The American Middle Class

Throughout the history of the United States, many have asked exactly what it means to achieve the American Dream and be a member of the middle class. A precise definition has probably never been agreed upon, but there are several traits that many have in mind when they think of someone who has “made it”:

  • They live on land wholly owned by them which is subject to the laws of the United States.
  • They have good knowledge of the country’s infrastructure, which causes “normal” people to raise questions about what sorts of activities the person engages in during their free time.
  • A subset of this trope involves knowledge of what are called “open standards”, such as IEEE 802.11, which is the specification for the kind of wireless internet that you use in Starbucks. Everybody takes these for granted, and yet they act surprised to see people who have studied them in enough depth to gain unauthorized access to information systems.
  • Commonly used electromagnetic frequency bands
    Figure 1–Commonly-used electromagnetic spectrum bands. Radio spectrum is divided into bands ranging fromVLF (very low frequency) on the left to EHF (extremely high frequency) on the right.

  • They are actively involved in their local community through civic participation, such as charitable giving, mentoring, and political activism.
  • They possess a strong work ethic. This is necessary to maintain the aforementioned property, but it also helps if they can solve problems from scratch with very little prior instruction.

References:

Electromagnetic Spectrum Chart, https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/electromagnetic_spectrum_2016.png

Advertisements

Happy Solstice!

American author Ray Bradbury is widely known for his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, a controversial piece about government censorship which was made even more controversial by the fact that it was composed during a period of cultural conformity where everyone feared being branded a Communist. Perhaps less well-known is a short story composed by him titled “All Summer in a Day”, set on the planet Venus which was believed at the time to be a hot tropical planet covered by dense rainforests. Bradbury’s short story paints a picture of a rainy planet where the sun only came out once for a brief period between several years of cold, dreary weather. The appearance of the Sun was such an important event that schools on Venus would even let their children out of class so that they could enjoy the sunlight.

The protagonist of this story was a girl named Margot who was born on Earth and had faint memories of what it was like to be bathed in sunshine, but immigrated with her parents to Venus and was treated as an outsider by her classmates. On the day when the Sun was predicted to make its appearance, she was explicitly prevented from going outside by her classmates who locked her in a closet for the duration of their recess. Anyone with a little bit of knowledge of biological science will tell you that the whole idea of letting kids out of class to see the Sun doesn’t make much sense– after all, if you did live on a cloudy planet where the sun only came out once in a few years, you eventually lose your resistance to UV radiation and make yourself vulnerable to skin cancer when you are exposed to sunlight.

The real value of this story comes from its role as social commentary: in addition to the topic of anti-immigrant sentiment, which would have experienced a resurgence during time the story was written, it is also an allegory for LGBT rights. As discussed previously in the posts on conservative feminism, Margot represents the out-group and is prohibited from the activities enjoyed by native Venusian children. However, also discussed in the posts on conservative feminism is the idea of sustainability– because disasters cause attrition among the in-group, systems that rely on conservative feminism eventually collapse and devolve into radical feminism, as evidenced by Margot’s isolation, which can be seen as an incident of overt prejudice against Earthlings and LGBT individuals.


Anti-Japanese sentiment was widespread during and after World War 2. It continued until George Takei was cast in a leading role in Star Trek.

The great Russian author Vladimir Nabokov is attributed with the saying “all reading is re-reading”; many times, the true meaning of a story can only be arrived at by reinterpreting it in light of the experiences that one has gone through during the course of their life. Margot’s classmates eventually come to regret their decision to lock her in the closet, and make it up to her by giving her flowers that bloomed when the Sun did come out. As is the case with most forms of injustice, the in-group often makes concessions to marginalized communities as a way of maintaining the stability of the existing social order. The flowers represent a token offering to indicate that Margot had not been completely rejected by Venusian society, and was encouraged to participate in it in spite of what was done to her.

