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Opinion Entitlement? You’re missing the point.

So, I Fucking Love Science has posted this up at least three times that I’ve seen in the last year, one more time today:

http://www.iflscience.com/brain/no-youre-not-entitled-your-opinion

To some degree, it says what’s perfectly reasonable: uninformed opinions have less value than informed opinions, so if new information that would upset your opinion comes around and you disregard it, then you’re wrong and you ARE NOT entitled to your opinion. It should change.

Naturally, people often get new information without changing their beliefs in response. This is one of those points which liberals try and use to club conservatives over the head in debates.

Now, conservatives deserve some of this, since they bullshit in debates all the time. The conservative position is, by Western propaganda standards, not an optimistic one, and in order to keep from getting trounced by sunshine, conservatives dodge all sorts of uncomfortable realities. For example, libertarian-leaning conservatives constantly say that free markets will result in more wealth and a better standard of living for all, and that less government regulation will result in this coming to pass. Not only is that not always true, but it’s often wrong and conservatives – who created the EPA and several other regulatory branches of the government – know this. Law enforcement, after all, is behavioral regulation, and it’s obvious that conservatives consider it necessary. There is a subtle argument to make, but subtlety sucks in debate, so it’s more convenient to parry. They cannot, regardless of the likelihoods in any case, simply say that people should have to accept less wealth on principle, nor can they state the still less pleasant fact: that conservatives always fundamentally believe that social stratification and inequality is both inevitable and necessary for society to function. Historically, this is unassailable, but no one will stand for it.

But there are two other factors to the “not entitled to your opinion” argument that liberals – and IFLS is stridently liberal, btw – assiduously avoid.

First, questions of the trustworthiness of the information is rarely given play. If I had a professor tell me things like “research has proved X,” the first thing to do is to consider the political leanings of the professor, which will probably tell you where that professor allocates his attention and therefore what sources of new information have been ignored. Next, look at the leanings of the scientists, which similarly will have them running experiments to prove what they want to prove. The answers will not be unbiased when the questions were not unbiased, and who knows how many experiments, factors, and methods of collating data are being used to twist the reality. It’s the same in every political issue and with every side. The left likes to treat educators and scientists as if they’re above agendas, but we’re talking about distinct cultures here, so don’t count on it. There is no absolutely trustworthy institutional source of information and enlightenment on this Earth, and mankind hasn’t really thought there is since the Protestant Reformation. Everything is up for doubt. And frankly, I trust neither professors nor the “scientific community” to provide information which is truly unbiased. There really is no such thing.

I can say this with confidence because of the second factor. It’s a simple philosophical maxim stated by David Hume: you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is.”

In other words, just because you have a bunch of factual information, it says nothing about your interpretation of those facts, whether the situation is good or bad, nor do they demand any action for the same reason. In fact, in a postmodernist world, calling any interpretation “right” or “wrong” is invariably a subjective point of view and has nothing to do with any grand, metaphysical value some facets of reality supposedly have.

Professional philosophers often disregard this today, because political philosophy in particular is built on certain premises that are taken to be simply correct, to the point where anyone disagreeing with them would be considered a sociopath (like me). A decent number of economists and philosophers have attacked the IS/OUGHT problem through their disciplines as being resolved, or as ridiculous, given that there are certain things that basically everyone wants, like nutrition, medical care, companionship, legal protections of various sorts, add infinitum. Any exceptions to these universal desires can be handled on a case-by-case basis without interfering with the desires of the majority.

I’d like to remind these people that, just because your point of view is broadly accepted and pragmatically seems workable doesn’t mean that it is true. The vast majority of people believing in Christian ideas a millenium ago didn’t make those true, either. Values are never anything greater than subjective perspectives. And I would further like to remind people that their world still functions because it is hierarchical, because we still practice a form of education indistinguishable from brainwashing, and that conflict is everywhere. Conflicts of interest are not aberrations to a rule of rational humanity, either.

An telling example is climate change. Scientists and hacks often like to make it a black-and-white issue when it isn’t. Not even close. Climate management is, rather, a politicized game of odds: the question is the probability of ecological catastrophe over what period of time and to what degree. It’s not “build more windmills or we’re all gonna die!”

