Culturalism

Carnivorous Logic

A diet which has recently gained popularity on the internet is the carnivore option. Those following its precepts argue that animal parts provide higher levels of protein and other nutrients than the conventional suggestions of a balanced intake incorporating vegetables and some grains. Often their claims come into conflict with the equally vocal vegan or vegetarian coalitions, both pioneers of alternative approaches regarding human health outcomes. Almost as freely as they do battle over what to eat, their predictable alignment with Right or Left politics adds a whole layer of intrigue to the interaction.

I have no intention of trying to debate diet advice or political feelings in this post, however. Said topics better fit the long scrolls of forum comments and YouTube videos already in existence, with many more sure to arrive in future. Instead, let us address a very common method the carnivore dieters use to square their culinary motivations: an appeal to tradition. Hardly anything wrong with that, yet the astute among us have reason to pause, because an element of clarity is missing. To better appreciate the picture, a closer look at their verbal framing is needed. The typical justifying statement goes rather like this:

My ancestors didn’t eat many vegetables, only meat. That means we are evolved to eat animals and should reject the starvation diets of serfs in favor of the king’s cuisine.”  

Laying aside the question of how precisely enough animals could be hunted to supply food for much of the world outside of factory farms, the preceding ratonalization lacks perspective. Yes, cavemen probably did consume animal products in large quantities, unless separated from ample livestock supplies like the Aztecs were. What’s left out of this realization is obviously the lifestyle entailed by living with those ancestors. While meat is nutritious, it would need to be caught, a fairly involving process for the average person. Our friend Thag had to set out with a crude bow or spear and track the animal first, which could take a few hours. Next, Thag would move in close, making sure not to upset foliage and trigger an alarmed state in the beast. At last he could strike, but even assuming a critical hit, the animal might run for a spell before keeling over. So Thag would go in pursuit, following the trail of blood. Once he managed to catch up with it a few miles down the woodland trail, the beast would then be dragged back a long distance, hopefully absent harassment from other hungry creatures.

Put simply, Thag was expelling a lot of energy and burning quite the calorie count simply trying to get his dinner. Even at home he had to clean the animal carcass in preparation for a meal, or to fashion some warm clothes. Time was of essence too, because salting and the fridge were still thousands of years into the future. But Thag had no choice, because to feed his active routine, food could be nothing less than robust.

And he’s not alone. American Indians were renowned for consuming large amounts of buffalo and deer meat, depending on the tribe. Keeping in mind that they were often nomads who moved frequently and went to war or hunted based on necessity, these people would certainly need a way to replenish their individual energies in time for the next physically exhausting event. The Apache for example were reported to march at times 70-100 miles in a twenty-four period, far surpassing most physical activity pursued in the gym by modern carnivore advocates. The Indians did this while wearing simple moccasins and without the advantages of central air and indoor plumbing because it was part of their social model for life. Yes, they ate heartily of the mammal race, but only with the contingency that great physical exertion would be expected.

The lowdown is that context matters. If you are seeking to follow a diet based on the practices of olden times, don’t ignore other conditions and locations during that period which might have influenced outcomes. We are not only what we eat, but also where we live.  

Culturalism

The False Stoic Man

As a child, I had the tendency to become very emotional over certain matters. I never fully understood this assembly of feelings, but quickly learned it must be kept under guard. After all, men should be strong and silent. So I started tightening up, refused to showcase what I felt, and started being typecast as “stoic.” Not much was improved, but the word had a distinct comfort to it. Gone were the moments of frustration or embarrassment, in their place the unquestioning image forged by one who could simply absorb what he experienced and let the river pass without becoming too much involved. Peace, I suppose.

If only. What society likes to describe as the male stoic ideal remains far from those actual principles ingrained within classical philosophical texts like Meditations. Our present model is merely a way to force men into distracting themselves, both from any underlying nature, and their own capacity to develop emotionally.

While there is little benefit to mucking about in tears all day, binding up feelings within a sack to save face merely creates issues that flare out in other regards. Some have tried to explain away the predominance of the stoic concept in human cultures by arguing it can be a check on male propensity for violence. Of course suppression hardly helps the situation; guys are more inclined to “snap” rather than channel that drive in combat sports or just warfare. In addition, males who crack down on what they feel in response to the loss of a loved one or experiencing a tragedy are only leaving countless sensations unexplained and worsening their mental state.

Even public expressions of speech by men must be carefully curdled. We like to mock male leaders from the 1930s for shrill orations in front of mesmerized throngs, because they demonstrate a lack of control and balance. The preference is for the liberal professor stereotype of Barack Obama, or perhaps some old clown who isn’t aware of the current year. Consequence of deviation from the norm means the Howard Dean Effect, where becoming emotional and hoarse means the end of a national campaign.

