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Hitler... Stalin... Trudeau... Fauci. You've really got an axe to grind, don't you?

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I think it goes even further than that. What we have is narcissism masquerading as virtue.

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I think it's more that everyone wants to feel justified for behaving the way they do and believing what they do.

No one wants to be told that they're an asshole or that their beliefs lead to human suffering. This is about the most normal thing in the world.

But I'd argue that it's good to be challenged in many different ways, even if we'd prefer to not have that happen ever.

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And it’s like a feedback loop, where the more you pay attention to feeling unsafe, the more things you notice making you feel unsafe, until you feel chronically aggrieved.

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I remember many years ago hearing about helicopter parenting, selfies, and the term 'I' generation. At the time I thought, 'Oh great, these kids are gonna have a hard time with real life when they realize the world doesn't revolve around them."

Turns out jokes on us.

All businesses everywhere decided they couldn't afford to piss off the biggest and best consumer generation to ever live. So they went all-in on their vast and far-reaching desires, caving to almost everything in order to suck the monetary marrow out of their (or their parents) bones. So instead of getting walloped by the harsh realities of life, they simply glided into a reality pre-fabricated to fit their self-indulgence.

Never underestimate the will of businesses to make a buck.

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Well put. But it's not just profit seeking. Employers are catering to their employees as well.

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I agree. But ultimately those employers are about profit too. Even highly public entities like universities can't afford to piss off students for fear of missing out on their tuition dollars.

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Sure. But, in theory, telling their employees to stick to their job duties while on the clock would maximize profit. But that's not what a lot of employers are doing now. They're allowing employees to indulge in all manner of things that have nothing to do with their jobs. That doesn't jive with profit maximization. At least not in the short term.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

Yeah...I think there's two things at work here (no pun intended).

One is basic demographics. The last big generation (Boomers) are aging out of the workforce fast. And there aren't nearly enough Gen X to fill the void, so they desperately need bodies. Millennials and Gen Z have to fill that void. A bad worker is often times better than no worker.

The other thing is public image. In the information age, to say word travels fast is an understatement. A lot of companies simply don't want to risk the bad press from an employee who cries foul over the interwebs, especially if it can be tied to a marginalized group somehow.

Now the vast majority of internet video workplace complaints do not ever rise to self-perpetuating 'trend' status, most are lost in the digital void. But some do, and most companies are afraid of that. If I had a dime for every TikTok of a fast food employee complaining about shitty work conditions, I could retire tomorrow.

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They have completely embraced the language of “employees first” - I’m at one of the woke giant corporations and everything is about the workers, with the customers as a distant second - but if you look with the right eyes it’s completely fucking obvious that they aren’t doing that at all.

Normally I’d write that I suspect everyone sees it, but I’m not so sure anymore. I think there’s a large component here that thinks the company, as an entity, has meaningfully embraced progressive politics.

When the next round of mass layoffs comes - the bloodbath is inevitable, and almost certainly this year; we’re due - the company will justify it in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion. Nothing is more certain. They will brag how firing thousands will allow them to focus on marginalized communities and a dozen other progressive bromides. I suspect that will be a wake up call for a lot of people.

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Lol. Remember when REI executives released a “podcast”, complete with pronouns & Indigenous land acknowledgements, that then proceeded to argue against the formation of unions? Nice.

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Didn’t resilience used to be a thing?

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If it did, it was a thing that showed little resilience itself.

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So sick of this weak ass resilience.

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Well it served modern humans for the past 10,000 years or so. Now a lot of us couldn’t even feed ourselves without the grocery store.

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Sure but survivorship is the point. Who cares about the dummies that died

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Who’s talking admiration? Survival is just survival.

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Yeah, but I bet those olde timey humans couldn't even use a microwave

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That's nothing to do with resilience though. It's to do with a complicated society that didn't see any merit in teaching most of its populace how to produce food. A city worker from 1850 would be similarly up a creek if asked to suddenly produce all his own food.

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It’s a form of resilience to think “hey, I wonder if I should know what’s edible around here?” I’m not saying I know. I’d die too. We’ve lost some of our drive to scrap our way through hardship because we often don’t have to.

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Why? Resilience is just the ability to keep going despite setbacks; it shouldn't matter what form it takes. Are people less resilient today because they don't know how to fight with swords?

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That’s true. Although if I die by the sword I’ll be mad I wasn’t resilient in swordsmanship.

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Well we live in a cooperative society. If enough of us know how to feed the rest of us, that's societal resilience. Not everyone has to be able to forage, hunt, kill, go home and knit their own skivvies. That's not resilience, that's prepping.

