February 9, 2016

Lifestyle strivers are less spiritual, despite / due to scorn of work, wealth, and stuff

In the comments to the previous post, the topic came up about lifestyle strivers and lack of spirituality, community, and so on. Talking about folks out West, Feryl said:

Also, the emphasis on various superficial things and materialism indicates a void that needs to be filled by more essential things. Like a sense of place, of tradition, of the future, of any kind of belonging to a greater whole.

That's the weird thing, though -- people out West are not materialistic. They aren't obsessed with money, dying with the most toys, or competing over who has the greatest things.

For them, life is just a brief journey, and they're going to have as much fun along the way as they can. What happens after that, hey man, we'll like, figure it out later, or something.

This focus on how they live their lives is just another way of saying that they're lifestyle-oriented rather than job/wealth/material-oriented.

There's a great confusion that people who leave behind material concerns are going to be more spiritual -- as though they're ascending from the material mundane realm up into the ethereal heavens.

But in reality, focusing on your lifestyle and persona construction couldn't be more navel-gazing -- the opposite of stepping out of yourself, experiencing the Sublime, merging into something greater and larger than yourself, and so on.

Sure, parts of your lifestyle may involve socializing and connecting with others, all else equal serving to sustain a community. But it doesn't do anything to sustain a family, and that is the most basic unit that has to be firmly in place before any larger units can be nested around it.

It's no secret that family bonds are depressingly weak out West -- even for those who've lived there their whole lives, but especially for those who transplanted themselves out there precisely to avoid having to be tied to their family back wherever they came from.

Job/wealth/material stuff -- focusing on that can sustain a family. It's called bringing home the bacon, putting a roof over the wife and kids' heads, and keeping the lights on and the water running.

Of course if there's a striving as opposed to accommodating mindset, then the career-orientation leads the working parents to neglect their children more than if they were only working enough to take care of the household. It would be better if they worked less, and spent more time with family.

At the same time, even with career striving parents, the family unit is still sustained -- bacon, roof, lights, water, all there.

Just compare Donald Trump's kids with those of a leading lifestyle striver from California -- one of those Real Housewives types. Their kids are a total mess, and there's zero family bonds -- maybe outright hostility.

With the family unit taken care of, then more layers of group-iness can be added around it. Neighborhoods, churches, towns.

Man was more spiritual back when he was kept busy for much of the day with earning a living, whether tending his field or herding his livestock. Jesus was a carpenter, and Paul was a tent-maker -- neither was an ascetic like Diogenes who, aside from a few epic trolls, left no legacy or influence on world history whatsoever.

Focusing mostly on lifestyle and leisure makes man less spiritually satisfied, probably because being unproductive in any tangible sense makes you feel adrift in every way possible.

When de Tocqueville visited America, he didn't say "OMG, look at how much yoga and quinoa smoothies these spiritual seekers have taken in before the morning's over!" That would have been referring to the gay decadent leisure-based aristocracy that was quickly crumbling away back in Europe.

Indeed, the scorn of working and the sole focus on lifestyle and leisure out West makes them more of a wannabe-aristocrat class, a poor man's leisure class, slackers gone wild, etc. They're just as numb to the appeals about "look what's happened to the working class in America" as the old aristocrats would have been -- not due to class privilege, since they're not all that rich out West, but due to being in a totally different mindset, where working and therefore workers are felt to be beneath them -- not vulgar scum (the aristocrat view) but uncool-ly focused on money and jobs.

What made American democracy great is still located back East. We're going to resurrect the American economy and government, even if the decadents out West are too busy getting / giving blowjobs to notice, let alone pitch in. They just need to stay out of our way if they aren't going to get on board.

16 comments:

  1. advancedatheist2/9/16, 8:12 AM

    Agnostic, you put a lot of emphasis on traditional cultures and ways of life, yet you show contempt for Mexicans who still live that way. And they have deeper roots in North America than our Anglo-European communities. What do you really disapprove of about Mexicans?

    ReplyDelete
  2. "That's the weird thing, though -- people out West are not materialistic. They aren't obsessed with money, dying with the most toys, or competing over who has the greatest things."

