed to live up to these ideals…and to current times…even though the need for universities are more important than ever…just for the need of basic employment. Employers everywhere are demanding that their employees have degrees.

The degree ALONE however…is useless. It’s a demand in the job market simply because….it’s a demand! The information gained by earning that degree, more than likely, won’t be used. I have two business degrees, and I work at a business. But do I use the information that I learned? Barely. Not enough to necessitate the cost of going to college. However, employers need to see that college experience in order to justify the cost of paying you. And in most cases, you need it just to get your foot in the door. This, of course, doesn’t speak for every case, but I would venture to say that your employer probably does a better job of training you for your job, than your college degree ever did. Again, unless you’re a doctor, scientist, or a practicing academic of some sort, there probably came a time in your career where you told yourself: “a person without a degree could do this job.”

So, I think that universities are becoming less able to provide skills that are practical in the workforce, even though the workforce still demands that experience! The most useful skills that I DID learn, were things like time management, task prioritization, sticking to beer rather than hard alcohol…things like that. Now, that’s one expensive education to learn things like that. And colleges don’t even mean to teach you those skills, or that’s their tertiary goal at best. Yet those are the lessons that stick with you the most. So universities are finding themselves in this awkward…useless, yet necessary…purgatory, that they don’t seem to know how to get out of. So clearly there is a problem that has to be corrected and reassessed. And those of us outside of academia intuitively know this, yet I’m not entirely certain that those IN IT are.

Despite academics priding themselves on being at the forefront of new ideas, there’s a great deal of stubbornness in how they do things. Whatever sort of changes that THEY believe they need, are (in my view) not enough. Because of their progressive worldview, the only problems that academics see, is that they need to become more inclusive. And they are very much correct on that. However, that is only one problem of many. If they truly do want to become all-inclusive…then they should focus on being…all inclusive! They have to do more than focus on race, class, sex, and so on. If universities want to survive into the next century, they have to become more effective at presenting knowledge….They must go to the people. Being self-serving institutions that only tend to the, quote “best and brightest”, is an old-world order that is quickly becoming obsolete. The information that was once contained in their walls have been scattered across the internet.

The twentieth century’s triumph of the individual means that people no longer need a degree to change the world. Not that they ever did, to be honest. But universities did their damnedest to persuade people that they did. But a lack of a degree, for the most part, does not mean that you can’t become the master of your respective field. Perhaps the greatest technological visionary of the last century, Steve Jobs, infamously only spent one semester in college. Now you can say that he’s the exception to the rule. But once again, is a degree necessary to succeed in your field? Do electricians, plumbers, and mechanics need a degree in engineering? Do actors and artists need an education…to be artists?! Do business leaders need an MBA to be successful? And….do philosophers need to have a degree…to be philosophers?

So, outside of acting like an accrediting agency for certain professions…like doctors, scientists, academics, and so on…universities appear to be hold-overs from a bye-gone era….a time when the separation of class, race, and sex was widely practiced….when education was exclusively for the wealthy and extraordinarily talented. However, they are still an invaluable tool for societies…if not for their research and development activities alone. Not only are they keepers of knowledge, but they seek to further that knowledge. These activities are not done for the purposes of wealth and power, but for the betterment of everyone. And all who seek knowledge should be taught these lessons. This is how education is supposed to work with our public research institutions. Or…maybe that’s just the way I’d like them to work.

Yet these ideals conflict with the demand of the current job market, and stringent admission processes and rising cost of tuition. Additionally, ranking agencies like the US News and World Report have either pointed out the inequality in Higher Education…OR, they are providing an illusion that some institutions are better than others. Either way, schools that are able to rank at the top (which usually have the largest endowments) are able to command better talent from both students and faculty. Leaving the so-called “lesser colleges” with whatever’s left over.