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Lol good point

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it did, but I think it's also worth noting that displaying resilience is by nature less noticeable and impinging on others than displaying a lack of it.

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Great observation

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It’s a good point and one that comes rolled up with a lot of other ideas including authoritarianism, insurance, commodification, control, and catastrophizing.

It’s all comes together as part of a desire to reject complexity for a simple definition that allows people to maintain an easy sense of righteousness.

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Not to be the guy that blames capitalism but I think a large % of this comes from the (neoliberal?) desire to commodotize people so they can be easily digitally marketed to. Even the trans moment we are in, with it's massive layers of complexity ultimately boils down to wanting to put people into a couple groups that form a nice little facebook ad group.

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As a (reluctant) capitalist I have to agree with this remark, despite myself. Just before I opened FdB‘s substack, I went into the App Store. In front center there’s an app for meditation with — of course — Yoda. Because everything has to have a mass-entertainment tie-in. The app is called “something something mindfulness.” the tagline is “stretch out with your feelings.” That’s bigly safetyism: meditation isn’t about holding onto, wallowing in, indulging in your feelings. It’s about letting go of your feelings and thoughts so the mind calms down, not an exercise in coddling the self. So: capitalism + a ubiquitous social network and associated tech + mass entertainment = a population of cringing, frightened sheep.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

Yes, the word "unsafe" is used as a weapon these days. I don't encounter it with my friends and comrades, but every time I hear it somewhere else, I get a sort of "watch out" feeling. I guess the word unsafe makes me feel unsafe : ) . I know of college students who have used it to describe a classroom environment after a classmate expressed anti-abortion views, and wanted the professor to do something about it. I think all entering college students should have a required course on free speech and what it means.

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It has become a weapon.

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Yeah but who would teach that college course? The students would come out believing what they do now: that free speech is oppressive and that only censored speech is truly free.

That Musk hit piece in the NYT was shocking in its attempt to go full Opposite Day; literally describing a country where government controlled its citizens’ speech as “unchecked speech” in an attempt to argue that our government should “check” our speech. The mental gymnastics were appalling and the fact that anyone buys it is truly horrifying.

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Current college professors can teach it. Most ones I know want free speech. That’s why untenured profs should be in unions.

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My friend and I were talking about smoothness the other day. People want a smoothness to their lives, which is understandable. We don't want the inconveniences of getting in our car or on a bus to go to a store to buy groceries and then get back on the bus or in our car to go to the post office and the bank. We don't want to run errands or really do anything that takes time away from whatever we want to do (though I'd say staring at our computer screens or phones takes up far more of our day than errands did). We also don't want to be challenged on our beliefs. We don't want to have our boundaries be pushed or pulled. We want to feel safe and comfortable.

We want life to slide easily along. We want a frictionless existence where everything is available to us without effort, where we can simply turn off things we don't want to engage with. Tech companies have facilitated this in a lot of ways.

And I think it's honestly been incredibly harmful to us as a social and political animal. Even something as banal as running errands requires you to interact with people who may be radically different than you. You may walk into a heated argument or an awkward confrontation. You may even have to deal with small injustices, both personal and political. This helps keep us tethered to society, by forcing us to exist bodily in it day after day, hour after hour.

No one enjoys waiting in line, but often this can lead to conversation with strangers. Maybe, even, it will lead to political engagement.

The first time my wife went shopping with my mother, she told me that my mother just talks to everyone at the store, whether they're a fellow shopper or employee. Which is about the last thing I ever want to do. I'd rather never talk to any single person in a store and I'd definitely prefer for strangers not to talk to me. But I think the discomfort of these interactions is a good thing. I think we lose something in always feeling safe and comfortable.

Like, I never ask someone at a clothing store for help. And I definitely don't ask their opinion about the clothes I try on or pick out. There's something slightly humiliating in liking something in front of someone else, because they may think you look foolish or lame or just plain bad. But I think these small forms of humiliation are good for us. It's good to feel uncomfortable, at least in small doses.

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I would say that that's valuable. Some people are just assholes who don't want to be accommodating. Better to learn that than think everyone will just naturally get along if you smile the right way.

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Actually I think we’re less likely to get in arguments in person as the discomfort feels more real and we have greater incentive to make peace. When we encountered more people in person in daily life we were used to performing this negotiation, and we were used to letting things go when someone was different from us. But being online all the time has actually acclimated people to turning everything into a fight, especially over identity and politics, and we’re seeing that spill into the real world more and more since it’s our new norm in the metaverse where we live most of our lives.

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Definitely agree. Which is why these small inconveniences, the friction of daily life, leads to a sturdier social structure. Or, that's my current theory anyway.