Our regimented defense of this cordon sanitaire against male emotion can hardly be seen as a success. Scholars usually conclude women have a higher emotional intelligence and are better-adapted to the modern service economy precisely due to their ease with human expression. There is comparatively little social insistence on females to hide what they feel, hence the apparent advantage, because they grow up better understanding the sentiments of others. Furthermore, browbeating boys to shelter what they have inside cringes in the shadow of an extremely high suicide rate. Are the two connected? Can they somehow not be?

No other hill should be the start of a movement for social change. If we are to continue embracing modernity and techno-futurism, the archaic treatment of male emotions must cease. Lives do indeed depend upon it.  

Culturalism

Narrative Crippling

This post will likely be arriving too late for the presses, but in some respects it has an evergreen flavor. I can’t say I watched the Olympics, not because of limited time availability per se, but on account of having minimal interest in the events. Sure, they worked hard, but any appeals to patriotism are increasingly lost on me. We are expected to be proud of a nation which few can define anymore, as presenting a common image is beyond the capacity of most flag-wavers. Just believe and stay quiet is the takeaway.

One thing did grab my attention though: the hammer blow to an inflated story written by our social influencers. As some remember, Simone Biles failed to deliver the goods, resulting in a less-than-stellar finish for the goddess of popular media. Megan Rapinoe was similarly unremarkable. At a glance, they’re two athletes who had a bad day, and might possibly return to triumph in the future. I cared little about the results, although seeing pink hair lose was pleasurable. On the other hand, Biles’ demise wasn’t welcome or heartbreaking; it just happened.

For others of course, these developments quickly became a crisis. You see, over the past several years our journalistic benefactors have fixated on a single narrative: that in the era of resurgent white supremacy, “strong” diversity women would continuously rise up to conquer the unreachable, proving that history was marching on towards progress, and Trump remained a temporary distraction. Hence the deification of Kamala Harris despite her atrocious record, and the mouth-watering joy brought on by Squad summits. They fit the bill, and everything’s fine.

Until it changes. The Olympic losses were not simply a flash in the pan; for folks who have dedicated their lives to these narratives, such defeats threaten their mental well-being. So it was inevitable that we would see pieces like this:

Realize why they were put on word processor: to reinforce the fractured notions in the head of the writer. Few people actually care about Rapinoe not scoring more goals, or Biles dropping out; the messages are all about who’s sending them. Stay calm, continue the propaganda, and it’ll be alright. The steady hand, a comforting lullaby.

God forbid they should ever have to rise from the sweet slumber.

Culturalism

Tradeside Manner

Sometime after the 2008 collapse, there was a deluge of self-promoters cropping up on the internet to offer alternatives to the stereotypical ideals defended by liberal arts proponents. Initially medical services were trumpeted as the obvious route in a world where aging populations and frequent viral scares gripped the public consciousness. For whatever reason, the white coat phenomenon found itself hotly pursued by brazen cries of “Do STEM!” or, almost as equally , “Go into trades!”

Nothing is essentially wrong with the latter suggestion. Trade fields could provide stable work and competitive benefits when clashed with the dreary wage-slaving that was post-2009 America, at least until COVID relief payments changed the game. There is also a value inherent to mastering some skill which can then be applied in one’s own life to save money. As an organism who has spent a good bit on fixing my house up, I can confirm this dynamic. Paying for a lack of knowledge is rarely cheap.

The real issue visible in these groups of macho, “work with your hands” types is different: they typically lack even the basic modicum of professionalism and respect. Though I am often browbeaten by online ragelings upon pointing out the reality, it is one that countless others I have spoken to express frustration over. Despite being the supposed paragons of All-American self-reliance, the creatures operating construction companies and the like rarely seem to care who calls them, what has previously been committed to, or indeed how much money is already on the line. It’s all about their time and fancies.

I began to notice this conundrum starting last summer. A chimney company called for work twice promised to be there, only to never give a ring or show. Later on I received a passive-aggressive message claiming the fellow had an emergency and could still do the job. No thanks.  Another contractor took a fat deposit before delaying the work for months with evasiveness and excuses. When confronted on the matter, he became defensive and tried to insult one of my female relatives who had earlier had work done by his firm. Unsurprisingly, the final quality was subpar.