I would venture to say that many universities (maybe not all) are more concerned with maintaining the prestigiousness of their institution, rather than serving the interest of the public good. Professors and admissions officials stay only interested in other smart people, because it makes their job easier….or allows them and the university to “pad their stats”, if you will. But more importantly, it allows them to remain in their rarified air of “smartness”, so that they can continue to avoid the though that “perhaps they’re the problem”. But of course it could never be their fault, because they have all of the degrees….. They are smart, we are not.

All of this flies in the face of their supposed ideals, and against the idea of education itself. Universities don’t feel honored to have you….you should feel honored that they LET you in. Because it is they who possess the knowledge you desire…they control IT….and not the other way around. Alright, that might be a bit hyperbolic. But at any rate…obviously due to logistical reasons alone, colleges can’t accept every Tom, Dick, and Harry that apply. So to me, and correct me if I’m wrong, the best course of action would be to equalize higher education across the board. Let’s stop it with these, labelling certain universities as “commuter schools”, let’s do away with those stupid rankings (or at least pressure universities to stop participating in them), perhaps we need to do away with the idea of “flagship” schools….and I dunno….should we do something about funding? Perhaps most states already do this, but perhaps other states should figure out a way to equally and/or proportionally distribute funds better. Many states do that with their K-12 education, but I don’t know if they do that for Higher Education. Maybe they do, and I’m just speaking over my head. There’s been a lot of focus on endowments recently, but that’s a different issue altogether….Look, I’m just spitballing here. If you want to hear about my public finance theories, then standby for the Public Finance Podcast….which I’ll never get to.

But for me…the best way to democratize Higher Education…is the internet. I know that online learning has a stupid stigma attached to it, but instead of thinking that this will lower expectations from Universities, how about we raise our standards for the Internet! This would solve so many problems! Now I should point out….that many universities already understand this, so I should give credit where credit is due. But moving to internet-based learning solves the major problem, of institutionalization. The internet would put the process of becoming educated, much more in the hands of the student. With that responsibility…that would keep them out of the rarified air that Higher Education tries to construct. So when we consider the stunted growth that we attribute to millennials (of which I’m a part of), a promotion of online learning could be one step, of many, towards undoing that problem.

Additionally, it’s typically thought that For-Profit universities have this market cornered. Which, as we’ve already discussed…education shouldn’t be conducted that way. (Even though, public and private schools seem to have no issue with overcharging students and providing a sub-par product). But if REAL universities want to promote education, then they need to strengthen their relationship with the internet. I mean, come on….the cost of on-campus housing, rape culture, and a host of other problems that come with having newly-mented (yet still institutionalized) legal adults put into one space….would be done away with significantly, if US schools promoted this. Young adults can still learn, yet instead of fostering continued adolecense, they will be forced to become adults.

Now I can hear some asshole saying to me “Well, what if they can’t afford computers.” Then just include it in cost of tuition! Surely that can’t be any more expensive than living on campus. That seems to be a rather minor problem.

So we can switch the learning stigma towards on-campus learning, because if you need a campus to learn…then you’re just too fucking lazy to structure and motivate yourself. And if you can’t succeed with online learning….perhaps you shouldn’t be going to college at all.

 

The Static Identity: The Root of all Evil

A chained man no more.

Have you ever been in this situation? Knowing that you must do a thing, but your body and mind just couldn’t let you do it?

I faced this scenario this morning. Everyone knows that I have (or had) a terrible job. But I woke up. I put on work clothes. Got in my vehicle. And drove the 20 minutes that it takes to get to my (former) place of employment. I got to the building, and everything fiber in my being wouldn’t let me pull into the parking lot.

I literally couldn’t do it.

So I drove on by and didn’t look back.

I have never done that in my professional career. Usually I’d just bite the bullet and hack out another day, and hope that I will land on my feet somewhere else. But not today. My body and intellect kicked in and took over. I was no longer in control.

My rallying against careerism is nothing new. I’ve always felt that people overly associate their identity with their career. But in doing so, their profession becomes just another stone that weighs down the true identity of a person.