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You can see this at work in small towns vs cities. I recently moved to a small, relatively remote town, and you just can’t Google like, a fence company. You have to go talk to someone to find what you’re looking for. I was horrified at first, but the trend quickly revealed itself: every person I’ve talked to also shares a ton more valuable information, and I make a connection, and I typically even feel better for having chatted in person with a stranger.

Likewise, a guy on a bar patio asked me the other night, People around here aren’t really into politics, are they? And I knew he wasn’t from here, because the people *are* into politics, it’s just that people don’t tend to have heated debates about it because you can’t afford to cut out Joe Fencebuilder from your life over differing political stances because he’s a) one of the only fence guys and b) probably intimately connected to you through like 3-7 other influential ways.

It turns the temperature on almost everything way down.

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I was thinking about this while driving my son to daycare just a few hours ago.

Outside of the internet, I'd say our car-dependent culture has had big dissociating impacts on our worldviews. Many people are pretty comfortable in driving to a neighboring town for this or that. My sister-in-law has to drive to a different state (she's on a border) to get groceries, for example, and this feels normal.

But this, I think, leads to people being less concerned with their specific city or town. If you can't get a vet in town, there's probably one within 30 minute drive, which feels normal if that's all you've ever known. But how different would cities and towns be if every community had a doctor, a grocery store, a hardware store, etc?

I think it would naturally lead to a lot more local civic engagement.

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That's the way it used to be. The town in Ohio of ~2500 people where I grew up in the 60s had all those things, even though a medium-size city (~200,000) was just ten miles away. But that's not true anymore.

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Yeah, I almost mentioned The Andy Griffith Show in the comment. There's a reason humans organized themselves this way for most of history. And I blame cars and highways for the change!

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Ah, great point. Reminds me of a moment in a Greg Brown live album, where he’s like: This whole idea of intentional communities is baloney, and goes on to describe the far reaches of the upper peninsula or alaska and how, if you get a flat up there, “you better damn well know your neighbors.” There isn’t anybody else.

Do you think the ability to buy services/buy them from strangers versus leaning on a community might influence political engagement in even deeper ways?

I’m thinking about how when you rely exclusively on a babysitter from Care.com or something, you miss an opportunity to build a piece of community with neighboring parents, which itself might weaken a person’s ability to meaningfully hear other viewpoints/consider the validity of other viewpoints.

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The size of our country has a lot to do with it. In Britain there are still a lot of very small but vibrant villages. The tiny housing tract that I live in is about 10 miles from the nearest actual city (even though we are technically in that city, we are outside city limits) But if this were in Great Britain, this housing development would be a fairly large village.

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Totally agree. I am wondering if what I’ve mentioned below in a separate comment about the ways we purchase a veneer of community vs building it authentically through shared need is a component, and holds a potential remedy.

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Size is part of it, but I'd argue not the whole story. Especially since most people in the US are located in a handful of metro areas, which is also true of England and many other countries. But even in those metro areas, you often have to go some distance to get something normal like groceries.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

This type of conversation will never not remind me of an op Ed I read in the L.A. times in 2020 by an LA journalist who was upset that her Trump loving neighbors at her pandemic getaway in the mountains shoveled her driveway without being asked just to be nice, and she didn’t know what to do because she didn’t want to be forced to thank them.

Edit: Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I found the link!

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-02-05/trumpite-neighbor-unity-capitol-attack?_amp=true

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Incredible. And yet I personally have read and witnessed calls to excommunicate anybody and everybody who does not toe your political lines because “this isn’t about politics, it’s about basic human rights” or whatever.

I can’t escape the feeling that such a stance is dangerously naive, and discounts how fragile the social and democratic fabrics of this country are. Attack the interpersonal connections on political lines and risk the total destabilization of the country.

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She literally compared the driveway shovelers to 1. Hezbollah 2. Louis Farrakhan and 3. French Nazi collaborators.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

So much of this resonates!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how safety and comfort are increasingly conflated for some people, to the point that they associate feeling socially or emotionally uncomfortable with feeling unsafe (with all of the evolved bodily responses that come with feeling unsafe in any way, be it social/emotional or physical).

Smoothness seems like the next step after comfort on that spectrum, and I think you’re right that many people will start to conflate being required to make any effort with discomfort. And if you already associate discomfort with a lack of safety, well…

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

I'm with your mom; when I got vaccinated, the first thing I did was go shopping and talk to the salespeople. It was amazing to have a social interaction that wasn't carefully planned and curated.

I used to do stand-up in the day, and I can definitely see why today's comedians would be nervous. There's this whole language, made by some shadow council, that you'd better use even if you don't understand what the hell it means, because otherwise someone's going to claim "you are literally killing X people" and exhort you to "do (clap) better (clap)."

