Where the men are

A commenter wrote:

Think about it: guys like Leo Dicaprio or Owen Wilson for example.
These guys are not exactly manly men but seem more like teen boys.

There’s no need to invoke exotic theories like endocrine disruptors; they’re just reflecting the zeitgeist. I just turned 51, and a disturbingly large percentage of men in their twenties and thirties seem like spoiled narcissistic man-children to me. I thought for a while that this might mean I was turning into the sort of crusty old fart I laughed at when I was twenty-five, until I noticed that the percentage of man-children varied a great deal depending on my social context.

At the martial-arts school where I’m training, zero to not much. Even the teenage boys there are pretty manly, on the whole – not surprising, since manliness is very nearly defined by stoicism and grace under pressure, and a martial-arts school should teach those things if it teaches nothing else. Anywhere firearms are worn or displayed openly, ditto — go to a tactical-shooting match, for example, and you’ll see even prepubescent boys (and, though rarely, some girls) exemplifying quiet manliness in a very heartening degree.

On the other hand…when I go to places where people are talking rather than doing, the percentage of man-children rises. Occasionally my wife Cathy and I go to screenings at the Bryn Mawr Film institute, most recently to see Sergei Bodrov’s The Mongol; it’s pretty much wall-to-wall man-children there, at least in the space not occupied by middle-aged women. If our sample is representative, my wife is manlier than the average male art-film buff.

How does one tell? The man-child projects a simultaneous sense of not being comfortable in his own skin and perpetually on display to others. He’s twitchy, approval-seeking, and doesn’t know when to shut up. He’s never been tested to anywhere near the limits of his physical or moral courage, and deep within himself he knows that because of this he is weak. Unproven. Not really a man. And it shows in a lot of little ways – posture, gaze patterns, that sort of thing. He’ll overreact to small challenges and freeze or crumble under big ones.

One of the things this culture badly needs is a set of manhood ordeals. Unlike the tribal societies of the past, we’re too various for one size to fit all — but to reliably turn boys into men (or, to put it in more fashionable terms, to help them become mature and inner-directed) you need to put them under stress in a way that, except for the small percentage that go through military boot camps, we basically don’t any more.

Instead, we prolong adolescence into the twenties and thirties. With dolorous consequences for everyone…

154 thoughts on “Where the men are

  1. Maybe this could be a reason to bring back the draft.

    The U.S. Marines could fix what’s wrong with these guys…..

  2. Hmm, The comments by poweruser immediately made me think of “[h]e’ll overreact to small challenges”…

  3. >The U.S. Marines could fix what’s wrong with these guys…..

    In some ways. Unfortunately, there’s this ethical problem that the draft is slavery and I at least find it unacceptable on that level.

    A more practical difficulty is that military version of the manhood ordeal carries with it a lot of nasty authoritarian programming that I really wouldn’t want anywhere near a majority of citizens getting, even if they could hack it.

  4. I still see the kind of boys that become real men in my Boy Scout troop. Scouting gives them ways to test themselves against the real world, while providing them with leadership of — guess who? Real men. And the kind of women who love real men.

    Making it to First Class Scout is a great way for young men to prove themselves, to themselves. Eagle Scout is a wonderful accomplishment, but in the current context, most of the “ordeal” is in the first three ranks. Merit badges are great, but do not provide the same kind of challenge as acquiring the basic Scout skills, which is what the road to 1st Class Scout is about.

    It gives me a lot of hope to see these guys turning into the kind of men their great-grandfathers would be proud of.

  5. >I still see the kind of boys that become real men in my Boy Scout troop.

    I believe it. I was a Scout myself in the early 1970s.

  6. > I was a Scout myself in the early 1970s.

    as were many of us. Curiosity prevails and I find myself asking, “why did you stop?”

    (Brerarnold, I’m the SM for a troop of over 30 boys in Hawaii. First Class Scout is a stepping stone. We carry ‘Scouting skills’ far beyond that point. I’m taking 10 of them backpacking on Haleakala over Spring Break.)

  7. I stopped because my troop didn’t have a strong merit badge program. Made it to Star solely on summer camp badges. Without a wide array of merit badge counselors, Eagle is not possible.

  8. FWIW I was a Star Scout myself, couldn’t handle the various “Citizenship” merit badges, which were required to become an Eagle. I guess even back then I was a libertarian at heart. I was an Assistant Scout Master at college, but when the college killed off the ROTC program (early 1970s), the scoutmaster left town and as I was under 21 I could not become scoutmaster and the troop disbanded. I considered becoming a leader again, but I have been disheartened by the direction the local (and national, dammit)Scout councils have taken, requiring religious beliefs and not stressing the self-reliant individualism that my Scout troop focussed on when I was a kid, so I haven’t gotten involved again.

    Here’s a website this thread should link to: http://artofmanliness.com/

  9. Wasn’t a scout. Wasn’t a marine. Wasn’t until I was an adult in my 30′s that I had that moment where I had to “do the hard thing” and test myself. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity. One of the most remarkable aspects of it for me, however, was that I was then surrounded my men who were modeling mature male behavior. Not strutting around with machismo or being tender and sensitive. But holding a line and making me honor my commitments.

    What I most remember about this was the modeling. Without a place where men model mature masculinity, I think it is a pipe dream to expect other men to find it. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately – depending on your POV), mature masculinity is a selfless act. Not something that naturally fits well in our modern narcissistic world. So it is hard to come by and hard to find. It is much easier to find cartoons of manhood, because they are much more available (like TV).

    Out of this experience, I have found a mission of creating a world of powerful men. I choose to invest in this fashion to model and mentor. Actively and intentionally. It feels like thankless work most of the time. But every now and then I get glimpses of transformation that make it all worthwhile.

    Dennis

  10. > I have been disheartened by the direction the local (and national, dammit)Scout councils have taken, requiring
    > religious beliefs and not stressing the self-reliant individualism that my Scout troop focussed on when I was a kid, > so I haven’t gotten involved again.

    I’m in alignment with that. I find that I occasionally have to ‘hold my nose’ and ‘look the other way” on some of these things, especially since I was raised LDS, and there is a large LDS contingent in Scouting these days, and they often add a flavor I don’t like. I tend to concentrate on the troop, and making it effective for the Scouts. These days thats mostly about getting out of the way, but two years ago it required a much more active hand ‘in’.

    Made Eagle back in 1976.

    Eric, Russ, If you find you have the time, you’re likely both welcome as adult volunteers.

  11. As someone who’s devotes most of my time to scholarly pursuits rather than playing with weapons (while respecting those who do), I’d probably fit your stereotype of a “spoiled man-child”. Has anyone else noticed a preoccupation with “manliness” in conservative and libertarian circles? If I were a Freudian I would comment on the phallic symbolism, which definitely gets more interesting when women play with guns. ;-) Gun nuts seem to react to proposed gun control legislation they way they would to emasculation.

    Disclaimer: I am not a hoplophobe. Guns are merely tools. Gun control laws are largely ineffective because legislators assume that criminals obey the law. “Damn it, I can’t use a gun, it’s illegal. Damn it, I can’t take this heroin. It’s illegal.”

  12. >As someone who’s devotes most of my time to scholarly pursuits rather than playing with weapons (while respecting those who do), I’d probably fit your stereotype of a “spoiled man-child”.

    I’ve met you. You don’t. Manliness is not excluded by being a scholar, a geek, or an intellectual. You’ve been a bit fanboyish at times, but a long way from the kind of hollow, feckless person that would be the “stereotype”. You struck me face-to-face as a person who could stand to grow up a little, but not one who won’t or can’t. (I hope the distinction, and its importance, is clear.)

    I can’t speak for conservatives, since I’m not one. But for libertarians to be concerned with the decay of manliness is natural. Man-children lack the inner resources – courage, and qualities related to it but harder to define – needed to resist statist oppression, to assert freedom. Conversely, a society in which the petulant but ultimately pliant man-child is normal is the statist’s and tyrant’s dream.

    Manliness is not just an individual virtue. It’s a prerequisite for the health of society as well — at least, for the health of any kind of society you or I would care to live in.

    >Gun nuts seem to react to proposed gun control legislation they way they would to emasculation.

    Which is, again, pretty reasonable in context. Part of a man’s function is to be the defender, in the “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away” sense. I don’t confuse my gun with my penis, but a male who is not competent with the dominant personal weapon system of his age is allowing himself to be ineffectual in a deeper way that goes straight to the core of what masculinity is for.

    Importantly, it’s a set of traits and virtues designed to protect women and children in dangerous environments. (Women not because they are “lesser” or any such nonsense, but because their reproductive capacity is a scarcer resource than yours.) If you abdicate from that job, you may be a male but you are not fully a man. And anyone who insists on denying you the tools to be ready for that job and the training to use them is, in essential fact, emasculating you.

    Whether the precise form of the danger is ordinary criminals, a government gone bad, or wild animals doesn’t matter. This is your job. This is what you are for. It’s why, relative to a woman, you have lots of fast-twitch muscle and good kinematic sense and adrenalize rapidly. A male who is a man in full knows what he is for and will not stand for anyone disarming him, either physically or mentally or morally.

  13. > Women not because they are “lesser” or any such nonsense, but because their reproductive capacity is a scarcer resource than yours.

    Again I think you place evolution on a higher epistemological pedestal than it deserves. Evolution is how we got to where we are, but that doesn’t create a moral imperative to continue acting according to instincts that are still optimized for Pleistocene Africa. In the 21st century, reproductive capacity is no longer a scarce resource. A man laying down his life for a woman’s, is, ceteris paribus, both a moral and evolutionary wash.

    If you want to make an evolutionary biology case for masculinity, argue in terms of benefit to the individual, not the species: men are wired to act like men. When you systematically prevent them from doing so and put their brain chemistry in perpetual omega-male mode, they spend their lives moping around malls, psychiatrists’ couches, and liberal arts departments.

  14. >If you want to make an evolutionary biology case for masculinity, argue in terms of benefit to the individual, not the species: men are wired to act like men. When you systematically prevent them from doing so and put their brain chemistry in perpetual omega-male mode, they spend their lives moping around malls, psychiatrists’ couches, and liberal arts departments.

    Actually, a proper evolutionary argument wouldn’t center on the individual but his or her genetic line. Our instincts routinely cause individuals to sacrifice themselves for close relatives, and the degree to which this occurs is neatly predicted by the expected shared percentage of genetic material.

    That quibble aside, I think you and I are actually making the same argument with only a minor shift in emphasis. Of course we don’t live in the environment of ancestral adaptation, but we are still the kind of creatures it made us. Or. as I explained to my wife once, “The reason so many men look vaguely bewildered a lot of the time is that they’re unconsciously scanning the horizon for mammoths that aren’t there any more.”

    She thought about it, laughed, and agreed that this was very likely so. “Where are the mammoths?” has since become a running joke between us.

  15. >When you systematically prevent them from doing so and put their brain chemistry in perpetual omega-male mode, they spend their lives moping around malls, psychiatrists’ couches, and liberal arts departments.

    You jest, and I’ll admit that last bit about liberal-arts departments was pretty funny, but there’s a darker kind of consequence. Man-children may become so desperate to escape the omega-male hole they’re stuffed in that they become parodies of alphas, abusive of those around them – subordinates, wives, children. Or they may attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. If they’re in the 3% of the population that is borderline criminal-deviant, we’re already fairly near schoolyard-shooting territory.

  16. The military Draft used to be our set of ordeals to turn boys into men. I assume you wouldn’t advocate a return to that.

  17. I’m somewhere between – on the rational level I know why learning to be a man is important and know I should do so, OTOH just can’t seem to be able to overcome my laziness to do so and my subconscious reactions are indeed spoiled-childish. And I can often override them consciously, stopping mid-sentence and telling my “inner child” to STFU you n00b, but not always. Sort of funny, the conscious mind of a grown man arguing with the hormones of a spoiled teenager. It’s probably because all of my “hardening” “growing up” experiences were in the mental realm i.e. programming 80 hours a week when we really, really f..ked up some projects and the deadline was coming. And never in the physical/biological realm as fooling around in a gym with weights rather just gives the fast-food illusion of manhood than the thing itself.

    Thing is, you know, these things have never been quite voluntary. In that sense that most men throughout most of history didn’t have a choice in learning to grow up or not, they pretty much had to, had no other choice, it was a do-or-die. It wasn’t like oh noes, today I really don’t feel like fighting or training.

    I know some people can gather the willpower to do so voluntarily, but don’t expect most will.

    It’s the same time preference, time discounting problem as with fitness vs. obesity: eating that cake rewards you NOW, while not doing so and going jogging is only a nuisance right now and will give you rewards only later on.

    Growing up is all about lowering your time preference, as the difference between an adult and a child is exactly in time preference / time discounting, but OTOH it goes the other way around too: with a high time preference you won’t voluntarily go and do such things.

    Historically, hardship itself did the job of lowering time preferences. Now, in the absence of hardship, people like me are in a vicious circle of having high time preferences which prevents us from doing stuff that would lower them.

    There can be two solutions for it. One is inventing some activities that help people grow up in a way that gives rewards in the present as opposed to the future i.e. they are so much FUN to do that you just can’t be too lazy to do it. It may be some advanced version of paintball without soiled clothes and doing it in-house, or something. Wii Boxing or steroids, or whatever.

    The other and grimmer outlook is that “history will find a way” to solve it in a non-voluntary way – from a Second Great Depression (looks almost sure at the moment, if Peter Schiff is to be believed) to some big war etc.

  18. Huh. I didn’t quit Scouts, even though my troop didn’t want me there. I wasn’t very popular (I’ll admit up front I wasn’t the most likable kid at the time), and I put up with a lot from my SMs and the other Scouts, who went out of their way to prevent me from finishing my public service project and so forth. My success was my revenge; it’s been a number of years since those days, and while everything else has faded, I still finished the trail. I suppose that, in a sense, the Scouts did teach me self-reliance and perseverance.

