May 27, 2013

Why do people trust knockoffs when it's a matter of life and death?

Steve Sailer posts about an article in Fortune that details how an Indian generic drug maker, Ranbaxy, defrauded everyone they dealt with, from American regulators like the FDA to the ultimate users of their drugs. Their drugs were "useless at best," but they didn't mind endangering who knows how many lives as long as they kept getting away with it, laughing all the way to the bank.

In the comments, someone extends this case to include all kinds of other cheap junk made abroad and fobbed off on the American / Western public as quality stuff, such as a washer from GE (foreign) vs. Whirlpool (American).

I don't buy the extension -- if you knew your GE washer was made in China, you already half-expect it to be a typical Made-In-China piece of shit. You feel angry that GE, an American firm, duped you into believing it was American-made, but once you realize it's effectively a foreign knockoff, you start to prepare for the inevitable.

It's not too different from finding out that the Fendi leather purse you bought for your Jersey Shore girlfriend on eBay is just some Canal Street knockoff made in China. Or remember when you were a kid and you were over at a friend's house, ready to pour yourself a bowl of what you thought were Fruit Loops from one of those tupperware-type cereal containers, and your friend advised you that it was actually second-rate Fruit Rings inside? You knew what to expect after learning of their generic status.

In the Ranbaxy case, we didn't think it was a high-profile, reputable, name-brand American firm who was making the drugs. We knew at least that they were a generic manufacturer, though not necessarily suspecting that they were also foreign. The key point is that their status as a mass producer of knockoff products (generic drugs) did not send up any red flags about quality. Indeed, we may have even felt grateful toward them for sticking up for the little guy, giving us the drugs that those fat cats in Big Pharma would never part with for so little money.

We are so angry at name-brand drug makers charging so much money for their products that we are eager for their monopoly phase to end, when the government regulators open the cages on all the Robin Hood generic companies who will pounce on the name-brand company, rip the product right out of their hands, and hand it over to us, the users -- for a small finder's fee, of course, but still way less than what the originators would have charged us.

Our love of Robin Hood type narratives blinds us to the fact that in cases like generic drugs or open-source software, they aren't simply lifting the name-brand goods and selling them to us at a deep discount compared to retail, in the way that a common thief rips off an iPad from the Apple Store to sell for $50 on Craigslist. They're selling us their imitation, their interpretation, their best guess, their took-a-stab-at-it project.

The common thief tries to keep it quiet that he ripped the iPad off from the name-brand store -- uh, I got it as a gift and don't want it. Just don't ask why I'm selling an unwanted gift, unopened and in high demand, for only a measly 20% of retail rather than 50% or 80%. I don't want that extra money because, uh, I just want to get it out of here fast, and a lower price will move it faster. Just don't ask why I'm in such a hurry to get rid of it...

The makers of generic drugs and open-source software, however, boldly preen before an assembled audience about skillfully ripping off the name-brand products, more or less, and passing them on so cheaply to average consumers. You can't score Robin Hood status points without proclaiming that you're robbing from the rich.

That narrative hits such a primitive pleasure button -- the adrenaline rush from seeing a noble underdog dethrone a corrupt Establishment figurehead -- that it short-circuits the parts of our brain responsible for checking the provenance of stuff that seems to be too good to be true, and that's being peddled by some unctuous salesman who seems overly eager to get them into our hands.

Sure, in the back of our minds, we know that a generic drug or Open Office can't be fully as good as the original, but it's so cheap -- and a tiny amount of quality dilution is worth it, just to fuck those price-gougers up the ass and boycott their overhyped products.

But boycotting is not the same as patronizing their competitors. Once you go down the latter path, you open yourself up to being preyed on by the competitors -- they know that you're so blinded by rage to stick it to the Establishment, that you'll buy whatever shit they peddle. They'll goad you on by shouting how smart you are to have lifted the veil of name-brand fetishism -- Step Right Up, ladies and gentlemen! And take your best shot against those fat cats we've rounded up and trapped in the dunk tank! Only $10 a pop! Go ahead -- you know you've been waiting your entire life to stick it to 'em!