Respectable analysis says that increasing emissions may cause $2-8 trillion in damage over the next couple of decades, mostly to coastal areas. There is no shortage of individuals who would not be affected by it directly, nor is there any shortage of people who would profit from it. Any regulation would have its costs that WOULD affect them, though, given the applicability of law and tax collection. All of this plays out into political wrangling over economic effects, and while well-meaning people might simply say that the right thing to do is obvious, it isn’t. There are any number of policies that could make things worse, secondary effects are rarely considered, and since we’re talking about giving the political left essentially total control over environmental – and hence, economic – policy decisions, you’ll need to be rational and understanding towards those who would rather not see that happen. At least, if you want to be consistent, that’s what you should do.

Meanwhile, in our everyday individual actions, there are a million things we can do to bring down carbon emissions that we aren’t doing, and the left gives the people no grief, as this entire situation folds into a broader narrative about corporate manipulation. The ecological platform of the left conflicts directly with the economic platform, which somehow thinks it can bring down consumption of resources by the people while simultaneously bringing up economic consumption through Keynesianism, and for this to just work out.

It’s treated like good versus evil, the virtuous common people who would rather buy environmentally friendly goods or investments, but the corporations are purposefully holding them back from the markets because fuck you. Really? Grow up.

 

Here’s what this whole situation tells us: first, we’ve learned nothing at all from postmodernism. No one has “gone past” the postmodern perspective and no one wants to, as everyone wants their point of view to be considered right in some greater way than as just a matter of self-interested subjectivity. The degree to which we are all unified as a species has been radically exaggerated, and it’s been exaggerated for exactly the reasons you would expect: because we’re all trying to dumb down the debate for the sake of winning the debate.

Second, life is conflict and only a pampered group of individuals – the privileged WEIRD – live in an ideologically insulated world where logical action and morally correct action are the same thing. To hold certainty in the past was a matter of religious conviction; now it’s a matter of supposed “reason,” as we’re all rationalists with Judeo-Christian values now, which are supposedly “natural.” They aren’t, we aren’t, and try actually thinking about it from a standpoint which isn’t taught in universities, for once. If the university perspective was universal beyond the individual self-interest, then most of these problems wouldn’t exist in the first place. They do, because making anything happen on an institutional level requires individual self-sacrifice, and no one is lining up to give up their agency to any institution in modern society.

That’s the point. You cannot separate individual self-interest from institutional self-interest, and therefore you cannot expect those who would benefit from the weakening of the institutions you care about to identify with you. This isn’t cynicism. This is the underlying, unspoken logic of living in a world after the Death of God. It’s here. It’s happening. We’re just getting less polite about it, less tolerant of real pain, and less trusting of each other, with good reason.

If you can’t tell the difference between being rational and being cynical, then something has already gone very wrong with your culture’s ideology. What’s wrong with ours is that we tell people very seriously that’s it’s for their own good, that laying themselves on an altar and trusting without verification is somehow rational. Nope. It’s an act of faith and faith alone. Your culture is no longer capable of producing this faith without bullshitting people. Nothing new, and we’ve dealt with it before… but the solutions to the problem are not going to be science-based, I promise you.

4 July, 2014

Happy Fourth, everyone! You should probably give a shit, as this is the establishment of your cultural identity we’re talking about. And in this culture, we celebrate with explosives! Great news for everyone who wants to avoid boredom, which is, as it turns out, a lot of people.

A new study has specifically confirmed this.

I personally find the results perfectly fine. It might surprise a utilitarian materialist who thinks avoiding pain is everything, but intelligent people know better. It’s just pain. People are fine with it, at least they are when they control it, as it doesn’t disempower them.

But you do need to understand why this is important to them. The utilitarian mind thinks that people are molded by pleasure and pain, which is what makes them rational and controllable… wait, can’t say that. I didn’t mean controllable, I meant peaceful and cooperative and good to others without having to be controlled. Yeah, that’s it.

If power is what we’re after, and not just power for the sake of avoiding pain but power for its own sake, then we’re going to be locked in conflict forever. They hate that idea.

But I don’t. Hey, at least we won’t get bored.

Go to any shop floor, military unit, retail location, most businesses or places where people are in the process of creating and maintaining something of serious value. You’ll find, particularly out of management which has real responsibility for it, a loathing for doing nothing. And you know why: there’s always something you can do.

You can always find a way to improve the situation, change it to your advantage. When you’re ultimately responsible, sitting still is a waste of the most valuable commodity on this earth, TIME. This is probably why men find inaction more uncomfortable than women. They could be doing a million things to improve their situation, to invest their time and other resources. They could be exercising, talking to people and creating or strengthening networks, washing their car or their ass so they look less unkempt, laundry, yard work, anything really. “Entertainment,” not usually the simplest idea to grasp, frequently consists of playing games or listening to stories or interacting with people in a way that lightens the mood and relaxes people, creating all sorts of benefits.