    At the martial-arts school where I’m training, zero to not much. Even the teenage boys there are pretty manly, on the whole – not surprising, since manliness is very nearly defined by stoicism and grace under pressure, and a martial-arts school should teach those things if it teaches nothing else. Anywhere firearms are worn or displayed openly, ditto — go to a tactical-shooting match, for example, and you’ll see even prepubescent boys (and, though rarely, some girls) exemplifying quiet manliness in a very heartening degree.

    The primary thing I remember learning from martial arts training was humility, but I suppose the focus may vary. As for the presence of guns, it’s odd that you should focus on a competitive event rather than a gun show, which is all about the open display of firearms, and which are reportedly not particularly welcoming places for women, reflecting a more whiny-and-privileged than quiet-and-manly atmosphere.

    The man-child projects a simultaneous sense of not being comfortable in his own skin and perpetually on display to others. He’s twitchy, approval-seeking, and doesn’t know when to shut up. [...] And it shows in a lot of little ways – posture, gaze patterns, that sort of thing. He’ll overreact to small challenges and freeze or crumble under big ones.

    Or perhaps in habitually responding to insults with threats of physical violence?

  19. The testing of the body’s limits (and the mind’s for that matter) and the understanding that comes from learning where those limits are is something that modern educators seem to deliberately shy away from.

    When I went to school (English public school 20+ years ago) we had outdoor activities that taught you survival skills, the requirement to check knots etc. and while teachers supervised a good deal there was no way that they could supervise everyone all the time so you damn well learned to do it properly yourself because if you didn’t you were going to be seriously hurt (if not dead). And that ignores all the basic lessons that sports of all sorts teach and ignores shooting and 1001 other useful activities that we were exposed to.

    It only takes one hike on the moors where you forgot your raingear, or one abseil down a rockface where the rope rubs and damn nearly kills the last descender to teach it and its a lesson you never ever forget. And you didn’t have to go to a posh school to get the lessons – we hiked on hills next to groups of inner city kids who were just as free to kill themselves through stupidity

    These days however I suspect this does not happen. Teachers (and more importantly education bureaucrats and the police) have become so risk averse that they dare not let their little darlings hike on their own across a hillside. They’ve become this way partly because lawyers and other do gooders whip up a froth of indignation when ever things fail to go perfectly but I think they’ve also stopped because they don’t think that survival and self reliance are important skills to learn, If they did think it was important they’d have pushed back more than they seem to have.

  20. >Historically, hardship itself did the job of lowering time preferences. Now, in the absence of hardship, people like me are in a vicious circle of having high time preferences which prevents us from doing stuff that would lower them.

    This seems to be a side effect of living in a modern industrial society. Mass production has both made food available in amounts that our ancestors couldn’t have dreamed of. Labor-saving devices have given us more leisure time than was available to our ancestors as well. It seems that cultural evolution has gotten ahead of biological evolution. Hitting the treadmill can only do so much. Perhaps we can figure out a way to give our biology a push.

    I’m also skeptical of evolutionary psychology, at least as it applies to human beings. Can humans really inherit their behavior?

    Becoming a man, however, can have a downside. For too many people, growing up means becoming jaded and cynical. Seeing interviews with a lot of creative people, I’m struck by how childlike they seem, I hope to maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder.

  21. A lot of the ‘manhood challenges’ make sense when you realize that different parts of the human brain re-wire themselves between the ages of 15 and 25; the parts that provide impulse control and “what’s the consequence of my action” mature last…

    Women’s brains appear to re-wire themselves in a slightly different order, and impulse control comes about three years earlier on average.

    As to things to do to encourage masculinity:

    1) Sports and organized, team athletic activities. Particularly ones where fathers and sons can participate together.

    2) Encouraging fathers to stick around and be part of the family/child raising unit. Doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did. I graduated high school 1988, in rural Alaska, where most of the jobs available were “work with your hands in extreme environments” types of jobs. About 80% of my graduating class were from two parent families, with the same set of parents as gave birth. I also grew up in a town with insane levels of religious programming, which probably contributed to this.

    3) Not medicating boys for the simple fact of being boys. ADHD is, in my experience, vastly overdiagnosed. Boys, left to be boys, will run around, yell, make noise, wrestle, hit, scuffle, and then make up and be good buddies afterwards. This is similar to how rats socialize, how dogs socialize and nearly any other pack animal socializes. It’s how humans socialize, and yes, it’s going to get scuffed knees, broken bones, chipped teeth and all the other things that result from it. It’s also one of the things that greatly appeals for street gangs. It’s a chance to prove yourself to the only male role models available.

    I recommend doing something that terrifies you if you want to learn a lot about yourself. For me, it was a climbing wall in high school. Including leaping for the trapeze on belay. (Leaping from a platform to grab a trapeze when you have only one functioning eye is terrifying. No integrative depth perception.)

  22. “I’m also skeptical of evolutionary psychology, at least as it applies to human beings. Can humans really inherit their behavior?”

    That’s an interesting question. I’m in doubt, because on one hand a fully materialistic/biological explanation of human nature strikes me as an oversimplification, I have some Buddhist arguments against that (how can a subject be an object, isn’t it a huge contradiction and so on).

    OTOH whatever evol-psychologists have found up to this point looks quite commonsensical and correct to me, fits to my experiences. I didn’t yet study it in depth, just looked up Jonathan Haidt’s works on the net and it looks quite OK: http://people.virginia.edu/~jdh6n/

    Interesting enough, that these folks, even though they are subscribing to a biological/materialistic origin of human nature, their findings themselves, generally and by large, are seeing the human mind as WAY less determinstic, machine-like and therefore they are way less – I’d say almost not at all – DEHUMANIZING us than for example the Behaviourism that exerted great influence on the psychologists of the first three-quarters of the XX. century, or than Freudism etc.

    With the evol-psy guys, I have the reassuring feeling that they take me as a human being i.e. their findings can be mapped to the classical philosophical theories of human nature, from Buddha to Aristotle and Burke, and not as an automaton. I never had this feeling with the Behaviourists or the Freudists, I always felt like their views can be mapped to rather Rousseau and the other crazies – humanity as clay to be formed by external forces etc.

    It’s a curious phenomenon really, one I don’t really understand why is it so, but still it seems these folks who take us for biorobots still somehow manage to dehumanize us way, WAY much less than the older folks who though of us as minds conditioned by upbringing, childhood experiences etc.

    You can almost take Haidt and map his findings line by line to the philosophers of the old, like Aristotle. Strange.

    Give them ten years and they’ll even rediscover the meaning of virtues :-)

    I have an ungrounded but strong suspicion there is something big waiting to be discovered somewhere in this evol-psy thing, that turns the explanations around a bit, towards some not-so-biological-materialistic explanation, while retaining the results – as the results make complete sense.

  23. Not wishing to be too PC, but the quailites you describe as “manly” surely apply to some degree, and in slightly different ways to women too, no? The two specific ones you identified (in your OP) were stoicism and grace under pressure. In many respects these seem to me to be two of the defining characteristics of great women too. Think if you will of Western movies with the tough but attractive woman making it on her own on the frontier.

    Of course, (or perhaps “of course” assumes too much of some readers…) women and men are different. They are different physically, mentally and adaptively. I certainly don’t question that blindingly obvious fact. But many of the qualities you see as appealing are universal human characteristics. I think when women are attracting mates they do the whole vunerable thing primarily to appeal to the ego of the male. (Allow me a heterosexual assumption here for the purposes of this post.) But I suspect that much of that is because there are so many pathetic men whose egos are so weak they need the boost. What I see in my observation of the world is that strong men are attracted to strong women, and vice versa. Pity the poor strong woman who has such a dearth of options.

    FWIW, in many of the dojos I have frequented, some of these martial arts chicks are amongst the toughest and most attractive women (physically and mentally) I have encountered.

  24. Jessica Boxer: Not wishing to be too PC, but the quailites you describe as “manly” surely apply to some degree, and in slightly different ways to women too, no?

    It’s a bit of a catch-22 when trying to define masculinity (or “manly virtues”) as something positive. If you describe masculinity as a set of positive virtues–strength, or grace under pressure–you’re implicitly defining them as something that women lack, as you pointed out. On the other hand, if you describe it as a set of negative traits–bullying, rank tribalism–then why is it worth defending?

  25. “I’m also skeptical of evolutionary psychology, at least as it applies to human beings. Can humans really inherit their behavior?”

    Jacques Monod’s “Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology” should give some food for thought about that.

  26. > You jest, and I’ll admit that last bit about liberal-arts departments was pretty funny, but there’s a darker kind of consequence. Man-children may become so desperate to escape the omega-male hole they’re stuffed in that they become parodies of alphas, abusive of those around them – subordinates, wives, children. Or they may attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. If they’re in the 3% of the population that is borderline criminal-deviant, we’re already fairly near schoolyard-shooting territory.

    I actually almost added “, or they just snap and shoot them up” to the end of my original comment.

  27. Grendelkhan,

    it’s only a catch-22 if you have a pathological obsession with trying to be PC or – oh, noes! – you might offend someone. How horrible that would be!

    To be ontopic, probably there is one large set that we may call “adult feminine virtues” and another large set we may call “adult masculine virtues” and I figure they overlap at least 75%, and that large overlap we might just call “adult virtues”.

  28. >Not wishing to be too PC, but the quailites you describe as “manly” surely apply to some degree, and in slightly different ways to women too, no?

    I think I’ve already mentioned that my wife appears to be manlier than the average male art-film buff, and that I occasionally see women displaying these virtues at (for example) tactical-shooting events.

    >FWIW, in many of the dojos I have frequented, some of these martial arts chicks are amongst the toughest and most attractive women (physically and mentally) I have encountered.

    Indeed. My wife Cathy would be a case in point, there.

    There is, however, a sex difference that is important. Female reproductive capacity is a much scarcer resource than male reproductive capacity; women have a limited number of ovulations in a limited span of fertile years. This has enormous implications: one is that the old-fashioned double standard is a completely reasonable adaptation in a society that doesn’t have cheap and effective means of (a) birth control, and (b) paternity testing.

    Another is that females as a group cannot invest in manly virtue and risk-taking the way males can, and consequently aren’t wired to need to. There will always be outliers, but the means of the distributions will be greatly different. Hypothetically, if we could examine a range of species with different degrees of asymmetry in reproductive energy/risk investment, we would expect to find that asymmetry closely correlated with the asymmetry in “manliness”, with the “manly” sex being the one with lower energy/risk investment.

  29. Surprised no one’s mentioned the South Park episode involving Crab People:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Park_Is_Gay!

    Short synopsis: the five gay men of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” are actually evil crab people who are trying to sissify the men of the world (by rendering them into metrosexuals) so that they won’t put up a fight when the crab people finally move to take over the world.

  30. Shenpen: it’s only a catch-22 if you have a pathological obsession with trying to be PC or – oh, noes! – you might offend someone. How horrible that would be!

    Or, translated back into non-namecalling language (“pathological obsession”? seems I have offended someone), it’s only a catch-22 if you have a problem with defining some virtues as the domain of males, from which it follows that women who display those virtues are, either adorably or threateningly, merely aping men, and imperfectly at that.

    I’m also a bit fuzzy on why folks seem to ready to take the jump from “there are good reasons in our past for double standards” to “these double standards should inform our present-day society, in the absence of those reasons”. Doesn’t that veer more than a little into is-ought confusion?

  31. >I’m also a bit fuzzy on why folks seem to ready to take the jump from “there are good reasons in our past for double standards” to “these double standards should inform our present-day society, in the absence of those reasons”. Doesn’t that veer more than a little into is-ought confusion?

    This is exactly why I have misgivings about “evolutionary psychology” that I mentioned earlier. Sure, humans might be biased toward rigid gender roles, but I think understanding our genetic predispositions might actually allow us to overcome them and create a better society than the ones our ancestors lived in.

  32. >esr – I was wondering what martial art you practice.

    Presently, Mixed Martial Arts – an outgrowth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that adds striking techniques. But this is major style #5 for me; I have a World Tae Kwon Do Foundation 1st Dan in Tae Kwon Do, and have also trained pretty intensively in wing chun kung fu, Shotokan karate, and aikido (I sucked pretty badly at aikido, alas). I’m also an advanced-intermediate-level swordsman in the Sicilian cut-and-thrust style and a pretty good pistol shot.

    Aside from these, I’ve picked up a lot of odds and ends from different styles; I know the basics of Japanese sword as well as western, I’ve learned and taught a bit of escrima (Philippine stick fighting), I have recently learned a move or two from Greco-Roman wrestling, and so forth.

    It is not irrelevant that I am a fairly capable instructor; I can teach most of the techniques I know effectively, and have done so. I particularly enjoy teaching women and children…because they need it more.

  33. I just realized that we might be confusing masculinity with machismo. I’m less interested in machismo, but I can go for masculinity, since I’m male. :-)

  34. >I just realized that we might be confusing masculinity with machismo.

    For a male of your generation this is unsurprising – part of the cultural attack on masculinity during my lifetime has been to deliberately conflate the two to the detriment of the former.

    My father and grandfather were not confused about this issue. I had to work on it and think a lot in order to stop being confused; so, very likely, will you.

    In time, our culture may regain clarity on this issue. I’m doing what I can to help.

  35. I would have liked to have been a scout, to the point that when I was about 11 or 12 I had my parents take me to a meeting. I got the materials and they were about to have me take the oath when I asked if there was an alternative oath as I was atheist.

    That was the end of my scouting. And I think a shock to my parents.

  36. >It’s a curious phenomenon really, one I don’t really understand why is it so, but still it seems these folks who take us for biorobots still somehow manage to dehumanize us way, WAY much less than the older folks who though of us as minds conditioned by upbringing, childhood experiences etc.

    I strongly agree. It’s one of the reasons I have found the evolutionary-psych approach so attractive and fruitful – it sounds like it ought to be chillingly reductive at first blush, but turns out not to be.

    I think this is not a trivial observation. The fact that evolutionary-psych turns out not to feel reductive, and to confirm a lot of folk knowledge about human nature, is a sign of what E.O. Wilson called consilience; basically, it means UR DOIN IT RIGHT.