Carnival hucksters could probably get ordinary people to shoot their own children between the eyes, as long as their faces were covered with burlap sacks, and as long as the pitch was about letting your worst enemy have it -- and for only a measly couple-a bucks. Just don't ask how I managed to overpower your worst enemy and serve them up for you on a silver platter, all without you ever asking me to do so. I'm just a justice-oriented kinda guy, y'know -- a modern-day Robin Hood, some might say.

The main alternative idea for this kind of stuff that I've read has to do with us trusting those who are in control of life-and-death parts of the economy because we view those areas as sacred, hence beyond normal market forces, and although plagued by a few bad apples, still presided over by more or less honest folks -- not by used car salesman types, at the very least.

But I don't think that idea captures the full richness of the picture. We don't just trust the generic makers more than we ought to -- we halfway worship them as Robin Hood figures, enlist them on our side to fuck over the big companies who've always been gouging our wallet. And there's a strong undercurrent of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," which is easy to fit into the Robin Hood narrative, but not really into the story about trusting companies that deal with life-and-death matters.

Why don't we behave the same way toward cereal makers, then? Buy Fruit Rings by the barrel-full just to stick it to those fat cats over at Kellogg's who make Fruit Loops? Probably because we don't see the higher price of Fruit Loops as gouging, whereas expensive name-brand drugs jump out as a repeating heavy blow to our wallet. The prediction then is that the more some name-brand product costs, the more willing we are to blindly trust the generic makers who sell an alternative.

"I don't care if the Gucci bag is fake -- I mean, it's good enough, and looks close enough. I'm not gonna, like, let some huge company steal all my money for something that's only a little better."

This airheaded girl doesn't stop to think that maybe her Made-In-China knockoff is made from "leatherette" that's 50% used asbestos, and that's why it's so goddamn cheap. In a world where everyone's so obsessed with Keeping Down Costs, the producers will sell us lemons, and we'll be only too happy to buy them. All we need to do is take a look at life in China to find out how degraded and sub-human that mindset will make us.

May 20, 2013

Gay Peter Pan-isms: No interest in cologne or perfume

I've started to get back into cologne for the first time in awhile, and whether it's browsing through the men's fragrance area in a department store or reading through online forums to get opinions on stuff I can't sample in person, it's striking how minimal the gay presence has been -- like, practically non-existent. Not just on the customer side, but on the store assistant side as well. It's either normal men or women who take care of that part of a department store.

Furthermore, you don't see them in the world of perfume either. That's a woman-only domain, on the customer and service sides alike.

This is in stark contrast to many other areas of apparel, grooming, etc., where if there's a sizable queer presence in your city, you can bet on over half the "men" in H&M being gay during any given visit. Gays also express interest in all kinds of female fashion and beauty -- styling hair, make-up, clothing and accessory design, and so on -- but not in fragrance. They like the idea of playing dress-up because they're infantilized. Somehow fragrance doesn't play so central of a role in dress-up games -- too overpowering.

They just don't like the stuff. Here is a short thread from Yahoo! Answers asking what the best cologne for gay men is. Unlike other questions that ask what your favorite cologne is, which will restrict respondents to those who actually do like to wear it themselves or smell it on others, this more open-ended question allows for more general and less personal answers, like this revealing one from a real-life homosexual:

"In my experience, gay men aren't that into cologne. I've known some who wear it but mostly not."

Looking around the answers of the small minority that is into it, they go for the standard unassertive effervescent stuff that is sold to awkward teenagers in Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc. At a forum for users of "powerhouse" fragrances -- i.e., ones that last long, project far, and smell in some way imposing -- there's no apparent gay presence at all. Looks like metalheads from the '80s are the only detectable over-represented group there, not airheaded faggots.

All of this points to the gay fear of self-assertion, part of their broader syndrome of infantilization. You're too afraid to take up lots of space when you're just a little dork, but that all changes when puberty hits. You start to compete more with other males, and you also want to assert yourself more around girls. The same is true for females: they get more catty and boy-crazy during puberty, and assert themselves more.

Part of that naturally expresses itself as a sudden interest in fragrances, both to wear yourself and to smell on others. They don't bother putting sample strips of cologne or perfume into Highlights magazine, or advertise on Nickelodeon. When I started out as a teenager, it was Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated where you first learned about cologne. I'm sure there was something similar for girls reading Seventeen or whatever to learn about perfume.