In the last post, I mentioned this thing called the static identity. We’re born. Then we’re given a name, a social security number, and assigned a gender. We’re stuck in this life until the day we die. You can run all your life, but you will never escape your social security number.

This is how we see ourselves.

We are our family. Our jobs. Our community. And our relationship with others. You are not permitted to escape.

While it’s not possible in a physical sense to become something or someone else, the notion of the self (or the “I”) is not actual. It’s something that only the mind applies to itself, and so the notion of a continual self is an illusion. As in Buddhism, all of reality (to include the self) is a stream moving forward in time. The notion of continuity is an idea in the mind, and is therefore not real.

This might sound crazy, and I don’t care. I can say anything I want in this blog.

But the important thing is that these ideas in the mind are rudely enforced by the external world. We can choose to ignore them, but in doing so, we risk having the will of the outer world imposed on us….meaning the law will imprison us, we can become ostracized, or any number of other things. To avoid this confrontation, we placate these societal norms and play the part that was given to us.

We become locked-in to our identities, and it is made difficult to transform. Then we are forever trapped within the existence imposed upon us. This, I believe, is why we are undergoing a mental health crisis. Not only because we are getting better at diagnosing these problems, but because bureaucratic, technological, and economical entanglement is getting better at transposing societal norms onto individuals. And the only way forward is to find acceptance, so we have higher rates of depression, paranoia, addiction, and recidivism of crime.

Therefore, as the great Jean Jacques Rousseau said: Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

Rousseau seemed to have differed from his fellow contemporaries in believing that human progress has not been beneficial; that mankind was better off in its state of nature. Believing that in this state, humans were peaceful, noble, and lived in harmony.

This belief in the nobility of the natural state of mankind is, of course, bullshit. HOWEVER, I don’t believe that he was completely wrong in challenging human progress. This “progress”, really hasn’t been progress at all. At best, it’s just been a matter of switching one set of problems out for another. IN FACT, this progress has contributed to a great deal of modern problems, namely class warfare, racism, sexism, slavery, poverty, and God knows what else. While this state of nature might not have been peaceful and noble, mankind was at least EXISTING in its natural state, rather than living in a manufactured and prolonged misery of being.

We might be living LONGER, we can also say that we are living in an extended existence of slavery. Slavery to jobs, to mortgage, to materialism. Instead of being seen as an integral part of a community (as in a state of nature), we are seen as being just one.  Just one of the millions that consist of a nation-state; an existence that doesn’t matter, that only plays a small role in the vastness of world population. We have to fight for meaning and purpose because we are chained to an insignificant societal identity.

To be happy is to be unaware of this predicament, or to find meaning outside of this paradigm.  This means to be stupid or in complete denial. OR to find acceptance in this stream of existence.

This is an unpopular opinion. Especially in our state “feel good” literature. Everyone wants to read or hear about how “they matter”. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. The average person today just doesn’t matter. The individual has been disconnected from a grand community; thrown into existence. We are all just a minor player in this realm of society.

Of course, the solution isn’t to return to a “state of nature”. We know too much. A state of nature is a ship that has sailed. For better or worse, we are stuck with this economic-bureaucratic-technological complex. The paste is out of the tube. How we fix this problem would require a recognition of hard truths.

What are these truths??

Chiefly, most of the nonsense we surround ourselves with is false. They are only problems that we create in our heads, and become reinforced by societal standards. Imaginative problems are the number one cause of stress in the world. Having a mortgage and career are not LITERAL necessities for survival. Realistically, to live a reality that’s genuine, we have to recognize our basic selves. One that is stripped away from from modern conveniences.

But truthfully, I have no answers on how to fix these problems. Because in order to do so, would require an understanding that’s fundamentally contrary to everything that we know. It’s not as easy as reverting back to anarchy or taking up a Marxism. The only revolutions that work are the ones that are generated from within.

