Culturalism

The Witcher’s World

I admit to not having fully lumbered through the video game franchise known as The Witcher. At one point several years back the original game was in my possession, yet the unorthodox combat style made it difficult to grasp, much in line with my Lost Odyssey experience. Nevertheless, the underlying ideas and world were intriguing, so I eventually checked out the novel that started it all. More recently, I battled my way through the graphic novel omnibus, a tome that features some very interesting commentary on the matter of perceptions and illusion.

One of the first tales erupts after Geralt (the Witcher) meets a wayward hunter (Jakob Ornstine) and proceeds to travel with him. During their time together, Jakob recounts the story of his lost love Marta, presenting her as the embodiment of an innocent passion stolen away by dark creatures known as the Bruxa. Marta’s ghost leads the men to a mystical house that appears to warp reality, and there an alternative narrative is presented by the feminine spirit. She claims that her father sold her to Jakob, a violent man who beat and raped her. Driven to find true love, Marta began an affair with the blacksmith Talton, who would be killed in a fit of jealous rage by Jakob, after which Marta herself was killed.

So why does Jakob still believe in this seemingly delusional narrative? Perhaps it is due to the curse which Marta placed upon him. Alternatively, it could simply be a way of perceiving reality based upon position. Still more, they are operating inside a house of illusions, so who is to say what can be true?

Adding further complexion to the issue is Jakob’s behavior towards the succubus who Geralt encounters in the house. After the Witcher enters a rage at his perception that she led him into a trap, Jakob castigates him:

“No! You weren’t thinking at all! You can’t treat a woman that way! Women are divine creatures, Witcher! They command our respect! No man can understand a woman, not ever! Their reasons are too mysterious! Too chaotic! We must accept them for what they are. And accept that their lives are far too short. They can be taken from us at any time.”  

In contrast, Geralt notes that Witchers do not understand passion as humans do, and so the sex act occurs absent a deep emotional bond. At the same time, when recounting a story of love to Jakob he mentions visiting a prostitute who accepted his money for her service and then paid it back afterwards. Hence he carries those silver coins for their meaning to the present day. Again a conundrum. Is love only possible outside of money, or is money itself love?

Towards the end of the book, a very crucial line is dropped: “Illusion. All is illusion.” I immediately connected this short statement with our present world. We are creatures constantly pursuing an ideal, whether created in our own minds or the commercial fun labs of the corporate elite. We can be in abusive relationships and call it love, or transactional actions more deserving of the term. Depending on religion or affiliation, we can witness the same event and interpret it in drastically separate ways, almost like we live in a house of glass.

God forbid any fool would cast stones.

Culturalism · Economic History

Veblen Goodness

Last weekend I finished the book Overdressed, which probably seems like an odd choice for one like me. To be fair, I do own a few bathrobes, yet little in my wardrobe comes near the likes of Imelda Marcos, or some Zoomer shopping haul queen. I basically buy what I need, and keep a few unique items around for the rare occasion when fanciful taste is needed. It would certainly be nice to have more, but I simply have not gotten around to caring enough.

Obviously many people disagree, and in many cases with good reason. They’re not the question at stake. Instead, the book’s author dropped a term I had never heard of, even though it manifests in the real world remain as anything but uncommon: the Veblen good. The word’s namesake lies with Thorstein Veblen, an early 1900s economist who became associated with the progressive movement for his non-Marxist critiques of capitalism. Put simply, the term refers to a product which defies the laws of supply and demand by becoming more desired as it increases in value.

For many, the very idea is problematic. Of course supply and demand remains undisputed; just look at Chinese imports and general technology: they all went through the price floor as production and sales picked up over the years. But other goods do not. Rare wines, whether real or fake, are craved, even as they sell at millions on the bottle. Luxury cars can be priced well over the threshold of a townhouse’s mortgage loan, and still people chase the driver’s seat. One might even claim something similar for stocks, which can become overpriced mammoths and still attract the barking madness embodied by those pursuing extreme wealth.