Not to mention the rite of passage of going to the cologne / perfume section of the department store and actually getting to sample all of the dozens of scents they had there. Dude, what if we run into some babes at the food court? Better spray on a little Obsession first at Hecht's. You never know...

Gays never felt that normal inclination that both heterosexual guys and girls felt as they matured into adolescents. Sure, some normal people don't find it attractive either, but not across the entire demographic group. The only group that is unequivocally uninterested in and even mildly weirded out by personal fragrances, especially the more assertive ones, are children.

This goes to show that it's not helpful to see gays as hyper-masculine (lol) or as feminized -- which is plausible in some cases, but not all. Females tend to be more juvenile than males in appearance, mindset, and behavior, so many cases will support both the idea that gays are infantilized and that gays are feminized. The crucial cases pit the two against each other, and infantilization always wins.

Most notably, gays have no nurturing or parenting instinct, whether of a mothering or a fathering kind, even when they're well into middle age. Here we see another example where both guys and girls, in their own sex-specific ways, develop an interest in fragrance during adolescence, while gays remain stunted in childhood.

That's true for other aspects of how both normal boys and girls start to change their appearance during adolescence, both to compete against same-sex rivals and to attract mates. Hairstyles get bigger, jewelry begins to accumulate, and designs or patterns get bolder. Gays wear minimal haircuts, don't adorn their bodies, and rarely wear striking patterns like plaid, geometric prints, and so on, only feeling comfortable to go as far as stripes and the odd gingham shirt. Their childish nature keeps them from being very assertive.

May 16, 2013

Wearing short shorts, a field report

Yesterday in a trendoid part of town I saw, for the first time in 20 years, a chick jogging down the street wearing just booty shorts and a bikini top. Not young young, maybe later half of her 20s or early 30s. And by now it's not totally uncommon to see dudes walking around or chillin' with no shirt on -- at least out here in the Mountain states. I assume it's still more stuffy back east.

That told me that the moment has arrived to take things one step beyond and start wearing short shorts. Keep the early momentum going away from the Victorian zeitgeist. Help usher in that Late Victorian / Late Fifties atmosphere where things started shaking up a bit.

I'd planned ahead awhile back and bought the closest thing I could find to short shorts, these swim trunks by H&M in navy (minus the suss-looking belt). As the pictures show, they just look like jogging shorts or tennis shorts from the '70s and '80s. Although made from synthetic materials, they're not really clingy and don't cover a huge area of your body, so they don't make you sweat any more than normal. Not like a polyester leisure suit or whatever.

In fact, aside from being comfortable to wear, they're much more comfortable to walk around in because your legs are free. I haven't worn shorts this short since like 1990, and holy shit, locomotion feels noticeably more natural. Not as though today's shorts feel like burlap sacks, but they do trap some heat and rub against your skin more than they need to (i.e. not at all).

Sitting down, squatting down, and standing up all feel more natural too -- especially when squatting down to look at or pick up things near the ground. That's when longer shorts get pulled more against your legs. None of that feeling with real shorts. There's no "riding up" feeling on the mid-to-upper part of your thigh because there's hardly any material down there to ride up in the first place.

Needless to say, I can't see going back to medium-length shorts anymore, and will get the couple pair that I have hemmed, as well as turn slacks and jeans that I don't wear much into shorter-length cut-offs. If it's good enough for Clark W. Griswold, it's good enough for me.

Ha, I know... I heard you asking it already -- what was everyone else's reaction? You must have looked like a traveller from another planet with your legs showing in public.

For the most part, no strong reaction, visible, audible, or tangible. I noticed chicks checking me out a little more than normal, but nothing out of this world. Then when I was walking through a crosswalk, a car full of teenage or college girls who had to stop for me, let out a fanfare of catcalls -- "Yeah!" "Uh-huh!" "All right, get it!" Typically, even if girls think you're cute, they don't make catcalls unless you're dressed in some striking way, like wearing a suit with a bold pattern. It shows the guy isn't so self-conscious and feels a basic level of comfort with himself, even somewhat daring. In the back of their minds, if they had your baby, it wouldn't grow up to be a total wuss or a wallflower.