Sure, the planet sucks in a lot of ways, but I'm a believer in not trying to cover the world in leather but just putting on some damned shoes.

(EDITED TO ADD: My opening sentence is not a veiled "mom" joke, even though it sounds that way. I just agree with your mother.)

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Thanks. I wish I'd invented it, but I am sure I heard it somewhere. Maybe in the Tao te Ching?

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Zen saying, I think.

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Where do this clap thing come from? I’ve noticed people using it online and even a couple times in real life, and I find it so incredibly grating.

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Haha...isn't it annoying? My sense is that you clap in emphasis to signal that you are speaking truth to power or being brave, or whatever, but I think it comes across as self-righteous.

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Cultural appropriation is maybe the dumbest thing liberals argue about--I'm liberal and I know.

The second-dumbest? Telling lesbians they'd better date trans women or else they are bigots.

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is that from when people started using clapping emoji

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You're a human, humans are social beings, come to the humanity, and interact with others. I go into a store, ask for help, talk with the staff, read their name tags and address them by name, thank them for their help. It makes their day better, and your day better. Before tech, the world was a better place. Now-a-days people use their tech as a way to ignore others at the detriment of themselves and others.

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I enjoy talking to strangers. It one of the reasons I really like the dog park. All sorts of random people show up and you have a natural conversation starter topic.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

I've found that talking to complete strangers is often more fun (and I daresay enjoyable?) than talking to co-workers, friends, or even family at times.

There's zero expectations or history or anything that might stop either of you from saying things. And you can learn so so much. Serendipitous dialogue with a complete stranger is pure distilled humanity.

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Oh, I've had lots of fun with strangers. I just don't want to talk to anyone when I'm shopping.

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I see this in cinema and the films my past students have enjoyed and the ones they struggle with. Their love for the Marvel universe, Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright (if you consider his editing) is a love of smoothness. They really struggle with filmmakers like

Raúl Ruiz who rejected 1.) Smoothness 2.) A central conflict underpinning a screenplay 3.) Stable identities leading to stable moral outcomes.

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I think people wanting smoothness in art is slightly different, though not unrelated. Difficult art is...difficult. Often purposefully so.

Compare how William Blake used rhyme and rhythm to sneak in pretty intense social critique versus someone like Kathy Acker.

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True - though some of Blake's later water is formally difficult too - and parts are just really gnostic and obscure!

I have a lot of time for both of them though as it happens!

I agree it's not exactly the same, but I think it is wrapped up in a certain mode of consuming art that Disney has propagated i.e. content should be smooth and consumable with obvious "use" value.

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Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of thoughts about popular art and especially the Marvel movies, but I think people's desire for a straightforward narrative may have more to do with people being more overworked and underpaid than any time in the last century.

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Good stuff.

What do you think of the relationship between safetyism and gender?

Along with a sensitivity to coarse language, safetyism is a trait that correlates with women, and as women in US have shifted their political affiliations from right to left over the decades, those sensitivities have moved with them?

Could it be that is all political correctness, (and now wokeness), has ever been? The encroachment of a more, stereotypically feminine attitude regarding risk and harm, replacing the more stoic and rowdy male preference?

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Anything specific?

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But could you use it as a crockPOT? If not, I’d rather you stop going on about it.

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Well then no God for Ireland! We have had too much God in Ireland!

Oh. Wrong scene.

LINE??

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What?

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lol that was my response too

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Right? In our family, my husband always laughs at me and says my motto is “The kids? I dunno. I guess they’re around somewhere.” While he is always worried and fretting. I would argue that male protectiveness and guarding behavior is as legitimate a stereotype as female safetyism.

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“Go play with your friends” used to be a thing. And “go” meant “go.” That was before kids and parents were irrevocably tied to each other with iPhone umbilical cords.

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Ok, and in my family I do most of the cooking. I was careful to say that these are stereotypical, we are talking about averages within populations.

It's generally true that moms tend to be the worriers in the family, while dads encourage more risk taking, you are an exception.

My understanding of poll data on these points is that women, on average, are more risk adverse than men, they are also more likely to agree with the idea that words can cause harm.

Maybe you're an exception there too, if so great, but do you concede that in the majority of households your dynamic is reversed?

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Makes sense.

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Definitely. In the past, them man's world was "man up" and deal with it. There are very few "put on your big girl panties and deal with it" women out there, they're shouted down by the make it conform to me women.

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Absolutely right. The only solution is to abolish women.

