Current Reads – July

I’m using a planner again!

The COVID hair continues.

Not only that but I’m actually forcing myself to get everything in it done every day before I go to sleep. That’s the part that’s actually difficult. I can write to-do lists all day; there’s no end of plans in the works. So, one of the things I put in my planner every day is to write for ten or fifteen minutes. Once I get that down I might increase it to something more substantial but it’s enough time to feel like I’ve done something. It may translate into more frequent posts.

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I was struck by the idea that if I can’t talk about what my opinions currently are (because I don’t know), I can write about what I’m doing to learn about the topics that interest me!

Thus, here is the first of what I hope to be a monthly series (just shot myself in the foot by writing that) on my current reads. I’ve been interested in politics and economics for the last month or so and my list will reflect that heavily. My apologies to those of you who loathe politics! I’m not completely insane though, so I do have some books I’m reading purely for enjoyment.

One final note: none of the links I provide here are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books, I won’t see a cent and I’m okay with that.

The Populist’s Guide to 2020
Krystal Ball & Saagar Enjeti

The Populist's Guide to 2020.

I was introduced to these two through Joe Rogan’s Podcast, which I highly recommend to any and all people. He has a very wide range of guests covering every topic imaginable. There’s something there for everybody. Anyway… Ball and Enjeti are the hosts of a political show called Rising which seeks to be an actually honest place where you get both left-ish and right-ish perspectives on current events. It’s not unbiased- nothing is. It’s more digestible though because they’re not cramming hatred and fear down your throat for an hour.

The book reflects their personal views in that both the liberal and conservative movements in America have completely failed and need to be done away with. I’ve just begun reading it so I’m not going to try to give it more of a synopsis than that. People like Ball and Enjeti are part of the complex system of stimuli that snapped me out of my ultra-left, Trump needs to go to prison haze and let me accept that some1 conservatives are actually human beings that I can have conversations with that don’t end in bloodshed.

Buy the book here.

The Myth of Mental Illness
Thomas Szasz

I believe I’ve written about this book before but I just haven’t been reading that much over the last few months until now. It’s an old book (1974) so some of its ideas may have been updated or outright replaced by newer ideas (although depending on who you ask, some of the newer ideas in psychology are outright bullshit) but, in general, the idea behind it resonated with me.

Szasz basic premise is that psychiatry is far too quick to label every discovered divergence in human behavior to an illness, whether for financial resources that are available to new studies or to reinforce particular ideologies. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness and now homophobia is starting to be labeled as a mental illness. Are either of those beliefs true? It’s objectively impossible to know in today’s scientific climate.

I’ve always felt (important to note here that a feeling is different than a belief) that we were far too quick to assign labels to phenomena in an effort to make somebody a victim and thus in a certain class of people to whom no questions can be raised lest you be an oppressor. This book seems to support that feeling but I’ve of course read others such as The Blueprint which tend toward the opposite belief, that everything we do, say, and become is genetic and free will is a comfortable quilt sewn with lies (Sam Harris applauds wildly).

Buy the book here.

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky

After the harrowing journey I undertook while reading Crime & Punishment, one would be justified in asking why the hell I would ever read another Dostoevsky book.

I hear this one is better.

There’s more emotion driving it so far and far less chapters-long wrangling over socialism and capitalism.2 I have a long way to go in this book and to be perfectly honest I only bought it because it’s green and I needed it as a decoration that would fit the color scheme of one of my shelves. Take that, literature!

Buy it here. (not the exact copy I have but I can’t be arsed to search that hard)

And so…

I’ve purchased more books this month but as I’ve yet to actually begin reading them, I’d feel a little pretentious attempting to talk about them. If you have any recommendations, feel free to mention them in the comments below! I’ll read anything once, which I think I’ve made obvious.

1 Don’t get me wrong there are just as many batshit insane Republicans as there are batshit insane Democrats out there.
2 If you’re wondering, I’m an ardent capitalist but I see the value in socialism… I simply think that if you actually propose socialism as a valid framework for economic and social policy, you haven’t had nearly enough experience with other human beings.

Unwarranted Anxiety

Yesterday’s post on Jordan Peterson was an experiment on my part to see what would happen if I posted an opinion, unedited and written in a stream-of-consciousness. I have a great deal of anxiety around expressing myself due to experiences I’ve had in the past (isn’t everything due to those?) and I’m pushing myself to get past that. One of the problems with that post was that I wrote it and published it without even glancing over it or thinking about what I had written.

There was an immediate and heavy feeling of anxiety right away that persisted throughout the day. Although all of the comments, even those disagreeing with me, were polite and constructive, I got a pang of stress and terror every time I was notified of a new comment. I was sure someone was going to viciously attack me for daring to express myself openly. Perhaps if I had more followers and didn’t write more of my own story that would happen. Fortunately, it didn’t. I won’t say that this experience suddenly cured me of my fear but it does mean I’ll probably be more opinionated in the future to push myself.