I didn't notice any disgusted or creeped-out looks from girls, though there could have been some, just given how prudish the culture has become. Most of them merely noticed a dude walking around with unusually short shorts and it didn't faze them enough to have it show.

As for guys, there was a tiny bit more of a backlash, but only among losers. Some fat black teenager turned around and gave me a mild "WTF?" look on the train, and a wigger or juggalo guy who rode past me on his bike turned around to give me what I assume was a "WTF?" look (he had sunglasses on). Both were wearing dumpy trashbag shorts themselves, so I took their reaction as a good sign.

Oh, and there was a sexually frustrated chump in that car full of girls, and he tried to yell something at me but got cut off or shut down by one or more of them. I couldn't hear exactly, but the tone was of a generic insult. The girls said something like, "Pssh, please" or "Oh, hell no" to rebuff his attempted cut-down. You can't try to slam a guy who is too much higher up on the attractiveness scale because it comes off so obviously desperate and pathetic, and by calling attention to the contrast or gap between you two, makes your own ugliness / dorkiness more palpable.

Overall, though, again the reactions were nothing noticeable from guys. I was hoping for one or two reactions like shouting out, "You cannot be serious!" in a John McEnroe voice, but I guess it's good enough that I didn't hear anything like, "The '80s are dead, faggot!"

It's weird, I didn't even notice the queers looking over or stalking me around any more than usual. That's what I was the most afraid of -- a whole gaggle of them flocking over and ejaculating their lisping, buzzing voices all over the room. Really dodged a bullet there.

So if you're the easy-going, no self-consciousness type, I say give 'em a try. You'll be surprised by how little people will react to them, and by how comfortable they feel to walk around in. It seems like people's reaction was mostly on an informational rather than an emotional level -- noting an occurrence, and ever so slightly updating their expectations of the world to be in a more informal and carefree direction than they'd believed earlier.

May 13, 2013

Children of helicopter parenting grow up gullible and naive

You can't help but be struck by how credulous young people are today. No single instances come to mind for me to showcase as examples, but taking so much of what they read at face value, and not questioning the reliability of sources.

In particular, within the naturalistic / mundane / profane / materialistic realm of things -- I'm not talking about belief in things that we can't investigate so easily, such as Santa Claus or the nature or existence of God. And also not narratives that are part of oral tale-telling -- they don't do that anymore either. Factoids, party line talking points, things like that are what I have in mind. Not necessarily ideological either; I'm amazed by what kinds of shit you can make up to little kids today and they'll believe it right away (not that I have, but I hear stories about my nephew, or about people's kids who grew up in the '90s).

Like buying into Citizen Kane and Sgt. Pepper's as among the greatest movies and albums just because some authority figure told them so, when both are mediocre though not unlikable. Zipping over to Wikipedia and being 90% certain that they've heard the final word on whatever they're looking up. They read something on Slate or the HuffPo, and no mass media outlet would lie or distort the picture, would they? How ironic for a generation that considers themselves to be sophisticated skeptics.

So, that interacts with their glib, superficial, spastic tendencies as well, but there's another part that is credulity, gullibility, and naivete.

I think this stems from being cut off from non-family members when they were growing up in the '90s and 2000s. Hamilton's Rule says you should believe your close kin a lot more than genetic strangers, because they have far less to gain by lying to you. Your loss is partly their loss, too, after all.

Only by being raised by peers and unrelated adults -- by the broader community -- does a growing child learn, often the hard way (the only way), to take things that others say with a grain of salt. Does anyone who was a kid in the '60s, '70s, or '80s remember how often you used to flat-out deny whatever your friends were claiming. Oh yeah right! Nuh-uhhh, nuh-uhhh! Psssh, please!

You weren't so confrontational toward unrelated adults who told you things, but you still learned that from all kinds of different opinions that you were exposed to, there was apparently some honest disagreement, so don't just swallow what any particular one of them tried to feed you. And on the other hand, if they all seemed to say the same thing, that was robust independent confirmation -- for example, that "life isn't always fair." (Damn right. Something Millennials never learned...)

My guess is that since the '90s the only steady, reliable source of this stimulation to growth has come from sibling rivalry. Again, even that is pretty weak, given Hamilton's Rule. No substitute for interacting with a broad range of others, and learning from those experiences. Male and female, young and old, poor and rich, outcast and popular. We actually learned quite a bit about what makes people tick back in the good old days.