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I don't think it's so much that women have moved from right to left, but that the influence of female-oriented thinking has gained much more political and social currency overall. Mostly this is a good thing, IMO, but it has its downsides. I think of movies like Gran Torino in which Clint Eastwood and his pals hurl ethnic insults at each other, all in good fun. The ladies have always been much less inclined to that sort of thing, and now we all have to follow their rules. The 1980s book "Why Men Are the Way They Are" by Warren Farrell usefully (IMO) explores these issues.

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That absolutely tracks with my experience although far too many men have gone along with things because it's easier than arguing.

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"And it proves again what I’ve been saying for 15 years: I’m just a leftist who never changed."

This was me until some time in 2020: there is a Platonic ideal of the left, and I alone participate in it. Unlike all the really existing people who run the really existing organizations of the left. They are not real leftists.

Platonism is definitely a coherent worldview, but it has drawbacks.

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founding

Nice DF Wallace reference!

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

I don't think it's just "psychological safety." It's also physical safety. Look to the schools that were shut down for far longer than they needed to be to minimize covid risk -- at the cost of children's education, cultivation and opportunity.

As a kid growing up in the 90s and 2000s, I can remember year by year the organizations I loved -- the community pool, my summer camp -- becoming more safe and less fun. Some of these changes were probably sensible. Many of them served to reduce trace amounts of risk further. How many children, after all, are you willing to allow die a year so that a playground can be qualitatively more 'fun'? Once you have the data, the easiest answer is zero, but the effect of those risk-mitigating decisions cumulatively has become more than the individual decisions. The immediate cause was generally legal liability, but that is the result of a middle class increasingly unaccepting of risk.

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With regard to safety, I think it has less to do with moms wanting kids to be safe and way more to do with the litigious nature of American culture. Cities, organizations, and companies do whatever they can to avoid a possible lawsuit. This usually means making everything physically safer.

For example, parents in Europe also want their kids to feel physically safe. But, man, the lack of guardrails everywhere is pretty surprising!

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

That's the immediate cause. But something shifted that made parents more willing to sue and judges and juries more willing to rule in their favor.

Part of it is just simply having the data, but that feels like an incomplete answer.

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People were more willing to sue because there were big dollar signs at the other end of this.

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Its more about litigation, and it takes freedom away from us all. In the 60s, before all the litigation, large private lands in the west were open to all. If you got hurt doing stupid shit, oh well. But once litigation started, land owners needed to put up fences, and signs and keep people out because of their exposure to liability.

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“it takes freedom away from us all”

Hey, that’s not fair. It arguably gives plaintiffs’ lawyers a lot MORE freedom. The freedom that comes with money.

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I dunno—I’m inclined to think it’s broader than that. The number of people who obsessively follow what foods/diets/nutrients will curb their susceptibility to cancer/Alzheimer’s/whatever seems to be rooted in a deep sense that there *has* to be something they can do to avoid a tragedy like that.

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Going to waterparks and small rinky-drink fairgrounds in Europe is really thrilling if you haven't had that level of casual danger in your life before! XD

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A reasonable level of safety ... the problem, is the playground equipment manufacturers have captured the regulatory agencies. This is called regulatory capture. Also, food safety has been captured. You see this in the requirements to chill eggs and fruit in the market. This is a boon for refrigeration equipment manufacturers, for retailers and shoppers not so much. Same with refrigeration requirements for small restaurants. It is geared to eliminate the mom-n-pop restaurants who would use the same refrigerator an freezers we use in our homes, but his was banned, by health and safety codes ... for the good of us, or for the good of the equipment manufacturers and larger restaurants who wish to squeeze out startups.

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My wife is a grade school teacher and is continuously amazed by what we allow a few very loud parents to get away with. The average parent is actually somewhat reasonable, and has shifted a little bit towards safetyism over the past few decades. But a few very obnoxious people are now able to dictate to Principals how the school should be run.

A dad of one student shows up to the school every lunch period, watches the kids play from behind the fence, and calls the Principal whenever he sees something he doesn't like.

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“How many children, after all, are you willing to allow die a year so that a playground can be qualitatively more 'fun'?”

I don’t know — can I choose which kids?

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Enormous child safety seats with time-consuming installation/removal mechanisms are a big factor in the rise of SUVs (and the tendency of those SUVs to get larger) in suburban America and now Western Europe. Yet the environmentalists that decry this trend typically share the same politics - and are often the same people - as those behind the rise of these child safety policies. I am not interested enough in either topic to really explore the costs and benefits of each, but at least some acknowledgment that they are conflicting priorities would be nice.

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Safety regulations are also the reason why the cars themselves keep getting bulkier, heavier and more expensive. And consumers’ desire for safety, both real and perceived, fuel the demand for bigger and taller SUVs.

