It seems like a lot of our problems in modern America stem from wanting to act as a unified entity but not actually being a unified entity.
Of course, we never were. No one in 1776 thought Massachusetts and Georgia were culturally or economically the same. They were so different that the whole country was set up as a “confederation” of nearly-independent states that just cooperated for reasons of national defense and trade efficiency.
Of course, that didn’t work so well and, over time, the nation installed a more and more powerful federal government, but differences in how people thought the whole thing should be run were still strong enough that we ended up fighting a civil war in the process.
That’s bad enough! But today we have nukes. We affect other people, not just ourselves, and other people are understandably concerned about those nukes. They’d like us to be a wee bit consistent in where we’re pointing them and maybe give them a heads up if we’re about to destroy their country.
Which we might be able to do if we were a single entity. But we’re not. We don’t even have the same people in power from year to year.
What’s that, we just let people vote, and if some 51% of us decide to vote for the guy whose policy is “nuke all of the penguins and use global warming to cancel out nuclear winter,” then that’s the law of the land?
Yes, that’s how democracy works, horrifying as it may sound.
The only sane response is a buildup of technocratic and bureaucratic apparati devoted to thwarting the will of the people in order to make sure no one nukes Antarctica in a fit of democratic fervor (or self-serving fervor, an actual concern during the Nixon administration.)
Who prevents the Deep State that’s supposed to prevent the president from going off the deep end from going off the deep end?
Meanwhile, we can’t get our national act together even on much simpler questions, like “Is rent control good?” or “How should we teach kids to read?” or “is abortion murder?”
Yet despite the fact that we really aren’t a single entity, we get perceived as one. We basically perceive ourselves as one. The actions of people at the other end of the country (or the world) we feel reflect on ourselves, even when we might from some rational standpoint admit that we really don’t have any control over those people and we shouldn’t be implicated in some giant mass guilt schema because of them.
In short, half of us want to run things one way and half want things the other way, and one of the side effects of this is absolute horror that some people are being RUDE.
The conservative joke about liberals is that liberals aren’t in favor of open borders, they’re just opposed to anything that would prevent open borders.
Liberals, of course, are concerned that closing the borders is rude. Muslim bans are rude. Attacking journalists is rude. Trump is rude.
Half of the country wants to welcome immigrants, and the other half doesn’t, and the net result is liberals feel like the conservatives are rude to their guests and conservatives feel like liberals are rudely imposing guests upon them.
Meanwhile, Japan manages to have a reputation for politeness even without an open borders policy, proving that life is not actually a choice between two and only two diametrically opposed sides.
The Japanese have refined the art of politely saying “no”, such as “I am sorry, but that is very difficult,” or “We are very busy right now; we will have to address this later.”
Having rules of etiquette and politeness (where everyone understands, of course, that “I am very busy,” really means, “No”) allows people to wiggle out of difficult situations without losing face.
It may be true, for example, that the average American doesn’t really want to die for the sake of Montenegro, a small nation that didn’t even exist when the average American learned geography. Montenegro was only officially declared a country in 2006, and certainly no American was ever asked whether they want to die for it. Now, a normal person might think it a wee bit presumptuous and rude to just straight up expect a bunch of strangers in a foreign country to be willing to give up everything and die for you, without even asking in the first place, but that people don’t like dying in strange lands never seems to occur to politicians. No, it is telling Montenegro that we aren’t so keen on the idea that’s the rude part. (Much better to wait until Montenegro is in dire straits and then weasel out of it, of course.)
Well, regardless of what works with North Koreans, being rude to your allies is a bad look. A country needs some sort of consistency, or it stops being a reliable partner at all and just becomes a rampaging elephant.
At least with a dash of formal politeness, I think people could feel a bit better about themselves and the conduct of the country. Maybe they’d calm down a bit.
Dignity seems like an under-developed concept in political discussions relative to its importance in basic human interactions.
Dignity is close to honor.
There are many polls and quizes that attempt to determine your political values or orientations along axes like Tradition vs Choice or Authority vs Freedom. Haidt’s framework of moral attitudes highlights five realms:
• Harm/care. It is wrong to hurt people; it is good to relieve suffering.
• Fairness/reciprocity. Justice and fairness are good; people have certain rights that need to be upheld in social interactions.
• In-group loyalty. People should be true to their group and be wary of threats from the outside. Allegiance, loyalty and patriotism are virtues; betrayal is bad.
• Authority/respect. People should respect social hierarchy; social order is necessary for human life.
• Purity/sanctity. The body and certain aspects of life are sacred. Cleanliness and health, as well as their derivatives of chastity and piety, are all good. Pollution, contamination and the associated character traits of lust and greed are all bad.
Authority/respect gets closest to what I mean by dignity, but in the US, we tend only to think in terms of respecting those higher than us in the social order.
I am thinking of a more comprehensive respect; an essential dignity that all people possess or should be encouraged to possess.
When you talk to the poor, the aged, the infirm, what do they want? An end to suffering, of course–but also dignity.
Our desire for dignity explains a variety of otherwise inexplicable political phenomena. Why do whites focus more on the actions of a New Zealander who kills Muslims than a Nigerian who kills Muslims, for example? Because whites feel that the misbehavior of the New Zealander reflects badly on them; their collective dignity has been lowered. The actions of a Muslim or a Nigerian don’t reflect on non-Muslims or non-Nigerians; whites feel no collective shame or guilt over these incidents.
(Note: “white” and “Muslim” are not exclusive categories and plenty of Muslims have pale skin, but I lack better terminology.)
Similarly, much of the liberal opposition to Trump probably stems from a perception that he is undignified.
People don’t need to be at the top of the hierarchy to be treated with dignity; good social norms, I suspect, can help people respond to and treat people lower than themselves with respect, as well.