These dynamics probably also explain the similar traits of the Silent Generation when they were young in the mid-century, the previous heyday of helicopter parenting and social isolation. I'm not sure whether they also had the glib, superficial, bratty thing going on too -- I'd have to check into it to see what people said about young people back then. My vague impression is that while they were credulous and naive, they weren't so glib and dismissive. That may be more related to trends in economic inequality, which would create more individual vs. individual antagonism, all else being equal.

That's one major thing to keep in mind that I don't think I've stressed before -- that because economic cycles and social-cultural cycles are distinct, you don't always see the exact same picture across all rising-crime or falling-crime periods, even though the trend in the crime rate is the stronger force. I'd say the Millennial era is actually closer to the Gilded Age -- falling crime and violence after the American Gothic / Civil War period, but also plagued by widening inequality, Robber Barons, rampant immigration, and so on. People did seem a lot more snarky and show-off-y back then, compared to the mid-20th century.

And of the two dominant revival styles today, I'd say overall the neo-Victorian one is stronger than the neo-Fifties one. Especially with how dark, drab, and covered-up everyone is today, across all demographic groups. Anyway, I'm getting into another post here, but I may come back to this topic soon.

May 12, 2013

The gay haircut fetish

Earlier I threw out the question of why gays are so against long or even medium-length hair, both as the way to wear their own hair as well as what they find attractive in others.

Since the major source of their disorder is being psychologically and even physically stunted in childhood, I figured their obsession with short hair -- permitting no room for variety -- was linked to children having much shorter hair than adolescents or adults. It's part of their way of cultivating and treasuring a childlike way of life.

But the second major source of their disorder is an addictive personality. Perhaps obsessing over hair length, compulsively getting it cut -- not just frequently, but having detailed / high-maintenance instructions, checklists that must be completed or else they're going to melt down... is just another one of their mild-to-severe addictions and fetishes.

Here is a blog called The Psychology of the Haircut Fetish, which only has one post. I won't bother quoting it since it's not very long, but basically a queer with a haircut fetish himself asked some therapists to read through a couple relevant online forums. The guys are gay, and they all share a fear of emasculation. In their minds, short hair = masculine, so "I must always have short hair, or else everybody will think I'm a sissy." Too late for that -- you're going to need major vocal chord surgery to fool anyone who isn't a total retard.

This fetish angle seems to make more sense than the infantilization angle, in this case anyway. Little boys do have shorter hair and feel weird growing it long, but they're not all OCD about bugging their parents to take them to get it cut every two weeks. Faggy fastidiousness is more addictive/compulsive than infantile. And of course it doesn't stop with the hair on their head -- they have an addiction/fetish to shaving off body hair in general.

Unfortunately I have to see or be around faggots every day in this city, and now that I think about it, they do play around with their scalp in that quick, jerky, fetishistic kind of way. You never see normal men running their fingers through their hair unless it's medium or long, and even then it's a slow show-off kind of motion.

But then queers have nothing to run their fingers through, and it's faster and more nervous or frenetic. It's more like rubbing or stroking the skin of their scalp to feel a little rush, not to show off their flowing locks to the babes or to functionally get their messed-up hair in a neater order. It doesn't matter if they're mostly bald and the remainder is buzzed -- they still play around with their scalp.

Through a google image search for "gay hair," I found this guy's profile that shows an animated gif of him playing with his short hair. Again, not fixing it, not showing off its length (it's short on top and buzzed on the sides), but using it as another outlet for public masturbation.

Christ, now it's going to be even sicker when I see them doing it. Just knowing that it's not some generic spastic tendency, but their socially acceptable way of beginning a jerk-off sensation in public once they see some guy whose butthole they want to lick out. Sorry if that offends you, but why bother trying to whitewash their rotten nature?

May 8, 2013

The Social Darwinist roots of Chinese mediocrity and amorality

Yeah, we know -- the Chinese have a higher average IQ and lower propensity toward violence than blacks or Hispanics. Real high standard to hold the non-whites to -- are you more tolerable as neighbors than the average black/Hispanic.