The environmentalists’ real goal of course is to push us all onto crime-ridden trains and buses, where, ironically, deranged progressive prosecutors have decided we don’t deserve to be safe at all. Sorry, public transportation is a nonstarter in a world where criminals don’t go to jail. They also insist that we all live in efficient high density urban housing and enjoy shared green space in parks, but then insist that there is no way to keep parks from being taken over by homeless encampments. Again, shared public spaces are a nonstarter if you don’t prioritize keeping them pleasant and usable. It starts to feel like they all just want us to be miserable.

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You said this of Meghan Murphy:

"...her views and caustic expression of them, such as her refusal to honor the pronouns of trans people."

Do you still feel this way about the subject? Because from where I'm standing, demanding that everyone should say things they don't believe to be true, for the sake of another person's psychological safety, is peak safetyism. (Spare me the argument that it's about "respect.")

Is there a "trans" exception to your safetyism stance?

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One day, we'll have a post where people don't try to make it about trans people.

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I remember that Slate Star Codex article, where he said they used to need discussion threads: one for atheism and one for everything else. I think trans issues are becoming the new New Atheism. Definitely something that needs to be discussed and debated! Just not, like, everywhere.

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I'm not convinced it needs to be discussed or debated that much. Trans people are pretty rare. The idea that they need to be on the forefront of our political discourse is very strange.

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Less rare than you may think: "The U.S. sex reassignment surgery market size was valued at USD 267.0 million in 2019 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4% from 2020 to 2027." https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/us-sex-reassignment-surgery-market

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By your numbers, US trans surgery = 10% of global breast implant surgery. That seems surprisingly big to me.

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Market size is different than population size. By recent counts, trans people make up about 0.7% of the country's population. Even if that population also increased at a rate of 14.4% over the next several years, that's still less than 1% of the country's population.

I'd say that's pretty small.

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I am more concerned with the political implications than the population size. The federal Equality Act would allow any man, upon uttering the words "I am trans", to enter any women's space place or event; this is already happening in prisons in California and New York, and has resulted in rapes and pregnancies. Men have already won at least two NCAA women's championships. There is an enormous financial incentive for men to claim to be trans and then win women's professional sports events with prize money.

You may not care about these issues; I do.

Freddie: for the record, I have no objection to your deleting this whole comment thread. I do feel compelled to respond to what I consider to be misinformation when I see it.

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I don’t think it’s trans people—I think it’s the *overarching ideology* that seems to touch everything that gets people so riled and also allows it to come up organically in almost any conversation.

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I still think that if you're seeing witches everywhere, it's because you're a witch or a witch hunter.

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I hear you. It seems like up until maybe 5 months ago there were few opportunities to have meaningful online conversation about this, and so a lot of people (I’m guilty) seized on every perceived opportunity to bring the conversation out.

But as I think Erin E pointed out above, it’s not true anymore that there aren’t other places to see the conversation.

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There’s a difference between “seeing witches everywhere” and seeing a insightful thinker talk sensibly on a wide range of issues and not apply that same insightful thinking to one particular sacred cow topic.

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On the other hand, if the trans issue is one where people keep perceiving a big inconsistency in Freddie’s views, it’s not surprising that it keeps coming up:

“You sound so sensible when you say X, and I agree completely, but you seem to apply opposite-X to the trans issue. How do you reconcile that?”

People can’t help but notice this again and again, and if they have their own reasons for caring passionately about this issue, they naturally want Freddie to address that--because what is this substack’s bread and butter if not people who want to rationally engage on topics they care about?

You can’t blame this audience for trying to point out the inconsistency or trying to get Freddie to grapple with it, because (1) it does stand out as being very inconsistent and (2) Freddie is known for being intellectually honest and self-reflective. No one would bother to ask some ideologue to reconsider his views on something.

Personally, it took me a few tries, but I now understand that Freddie refuses to grapple with his inconsistency on the trans issue, for whatever personal reasons he might have. Maybe he feels a sense of allegiance to the trans community as it existed decades ago, and he doesn’t understand that the landscape has changed completely and we’re talking about something different-- not the lovable people of old New York who dared to be different and were true to themselves despite society often rejecting or harming them. It’s not the case that society is finally coming around to the idea of accepting people with some deep-felt sense of being different.

The trans thing has mutated into a damaging money-making behemoth that is marketed as a quick fix to teens with a host of other life challenges. It’s capitalism marketed as social justice, and any attempt to talk about that is shut down with transphobe, bigot, terf. “You’re making trans people unsafe when you talk about it.” So of course, once again, the trans topic is pertinent to today’s topic, safetyism, even if some people are tired of it.

When the social pendulum swings, and it becomes more widely known how much damage was done to large numbers of people (particularly teens and youth) whose problem wasn’t specifically their “gender” but who were latching on to an available, culturally approved (and popular) idiom of distress, because quick fixes and happiness were promised, Freddie might take a second look. Or maybe not.

