Thursday, September 21, 2017

meristocrats

Obama is clearly a brilliant man.  Whatever criticisms I've had of him, none of it aims to question that, really.  He has also been extremely successful, at least by any measure which holds in high regard being elected and re-elected President of the US, but even that aside.  I'm sure his intelligence has helped.  Brilliant as he may be, I can see how he'd conclude that intelligence is more pivotal than it really is, likely believing it has been for him.

Of those who are less successful, then?  They don't know what they're talking about, right?  Leading them means trying to herd them in the right direction.  Not listen to them.  Certainly not let them get into power themselves.  It's cute when they try, that Bernie means well, but when it comes down to it, they need to be stopped.  Elites like himself would naturally believe that they're the ones that understand the situation, and so this is where they get their narrative.  From those they trust, not listening to those they don't, not even understanding their criticisms.

I can imagine that if I'd been more successful in life, I'd think my own merits were pretty damn important, too.  I'd end up spending more of my time with people in a similar situation.  It's not a big leap then, to conclude that if such merits are important for me and the people I know, they're important for everyone.  Ergo, those who don't succeed are, by definition, going to be lacking in the aggregate - this really only being a difference in perspective.  A measurement of variables, relative to other variables.

How much does being born into socio-economic advantage matter relative to how much ones own intelligence and other character attributes matter.  Both sides can acknowledge that it all matters.  The disagreement is in which matters so much as to almost entirely overshadow the rest.  It is a deepening striation between populists and centrists who believe that the status quo is in significant part, the product of meritocracy.  Good people succeed, bad people are weeded out, controlled, dealt with by soup kitchens and law enforcement.  These are implicit, when thinking about what's primarily involved in being successful in society.

The more successful people are, the more they're naturally motivated to believe it's been their own doing.  The more unsuccessful people there are in society, the more this is going to be questioned.  The more it's questioned, the more people realize that it's actually bullshit.  Sure, you can point to Obama as an example of how important intelligence is, but I can point to Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and of course Trump.  One in five would instead suggest that success sometimes happens in spite of intelligence.

Or put another way, other factors sure matter a whole lot more.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ленивец

I've often noticed that when I go through a particularly dark mood, I go through all sorts of irrational thought processes.  As I come out of it, as I always do eventually, I look back with a sense of perspective and objectivity.  I can see how irrational I was being, interpreting things in awful ways, coming to even worse conclusions.

We often underestimate just how potent it can be, to be lost in the midst of delusion.  I've been wary of this my whole life, and yet, can only really see past it, from a safe distance.  What really gets me is that if my "safe distance" is really just another delusion, I'd be no more capable of realizing it, than I was of realizing the delusions of deep depression.  From the perspective of depression, feeling better seems pointless, hollow, but neither is really wrong, per se.  Just different.

There's a clear cognitive bias, to wanting to believe that it's more real, when I'm not so depressed.  A great relief in finding ways of thinking that aren't painful.  If my current state of mind involves a more pleasant brain chemistry, I'd sure like to think that it's what's real.  I'm just not sure there's much reason to conclude that's actually true.  Most people believe all sorts of crazy things, and often seem to think very little about the complex layers of causality that really drive everything.

As I finished my first cup of coffee this morning, my daily self-diagnostics were not looking good.  Going for my usual run felt out of the question.  Not because I was all that miserable, but critically unmotivated.  I know this feeling well, and it sounds a lot easier to get over than it is.  In the midst of that state, there was no getting over it.

Few hours later, I began to realize I felt all sweaty and unpleasant, and that a shower would probably be a good idea.  As I moved to do that, I figured it would probably make sense to run first, then shower.  Not to be reductive, and might have been coincidence, but sweating is a side effect of increasing cortisol levels.  A more primary function being how it factors into motivation.

So, out of the blue, I was all sweaty and motivated, and it got me moving.  Was I delusional before, thinking that I couldn't move?  Or did my endocrine system finally kick into gear the way it's supposed to?  If that is the real culprit, is it delusion to blame distorted thinking and bad feelings?  Is it delusion to blame delusion?