East Asian mediocrity looks like a puzzle, then, given their higher test scores. And while most people wouldn't come right out and say it, they think that being smarter makes you more morally sensitive and perhaps more moral in conduct as well. So Asian amorality presents another puzzle.

Earlier I suggested that the relative lack of disgust in Asians is the main factor behind their amoral nature. They don't get as easily grossed out by a range of gross things as Western people would. And throughout human evolution, disgust has gotten put to new use in the moral domain -- we refer to something as "morally repugnant," we make a disgusted face and shrink back when we hear about something puzzlingly immoral, and our entire concept of a hypocrite or a traitor seems to be derived from disgust -- ingesting something you had believed to be healthy, but was actually poisoned.

I don't think I've ever had a big theory about why Asians don't accomplish as much as their brains would suggest.

But after reading Ron Unz's article about the Social Darwinist pressures that shaped the Chinese population, in particular the grinding meritocracy, the two puzzles make more sense.

Basically, everything bad you could imagine was constantly nipping at the heels of the average Chinese -- famine, downward mobility, epidemic disease, and so on. Worse than in Europe, where folks were more spread out, sparing themselves the nastiest effects of insectoid hive living. And social mobility was based on meritocratic principles, rather than strictly inherited rank / caste, or joining an upstart armed faction that hoped to dethrone the established faction by force (life has been more peaceful in China for awhile now).

The constant rising and falling of an individual's social status meant that he could not consider any set of tasks to be beneath him -- whatever it took to get through the here and now, and perhaps save up for later, he had to take. Work as a farm laborer one week, rent himself out as a soldier the next, use his new wealth to open a shop and supervise laborers, and then work as a laborer for some other merchant once he went under himself, and so on. Nothing could be felt to be out of bounds.

Unz says that this would have selected for more hardy people even among the brainy -- they would only get to profit from their brains some of the time, and would have to do manual labor the rest of the time. They had no niche to continually colonize, as the Ashkenazi Jews did with white collar finance jobs. That sounds true enough to me. Your typical elite Jew is pretty pathetic with around-the-house kind of stuff, while the Chinese might know something about drywall, planting shrubs, fixing leaks, and so on.

So, there we have the explanation for Asian mediocrity -- they never had a brainy niche to thrive in full-time, and instead were selected to be a Jack-of-all-trades.

That would also seem to explain the relative disappearance of disgust in Asians (at least the Chinese). If nothing could be felt to be out of bounds, what happens if your next set of tasks is disgusting, either viscerally or figuratively? And what happens when you find yourself in such a cheek-by-jowl environment, surrounded by sick and dirty neighbors? These aspects of the Chinese ecology would select for folks with a dialed-down sense of disgust.

This is important to keep in mind any time you hear about how the Chinese are going to best the Americans or Westerners in some area because we are too timid, while they plow ahead. It may be true in some limited range of cases, namely those where political correctness ties the hands of Western researchers or other actors. In all other areas, we're still going to come out ahead.

Even in the domains under PC quarantine, we shouldn't confuse ourselves about what path the Chinese (or whoever) will take. We like to romanticize those who are doing what we are too weak to do. But the Chinese are not iconoclasts -- not daring, not bold, and not anti-authoritarian. They are not the schoolyard rebel who goes where the teachers have told him not to, just because he likes acting recklessly and putting would-be authorities in their place by disobeying them.

Rather, they are more like the autistic children who wander out beyond the prescribed boundaries because they've tuned out other people's demands on their behavior in the first place.

I'll be glad if they do work in fields that are out-of-bounds in the West, but I'm also realistic about the broader prospects for cutting-edge Asian science, whether hard or soft. Iconoclasts have struck a nerve, and so that's a sign that there's really something there to extract. Asians are more blind wanderers than iconoclasts, so in addition to getting some work done where we could not, they're going to waste far much more time, money, and effort in other pursuits. The schoolyard rebel must know where a truly enjoyable place is, whereas the autistic kid may stray over there for awhile, but will also spend most of his time in boring places.

The lack of passion that characterizes autistics also means that we shouldn't expect a whole lot to get done even when the Chinese do hit upon a profitable spot to dig. They'll dig, and dig a little more, and then that'll be it. Their mindset seems to have been selected to not count too much on one narrow range of tasks to make a living from, hence no obsessive single-mindedness. While they may be driven to succeed in some general sense, like how much wealth they own, they don't seem ambitious to rise to the top of any particular domain of life. Whatever will boost their status this week, they'll do it.