Our society seems to be engaged in an absurd dance where people fight for honor and respect by demanding it from people significantly lower than themselves on the social totem pole. For example, a female professor complains about a university janitor who assumed she was merely the wife of a male professor; a black woman complains that the minimum wage shop employees didn’t let her into the shop after closing time; another professor harasses road crew laborers over a “men at work” sign. These absurd cases all involve women trying to assert power over people who have far less power than themselves in the first place, like a prince having a peasant executed for getting mud on his boots.
Of course, our system doesn’t simply content itself with declaring divine right; it insults us by also claiming that these peasants are the ones with the real power.
Since these folks are not actually princes, though, they probably aren’t just on run-away power trips; I suspect instead that they feel a mis-match between the level of respect they want from society vs the level they get. Since they can’t get any more respect from normal avenues/their peers, they’ve turned instead to targeting the weak, like a D&D player pouring boiling water on an anthill to grind XP.
Such behavior should be called out for the undignified farce that it is.
That said, much of modern life feels designed to humiliate and degrade; the Cabrini Green housing projects were so ugly they seem intentionally soul-crushing.
RationalRevolution has an interesting article on capital redistribution with a few points of relevance to our current discussion:
Capital ownership has become increasingly concentrated throughout American history. When the country was founded roughly 90% of citizen families owned meaningful capital from which they derived income, primarily land. Today less than 10% of American families own meaningful capital from which they derive income prior to retirement. …
The other important fact that is often overlooked is the fact that over that past 100 years the portion of the population directly owning their own capital has declined at a pace that exceeds the rate of financial asset acquisition. In other words, 100 years ago a far greater portion of people owned their own business and worked for themselves or within a family owned business. The largest portion of these people were farmers who owned their own land and equipment. As small businesses were overtaken by larger corporations, more people became wage-laborers. Some of these people acquired stock or other financial assets, but the acquisition of financial assets has not offset the decline of directly owned capital assets by individuals over time. Even today, the majority of self-employed people have no meaningful capital assets. The majority of the self-employed today are primarily selling their labor, as consultants, contractors or service workers.
In other words, back in the 1800s, the vast majority of Americans were self-employed; most owned their own small farms. To be self-employed is to be your own master. Since then, the number of self-employed has declined steadily, while the number employed has generally increased. (Admittedly, the increase in people receiving wages around 1865 has nothing to do with a decline in small business ownership.) Who knows what the Uber-Revolution holds, but for now, we have transitioned from a nation of self-employed farmers to a nation of employees, and I think it’s getting to people.
Man or beast, even in poverty we can feel dignified if we have the respect of our neighbors, and even in wealth we can be degraded, degenerate.
There are a lot of political issues that hinge, to me, on dignity. Restrictions on speech are restrictions on dignity, for a free man can speak his mind and a slave cannot. A revolution in social norms, either because of technology or regime change, leaves people unsure of what commands respect from their neighbors. And in a sort of moral, spiritual sense, when we expect people to violate their own natures, we violate some essence of human dignity. Humans are not infinitely malleable; each of us has our own particular nature. A fish cannot be expected to swim, nor a chicken to fly; we recognize something cruel in expecting a rooster not to crow or a dog not to bark.
I admit this isn’t exactly fully fleshed-out philosophy.
The modern people of Japan are descended from two main groups–the Yayoi, rice farmers who arrived in the archipelago around 800 BC, and the Jomon, hunter-gatherers who arrived thousands of years before.
The oldest known skeletons in Japan are about 30,000 years old. The first 20,000 years of Japanese history are the Paleolithic; the Jomon period, marked by distinct pottery, begins around 14,000 BC.
Despite being hunter-gatherers, the Jomon reached a relatively high level of cultural sophistication (Wikipedia has a nice collection of Jomon art and buildings,) probably because Japan is a naturally lush and pleasant place to live. (The popular perception of hunter-gatherers as poor and constantly on the brink of death is due to the best land having been conquered by farmers over the past few thousand years and enormous population growth over the past hundred. Neither of these factors affected the Jomon at their peak.)
Who were the Jomon? Were they descended directly from the paleolithic peoples of Japan, or were they (relative) newcomers? And what happened to them when the Yayoi arrived? Did they inter-marry? Are the Ainu their modern descendants?
After the major Out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens around 60 kya, modern humans rapidly expanded across the vast landscapes of Eurasia. Both fossil and ancient genomic evidence suggest that groups ancestrally related to present-day East Asians were present in eastern China by as early as 40 kya. Two major routes for these dispersals have been proposed, either from the northern or southern parts of the Himalaya mountains[1,3–5].
So far the genetic studies have suggested a southern migration route, but archaeological evidence suggests a northern route or at least significant northern trade routes.
Note: the paper claims that the Jomon invented the world’s first pottery, but this appears to be incorrect; according to Wikipedia, the oldest known pottery is from China. However, the Jomon are very close.
To identify the origin of the Jomon people, we sequenced a 1.85-fold genomic coverage of a 2,500-years old Jomon individual (IK002) excavated from the central part of the Japanese archipelago. Comparing the Jomon whole-genome sequence with ancient Southeast Asians, we previously reported genetic affinity between IK002 and the 8,000-years old Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherer. This direct evidence on the link between the Jomon and Southeast Asians, thus, confirms the southern route origin of East Asians.
Ideally, it would be nice to have a bunch of much older samples, but is difficult to get older DNA from Japanese skeletons because Japan is generally warm and humid, which interferes with preservation. It’s really amazing that we can get what little old DNA we can.
I’m going to call IK002 “Ikari” from here on.
Ikari’s mother hails from mitochondrial haplogroup N9b1, which previous studies have established as common in ancient Jomon people. It’s quite rare in modern Japan, however–which is somewhat unusual, since invading armies usually like to turn the local women into war brides rather than wipe them out entirely. The mitochondrial DNA of Latin American people, for example, hails primarily from native women, while their Y chromosomes hail primarily from Spanish conquistadors.
Then we get to the exciting part.