This story represents a classic case of paleoliberalism, which is when people engage in an activity that is otherwise immoral with the intention of achieving a positive outcome. Let’s face it, adolescent rites of passage are no laughing matter– it’s like going through a gang initiation rite, which often involves sex and violence. Once you’re in, you have no shot at escaping and it’ll have a serious impact on your ability to deal with outsiders. The children most likely had an understanding of the effect that seeing the Sun would have on their development, and needed a way to ease the burden that UV exposure would have on them later in life. By isolating Margot, who was also losing her UV resistance by staying on Venus, they would have a healthy individual to look after them when they started feeling the effects of skin cancer.

With this alternative explanation in mind, the children’s strategy does not look significantly better– after all, Margot now becomes a single point of failure in the Venusian healthcare system. Bradbury’s short story was most likely a concession that was being extended to minorities to help them endure discrimination during the conformist postwar culture. One very common use of paleoliberalism is to prevent out-groups from rising up against the in-group; in patriarchal societies, paleoliberalism is used by married women to prevent children from rebelling against their fathers.

References

  • The end of a televised version of All Summer in a Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQfWno_DuB0
  • Paul Robeson’s Speech Before the House Un-American Activities Council: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6440/. A less well-known figure of the Civil Rights Movement, Robeson was openly critical of US foreign policy during the Cold War which promoted freedom overseas while simultaneously denying basic human rights to its own citizens.
  • Rise! The Road to Civil Rights (1940-1968), episode from the PBS miniseries African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/video/#702 Discusses the case of Paul Robeson in greater detail; may require a subscription to WETA Passport.
  • NIH web page on Basal Cell Carcinoma, the initial stage of skin cancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024883/. Higher levels of melanin protect people of color from the initial stages of skin cancer; however, when they do get skin cancer, it appears in the later stages, such as squamous cell cancer.

Why This Still Is Not An MRA Blog

Let’s face it, the socioeconomic landscape in the United States has shifted dramatically during the past half century. What was once a large industrial economy with broadly-shared prosperity has evolved into a post-industrial digital economy where the average Joe just can’t help but feel overloaded by information. Long gone are the days of clocking in at 9, getting all your work done on an assembly line, and then clocking out at 5 to go home and watch sitcoms on your American-made TV set. Rapid advances in communications technology has brought about the ability to perform your job duties anywhere that you can get an Internet connection, and flexible schedules have all but done away with the standard workday.

And yes, we are much safer now than we were during the days of the Cold War. Long gone is the bipolar world order where the United States has to face down existential threats from enemies that are more than a match for it technologically. The nearest runners-up, Russia and China, are still recovering from their abandonment of Communism, and are not expected to catch up for at least a couple of decades. This leaves threats from non-nation-state actors, and domestic groups appear to pose a greater risk than international organizations that depend on US immigration policy.

To top it all off, there are the social changes which have taken place since the Great Sexual Revolution. Long gone are the days when young men have to spend years of effort carving out a stable economic niche before they can even think of proposing to the one they have chosen to be their life partner. A breakdown of traditional social mores combined with the widespread availability of contraceptives has led to a dating scene where young men and women don’t have to try very hard to find companionship, at least in the short term.

With all of that said, the current batch of American youth, known informally as the Millenials, is lagging behind previous generations of American youth on several socioeconomic indicators, much to the consternation of the other age groups in US society. Their parents, the Baby Boomers, created a socioeconomic system by which they were able to prosper, and Generation X, a previous generation of American youth, faced almost the same set of challenges. So why is the Millenial man still living with his parents and struggling to maintain a working-class job?

The answer can be found using neo-libertarianism. Neo-libertarians argue that major problems rarely emerge on their own– they usually emerge as the result of a snowball effect from smaller issues. Early childhood experiences can result in characteristics that can’t be imitated by others, but day-to-day living is handled by the conscious brain and behaviors that are learned when young people come of age. The current batch of American youth is unique in modern history in the sense that they were the first ones to mature in an environment characterized by social liberalism via neoconservatism environment. Neoconservatism existed as the predominant social system during pre modern times, but America’s experiment under George W. Bush was the first time it had been tried within a technologically advanced civilization.