About the worst thing people can do is sit in a damn chair.

Not that thinking is a bad thing, not at all. Most people should do a hell of a lot more of it. But I find I think best with music on, pacing the room. I think I could focus for fifteen minutes sitting in a quiet room without leaving a chair, but not much longer. And if someone told me, “don’t leave this chair,” of course I’m going to want to leave the chair. Because fuck you.

I’m not the only one who has that issue, either. This is America.

 

Our distaste for wasting time has built some awesome shit, from turkey jerky to lunar modules. It’s a flawed, borderline retarded country with a deeply flawed ideological perspective and a huge propensity to fuck up its own shit because it refuses to understand what the long term means. But it’s fun and it’s ours and we’ve solved problems other cultures walked around with for centuries.

Enjoy the holiday, kids.

The Bergdahl Consensus

Silly blog title, isn’t it? There is obviously no consensus opinion on the prisoner swap whatsoever. Or, that seems to be the case, anyway.

In fact, the usual theatrics revolving around the trade seem to piss people off on their own. Those people need to remember what country they live in: everything here is a circus, especially the politics. We care about entertainment more than any other value, at least, we do if pleasure is categorized as a form of entertainment. Is the feel-good activity of self-righteous bullshitting possible to lump in with masturbation and eating Chicago-style pizza? Sure, just without the wholesomeness.

But there seems to be less energy here than on other issues. To state the obvious, I agree with Mr. Faith at Vice.com, in that article above, except that – for possibly the first time ever – he’s putting more stock in political team-backing and not enough in the simple gut reaction of everyone who’s been paying attention. Halfway intelligent foreign policy moves don’t generate this kind of heat from the right, nor this kind of timidity from the left. There’s something unusual about this one.

So let’s list off the important features. Bowe Bergdahl was, by all accounts, a terrible soldier with the judgment of a retarded gerbil, and we need not discuss the soldiers killed searching for him to verify it. The five detainees were probably dangerous and might very well go back to their vocational calling now that they’ve been released. Does that matter? Since we lack the balls to make any real decision on what to do with them – won’t kill them, won’t try them, won’t throw away the key to their cell, and won’t release them scott free – the answer is largely no, at least not as much of a difference as the right wing says. But it’s bad enough to admit that the main thing keeping the logic of a trade intact is your own inability to decide things. In any case, the basic probabilities of the trade seem to point towards Bergdahl’s release likely getting a soldier killed by one of the five released detainees, thus making for a mathematically hideous trade: one sped for at least one soldier who might not be a sped.

Added to this basic situation is the additional issue of legitimacy. The United States is now negotiating with the Taliban as if it was an empowered institution, one which might have a claim to authority in the country we currently occupy. Vice didn’t seem to want to talk about that as if it mattered, and neither do a lot of other media outlets.

And of course, the rhetoric about bringing home troops looks like political spin, since civilians have been left to rot in Afghanistan and no one is really happy about the entire deal. For once, empathy for the foolish didn’t get the best of America.

So while we might have some disagreements here, I don’t really think anyone thought this was a great trade, including those on the left. They defend the sentiment, but it’s obviously a defensive posture; I’ve heard and read very few people defend the trade on clearly rational terms. In fact, I’d say we can make a consensus out of it. Unity at last! What did this united America say when news of the Bergdahl trade hit the airwaves? Simple. America said:

 

“Well, that was fucking stupid.”

 

Anyway, I’m not fully back into writing yet, I just threw this together before going off the radar for a week or so. It’s been a good break, and it’s not over.

Westboro

So, Westboro Baptist plans on protesting a concert by Lorde, pop’s flavor of the month. 

Lorde has responded by telling concertgoers to wear rainbow colors and try to kiss protesters of the same sex. How cheeky. Such brave. Wow. It’s amazing how this poor, victimized manufactured “artist” with sold out concerts, plus millions of likes and Twitter followers, can stand up to this incredible abuse by a church with a membership of less than 100 people. But we have to keep up the perception of victimization, so that tiny, irrelevant group of nobodies will have to do.

As we all know, the only good Westboro Baptist protester is a dead Westboro Baptist protester. Would you like to know more?

I am very annoyed this morning.