  37. grendelkhan, your link doesn’t show that gun shows are unwelcoming to women, but that they’re unwelcoming to cameras. And maybe ex-wives. Both of which are completely understandable, given the political climate.

    However, among gun enthusiasts I know, women who shoot are EXTREMELY attractive.

  38. Kiwi – and how pleasant do you think it is to be constantly hit on by men in whom you have no interest?

  39. Huh? It’s not pleasant, I know from experience, but that’s entirely irrelevant.

    Grendelkhan claimed that women are unwelcome at gun shows. I haven’t been to one, personally, but I find it very hard to believe, given the way gun enthusiasts of my acquaintance are so fond of armed women. I implied nothing about how such women respond to the attention.

  40. >Grendelkhan claimed that women are unwelcome at gun shows. I haven’t been to one, personally, but I find it very hard to believe, given the way gun enthusiasts of my acquaintance are so fond of armed women.

    I have been to gun shows, grendelkhan is talking nonsense, and I know several armed women who would laugh their asses off at said nonsense.

    Oh, and in response to Kiwi the Geek’s comment: yes, they are very attractive women. I mean…chick with a gun? What’s not to like? Unless she’s shooting at you, of course…

  41. Grendelkhan,

    “translated back into non-namecalling language” – sorry. I got too carried away…

    “I’m also a bit fuzzy on why folks seem to ready to take the jump from “there are good reasons in our past for double standards” to “these double standards should inform our present-day society, in the absence of those reasons”. Doesn’t that veer more than a little into is-ought confusion?”

    Well, first, if those reasons are indeed biological, then they didn’t go away, they are still part of the hardware. But I figure that’s more of a supporting argument than the real one.

    The core question is rather than why would you want to unify standards, if such differences are already deeply engraved either or not in our biology, but surely, definitely engraved in our culture and mindset, so even if it is possible, it would really take a big effort i.e. a big cost? The cost is surely big – what would be the benefit?

    May I presume that it’s an egalitarian drive, that you consider equality (of everybody with everybody in everything) a prima facie value?

    I’m really curious about it, because the drive for equality is currently the No. 1 issue that separates different social, political and cultural philosophies. And I’m a meritocrat, not an egalitarian, because that what I think works and is just.

    I never understood the egalitarian drive. That’s one thing to say that there were and may or may not still are obvious injustices that needed to be redressed, basically because they caused a lot of suffering on one hand, and on the other hand were unmeritocratic, and therefore, unjust. For example, it was clearly unmeritocratic and thus unjust to exclude people from higher education based on gender, race or basically anything but ability so it’s good that was abolished.

    But that’s wholly different to say that people need to be equalized when and if it leads to more happiness and less suffering and generally to nobler ways of living life, and to consider equality as a goal in itself.

    I’m really curious – I never understood the strong drive at equality. I consider equality a tool and not a goal, and poor tool at best, to be used when we really don’t know any better. For example, the 1 person – 1 vote arrangement of democratic systems is inherently unmeritocratic and therefore unjust, but we just don’t know any better at the moment, so it’s grudgingly acceptable, but no way ideal or optimal. Or in other words, it’s good to equalize people in some respect in order that the inequalities in other respects – in merits – become the sole ground of discrimination. This is why f.e. the criminal justice system tries to equalize a bit the economic standing of suspects, i.e. paying a lawyer from the public purse if he does not afford one: the equalization of economic standing is a tool so that the really important inequality: the inequality or difference between legal and illegal actions becomes more visible. That’s OK, that’s a good use of equality as a tool.

    Would the abolishment of gender roles – if it is at all possible, very costly – surely and provenly lead to less suffering and more happiness? Would it be more meritocratic, and thus more just? If not, why bother? If yes, I’d like to see the proof…

  42. Men with weapons are likewise very attractive. And men with muscles. And men who can fight. ;o)

    Just to clarify, I’m not Greek. I’m a geek. Why do so many people misread that?

  43. >Men with weapons are likewise very attractive. And men with muscles. And men who can fight. ;o)

    Unsurprisingly, my wife agrees with you.

    Just to clarify, I’m not Greek. I’m a geek. Why do so many people misread that?

    Because you capitalize the second noun. “the Greek” is a component of several famous nicknames, so when ones sees “XXX the Geek” it’d difficult to avoid editing in the “r”.

  44. Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve ever seen ” the ” without both words capitalized.

  45. D’oh! Let’s try that again:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen ”/ the /” without both words capitalized.

  46. Nuts. I know I’ve used angle brackets in comments before. Never mind.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen ” ‘name’ the ‘descriptor’ ” without both words capitalized.

  47. I strongly agree. It’s one of the reasons I have found the evolutionary-psych approach so attractive and fruitful – it sounds like it ought to be chillingly reductive at first blush, but turns out not to be.

    But only when it supports your point of view.

    The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is more than just a proverb — it is literal, physical truth in some parts of the world. Collective childrearing was and is the evolutionary norm for H. sapiens. But it flies in the face of your extreme individualism, so I’ve never heard you discuss it when you bring up the “ancestral environment”.

  48. > If I were a Freudian I would comment on the phallic symbolism, which definitely gets more interesting when women play with guns.

    If Delony were a Freudian, he’d know that what Freud actually said about guns was pretty much the exact opposite of what he thinks that Freud said. (Freud saw the abnormal pathology in folks who tried to control guns/weapons/male symbols; he saw it as an expression of penis envy.)

    As near as I can tell, the reversal, at least wrt guns, is due to Joyce Brothers. FWIW, her husband had a NYC carry permit at the time. (Such permits are reserved for the politically connected.)

    But now that the issue has been raised, perhaps Delony will tell us how a “masculine” person can acceptably oppose gun control without provoking either “penis” issue.

  49. > The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is more than just a proverb — it is literal, physical truth in some parts of the world.

    Would that be a Hutu village or a Tutsi one?

    > Collective childrearing was and is the evolutionary norm for H. sapiens.

    Collective at the (extended) family level yes. Collective at the village level, not so much.

    The village doesn’t get involved until later.

  50. > I’m also skeptical of evolutionary psychology, at least as it applies to human beings. Can humans really inherit their behavior?

    It’s pretty clear that animals inherit at least some of their behaviors.

    Why would humans be different?

  51. esr: I have been to gun shows, grendelkhan is talking nonsense, and I know several armed women who would laugh their asses off at said nonsense.

    Pardon me; you seem to have the misapprehension that I’m speaking from direct experience. I am not. I think what you meant to claim is that Joan Burbick and Stan Goff are talking nonsense. (And Burbick’s research hardly ended with asking to take pictures at a gun show.) Also, please note that “chicks with guns are hot” is as best tangential to what I’m saying, which is that gun show culture is, reportedly, frequently tied up with all sorts of resentment of women. Fetishizing a subset of women doesn’t change anything–an environment doesn’t have to be all-male to be misogynist.

    Shenpen: Well, first, if those reasons are indeed biological, then they didn’t go away, they are still part of the hardware. But I figure that’s more of a supporting argument than the real one.

    The reasons to which I was referring were things like “humans are very likely to meet a violent death at the hands of another human” or “any tasks of value will rely primarily on physical labor”. These were true when the adaptations emerged–indeed, they shaped them–but they’re not true now, and we’re still executing legacy code, if you will. By analogy, the urge to eat as many sweet, brightly-colored things as we can find made plenty of sense when the highest concentration of sugar was in fruit, but it’s not very helpful in a world with candy stores.

    The core question is rather than why would you want to unify standards, if such differences are already deeply engraved either or not in our biology, but surely, definitely engraved in our culture and mindset, so even if it is possible, it would really take a big effort i.e. a big cost? The cost is surely big – what would be the benefit?

    Would you ask this question in regards to any other form of bigotry or discrimination? Changing the way our society worked so that the options for gay people extended beyond the two major alternatives of “die lonely, miserable and consumed with self-loathing” and “commit suicide after being outed” made a lot of people uncomfortable, but it was right. (Unless you want to argue that Alan Turing was more valuable as a corpse than as a homosexual, which is how the society of his time valued him.) Arguments which boil down to “but it would be hard!”, especially coming from someone who’s not currently getting the short end of the deal, are a little grotesque.

    I’m really curious about it, because the drive for equality is currently the No. 1 issue that separates different social, political and cultural philosophies. And I’m a meritocrat, not an egalitarian, because that what I think works and is just.

    See, the funny thing is that I consider myself a meritocrat as well. I just think that bigotry and prejudice are profoundly anti-meritocratic, and I’m aware that they can show up in more subtle ways than outright discrimination.

    It’s relatively uncontroversial that in plenty of fields, the mass of women provide work as competent as that provided by the mass of men, on average. (I’m watering this down a lot so that I can get my point out.) Excluding women from the workforce cuts your pool of competent workers in half. How on earth is that meritocratic?

    Would the abolishment of gender roles – if it is at all possible, very costly – surely and provenly lead to less suffering and more happiness? Would it be more meritocratic, and thus more just? If not, why bother? If yes, I’d like to see the proof…

    You appear to be arguing against some sort of gender-revolution thing. You know, “after the revolution, men will wear dresses!”. Nobody here is proposing that. I’m not aware of anyone more mainstream than Twisty Faster actually proposing that. (She calls it the “Twistolution”.) It’s more a seemingly-infinite series of questions of the form “do we assume that our prejudices are right?”. Tradition, while frequently correct, isn’t completely reliable as a justification for continuing to do things the way we always have. People have, over the centuries, assumed a long parade of things that turned out to be destructively wrong simply because they didn’t want to risk change. I think that’s a bad policy.

    Andy Freeman: It’s pretty clear that animals inherit at least some of their behaviors. Why would humans be different?

    I think it’s not precisely analogous, because we’re so darn adaptable. Our ancestors had no concept of the nation-state, but our tendencies toward tribalism manage to map seamlessly onto following flags and symbols, or sports teams, or vague pronouncements using phrases like “where liberty dwells”. So, while we inherit plenty of behaviors (or at least tendencies that influence behaviors), we should bear in mind that the behaviors they influence today may not be very similar to behaviors they influenced in the past, and that claiming that they must be there for some good reason, hence we should build our societies around supporting and reifying them, is, at best, unsupportable.

  52. Grendelkhan,

    it seems we are in agreement about the principles, the disagreement seems to be only a quantitative one i.e. how far should things be stretched.

    I indicated above that excluding half of the population from higher education that happened in the past I don’t agree with, so obviously it’s the same about jobs, and indeed, when homosexuality was outright criminalized that was too oppressive, no arguments about that.

    In defense of our grandfathers: probably it wasn’t just bigotry, probably these things made more sense within those objective conditions. F.e. raising 5-6 children without modern household appliances was clearly a lot of work, a full-time job, so in those conditions it made sense that the wife, who is genetically better suited for childrearing anyway (see primates), stayed at home. The conditions since have change so it made sense to change it. OK.

    But right now Western societies are approaching the other extreme. We are approaching an age when you can’t just make any judgements about better and worse anymore, except for on a Mill-ian scale (i.e. does it hurt somebody else?), and it’s clearly not healthy, clearly too much of it. All this gay marriage stuff for example is not about reducing the suffering of gays anymore, as living in happy civic union isn’t exactly suffering. It’s rather about trying to ram it down our throats that all human relationships are equal and we should see no difference between them. And that’s what I am against, and not even on particular grounds but rather in principle: no, we should never assume that different things are equal. If we generate two random numbers it’s the stupidest assumption that they will be equal. If you assume the first one is bigger then you are at least right in 50% of the cases. No, I don’t want to see homo relationships as equal because I don’t want to see ANYTHING as equal: equality is a term that shuts down investigation, analysis and thinking, because these are always about the exploration and understanding of differences. Neither do I want to see things as unequal, except for the obviously evil stuff. I simply want the idea of equality of out the discourse altogether and rather think in terms that thing X is better than thing Y in this aspect, but worse on that aspect etc. etc. a normal analytical approach.

    The major practical problem I see with too much progress (towards this direction) is the following. Generally and by large, both a well-functioning society and personal happiness comes from keeping our egos fairly small. This means we should not put ourselves into the center of our lives, but rather pursue goals outside of us. We may call this approach the development of virtues, or the fullfilment of duties and obligations.

    Now. One problem with the progressive approach is that it keeps telling people that you are a victim of society, you are oppressed because you are not fully equal in some metaphysical aspect, your rights are violated because you earn less than somebody else, etc. etc. it obviously increases the ego.

    The other approach – and this is where I disagree with ESR too, except that I’m disagreeing with him from the right, not from the left which is a bit rare thing here – that progressives (and libertarians too) tell people to pursue their desires. That happiness is the satisfaction of desires. Obviously it isn’t, if you manage to do so all that happens is that you’ll have another desire. This just inflates your ego and thus leads to misery. Happiness is reducing your ego. Now, all that stuff about the acceptance of homosexuality springs from a deeper root: the acceptance of sexuality as purely as a way to fulfill our desires, and not as a tool to make children. My anti-gayness is just a subcategory of being anti-lust, I don’t think gays are any way worse than straights who base their partner relationships purely on desire and love. They are both mistaken. The only way a partner relationshp can reduce our egos is if we see it as a duty for making children. The point is not really the children, of course, just like with charity the point is not really helping the other guy – as it’s usually impossible in any meaningful way – but the point is that YOU focus on something else than your ego, your desires, your interests. Homosexuality is simply the most visible part of this problem, but by no means the only part of it.

    Not that I think governments have a business in regulating our sexuality. That never worked out well. But culture does, and intellectuals, journalists, actors, artists etc. really should know better than to urge us to follow our desires.

    Third problem is PC-language. I figure that’s the worst part of it, because it destroys the medium itself in which disagreement can be communicated, much like NewSpeak. One thing is that if you can get offended by sexist, racist etc. etc. anything-ist languge, you have a way too big ego. You SHOULD get offended often, in order to deflate that ego a bit. Thus PC-warriors are not doing a service to their fellow men, they are rather harming them. Another thing is that it’s quickly approaching the level of total nonsense. When you cannot even call a fat person fat, i.e. you can make no judgement about obesity, and while in some cases it may be due to factors the person cannot help, but in most cases it isn’t, in most cases it’s clearly personal responsibility, then we are way beyond the realm of common sense. It harms them, because it reduces the incentive to lose weight. It simply sweeps the problem under the rug.