    You clearly have never been to L.A. In my opinion the city with the most conspicuous consumption in all of North America.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've been to LA, and my brother lived there for awhile, still has friends there.

    Their focus on things is only superficial, so to speak. Most of their mental energy and body activity is geared toward living the LA lifestyle all day, every day. New Yorkers, for example, are way more obsessed with what precisely they're wearing, who made it, what it signals about their career, etc.

    Of course they're more materialistic in LA than other places nearby, but then we're talking about "out West" in general.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Agnostic, you put a lot of emphasis on traditional cultures and ways of life, yet you show contempt for Mexicans who still live that way."

    Did someone get pegged by Megyn Kelly last night? Wonderful way to phrase a question.

    "Traditional" is clearly not the same around the world -- traditions in New Guinea include men doing no work, women doing all the work, men warring and raping and having little boys suck them off in an initiation rite, and generally having no society or higher culture.

    The Aztecs were a little more advanced than that, but not by a whole lot. They're more like the Southeast Asians -- relying on a mix of tropical horticulture and intensive agriculture. They mix the worst of both types -- they are impulsive, violent, and gang-like for seemingly little other purpose than territorial control (horticulturalists), and they have a bleak, nose-to-the-grindstone conformity and hive-mindedness (agriculturalists).

    I don't mind the Aztecs staying put in their area -- what's the harm, or what's the desecration? But they have no business in America. They never settled here -- that would be the "Native Americans" who are mostly gone.

    Even the Native Americans left in the Southwest only showed up a few hundred years before we did -- they were the Na-Dene from the Pacific Northwest and further north through western Canada and Alaska. I'm sure the more rooted Native groups like the Pueblo Indians (Zuni) wish that the Apache, Navajo, et al. had stayed put up in Canada. The old Native groups are now a minority even within the "Native American" category.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't want Mesoamericans here permanently, but we need them at least on a guest worker basis. Americans won't do all that low paying, menial work.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A.B. Prosper2/9/16, 12:51 PM

    Honestly Marcus either you are an overpaid paid troll , wholly delusional or the post really needs a sarcasm tag. If its the later, apologies for my harsh language.

    Except briefly, 4 years or so during World War 2 labor has not and has never been short in the US at all.

    What you have is a cultural facet , one of the few fairly uniformly found ones, found from coast to coast of not wanting to pay market for anything especially wages. Its natural in a nation founded mostly by grifters and economic refugees with a smattering of anti-social religious cranks but its very toxic.

    Cut wages gets votes for Sanders or worse. The worst thing is Grandpa Bernie is a nice decent Scandinavian social democrat. The people coming after him are far more totalitarian and are closer to Lenin or Stalin or more probably some inept Latin American Communist leader.

    The way to prevent that is to reverse course and to expel foreigners and push wages up as percentage GDP. It doesn't matter if people deserve them

    And yes this means paying 25 cents more for lettuce and probably reducing the work week to 30 hours at a higher pay. Most of wages you'll get back

    If you don't, well? Do it be socialized anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  7. AB, times change: my (white) grandparents were sharecroppers, it was the norm, but I can't expect gen X or millennials to adapt to that. Also there's a long history of Latin Americans with work visas in US ag sector, not a problem if contracts are strictly enforced, as in Japan's guest worker program.

    ReplyDelete
  8. We don't need guest workers for most jobs -- we've got plenty of Americans who are already looking for work, especially at a decent wage. Big Agriculture will either pay those decent wages or go bust. If we let them import hordes of low-wage scabs, then we're right where we're at already -- a neo-feudal society of gigantic landowners and disenfranchised peasants.

    The only rung lower than that is slavery. I'm sure the plantation owners said the same thing back then -- "But the white man has become accustomed to industrial or craftsman work, there's no way he'd swallow his pride and pick cotton."

    But white people did do that work -- if the pay is good.

    There will be a lot of wealth lost at the very top of the pyramid, while the bottom and middle with rise. Either get used to it, or go join the neo-feudal shitholes in Latin America.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "Man was more spiritual back when he was kept busy for much of the day with earning a living, whether tending his field or herding his livestock. Jesus was a carpenter, and Paul was a tent-maker -- neither was an ascetic like Diogenes who, aside from a few epic trolls, left no legacy or influence on world history whatsoever."