Swearing

Just a quick one today, I haven’t posted anything in a while.

There was a brief video on Buzzfeed that I sort of liked, although you need to read beneath the lines a little:

http://screen.yahoo.com/buzzfeed/7-f-king-reasons-swear-230143606.html

So, swearing is fucking awesome. You love it, I love it, it feels great. We knew that didn’t we? The video went into the brain science element briefly, with no further explanation of WHY we like to swear, but a Nietzschean doesn’t need to really have it spelled out.

Nietzscheans assume two things here. First, everything that’s alive seeks power. Second, everything we are is a result, in evolutionary terms, of our need to deal with the world, the wisdom of the body well-designed to get us through the ridiculous fucking bullshit of living in a universe that gives zero fucks about being what we want it to be. We are, in essence, externally driven. We adapt, or to place Bill Richardson’s philosophical musings in context, we exapt traits over time, keeping what works. It’s not exactly Darwin, but it’s close.

So, why is swearing fucking awesome, in the context of the will to power? Because it’s supposed to be prohibited, and we feel empowered when we do something prohibited. It’s a neat little trick designed to make us feel like we have more control, to be able to say what we are, formally, not supposed to say. It’s a tiny, harmless rebellion. It’s all based on recognizing situations, recognizing prohibitions, the speeded-up perceptions that acknowledge the status of the power game and give positive feedback when we get away with something we’re told not to do. When you allow others to do it in your presence and others allow you to do the same, you’re taking a tiny risk in undermining the formalities of politeness and showing a deeper bond that says that you’re on each other’s side, so swearing probably help establish trust, although that can be abused like mad:. You shouldn’t trust someone JUST because they swear. No fucking shit.

The particular word obviously doesn’t matter: we aren’t evolved to get pleasure from specifically saying the word that starts with an “F” sound, continues into an “UH” sound, then finishes with a “K”. It depends on cultural context. It’s a cultural thing. Swearing can become ingrained into behavior and take on the positive traits of any ritual that can be practiced alone, but the origin of everyone’s attachment to it is social, much like religion. Jesus titty-fucking Christ, there’s a fun association to make in your head, huh?

Social creatures are weird like that. Notice that there needs to be some sort of shared language for it to work, some sort of authority, either a specific authority figure or a general underlying fear of group rejection, to get the benefits. Making up your own swear words doesn’t have the same punch, because you aren’t risking other people being offended by it. We are built to this kind of petty politicking, to work for power within a hierarchy. 

And it’s kinda fun sometimes, just to let rip with verbal violence against this oppressive cocksucker of a shit society and shit existence that dares to put us in a position of displeasure. We’re fighting back, and getting away with dropping the occasional F-bomb. I hope swearing never goes away. When you’re tired of their fucking shit, then it’s as valid a form of communication as any other, while being among the most easiest to deal with. 

The only risk is abuse. A culture can use vulgar language enough to rob it of its meaning, which is goddamn bullshit. I don’t blame anyone for frowning on its overuse, as they’re doing God’s work: scarcity and value go hand in hand, so for maximum effectiveness, mindless use of these lovely words must be discouraged and some penalties, like shame and disgust, need to stay around, too. But much like I view cops and crime, I respect what they do as I hope they never “win” and get rid of all crime. We must regulate vulgarity, for the sake of its power. Fortunately, we’re built for that, too.

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Love Your Addiction

Up until today, I did not know what Flappy Bird was. Now I know. It’s an downloadable game, an app, and I have decided that I love it, without ever playing it.

And I will never play it: it’s unavailable as of a few days ago. After millions and millions of downloads, the creator took it down because he thought it was too addictive.

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Interesting, right? Evidently it is for Forbes, CNNNewsweek, Slate, IGN, and a dozen or more mid-level news outlets. Here’s what happened:

Awesomely-named Vietnamese game developer Dong Nguyen threw together the ultra-simple game in a matter of a few days, and put it up for grabs on May 24th of last year, eight months ago. Since then, about 50 million people experienced what often comes with ridiculously good games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush. They got hooked. Really hooked. More information available here.

I’ve enjoyed my quality time with video games, Street Fighter 2 when I was a kid up through the required 24 hour Angry Birds phase, but Lord…

What’s crazier about all this is that, despite some people saying the entire situation is the mass scale equivalent of an inside joke, others really seem to think that video game addiction is a big problem. The most obvious example is Mr. Dong himself, saying, “I cannot take this anymore.” It looks like a crack dealer coming out and saying that he finally figured out that his product is dangerous, a conscience thing.

