“Toxic Masculinity” is Propaganda

The term masculinity is supposed to refer to cultural trends within sex that influence behavior, not the actual behavior. Since we live in an incredibly complex and diverse society with many subcultures, trying to define what exactly our society promotes as masculine is ambiguous. What someone would anticipate of my behavior based off of my sex is widely different in various parts of our culture.

This doesn’t even comment on the word toxic. The word toxic should never be used in social sciences. Social sciences should remain descriptive. For example, the Austrian school doesn’t prescribe libertarianism, and it doesn’t say anything is bad or good … it is valueless. Of course, most fans of Austrian economics are libertarians because they like people and they believes libertarianism is good for people based off of their ideas in Austrian economics. However, someone could be a communist tyrant and fully comprehend and believe in Austrian economics … they’d just have to hate people.

The term toxic masculinity is a shit term that is only useable as propaganda. The fact that each word in the term is so rich in content but people don’t tend to define it shows that it is used as propaganda, and the term is being predominantly used by people claiming to be social scientists but are really just propagandists.

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They Miss Economic Concepts and Incentives

I think there is an intuitive criticism of free markets that I have empathy for, but is totally wrong. I find something somewhat sexy about this contention … but I do think it is incredibly myopic.

I like to think I am a good businessman. I think I am uniquely capable at running a pest control company. However, I think many people could learn the knowledge I hold, and many other great businessmen could also run a successful pest control company.

I can observe many other businessmen who hold qualities better served towards the goals I have. I am incredibly proud of what I have built and the results I have earned, but I hold no illusion that there are people who could’ve created more value than I have.

This all being said, I think I have unique abilities in other fields that I am vastly more uniquely skilled in. I am a trained singer. I am a trained instrumentalist. I am a trained conductor. I am a trained teacher. I am a trained director. In fact, Vastly more people can run a pest control company better than me than can run a choir, opera, or musical theater production better than me.

If a person doesn’t understand economics they would think my resources are being inappropriately allocated, but they would be wrong. They miss many economic concepts and incentives that show I should probably be leading a pest control company rather than pursuing music. The main misunderstanding they have is in understanding subjective value. In short, people are willing to pay vastly more for quality pest control than the difference in mediocre choir direction and great choir direction.

People in the arts think this is a misallocation of resources, but that is mere arrogance. The reality is that people don’t find relative values in these artistic skills as these artists think they should.

I think I am a skilled performer, producer and director. In fact, I think I am amazingly skilled in certain arenas that other people aren’t. That beings said … what I am uniquely skilled in isn’t that valuable, and I accept that. Ergo, I will learn skills that I am not quite uniquely talented in, but has vastly higher market demand. People who critique the market cannot accept this because they can’t accept subjective value. People think others ought to change their values.

I think I am a better choir director than I am a pest control businessman. However, I make much more as a businessman because the market forces at work value a good businessman more than a great music director. Even if I am better at one task, I am more valuable to people’s subjective preferences at another.

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Portray a Sense of Confidence

People often feel agitated and uncomfortable in the presence of religious/spiritual people. This is because holding any strong moral ideology infers judgement on behavior and that judgement implicitly means judgement of other people’s behavior. This makes people uncomfortable partially in the same way that overly dramatic people make people uncomfortable … their emotional disposition dictates the underlying tone and culture of the interaction.

While this isn’t how it emotionally works with religious people, the higher moral/ethical/personal standards make it so it strongly affects the behavioral culture within the climates they are involved and people don’t wish to be subject to judgement within an ideology they haven’t subscribed to. Additionally, most people feel various subtle feelings of guilt, confusion and a lack of purpose … the presence of someone who seem to have resolved these issues make them feel incompetent and diminished.

While many religious people intentionally elicit these feelings in others as a means of setting the culture, and attaining power/control/dominance, most probably don’t. Most people have these standards and don’t desire to use it as a weapon to hurt or control (at least in Western society). Sure, they might think your behavior isn’t a good idea, but they have no desire to control you or treat you as an inferior.

If you set a culture of tolerance and portray a sense of purpose, confidence, and a coherent value system, you can often feel very comfortable around religious people. You won’t feel subject to their ideology, and the religious person won’t believe it is appropriate to use their values and beliefs in any way to distort the situation. They will often respect the difference and no one will feel feelings of inferiority/superiority.

I believe our discomforts around people who aren’t malicious often reflect our own perceptions of inadequacy and/or insecurity.

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Teasing, or Being an Asshole?

Teasing is a very delicate and almost odd activity. It can be used as a means of strengthening a relationship and having a good time, but it also is used as a veneer to jerk people around. Sometimes we even think it is one while it is kind of another, and the hardest thing to analyze is when it is truly both at the same time.