    The ascetic thing is definitely more common in the West; the whole libertarian/hedonist/"free-spirit"/survivalist aesthetic reflects at least a glib indifference towards your connections and obligations to others. Weirdos, loose cannons, and childish fools drift towards Meccas of individualism ("keep Austin weird) as they find Easterners too brusquely dismissive of "alternative" stuff, like not having a desire to build great stuff that will honor your legacy for decades to come.

    People back East can certainly be aloof and terse, but at heart they appreciate the need to Get Things Done so the roof doesn't cave in, so to speak. The ditziness out West can be endearing in some ways (and it does lead to greater experimentation and creativity) but whose gonna have your back when you need them?

    ReplyDelete
  10. AB, times change: my (white) grandparents were sharecroppers, it was the norm, but I can't expect gen X or millennials to adapt to that.

    The willingness of elites to fuck people over is what's changed. Late Boomers have been sold out as well; the ability to get reasonable pay for work has been declining since the late 70's at the earliest. Late Boomers, X-ers, or whoever want to perform the same kind of work as G.I.s, Silents, and early Boomers. As long as they are compensated like G.I.s, Silents, and early Boomers.

    Problem is, Silent and early Boomer elites have been denying later generations of Americans decent pay and benefits. And of course, they've also gutted American manufacturing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. As far as I can tell, people mostly feel satisified when they're focused on a hobby or special interest outside themselves that they find really interesting and involves real effort - climbing that mountain, studying that mathematics, mastering that guitar playing, tending that trail in the woods - rather than either a quotidien job for money or relaxing and cultivating an image.

    (All things equal - if your hobby or interest doesn't lead to social connections, then it's could end up less good for you than work which does).

    It's very necessary to have enough of a focus on the material to meet your family's needs. But let's not glorify excessive wealth seekers as doing it to bring home the bacon for the family. How often does that really happen? Greed is different from admirable ethos of the working class, who work to get by and wouldn't work for more than the means to get by. It's a totally different thing, not an extension of the same ethos and focus. The idea that work for either material gain and survival itself is enriching seems to me more the mark of the greedy competitive striver ("I worked harder so I deserve *everything*!") or the preening, self appointed working class hero ("We're all noble martyrs, because we sweated when we worked"), fairly contemptible people.

    (Looking back in history as well, were the peasant farmers who dug the soil for their survival less spiritually satisfied than hunter gatherers who did a modicum of hunting to survive, then had huge leisure and socialising time, and pursued their own interests? I doubt it, personally.)

    Re: different attitudes to White Working Class in the USA, this is mainly about what the self identified Middle Class of each region thinks about the White Working Class? The self identified class pyramid among Whites is basically stable across each of the US's GSS regions - for 2010-2015, 7.9% "lower class", 47% "Working Class", 43.4% "Middle Class", 2.7% "Upper Class" with small differences (like West North Central and West South Central being most self identified Working Class by about 10%). So it's not like the West is thinking that identifying as working is uncool.

    Or is it like the Working Class of the West have false consciousness of their own interests and are sneering at their own Working Class status and focus? I think you'd need some survey information to look at that. Page 29 on this thing - http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/WWC-Report-For-Web-Final.pdfseems to indicate that White Working Class in the Midwest identified more with the Labor Movement and less with Tea Party bs, compared to the South, while the West was slightly more Tea Partyish than the South. I'd expect the Midwest to be the most Working Class conscious region of the US based on that measure (and fits the stereotype of them being plain, hardworking, serious folk), but maybe that's translated into a better deal already for the White Working Class there, and so they're not likely to get populist and ragey as much (particularly compared to the neurotic and temperamental regions).

    Btw, thought you might be interested, if you didn't know, that Inductivist has resumed his data driven blogging - http://inductivist.blogspot.co.uk - all fired up by the Trump phenom. like you are.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "But let's not glorify excessive wealth seekers as doing it to bring home the bacon for the family."