Naturally, lots of people in the press don’t buy this. I’m not talking about the addiction thing, but rather, the conscience element: they need a bad guy. The big conspiratorial rumor revolved around Nintendo making noise over trademark infringement, which sounds likely because even the most casual screenshot look at this thing makes it clear that the gaming environment owes an awful lot to Super Mario Brothers. But Nintendo has now killed that rumor itself. That doesn’t mean the rumor died: some investigative reporting turned up a couple of friends who, despite the denials, insisted that Dong had received a warning after all.

This was important enough to make it into Forbes, as you can see: the opening quote on their website when accessing the story was by Hugh Cameron, saying, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

Let’s say that Dong was serious, and he pulled the game because of addiction issues leading to a guilty conscience. Is this the way that addiction is actually seen by people? Because I don’t think it is. I think this is the way that addiction is seen by the press.

On a more respectable note, CVS recently decided to do something similar: they pulled all the cigarettes off their shelves. People lauded this move immediately: every major news outlet covered it in a positive light, with all the holy-roller Puritanism we’ve come to expect from the left when dealing with any issue related to public health.

Now, do you have to ingest a substance to be addicted? Certainly not. Really, all you have to do is not take responsibility for your actions. Oh yeah, remember, you live in a victim culture. Like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, the thing to keep telling yourself is, “it’s not your fault.”

This is what separates conservatives of most stripes from liberals in the American context: conservatives understand that individualism requires a sense of accountability to go along with the prerogative to do what you like. Now, since this could clearly lead to justifying absolutely anything, any exploitation or assault, on the grounds that the individual holds all responsibility for dealing with it, the balance between prerogatives and responsibilities is understood to be cultural and to hold a traditional component, for the sake of establishing expectations and allowing the individual to adapt to those expectations. In the case of addiction, a conservative might accept that those peddling addictive wares might need restrain themselves from targeting children, for example, but adults can make their own choices, and pay for them. Hence, there is freedom… of a sort. It’s kind of a mess of arbitrary culture management, but the individual has to have the burden of his own welfare primarily on his own shoulders.

For a liberal, addiction is simply an evil, because the resulting desire creates a power inequality. Living in a society where people are allowed to exploit each other in this manner is unethical, so they will push to kill vices, down to the lowest common denominator, going as far up the social ladder as possible when placing responsibility. This means the management, the inventors, the investors, the patriarchs of all kinds, who create the pitfalls which swallow the theoretically innocent. To create freedom, they must create fairness, which means managing the social environment rigorously to give everyone a chance.

There is a certain moral totalitarianism going on when you buy such a narrative. In order to prevent a culture of exploitation, it’s fairly easy to see how a concerned group could come to the conclusion that they must control the culture themselves, in the name of freedom. And, yeah, there is a lot to be said here about the coherence of that ideal of freedom. What does not need to be said is how this is an obvious exchange of one set of dependencies for another.

I know people are pathetic, but I’m not convinced that they’ve always been THAT pathetic. We seem to be getting less and less capable of good personal judgment as dangers in the world are removed, less inclined to value the decisions that push the long-term over the short-term, to watching our step even if it means missing out on some marginally intriguing pleasures. Some people are obviously more vulnerable to vice than others, and on those grounds, choosing one’s vices is evidently not expected to be our choice anymore.

Because of this attitude, I have no real problem believing that a kid made what he sees as a moral decision: he created something that trapped people without meaning to, so he saved his soul by ceasing to offer it. Instead of making a dump truck full of money, he’s relegated himself to filling a mere hatchback. We should all be very proud of him, and may his shining example convince inventors of the Next Big Stupid Wasteful Thing to do sleep in tomorrow.

I really do think it’s great, because between the game and the decision to pull the game, this kid has created metric fucktons of entertainment for those of us who walk on the edge of misanthropy. Hopefully, thousands of dollars will be spent by in-withdrawal Flappy Bird addicts, doing the kinkiest of sexual favors in exchange for mere minutes with a beat up iPhone password controlled by their pimp, flapping their poor resolution wings before it’s time for the next pervert with a mayonnaise fetish.

How long before the media really moves on to non-substance addictions to scare people with, to make them feel out of control? Probably not long, because I think there are a lot of people who enjoy making the excuses, and I expect said people to look increasingly ridiculous as they lose all personal discipline and clamor for attention and pity in the future. It’ll make for compelling television.

