Creepy Discussions

I love debate, I love encountering different viewpoints, and I love changing my mind about things. But every once in a while, I come across a set of views that is so clearly insane that I get baffled and creeped out.

In the 10 years I’ve had this blog, there’s been a couple of such discussions. One had to do with why so many people in this country are morbidly obese. I thought it was obvious that this is caused by what and how people eat and we could proceed from there. But people started passionately to defend the idea that this is “genetic.” In the monoethnic, monoracial Ukraine this might make sense. But in the very multiethnic US that has gathered people literally from everywhere in the world, the idea is ludicrous. What spooked me was the refusal to admit that obesity might have something to do with diet. Yes, there is a minuscule number of people with rare medical conditions who eat very little and still blow up. But they are outliers. Almost everybody who’s fat eats too much.

Another such topic was the heroin epidemic. People refused to admit that large amounts of drugs were pouring into the country from Mexico. The fact that Mexico is ravaged by drug cartels was no obstacle to people refusing to accept that those cartels were likely to bring drugs into the US.

Or the refusal to accept that it’s either open borders or welfare. You can’t have both. I respect honest free market libertarians like reader Izgad or sincere anarchists like David Gendron. They don’t want welfare and are ok with open borders. I disagree but I respect their ideas. It’s the incapacity to see the contradiction that creeps me out.

Do you have examples of such creepy discussions where it’s not about ideological differences but, rather, about a refusal to accept facts?

25 thoughts on “Creepy Discussions”

  1. Oh, I think it’s that these are only partial facts. That idea that it is “open borders” (which we don’t actually have) OR “welfare” is a conservative talking point, not a fact. On drugs coming into US from and via Mexico, they always have, the cartels are already here and we are complicit. It’s not the migrants coming in for other reasons that are the mules — it’s a major operation that has been in place for a long time, there are various kinds of vehicles deployed and there is infrastructure to receive and transport in most major cities in US. And again, it is not “open borders” (which we don’t actually have) that causes it — planes fly to and from clandestine airstrips, for instance. Fat, you ate too much at some point to get fat, but may not be eating too much now. I think the reason people say it’s “genetic” is to get over intense shame that blocks them in life in general — the same way they say alcoholism is a “disease” (so as to reduce guilt/shame and think of it as something that can be cured).


    1. “That idea that it is “open borders” (which we don’t actually have)”

      And we shouldn’t! But progressives are fighting tooth and nail against anything that isn’t open borders. If you’re not in favor of open borders, who do you want to keep out? how do you propose to keep them out? what do you want to do if they get in anyway? If you can’t answer those questions then you’re de facto in favor of open borders…. (in the current state of things).


      1. Bauman is interested in national sovereignty, which is a bit different (and much more interesting, to me).

        Globalization is part of the neoliberal program and a key part of that is the shrinking of the “welfare” (social) state … and of national sovereignty in general. And in this panorama the migrants are migrating because they must, not merely because they can.


        1. Exactly. It’s the deeply neoliberal worship of “choice” that prevents us from questioning the reasons of this displacement and invites us to celebrate it as an inalienable “right to choose” where to live. As if the overwhelming majority of migrants were exactly like the transnational elites that flit around for fun.

          This isn’t about “choice.” It’s about exploitation, evisceration of worker rights and imposition of austerity.

          It’s really stunning to me that nobody says this any more outside of the rarefied academic circles but conservative pundits.


              1. It still isn’t clear to me that “progressive” isn’t just a euphemism for liberal, but … you mean people who perhaps react too quickly because they are so used to being told all immigrants are criminals?


        2. “migrants are migrating because they must, not merely because they can.”

          yeah, it’s true, a staggeringly large amount of migration in the neoliberal world amounts to glorified human trafficking… I want no part of that.


          1. And it’s the progressive idea to support the trafficking at any cost because “if not, who’ll pick strawberries in California for us?” Of course, the possibility of raising wages to attract anybody but desperate Guatemalans is deeply anti-progressive.

            I’ve so had it with the idea that dragging people around all over the world to provide capital with the cheapest labor possible is a mark of progressivism and anybody who opposes it is a Nazi.


            1. They’re not raising wages (although they have tried this and it really isn’t enough, you have to have people who are up for doing migrant harvesting / other seasonal work), they’re renting prison labor. This is the reality of US, it’s always had some sort of slave or near-slave class, it is how it does what it does. That isn’t “progressive,” but punishing the people in that class for being in it, isn’t either.