The authors use numerous methods to compare Ikari’s DNA to that of other people, ancient and modern. The graph at right shows Ikari (the red diamod) closest to the Kusunda, a modern day people living in Nepal! According to Wikipedia, there are only 164 Kusunda left, with only one surviving speaker of their native language, itself an isolate. (Though the Wikipedia page on the Kusunda language claims that 7 or 8 more speakers were recently discovered.)
The other shapes close to Ikari on this graph are are Sherpas and another iron-age individual from Tibet.
The Ainu are not shown on this graph, but Ikari is closely related to them, as well.
Second, when using a smaller number of SNPs (41,264 SNPs) including the present-day Ainu from Hokkaido (Fig.S1), IK002 clusters with the Hokkaido Ainu (Fig.S4), supporting previous findings that they are direct descendants of the Jomon people[14,34–41].
Taken together, all of the evidence is still kind of scanty, but points to the possibility of a Melanesian-derived group that spread across south Asia, made it into Tibet and the Andaman Islands, walked into Indonesia, and then split up, with one branch heading up the coast to Taiwan, Okinawa, Japan, and perhaps across the Bering Strait and down to Brazil, while another group headed out to Australia.
Later, the ancestors of today’s east Asians moved into the area, largely displacing or wiping out the original population, except in the hardest places to reach, like Tibet, the Andaman Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Amazon Rainforest, and Hokkaido–the fringe.)
That was quite speculative, but an actual genetic link between Tibetans (broadly speaking, peoples of the Tibetan plateau) and the modern Ainu is pretty exciting.
Of course, the Jomon did not die out entirely when the Yayoi arrived–about 10% of the modern Japanese genome resembles Ikari’s, along with 6% of the nearby Siberian Ulchi people’s.
By contrast, the Yayoi are more closely related to the modern Han Chinese.
Further analysis reveals more fascinating details about the ancient peopling of Asia and the Americas: Ikari’s ancestors likely split off from the other Asians before the Native Americans headed to Alaska, giving us a rough time estimate for the Jomon’s arrival–older than the 26,000 year old split between East Asians vs Siberians & Native Americans, but younger than a particular 40,000 year old group that split off in China, found in Tianyuan.
This indicates that the Jomon are most likely descended from the Japanese Paleolithic people, who arrived around 30,000 years ago and simply developed pottery a few thousand years later, rather than more recent migrants.
People have long speculated about whether the Ainu are related to Caucasians (whites, Europeans, Westerners, whatever you want to call them,) due to their abundantly bushy beards. There is some West-Eurasian admixture in the ancestors of East Siberians and Native Americans that pre-dates the peopling of the New World, but this admixture is not found in Ikari; the Ainu likely did not get their beards from wandering European hunter-gatherers.
As the tooth studies suggested, however, the Jomon and Ainu are related to the Taiwanese Aborigines, like the Ami and Atayal. (However, the final portion of the paper is a little confusing, so I may have misinterpreted something. Hopefully the authors can clarify a bit in their final form.) It is otherwise a fine paper, and I encourage you to read it.
Well, there’s a clickbaity title if ever I wrote one.
Nevertheless, human breasts are strange. Sure, all females of the class mammalia are equipped with mammary glands for producing milk, but humans alone posses permanent, non-functional breasts.
Yes, non-functional: the breast tissue that develops during puberty and that you see on women all around you is primarily fat. Fat does not produce milk. Milk ducts produce milk. They are totally different things.
Like all other mammals, the milk-producing parts of the breasts only activate–make milk–immediately after a baby is born. At any other time, milk production is a useless waste of calories. And when mothers begin to lactate, breasts noticeably increase in size due to the sudden production of milk.
A number of factors associated with low milk supply have been identified, such as nipple pain, ineffective nursing, hormonal disorders, breast surgery, certain medications, and maternal obesity. … Research into breast size and milk production shows that milk supply is not dependent on breast size, but rather on the amount of epithelial tissue contained in a breast that is capable of making milk …
However, in addition to baby attachment issues, accumulating evidence shows that a major factor preventing overweight and obese mothers to breastfeed is the inability of their breast epithelial cells to start producing copious amounts of milk after birth. This is often referred to as unsuccessful initiation of lactation. …
a recent study took advantage of breast epithelial cells non-invasively isolated from human milk. In these cells, certain genes are turned on, which enable the cells to gradually make milk as the breast matures during pregnancy, and then deliver it to the baby during breastfeeding.
The study reported a negative association between maternal BMI (body mass index), and the function of a gene that represents the milk-producing cells. This suggested that the breast epithelial tissue is not as mature and ready to make copious amounts of milk in mothers with higher BMI. Most likely, the large breasts of overweight or obese mothers contain more fat cells than milk-making cells, which can explain the low milk supply of many of these mothers.
Therefore, breast size does not necessarily translate to more milk-producing cells or higher ability to make milk.
More fat=less room for milk production.
Interestingly, average cup size varies by country. Of course the data may not be 100% accurate, and the lumping of everyone together at the national level obscures many smaller groups, like Siberians, but it otherwise still indicates some general trends that we can probably trust.
If breasts don’t actually make milk, then why on Earth do we have them? Why are women cursed with lumpy fat blobs hanging off their chests that have to be carefully smushed into specialized clothing just so we can run without them flopping around painfully?
And for that matter, why do we think they look nice?
One reasonable theory holds that breasts are really just front-butts. Our apish ancestors, like modern chimpanzees, most likely not copulate ad libitum like we do, but only when females were fertile. Female fertility among our chimpish relatives is signaled via a significant swelling and reddening of their rear ends, a clear signal in a species that wears no clothes and often walks on four limbs.
When humans began walking consistently on two legs, wearing clothes, and looking at each other’s faces, this obvious signal of female fertility was lost, but not our desire to look at rear-ends. So we simply transferred this desire to women’s fronts and selectively had more children with the women who piqued our interests by having more butt-shaped cleavage.