    Sorry if this was a bit incoherent. Really I should start a blog as this would require a more detailed analysis. But I hope it was mostly understandable.

  53. >Pardon me; you seem to have the misapprehension that I’m speaking from direct experience. I am not. I think what you meant to claim is that Joan Burbick and Stan Goff are talking nonsense.

    Correction accepted.

    >Also, please note that “chicks with guns are hot” is as best tangential to what I’m saying, which is that gun show culture is, reportedly, frequently tied up with all sorts of resentment of women. Fetishizing a subset of women doesn’t change anything–an environment doesn’t have to be all-male to be misogynist.

    This is silly PC-speak on several levels. First, the report that gun-show culture is misogynist is just plain wrong, as I think both wife Cathy and my friend Lynda Gronlund (one of the best natural pistol shots I’ve ever seen), and several other women I know would happily confirm for you. It has some other aspects I find unpleasant and occasionally disturbing (many of which can be summarized by “I’m an upper-middle-class cosmoplitan urbanite and these are mostly proles”), but misogynism is not one of them.

    How do I know this? Among other things, by looking at the racks full of angry bumper stickers. Anger against government, against bad bosses, against gun-banners, against the left wing – all this sells. Anger against women? Nope. (OK, with a limited exception for ex-wives.) Also, if gun-show culture were genuinely misogynistic, I’d expect to see a lot of anti-female porn being offered as both product and marketing hook – the kind that really objectivizes women into mere sex objects. Doesn’t happen, not at any level worse than cartoons of bikini girls on hot-sauce bottles.

    But the *way* this evaluation is wrong is worse news than the mere fact that it’s wrong. The gun-show crowd believes, even though it is not generally capable of articulating the belief very well, that people like Burbick and Goff are merely using the rhetoric of feminism as a form of political and class warfare against gun owners. This is very much the bicoastal left-liberal New Class talking shit about flyover-country conservative proles. It’s not just that what Burbick and Goff are claiming isn’t true, it’s that it’s dishonest and conceals the actual agenda of their speech acts.

    And about this I think the gun-show crowd is 100% correct and right to be pissed off, even though I’m neither a conservative nor a prole myself.

  54. Anyone noticed how in our culture today men are always depicted as stupid? In sitcoms, for example, the guy is always needing his wife or friends to keep him from doing something stupid.

    That seems to be the meme in sitcoms these days: it used to be father knows best, now its father knows squat. I’m thinking of shows like According to Jim and Everybody Loves Raymond. And I know these are sitcoms, they are supposed to be funny, but why does the guy always have to be a total schlub?

    I was listening to the Dennis Miller show one time and he mentioned that maybe we need to run PSAs telling people that it is ok to be a white guy. (good show btw, you should check it out.)

  55. I have often wondered why it is that women are not more interested in guns than the apparently are.

    Relatively speaking guns benefit women more than men, because what weapons in general, and guns especially so do, is cause a swing in advantage from brawn to brain. That is to say, and obviously generalizing, a woman verses a man in a fist fight puts the woman at a great disadvantage because of her generally lower strength and agility. But a woman verses a man in a gun fight, these biological advantages are negated, and skill with the tool becomes the deciding factor. So adding a weapon advantages the woman relatively more than the man, assuming she is as equally trained as the man.

    I know of no biological advantages a man has over a woman in a gun fight (though I am not expert.)

    Why then are women less inclined to take advantage of this tool?

  56. >Why then are women less inclined to take advantage of this tool?

    A mix of biology and culture. Women are on the whole pretty heavily socialized against having anything to do with violence, especially potentially lethal violence. But I think there would be a significant difference in inclination even in a culture that was, hypothetically, completely neutral on the issue. Because violence slots into sex-specific coping strategies in different ways.

    For men, violence is a relatively prompt response to serious threats; for women it’s a last-ditch one. You can see the difference in the physiology of the fight-flight response: men adrenalize sooner and more intensely and then lose it faster. Here’s a cartoon: ol’ saber-tooth comes sniffing around the campfire. Do you see men wrapping themselves around the children while women shout and throw rocks and brandish flaming branches at it? Nope – that’s not how human sexual dimorphism is designed. Men are the outer guard; women fight only if saber-tooth gets past the men.

    As usual, overlapping bell-curves, etc. etc. — but the difference are very clear and marked everywhere from physiology up to psychology. It would be surprising only if it did not manifest as a difference in attitudes towards weapons in general, and guns in particular.

  57. >esr: And as for my fanboyishness, the poltical discussions are doing a good job of sucking that out of me! ;-)

    Excellent. Just don’t overcompensate and start being obnoxious to prove what a non-fanboy, you are, OK? I get quite enough of that from other people. The silly children don’t realize how much attachment to my opinion their obstreperousness actually reveals.

  58. Also, Jessica, using a gun (or karate, or whatever) requires lots of practice when there’s no imminent danger. It’s not just something you do in an emergency, but an activity/hobby. I think women tend to gravitate toward other hobbies, until some incident or person makes us realize we need to be prepared for a possible attack. It’s just not something we do instinctively, for the reason Eric stated.

    Darren, conservative Christians have been complaining about that for years. Men-bashing, too.

    grendelkhan, as one of those getting the allegedly “short end of the deal”, I don’t find it short at all. Iranian women are oppressed. Indian women are oppressed. American women are most certainly not. In the past 30 years or so, men often have it worse.

  59. >It’s not just something you do in an emergency, but an activity/hobby.

    And to do it really well, you have to invest in it so much that it become part of your self-concept, not just a hobby. There are women like this, and I know several of them, but both I know and they know that it is very rare among females in the general population.

    My wife is not one of them. She’s more typical of the advanced female martial artists I know in that, while she’s pretty skilled, being a martial artist is not part of her identity. She could drop it without feeling like she was severing an essential part of what she is (we’ve talked about this). For me, and for most other male martial artists at my level (19 years in training) or above, walking the warrior path has become something deeply inward, so much a part of us that we can’t imagine ceasing to train short of disabling injury.

    Again, this is completely reasonable given known sex differences. The warrior path is near the core of what successful masculinity is about; combat training affirms and celebrates what males are for, biologically speaking. It’s not entangled into female psychology in anything like the same way.

  60. >In the past 30 years or so, men often have it worse.

    Women constantly tell men that they want men to open up about their emotions. But they lose it if men reveal any feelings that are threatening or forbidden, so there are some kinds of oppression men have simply learned not to talk about. One of these, very relevant to the last few threads, is that today’s men often feel trapped and powerless in a culture that demonizes men, privileges women, and has nearly lost any ability to use the word “manliness” without sneering at it.

  61. It’s not entangled into female psychology in anything like the same way.

    Not only that, it frequently goes against women’s psychology. Women innately want to nurture, and to make peace/make others happy. We want to be sensitive and emotional (within reason). It seems girls often have a hard time learning to be assertive, even verbally or psychologically.

    Women generally want to be protected and feel secure, to the extent that as a teenager I actually avoided being or appearing physically strong, so that I would need protection. When I first became familiar with men who wanted to protect me, it was thrilling. (in the sense of an amazing discovery, not the sense of a roller coaster) And these were just 17yo boys.

    When a woman has a protector, learning self-defense is a contingency. When she’s on her own, it’s a necessity that can be very unpleasant because it underscores the feeling that nobody else wants to protect her.

  62. Women constantly tell men that they want men to open up about their emotions. But they lose it if men reveal any feelings that are threatening or forbidden,

    Only one of many mixed messages feminist women give to men. But they’re so enlightened!

  63. Can anyone give any specific instances where “male values” are under attack? On the other hand, I suppose most people in here are going to dig out the dippiest examples of radical feminism.

  64. > Can anyone give any specific instances
    > where “male values” are under attack?

    Of course. Iraq is a perfect example. Do you take the problem on directly, and meet violence with violence. Or, do you take a softer approach of attemtping to talk the nutjobs down. The press has been pushing the second agenda, and attacking the first as “cowboy politics.”

    In fact the Presidential election we have just had was again a perfect example. We chose a metrosexual over a John Wayne type. (And let me be clear, I am not fan of McCain, but nobody can question that he is a male archetype.)

    Whatever you consider the merits or demerits of the Iraq war or Obama, they do represent the culture choosing soft values over hard.

  65. > Whatever you consider the merits or demerits of the Iraq war or Obama, they do represent the culture choosing soft values over hard.

    I would disagree. Perhaps that’s an aspect of it, but I would say that if it is, it’s more because Bush already tried to do the hard values thing and messed it up royally. It’s McCain’s association with Bush that largely led to Obama’s election.

  66. > > Andy Freeman: It’s pretty clear that animals inherit at least some of their behaviors. Why would humans be different?

    > I think it’s not precisely analogous, because we’re so darn adaptable. Our ancestors had no concept of the nation-state, but our tendencies toward tribalism manage to map seamlessly onto following flags and symbols, or sports teams, or vague pronouncements using phrases like “where liberty dwells”.

    Umm, that’s an argument for inherited human behaviors, namely some sort of herding.

  67. Shenpen: it seems we are in agreement about the principles, the disagreement seems to be only a quantitative one i.e. how far should things be stretched.

    I think it’s more than just a quantitative difference if you’re claiming that we just happen to be sitting at the point where movement toward gender equity should stop. I was so smitten with the Copernican principle upon learning it that I try to apply it in other areas, following the general point that it’s a losing bet that right here or right now are particularly special. Add to this that every attempt to change the status of subjugate classes has been met with claims that all the equality that anyone could reasonably ask for has been achieved, and that past actions to make society more equal and just were good things, but anything more would be bad, and you should be able to see why I’m extremely skeptical of claims of this nature, especially claims about inherent or natural inferiority.

    In defense of our grandfathers: probably it wasn’t just bigotry, probably these things made more sense within those objective conditions. F.e. raising 5-6 children without modern household appliances was clearly a lot of work, a full-time job, so in those conditions it made sense that the wife, who is genetically better suited for childrearing anyway (see primates), stayed at home. The conditions since have change so it made sense to change it. OK.

    You make it sound as though things changed by some kind of stately, natural process. They didn’t. Things changed because activists fought and protested and made other people profoundly uncomfortable–that is, people who made the exact same arguments that you did, that things had already changed enough, that past changes were understandable but these new ideas were beyond the pale, and that women were just naturally suited to their station in society. While industrialization, smaller families (due to reduced infant mortality) and the wide availability of contraception set the stage, those technological changes didn’t bring social change in and of themselves.

    But right now Western societies are approaching the other extreme. We are approaching an age when you can’t just make any judgements about better and worse anymore, except for on a Mill-ian scale (i.e. does it hurt somebody else?), and it’s clearly not healthy, clearly too much of it. All this gay marriage stuff for example is not about reducing the suffering of gays anymore, as living in happy civic union isn’t exactly suffering. It’s rather about trying to ram it down our throats that all human relationships are equal and we should see no difference between them.

    Classy imagery, there, with the “ram it down our throats”. Would you have made the same argument against interracial marriage at the time of Loving v. Virginia? Repeating the word “clearly” doesn’t make your argument for you–why do you know so much about how others should live, and what would serve the greater good?

    How would you like it if you weren’t allowed to get married, but other people around you were? If you had to get the benefits that come with marriage in a difficult and piecemeal fashion and sometimes not at all, if everyone kept telling you that separate-but-equal should be good enough for you, that wouldn’t bother you?

    Nobody’s trying to force you to say that all human relationships are equal. They are trying to get the state to stop claiming that some relationships are more equal than others. Nobody’s going to make your church consecrate or recognize same-sex marriages. Nobody’s going to make you stop being married. It is unlikely, judging by the results in Massachusetts, that your state will be engulfed in fire and brimstone. Other people acquiring the same rights that you’ve had doesn’t take those rights away from you. Your own bigotry is your own business; nobody’s going to take it away from you. If you can’t deal with the state not backing up your bigotry, that’s not anyone’s problem but yours.

    Now. One problem with the progressive approach is that it keeps telling people that you are a victim of society, you are oppressed because you are not fully equal in some metaphysical aspect, your rights are violated because you earn less than somebody else, etc. etc. it obviously increases the ego.

    Whereas being told that you’re born to be a master and that entire classes of people simply aren’t as good as you doesn’t increase the ego? Yes, acknowledging that disenfranchised people are getting the short end of the stick (they’re frequently aware of this, much more than their supposed “betters” are) is likely to make them uppity. This is not an inherently bad thing.

    The other approach – and this is where I disagree with ESR too, except that I’m disagreeing with him from the right, not from the left which is a bit rare thing here – that progressives (and libertarians too) tell people to pursue their desires. That happiness is the satisfaction of desires.

    That’s hedonism, which is distinct from utilitarianism. “Happiness is good” is not the same as “happiness is the satisfaction of desires”.

    Now, all that stuff about the acceptance of homosexuality springs from a deeper root: the acceptance of sexuality as purely as a way to fulfill our desires, and not as a tool to make children. My anti-gayness is just a subcategory of being anti-lust, I don’t think gays are any way worse than straights who base their partner relationships purely on desire and love. They are both mistaken. The only way a partner relationshp can reduce our egos is if we see it as a duty for making children. The point is not really the children, of course, just like with charity the point is not really helping the other guy – as it’s usually impossible in any meaningful way – but the point is that YOU focus on something else than your ego, your desires, your interests. Homosexuality is simply the most visible part of this problem, but by no means the only part of it.

    Wait… if you’re so profoundly against the satisfaction of lust in and of itself, why on earth would you be against extending a social institution to gay people? Or against them adopting children, which is a way to channel the partnering impulse into childrearing, which you seem really keen on. Do you think that if you withhold your social approval, they’ll eventually stop being gay? Do you think that, while straight couples can get together for reasons other than pure horniness, gay couples are defined solely by their lust? Do you have a particular reason for believing this?