Welcome to the Panopticon

Did I ever mention that I have a shitty job? Yes? Well I’m going to mention it again.

I have a shitty job.

It’s laughably shitty. It’s so shitty, in fact, that it makes you question the very nature of humanity. Spending ten minutes in the building would challenge your perception that we are the smartest species on the planet. But that’s beside the point.

There are security cameras everywhere. I’m not bemoaning the fact. With so many idiots in one place, someone needs to be keeping an eye on everything. And most places of employment also have cameras pointed down on its workforce. Are the cameras turned on? Is anyone actually watching us?

I don’t know.

But it doesn’t matter. We know that they are there, and everyone knows that at any moment, someone can be watching us.

Now most assume that no one is watching. This has been demonstrated to be a bad assumption twice in my professional career. Did you know that some of these surveillance systems allows the viewer to listen in? I didn’t! And the other demonstration was today, when THEY (The Dark Green Jersey People) caught a girl napping in a secluded part of the warehouse through the magic of surveillance. I’m just letting you know…sometimes people are watching.

But in the vast majority of instances, no one has time to look through that crap. The cameras are just there for show. So feel free to pick your nose and scratch your ass. But by just knowing that they’re there provides what some call the panoptic effect.

And who calls it that? Well, ME for one. But the idea of the ‘panopticon’ was introduced by Jeremy Bentham and the ‘panoptic effect’ is described in Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.

The panopticon is a circular, multi-storied prison structure where all the cells are faced inward. An authoritative figure in the central tower would therefore be able to theoretically view any cell, at any time. But the inmates would never know when exactly they would be watched. So they had to act as if they were being watched at all times.

While I’m not sure if a structure of this kind was ever built to Bentham’s EXACT specifications (although I’m sure that similar structures have been built), the idea still permeates everyday society. While we don’t live in a panopticon, we still live in a world where we can be watched at any time. We’ll never know when, but we must always act as if we can be at any moment. This is not only true in our place of employment, but anywhere we can go in public. Do you use any electronic devices? Well the NSA can access those as well. It is extremely likely that ‘privacy’ will one day be a thing of the past.

I really don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist. This is just the direction our society is trending towards.

There are all kinds of doomsday scenarios that we can dream up. This is the shit that George Orwell was writing about. I guess. I dunno, I never read George Orwell. But I won’t go that far as to invoke paranoia. I really just want to talk about conformity. 

Part of this panoptic society involves the standardization of behaviors, if I may invoke Foucault here. Meaning that there are a set of normal and abnormal behaviors that are determined by medical and psychology experts. The criteria of these behaviors are identified to help determine who would best fit into a panoptic and highly regulated society. Anyone that exhibits abnormal behaviors are deemed to have a mental illness or are anti-social.

Therefore, there remains a set criteria, a conception of an ‘ideal citizen’ that all people should strive towards. Any deviation could subject one to isolation, criminalization, or otherwise cast out to the fringes of society. Such standards of behavior, or concept of ‘ideal citizen’, allows for a self-managing citizenry that self-applies pressure to conform.

Individuals may never be watched at any given moment. But it doesn’t matter. Because of their self-regulating behavior, they behave as if they are being watched (or with “integrity”, I suppose). Therefore the State is better able to Discipline and Punish, if I may shoehorn in Foucault here.

Okay, that might be extreme…

The point that I want to make is, that when we consider all of the mental health problems and the proliferation of prescription medication…what may be the cause? Have these problems always existed? So we are just getting better at diagnosing them? OR are we setting aside certain natural behaviors that might not “mesh well” with modern society?

Problems like depression seem to only effect the individual, but to what degree does sociological factors play in exasperating the issue? Depression seems to have an evolutionary utility, but what has caused it to become such a major problem?