In support of this theory, many women go to fair lengths to increase the resemblance between their ample bosoms and an impressive behind; against this theory is the fact that no other bottom-obsessed species has accidentally evolved a front-butt.
I realized yesterday that there is an even simpler potential explanation: humans are just smart enough to be stupid.
Most of us know that breasts produce milk. Few of us really understand the mechanism of how they produce milk. I had to explain that fat lumps don’t produce milk at the beginning of this post because so few people actually understand this. Far more people think “Big breasts=lots of milk” than think “big breasts=lactation problems.” Humans have probably just been accidentally selecting for big breasts for millennia while trying to select for milk production.
An ethnic group is a set of people with a common ancestry, culture, and language. The Han Chinese, at a 1.3 billion strong, are an ethnic group; the Samaritans, of whom there are fewer than a thousand, are also an ethnic group. Ishi was, before his death, an ethnic group of one: the last surviving member of the Yahi people of California.
We sit within nested sets of genetic relatives:
(You are most likely part Homo neanderthalensis, because different species within the Homo genus have interbred multiple times.)
Interestingly, Wikipedia lists African American as an ethnicity on its list of ethnic groups page (as they should, because it is).
Four or five hundred relatives, from parents and children to fifth cousins, are enough to begin to describe an ethnic group. It certainly looks, based on the map, like I hail from an ethnic group–yet neither Wikipedia nor 23 and Me recognize this group.
Larger ethnic groups may be subdivided into smaller sub-groups known variously as tribes or clans, which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves due to endogamy or physical isolation from the parent group. Conversely, formerly separate ethnicities can merge to form a pan-ethnicity, and may eventually merge into one single ethnicity. Whether through division or amalgamation, the formation of a separate ethnic identity is referred to as ethnogenesis.
Of course, no one wants to submit their DNA to 23 and Me and get the result “You’re a white person from America.” (Nor “You’re a black person from America.”) We know that. People take these tests to look at their deeper history.
But focusing only on the past makes it easy to lose sight of the present. You aren’t your ancestors. The world didn’t halt in 1492. I’m no more “British” or “European” than I am “Yamnaya” or “Anatolian farmer.”
History moves on. New ethnic groups form. The past tells us something about where we’ve been–but not where we’re headed.
I got arrested for conspiracy to sell drugs and sentenced to thirty months in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg… Doing jail time was no big deal to me. But what made it a little complicated was that they had blacks and whites desegregated. Around the time I went into Lewisburg, they’d passed some law that made it illegal to segregate prisoners. So, for the first time in the common areas and in the mess hall, black folks and white folk were together. I’m not so sue that was a good idea back then ’cause, for the most part, blacks and whites in jail were like the Bloods and Crips today.
And at Lewisburg, there were more white boys. We were outnumbered at least three to one, which just added to the tension when they started mixing us up.
If I recall correctly, Lewis once spilled a lot of hot coffee on a white inmate who was threatening him, but otherwise claimed not to have many real problems–lucky for everyone involved.
Other people have not been so lucky.
According to Wikipedia, (with slight rearrangements for narrative’s sake):
Most prisons in the United States were racially segregated until the 1960s. As prisons began to desegregate, many inmates organized along racial lines. The Aryan Brotherhood is believed to have been formed at San Quentin State Prison, … They decided to strike against the blacks who were forming their own militant group called the Black Guerrilla Family. …
The initial motivation for the formation of the group in San Quentin in 1964 was self-protection against an existing black prison gang. …
After being formed in California prisons in the mid-1960s, the Aryan Brotherhood had spread to most California prisons by 1975. As some of the leaders were sent to federal prison, they took the opportunity to start organizing in the federal prisons. … By the late 1970s, there were fewer than 100 members, but that grew rapidly as they absorbed other racist and skinhead groups, with over 20,000 members in the federal and state prison systems. …
By the 1990s, the Aryan Brotherhood had shifted its focus away from killing for strictly racial reasons and focused on organized crime such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and sanctioned murders. … For example, Gambino crime family boss John Gotti was assaulted while incarcerated in Marion Federal Penitentiary in 1996, and he allegedly asked the Aryan Brotherhood to murder his attacker. Gotti’s attacker was immediately transferred to protective custody and the planned retaliation was abandoned. …
Gotti also organized a business partnership on the outside between his group and the Brotherhood on the outside, which greatly expanded the group’s power on the streets. …
Of course there are smart people who are insane, and dumb people who are completely rational. But if we define intelligence as having something to do with accurately understanding and interpreting the information we constantly receive from the world, necessary to make accurate predictions about the future and how one’s interactions with others will go, there’s a clear correlation between accurately understanding the world and being sane.
In other words, a sufficiently dumb person, even a very sane one, will be unable to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate depictions of reality and so can easily espouse beliefs that sound, to others, completely insane.
Is there any way to distinguish between a dumb person who believes wrong things by accident and a smart person who believes wrong things because they are insane?
Digression: I have a friend who was homeless for many years. Eventually he was diagnosed as mentally ill and given a disability check.
“Why?” he asked, but received no answer. He struggled (and failed) for years to prove that he was not disabled.
Eventually he started hearing voices, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and put on medication. Today he is not homeless, due at least in part to the positive effects of anti-psychotics.
The Last Psychiatrist has an interesting post (deleted from his blog, but re-posted elsewhere,) on how SSI is determined:
Say you’re poor and have never worked. You apply for Welfare/cash payments and state Medicaid. You are obligated to try and find work or be enrolled in a jobs program in order to receive these benefits. But who needs that? Have a doctor fill out a form saying you are Temporarily Incapacitated due to Medical Illness. Yes, just like 3rd grade. The doc will note the diagnosis, however, it doesn’t matter what your diagnosis is, it only matters that a doctor says you are Temporarily Incapacitated. So cancer and depression both get you the same benefits.