The Corps of Wannabe Writers

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/tsa-screener-confession-102912_full.html#.UuyH19JDsXf

http://www.alternet.org/allergic-america-i-had-move-away-because-life-us-was-making-me-ill

These are the two articles that came through my Facebook feed JUST TODAY written by aspiring writers, both of them effectively failed in their field. Semi-anonymous article-length exposes or inspiring stories or harrowing profiles of the victimized written by these people thrive anywhere and everywhere in media. I’ve seen at least four this week. I’ve seen no less than ten this year, and January ended just a few minutes ago. You can’t get away from them, because it’s in this generations identity to write them.

The writing is usually decent quality. It should be, as your tax dollars certainly provided loans to finance the tens of thousands of dollars of tuition spent turning Jane Q. Public into a functional scribe, and possibly paid for it outright. English, literature, and creative writing majors, those are the media’s unpaid agents in the field.

They follow a predetermined path:

  • Wannabe writer naturally can’t find a job writing, so they take some other job they don’t like, at Wal-Mart or the TSA or a titty bar, who knows.
  • The new job turns out to be horrifying, to fold into topical subject matter, or to have “really interesting people” working or spending their time there, who’s stories desperately need and deserve to be told!
  • Wannabe writer engages in the highest form of social activism today: informing the public. And hopefully, making money and a name for themselves in the process.

Maybe they see themselves in that sort of secret agent light, penetrating the seedy underbelly of government corruption or corporate ruthlessness or the dank of the sex trade. Or maybe they see themselves as normal people who are also natural allies of the oppressed and hopeless, sharing their misery for a little while, getting to know their struggles, until they unveil their Secret Weapon: I’m a fuckin’ writer, yo! I can get people to CARE about this bullshit!

It’s inevitable. In a culture where being conventionally successful is passe and where uniqueness and authentic self-expression are values in themselves, writing looks amazing to a huge number of people. This generation breeds wannabe writers because writing has everything young people look forward to having in a career.

First of all, it’s respected by interesting people: if you’re an writer who manages to maintain a permanent address and make his electric payment, chicks will dig you more than, say, an insurance claims adjuster.

Second, writing is one of those jobs in which most people do it in wretched poverty but a few become wildly successful, and kids like that because beating the odds has narrative appeal. It looks like being broke is inevitable statistically, but much like being a pro athlete, an actor, a musician, or owning certain businesses, all the stats that make success look unlikely for normal people do not apply if you’re talented. The sky’s the limit.

Third, every American kid who’s been born since 1946 has had their ego souped up to make them think that they’re really creative and special, and therefore, super-talented. So this should be no problem!

Fourth, it means you can – in theory – make a huge difference by drawing attention to important causes, and therefore be a totally relevant everyday superhero in your own mind. Writing has the potential to focus people’s attention, and thus, it gives the writer power. Maybe you can gain a following, become a celebrity… it could happen, right?

Fifth, know that none of these kids think they’re going to end up doing the shitty writing, composing tampon ads or assembly instructions for Chinese toys. So most of them see themselves as future freelancers, beyond accountability to any sort of authority figure, typing on the beach and sticking it to the man, with his “rules.”

And finally, speaking of which, it’s flexible: no matter where you go or what you do, you can write about it. Egotistical people think they can make it all sound really, really interesting, too.

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So obviously, supply of people trained in writing has massively outstripped demand. No parent will tell their children today, “look, your dream of being a writer is childish and you need to learn how to do a real job.” Everyone knows those parents are terrible people, and since the state is paying for the degree more often than not, what do they care? Pursue your dreams, blessed child!

In some ways, it’s kind of funny. Marx thought of labor in terms of the capitalists’ reserve army, but what modern capitalist society has actually produced is a reserve army of writers. They are everywhere. If you’re in a position of responsibility, you’d better hope you don’t actually hire one by accident. If you see “English major” on an application for employment, then you’d better burn that shit. No matter how poorly they understand what you’re doing, they will think they get it, they will think it makes you an evil fuck, and they will publicize it in the worst possible light, until they bleed it of every microsecond of public attention.

Terrible, terrible people.

And I admit that, yes, at certain moments, I am one of them. I didn’t waste your tax dollars, but I do occasionally allow myself to think I can change something I don’t like in the world. The difference between the kids and myself? I’m old enough to know that most of the changes a writer can stimulate in this world would be for the worse in the long run, so I can occasionally wake myself up.