Monthly Archive: February 2008

Everything is class, even if class isn’t everything.

Via this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, an article on professionalism for salespeople that talks about why folks don’t think of sales as a profession. He touches on something that’s dreadfully important, which is that the respectability of a given line of work depends heavily on class perception. You can make damned good money selling things, but I think you’re supposed to feel just a bit dirty for having done so, rather than being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor the way that you could if you had, say, invested an amount of money that produced the same income.

Everything is class warfare. Everything.

The atheists aren’t the problem. Hell, they’re not even *a* problem.

Via J-Walk, an interesting take on the godless among us. As one of said godless, I really appreciate any article that fails to demonize (I’m supposed to resist?) folks like me. Nice change of pace. Being an atheist might not make you a better person, but it sure as hell doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be a worse one. Why that even needs to be said is something I’ll never understand.

I’m impressively impressed.

With the way that Senator Clinton is managing to screw her campaign up. I’ve been saying for several years that the Presidency was hers to lose, this round. I’m really shocked, though, that she’s managing to, you know, actually lose it.

See something new every day.

A bit of history.

Once upon a time, I was 16 and totally excited to go to Berkeley because it was Berkeley, man. I wore a peace symbol on a chain around my neck everywhere I went, and I really, truly believed that people could solve any problem if they just talked about it long enough. I also thought that reason would win out when they did, and that reason demanded all sorts of bizarre and irrational things. I vehemently opposed the war in Iraq and spent a good portion of my first-period physics class arguing about it with one of my equally geeky friends.

I was 21 when I voted for Bill Clinton because he’d signed the bill expanding the student loan program, meaning I could scrape together enough money to go back to college. That was all I really cared about just then.

Then I was 25 and broke and tired of the grad school games, and I dropped out and joined the Navy. I’d given up being a Democrat because I couldn’t stand Clinton’s tendency to over-parse. I’d had enough of that sort of thing in the classroom and it infuriated me. I still thought that people could work things out without violence if they were only honest. I was tired of having a specific viewpoint rammed down my throat in my classes, so I joined up to have a specific viewpoint rammed down my throat while marching around in circles. I firmly believed that this was absolutely different because it was useful.

Then I was 26 and on hold indefinitely and busy mocking people who had voted for Al Gore. I took up going to church for the donuts and accidentally found Jesus. Somebody flew some planes into some buildings that September, and that made me very, very angry. Especially when they kicked me out of the service and I didn’t get an opportunity to help blow anything up. Because by then I was quite sure that sometimes the only way to deal with people is to blow them up.

In 2003, I started blogging. I started because I was angry at people who didn’t believe in the Iraq war, because I was sure that if we just showed the world how badass we were, it would back the hell off and leave us alone.

I must have had an inkling what was to come, because I remember clearly explaining to my mother why the Patriot Act was a bad idea.

I was also very certain that I knew what other people ought to be doing with their genitals. And their time. And their money. Because I was a conservative, dammit, and all about the personal responsibility. If you give people freedom, they’ll try to rob you, don’t you know?

Then life happened and I suddenly realized that I’d been wrong the whole time, both ways around. Gave up Jesus and voting. Felt better.

Expanding on this last point is pretty much why this site is here. Well, that and to get my wannabe anarchist rants off of our family blog and into a proper venue. I’m still hoping that some of our friends with different viewpoints will join in and make the site a bit more interesting than I alone can manage.

Either way, there you go. Reformed liberal, reformed conservative. Now proudly divorced from the political process. That’s me.

Another lovely quirk some folks seem to have…

Is a belief in time machines. I’m all for personal responsibility, but there’s a difference between wanting folks to have to work forward in their lives from a bad spot with minimal or no government hand-holding (a thing which is getting more and more impossible the more we depend on the government for basic services) and wanting them to go back ten years and undo their lives. The second, being impossible, is just a nasty and spiteful thing to suggest.

We all make bad choices. Some of them work out anyway, some of them don’t. I have no problem with someone saying (to use an example that came up a decade or so ago in Minnesota), I don’t want to pay for your education just because you’re a single mother, as there’s a rational argument to be made about whether anyone should be paying for anyone else’s anything, and another to be made about the acceptable rationales therefore. What I object to is the more and more common formulation, well, then, you shouldn’t have had a kid, which not only contains a barrel of bad or possibly assumptions (how do we know she wasn’t widowed?), but shames the target based on them. I find this especially sad because why a person might find themselves in a bad situation has no bearing on whether they should be publicly funded in escaping it, but we enjoy the idea that we can punish the sluts and glorify the widows somehow through artful government, and that’s not at all what government is for.

We’re barely more than a century removed from the year an entire town in South Dakota nearly starved to death.

Giggle at me if you will for referencing Laura Ingalls Wilder, but really? This is important.

History is taught as though those members of the human race who came before us are somehow less than human. We sit here and sneer at the past as though it were populated by particularly bright hairless monkeys rather than full-fledged members of the human race. This makes it very difficult to understand history: if you start with the assumption, conscious or not, that all of those people nearly starved because they were stupid, you’re not going to be able to get much perspective on the thing. History looks simple and inevitable because it already happened. That doesn’t make the people starring in it any less people.

A similar misperception seem to happen when people look across economic classes. I’ve long said that a lot of folks attribute to their own brilliance what can better be explained by pure luck, and that attitude is becoming more and more pronounced the more the current state of the economy gets discussed. For a certain class of pundit, everyone who has run into trouble in all of this deserves it, and the slow-motion trainwreck is the best show in years, because it never occurs to said class of pundit that life may come after them next. They’ve done the same things, but having gotten away with it so far, they assume immunity, because they assume, naturally, that the others–being other–must have done something wrong. If everyone were as smart as they are, the world would be a perfect place.