    Third problem is PC-language. I figure that’s the worst part of it, because it destroys the medium itself in which disagreement can be communicated, much like NewSpeak. One thing is that if you can get offended by sexist, racist etc. etc. anything-ist languge, you have a way too big ego. You SHOULD get offended often, in order to deflate that ego a bit. Thus PC-warriors are not doing a service to their fellow men, they are rather harming them.

    See, the funny thing is that the phrase “politically correct” tends to be used solely by people seeking to discredit the idea–brave soldiers in the war on straw. The idea being fought is that you can’t say certain things, or else you’ll be shouted down as a racist, a sexist, and such. In response, when someone says certain inconvenient things, such as pointing out bigotry, they’re dismissed as “PC”, forming a cute mechanism for deflecting criticism while feeling plenty self-righteous about it… and simultaneously engaging in precisely what you’re inveighing against.

    Darrencardinal: Anyone noticed how in our culture today men are always depicted as stupid? In sitcoms, for example, the guy is always needing his wife or friends to keep him from doing something stupid.

    The situation generally posits men as empty-headed morons and women as nagging scolds. (The Simpsons is the first thing off the top of my head, but I’m sure you can think of plenty more.) This is (a) not part of a massive feminist conspiracy, as the Massive Feminist Conspiracy has no interest in taking care of dudes as though they were children, and (b) is generally loathed by the Massive Feminist Conspiracy.

    Kiwi the Geek: [responding to "Women constantly tell men that they want men to open up about their emotions. But they lose it if men reveal any feelings that are threatening or forbidden,"] Only one of many mixed messages feminist women give to men. But they’re so enlightened!

    Well, maybe it looks like a mixed message if you’re a child, but one might also think that men are adults, capable of handling responses other than doe-eyed acceptance of their every pronouncement. This isn’t Instrumentality; reaching out to other people might hurt, but it’s better than bottling up your quiet desperation to the point of insanity. This sort of thing betrays exactly the same sort of incredibly low expectations for men that Darrencardinal was just writing about.

  68. Tom Dickson-Hunt: Bush already tried to do the hard values thing and messed it up royally. It’s McCain’s association with Bush that largely led to Obama’s election.

    Remember, conservatism cannot fail; it can only be failed. In no way can the failures of the past eight years be construed as a repudiation of the ideas involved. The failures were actually triumphs in disguise! Or, failing that, they came about because Bush wasn’t conservative enough. He was probably a liberal. Maybe a socialist. Yeah.

    Andy Freeman: Umm, that’s an argument for inherited human behaviors, namely some sort of herding.

    Perhaps I was too vague. The idea is that specific behaviors aren’t inherited, rather, templates for vague tendencies are. Instead of breeding a queen, like eusocial insects do, we form hierarchies, and our impulse to do so is broad-based enough that it can be adapted to situations ranging from bands of hunter-gatherers, to city-states ruled by a local lord, to modern representative democracies with millions of people, where the ultimate loyalty is (we hope!) to the constitution rather than to any individual. Try getting bees to do that, y’know?

  69. >Well, maybe it looks like a mixed message if you’re a child, but one might also think that men are adults, capable of handling responses other than doe-eyed acceptance of their every pronouncement.

    I think the point was that it’s a bad thing that men can be shouted down as sexist if they express feelings not in line with the feminist point of view. I don’t see how basic respect for another person’s point of view counts as ‘doe-eyed acceptance of their every pronouncement’.

  70. Tom Dickson-Hunt:
    > Bush already tried to do the hard values thing and
    > messed it up royally. It’s McCain’s association with
    > Bush that largely led to Obama’s election.

    That is not my analysis of the election results. My opinion is that he lost because of the debacle regarding the “bail out”, where Mr. No-Earmarks voted for the biggest Government boondoggle since FDR.

    However, obviously there is no definitive answer to that, and we can agree to disagree on the underlying causes.

    grendelkhan:
    > Remember, conservatism cannot fail; it can only be failed.
    > In no way can the failures of the past eight years be
    > construed as a repudiation of the ideas involved. The
    > failures were actually triumphs in disguise!

    I suppose it depends on how you measure failure. In a war some battles are lost, and undoubtedly there have been many battles lost. However, in terms of the overall strategic objective — preventing another terrorist attack — well I think that one went pretty well. For sure, no-one believed that was acheivable September 12th, 2001.

    >Or, failing that,
    > they came about because Bush wasn’t conservative enough. He
    > was probably a liberal. Maybe a socialist. Yeah.

    I wonder how you would describe an administration that has had the Government buy large amounts of ownership in our national banking system, and is trying to do the same in our Auto Industry. “Socialist” is the word that comes to my mind.

    I like to think that I am fair minded enough to recognize both the successes and failures of the Bush administration. There have been many of both.

  71. >I think the point was that it’s a bad thing that men can be shouted down as sexist if they express feelings not in line with the feminist point of view.

    Exactly. We wouldn’t tolerate this if the sex roles were reversed; the fact that we do is a sign of a severe power imbalance against men.

  72. >I think the point was that it’s a bad thing that men
    > can be shouted down as sexist if they express
    > feelings not in line with the feminist point of view.

    I think this is part of a bigger problem, it is not just a radical feminist problem. Where did we get the idea that he who shouts the loudest wins the argument. This tactic is not just confined to feminist groups, but it rampant in all areas of the political spectrum from Prop 8 demos and Code Pink to Hannity and O’Reilly.

    I find it particularly appalling when college kids shout down invited speakers at their campuses. I must console myself with the knowledge that they are a tiny majority, lest I despair for the future. How ironic that the putative guardians of free thought and speech are the very apotheosis of the speech code.

  73. grendelkhan:
    > I think it’s more than just a quantitative difference if you’re claiming that we just happen to be sitting at the point where movement toward gender equity should stop.

    I applaud you, sir. That entire comment was beautiful.

    Eric: have you read any of the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker? The distinction between manliness and machismo is a recurring theme: he’s in favour of the former, but not so keen on the latter. Interestingly, Parker was a professor of English literature before his writing career took off.

  74. >See, the funny thing is that the phrase “politically correct” tends to be used solely by people seeking to discredit the idea–brave soldiers in the war on straw.

    Interestingly enough, it appears that the term originated in radical circles as a self-deprecating joke before it was used by conservatives to shoot down any serious discussion on race, class, and gender. (Yeah, I know that seems to be the progressive Holy Trinity these days, but I think these are issues that still need airing.)

    Reading the comments, it seems that the Left isn’t the only group that’s prone to orthodoxy. I would probably make the blood of both libertarians and conservatives boil if I announced that I thought the UN, although imperfect, is a pretty good idea. I also wouldn’t dare suggest in front of a group of evangelicals that the account of Genesis is allegorical.

    Also grendelkhan: Great comment, you said what I was going to, but much more eloquently.

  75. >Interestingly enough, it appears that the term originated in radical circles as a self-deprecating joke

    No. Before that, it was a serious category among old-left Communists; I know how and why it was used and could give examples. The “New Left”, now pretty antiquated itself, would prefer this to be forgotten.

  76. >Eric: have you read any of the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker?

    I have not. Thanks for the tip.

  77. The “new left” that Eric mentioned was the 60′s left, people like Tom Hayden, the Weathermen, etc.

    Really it was just the same tired old left dressed up in sandals and granny glasses (and doing boatloads of drugs.)

  78. >Really it was just the same tired old left dressed up in sandals and granny glasses (and doing boatloads of drugs.)

    Oh, that’s not quite fair. The Old Left was viciously wrong about essentially everything, with a partial exception for its quite justified hostility against religion (I give it only partial credit because a lot of that was just not tolerating competition). The New Left was not quite as completely a Soviet and Maoist sock puppet and got a few things right — opposition to the draft, support of the civil-rights movement. From the perspective of 40 years later they almost certainly did more damage than good, but at least there was some good in there.

    Some of you are thinking, no doubt, “But…what about the sex and drugs and rock and roll?” We’d have gotten those anyway; the hedonism and youth-culture stuff was locked in before well before the Port Huron statement by the invention of the Pill and transistor radios and the rising average wealth level after World War II. The New Left rode that wave, they didn’t create it, so whether you think it was good or bad it doesn’t get charged to their account.

  79. About the guns…

    Let’s just, for argument’s sake, assume that it’s *true* that a gun is a phallic symbol.

    Just how would that make a compelling argument for gun control? Does the (assumed) fact that I own a firearm because I have a small penis, and want to imagine it being large, mean that federal agents should be free to break down my doors and kill my family and me, in order to take my “penis” away?

    In fact, I find it rather morbidly fascinating that one could jump from the previous assumption to the latter conclusion. The conclusion (that violence is justified to end gun rights) is considerably more disturbing than the original ludicrous assumption (about the phallic symbol). I find myself concluding one of two things about anti-2nd Amendment extremists must be true.

    The first possibility is that they, unlike gun owners, really do have a phallic fixation, and bitterly want to stomp out the men with bigger “penises.” This is not only, or even primarily, because of the shape of a gun. Primarily, it is because of a sick feeling inside that they don’t measure up to the manliness of gun owners, and want to get revenge for that feeling.

    The second possibility is even more warped: specifically that, having in their minds “proven” that gun owners are not sexually gifted, they now feel qualified to write them out of the human race, and to deny them basic civil rights. Why? I suspect partly because the current mythology of the far Left is so tied up in sex, that they think it trumps every other life experience. At the top, you have the sexy Leftists, who have the right to do anything they want; and on the bottom, you have the unsexy gun owning types, who have no rights whatsoever, because, tee hee, they are too sexless to deserve to be treated as anything better than animals.

    I might add that although the far Left believes everyone else to be puritanical about sex, this isn’t the case. In fact, most masculine subcultures are quite positive toward sex; it’s just that they don’t view it in a vacuum, as some weird bored detached activity to be partaken in once the latte runs out. Sex is part of a continuum of a full life, along with guns, hard work, and, yes, less productive activities such as drinking.

    (I might also add that while there is a “double standard” in sex, it’s less between men and women than it is between men and tomboys, on the one hand, and feminine types of either gender on the other hand. Masculine men tend not to like feminine men having sex with women–they get really pissed about it, actually–and they also are more tolerant of female promiscuity in “tough” girls (and for good reason: when “feminine” girls get in over their heads, and casually get involved with jerks, and get abused as a result, they end up involving their male relatives and friends in fights they could otherwise avoid).

  80. >The first possibility is that they, unlike gun owners, really do have a phallic fixation, and bitterly want to stomp out the men with bigger “penises.” This is not only, or even primarily, because of the shape of a gun. Primarily, it is because of a sick feeling inside that they don’t measure up to the manliness of gun owners, and want to get revenge for that feeling.

    I have observed gun enthusiasts, considered as a subcultural group, to have several rather inchoate folk theories of what makes would-be gun-banners so fixated and neurotically impervious to facts. One of them resembles this.

  81. > I have observed gun enthusiasts, considered as a
    > subcultural group, to have several rather inchoate
    > folk theories of what makes would-be gun-banners
    > so fixated and neurotically impervious to facts.

    Don’t you find most people largely impervious to facts on most things? Certainly when it comes to matters of a political persuasion, people seem to identify tribally (I’m a Democrat, I’m a Republican, I’m a Tory etc.) rather than having thought through their positions entirely. These labels come with a mixed bag of views that don’t obviously seem related. For example, why are people who are “Pro-Choice”, also, generally, “Anti-Gun”. And why are people who are “Anti Abortion” also generally “Pro Small Government”. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious link between the two.

    However, I think there is a general explanation for why people are like this. That would be rational ignorance. Your vote is, on the margin, worthless. So there really is not benefit to investing a large amount of time becoming an expert on public policy. So, you rationally use your time for other things.

    (I remember Bill Clinton, during the Florida recount problems of the 2000 election stating something like “This goes to show how important it is to vote, because it shows that every vote counts.” In fact, it showed exactly the opposite.)

  82. I think it’s a bit much to automatically assign bad intent to everyone who advocates gun control. Many gun control advocates are well-meaning; it’s not a matter of evil people, it’s a matter of mistaken people. I think that one reason that they might have is that they associate guns with the type of ‘proles’ that ESR mentioned earlier as people who frequent gun shows.

  83. Nobody’s going to make your church consecrate or recognize same-sex marriages. Nobody’s going to make you stop being married. … Your own bigotry is your own business; nobody’s going to take it away from you.

    Riiiight. In Canada, because of hate-crime laws, it’s already illegal for a preacher in the pulpit to talk about Bible verses condemning homosexuality. In California a few years ago, I read of a law that all businesses, including churches, had to practice equal hiring policies concerning homosexuals. IIRC, that was overturned, but it’s only a matter of time.

    This is an example of why marriage, homosexual unions, businesses’ hiring practices, and preachers’ sermons, among other things, should be NONE OF THE GOVERNMENT’S BUSINESS. Live and let live.

    it’s more because Bush already tried to do the hard values thing and messed it up royally.

    On the contrary, a lot of people I know think he messed up by not being tough enough.

  84. Oops, The second and third paragraphs weren’t supposed to be italicized, as they were my response. I’m getting so I need a preview option before I post. :oP

  85. > On the contrary, a lot of people I know think he messed up by not being tough enough.

    When I say ‘messed it up royally’, I don’t mean that he didn’t do the hard values thing right; I mean that he became associated with hard values and then blew it in other areas (so that hard values have been discredited by their association with him).

  86. Okay, I see what you mean. Still, I know a lot of former Republicans, including myself, who take issue with Bush, McCain, and the whole Republican party elite because they’re “liberal lite”. If Bush was supposed to represent “hard values”, he erred by compromising in many areas.

  87. >The New Left was not quite as completely a Soviet and Maoist sock puppet and got a few things right — opposition to the draft, support of the civil-rights movement.

    I just want to be clear that I don’t support the ideals of the New Left, at least not the whole bombthrowing thing. But it is interesting that nobody on the left self-identified as “politically correct” when conservatives started using the term to discredit legitimate attempts to curtail prejudice in this country.