Anyway, perceiving an inconsistency and wanting it addressed is not “making it about trans people.” If you happen to be a person who doesn’t have the same concern about the way the concept of “trans” has changed (and: fair enough--everyone cares about the issues they care about; I don’t care about climate change as much as I should), it could look that way.

And as people cycle in and out of this space, and new ones perceive the inconsistency and say something about it, it would get quite tiresome to keep seeing it pointed out, I’m sure, if you don’t care about the trans thing. I’d find it boring if every topic led to a few readers wanting Freddie to revisit his views on climate change. I get it. I even sympathize.

But there’s a difference between what we see here and boring trolls hijacking every topic to talk about something irrelevant. The trans issue keeps coming up for a reason, and the reason is it doesn’t seem to fit into Freddie’s broader set of views.

He could just make a no-trans-mention rule, I suppose. That would be off-brand. Even the “comments are out of hand so you can now report them” thing was off-brand, but maybe I missed some atrocious and wildly inappropriate comments that threatened to derail the whole project, so it was better to report them than to ignore them (???).

In an ideal universe, Freddie would address the trans issue in such a way that readers could reconcile his views with his other views, and we could simply agree to disagree. It wouldn’t keep coming up. But that’s not happening. So I predict that new readers will continue to notice it.

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I don't know why so many people here are so obsessed with trans people and I'm also not going to project my own reasoning onto Freddie with regard to why he's not talking about it.

But the inconsistency you feel exists may not be one that Freddie or the rest of us believe exists.

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It’s funny then that so many people perceive it, specifically with that issue.

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Seems that many do not perceive it, however.

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Definitely. Seems that way.

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author

I'm gonna start banning people for making every post about trans issues. And I'm gonna seriously consider taking comments down for a month if this persists. I am warning you.

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founding

You might need to make a post saying this explicitly. Frequent commenters read between the lines when you wrote about "off topic" comments and axe-grinding, but others seemed clueless.

And in my view, the issue isn't really that trans topics are off-topic (arguably, trans topics are relevant to many posts about politics, identity, and wokeness), but the fact that 1) You don't write about this issue; 2) It's inflammatory and derails discussion; 3) People have already flogged it to death on many previous posts. Also, there are many other Substacks on trans issues and you have no obligation to host the debates here, particularly when it sucks up so much oxygen and distracts from what you actually write.

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RemovedMay 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022
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Hey man — I just wanna say being old and out of touch fucking ROCKS.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

Agreed, it's over-done. I post "off topic" frequently, in the sense that I use a deBoer post to discuss something similar. Many of us do that, but I think we're just tired of trans issues.

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Agree with this.

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So you’re saying we should have a special Cis day?

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Fixating on trans issues is just another brand of safetyism.

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I think a lot of people (not just myself) see your writing as being highly relevant to how we should think about questions about trans issues. We're not bringing the issue up out of thin air - the comments are about the relationship of the themes of that day's post to it. But, understandable if you get tired of it.

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If every political question feels like it's about trans people to you, you may either be trans or have a very specific issue with them.

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In regard to the pronoun thing, you might consider that there's a difference between language used for the purpose of common courtesy and proclamations intended to enforce some new cultural hegemony, or upset the foundations of the universe.

If someone introduces me to their invisible 6-foot rabbit friend Harvey, as a rule, I'm willing to humor them. As long as the critter doesn't insist on driving, or running for public office, or some other matter of import where there's more of a requirement to maintain a functional social consensus.

Like m>f transgender prison inmates insisting on some prerogative to be housed with a population of biologically female xx inmates, for example.

In regard to that particular example, I find it interesting that so much emphasis is put on how to define or redefine transgendered persons in an effort to keep them from being targeted for harm in prison, and so little emphasis is put on the extant reality that many American prisons are so overcrowded that the hazards of inhumanity and abuse are simply regarded as inextricable, permanent features of the experience of incarceration. There's indisputably some amount of cynical and insincere transgender self-identification in the prison population, now that it's been medically reified as a valid category. But the fact that some prison inmates are taking that route as a subterfuge to obtain more humane treatment while confined is implicitly a serious indictment of what's happening inside the walls at some of these places, no?

Maybe this makes me pro-Social Safetyist. I have no problem admitting that; I'd just like to have some priority and proportion in that regard. I endorse rational triage. I'm even opposed to convicted child molesters being beaten and raped for their offenses as part of their incarceration experience. Some might find that position unacceptably radical.

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Big win for neo-liberalism, ultimately.