Whether Veblen goods are a consequence of effective marketing by the rich to sell their lifestyle as being superior, nothing changes the underlying reality of how such products come to control our lives. Think of how many folks you know driving spruced up trucks or Hellcats simply to get them to and from work. There’s hardly any street racing or hard construction involved in use of those vehicles, just a fair-weather attempt to impress others.  But whatever emptiness may clutch the actualized routine of luxury ownership, the prices continue being raised to great joy from buyers. I will have something everyone else doesn’t, goes the grey matter, along with countless more cerebral motherboards.

I suppose it’s like grinding an axe against the hordes of development at this point. Nevertheless, at times my heart wonders how much worse off we would actually be if folks did more with less, and treated what they had not as objects, but family. A few more monks, and a lot less celebrity.

Culturalism

Pick a Color

A news story crashed across the fragile sense of our reality recently, and I found myself feeling rather baffled. For those not aware of the specifics, a 65-year old Filipina woman was accosted and attacked by a male assailant while two security guards in a nearby building watched – but did not intervene. According to observers from the Internet dot com, the response of these guards was absolutely unacceptable. How exactly could they not step right up and help her?

Yes, how indeed? Putting aside questions of whether they, as unarmed guards, had any prerogative to get involved in accordance with corporate policy (almost certainly not), can we not agree their guilt was absolute and unimpeachable?  Does any doubt exist?

I reckon so. See, the story proposed a nasty conundrum for those intense believers in the race-based politics of now. The victim was of Asian extraction, while our villainous perpetrator hailed from the Afro-American community.  Since the paleskin could not be blamed for her plight , at least outside the usual appeal to Trumpism creating cultural violence, leftists scrambled to blame the security guards for their supposed cowardice and misogyny. Many comments on Huffington Post declared themselves as beings absolutely prepared to break up the confrontation, in stark contrast to those “weak men.”

Leaving aside the potentially sexist implications of men being compelled to intervene on behalf of the opposite sex simply because of “muh wahmen”, how would the image of intervention look if someone more racially  unacceptable took part? What if an oppressor-appearing phenotype like Goldberg dashed to the old Filipina’s rescue…would he be justified, or  condemned to horrendous assault in the public sphere? Let’s remember that videos can be clipped, and news agencies never apologize for their incessant destruction to the individual’s reputation. I cannot say for certain my actions would be interpreted as socially justified, especially when we consider that Asians are at times included in the ranks of the pseudo-Aryans, and otherwise with oppressed POC. The world is left to choose.

If nothing else, the scenario should go far to explain the ridiculous malleability of race and identity in the political field. People become what is useful to the elites based upon a given point in history. While America established clear delineations between whites and blacks during the slavery period, Brazil’s minority European population encouraged swirling to undermine the centrality of one black identity. Today, leftists want race to be a useful token for righteousness, but only to the extent that it fits their specific agendas. Other minorities who oppress blacks are white, and black people who target other POC are misogynists or rage pillers unable to overcome white supremacy. Soon enough, the darkest soul from Central America or India will be forced into the pale cultural corner, all for politics.

So the caravan moves on.

Culturalism

Age and Ideology

Someone asked me the other day to provide discourse about my own political ideology. For most people, at least those who follow politics, the answer is pretty simple. Democrat or Republican. Conservative or Liberal. Those simple designations wrap matters up, allowing life to go on, and the safe belonging in a electoral family to generate warmth. It’s OK, because I’m with the good guys, the affiliation assures.

But life is a tad more complicated. When you sit down and begin hashing things out, the talking points prototypically spewed by earnest partisans sound rather hypocritical and contradictory, even if they seem backed by absolute belief and conviction. I know because they used to be my own words. During the healthcare debate of 2009-2010, I proudly wrote discussion posts for my business class advocating against “socialized healthcare,” citing whatever source available (funded by insurance companies) that would indicate such a model was disastrous. I seldom looked at anything on the other aside, assuming it was made up of lazy leftists who wanted to control people’s lives.

Why? Because the GOP said so, and conservative talk radio chimed in agreement. Furthermore, I had been exposed to enough Ayn Rand to know that the private sector entailed everything good – while the State was pure evil. Just like a young liberal might blindly support the Democrats going to war as long as they are Democrats, I was passionately committed to my personal version of the truth, because I wanted to know it was true.