    They're certainly doing it to bring home the bacon, plus the greed reasons. Unless you're suggesting that they have no concern at all about whether their family has food to eat, water running, house standing, etc.

    The point is how they compare with the lifestyle strivers, whose efforts are also being driven by self-advancement, but which does not also include the benefits for the family. Unless you're on a reality show, or making insane money from YouTube partnerships, all your lifestyle and persona striving don't do anything for your family's basic needs.

    "were the peasant farmers who dug the soil for their survival less spiritually satisfied than hunter gatherers who did a modicum of hunting to survive, then had huge leisure and socialising time, and pursued their own interests?"

    You're mixing up a few things here. First is a typo: you meant my theory should predict farmers to be *more* spiritually satisfied than the more leisurely H-G's. Second is more important: the idea that H-G's are akin to today's lifestyle strivers, just because their subsistence mode is not as intensive as the farmers'.

    Make no mistake, H-G's do not invest most of their emotional or bodily energy in living a certain lifestyle, or crafting a certain persona. Their main obsession is hunting and gathering. They are just as materially oriented as today's Eastern working class. They just happen to work fewer hours -- because their job doesn't take that long, not because they have a more leisure-oriented mindset or behavioral style.

    So comparing farmers with H-G's is neither here nor there -- they don't differ in orientation, both being materially oriented. The proper comparison is farmers and a courtly elite or other leisure-oriented class.

    "So it's not like the West is thinking that identifying as working is uncool."

    Right, it's that they think orienting one's mind and activity around earning money is uncool. They just work in order to fund their lifestyle, whether that's a red-state or blue-state flavor of out-West lifestyle.

    I'm not sure how the Tea Party sympathy fits in. It was more of a fluke than an enduring phenomenon. It was "against the Establishment" -- but in what way? It never really cohered. So maybe the working class in one region interpreted it one way, and in another region another way. I do remember reading that the Tea Party people were more educated and wealthier than the average American, though -- suggesting it was more of a culture war skirmish than a class-based struggle (culture wars taking place among the well-off).

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good to see Inductivist back at it. The last several years were the nadir of the culture wars, and it's understandable that it'd be too much for some to bear without going nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "people mostly feel satisified when they're focused on a hobby or special interest outside themselves that they find really interesting and involves real effort"

    Psychologists call that "flow". I'm not sure that gets you to "spiritually" satisfied, though -- there are mundane and sacred forms of flow. You can be absorbed in your activity of woodworking, but there's nothing sacred about it. Absorbed in the rituals of worship -- now you're specifically "spiritually" satisfied.

    Most of the research on "flow" ignores two major classes of the phenomenon -- the religious (they do cover meditation, but that isn't distinctly sacred, more of a mind-clearing technique), and the kinesthetic (dancing, sports, etc.).

    But that's what you get when nerds speak for all of mankind.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "It's no secret that family bonds are depressingly weak out West -- even for those who've lived there their whole lives, but especially for those who transplanted themselves out there precisely to avoid having to be tied to their family back wherever they came from."

    What do you consider "family bonds?" The divorce rate in the West is average to low compared to national rates, and quite low in CA, so it can't be that:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/divorce-rate_n_3869624.html

    This is humorous:

    "What made American democracy great is still located back East. We're going to resurrect the American economy and government, even if the decadents out West are too busy getting / giving blowjobs to notice, let alone pitch in. They just need to stay out of our way if they aren't going to get on board."

    While I do enjoy blowjobs as much as the next Westerner, I can't say receiving them gets in the way of earning a living a raising a family. Your willingness to apply monolithic labels on groups of people/geographic regions and then make blanket statements based on such is curious. What is it exactly that "made American democracy great" that exists in the East but not the West?

    ReplyDelete
  16. "What is it exactly that "made American democracy great" that exists in the East but not the West?"

    I can think of four main things:

    1. A productive modern economy (not food, banking, retail, real estate, resource extraction, etc.).

    2. Common sense rather than gullibility.

    3. Family and community rootedness and stability.

    4. Regional accents (stems from 3).

    ReplyDelete

You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."