All sorts of things can be made *problematic* once liberal discourse norms are thrown out.

All it takes is astroturfing support for The Current Thing, the cost of which usually amounts to no more than the rounding error, and then you have justice and the arc of history on your side.

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too many people love safeyism and wokeism on the left like how the right wing buisness class love their tax cuts

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I don’t think it’s safetyism as much as the belief that racism is about using the wrong words. That if you get someone who has very negative views of Black people to stop using the N world that makes them not racist. That’s not how the world works.

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The language-game that modern liberalism has become is definitely not great.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

Note that language games are a great class- and status-signifier, especially as the rules of the game keep changing, which indicates that you have the time and desire to play these games.

Language games also do not affect the way that the pie is sliced.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

What happened was that the PMC got the whip hand.

That meant that the status quo now had to be defended and no longer challenged.

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The Safetyist emphasis serves several purposes. Once it's decided that ensuring Safety is a top priority of societal endeavor and an absolute good, it assumes the dimensions of a never-ending project. Safetyism is also a way of implicitly prioritizing the goal of Security over Liberty.

It's also an issue that partakes of the leverage of moral superiority among the adherents. A goal in itself, for some. Although what goes unmentioned is what ISN'T addressed when public policy priorities (and funding) revolve around an ever-increasing emphasis on the omnipresence of Security/Safety, and its outward trappings. The ability to learn and practice life skills such as self-reliance, street smarts, resourcefulness, and creative adaptive responses to unpredictable circumstances, for instance. People who have gotten accustomed to being perpetually coddled typically find themselves entitled to be dismayed by any setting that shows up as less than optimal in all respects. That isn't a healthy fitness response.

The more I think about it, the more I view the goal of socially ordained Safetyism as a false promise based on illusions. I support the government providing safety on things that I can do almost nothing about personally, like ensuring that the water is clean, and maintaining healthy standards for food and drugs. That's legit; I'd argue that there still isn't enough of it (although I acknowledge practical limits.) But the pettiness of social Safetyism reminds me of the beeping noise that I'm unable to disconnect in my Toyota Matrix, reminding me to wear my seatbelt. I don't need the fucking reminder. I was putting on my safety belt long before mandated preemptive coercion was incorporated into the process.

Safetyism also partakes of a false narrative: that ensuring one's own personal safety is primarily someone else's responsibility, instead of up to oneself. To bring up a phenomenon that I gather would be guaranteed to get me ratioed on Twitter as if I were a freshly apprehended war criminal: consider Rape, especially Date Rape. Women Take Back The Night, I have to tell you: the ideal of eliminating all predatory behavior and misogynistic aspects of society is a worthy goal, but there's no male-staffed Minority Report bureau to detect the offense of PreRape. We well-behaved guys can only do so much to protect any of you, and it's all too likely that none of us will be on the scene in the situations where you find yourself in imminent danger. So it's up to women to handle most of the work of minimizing their own risks.

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May 11, 2022·edited May 11, 2022

I like the term safetyism a lot, and I agree that it represents a major shift in liberal politics over the last few decades.

Maybe this is pedantic or wrong of me, but I figured I would at least mention it. I think the “man who tells it like it is” comedian persona has had right wing associations and connotations since at least the 1990s. I’m thinking of people like Denis Leary for example. I think it probably dates back to the first, early-90s iteration of the culture war, and the first appearances of the term “political correctness.” So if I remember the early 2000s correctly, and I may not because I was in middle school, someone like Carlin was obviously not conservative (I loved his anti religion rants), but his style appealed to more conservative or libertarian men because even by that point the association of liberals with political correctness and sensitivity had already been established pretty strongly. So I think 25 years ago, Carlin’s shtick was probably in a vague way associated with the right and its dislike of political correctness. At least that’s my memory of the time. Just a minor point from me

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I would argue that’s a reevaluation of those comics by modern standards or maybe reflective of how their place in the culture evolved in the years since. At the time the right wing wouldn’t have claimed them because the right was too prudish for all their vulgarity. Back then the Democrats had room for all the dudes who just wanted to be left alone to swear and watch porn and have sex without someone scolding them. The Republicans represented the church ladies telling them how to live. Also back then the PC left was (correctly) seen as an extreme fringe that deserved mockery so the bulk of liberal Democrat comics saw no reason not to lampoon their obvious absurdity. They probably (correctly) recognized PC as just another version of the moral scolds they disliked on the right.

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Maybe. You might be right. But I think the so called south park libertarians were emerging around that time, and they would have found things to like in Carlin’s comedy too. It’s possible I am misremembering all of this :). But for what it’s worth I think the pc dems were absolutely not a fringe, but represented the mainstream, as early as the mid 90s.

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