I’ve always maintained that a static identity is the source of many mental health issues. Especially depression. Meaning that because we’re assigned a name, sex, and a number of attributes at birth, it becomes increasingly impossible to escape such an identity. Increasing standards within society, notably bureaucratic ones (like SSNs), maintain that an individual will ALWAYS remain who they are. BECAUSE you can’t run from WHO you are, your only choice becomes acceptance. This leads to depression, substance abuse, recidive criminal behavior, and a host of other problems.

I feel like I’m all over the place….

BUT, my point is that they don’t have to be watching you all of the time. And that doesn’t matter. Society has molded you into the person that it needed you to be. It may not have been the person that you WANTED to be, or someone that you would have NATURALLY been. And that’s a lot of pressure. It takes a lot to uphold an identity that has been given to you all of your life. But the State has all the tools it needs to discipline and punish.

Therefore it doesn’t matter if anyone is behind the camera. Society may not possess your body, but it does possess your soul.

Does that sound Orwellian? I don’t know.

 

Middle Management and Aggressive Mediocrity

First off, I need to apologize for talking too much about my overly dead professional career. But it is dead. I’m not expecting a resurrection anytime soon, unless there’s some talent agent that just so happens to read philosophy blogs.

But I did start a new job. And it really sucks….but not in the way you might think.

Have you ever had a dream where you woke up laughing? Am I the only one that happens to? Perhaps that’s a bad example. We’ve all seen Apocalypse Now, right? About the journey into madness?

That’s what my job is like, minus the Vietnam War and Robert Duvall. But the farther down river you journey, meaning and logic cease to be. What’s left is pure madness. And that is what this company is. They don’t produce anything. They probably don’t even make any money. But the company exists only to drive you insane, much like the nature of war itself.

Only my job is hilarious! I mean, I don’t even know what the hell I do! What kind of company operates like that?

Anyways, the basic organizational structure of this operation brings forth many sociological issues. We’ve all seen that video where that teacher segregates her students by eye color. We all know about the Stanford Experiment. Well imagine a company that does the same thing. Not for any productivity purposes. Just for the hell of it. In fact, the more I think about this, the more I become convinced that this company isn’t real. It’s just a covert study by the government.

Members are segregated by jersey color. Yes, I said jerseys. What function these jerseys serve…I do not know….other than the blue jerseys are the “managers”. I put “managers” in quotations because I never really see these people manage. They just loom in the background and look at Facebook on their phones. One would think that managers would be, you know, older. I’m probably older than all of them. 18 year old kids running around claiming to be a “manager”. But they appear to have been randomly handed a jersey and told to just “act like a boss”. They’re not the ones to fear.

The real pain-in-the-assess are the ones in the dark green jerseys. You are to fear them. I suppose we could call them the “supervisors” or “middle managers”. Again, randomly selected. Their one and only purpose: to hand you papers and be a complete and utter bastard. Don’t look them in the eye or else you’ll get a mean and sarcastic comment. These are the whip-crackers (is that how you say it?). You fuck with them, you are as good as dead (probably literally).

Then there are those in the orange and lime green jerseys: the pee-ons. I wear a lime green one. And once again, everyone is randomly selected. There are at least five within this group that are college educated. One even played D1 college football. But they all do the shit work. But there’s a reason why there are two colors at the lower echelon: to divide us.

The dark green jerseys prey on our weaknesses. They want us to turn on each other. As a lime green, I am told to hate the orange. THEY are the reason why WE can’t get anything accomplished. I imagine that the orange are told the same about us. Occasionally a dark green will whisper into the ear of a tenured lime green-orange: you could have this power! Thus forcing the individual into moral crossroads…tearing apart their soul.

This organizational structure is a representation of our own society: The ruling class ominously watching over us, with their attack dogs keeping the lower class in line. So the evidence is clear. I am working for a poorly constructed and asinine governmental experiment.

But really, fuck those dark green jerseys!

It’s proof that when you give people a little bit of power, they go fucking ape shit. But the real important lesson here is what I like to call aggressive mediocrity. Or aggressively reaching for middle management, or some safe profession, and bemoaning those that don’t strive for the same goals.