To conclude, the main contrast is with Ashkenazi Jews. They had a narrow specialized set of tasks that served as selection pressures. They are more single-minded and driven to make it in whatever they set their minds to in early adulthood, and no matter how weird the domain may seem, their goal is to be #1.

To take a random example, Lloyd Kaufman, the co-founder of Troma Entertainment, has obsessed over how to be the best of low-budget horror / sleaze / farce movies in the world of home video. It's not Harvard Medical, Stanford Law, etc., but he's going to be #1 at something. And he graduated from Yale, so he could've tried to go that route if he'd wanted to. I assume he also had plenty of nagging from his Jewish mother to do something more respectable.

If he'd been Chinese, he might've wandered into making movies like The Toxic Avenger, but probably wouldn't have felt it was his calling in life. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard an Asian talk about what they felt their "calling" was, what they "were meant to be" in life, and so on. Meh, maybe this, maybe that, I don't mind doing whatever. I'm sure his tiger mother would push him toward the same professional careers that the Jewish mother would, but he's going to be more acquiescent since he doesn't feel a strong inner drive toward a specific goal in the first place.

May 1, 2013

Amphetamines on campus -- an initial pushback?

Here is an NYT article about a handful of colleges that have begun to tighten the rules for their health centers in dispensing Adderall and other amphetamines. Who knows if it'll catch on more broadly, but it sounds like we're near the point where, although amphetamine use will continue to increase, it'll be at a decelerating or plateau-ing rate.

Earlier I reviewed the history of mainstream drug use over the 20th century, which tracks the rising vs. falling-crime trend. Casual drug use was way worse during the mid-century because amphetamines, barbiturates, and minor tranquilizers were protected by a fig leaf of medical necessity -- to squeeze out the volatility of everyday life, to keep everybody's nerves within a narrow optimal range, neither too high-strung nor too sluggish. We've seen that return in the last 20 years with anti-depressants, the amphetamine revival, and sex-life drugs.

The harsher effects of opiates (the drug of choice during the Jazz Age) and crack / cocaine (during the New Wave Age) makes it harder to slap together a medical rationale for their use. Hence when the drug culture centers around out-there drugs, it becomes more of a fringe thing, not where every other housewife is hoovering a line here and a line there to make it through her daily housework. People become more wary of drug use. And rising-crime times see less cocooning and more social connectedness, reducing people's feeling that they need to take a pill in order to feel better. They already feel better from their sense of belonging and social support.

The transition between the mid-century attitude of "take whatever drugs get you through the day" to the New Wave Age attitude of "I don't know, that's some pretty serious shit you're fucking around with there" began in the late 1950s and early '60s. There was a growing awareness that casual drug use, no matter how medically rationalized, was messing up their ability to live a fully human and dynamic life. We're not quite there yet, since there's only a handful of colleges starting to push back, not a broader movement among the users themselves. But in the next 5-10 years, I see a repeat of that awakening circa 1960 against casual drug use.

The article doesn't draw a very rich portrait of the students, but the basic pattern is there to recognize if you've had much contact with college kids in the past 5-10 years. Fundamentally, Millennials are amoral bullshit artists who lie for boring, trivial reasons. It's not the mischievous prankster kind of truth-bending, or the kind that advances Machiavellian ambition. There's no larger scheme behind their lies, and hence no attempt to justify or rationalize lying per se as actually moral when you think about it, e.g. to protect someone else's feelings. They rationalize their individual actions, not the entire pattern of chronic lying.

They're only looking to minimize the volatility in their mundane daily lives, and whatever it takes, it takes. If you're feeling sluggish, lie to some quack who'll give you Adderall. If your cash flow takes a sudden dip, lie to some quack so you can re-sell your Adderall pills for $5-10 apiece. If you've been putting off your three-page paper, and face a sudden huge demand of your time and effort, well screw that, just BS your way through it. If you're caught doing anything that makes you look bad, just BS your way out of it. More than any other generation, the Millennials act according to the credo of "Just BS your way out of it."