  88. >I think it’s a bit much to automatically assign bad intent to everyone who advocates gun control

    I agree. Most of its advocates are well-intentioned dupes – foolish, but not evil. It’s only the leaders and theorists who are outright villains.

  89. >But it is interesting that nobody on the left self-identified as “politically correct” when conservatives started using the term to discredit legitimate attempts to curtail prejudice in this country.

    I don’t think that’s a fair description of what conservatives believed they were doing, but I’ll leave that point to a conservative to argue. I do think the New Left ran away from the term “politically correct” mainly because continuing to use it would have been a confession of their ties to Communism, not because they had any real argument with the Communists’ deadly-serious use of it.

    I do remember thinking, at the time when the “it’s just irony” meme was first floated in the early 1980s, that it was one of the cleverest pieces of evasive spin I could remember seeing.

  90. >I don’t think that’s a fair description of what conservatives believed they were doing, but I’ll leave that point to a conservative to argue. I do think the New Left ran away from the term “politically correct” mainly because continuing to use it would have been a confession of their ties to Communism, not because they had any real argument with the Communists’ deadly-serious use of it.

    I think the problem with attributing hidden motives to groups of people is that hidden motives are unfalsifiable. Has any even ever disproved a hidden motive to someone who believes another group has one? I don’t want to compare you to John Birchers, Eric, but everything the UN does for them is evidence that they want to establish a one-world government.

    Also let me go on the record in saying that I am emphatically not a Marxist or a Communist. Human activity is much too complex to be described by a few simple axioms.

  91. >I think the problem with attributing hidden motives to groups of people is that hidden motives are unfalsifiable.

    Sure, if they were really hidden. They can’t really be, because humans have to communicate in order to cooperate. Accordingly, movements like the Old Left or New Left have two forms of propaganda – the externally-directed stuff and the material that reinforces group cohesion and shared values among the insiders. The trick in understanding what they’re really after is to ignore the first category and read the second. I’ve actually done this – I’ve hung out in left-wing bookstores browsing for this specific purpose.

    One of the ways that you can spot the Soviets’ hand in these movements is by noticing how various code phrases originally characteristic of Marxist theory and Communist propaganda diffuse through their insider materials. They’re not just cant, they’re what a semioticist would call signifiers for an entire world-view. It’s particularly telling when these code phrases are absent from the externally-directed propaganda.

    John Birchers are idiots. I don’t have to paranoidally attribute hidden motive to these people and then claim that the lack of visible evidence for those motives is proof of the effectiveness of their sinister plan. They do quite a sufficient job of revealing themselves; you just have to get past the stuff they lay out to fool the rubes.

  92. Sure, if they were really hidden. They can’t really be, because humans have to communicate in order to cooperate. Accordingly, movements like the Old Left or New Left have two forms of propaganda – the externally-directed stuff and the material that reinforces group cohesion and shared values among the insiders. The trick in understanding what they’re really after is to ignore the first category and read the second. I’ve actually done this – I’ve hung out in left-wing bookstores browsing for this specific purpose.

    I’ve noticed this watching Naomi Klein. I may lean left, but Klein is to me an insufferable harpy to rival Ann Coulter. One thing I noticed when I saw videos of her interviews concerning her book, The Shock Doctrine, vs. when I saw her talk to a group she knew was going to be composed of fellow lefties, was how her assumptions — and message — changed depending on her target audience. In the former case she took the position of a concerned citizen raising awareness about this evil maniacal plot on the part of Milton Firedman; in the latter, it was all about advancing the progressive agenda and achieving certain political goals.

  93. s/Firedman/Friedman/g ; near as I know he kept his job as an economist throughout his life.

  94. > I’ve actually done this – I’ve hung out in left-wing bookstores browsing for this specific purpose.

    I don’t think this is a very reliable test. Anyone who opens a left-wing bookstore is likely to be further to the left than your average left-winger, and they have to cater to those even further to the left than themselves. Hence, you’re going to find stuff in left-wing bookstores that most self-describing left-wingers think is crazy.

  95. >I don’t think this is a very reliable test. Anyone who opens a left-wing bookstore is likely to be further to the left than your average left-winger, and they have to cater to those even further to the left than themselves. Hence, you’re going to find stuff in left-wing bookstores that most self-describing left-wingers think is crazy.

    So? How is this opinion even relevant? Near as I can tell, the types who hang out in those bookstores mastered the art of driving the “decent”, “moderate” leftists like cattle more than fifty years ago, and demonstrated that mastery by breaking the American will to win the Vietnam War. They don’t care that you think they’re crazy; they think they own your terms of reference, the semantic frame within which you think about politics. I agree that they’ve done a depressingly good job at this.

    Hell, they used to own a piece of me! When I think about some of the things I believed when I was a centrist Democrat in the 1970s, I cringe with embarrassment at how easily manipulated I was. Fortunately, my bullshit detectors spun up before I did any serious damage.

  96. >I’ve noticed this watching Naomi Klein

    Good for you. Gives me hope that you might stop talking like an utter tool of these people someday.

    >…the position of a concerned citizen raising awareness about this evil maniacal plot [...]; in the latter, it was all about advancing the progressive agenda and achieving certain political goals.

    Yup. Get far enough inside environmentalism or the political feminist movement and you’ll notice the same sudden flipover. Their ostensible goals aren’t their real ones. The inner doctrines of these prospiracies don’t match the outer. I keep pointing this out and people keep looking at me like they think I’m a paranoid, but this is reality.

  97. >I don’t have to paranoidally attribute hidden motive to these people and then claim that the lack of visible evidence for those motives is proof of the effectiveness of their sinister plan. They do quite a sufficient job of revealing themselves; you just have to get past the stuff they lay out to fool the rubes.

    The right can play that game as well. Have you ever read The Authoritarians by Robert Altermeyer? He’s a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba who self-published a book online. He claims that right-wing authoritarian leaders prey their religious followers who trust authority blindly and whose religion teaches them to forgive their leaders almost anything.

  98. I’m sure there are right-wing prospiracies, and maybe there are right-wing political leaders who count on blind followers. Ironic, since the Bible tells people NOT to follow blindly. Mat 10:16 — “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Acts 17:11 — The Bereans are praised because they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The first 9 or so chapters of Proverbs exhort the reader to seek wisdom. And those are just off the top of my head.

  99. >He claims that right-wing authoritarian leaders prey their religious followers who trust authority blindly and whose religion teaches them to forgive their leaders almost anything.

    Well, duh! In what universe is this breaking news?

    You actually missed the most obvious example of a right-wing prospiracy — the “Intelligent Design” crowd. They conceal their inner doctrine, oh, about as well as the anthropogenic-global-warming crowd does. Idiots.

  100. What is this stuff about right-wingers trusting authority blindly and to forgive their leaders almost anything? Many conservatives myself included took issue with many things Bush has done; look at the nomination of Harriet Myers, out of control spending, the “new tone”, etc.
    Conservatives have been sharply critical of many things Bush has done.

    Meanwhile, the people on the left act like they are at a rally at Jonestown when it comes to Obama. He’s the “Messiah”, (their word not mine), he’s a lightworker.

    Obama uses a lot of words to say absolutely nothing, and the liberal press lapped it up all throughout the campaign. They never seem to ask a tough question, and seem to feel that asking him a tough question would be bad form. Just yesterday a reporter tried to ask Obama a question about Blagobitch and Rahm Emanuel, and Obama cuts him off saying he didn’t want him to waste his question.
    Kool-aid anyone?

  101. >Ironic, since the Bible tells people NOT to follow blindly.

    The Bible contains numerous internal contradictions on this subject, and many others. From a system of premises including contradictions, you get nonsense. Accordingly Christians can use the Bible, and have used it, to justify not only blind religious authoritarianism but consequent atrocities all the way up the scale to genocidal massacre.

    And it’s no good telling me those Christians were wrong. They’d think you’re wrong, and they’d quote the Bible just as sincerely as you do. I’m not a Christian myself, so I don’t have a position in that fight; I have to judge Christianity from the outside, by its effects, and I judge it to be profoundly, deeply, irremediably evil. As are all monotheisms, for that matter.

    Which is why you’re not likely to get much of anywhere quoting the Bible at me as an authority for “good” Christianity. I’ve heard it all before, I don’t believe it, and I’m not interested.

    Further discussion of religion is declared off-topic for this thread. If you really must attempt to argue this with me, wait til I post on a religion-related topic again.

  102. All right then…back to the original topic.

    Eric, I’m not sure that being stoic is always such a great idea. I agree that it’s right to be stoic about personal pain and misfortune, but frankly, when someone acts stoic about being mistreated, it comes across as a sort of thinly disguised whining.

    In particular, I can’t see that the Republicans’ “stoic” act of “It’s all right, we’ll stoically mind the store while the Democrats act irresponsibly” has helped the Republicans, or the country, much. There’s a time and place where it’s right and just to get *pissed. An example is any of the many times Democrats have attacked Republican women and children(and, more rarely, Republican men). This is not the time to say, “Oh, look at the funny Democrats.” This is a time to say, “Go near my family and I’ll kill you.” And yet I have had the Republican at the local GOP office tell me that I’m wrong to advocate self-defense, because “we’re better than them.”

    It’s bad enough to have the official pencilneck talking heads on TV representing the supposedly tough GOP. It’s considerably worse when it becomes obvious that many Republicans won’t even defend their own.

  103. >I agree. Most of its advocates are well-intentioned dupes – foolish, but not evil. It’s only the leaders and theorists who are outright villains.

    Granted that the number of gun control advocates I’ve met is pretty small, I have to respectably disagree. Obviously it’s evil as hell to support violently disarming the American people in order to set up a Stalinist regime, as the “leaders and theorists” would like. But it’s also pretty evil to support denying people’s civil rights because you think they are “inbred rednecks” and therefore not truly human, as is the case with most of the “dupes.”

    It’s similar to the way con men operate. Seldom do they go after wide-eyed innocents. They dupe people who are only a little less dishonest than they are, playing on their greed. Basically here you have the leaders, who hate everyone who isn’t a Communist, cheating the “dupes” by lying and saying they only hate rednecks.

  104. That should be “respectfully disagree,” although I hope my argument was respectable enough.

  105. > Granted that the number of gun control advocates I’ve met is pretty small, I have to respectably disagree. Obviously it’s evil as hell to support violently disarming the American people in order to set up a Stalinist regime, as the “leaders and theorists” would like. But it’s also pretty evil to support denying people’s civil rights because you think they are “inbred rednecks” and therefore not truly human, as is the case with most of the “dupes.”

    I would say that’s not true. If the gun control movement leaders want to get anywhere near the popular support they would need to carry out their agenda, they need to have a wider support base than those who think that all gun owners are ‘inbred rednecks’, which is actually a fairly small group. Many of the ‘dupes’ are well-intentioned, non-bigoted people who believe the studies that purport to show that (for instance) a gun is 47 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder (or whatever the current volley in the war of statistics is).

  106. Please spare us the gun control studies, they are notoriously fraudulent.

    I believe Eric has blogged on this before.

  107. >> Interestingly enough, it appears that the term originated in radical circles as a self-deprecating joke

    > No. Before that, it was a serious category among old-left Communists; I know how and why it was used and could give examples.

    In Australia the term used on the left was “ideologically unsound”.

  108. >In Australia the term used on the left was “ideologically unsound”.

    Same idea. My favorite example is that at one point the CPUSA distinguished between Alpine skiing (recreational sport of the capitalist elite, politically incorrect and to be avoided by all Party members) and cross-country skiing (critical technology of sturdy northern proletarians, politically correct). I have no doubt that the Australian left trafficked in similar distinctions.

  109. >Obviously it’s evil as hell to support violently disarming the American people in order to set up a Stalinist regime, as the “leaders and theorists” [who hate everyone who isn’t a Communist] would like.

    See, this is the sort of talk that gives conservatives a reputation as paranoid loons. If you accused the leaders and theorists of the gun-control advocates of wanting to install a Stalinist regime and hating anyone who isn’t a Communist, they’d deny it quite sincerely and honestly consider you a nutcase for making the accusation.

    It is true that their actual behavior is almost indistinguishable from what they’d be like if that description were literally accurate. But it isn’t, and the way that reality differs from it is important. These people serve the ends of a dead totalitarianism without being aware that that’s what they’ve been programmed for. That’s the genius of what the Soviet Union did to us, the Gramscian damage – their agents of influence created a self-perpetuating anti-establishment that nativized and internalized Stalinist propaganda memes as though they were components of a moral or religious system.

    Stalin’s memebots – the people I’ve called Willi Munzenberg’s lost children, in the gun control crowd and elsewhere – must be fought and defeated, but you can’t do it by accusing them of being Stalinists. Because when they deny that, their sincerity shows and persuades people listening to the exchange that they are probably in the right and you in the wrong. It’s a tactic that plays into the villains’ hands.

    There’s also the problem that it’s difficult to get most people to face squarely the fact that the law is founded on the threat of lethal violence — most people avert their eyes from this for the same reason most meat-eaters refuse to consider that their meal came from a slaughterhouse. So when you use “violently disarming” as a description of making civilian weapons illegal, you are speaking truth in a way much of your audience will simply refuse to process.

    So dial it back, Ken. What you have to do is attack and discredit the weaponized memes the villains and fools are infected with. That calls for a subtler approach.

  110. Richard Dawkins, when he coined the term “meme”, claimed that the memes were inducing their human hosts to propagate the memes. Perhaps instead of the Soviets spreading supposedly harmful memes on an unsuspecting West, the Soviets themselves were being manipulated by the memes?

  111. >Perhaps instead of the Soviets spreading supposedly harmful memes on an unsuspecting West, the Soviets themselves were being manipulated by the memes?

    Probably not. Several of the most important suicidalist memes are things the Soviets themselves did not behave as though they believed. I could give several examples, but one will suffice: there is no truth, only conflicting agendas. In Marxist theory there is absolute truth, and it’s revealed (or developed — the metaphysics is kind of fuzzy) by the dialectic of history. They also clearly did not believe that criminals are necessarily virtuous victims of an unjust society: instead, they conflated criminality and insanity.