Nor does it matter if he medicates you, or even believes you, so long as he signs the form and writes “depression.”(1) The doc can give you as much time off as he wants (6 months is typical) and you can return, repeatedly, to get another filled out. You can be on state medicaid and receive cash payments for up to 5 years. So as long as you show up to your psych appointments, you’ll can receive benefits with no work obligation.
“That’s not how it works for me”
you might say, which brings us to the whole point: it’s not for you. It is for the entire class of people we label as poor, about whom comic Greg Geraldo joked: “it’s easy to forget there’s so much poverty in the United States, because the poor people look just like black people.” Include inner city whites and hispanics, and this is how the government fights the War On Poverty.
In the inner cities, the system is completely automated. Poor person rolls in to the clinic, fills out the paperwork (doc signs a stack of them at the end of the day), he sees a therapist therapist, a doctor, +/- medications, and gets his benefits.
There’s no accountability, at all. I have never once been asked by the government whether the person deserved the money, the basis for my diagnosis– they don’t audit the charts, all that exists is my sig on a two page form. The system just is.
Enter SSI, Supplemental Security Income. You can earn lifetime SSI benefits (about $600/mo + medical insurance) if “you” can “show” you are “Permanently Disabled” due to a “medical illness.”
“You“= your doc who fills out a packet with specific questions; and maybe a lawyer who processes the massive amounts of other paperwork, and argues your case, and charges about 20% of a year’s award.
“show” has a very specific legal definition: whatever the judge feels like that day. I have been involved in thousands of these SSI cases, and to describe the system as arbitrary is to describe Blake Lively as “ordinary.”
“Permanently disabled” means the illness prevents you from ever working. “But what happens when you get cured?” What is this, the future? You can’t cure bipolar.
“Medical illness” means anything. The diagnosis doesn’t matter, only that “you” show how the diagnosis makes it impossible for you to work. Some diagnoses are easier than others, but none are impossible. “Unable to work” has specific meaning, and specific questions are asked: ability to concentrate, ability to complete a workweek, work around others, take criticism from supervisors, remember and execute simple/moderately difficult/complex requests and tasks, etc.
Fortunately, your chances of being awarded SSI are 100%…
It’s a good post. You should read the whole thing.
TLP’s point is not that the poor are uniformly mentally ill, but that our country is using the disability system as a means of routing money to poor people in order to pacify them (and maybe make their lives better.)
I’ve been playing a bit of sleight of hand, here, subbing in “poor” and “dumb.” But they are categories that highly overlap, given that dumb people have trouble getting jobs that pay well. Despite TLP’s point, many of the extremely poor are, by the standards of the middle class and above, mentally disabled. We know because they can’t keep a job and pay their bills on time.
“Disabled” is a harsh word to some ears. Who’s to say they aren’t equally able, just in different ways?
Living under a bridge isn’t being differently-abled. It just sucks.
Normativity bias happens when you assume that everyone else is just like you. Middle and upper-middle class people tend to assume that everyone else thinks like they do, and the exceptions, like guys who think the CIA is trying to communicate with them via the fillings in their teeth, are few and far between.
As for the vast legions of America’s unfortunates, they assume that these folks are basically just like themselves. If they aren’t very bright, this only means they do their mental calculations a little slower–nothing a little hard work, grit, mindfulness, and dedication can’t make up for. The fact that anyone remains poor, then, has to be the fault of either personal failure (immorality) or outside forces like racism keeping people down.
These same people often express the notion that academia or Mensa are crawling with high-IQ weirdos who can barely tie their shoes and are incapable of socializing with normal humans, to which I always respond that furries exist.
These people need to get out more if they think a guy successfully holding down a job that took 25 years of work in the same field to obtain and that requires daily interaction with peers and students is a “weirdo.” Maybe he wears more interesting t-shirts than a middle manager at BigCorp, but you should see what the Black Hebrew Israelites wear.
I strongly suspect that what we would essentially call “mental illness” among the middle and upper classes is far more common than people realize among the lower classes.
As I’ve mentioned before, there are multiple kinds of intellectual retardation. Some people suffer physical injuries (like shaken baby syndrome or encephalitis), some have genetic defects like Down’s Syndrome, and some are simply dull people born to dull parents. Intelligence is part genetic, so just as some people are gifted with lucky smart genes, some people are visited by the stupid fairy, who only leaves dumb ones. Life isn’t fair.
Different kinds of retardation manifest differently, with different levels of overall impairment in life skills. There are whole communities where the average person tests as mentally retarded, yet people in these communities go providing for themselves, building homes, raising their children, etc. They do not do so in the same ways as we would–and there is an eternal chicken and egg debate about whether the environment they are raised in causes their scores, or their scores cause their environment–but nevertheless, they do.
All of us humans are descended from people who were significantly less intelligent than ourselves. Australopithecines were little smarter than chimps, after all. The smartest adult pygmy chimps, (bonobos) like Kanzi, only know about 3,000 words, which is about the same as a 3 or 4 year old human. (We marvel that chimps can do things a kindergartener finds trivial, like turn on the TV.) Over the past few million years, our ancestors got a lot smarter.
How do chimps think about the world? We have no particular reason to assume that they think about it in ways that substantially resemble our own. While they can make tools and immediately use them, they cannot plan for tomorrow (dolphins probably beat them at planning.) They do not make sentences of more than a few words, much less express complex ideas.
Different humans (and groups of humans) also think about the world in very different ways from each other–which is horrifyingly obvious if you’ve spent any time talking to criminals. (The same people who think nerds are weird and bad at socializing ignore the existence of criminals, despite strategically moving to neighborhoods with fewer of them.)
Even non-criminals communities have all sorts of strange practices, including cannibalism, human sacrifice, wife burning, genital mutilation, coprophagy, etc. Anthropologists (and economists) have devoted a lot of effort to trying to understand and explain these practices as logical within their particular contexts–but a different explanation is possible: that different people sometimes think in very different ways.