Three well-drilling companies so far have proven similarly useless, incapable of keeping to deadlines and actually condescending if they don’t want to admit that the job is beyond their willpower. In the case of one roofer, he actually provided a quote and then ghosted me, while the current one simply takes his time. I suppose a reader could chalk it up to my personality being toxic or unruly, but the truth is, I’m relatively straightforward: do the work on time, and get paid immediately. Financing be damned. But still the pattern exists.

Popular trade shills are bound to respond with the justification that these guys have too much work and can’t be bothered. Alright, but all one needs at the mom-and-pop level is a piece of paper with names, addresses, and project types. No soul is demanding a full-fledged secretary outsourced to the Bay of Bengal. Be thorough, for sure, but try to get back within a few days at the latest, and not weeks in the future, if ever.

End of soapbox screech. If you plan to be in the blue collar field, work on your tradeside manners.

Culturalism

Green Passages

For the benefit of potential research in the future, I decided to compile some of the most interesting quotes from The Green Book here.

On Democracy


“Political struggle that results in the victory of a candidate with, for example, 51 per cent of the votes leads to a dictatorial governing body in the guise of a false democracy, since 49 per cent of the electorate is ruled by an instrument of government they did not vote for, but which has been imposed upon them. Such is dictatorship.” (7-8)

“Moreover, since the system of elected parliaments is based on propaganda to win votes, it is a demagogic system in the real sense of the word. Votes can be bought and falsified. Poor people are unable to compete in the election campaigns, and the result is that only the rich get elected. Assemblies constituted by appointment or hereditary succession do not fall under any form of democracy.” (11)

On Laws

“The natural law of any society is grounded in either tradition (custom) or religion. Any other attempt to draft law outside these two sources is invalid and illogical. Constitutions cannot be considered the law of society. A constitution is fundamentally a (man-made) positive law, and lacks the natural source from which it must derive its justification.” (27)

“Religion contains tradition, and tradition is an expression of the natural life of the people. Therefore, religion is an affirmation of natural laws which are discerned therein. Laws which are not premised on religion and tradition are merely an invention by man to be used against his fellow man. Consequently, such laws are invalid because they do not emanate from the natural source of tradition and religion.” (30)

On Wages and Socialism

“Attempts that were aimed at wages were contrived and reformative, and have failed to provide a solution. They were more of a charity than a recognition of the rights of the workers. Why do workers receive wages? Because they carry out a production process for the benefit of others who hire them to produce a certain product. In this case, they do not consume what they produce; rather, they are compelled to concede their product for wages. Hence, the sound rule: those who produce consume. Wage-earners, however improved their wages may be, are a type of slave. Wage-earners are but slaves to the masters who hire them. They are temporary slaves, and their slavery lasts as long as they work for wages from employers, be they individuals or the state. The workers’ relationship to the owner or the productive establishment, and to their own interests, is similar under all prevailing conditions in the world today, regardless of whether ownership is right or left. Even publicly-owned establishments give workers wages as well as other social benefits, similar to the charity endowed by the rich owners of economic establishments upon those who work for them.” (42)

“Any surplus beyond the satisfaction of needs should ultimately belong to all members of society. Individuals, however, have a right to effect savings from the share allocated to their own needs since it is the amassing of wealth beyond the satisfaction of one’s needs that is an encroachment upon public wealth.” (61)

On Nationalism and Liberalism

“Nations whose nationalism is destroyed are subject to ruin. Minorities, which are one of the main political problems in the world, are the outcome. They are nations whose nationalism has been destroyed and which are thus torn apart. The social factor is, therefore, a factor of life – a factor of survival. It is the nation’s innate momentum for survival. Nationalism in the human world and group instinct in the animal kingdom are like gravity in the domain of material and celestial bodies. If the sun lost its gravity, its gasses would explode and its unity would no longer exist. Accordingly, unity is the basis for survival. The factor of unity in any group is a social factor; in man’s case, nationalism. For this reason, human communities struggle for their own national unity, the basis for their survival. The national factor, the social bond, works automatically to impel a nation towards survival, in the same way that the gravity of an object works to keep it as one mass surrounding its centre.” (70-71)

“To disregard the national bond of human communities and to establish a political system in contradiction to social reality establishes only a temporary structure which will be destroyed by the movement of the social factor of those groups, i.e., the national integrity and dynamism of each community.” (83)