It is crucial to understand how the youthful mind of the ideologue works. During those first years of development, I was forming a wall of confirmation around myself that would help preserve the comfortable pod of experience I assume life should be. It was only when I started looking at sources of every different persuasion, including those previously dismissed as the byproduct of “loser liberalism,” that my perspective changed. I began to understand how complex issues happen to be, and the wisdom in examining them not from the standpoint of kneejerk and glib outrage, but a holistic, inquisitive approach.

Ideally, age will naturally bring about this change, but it is no hard guarantee. With our hectic work schedules and social commitments, the lull of stagnant thinking can be rather sultry, even as the greying nears. Find a quick explanation and be done is the standard, much as before. Thus we see the importance of aging bound inseparably to learning. To free your mind, you must be always curious, and consistently humble, not just now, but throughout life.

Go on, and explore.    

Culturalism · Relations and Dating

Masculine Emotions

I admit to being very skeptical of psychology. The field is colored by a veneer of liberalism, self-righteousness, and general “bleeding heart” proclivities. It is often weaponized against anyone with principles, which roughly translates to those figures who call out corruption or decay in the social state. Many of the historical figures associated with the field are of questionable moral standing, only heightening my general unease with its efficacy.

But that’s not the full story. As I listened to Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on vulnerability, I was struck by an overwhelming theme applicable to myself, and to men in general: we are not fully honest with ourselves. Present male social norms hearken back years, when warfare was closer to home and the worth of boys depended heavily on their usefulness in hunting or fighting. Free displays of sorrow or pain were cast as symbols of weakness, because “that’s what women do.” Remarkably, even as the world changes radically by each minute, men are yet held to the standards of past times, implored to “man up” and not reveal their genuine feelings. So instead we suppress, suck it up, and move on, without addressing the underlying problem.

Consequently, the only true acceptable outlet to burn emotional excess comes in the form of combat sports, or, more often than should be desired, internet rage. Society’s refusal to permit a listen, and demonization of sympathizers, leads many males to clamber aboard the internet steamship, finding explanations for their rage in politics, “the manosphere,” or hedonistic materialism. Every argument or contrast becomes drawn on the basis of scarcity and separation, where one is expected to take a position in order to not be like “those people.” Elect conservatives to get losers off welfare, take the Red Pill and avoid becoming a simp, or build up wealth and leave the drone culture. All well and good, but how are these jaded outlooks working to overcome individual struggle?

Simple, they aren’t. One can attain great wealth or control of others’ emotions (i.e. “Game”), but if the self is wrapped up in ropes of denial originating from childhood suppression of feeling, they will never escape and be at peace. There will always be the lingering insistence of pointing to the world for an ego-sating comparison, or vilifying the opposite sex based on its mere existence. And this practice is never properly exhausted, so the target of disdain must always be raised to a threshold higher in order to please anger’s flow. Hence we need more restrictions on welfare, and men should work to accrue increased wealth, so they can buy sex dolls and replace women. Because separation is not enough; the scapegoat must be hounded eternally to craft a sense of meaning.

For these reasons, I believe our entire conception of masculinity is inherently flawed. A man is not “alpha” or “masculine” because he shakes his fist and makes vicious threats on the internet. True courage and manliness would require him to be open about his personal struggles and, in front of men, show emotion. Such a suggestion seems like an anathema to the casual observer, but the reasoning remains critical. It’s not absolutely necessary to sit down with a professional counselor or psychologist, yet hashing things out as men is the only way that pain can be drawn out and dealt with, as opposed to hidden under piles of sheer fury.

Culturalism

Reality Gets Clowned

I personally have little investment in the underlying politics at this stage, but what sort of absolutes can Zoomers possibly raise their children to accept when these are the mainstay?

She was quite pretty at one time, to be honest.

As for the reverse:

Furthermore, a pronounced attempt to extent attention-drawing with colorful social media squares has been indicted for intolerance, even if the same practice was widespread last year.