There are almost certainly elements of both, and the flawed thinking would not be believing in either one, but in disbelieving in the other.  A sort of delusion that seems quite common to me.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

middle path regime

I've noticed a pattern, in my own behavior, where at first, I realize that I might have a knack for something.  This inspires me to push myself harder, as it starts looking reasonable that I could be really good at it.  If I work at it.

So, I do, but my rate of progress doesn't really improve that much.  Not only am I still an awful long way from being really good at much of anything, but I still keep making all sorts of stupid beginner mistakes.  So, I push myself harder, but eventually I'm starting to overdo it, sabotaging my progress, not giving myself enough time to process, rest, recover.  I get frustrated.  I clearly just suck at this.  For some inexplicable reason, I don't feel like doing it much longer.

So, I theorize that it might be a good idea to cap my goals, my ideals, even my principles.  To push myself about a step beyond what seems to be a realistic baseline - and no more.  What seems to matter above all else is that I keep doing it, indefinitely.  Without focusing on what I'm trying to achieve, but on the practice itself, as a part of who I am.  Just something I do every day.  Or every other day.  Every Tuesdays and Thursdays.  As long as it's something I keep doing month after month, year after year.  This seems to be the most integral part of how anyone ever really gets good at anything.

It also just seems to be a healthy way to keep doing healthy things, when I really really don't feel like it.  Which is kind of a lot.  I sure wish there were something I could do about that.

I also theorize that things like running regularly should help.  I must have way more mitochondria by now, right?  Still, by the time I've made my morning coffee, I feel like I'm done for the day.  I need plenty of time to recover so that I'll be able to make myself another decent cup of coffee tomorrow.

Я много отдыхаю.

Friday, July 28, 2017

я хочет картошке пожалуиста

Drifting off to sleep last night, my head was swimming with foreign words and sounds that I'm only just beginning to recognize.  Please, thank you, man, woman, dog, cat, onion, potato, да, нет.  I can recognize more words in text than in hearing them, but I can recognize both much more easily than I can reproduce them.  I can speak like a very young child on a few issues, like dogs eating apples, and I can barely spell anything at all.

I've been watching my two cousins raising their brand new little people, so maybe that's why that's been on my mind.  Anja points and calls out the only words she knows.  Aliza understands everything people say to her and even some sign language, but she isn't ready to bumble through trying to vocalize any of it herself, just yet.  I've been feeling like I can relate.  Well, more to where they were a few months ago.  Catching a familiar word here or there, but for the most part, just hearing a jumble of incomprehensible sounds.

I've been wanting to learn other languages all my life.  I've attempted to learn French, Spanish, and Hebrew, yже.  My efforts have always fizzled.  It wasn't until I was in New Jersey that my attempt at Spanish felt like it was going pretty well.  I'd only stopped when I moved to Vermont.  There isn't a lot of Spanish spoken around here.  I also ran out of Omnitrope for a while.  I'm not really sure why I stopped.  I'd be all but fluent by now, if I'd kept at it until starting Russian.

Maybe I was afraid that if I filled my head with too much Spanish, I'd have no room for a third language.  Maybe a little bit, but I know that's absurd.  We can tell ourselves all sorts of stories, but some of us need more sophisticated stories than others.  Another one is that I'd just gotten my first smartphone, started using a language teaching app that held my hand the entire way.  It provides the guidance of a teacher, without needing to deal with an actual person.  Sure, it's not a great teacher, but it's a nice little intuitive interface, and honestly, I've had actual teachers who were worse.

All sorts of things I've attempted to learn in my life, I've tried to do on my own.  For various reasons, I've never had much guidance.  I know that not everyone needs a whole lot.  My sister seems to have needed much less, winging whatever she had to, when everyone around her was being less than helpful.  I know there are people that teach themselves foreign languages with nothing but a translation dictionary.  It's a spectrum, but I seem to be at the other end of it, and I wonder why that is.

Sometimes I wonder about the difference between childhood and being an adult.  By all sorts of metrics, you end up drawing an arbitrary line under which some adults won't qualify, and some children will.  There seems to be an element of confidence to it.  At some point, a human being says ok, I get how it's done, let me do it myself.  Growing increasingly fervent about it, as they make their way from the terrible twos, through adolescence.  When I was two, I went around pointing at things, and asking if they were fragile.