On Women and Modernity

“Deliberate interventions against conception form an alternative to human life. In addition to that, there exists partial deliberate intervention against conception, as well as against breastfeeding. All these are links in a chain of actions in contradiction to natural life, which is tantamount to murder. For a woman to kill herself in order not to conceive, deliver and breast-feed is within the realm of deliberate, artificial interventions, in contradiction with the nature of life epitomized by marriage, conception, breast-feeding, and maternity. They differ only in degree. To dispense with the natural role of woman in maternity – nurseries replacing mothers – is a start in dispensing with the human society and transforming it into a merely biological society with an artificial way of life. To separate children from their mothers and to cram them into nurseries is a process by which they are transformed into something very close to chicks, for nurseries are similar to poultry farms into which chicks are crammed after they are hatched. Nothing else would be as appropriate and suitable to the human being and his dignity as natural motherhood. Children should be raised by their mothers in a family where the true principles of motherhood, fatherhood and comradeship of brothers and sisters prevail, and not in an institution resembling a poultry farm. Even poultry, like the rest of the members of the animal kingdom, need motherhood as a natural phase. Therefore, breeding them on farms similar to nurseries is against their natural growth. Even their meat is artificial rather than natural. Meat from mechanized poultry farms is not tasty and may not be nourishing because the chicks are not naturally bred and are not raised in the protective shade of natural motherhood. The meat of wild birds is more tasty and nourishing because they are naturally fed. As for children who have neither family nor shelter, society is their guardian, and only for them, should society establish nurseries and related institutions. It is better for them to be taken care of by society rather than by individuals who are not their parents. If a test were carried out to discover whether the natural propensity of the child is towards its mother or the nursery. the child would opt for the mother and not the nursery. Since the natural tendency of a child is towards its mother, she is the natural and proper person to give the child the protection of nursing. Sending a child to a nursery in place of its mother is coercive and oppressive and against its free and natural tendencies.” (87-88)

“All societies today look upon women as little more than commodities. The East regards her as a commodity to be bought and
sold, while the West does not recognize her femininity. Driving woman to do man’s work is a flagrant aggression against the femininity with which she is naturally provided and which defines a natural purpose essential to life. Man’s work obscures woman’s beautiful features which are created for female roles. They are like blossoms which are created to attract pollen and to produce seeds. If we did away with the blossoms, the role of plants in life would come to an end. The natural embellishment in butterflies and birds and animal females exists to that natural vital purpose. If a woman carries out men’s work, she risks being transformed into a man, abandoning her role and her beauty. A woman has full right to live without being forced to change into a man and to give up her femininity.” (93)

Culturalism

The Bearded Conflict

Up until I graduated college, I had never grown much of a beard. It was not for lack of ability, my Mediterranean roots more than obliging there, but rather practice. Time in the Scouts and state guard made me view smoothness and professionalism as superior virtues. To get anywhere beyond a light facial shadow was highly unacceptable. Perhaps a slightly moral or elitist edge was tied to such inclinations, like the contrast between Cromwellian purity and the floppy disarray of the cavaliers. At least I have heard that historically Protestants and Catholics traded beard-wearing to distinguish themselves on a social level.

Following matriculation I allowed a neat scruff to form, at various times cutting it down to the Walter White goatee. My retired military friend suggested I looked like an “Allahu Kind Bar” with the former, while the latter was largely unnoticed, except by this French chick who claimed I was sporting it to look advanced in years. Why not?

Once I entered into a more serious relationship, the general specter of female influence caused me to keep it shaved for the most part.  Was this a reflection of the Beverly Crusher fixation on removing the mystery (or manhood) of her male companions, who could grow a beard she was incapable of? Then again, women shave a great deal (thankfully), and the style for men has been pushed by not only the aforementioned Oliver, but Peter the Great as well. Hence it is difficult to forge an entirely proto-feminist claim about the concept, even if the cutting of men extends far past regenerating face follicles, often with open womanly approval.

No, I figure there is something else to the dynamic. Beards are not remanded to some obscure masculine trait that females desire to stamp out, and facial dysfunction guys find enraging; at the most basic level, they represent a certain autonomy of the self. Though exceptions no doubt exist, shavers are usually doing so to meet the prescriptions of a particular environment or social circle, such as the office, military service, or church. They recognize that the phalanx of bare faces will react with distrust or even sanctions if someone flaunts popular cohesion, and thus elect to not draw attention. Only those with a special health or religious exemption shall be permitted to fall through the cracks, and for certain folks the mere act of getting special consideration is dishonorable. So they continue to glide across sandpaper.

In contrast, the fellows more resigned to their life and existence care less about what society thinks, even if it may be correct in making particular judgments. Sure, they could be a lot of grubby armchair rebels with just enough passion to vote Libertarian at the next election, but that’s something.  Better than peeling off layers of skin for the good of the Man and a paycheck, potentially.