Unsurprisingly, the privileged CC model (Ratajkowksi) is lecturing people on how to behave. What a marvelous planet.

Culturalism · Economic History

Lighting The Path

Every time Daylight Saving Time (DST) rolls around, you reliably hear complaints. The practice is antiquated, pointless, obnoxious, and can easily cause someone to oversleep. We might as well get rid of it, pursuing the objective of simplifying matters and eliminating all chance that someone forgets. After all, we have plenty of light.

Yet some would argue that happy glow remains under-appreciated. The bolstering principle behind DST is to conserve daylight hours during the winter, when the sun sets sooner than in warmer months. Back when people had to rely on meager lanterns or the hearth for light, they were severely limited in terms of what could be accomplished once those natural glows receded. Readers or writers had to “save it for later,” and farmers could not perform certain tasks in the dead of night. In other words, nature was a significant obstacle for everyday life.

Today we are blessed to think nothing of such inconveniences. All one must do is flip a switch, and crisp, if not as pleasing, artificial light floods the room. Productivity can continue, well past 5:30pm on a winter’s day, and long through the night.

But how many truly value or appreciate this dynamic? I routinely encounter folks who sleep 10-12 hours a day, spending the remaining time in preparation for work or consuming some byproduct of Hollyweird while immersed in almost pitch darkness, save for the television screen’s glow. These are the same organisms who bray and squeal over DST, because it is an inconvenience, albeit the sort that would seem immaterial to their waking and moving lives. Few among them even own a traditional watch or clock which must be reset, so the complaint is usually about not being mentally prepared to sleep longer.  

The species at-large, particularly those of us living in developed countries, seem to disregard the benefits of modernity, perhaps because we have so little stake in it. Wasting time, itself a complicated matter to explain, bears with it minimal consequence. Sure, you may be forced to slam the gas pedal and get into work with minutes to spare, but nothing fundamentally changes. There is no race against the harvest date for subsistence farming, or need to consolidate academic research under the sun before candles are the sole option. Just vapid floating on a pool of nondescript boredom.

Now then, go set those watches, if you have any.

Culturalism

Does Hell Exist?

A bland notes post. I want to record here some of the ideas presented by the theologian Arthur Lunn, who is quoted frequently in William F. Buckley’s book, Nearer, My God. His argument on the nature of hell is as follows:

(1) I object to God being represented as a torturer. (2) I object to any form of punishment which is eternal. (3)I object to the fact that a man’s eternal destiny depends less on “striking a due balance between his virtues and his sins than on the pure accident of what takes place during the last moments of his life.”

Later on, Lunn is portrayed as being open to the concept of heaven as a place where few people go, but still establishes a divide between the idea of eternal punishment and soul annihilation. He further notes that man was not born to love God, and thus God cannot demand love of himself as a prerequisite to being redeemed. So God can insist on obedience, but not love, which is enjoyed by only a few. Hence Lunn is against the idea of hell because it is irrational in his outlook on the spiritual world. (pp. 68-72)

crypto · Culturalism

The Good Citizens

Worth documenting here, as I’ve seen so many cases like this on Twitter:

What a nice man

He’s an empowered feminist as well:

Some people try to reason, but then we get a healthy dose of Kevinism:

The importance of these images lies with what they signal about the folks around you. For years we’ve heard of “La Resistance” courageously fighting back against fascism and evil Nazis. Today, they happily relish the opportunity to round up others. Such upstanding citizens.

crypto · Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Are We Wrong About Welfare?

An especially frightful bogeyman mustered by folks on the Plural Right to win elections is the idea of the welfare queen. This horrendous creature oozes about in life, deviously attempting to confiscate as much from the public dole as possible, and using taxpayer dollars to fund her luxurious lifestyle. She is often paired with her live-in boyfriend, a clownish drug dealer who uses his perch in a Section 8 housing complex to make tax-free money by selling controlled substances. Topping off the vignette are their countless children, who assist in generating those lovable food stamp checks which are annihilating the economy.