I come from a patriarchal line who seem oddly terrified of doing things wrong.  Each making the successive generation even worse.  I've never even arrived at feeling as though I get it.  That I'm ready to handle life on my own.  Not for lack of trying, it's a feeling that sabotages every effort, at every step of the way.  It's a feeling of needing to be shown how anything is done.  This has been extremely problematic, given that I'm not exactly a people person.

There are probably all sorts of things I'd be enthusiastic about learning how to do, if only there were someone an app to walk me through it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

я don't speak human

I've tried to leave my past behind, old patterns of thought and behavior.  Years of life lessons that have not worked out well for me.  I've tried to free myself from who I was, who I am, but a few old songs can bring it all back.  I'm reminded of what it's like to think I can believe in myself, whatever that might really mean.

Put it to music, an artful narrative, to which I relate.  I'm reminded of how like everything, it's so much a matter of perspective.  None of the facts change, only a difference in what's valued.  How we assess the importance of everything around us.  Who we are, what we do, where we're trying to go in life.  It's not something that can be right or wrong, per se.

Perspectives can however, be undermined by how well they achieve, at the very least, that which they might claim to value.  It's a whole lot easier to tell humanity to fuck right off, when you're doing ok, going your own way.  Practicalities, like taking care of our own needs, food, shelter.  Not being forced to ask for help.  Maybe I wouldn't need help, if America weren't so dysfunctional, but still.  Taking my disability check really takes the wind out of that whole "fuck right off" thing - as would devoting most of my waking life to some shit minimum wage job, really.



What does it really mean, not to speak human, to embrace alienation, to tell society to go fuck itself, and all that entails?  It means something very different, when it's spending your life living alone in a basement.  It makes it so much harder to remember why I've done this to myself.  To have much pride in my resolve, as I sit around feeling lonely and miserable.

Maybe early in life, I should have just engaged more in popular media, music, movies, sports, like everyone else?  It is weird to think about how.. well, yeah.  I could have done that, and honestly, it would have made life a whole lot easier.  Not that such a trivial choices would matter as much now, but I can see how at the time, it could have meant all sorts of things turning out better for me, if I'd been more socially connected.  If I'd even just attempted to join the herd.  Especially now, as I can see how often people welcome the attempt itself, as a sign of good will.  I can see how maybe it has been problematic.. tacitly telling everyone that everything they like sucks.

Not to make it too black and white, I'm not even talking abject negation of self identity, but I could have branched out more tactfully, without all the alienation.  I could have made some effort to be normal.  That does seem to be what lots of people do, balancing their individuality with wanting to be welcomed by their peers.  I've been listening to so many different interpretations of my life, it's easy to lose track of what I do know.  I was very clear in my rejection of any such notion, often even putting it into writing.

Maybe not an entirely rational choice.  I might misjudge values, of what was worth striving for, and what was worth holding onto.  There is fixation of sorts on self-identity tied into it all, in everything from aesthetic preferences to deeper ethical concerns.  In an abstract sense, I can see how I probably would have been better off, doing things differently.  In theory, if I were to get a do-over of my life, which I'd play like a video game, from a safe difference.  Without all the complications of having to feel any of it.

Some things never change though.  If I have to actually sit through sports and pop music?  Oh, hell no.  Fuck that.  Screw you, humanity.

It occurs to me that left-wing politics might be the closest I can get, to ranting about the things that bother me about people, in a way that resonates.. with people.  That gets lots of upvotes from random strangers on Facebook.  That sort of thing.  I'd really rather be hanging out in the woods doing shrooms and playing music, though.

Friday, July 7, 2017

wealthiest poverty in the world

Under a recent post calling into question the legitimacy of American exceptionalism, I commented that the US is exceptional in one particular way, generally considered positive.  We're number one in prison population, and military spending, but lots of people are against that.  The one thing we do clearly have going for us though, is that we are the wealthiest country in the world.

I was actually surprised how many people laughed at this.  We can bicker about whether it makes more sense to measure wealth per capita, or in total - but even per capita, the US ranks way up there.  It's simply a fact that this country is one of the wealthiest in the world.  I certainly didn't expect that to be so controversial that people would laugh.  