When faced with both social and economic pressure, survival instincts kick in and young people start to make difficult trade-offs about what they need and what they can live without. This leads to another, more interesting question– is our species so accustomed to a particular way of life that any progress beyond marginal gains is all but impossible? Is the 21st century destined to be a repeat of the 19th?

It may come as a surprise to many of my readers, but the answer to that question is an emphatic NO. The key difference between the 19th century landscape and that of the 21st century is that we no longer have the option of expanding outwards into a frontier region when we experience resource shortages. Even the myth of the rugged pioneers going out into unknown territories and creating civilization where none previously existed is apocryphal, as shown by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. European methods of cultivating crops did a number on the grassland environment of the Midwest, with topsoil erosion leading to massive crop failures and an immense human toll in the form of the closures of family farms.

Disaster preparedness is definitely possible without reverting to a state of extreme social conservatism, and you don’t need to look any further than Japan following World War II. With extensive cultural changes brought about by the American occupation, which went much further than merely abolishing the cult of the Emperor, the Japanese people were able to not only rebuild their country and become a force to be reckoned with on the global economic stage, they were also able to do it in an environment that put them at constant risk of earthquakes and tsunamis.

Paradoxically enough, the answer can also be found by referring to the ideas of historic feminist movements! During the years following World War II, women who had previously contributed to the war effort by by operating the assembly lines now had to go back to their traditional roles as wives and homemakers. At the same time, youmg men were returning from overseas theaters only to be confronted with the challenges of adjusting to everyday life in America. Popular psychology of the time blamed their mothers for not instilling the necessary values that would allow them to follow traditional gender roles, leading to failures both on and off the battlefield. Although there is no excuse for poor parenting, real or imagined, the proposed solution was not any better. Romantic partnerships were the recommended means of rehabilitation, but the veterans’ wives evemtually faced the same criticisms as the generation of the veterans’ mothers when it became their time to raise families.

References: http://time.com/3899972/us-superpower-status-military/

https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/the-terrorist-threat-confronting-the-united-states

Plant, Rebecca Jo. The Veteran, His Wife, and Their Mothers: Prescriptions for Psychological Rehabilitation After World War II

McDean, Harry C. Dust Bowl Historiography, 1/1/1986, Great Plains Quarterly.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

There is a popular saying in the English language which goes “don’t judge someone unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”. The meaning of this idiom is that every human being has their own individual circumstances which cause them to behave in the particular way that they behave, and that one must refrain from judging those whose circumstances they do not fully comprehend.

Before my loyal readers get up in arms and start accusing me of moral relativism, let me introduce a concept in politics that will be referred to on this blog as paleolibertarianism. The goal of paleolibertarianism is to put people in scenarios which are well outside of their comfort zones to see how they react. Numerous examples of paleolibertarianism can be found in modern society, but the one that Americans are probably most familiar with is that of the dysfunctional household:

article-1156977-03B0283B000005DC-96_233x423.jpg
Azharuddin Ismail, star of the popular British film Slumdog Millionare, crying out after being beaten by his father for refusing to speak with journalists after returning from his trip to Los Angeles. Although this behavior may seem out of place in a Muslim household given Islam’s emphasis on modesty (which it tries to enforce among both genders) and general distrust of Western media in the Muslim world, it makes a lot more sense when you realize that social conservatism and postmodern values are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Alpha males are a classic example of this phenomenon at work– just about every human society encourages them to participate as much as possible, without any regard to notions of individual well-being or even physical security. Fortunately, Ismail’s father apologized for his behavior after being begged to stop by the child’s mother, who was able to take advantage of the high status held by mothers in South Asian cultures to gain leverage over her husband.