  112. >I could give several examples, but one will suffice: there is no truth, only conflicting agendas. In Marxist theory there is absolute truth, and it’s revealed (or developed — the metaphysics is kind of fuzzy) by the dialectic of history.

    There are still plenty of Marxists who aren’t happy with the development of postmodernism. Frederec Jameson’s Postmodernism
    or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
    is an example. It’s mildly amusing to hear people criticize the “postmodern left” when one is aware that there are plently of leftists with misgivings about postmodernism.

    (Yes, I know it’s hosted on a site called marxists.org. It was the first hit on Google.)

  113. >There are still plenty of Marxists who aren’t happy with the development of postmodernism

    Yes. Because they get that it subverts their system of “truth”, too. But the Soviets didn’t care; the intended function of their memetic weapons wasn’t to please their western Marxist tools, it was to damage the enemy by sewing self-loathing and self-doubt in capitalist societies. Half of my commenters provide daily evidence of their success.

    Of course, if the West had actually surrendered itself before the Soviet system collapsed, the Marxist tools would have been executed with the same ruthlessness as anyone else if they got out of line.

  114. > Please spare us the gun control studies, they are notoriously fraudulent.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. I know the studies are fraudulent. I was mentioning them at all as a reason why many people support gun control. Explaining their behavior is not at all the same as agreeing with it.

  115. >Of course, if the West had actually surrendered itself before the Soviet system collapsed, the Marxist tools would have been executed with the same ruthlessness as anyone else if they got out of line.

    This illustrates the strange tension between pluralism and monism. At the meme level, pluralism might have evolved to ensure the survival of monism, strange as it sounds. Witness both Muslim and Christian saying that people who want a secular society have no right to criticize their attempts to install theocracies because all beliefs must be respected. They are using pluralism to attack pluralism. This is dismaying to people who actually desire a sane, tolerant society. They must either deny civil rights to some people or face being taken over by ideas they find abhorrent. I would say that the best option would be for all parties to stay on their side of the fence, but I don’t know if it would be very effective.

    As for postmodernism, radical doubt and skepticism have been a part of the Western philosophical tradition since Ancient Greece. If anything, postmodernists aren’t radicals but philosophical conservatives!

  116. “This illustrates the strange tension between pluralism and monism.”

    Pluralism and monism aren’t supposed to be opposites. Rather, one extreme is relativism, the other extreme is monism, and a healthy kind of pluralism should be somewhere around the middle.

    Debates and that (good) kind of progress that comes from debates always happen on the pluralistic level, as both realivism and monism makes debates impossible.

  117. > Please spare us the gun control studies, they are notoriously fraudulent.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. I know the studies are fraudulent. I was mentioning them at all as a reason why many people support gun control. Explaining their behavior is not at all the same as agreeing with it.

    Point taken, Tom. Perhaps I could have read your post a bit closer.

    Still, I think it bears repeating about the fraudulence of these gun control studies, I don’t think it gets said often enough. The mainstream television and newspaper media usually just parrot these studies as if they were scientific truth.

  118. >when I go to places where people are talking rather than doing, the percentage of man-children rises.

    this observation is rather closer to the essence than the “zeitgeist” hypothesis/mention.

    what you’re seeing is various self-selecting subcultures within a larger whole-genome pattern of parasitic strategies within the whole.

    richard dawkins described this particular pattern at the point of dna-replication as “meiotic drive”: the preferential selection by existing processes for agents which target the process rather than the result. he was talking about dna-elements which preferentially bind to others at replication-time regardless of their later macro effect on the overall “survival vehicle”. but it’s a useful phrase to keep in mind when considering how humans tend to sexually select partners for particular characteristics, even where those characteristics are unrelated to the overall species’ benefit. or, as in the man-children context, negatively related.

    – (this pattern is a common theme amongst most Social-framework parasites, incidentally. think: PC bureaucrats; toe the micro-line, feather your own nest; individual strong benefit, overall negative.)

    females _on average_ will tend to select for males simultaneously displaying high status/power signals and high controllability signals, due to the symbiotic sexual co-strategies adopted by the female and male subspecies. this was beautifully if unconsciously satirised by the simpsons in lisa’s subscription to “non-threatening boys”, filled with “photos” of man-children; and is visible nonsatirically in prepubescent (white) girls’ pancultural fascination with trained (only) horses.

    in subcultural contexts which ignore reality and focus merely on the Social aspects of their lives, you will notice that these sub-cultural contexts :
    (a) tend to be higher Status than more reality-focussed subcultures (lawyer vs mechanic, artist vs programmer, architect vs builder), and
    (b) tend to be preferentially inhabited by man-children: the higher the status and the lower the connection to physical reality (themselves correlated, by the way), the higher the proportion of man-children.

    – (the imposition by war of reality over mere social constructs can invert this: written records by women since at least the crimean war consistently record females’ disappointment with men they’d previously regarded as heroes and startled realisation that the men they’d previously regarded as nothings were actually heroes.)

    the result is: a genetic shortcut to relationship- and hence sexual- and hence reproductive- success for males in the normal (purely Social) sitation is the man-child strategy.

    the net result, like most semi-parasitic strategies, is a net negative for the dna as a whole.
    but individuals select only for micro-optima, not the overall optimum.

  119. you will also notice, in an ex-america context, that:

    (a) the wider the distance between male and female cultural “roles”, the poorer a country tends to be. italy vs germany. iran vs sweden.

    (b) the more prevalent and/or stronger the individual tendency to take advantage of others, the poorer a country tend to be.

    same overall genetic process (micro “meio” advantage vs macro whole-group consequences). just more evolved.

  120. Saltation,
    The academic mumbo-jumbo (I have a relatively high IQ and much of what you wrote simply went way past me) is very hard to understand. But generally I think I understand what you’re pointing to. That somehow, the “man-child” or “feminizing” of the male construct is actually “good” for a culture and economic status of a nation.

    As a mathematician, I know that overall optimal output is actually not TRULY optimal. The cost of reaching 100% optimization is more than the value the final percentages yield. Therefore Pareto Optimality means you reach a point of loss incurred for each additional gain. I have learned this in day to day business in my field of pricing and inventory control. The time, energy and effort spent trying to make everything work perfectly isn’t worth it. If I can make things 97% optimal, I maximize profit.

    The way I see it, the culture that emphasizes the “feminization” of male roles (I would argue that it’s just as much “masculinizing” female roles, too) actually makes each gender stronger. But to push the limits and make each gender 100% sensitive is a losing proposition.

    I don’t know if I’d fall into the role of “man-child” described in the article. I probably wouldn’t, as I enjoy a strong challenge and I take on large projects regularly. But alot of this view is subjective, and the author may see me as one because I’m also very well educated and love discussions that are fact-based (I abhor the way the press managed the last election, which was completely biased, based on conjecture, rarely discussing real issues of policy or economics in meaningful way).

    But I do believe we are hurt, as a nation, by not reinforcing standard gender roles at a young age, and then opening our children up as they age. Gender roles are the “fundamentals” of individuals in society. When I teach basketball, at the 3rd grade level, it’s about passing and dribbling properly. These kids all think they are Michael Jordan. They are taught they are not – even the best dribbles and passes poorly. Fundamental roles need to be taught and reinforced through the 6th grade. By 7th, 8th and 9th, the kids learn how to get more elaborate, run plays, set posts and picks, rebound, etc. Their roles – guard, forward, center – continue to be learned and evolve. But the FUNDAMENTALS remain intact for every position, and understanding the other positions and their role in the system allows the team to perform at a higher level.

    It is this that I cannot derive from your post – are you saying we shouldn’t reinforce gender roles at an early age? If so, then you are very, very wrong. My nephews, 2 very intelligent boys, are being raised by my sister in a gender-neutral manner. They are so withdrawn and feminine it is almost frightening. No doubt, as they age, they will be bullied (at worst) or harassed (at best). They will find their place in the world, I’m sure, as intelligent boys always do. But even I, as a small kid, was taught to get up after being knocked down and fight harder. After being severely cut on the hand, I was told to complete the chore before going to the hospital. Despite being one of the smallest in my class, my tenacity in a fight prevented people from harassing me. This allowed me to gain comfort as one of the most intelligent in my class – knowing people had to respect me on many levels.

    I see the US has slowly lost this edge. We try to belittle those who focus on physical traits and promote those with intellectual traits. As an intelligent person, I see the value of both – but I see many in our academic and intellectual circles who no longer do.

    A study of Rome would show this kind of gender role alteration accompanied great wealth and power – but also played a major role in the downfall as Rome could no longer provide for its own defense in a meaningful way.

  121. Now, apply Saltation’s excellent holding forth on genomic selection for locally beneficial but globally destructive traits and you end up… ohhhhh, hereabouts.

    Jay Hanson has built up a wonderful body of knowledge going from precisely this point.

  122. >Jay Hanson has built up a wonderful body of knowledge going from precisely this point.

    Jay Hanson is exactly the same kind of idiot Paul Ehrlich was in the early 1970s and Jeremy Rifkin was a few years later, and this will be just as obvious in twenty years. No, probably in ten years.

    Not that this will prevent yet another doom-monger from becoming rich and famous along about 2019 by peddling neo-Malthusian claptrap based on junk science; as with astrology, the market for this sort of nonsense is depressingly invulnerable to repeated falsification of its predictions.

  123. “We try to belittle those who focus on physical traits and promote those with intellectual traits.”

    I think the talkers vs. doers phenomenon – which underlies the whole issue and AFAIK is a very important problem in the modern age pretty much everywhere – runs way deeper than that. It’s more about understanding the relationship between rational thinking and practical actions – i.e. understanding that it’s often weak, except for some specialist fields, that how well we cook has very little to do with how many cookbooks we read.

    The rise of the soi-disant “intellectual” is a weird phenomenon, it means a class of people who read 500 cookbooks and therefore can write an intelligent sounding critique of the 51st one or even write one that sounds intelligent themselves – but they cannot cook.

    So I figure it’s rather getting things done vs. intellectual masturbation – or something like that.

  124. Funny you should prop males at gun events as being particularly “manly”.

    A few years back, I went to a golf show, which was being held at the same time as a gun show, at the same exposition center. As I queued up to get into the golf show, the gun nuts were queued up for their gun show, across the same open area. What I saw were mostly fat, ugly, unshaven, nerdy dorks wearing fatigues, who looked about as manly as Homer Simpson.

    And holding a gun, and being able to aim and pull the trigger, does not require “manlieness”. Nor does it test anyone, or teach responsibility, or put someone through personal trial that causes growth. It’s something any idiot can do. That said, there is skill involved, and potential intenstinal fortitude for the willingness to kill someone.

    Then again, golf isn’t exactly the most macho game out there. ;-) But the mental discipline it requires, that’s a nother story …

  125. Manliness comes from personal responsibility, work ethic, willingness to perservere through life’s trials, and moral dignity.

    Activities like marial arts, gun target practice, sports, some sort of craftsmanship (including programming!), and simply having a job and supporting oneself, can brings those things.

    Another thing that brings on heavy manliness – being a father (I’m the father of two girls). That brings on heavy responibility, and trials!

    But one is not manly simply because someone is a boy scout, or practices martial arts. shoots a gun.

  126. I agree that manliness is exemplified in parenthood. I have 2 boys (similar issues, different trials).
    However, the gender roles and enjoyment of “being a man” do have alot more to them when you consider that:
    1. Men do prefer guns (I see this in my boys, who never saw a gun prior to the age of 8, but now at 12 and 14 enjoy going to the shooting range with me). Women enjoy guns, too. Just not in as large numbers.
    2. Men love sports. This has changed over time, and while women like sports, it’s usually for different reasons and typically their enjoyment tapers out over time. My wife likes football, but only if it’s “her” Giants. Otherwise she pays little attention to it and when I talk stats, her eyes glaze over.
    3. Men prefer physical activities over household. Most men would rather build a new extension rather than cook. I cook, and I enjoy it. But I’d rather rebuild a wall.
    4. Men prefer the outdoors. As a Boy Scout, I loved camping and hiking. My wife despises it. My sons, NOT Boy Scouts, LOVE it. It’s definitely a gender thing.

    As for the intellectualization of these issues, I agree with the doing vs. reading/talking concept. Many people can write on issues like this, sound intelligent and knowing, and be completely off base. I hesitate to say this, because it may be construed as political, and it’s not, but Obama is about as feminine a man as I’ve ever seen. I don’t know him, but I honestly can’t say he and I would have much in common to talk about. He likes basketball, and so do I. He likes college football, and so do I. But beyond that, I can tell he can’t discuss the finer points of either – breaking down a defense, analyzing statistics, recounting amazing plays, etc. He’s into the intellectual pursuit of the concept of sport, not sports for sports sake. For men, sports are a bonding tool, a tool for discussion and argument or agreement.

    Howard Cosell is a rare exception. He was a learned man of sport, but loved the sports he covered – really loved them from a man’s point of view. He raised sports consciousness for all of American men. He was the rare “talker” who could relate to the doer.

    But my problem is this – in our country, we have ceased to respect that aspect of the doer. I am reminded of Vince Lombardi’s speech:
    “It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

    “And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

    “I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear – is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he’s exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

    Lombardi, in the same speech, talked about how our country no longer values accomplishment. I agree. And it’s getting worse as I get older – we want to make everything mediocre.

  127. In two adjacent comments, you said:

    >mostly fat, ugly, unshaven, nerdy dorks wearing fatigues, who looked about as manly as Homer Simpson.

    and

    >Activities like mar[t]ial arts, gun target practice [promote] personal responsibility, work ethic, willingness to perservere through life’s trials, and moral dignity

    Which do you actually believe?

    My experience suggests the latter is true. You seem to have two mutually contradictory ideas.

  128. “My experience suggests the latter is true. You seem to have two mutually contradictory ideas.”

    You edited my comments, and changed the meaning. I was saying those things __CAN__ bring personal responsibility, work ethic, perseverance, etc.