It breeds contempt and a false sense of superiority.

We all know someone that’s ‘aggressively mediocre. Perhaps you yourself are suffering from this. I’m not gonna lie: I was aggressively mediocre. As I stated before, I went to college to find safety. I wanted to find the soft middle ground of life, where I would neither be poor or possess any ground shattering responsibilities. And I falsely believed that those that didn’t strive for this were idiotic. This is the great and well-traversed path of aggressive mediocrity.

And the truth is, some people will find success. Perhaps great success. But in our capitalist society (as I’m sure Zizek would tell you), not everyone can be a winner. Some of us HAVE to be losers. And in order to find solace in our doomed fate, this capital machine offers a solution to keep the pain and anger at bay: the middle-management profession.

The ruling class and company executives want YOU to feel like you are making a contribution, that you are a valued member of the team. YOU are making decisions that change people’s lives. They give you the title of manager, but that’s only to disguise the real purpose of your job. You are nothing but a sheep dog, there to nip at the heels of the sheeple, to keep the machine running. But you’ll never be one of THEM. Because to them, you are nothing but a dog.

Look, what do you want out of me?

This job kicks my ass, so it’s extraordinarily difficult for me to write philosophy that will kick your dick off. So my apologies for straying away from philosophy in the last couple of posts. But my ultimate point is this: If you’re going to be a manager (or supervisor), and you work in a high-turnover warehouse, it’s probably not the best strategy to be a dick to your workforce on day 1. Just sayin’.

But more importantly: Don’t be a dick!

An Ode to the ‘Slacker’

As the late, great Prince once said: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life”. Why? Because life sucks. It unbelievably sucks. If you think it doesn’t suck, then you’re in denial. Unless you get woken up every morning by fellatio (or cunnilingus) and get to watch reruns of Frasier all day, then your life sucks.

How did it get to be this way?

We marvel at the achievements of humanity. We want to think that we have it so much better than our ancestors. Sure, dying at the age 17 by being strangled by a cobra isn’t much of a problem these days. But we’ve exchanged those problems out for even WORSE problems. Instead of getting to live a brief life full of near total freedom, we now have to live DECADES worth of self-imposed imprisonment. Instead of letting our genitals hang free, we have to go to work, raise shitty children for (at least!) 18 years, have mortgage payments, and watch others live their lives through television and internet.

Scientists and philosophers often ponder the ancients. They romanticize the early explorers and philosophers, who first looked up to skies with bewilderment and awe. And this sense of wonder permitted them to ask the first intellectual questions: what lies on the other side of the heavens? Who are the Gods, and how can we be more like them? What is the meaning of life? So we ponder the origins of such questions, and think: who were these ancient peoples whom we owe so much to?

But here’s what I think: the first person to ever ask such questions was a piece of shit. He (or she) fucked everything up. Why question such a good thing?

Of course, we only know in hindsight that they fucked up. But then again, many people will accuse me of glorifying the ancient (or pre-historic) peoples, who were undoubtedly savage assholes. But so what? There was no one to tell them that they were being dicks. They were just being. 

And again, many MORE people would probably question my reasoning, claiming that such questions might be “hardwired” into the nature of human beings. Therefore these questions were inevitably going to be asked! But you know what? Stop thinking for awhile, and let me do the talking.

And by the way, where the hell am I going with all of this?

If you’ve been reading this blog (and no one is, so you don’t have to lie to me), have you ever wondered: who is this asshole that I’m reading? Well to answer that question, that’s none of your business. BUT, an important fact to know at this point is that my professional career is DEAD. I mean DEAD DEAD. I made a series of costly career decisions that didn’t pay off (plus I drank a lot). It left me unemployed to the point where I had to start over completely. It was like the prior 15 years never happened (did I mention I was a drunk?). Or to put it another way…I have a graduate degree, yet I’m now doing labor that kids out of high school are doing.