            1. “Glorified? how?”

              That was my version of subtlety… what I’m saying is that economic interests have created human smuggling networks to deliver warm bodies into destination countries for monetary gain. Everybody wins except the warm bodies being moved around like truckloads of potatoes….

              If Central America is a dysfunctional mess of failed states then importing the populations to the US at gunpoint isn’t going to help (even if, as is very true, the US is a major cause of the dysfunction).


              1. People in the colonies always end up having to go to the metropolis. Re the people who flee due to violence, you are saying they should just stay and wait to die?


              2. Or they should stop being violent. I mean, it’s not like you can easily distinguish between subjects and objects of violence among the migrants. Transporting the violence geographically doesn’t seem like a good way to make it stop. Added trauma of migration can only make it worse. We all know very well that MS-13 was created in the US by the children of migrants. How did displacing these people help stop violence? They now went back to El Salvador and are exporting the violence there.

                So that obviously didn’t work.


    2. ” That idea that it is “open borders” (which we don’t actually have) OR “welfare” is a conservative talking point, not a fact.”

      I agree totally. What Bauman seems to ignore is the fact that people with the motivation and initiative to immigrate are likely to be highly productive and thus be a net gain for the country to which they immigrate, they will need very little welfare assistance, and only for a short time. Investing in them is a good investment! This is statistical, of course; there will be rare exceptions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My friend, this sounds nice but isn’t borne out by any sort of data. Which is the group with the lowest graduation rates in high school and college? Which is the group with the highest out-of-wedlock births? A hint: it’s not African Americans.

        And do you know the amount of money that leaves the country every year and goes not to enrich this country but to enrich Carlos Slim?

        Policing is welfare. School remediation programs is welfare. Resources needed to give any schooling to kids who don’t speak English is welfare. I was recently in the Hispanic area of Chicago. That’s an area that needs enormous investments of welfare just to be livable.


        1. Plus, most immigrants come with an enormous burden of trauma. People like my husband and I can afford to pay $180 per hour to an analyst to fix us. And we didn’t even experience anything hardcore like civil war or gang violence. Just think about the army of social workers and therapists needed to treat all the people who come with this legacy. And especially their kids. And their kids. MS-13 was formed in LA by children of the immigrants who experienced the civil war in El Salvador. Not to excuse them, but it’s severe generational trauma that led them to that life. It takes an enormous amount of welfare to help such deeply traumatized people live anything like a normal life and not produce severely traumatized kids. An enormous amount.


  2. If I remember, I was one of the readers who told you (correctly) that most people’s body weight over their lifetime is largely determined by their genetic predisposition, and that intermittent attempts to alter their body weight by dieting and other means are at best moderately (and often only transiently) successful.

    I never said that obesity was healthy, and I never said that fat people don’t eat too much. Even if a person is genetically disposed to be overweight, he/she won’t gain the pounds if that person doesn’t don’t gobble down the requisite calories.

    But the fact is that most people won’t maintain the discipline to manage their diet and keep the weight off over a lifetime. So most people end up where their genes lead them.

    This was true when we had this conversation three years ago, and it will be true a hundred years from now, if global warming (which nobody is going to make any real effort to control, either) hasn’t killed everybody off.


    1. “But the fact is that most people won’t maintain the discipline to manage their diet and keep the weight off over a lifetime. So most people end up where their genes lead them.”

      This analysis ignores the fact that obesity is far more prevalent in the USA than in most of the world. I notice this every time I go to Europe. So I think something else is going on. My guess is that the quality of food in this country is poor and has deficiencies in one or more essential vitamins, minerals, or some other nutrient. So to survive, people instinctively eat enough to get enough of whatever it is. This is only a guess, but I do know that my friends and family member who live in Europe always begin to gain weight when they visit the U. S. for a few weeks. They lose it pretty quickly once they return home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely!! And it’s not just Europe. I had this experience when I came over from Canada. And everybody I know who comes to visit from Canada complains that they start to pack on the pounds during the stay in the US.

        I do eat a lot and that’s entirely on me. But when I eat the same amounts of the same kind of food in Canada I don’t blow up like I do here.

        That was another part of the discussion that killed me because people simply refused to believe me when I related these stories. So thank you for confirming that there’s definitely something going on here.


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