    I also made it clear that having/shooting guns don’t really bring those things so much. But it still __CAN__ bring personal responsibility, if one takes it very very seriously, and gets into the discipline of target shooting, and is given the moral fiber for when it’s appropriate to use a gun in a real situation. As a side note, that’s something I somewhat fear about gun nuts – whether or not they take it seriously enough, or if they think having a gun makes them Rambo.

    And what I observed about the dudes queuing up for the gun show holds true. It was a very unimpressive lot – a bunch of Homer Simpsons who thought they were tough because they wore fatigues and carried guns.

    They were true examples of the “man-child” you railed against, originally pointing at art film festival attendees as being the epitome of the “man-child”, at the same time propping up gun types as being very manly. So I was basically saying, based on what on what I observed, I saw worse examples of the “man-child” at the gun show queue.

    That said, I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the art-film types – I’m sure many of them came off as serious weenies! ;-)

  129. >And what I observed about the dudes queuing up for the gun show holds true. It was a very unimpressive lot – a bunch of Homer Simpsons who thought they were tough because they wore fatigues and carried guns.

    Different crowd, maybe. Nobody at the tac-shooting match I was thinking of were wearing fatigues. It wouldn’t surprise me if your gun show attracted a lot of wannabes rather than actual shooters.

    I suppose I need to go to a gun show to investigate the issue. Haven’t been to one in 7 or 8 years.

    (Sartorial note: I don’t wear fatigues myself. I do, however, have a couple of pairs of police tactical pants with holster and ammo pockets. I bought them because they fit loose enough to swordfight in, but one of the things I now like most about them is that they’re not obvious. I don’t have any need to *look* badass…)

  130. Ehrlich’s predictions were spot on, except for time frame. The Earth’s human population is 25% more than its carrying capacity; fish and other complex lifeforms in the oceans are dying off; and minerals are so scarce that theft of copper piping and the like is now commonplace.

    Hubbert got the effects and the time frame right.

    It seems to me like the smart money is on the neo-mathusians.

  131. >Ehrlich’s predictions were spot on, except for time frame

    The sun will expand and swallow the earth tomorrow.

    There, I’m right except for the time frame.

    Good ol’ neo-Malthusians — always wrong, but never in doubt.

  132. God Jeff Read you are a douchebag.

    Ehrlich predicted global famines by the 1980s with millions of people dying in places like India. He was wrong thank God. Your comment about Earth’s human population being 25% more than carrying capacity is pure fantasy.

    Ehrlich quite famously lost his bet with Julian Simon about the Earth running out of resources, he paid off to the tune of around $500.00 in 1990. Not only are we not running out of resources, they are becoming cheaper and more abundant.

    These Neo-Malthusians do not understand and constantly underestimate the ability of humans to come up with better and more efficient ways to extract resources and grow crops.

    > It seems to me like the smart money is on the neo-malthusians.

    Yes, they have been wrong up until now, for 200 years. That is a smart bet. Would you like to lay $1000.00 on it Jeff?

  133. Hmmm. I have some Malthusian fears myself. OK let’s be optimistic and assume that completely free markets could cope with any rate of population increase. Even that sounds a bit religious, but let’s assume it as a working hypothesis. But such completely free markets are nowhere to be found.

    And:

    1. Many sci-fi writers from Asimov to Heinlein hinted at, and I think they were right, that increasing population density tends to increase government size. To grow a desire for freedom in the population you need an actual _direct_ _personal_ experience of what freedom IS, how it feels like, i.e. you need lots of personal space i.e. low population density.

    Historically, it’s always the country folks and farmers who tend to be libertarian-ish. Never the folks who live in 10-story apartment houses in big cities.

    When you have people living densely, like a beehive, the desire for increasing control and regulation grows in the population, because people bump into each other too much and they don’t even know what freedom is as they cannot really experience it in such conditions.

    Another point: supply and demand works in an emotional and moral sense too. In high population density people increasingly see each other as obstacles and resources, not quite as valuable, important persons, because there’s a lot of them, therefore they are emotionally “cheap”.

    Thus, we can reasonably assume that increasing population density usually leads to increasing government size.

    2. We know it from economics that increasing government size leads to decreased economic output.

    Putting 1+2 together, why does it sound unreasonable that increasing population density leads to increasing government size which leads to decreasing economic growth and thus at one day economic growth slows below the level that can sustain the population increase?

  134. >Putting 1+2 together, why does it sound unreasonable that increasing population density leads to increasing government size which leads to decreasing economic growth and thus at one day economic growth slows below the level that can sustain the population increase?

    Quite reasonable as stated. What you and the neo-Malthusians are missing is that people don’t breed like rabbits; as they get wealthier and women get education and careers, their fertility rate drops. The industrialized world, outside the U.S, is not facing a population explosion but a population crash.

  135. Malthusians are always wrong. They’ve never read Julian Simon, for one thing!

    Simon has shown, many times over, that the capacity for economic success lies not in the resources available, but the ingenuity of man, which is limitless.

    As esr points out, wealthier nations have slower (sometimes declining) birthrates. Their populations are growing because of immigration from poor nations which tend to have larger families (more children – more workers – more money – but less money per capita thus poorer overall).

    Malthusians also forget about marginal capacity. Poor nations get poorer because of lousy economic and political systems which don’t fully take advantage of marginal capacity. As a result, they try to squeeze as much capacity out of that which they have rather than develop newer, more productive areas.

    Wealthy nations have the capital to bring marginal lands and resources on line, thus they get richer on the margins. Poorer nations, lacking capital, rely on human resources and avoid capital investment by default.

  136. Ehrlich quite famously lost his bet with Julian Simon about the Earth running out of resources, he paid off to the tune of around $500.00 in 1990. Not only are we not running out of resources, they are becoming cheaper and more abundant.

    Tell that to the vandals stripping our infrastructure of copper wire and pipe, and stealing manhole covers, because the scrap metal fetches such a high price at market.

    Quite reasonable as stated. What you and the neo-Malthusians are missing is that people don’t breed like rabbits; as they get wealthier and women get education and careers, their fertility rate drops. The industrialized world, outside the U.S, is not facing a population explosion but a population crash.

    Which would be relevant if people from the developed world didn’t have a vastly greater ecological footprint. The U.S. needs three times its own surface area to support its human population at its current standard of living. Ethiopia is just about 1:1. The numbers come from the Global Footprint Network.

  137. > Tell that to the vandals stripping our infrastructure of copper wire and pipe, and stealing manhole covers, because the scrap metal fetches such a high price at market.

    Well Jeff, I would, but those types aren’t too interested in discussing economics. They are mostly just trying to fund their meth addiction. You are the one I am trying to educate out of your malthusian delusions, as you seem like an intelligent guy willing to have a discussion.

    But this will not last. Eventually the price will come down, the scrap value will fall, and these guys will find something else to steal.

    Have you not noticed, for example, that the price of oil has fallen back to about where it was? The OPEC producers and Russia (and Hugo Chavez) are bitching that the price is too low. So many people that think the way you do were telling us we were in a world of permanently high oil prices. Not quite.

  138. >What you and the neo-Malthusians are missing is that people don’t breed like rabbits;

    Yes. However, at what point does the economy weaken to the degree that it cannot support _any_ population..growing or shrinking? Then look at the medium through which the system operates and identify the people who actually have real control over it..then say HEL-LO to the elephant in the room with you.

  139. Footprint – interesting numbers. Compare them with EFI and per-capita GDP. Ireland (82.4 and $43.4K) has higher economic freedom than America (80.6 and $45.7K), has 94% of the per-capita GDP, but only 72% of the per-capita footprint. Switzerland (79.7 and $41.2K) has only very slightly lower economic freedom, 90% of the per-capita GDP and 53% of the per-capita footprint. America seems to be an anomaly: higher footprint than what would be explained by economic freedom and GDP. Same for Emirates, and, surprisingly, Denmark.

  140. Shenpen:

    I haven’t looked at the numbers myself, but from the examples you cited, I’m not surprised that the US has a much larger footprint. We still have VAST amounts of land under till, especially when compared (proportionately) to Ireland and Switzerland. To satisfy the neo-malthusian types, we could simply stop growing things and make our numbers look better. ;)

    Also, interesting comments re: Heinlein and Asimov, etc. Heinlein was definitely all for “breathing room” and having come from a rural area, I find myself agreeing with him. Interesting that as population density increases, so does the trend to vote Democrat, here in the US. (Although it wasn’t always this way.)

    In the same post, your point #2 is true, but only if we don’t get some kind of economy of scale in administration. In some respects, we SHOULD be seeing such an effect (for instance, I reckon that emergency services, transportation and communication infrastructure and governance should be cheaper per capita in dense areas), but those gains might be more than offset by the increase in crime, traffic collisions, etc. that are characteristic of dense areas. It’s an interesting question, though and one that probably deserves further study.

  141. ESR, based upon your comments on this thread, YOU are the type of non-manly man that the blogger is writing about.

    You quit Scouts because of a family move, yet didn’t take the initiative to replace that program, you belittle those who served in the military as being victims of “nasty authoritarian programming” and doubt that a majority of our fellow citizens “could hack it.”

    You pose with replacement activities and wardrobe, you insult those who disagree with you, and you draw erroneous conclusions based on data (wealth and education do not cause a drop in fertility, they do cause a drop in family size due to family planning decisions, but fertility remains unchanged).

    In other words, reading your posts is like reading a series of excuses as to why you are not a better man.

  142. >you belittle those who served in the military as being victims of “nasty authoritarian programming”

    In this, as in your other ridiculous accusations, you display pretty damned poor reading comprehension. In fact, as I have said repeatedly, I honor and respect people who volunteer for military service — the fact the military does in fact engage in nasty authoritarian programming neither makes them “victims” nor diminishes the example they manage to set despite that programming.

  143. I know what the author means. I’ve seen the same thing, and I’ve wondered if my ruminations are just those of a 63 old guy. But when I look back I realize that I was a man-child until I was at least thirty, and that happened despite the fact that I got my first rifle for my tenth birthday, joined the US Army in 1965, went through boot camp, served in Vietnam, worked as a prison guard, then as a parole officer,etc. Still, when I see those young film buff guys chattering away like a bunch of girls, it’s pretty depressing.

  144. For all you neo-Malthusians, I recommend reading “The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About It” by Philip Longman He treats the precipitously falling birthrates of most
    countries from an economic perspective.
    If you want to read about the same concept from a political perspective, I’d recommend “America Alone” by Mark Steyn The “Alone” in the title refers to the fact that America, alone among first world (archaic term, I know) countries is actually reproducing at (barely) replacement rates, unlike other Western countries. However the phenomenon of precipitously falling birthrates is true the world over.
    One can also take a look at “Fewer: How the New Demogrpahy of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future” by Ben J. Wattenberg.

    On another topic, I concur with those who say that ‘manliness’ is just a form of ‘adulthood’ that also manifests in fully grown females. The differences are less than the commonalities – character, principles, steadfastness under pressure, selflessness, toughness, willingness to lead/support others, etc. I get that there are differences, however, in the main, there is more that is similar across both genders.

  145. Rick:
    >But generally I think I understand what you’re pointing to. That somehow, the “man-child” or “feminizing” of the male construct is actually “good” for a culture and economic status of a nation.

    actually, i said exactly the opposite.

    but re your later response to Jeff:
    > It’s definitely a gender thing.

    absolutely. all the gender research shows REAL and MAJOR (and significant) differences between worldviews between genders (on average) from very early age. not just prepubescent, but from toddler time. probably the most significant, is that showing females enforcing group norms on other females by negative actions, where males will attempt to enforce group norms on other males with positive actions, but will drop it if resisted non-trivially. shown down to toddler level.

  146. This absurd screed rests on a presupposed definition of “manly” that is hardly universal accepted or even understood. Not that I want to argue the definition, mind you — I deny the legitimacy of the concept of “manly” altogether.

    I say this as someone who grew up a typical “country boy” and struggles daily to make myself LESS “manly” in the stereotypical sense used here. I used to embrace it, of course, because it’s who I was. Then my politics began to change. I went from right-conservative, to right-libertarian, to left-libertarian, each step instigated by the realization that there were fatal flaws in my worldview. But I still haven’t managed to shake the ingrained impulses of my flawed former self.

    There’s just so much wrong with this that it would quite literally require a book to discuss. Suffice it to say that we can’t even be sure that there are going to be MALES in the future, let alone ones who behave a certain way. This process ESR is attempting to grasp, which some call “feminization,” may very well be a signal of what’s to come for our species. But even if that’s not the case, this is still just reactionary cultural sphincter-clenching and conservative claptrap.

    Stop pining for the “glory days,” Beav.

  147. It always makes me laugh when i see these stupid rednecks, who equate shooting a gun with manliness, popping a blood vein over some art film enthusiasts. What a bunch of ignorant, uneducated morons. All of their strutting and machismo stems from fear and wimpiness toward the unknown. If their really so brave, then why are they always walking around in fight or flight mode? cowards !

  148. Well, if unmanliness is the primary quality that pisses you off about contemporary American society, good for you. I agree with the need for actualization and appreciation for ‘manliness’–essential. Too many women fail to get it, as well. I also concur with the potential of the martial arts to cultivate these and other qualities in their students (specifically the Internal Martial Arts, not this musclehead man-humping Royce Gracie type garbage that has become so popular; a skilled martial artist without gloves could lay waste to one of those beefy narcissists in 20 seconds).

    Somewhat paradoxically, I would argue that a primary cause for the societally pervasive ‘unmanliness’, as you call it, has been the failure of earlier generations of men to get a clue about how to be a man in relationship to a woman. Each ‘man-child’ you see is the son of a dysfunctional parental relationship (often cause by the belligerence of callous clueless fathers and the women they fail to maintain). Clearly, your generation and its predecessors were characterized by highly disturbing and childish stereotypes about romantic love and partnership, but in this country, we must take it for granted that the ideological food for the masses can only be viewed as rough grain befitting filthy swine who know no better. This is the purpose of mentors and the community of strong men and mature women.

    Real men understand the relationship of yin and yang. Your simple reactivity and anger towards unmanliness makes me question whether you have this understanding.

    T

  149. Pingback: Workouts: Bush creepy; Obama a godling | The Anchoress

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