As of right now my beard is coming on strong, but I’m still conflicted. The sensation can be irritable when compared with a cool 24-hour shadow, but not far beyond that. You’ve also got the threads that hang over each lip, drying them out and becoming a distraction. And yet, I can’t help but feel authentic, so it stays for now.  

Culturalism · Economic History

The Positivity Church

Probably the most frequent dispute I’ve encountered on the internet dot com is that involving the positive mindset gurus vs. realist thinkers. At first glance, it might seem as though no such disagreement should exist; after all, can’t one be positive and also embrace a level-headed posture? Perhaps, but in our modern world of incessant ass-slapping and rah-rah boosting, the very suggestion of a dissenting view can prove devastating, whether to one’s reputation or the ability to hold a job. Ridiculous? Aye. Prone to disappearing anytime soon? Chance would be a fine thing.

For a long time I have held this skeptical view of rambunctious, motivational positivity culture. My recent run-through of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided only heightened the sentiment with its brutal takedown of the entire “be positive” regime. Throughout the text, Ehrenreich cuts at every idiotic trope in American culture, even crushing the numerous studies which purport to link health with positivity. I was especially touched by her section on back-slapping responses from people following a breast cancer diagnosis. Almost two decades ago I became exposed to the same insufferable foolishness when a soccer teammate underwent cancer treatment. Here was a young boy dealing with bouts of chemotherapy and the social stigma of losing his hair, and what was the nurse’s advice? Smile more. Even as a child the notion seemed nonsensical, darting to the heart of humanistic attempts to rationalize and empower people where solemn forthrightness would probably be better.

Other angles of the book are similarly uncompromising. She notes how the rise of life coaches and mindset experts is directly related to the economic decline of the United States since 1970, and its accompanying feelings of insecurity. People no longer have decent jobs and benefits, so they fixate on this happiness spirituality as a shield against reality. Unsurprisingly, corporate executives have aggressively pushed mindset development programs on employees, even as the same captains of industry cut firms down to the bare bones in order to help Wall Street profiteers. Stop being a victim! Just work harder and be happy! Is the ghost-like echo in our minds.

Such blind positiveness can of course lead to destructive outcomes. Ehrenreich suggests the happy-go-lucky attitude helped make intelligence officials complacent in the lead-up to 9/11, even as numerous warning signs lurked. Raising the alarm was not welcomed in an era of “the next century” and America’s seemingly invincible status with technology and the peace dividend. A similar scenario gripped Dick Fuld at the helm of Lehman Brothers, where he fired naysayers who warned of impending disaster, only to spend years contemplating what went wrong with his disastrous leadership.

Applied to the book I am writing, the positivity issue gains added steam. The immediate response of skeptics to a realist look on dating is to claim the perspective is “too negative” or even “nihilistic.” Neither of these labels actually change the underlying problem, of course. A guy who struggles with getting dates will generate meager returns from simply acting positive and repeating some contrived slogan about the power of pozzed thinking. Hope is obviously not a strategy, and often we are better served by brutally examining the facts and acting upon them, rather than floating towards Cloud Nine.

I hardly expect attitudes to change any time soon, and indeed it may be better they don’t. While the linkages between positive thoughts and healing are largely non-existent, I suppose if enough folks think they’re doing something good, at least a short-run benefit might be maximized. Longer-term however, stark fealty to the positive kingdom can easily lead to delusion and personal downfall. It’s all about reality vs. pleasant aspirations, and they don’t always match up.  

Uncategorized

Is Everyone Being Outraged Without Me?

In today’s world I often find myself confused. Not because my brain malfunctions, or simply chooses to be sluggish, but rather on account of the strange tendency for people to suddenly agitate over things that wouldn’t otherwise bat an eye. We saw it previously with the Peloton ad, which generated mass hysteria for absolutely no reason, forcing Google to preempt questions about why we should all be enraged:

More recently, the Plural Left was able to dig up anger regarding some white woman’s attempt to market food in her unique way. The culprit, a literal Karen, added some different flavors to congee, a mundane breakfast dish popular in Asian circles. She also wrote a post discussing her “improvements” to the slushy gruel, but clearly honored its longtime cultural foundations in Asia. The response? Utterly juvenile. Casey Ho, a female with questionable gender credentials, had this to say:

I sincerely apologize for subjecting you to that image. What remains interesting is how people are (justifiably) confused:

It seems we can only expect more of this desperate grasping for meaning in the years to come. America is unquestionably in decline, so the propensity of folks to scrounge for anything with which to give themselves purpose and opportunities for moralistic strutting is bound to flourish. We can either join in, ferociously shaking fists at the established boogeyman, or stay agape, wondering where it all came from.

Choose wisely.