I’ll give you a moment to wipe away your tear.

Anyways! I pushed myself through college, and even a brief stint in the military, because I thought that’s what people should be doing: taking steps to better themselves and their society…even though I hated every minute of it. But that didn’t matter. Everyone has to do things that they don’t like if they want to achieve greatness.

I hated the guy (or gal) who coasted through life. I mean, how was that even possible? Didn’t they have any pride? Isn’t there SOMETHING they want to achieve during their time on this earth?

Yet even while I was having those thoughts, I was deeply unhappy. I put all kinds of pressure on myself. And to what purpose? So that I could have some fucking diploma hanging on the wall? Who gives a shit?

But of course, this is a philosophy blog. And even if you can’t tell yet, this is a philosophical post.

I usually talk about epistemology and ontology or some bullshit like that. But those aren’t the real problems that most people face. Unless you’re a nerd like me, Kantian metaphysics probably never keep you up at night. The problems that most people face are things like angst, fear, sadness, happiness and being. It’s actual human experience that most people care about…or the realm of existentialism.

Most people don’t realize that everywhere, mankind remains shackled (I’m pretty sure that’s a quote from some philosopher). We perceive ourselves to be free, but we do not act accordingly. We’re shackled to our jobs, to our houses, even to our own sense of being. You are who you are, and you will always remain SHACKLED to that identity.

How can we be happy, knowing that we are imprisoned in every direction?

Like I said, I hated those that coasted through life. I hated the SLACKER. And we all do. We want to hate the person that sits by while everyone does all the work. We want to hate the loser that lives an apparently meaningless life.

But I want to reassess this attitude. Sure, you hate them because they don’t carry their own weight. They leave YOU with all of the chores. But perhaps we need to appreciate them a little more. Why? Because they make you look good. That is unless they take credit for your work. In that case, fuck them, they are pieces of shit and are worthy of our judgements. But sometimes they can make you look like a mother fucking genius because they make you feel better about yourself.

But I think more importantly…they know something we don’t. Or maybe that something is nothing at all. But either way, they possess a quality that we don’t appreciate (mostly because it pisses us off).

They’re happier.

You know that bullshit that you submit yourself to everyday? Yeah, they don’t give a fuck about that. You might make more money. You might even be extraordinarily successful. But so what? How much crap did you have to go through to get that house or promotion? Tell me, how deep does that sense of ‘pride’ really go? Have you ever wondered what kind of decisions you might have made IF you didn’t give a shit? All the shackles of modern man are meaningless to the Slacker.

How much time did I waste going to college? If I have to be honest with myself, I wish I hadn’t of done it. It ruined me. I stress out about everything. College made me an unhappy, cynical, and entitled human being. Just being honest.

In my new job, I work with such a slacker. He’s in his early 20s. While giving advice to a girl that just started with this company (on how to get away with doing nothing), the girl snapped back: “This job’s only temporary! I’m a full-time student! Don’t you know what that’s like?” . To which his reply was “PSH! No!”.

That guy is cool as fuck.

You may hate him. But guess what? He doesn’t know it, and even if he did…he wouldn’t care.

So you have two choices in life: You can go along and play the rules. Maybe you might find some success. Maybe you won’t. But your philosophy can remain “at least you gotta try”…. OR, you don’t have to live by the rules. You still have to casually observe them, but we all know they’re horseshit. So you don’t have to pursuit happiness….you just have to be happy.

PS: My intention was to dig a little deeper into existentialism and bring up the works of Jose Ortega y Gasset. Sadly that did not work out, but at least I TRIED to make this post somewhat philosophical.

PS. PS: I posted a video of Slavoj Zizek because he at least provide the illusion that he’s a slacker-type. I don’t know if that’s intentional, and I don’t even know if he’s ever talked about any slaker-ish tendencies (he says a lot of things). He just embodies what I believe we should all strive towards.