Effective as the idea may be for politicians, it betrays a fundamental unwillingness to understand the nature of the public support system, along with the actual status of people involved. Thus we must provide an overview of precisely what is available to welfare dependents, and for how long. Hopefully, a measure of clarity can help eliminate the misconceptions that inevitably fuel terrible corrective policy on the part of the State.

The first salvo ought to involve a popular 2012 study from Wisconsin distributed inside conservative circles. According to the authors, a family on welfare in the Badger State can rake in $35,000 annually post-taxes by yukking it up with a variety of government programs and not working. A similar 50-state analysis by the Cato Institute confirms such alarmism, noting how places like Hawaii grant payments of almost $50,000 a year to government dependents.

There is no doubt the proponents of such studies have justifiable concern about the nature of welfare. Unfortunately, they rely on rather self-serving conclusions to fit the bill of lolbertarian ideology. For one, the Wisconsin study relies upon an assumption that eligibility automatically equates to acceptance. In reality, analysts have concluded that less than 300 Wisconsinites would be able to draw the $35,000 amount of income, this in a state of almost 6 million people. Further complicating the matter is how most welfare programs require participants to be seeking a job or working, stipulations which undermine the suggestion they are simply mooching because they can.

Perhaps more critical to mention are the limitations on welfare programs themselves. In the case of SNAP benefits (food stamps), users without children are limited to 90 days in the service within a 36-month period by a federal law enacted in 2008, unless they can meet certain work requirements. When paid out, benefits average about $256.00 per month for a household or $127.00 a person, and come to around $1.40 for each meal. Higher payments materialize in the event of a household being extremely low income or with many kids, so not everyone receives the same amount of money.  It is worth noting that the Obama Administration promulgated an $8.7 billion cut to SNAP, despite its supposedly progressive credentials.

Section 8 housing also gets a bad rap due to the poor reputation of such communities, yet it too has strict standards for access, cutting out sizable swaths of the general population based on income and family status.  Quite crucially, the voucher system does not cater to illegal immigrants, as applicants must be citizens or possess eligibility for citizenship. The closely-associated LIHEAP program gives recipients help with heating and cooling bills providing they meet certain requirements. Strangely enough, President Obama also made repeated requests for Congress to cut funding to LIHEAP, instigating a move by the late Hugo Chavez to donate heating oil to Americans.  

Some critics will aim their guns at the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash support program to satisfy notions of dependency. Here again the issue is complex. TANF operates not as a long-term solution to poverty, but merely the helping hand to bring people back on their feet during hard times. Benefit checks in July 2020 ranged from just over $300.00 in Texas to $1,086 in New Hampshire, reflecting cost of living and state government decisions. The final point is important because individual states control the destiny of TANF money block-granted by the Fed, and are not obliged to offer a large (or elevated) amount. Furthermore, recipients are limited to 5 years on the TANF dole throughout their entire life, so it is hardly a career dependency model.

Welfare alarmism also flies in the face of the historical record. The 1996 welfare reform bill signed by Bill Clinton had the effect of eliminating the “entitlement” concept behind such programs by instituting stricter work requirements. Since 1997, spending on TANF has remained largely unchanged at $16.5 billion, and broader welfare caseloads have increased to 15 percent, while the assistance rolls remain down by 68 percent from the pre-reform highs, this even with the effects of the recession and Corona. As a percentage of the total federal budget, the programs amount to $361 billion, or 8 percent.

One final point to acknowledge regarding the 1996 reform lies with the impact on child support enforcement. Prior to the legislation’s passage, the State’s involvement in collection and insistence on men paying was decidedly more limited. Clinton’s bill changed that by requiring state authorities to more aggressively pursue orders on child support, and encouraging women to pursue it. So in a sense men replaced the State for a portion of the payments, arguably leading to the disaster of family courts today.

At the end of the day, I can appreciate the rage against welfare. Those of us who work feel indignant about folks who simply take checks and live on the dole. Of course the truth is that many of the “takers” are actually employed, yet simply do not make enough to survive. Perhaps our bigger focus should be on the creatures and organizations regularly taking trillions from the government to bail them out whenever the economy turns south.