For example, some people think there used to be Twa Pygmies in Ireland, before that nefarious St. Patrick got there and drove out all of the snakes. (Note: Ireland did’t have snakes when Patrick arrived.)
(My apologies for this being a bit of a ramble, but I’m hoping for feedback from other people on what they’ve observed.)
We here at EvX try not to dwell too much on the day-to-day of politics, which requires keeping track of too many names and reads a bit too much like tabloid gossip for our comfort, but we are not insensitive to the worries of national governance.
I have maintained since the beginning that there was nothing to this Trump/Russia collusion business. Not being a devote of the news, TV or otherwise, probably helped form this opinion–nothing suggests a sudden change in Russian influence in my daily life. My neighborhood has improved slightly over the past couple of years, which might be an effect of presidential policies (or random chance.)
As we have discussed before, there are many conspiracy theories. Most infamously in my lifetime, belief that a vast, underground “Satanic Daycare conspiracy” was raping children, sacrificing elephants, and flying on broomsticks saw the light of day on mainstream TV in the ’80s and early 90s. This was not just the bread and butter of cheap talk shows, but resulted in actual criminal convictions that sent real people to prison, eventually culminating in a full-scale FBI and an FBI investigation that turned up exactly nothing, because witchcraft isn’t real. The fact that none of the prosecutors involved were put in prison for gross misconduct remains a serious blot on our nation.
Conspiracy theories arise under a number of circumstances, especially fear and confusion. If the events around you don’t make sense and you can’t explain why they’re happening, then you’re much more likely to conclude that mysterious outside forces are controlling things.
In countries with very little governmental transparency, conspiracy theories run rife–they are a sign that there is something amiss, that the people do not trust the normal operations of government and do not believe that government is operating honestly.
There have always been conspiracy theories, whether about Elvis, aliens, or Kennedy, but these have usually been embraced by people of somewhat less than credible mental stability. The fact that after the 2016 election so many otherwise intellectually normal people embraced the idea that the President of the United States was actually a foreign agent and that a foreign country had managed to “steal” the election is far more troubling. (For what it’s worth, I also thought that people who thought similar things about Obama were wrong–but those people were never given so much credence by the press and upper classes.)
That other countries would like to influence American politics is indisputable. All countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, encourage the US to act in their interest if they at all possess the ability to do so, and we do the same to them. All countries of any size and consequence spy on each other (much of which is just gathering intelligence reports on the state of industries and political unrest) or, if they are very closely allied, they just explicitly share information. Russia spies on us; we spy on them. About fifty other countries also spy on us, and we on them.
There is no reason to single out Russia as the sole national security threat (Ukrainian and Chinese hackers have just as much interest in our secrets;) nor to believe that they are particularly competent at swaying American voters or colluding with politicians–nor is it any more insidious when they do it than when anyone else does it.
The entirety of the “Russiagate” conspiracy was built upon the fact that Trump said a few positive things about Russia during the campaign instead of glibly posturing about shooting down Russian planes in Syria (since when did Congress vote to authorize troop deployments to Syria, anyway?) and the Russians, very sensibly, decided that they liked the guy who wasn’t trying to start a war with them. You would, too, if you were them.
Two people mutually agreeing that getting into a war isn’t in their countries’ best interests isn’t “collusion,” unless you think there is “collusion” going on with every other country we aren’t at war with. (Quick count: it looks like we are at war in 8 countries–Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia/Kenya, Uganda, and Syria–leaving 187 that we are colluding with.)
The continual demands that Trump believe the “intelligence briefings” (that we Americans conveniently couldn’t see!) that supposedly found Russian hacking or interference in our elections were idiotic from the start–obviously the leaks favored Trump, so he had no interest in denouncing them, no matter where they came from. Furthermore, we saw back in 2002-3 with the now thoroughly discredited reports that Iraq had WMDs, just how good the government/media are at promoting a completely incorrect narrative based on selective reading of intelligence reports. Anyone who has payed the remotest bit of attention over the past couple of decades should have learned a degree of skepticism by now, but some people seem cursed to make the same mistakes over and over again.
Perhaps they aren’t very bright.
Ordinarily, a conspiracy by itself does very little harm. Sure, a few people might alienate their relatives at Christmas by nattering on about Q-anon, or kill their children by refusing measles shots, but there’s little in the way of widespread damage.
But when members of Congress and the FBI begin believing conspiracies, then they have much more potential to do serious harm.
I have said many times that there are enough laws and the legal (and tax) code is of sufficient complexity that if the police want to charge you with something, they almost inevitably can–everyone jaywalks, after all. We usually trust the police to use this power for good, (catching mafia bosses on money laundering charges, for example) not evil (charging parents with neglect for letting their 9 yr old play outside in pleasant weather).
But with the advent of the never-ending special prosecutor-run investigation (pioneered under Nixon and perfected in full idiocy under Clinton), this power has been harnessed for disturbing political ends. According to Bloomberg, at least 22 of Trump’s family and associates have been investigated since the beginning of his term (not to mention the Trump Foundation, Trump Organization, and Trump himself.) Even if someone is eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, merely being the subject of an investigation is extremely expensive, stressful, and time-consuming.
Most of these investigations are not happening because someone did anything particularly wrong–no more than anyone else in Washington, given the high likelihood of any random person to have committed a crime–but because they were close to Trump, whom Democrats were absolutely convinced was a secret Russian agent hell-bent on destroying America by keeping out illegal immigrants.
And if they weren’t convinced, they were certainly happy to lie to the public in order to use it as cover to interfere with the president.
This is some banana republic level bullshit, folks.
One party leveraging the justice system to target and imprison members of the opposing party and cripple the president’s ability to act should have you concerned, whether you’re on the Right or the Left (don’t think the Right can’t use the same trick back on you).
