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?

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Surveillance Capitalism, 3

Capitalism perceived a huge opportunity in this resentment. People feel brushed aside, unimportant. Their unique individuality is not recognized in all its glory. So let’s feed this need and make it pay, right?

You know how people accept any indignity from their smartphones or gadgets in the name of “convenience”? And it’s not really all that convenient. The app model that is now everywhere is extremely inconvenient. It’s limiting, it’s deeply frustrating.

Zuboff says that the reason people accept the lack of privacy, the inconvenience and the soft totalitarianism of modern tech is that it feeds the desire to experience the unique individuality that is no longer supported by the economy and politics. The likes, the followings, the feeling that you are heard and noticed, the idea that every cup of coffee you drink is so special that it merits being photographed and posted on Instagram – this is what feeds the feeling of individual importance that people have grown addicted to.

So basically, instead of the nation or community you get Facebook.

I’m not sure I buy this argument in its entirety but I’m waiting to see how Zuboff develops it.

Surveillance Capitalism, 2

The industrial stage of capitalism wrecked the climate, Zuboff points out. We are only now realizing what industrialization is costing us. What we aren’t realizing yet is that the new stage of capitalism, the one she calls surveillance capitalism, “will thrive at the expense of human nature and will threaten to cost us our humanity.”

Zuboff works within the framework of two stages of modernity proposed by Zygmunt Bauman and Ulrich Beck. This obviously attracts me a lot because, as we all know, this is my framework, too. But she’s not simply repeating what they said. Instead, Zuboff – whose ancestors are from Ukraine, by the way – puts a very interesting spin on this idea.

The first stage of modernity (or solid capitalism, as Bauman calls it) created the idea of an individual who can and must build his or her own self following the dictates of personal choice. We no longer have to live the destiny handed to us by our group, clan, family, religion, or tradition. This is very liberating but also very lonely, scary, and confusing.

But here is the problem. This sense of individuality brings with it a belief in every person’s dignity and importance and makes people feel entitled to a good life and freedom to be oneself. Somebody needs to protect the dignified individuals from forces larger than their own selves. Somebody needs to cushion them from the harsh blows of fate because how do you preserve that sense of dignity otherwise?

In the first stage of modernity that somebody existed. In the second stage, it started disappearing. And the wanting, desiring, self-aware individuals were left completely alone.

So people get upset. They perceive themselves as being worthy of a good life. They feel entitled to good living conditions simply because they are unique, wonderful individuals. But the social contract within which state institutions looked out for their welfare is falling apart. They no longer have a community to turn to because it was sacrificed to the idea of everybody’s unique individuality.

And so the resentment grew.

Stay Ahead of the Woke

God, this is so true:

The most woke people here at my workplace seem to catch on to some new liberal party line about a year or more after I’ve first seen it out in the wilds of the internet- – I’m pretty sure it’s only when they’ve seen it enough times on TV that they adopt it and start parroting it themselves. I am always so far ahead of them in knowing what they are going to support, what they are going to claim all right-thinking people MUST people in The Current Year. These people have no frame of reference for anything other than TV — everything is put in terms of television — so conservatives are always “Fox News people” and Fox News is metonymically deployed to describe anything bad.

I laughed and laughed. The part about the TV is spot on.

The whole post is worth reading.

Infantilizing

I was offered a “young-adult adaptation of Sam Quinones’s Dreamland” on Amazon.

No, it doesn’t seem to be a joke. Why young adults can’t just read the actual book is not explained.

I hate the expression “young adult.”

P.S. Dreamland is an amazing book. Please read it. The existence of the “young adult version” doesn’t detract from the value of the book.