Common sense tells us that if you want your kids to live happy and fulfilling lives, you need to take good care of them while they are young. This principle is a reference to mammalian biology: most mammalian species spend a singificant amount of time taking care of your young, both in the form of providing them with necessities such as food and protection and in the form of teaching them essential survival skills. Childcare is significantly less complicated in other parts of the animal kingdom, with many species producing large numbers of offspring with the expectation that only a few will survive to adulthood. But we’re humans, and we have an anthropocentric view of the universe, so what does it matter to us how those “lesser species” behave?

p02jqg3x.jpg
A springtail. Springtails are an arthropod lineage that is considered to be the most numerous on the surface of the Earth, with up to 200,000 residing in a square meter of soil. The period following the K-T
extinction event c. 65 million years ago is often inaccurately referred to as the “Age of Mammals” in reference to the vertebrate lineage that occupied the niches once held by the dinosaurs. It can just as easily be referred to as the “Age of Insects”, since they make up most of the planet’s biomass.

The argument typically goes something like this: one day the family’s children get fed up with the way the household is being run, and they decide to confront the parents about it, since most cultures place adults in a position of authority over their children. The parents typically respond by saying something like “we may not be perfect, but would you children do any better if you were in our position?”. What typically ensues next is a long lecture by the parents describing the myriad problems they have to deal with in order to maintain a functioning household. Occasionally, there may even be a temporary role reversal, where the children are allowed to take over the household with the parents occupying a subordinate position.

The purpose of this social experiment is to teach the children to respect their society’s authority figures. After all, they perform difficult jobs which are necessary to keep society running. However, in order for society to truly thrive, the children need to eventually reach a state where they can take over the duties of the elders and maintain a household of their own. The Millenial generation appears to be an exception to this rule: as of 2015, young Americans were living with their parents at a rate roughly equivalent to the Great Depression.

The current period of recovery from the Great Recession can effectively rule out economic explanations for this behavior. Explanations involving some sort of cultural shift within American society can also be ruled out if one understands that Biblical Christianity has a moderate bias in favor of female sexual liberation, as exemplified by incidents such as the Curse of Canaan, which places the blame for public nudity on the people who view it and not on the people who expose themselves:

Ksenophontov noah.jpg
By Ksenofontov Ivan Stepanovitch (1817-1875) – http://etnaa.mylivepage.ru/image/1040/7855, Public Domain, Link

Under a liberal mating culture, there is a distinct bias against low-status males (see the post on Life Under Radical Feminism). Therefore, the tendency among modern Millenial men to stay with their parents long after maturity represents a break from Judeo-Christian values, which otherwise encourage men to separate themselves from their parents’ homes (see the parable of the Prodigal Son). Once economic and cultural factors are ruled out, one and only one possibility remains: the United States is fundamentally a frontier society, and requires an area beyond the pale of settlement to put young men so that they can stake out a claim for themselves

Since the closing of the physical frontier in 1890, several other alternatives have been proposed, such as global trade and high technology. Economic collapses such as the Dot-Com Bust at the beginning of the previous decade and the global financial crisis at the end have proven that these are short-term solutions at best. This leaves aside one last possibility: disasters. Cataclysmic events that shake up the global landscape, predicted to become more frequent as the 21st century progresses, will be what allows the current batch of American youth to truly shine, just as the Greatest Generation was defined by their experience during World War II.

References

BBC article on which species deserves the title of dominant life form: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150211-whats-the-most-dominant-life-form

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1156977/From-Slumdog-slapdog-Child-actor-beaten-father-refusing-leave-shack.html

Time Magazine article describing living arrangements of the Millenial generation: http://time.com/4108515/millennials-live-at-home-parents/

Census Bureau infographic outlining 21st-century population trends:
https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/newsroom/releases/2015/cb15-tps16_graphic.pdf

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

The previous post briefly touched on the topic of national security as it affects the current generations of American youth. It may seem counter-intuitive to talk about terrorism on a day that commemorates a man who dedicated his life to nonviolent social change. It makes more sense when you realize that terrorism has been affecting the United States for a long time before the current conflict with Islamic extremism:

A poster from the 1920s depicting men waving American flags kicking around a liberty bond while being followed by Klansmen. The cartoon was published in the liberal journal /Good Morning/ to commemorate Warren G. Harding's inaugural parade. The purpose of the cartoon was to associate those who chose to profit from patriotism with extremists.