That's kind of shocking, right?  The wealthiest country in the history of the world has half its citizens thinking it's broke.  Literally, no money to do anything.  We're too poor.  I don't think people even understand what wealth means, let alone the national debt they claim to be so concerned about.

Some pointed to Dubai as an example of what wealth looks like, so this was my response.
 America doesn't spend its wealth on infrastructure or its people. It just redistributes it to the top, where the wealthiest people horde it. The way that they put it, they're allowed to keep their own profits, instead of being taxed - but where do they get those profits? From the American people, from workers to consumers.  
It's all part of the same economy, and by not paying into it enough, relative to what they're extracting, it makes America look a lot poorer than it is.  
Yeah, we could have cities like Dubai, but we don't. 

On the other hand, people take issue with the idea that anyone in America is really poor.  One posted an article about how many of these so-called poor people have cellphones and computers.  I've mentioned that I even had video games, growing up.  My parents were new to credit.  My father didn't seem to understand or care that they couldn't afford the things he bought.  Computer stuff, mostly.  At least we didn't live somewhere that throws people in prison or beats them to death for that sort of thing, right?

I think a lot of the issue isn't really just personal wealth, but how much spending there is on infrastructure, mass transit, public education, public places of all kinds.  In all of that, America has been on the decline for decades, because of the idea that wealth is personal, and those who have it should be able to keep it.  Well, turns out, they don't like spending on that sort of stuff, when they have jets and properties all over the world.  Personal wealth inequality makes the absence of public spending all the more glaring for those that don't have other means.

The inadequacy of a cellphone to substitute for luxuries like healthcare, education, or owning any land at all.  These things being much more expensive than a phone or even an old computer.  The problem is largely one of wealth inequality, where the richest Americans drive up the costs of everything.  In the US, a person can get a few hundred a month, which would be enough to live well in many places - but in the US, it's not enough to even pay the lowest of rent, let alone food, utilities, or anything else.  Simply having money is not wealth.  It's all about context, and what the wealth is worth, relative to everything else in society.

Wealth is a measure of the economy, the flow of goods and services, resources, labor, and consumers.  Wealth is nothing without the economy that gives it value.  Yet there seems to be this widespread belief that the more a person takes from the economy for themselves, the more they must inherently deserve it.  Americans think their country is poor, yet don't understand how national wealth has anything to do with those making millions of dollars from the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

counter culture

I was maybe twelve years old when I started taking an interest in music.  At first, just stuff that I heard on the radio, but rapidly evolving from there.  As my tastes refined, they moved further and further away from mainstream.  It certainly feels as if I just like what I like, but maybe there is more to it than that.

For some reason, my taste in food comes to mind next.  I know appreciation of good food isn't all that unusual, but McDonald's and Budweiser is most premier cuisine in America.   In my experience, the masses have downright horrifying taste.  Still, just to be sure, I also like my food so spicy that literally no one I know can eat it, other than me.

Don't get me started on people with their jobs and their families - my thoughts on all that are more complicated than aesthetic aversion, and yet regardless, here I am.  No job, no family.  I can't really relate to any of that.  Just another way in which I'm some kind of alien.  On the one hand, I want to say that this isn't exactly of my choosing, and yet, it sort of is.  I refused to prioritize anything like that, when I had the chance.  I had no interest in doing what everyone else was doing.

Then there's politics.  I voted for the candidate that only got 1% of the vote.  There does seem to be a pattern here.  It could be that I feel some sort of need to define myself in contrast with what I perceive to be normal.  An aversion to people that allows me to take pride in my isolation.

Or, it could be that social behaviors reinforce interests, establishing herd behavior.  Spending so much time alone, I've just sort of gone my own way.  Almost any direction is going to be away from mainstream. I seem to do this when it comes to almost everything in life, so maybe it is some of both.

In recent years though, I find my interests in all sorts of things gradually waning, wondering if it's because none of it is being socially reinforced.  It all just feels sort of hollow.  It's deflating being the only person I know who likes anything I like.. but I also know that my tastes aren't that impossibly obscure.

The problem compounded by leaving my apartment no more than absolutely necessary.  Always for as briefly as possible.. which I'm afraid might be because going places and doing things got really discouraging after a while.