Could I have researched my position more? Yes, and I have since I published the post in question. The problem is that many of the things I talked about are more or less subjective and allegorical. I’m in college and have access to a university library so I spent a solid hour yesterday looking for peer-reviewed journal articles on both the gender gap and white privilege but found more-or less nothing useful. To be fair, I can’t find the information that Jordan Peterson himself cites so I really have no clue what to believe on any of those issues.

That’s okay, of course. It’s perfectly fine to not know things or to be incorrect. Specifically in America, we have an obsession with being right or “winning” arguments which is completely stupid. All it leads to is people who won’t listen to any new information because it would invalidate how they’ve lived their lives. Take the Flat Earther’s for example: if they accepted that even one of the things they believed have been proven to be false, their entire belief system would collapse upon itself like a house of cards. I strive to be better than that, although I’m not always successful. Sometimes you have to take a position on something with the only information that you have.

My Thoughts on Prof. Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson, Clinical Psychologist and Professor

Calling Jordan Peterson controversial is redundant; it’s like saying human beings require air to breathe. Everybody familiar with him knows this. As a liberal myself, I am entrenched in groups of people who call him everything from a misogynist to a Nazi and I, ashamedly believed all of this to be true for a time.

What I am learning as I not only age but as my brain continues to rebuild itself after decades of alcohol abuse, is that whenever a mob of people loudly proclaim something about a person, the opposite is generally true. Not only is Jordan Peterson neither a misogynist or a Nazi but I find him to be quite rational and correct about much of what he says. That said there are still a few things that I disagree with him on, which makes sense as I am of the belief that nobody is ever one-hundred-percent correct. It’s just not humanly possible to be that unbiased.

On Prejudice

Peterson’s opinion on prejudice is that everybody has prejudices; it’s part of being human. I wholeheartedly agree with this notion. It’s like yin and yang… if you don’t have prejudices against certain things then you can’t like other things. He is criticized by those on the far-left for saying that not wanting to have sex with transgender people is a prejudice that is perfectly rational and normal. Of course this is correct. If we were to not have prejudice in our sexual partners then every man and woman would have sex with anyone who approached them. That is a preposterous idea.

On Patriarchal Tyranny

“The Patriarchy” is a hot topic among my female friends and colleagues and has been for a number of years. If you aren’t familiar, the idea is that men rule the world and have an unfair advantage and have also been oppressing women for all of human history. All men. In my mind this is similar to the radical feminist idea that all men are rapists by nature. Peterson argues that while it is certainly true that a handful of men (and women) have controlled the course of human civilization, lumping every man who has ever lived into this category is an atrocity. The vast majority of men were oppressed right along side their female counterparts and actively worked to alleviate this oppression. Peterson also argues that income disparity among men and women is because many women prefer jobs that pay less than the jobs men prefer. He states that men are interested in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) whereas women are interested in fields that concern caring for other people (teaching, nursing, etc.) It is true that the STEM field will always pay more than these other careers because of the amount of education required and the fact that they are infinitely scaleable whereas there is only so much a nurse or teacher can do. Peterson isn’t saying that all women prefer jobs oriented toward other people, but the vast majority do and when you’re speaking of salary statistics this is relevant. I am unsure of my opinion on this point currently but he provides some food for thought.

On White Privilege

Jordan Peterson and I diverge on his opinion of white privilege (that it is a myth) as I have studied the subject rather thoroughly and have found it to be a verifiable syndrome. Peterson mainly attacks the income disparity aspect which I think he is also wrong on but for me the primary evidence for white privilege is how often minorities are targeted by police and how often they are incarcerated for crimes that white people are let off of with a slap on the wrist. This is so provable and well documented that I don’t know how anybody could deny it without having an agenda.

What Does Attract me to Jordan Peterson

Is that he preaches radical responsibility which is a movement that is becoming increasingly popular and I think has the opportunity to correct a lot of issues with societies around the world. The idea that you are responsible for how you react to everything that happens to you is a slap in the face to the far-left victim culture that has sprung up in the last decade. He has an extremely positive message, particularly for young men but also for women, on how life should be lived and what the causes of depression and mental illness are. As a clinical psychologist a lot of his theories are backed up by a mountain of scientific evidence which gives me the confidence to act upon them. Basically, we should be constantly on the threshold between pushing ourselves too far and relaxing so that we are always growing. Be responsible for yourself, your family, and your community in a positive way that fosters growth and education, and don’t be afraid to tell other people that you appreciate them and that they’re doing the right thing. People need to be affirmed by others on a very basic level and people just don’t do that for each other. I try to do it with my coworkers by telling thanking them for their work or telling them that they’ve done well today (even if I am sometimes stretching the truth!) and hopefully some day I’ll rebuild some friendships to do that in as well.

If I haven’t turned you off several paragraphs ago, just keep in mind that we (many of us, anyway) do live in a society that values free speech. Although I am very liberal I recognize that there is a far-left element that hates free speech and does its best to silence people. This is against the very foundations of Western Democracy and must be opposed whenever possible. Thanks for reading.