The thing is that all of the smarts in the world aren’t going to save you when the trains don’t run. And right now? The trains aren’t running. Folks have built their lives around a set of assumptions that turned out to be bad. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.

The truly depressing thing about this is that the masses who are in trouble did exactly what those same pundit classes (and the government, and the rest of the media, and their teachers, and…) told them to do. You can’t get anywhere without a college degree, they say, and children need a backyard. The government pushes home ownership, so it must really be important, right? And we all go and get college degrees we can’t afford, because the only way we’ll be able to afford them is to get them, and we get credit cards because you can’t do half the things you need to do without one anymore (which is a post of its own, for sure) and because without the proven credit record we’ll never be able to afford a house, and then we buy houses that we really can’t afford because that’s what people do, dammit, and you want to appear as though you’re living at the class level above yourself, not the one below. And if you’re even tempted to examine your motives this closely and realize why it is that you want what the Joneses have, Oprah is standing there to tell you that positive thinking is what ensures your success, and the rest of the media join in with a chorus of fake-it-til-you-make-it, babe.

Until you don’t make it, when suddenly you find yourself characterized as the worst sort of pond-scum lowlife, too stupid to add and subtract, too corrupt to care that you’re thieving from your betters. You have children in the schools and you don’t even own a house! (Never mind that there’s not a landlord on the planet who doesn’t factor taxes into the cost of rent. You don’t own a house! Never mind that very few people below retirement age actually own their houses, and never mind that ownership is illusory, anyway. You don’t own a house!)

You can’t win. You’re an idiot if you don’t listen, and you’re an idiot if you do (at least if things go badly).

The thing is that I don’t expect that people can do much other than listen. Firstly, I don’t know where folks are supposed to find the time in their days to think about whether or not they’ve been set up by a de-facto ruling class that will rip them off and then excoriate them for allowing it to happen (all, mind you, while promoting the rip-off as the only way to avoid being ripped off). Secondly, have you ever tried to buck a trend? It requires a massive effort of will. People are programmed to follow along with whatever they’re hearing at highest volume, and I suspect the extent to which folks are able to hold distinctly odd views generally has more to do with their individual definition of “highest volume” rather than any substantial ability to truly resist the opinions of others. (Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but remember that this natural tendency–does anyone want to be separated from the tribe in the wilds at night?–is specifically encouraged in our children in the schools, making it that much harder to escape it. When you’re given bad information, then taught to try not to reason about it, then given faulty skills for doing the reasoning if you just can’t resist…well, it’s damned difficult to overcome that, no matter how smart you are.)

So you take people who just want to get along and live lives that don’t look too much different from that of their neighbors, you tell them that they’re failures in life if they don’t do A, B, and C, you build industries to sell them these things at ridiculous interest rates, you tell them that if they don’t make use of those industries they are, again, doing something wrong, and then–having set them up to fail–you tear into them when they actually do. Nice work, if you can get it.

We tell people that they’re stupid if they don’t go along with this, then tell that that they’re stupid because they did. There is absolutely no way to win this game. And that’s why even if my family weren’t in a bad financial position at the moment, we’d be getting off the everloving treadmill at the first possible moment. I suspect we’re not alone, and I suspect that it’s going to be very interesting to watch the shape things take if enough of us say, “Enough!”

Still doing my little dance of happiness over the withdrawl of the Mitt.

I don’t think there’s a good way to express just what a mess that guy is. He was an awful governor, and I can’t imagine what he would have done with a whole country to beat up on.

On the Dem side, I’ve decided to cheer for Sen. Obama in the remainder of the primaries. A number of you may find that shocking. What’s interesting is my reasons, which goes beyond the exhaustion with the Clintons. I’ve decided to dislike him less than the others because he’s still new enough to maintain an awareness–or the illusion of an awareness–that at the other end of his policy decisions are real live people with real live lives. It’s always good to feel a little less like a pawn, whether it’s true or not.

What amuses me is that people think there’s any real difference between the lot. They’re all authoritarian socialist statist pricks.

I’m a lot less interested than I was before I gave up voting. Why I did that is an entirely separate post, but it has something to do with refusing to be a self-boiling cannibal frog.

Origins of that phrase if I can break away from work long enough later today.

Mitt Kerry

I just came out with “Mitt Kerry” as a way to describe why Romney is such a bad idea that he makes mcCain look stolid and Presidential.

Then realized Kerry might possibly have been less panderiffic as President than I expect Romney to be.

The one positive about Romney is that he’s able to be a serious candidate despite being Mormon, much as it’s exciting that Clinton and Obama are serious candidates and could easily get that whole first woman or first black business out of the way so we can try to move on with people are all people and fuck history and any residual hang-ups. Heck, this even applies somewhat to McCain, with respect to age.

It just astonished me that I could conclude that Kerry, a “what were they thinking” candidate from the party if there ever was one, might have been preferable to Romney. And if I am thinking that, what does that say about Clinton and Obama? Would I really want Romney over either of them?

It’s a fascinating election, at any rate.

[I was sure I coined “panderiffic,” but Google seems to say otherwise, and this post doesn’t even come in the first few pages of results. Go figure. Also, seems funny how much I objected to Romney in 2008, in retrospect.]