Civilization suppresses violence in order to facilitate economic transactions, mostly because the government taxes transactions and the government wants more taxes.
It is easy to become blase about violence, because we usually do not experience it in our every day lives–because we live in a civilization that is actively repressing it.
What would happen if the police went away?
The otherwise probably fine police of Montreal, Canada, once performed an experiment on the subject when they went on strike to protest low pay and bad work conditions (the hazards of constantly having to diffuse Quebecois-separatist bombs.)The city quickly descended into what is known as the “Night of Terror”:
Montreal is in a state of shock. A police officer is dead and 108 people have been arrested following 16 hours of chaos during which police and firefighters refused to work. At first, the strike’s impact was limited to more bank robberies than normal. But as night fell, a taxi drivers’ union seized upon the police absence to violently protest a competitor’s exclusive right to airport pickups. … Shop owners, some of them armed, struggled to fend off looters. Restaurants and hotels were also targeted. A corporal with the Quebec provincial police was shot and killed at the garage of the Murray Hill limousine company as taxi drivers tried to burn it down.
When Donald Trump said that women were being raped while attempting to illegally cross the border, he was correct–in places with no law enforcement, rape is even more common than it normally is. War zones are notoriously also rape zones; it may be no coincidence that we use the same word, conquest, for both sex and war.
According to Global Rights, almost 90% of women in Afghanistan experience physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse or forced marriage. The perpetrators of these crimes are the families of the victim. …
In 2012, Afghanistan recorded 240 cases of honor killings, but the total number is believed to be much higher. Of the reported honor killings, 21% were committed by the victims’ husbands, 7% by their brothers, 4% by their fathers, and the rest by other relatives.
The nine-year-old was declared dead on the scene when police arrived. A 22-year-old man, who lived at the house where the incident took place, has been arrested.
“For now he is being charged with two charges of rape. He is also facing a charge of murder of the 9-year-old girl. Police are still on the scene, there could be more charges,” said police spokesperson, Brig Mathapelo Peters.
Medicals tests confirmed that the two children had been raped.
There’s a new paper out in Science – ” The genomic history of the Iberian Peninsula over the past 8000 years” . It discusses genetic change over time, from hunter-gatherer days, the arrival of the Anatolian-ancestry farmers, and the coming of the Indo-Europeans.
The chart above [see Westhunt’s post for the chart] shows what happened when the Indo-Europeans show up. Autosomal steppe ancestry goes from zero to ~40%, but on the Y-chromosome, it goes from zero to 100% over a few hundred years.
In other words, they killed 100% of the local men.
The recent overthrow of “autocratic” regimes in Libya and Iraq led to a massive increase in human suffering as war broke out in their wake; today Libya has open slave markets:
Armed groups execute and torture civilians in Libya in almost complete impunity seven years after the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday.
Libyans and migrants are often held incommunicado in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions, and reports persist of captured migrants being bought and sold on “open slave markets”, it said in a report to the Human Rights Council.
And don’t ask how ISIS treats its conquered peoples–you don’t want to know, but the videos are out there.
We here in civilization are so accustomed to not routinely fearing for our lives that it’s difficult to appreciate just how dangerous things were for our ancestors, or how quickly peace can break down in the absence of order.
And even here in civilization, the anti-abortion crowd will quickly remind you that not only does violence still occur, it occurs on a massive scale, committed by mothers (and doctors) against fetuses. Regardless of your stance on the necessity and legality of abortion, it is certainly infanticide, the taking of a human life.
What stops violence?
Civilization. Police. Prisons. Just knowing that there is a good chance you will be caught and punished deters a lot of crime. States execute criminals, which has the additional effect of potentially removing violent alleles from the population.
The Mongol Empire was governed by a code of law devised by Genghis, called Yassa, meaning “order” or “decree”. … On the whole, the tight discipline made the Mongol Empire extremely safe and well-run; European travelers were amazed by the organization and strict discipline of the people within the Mongol Empire.
Under Yassa, chiefs and generals were selected based on merit, religious tolerance was guaranteed, and thievery and vandalizing of civilian property was strictly forbidden. According to legend, a woman carrying a sack of gold could travel safely from one end of the Empire to another. …
Genghis also demonstrated a rather liberal and tolerant attitude to the beliefs of others, and never persecuted people on religious grounds. This proved to be good military strategy, as when he was at war with Sultan Muhammad ofKhwarezm, other Islamic leaders did not join the fight against Genghis — it was instead seen as a non-holy war between two individuals.
Note: the Mongols killed approximately 50 million people and outlawed the practice of keeping halal/kosher. So “never persecuted on religious grounds” is wrong, but it is true that he didn’t particularly care if Muslims liked a god named “Allah” so long as they paid their tribute. As they say, in the Khan’s empire, you were free to pray to whichever god you wanted for the Khan’s health.
Mongols prized their commercial and trade relationships with neighboring economies and this policy they continued during the process of their conquests and during the expansion of their empire. All merchants and ambassadors, having proper documentation and authorization, traveling through their realms were protected. This greatly increased overland trade.
During the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, European merchants, numbering hundreds, perhaps thousands, made their way from Europe to the distant land of China — Marco Polo is only one of the best known of these. Well-traveled and relatively well-maintained roads linked lands from the Mediterranean basin to China.
Our results suggest that the Habsburg Empire is indeed still visible in the cultural norms and interactions of humans with their state institutions today. Comparing individuals left and right of the long-gone Habsburg border, people living in locations that used to be territory of the Habsburg Empire have higher trust in courts and police. These trust differentials also transform into “real” differences in the extent to which bribes have to be paid for these local public services.
We complement these main findings by looking into a series of additional aspects.
First, our results are robust when restricting the comparison groups to formerly Ottoman regions (instead of any non-Habsburg Empire).
Second and interestingly, the Habsburg effect does not vary systematically with the duration of Habsburg affiliation, consistent with models that predict persistent effects of limited exposure.