When I am in a grumpy mood, I think I am teasing to be playful and fun, but my wife has pointed out that I am less sensitive and poke in subtly jerkier ways. I’ve learned that she is usually right when she points that out, and I stop teasing in that mood.

I’ve heard some people speak out against teasing in general, but I think that is a bad idea. They feel that since it can be used in jerky ways, many people today are highly sensitive, and they don’t perceive the upside to teasing that it is best to get rid of it. Many think that teasing is really just only a desire to treat people poorly disguised as something else. I disagree. Teasing has many beneficial psychological, and social benefits. Like tickling, we poke in sensitive spots while in a safe environment. This can serve to prepare an individual for reality. At the social level it can add fun, spontaneity, better understanding of boundaries, and a myriad of other social benefits.

I think what I am going to teach my kids is that if someone is bothered, you either messed up, or you now know not to do that. When someone gets bothered and you act like they are just being stupid or sensitive, you are usually just using teasing as a means of being an asshole and you are guaranteeing that people won’t look at your teasing as lighthearted fun. It also ceases to be a safe environment for the person when they get insulted when they believe you crossed a line.

Of course, today we live in a world where many people like to advertise their offendedness in order to control others. However, you shouldn’t be teasing these people. Insult them if you please, but don’t label it as teasing. Make offensive jokes, but don’t label that as teasing. These people are your adversary in a social sense, and “teasing” isn’t an appropriate thing in this dynamic.

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False Narratives, Propaganda, and Political Tribalism

In 2013 people rose up around the world to oppose the war in Syria being promoted by Obama, Clinton, Kerry, many European leaders and maybe most obviously, the neocons. Since then, the war slowly squeezed its way into existence anyway gradually though apathy, propaganda, and other bullshit.

I remember back in 2013 thinking that something really cool happened. However, today, you really get to see the full effect of tribalism and propaganda. Many of the people who so vehemently opposed the war in 2013 are so saddened and outrage by our exit. It makes it seem even more Orwellian and crazy for the people who remember the anti-war protests of the Bush years.

I think people believe all these sorts of things are natural conditions of people over time. Protests are the emergence of the people’s true feelings welling up into grassroots political causes. However, the vast majority of it is best understood as false narratives, propaganda, and political tribalism. The anti-war movement died when the democrats took power over the military. The Tea Party died when Republicans took over the budget.

All of this really should make people grow insanely cynical of the political machinations of our society, but, it largely doesn’t. People just buy into the new narrative and fight a new enemy to the benefit of their perceived political ally. Several years ago I grew surprised with how fast a political movement could support a cause, organization or person that they just opposed several years before, but that is worn down for me. I don’t think this will ever really change. This is the state of man. However, it grows and shrinks along with the power of government.

From my perspective, it is a really interesting time to observe it all. Insane levels of debt in society. Markets are slipping back into recession. Donald Trump is President, and it just feels like there’s an air of chaos about. It is interesting to follow the news and it feels like everything is happening so fast.

Anyway, just some thoughts that came to mind.

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The Changes in Culture

I don’t believe in the power of culture as much as most people. I tend to rank it: economics, technology, and then culture in a distant third. I believe the vast majority of the changes in culture are a response to economics and technology.

While I believe that culture is highly responsive to economics and technology, I believe it isn’t nearly as responsive to “movements,” and this makes it so I don’t believe it is very changeable. I think we recognize “renegades” because they are the ones who often seem to trigger the changes in society. However, I think this is only the visible representation of something deeper.

It took a radical change in the economy and radical economic growth to make women a more equivalent economic resource (within the market.) This shift happened gradually from the mid 19th century to today. This shift in economic power naturally meant that social and political customs would accommodate change. We can point to renegades, “movements,” political actions that changed things to a degree, but this is usually just a surface analysis that misses the big picture.

We see the same thing with almost every shift in mankind. Something shifts in technology or in human incentives (economy) to radically shift the balances that previously existed. Then some people, or institutions tilt the scale more towards a new balance and we credit those people and institutions more than the incentives that are really due the credit. In fact, most of these movements were inevitable.

Of course, I could take this analysis way too far. Political changes and individual people have had radical effects over the economic, and migratory effects over a region and this has radically shifted the incentives and culture. I just tend to think people tend to overweigh this phenomenon.

In conclusion … I like a lot of Thaddeus Russell’s analysis. I believe he is right that people who run against tradition trigger many of the changes that occur. However, in the US, entrepreneurship and invention advanced the world in many realms. It has always been visionaries and people who ran against trends that did this. It would be problematic to say that the people in the US are just special, or the root of it was American’s being innovators at their core. The better answer is that the incentives of 19th century US harvested something incredibly unique throughout human history and this has made it so individuals could trigger amazing and interesting things. So, he is right, but I just think people often overvalue individual contributions without acknowledging the underlying trends and forces.

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