That’s right folks, the United States has been dealing with threats from non-nation-state actors for a lot longer than most people realize. Originally begun as a college fraternity, the Ku Klux Klan was comprised of former soldiers of the Confederate Army who resorted to violence against civilians to disrupt the abolitionist social order which was emerging in the American South during the years following the Civil War. Although solutions may have been developed for dealing with them, they would have been discontinued with federal troops were withdrawn from the South following the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876:

Map depicting the readmission of Southern states into the Union during the Reconstruction period. This should provide readers with a clue as to where the current strategy of 'nation-building' comes from.

Likewise for US strategies developed for combating Viet Cong guerrillas during the 20th century. The reason why the American public appears to suffer from amnesia regarding our history of dealing with this type of threat is because our narrative of history likes to explain it away as part of some broader conflict against a conventional adversary: the Vietnam War was just a proxy war that took place during the Cold War against the Soviet Union; the struggle against the KKK was just unfinished business from the Civil War; our current problems with extremist violence are part of a struggle against “radical Islam”.

And the reason why we keep ignoring this threat is because of its very nature. It’s unpredictable, can strike at any time, and comes with little advance warning. Perhaps the best assurance that can be provided to the American public is to admit that no predefined strategy exists for solving this problem. It’s like having a heart attack– diet and exercise can prevent it from happening, but when it does occur, you can’t plan for it. You just have to deal with it as it happens using whatever resources you’ve got, including human beings:

The #1 killer of women in America.

References

 

So What’s This All About Anyway?

Warning: This post discusses non-PC topics related to human biology. The most controversial sections have been attached as a Word document, which has been scanned and guaranteed free of malicious code by Kaspersky Internet Security.

It’s been 26 posts and about one and a half years since this blog was started. The topics have run the gamut from ancient history to human biology to modern politics, and the purpose of these posts seems more elusive than ever. Some may wonder whether they amount to anything significantly more than the rantings of a madman pseudo-intellectual with rudimentary knowledge of popular evolutionary psychology. So without further ado, let’s take a good, hard look at the problem:

Three decades of relatively broadly-shared prosperity have given way to a global economic crisis, with government programs providing limited relief. Current political trends only seem to be exacerbating the problem, with right-wing governments triggering the UK’s exit from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Caught up in the middle of all this are the Millenials, the generation that was born in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Generation Z, which was born during the years following the start of the Global War on Terror, grew up in an environment where physical security was a concern, which means they have to deal with that in addition to the issues faced by Millenials.

In an economic climate characterized by massive student loan debts in combination with an economic recovery that was primarily limited to low-wage economic sectors such as retail, this group appears to be the most vulnerable to the current wave of conservatism. Combine this with a political climate where Communism is no longer a major player, and you get a generation that is looking for a guiding philosophy to help them navigate the troubled waters of today’s world. Movements like Occupy Wall Street have attempted to fill this void, but the 1960s counterculture movement that inspired it existed within a completely different political climate than the one that exists today.

In order to truly understand the problems faced by the Millenial generation, it is absolutely necessary to understand the problems of the generation that raised them, the Baby Boomers. Born during a population boom following the most destructive war in human history and raised during a period of cultural conformity, young Boomers were some of the first people to begin challenging the status quo and existing social norms.

However, the breakdown of American society following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 led to a period of extended social and economic instability. Any children that were born after this period found themselves in a disturbing paradox– despite living during times when human civilization had reached heights that had never been seen before, the goals which they were being asked to pursue were well beyond what their abilities would allow.

Solutions to this problem were developed by Generation X, the generation which was born between these two age groups, and those solutions resulted in prosperity for a limited period of time before that wealth evaporated at the end of the previous decade. As a result, new solutions need to be implemented that can take into account a socioeconomic landscape that was inherited from the 20th century while also addressing 21st century issues such as climate change.

In short, this blog is about what it means to be young in today’s America.

References

http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Millennial-Muddle-How/48772/

PBS documentary about the social changes of the 1960s: http://www.pbs.org/video/2365150223/

precipice.doc