Third, we analyse whether Habsburg exposure fostered trust levels in state institutions in general, i.e. also in central public institutions like the president or the parliament. We find no significant evidence of such effects, suggesting that it was the local interaction with bureaucrats that was key.
Finally, evidence from a firm dataset, the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey, corroborates the general pattern of results derived from the household dataset. That is, firms on the Habsburg side of the long-gone border within the same country have higher trust in the courts.
If there is no state, then individual tribes band together for protection–the knowledge that messing with one guy will bring the retribution of his brothers down on you keeps down at least some of the violence–but this is much less stable.
People will criticize–because people always criticize–but I see Rammstein grappling with a difficult thing: identity.
The song–intense, burning–glorifies and repudiates. At times Germania is strong; at times she is devoured; at times she is lovely; at times she is brutal. In one scene, the band members, dressed as concentration camp victims, shoot her in the face. In another, Germania makes out with a band member’s decapitated head.
Modern identities in countries experiencing massive change–technological, demographic–are fraught, particularly so in a place like Germany, whose history is so controversial:
Germany My heart in flames Want to love you Want to damn you
Some will criticize the band’s decision to represent Germany as a black woman. (If you didn’t catch that before, go back and re-watch. The black woman is Germania, Germany.) Controversial, yes. But it makes her much easier to spot and thus the video easier to understand.
Others will criticize the band members’ decision to dress themselves as Holocaust victims. This is, for many, a no-go; they cannot watch or find peace with such depictions. But the band is in no way glorifying the Holocaust. I do not think they are trivializing it, nor merely trying to capitalize on it for money. They are artists dealing with a very difficult subject–German identity–and the Holocaust is part of that. It is a history that has to be dealt with, even if by shooting it in the face. If someone manages to depict the holocaust in a way that isn’t horrifying, something has gone wrong.
We should not criticize art simply because the artist is good enough at art that they get paid for it.
The lyrics are minimal; QankHD on Reddit did a nice job of translating them (I have included their notes):
You have cried a lot In the mind apart In the heart united
We have been together for a very long time Your breath is cold The heart in flames You, I, Us, You (plural)
Germany My heart in flames Want to love you Want to damn you Germany Your breath is cold so young and yet so old Germany
I never want to leave you One want to love you And want to hate you Overbearing (arrogant) Superior To take over (I think this is the only proper way to translate this in context here) To surrender (giving away, can also be read as throwing up) Surprising To attack (to assault, raid, invade) Germany Germany over everyone
Superior (super powerful) Needless (dispensable, a waste) Übermenschen Sick of (tired, bored) The higher you climb, the farther you fall Germany Germany over everyone
Germany Your love is a curse and a blessing Germany My love I cannot give to you Germany
Many people will mistakenly accuse Rammstein of being fascist reactionaries simply because they sound like angry Germans. No honest reading of the song supports this; everything from the lyrics to the casting of a black woman as Germania indicates pure leftism. Rammstein’s industrial beats, no matter how intense, come out of an era when the shocking was still primarily in support of liberalism.
Most songs deal with love in some way. Pop songs are about falling in love, rap about sex, goth about how the singer’s love has died and he will never love again. In Rammstein, love is death:
Du Hast (You Have) depicts the band members kidnapping and murdering a man, apparently on behalf of a woman (perhaps someone he has harmed).
The core of Du Hast:
You have asked me and I have said nothing Do you want to be faithful for eternity Until death parts you?
In Rosenrot, a monk is seduced by a young woman, who convinces him to murder her husband. She then betrays him, and he is burned at the stake, the young woman throwing the first flaming torch onto his pyre.
In the lyrics, a young man falls to his death attempting to bring a red rose to his love.
Sonne (Sun) depicts the band members as the Seven Dwarves, enslaved to Snow White, who forces them to toil in the mines all day to keep her supplied with gold and drugs.
Love is a conflicted emotion for these guys; nationalism no less so. Anyone who criticizes Rammstein for being shocking has missed the entire point of the band. These are guys who regularly perform with flamethrowers and incorporate jackhammers into their songs. One band member had his cheeks pierced so he could perform with a light inside his mouth. Shock and horror are an integral part of what the band does.
The song itself, played without the video, doesn’t stand out to me. Engel combines innovative sounds (whistling) plus the high pitch of a woman’s voice against the industrial steel. Du Hast carries you on its rhythm with an intensity that makes English speakers mistranslate “have” as “hate.” Of course, songs often become more loved with repetition (which is why I listened to the song 5 or 6 times before writing this); part of the joy of music is the joy of counting without realizing it, of expectations fulfilled (repetition of the chorus) and violated–the introduction of new instruments, alteration of previous chords.
Deutschland doesn’t stand out musically to me; the song is almost just background music to the video, with sections lifted from previous works–most notably the ending, when Germania, having given birth to… a litter of puppies? is finally sent to space, in Snow White’s glass coffin, while the instrumental music from Sonne (the Snow White song) plays quietly. It is peaceful in space. The lyrics of Sonne, if you know them, translate to “Here comes the sun;” I interpret the ending as hopeful. Germania is asleep, but a new day is dawning, perhaps a better day.
In contrast to Deutschland, Gary Numan’s Basement cover of “Are Friends Electric?” was an immediate emotional punch to the gut:
The video itself is not much–mostly the band performing in a damp basement–but the song is haunting and atmospheric. The basement is decayed, almost crypt-like. Water drips, forming stalactites and puddles. Piano notes in discordant tones.
It’s cold outside–and a puff of breath in the air, damp claminess.
Words are whispered, almost inaudible. The instruments take over. The song is transformed. Loneliness. Emptiness. Hearts burst. Feelings explode. The instruments are like sirens in the night.
In the end, we are alone. Are friends electric? Mine’s still broken.
I don’t have nearly as much to say about this video, but I love the song.