Re: Travel

1

Aw, come on. "Oedipus on a pale horse" is hilarious, but I think the fact that otherwise non-novel-writing people suddenly want to write novels after they travel, is a uniquely american thing rather than a swipple thing. That's because: 1) america has a rich literary tradition of writers who self-expatriated, so it seems like the thing to do, 2) america is weird in that you have huge numbers of people who can afford to travel, but don't, so doing it makes you think you're special or something, which is related to 3) growing up in the us, you're sold this bill of goods about how america is the greatest country ever, and everything you could ever need or want is here, and when that house of cards falls down, it's a kindof profound thing the sort of which makes you want to write a novel.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:51 AM
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I don't know how long Sean Paul Kelley has been at it.

I also am not sure how long it would be best to stay in one location. SPK spent around two weeks in Indonesia (Lake Toba) and maybe the same in Turkey.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:52 AM
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The thing swipples like best of all is the knowing eyeroll in the direction of fellow swipples whenever they run across a parvenu.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:56 AM
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I guess This is SPK at the beginning, in September.

I don't travel anymore. I learned that everything that is human is alien to me, and I can feel like a stranger in a strange land in my own backyard.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:00 AM
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3: damn straight.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:10 AM
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I just had all my wisdom teeth out, so I'm cranky.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:13 AM
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6: Oof -- they do that to grown ups? I still have all mine and had hoped that meant I had aged out of needing to get them pulled.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:14 AM
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7: It turns out that in America, they certainly do. Swipples love dental work. Ow.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:25 AM
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I just had all my wisdom teeth out am awake, so I'm cranky.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:26 AM
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Oof -- they do that to grown ups?

They checked mine to see if they were likely to move before I had surgery which would make taking them out more tricky. I was 43.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:27 AM
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I really resent the assumption that if you aren't doing something that makes money, you are wasting your time. The people who tell travelers "to get a job" are the same ones who tell you that you have "too much time on your hands" if you do something different or weird or creative. You made up a language for a fictional race of space aliens? You built a model battleship out of old six pack holders? You bake all your own bread? You have too much time on your hands. Pshaw.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:28 AM
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8: oh that's right, you came from the United Kingdom, with UK teeth, to the US, the land of dental fetishists. I'm surprised Immigration didn't force you to get dentures.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:30 AM
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sorry gonerill, that sucks. I had all 4 impacted wisdom teeth cut out at once, too, and I regretted it madly. doing it in stages would be better, I think. hopefully they gave you percodan and you can wash them down with a little bourbon and forget the whole thing. except for spitting nauseating blood.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:31 AM
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Awww, poor Gonerill.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:37 AM
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you came from the United Kingdom

Oh insult me as well, why don't you.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:44 AM
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15: Aw, Gonerill beat me to it. As is just, but hey.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:46 AM
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Oh, shit. My bad.

I should start keeping files with all the basic facts about everyone, so I don't make these sorts of mistakes.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:49 AM
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America is a huge island-- many intelligent people here don't travel b/c there's so much here and anywhere but Mexico is far. It's unkind to laugh at first-time travelers, I think.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:50 AM
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Well, my swipple dentist cut away some of the gum around my wisdom teeth (because they were recessed -- this is called an operculectomy!) and said folks should keep them if they can. Other dentists since have been like, "Oh, you have them? Really?" and have eyed them greedily, but none yet has suggested yanking them.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:50 AM
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I had a wisdom tooth out a few weeks ago and I'm 41. It was a big bugger, too.
I like this comment:

Then you go back to your own country and you still feel lonely, because you find you have little in common with anyone except other travelers. That's why you decide to go away again.

Than you go home, and you cry and you want to die.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:51 AM
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Do you think that Americans are substituting "travel" for the more meaningful experience (which I have not had) of actually living somewhere abroad for an extended stretch?

Also, I judge people by the yardstick of one good friend of mine, who works extremely hard to learn the language in each new place she lives. For the first month or two, she keeps index cards with her, engages everyone she can in conversation, and writes down every word she doesn't know on the cards. Then each night she spends a couple hours memorizing the cards. Within a few months, she can get around in Kiswahilli or Urdu or whatever, and everyone congratulates her on how naturally she picks up languages. Whatever, she works harder at it than anyone else.

I don't judge people for not working that hard, but I do think it's weird when people make virtually no attempt to learn the language. A friend of mine is doing a postdoc in Norway and after a year, only knows "hello", "bathroom", etc, and is not taking a class or anything. And that's a somewhat common approach to living abroad.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:01 AM
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Hey, it's a real book.
It is not at all uncommon for Australians to travel for a couple of years. It would need to have been a pretty fucking special trip to expect people to read about it.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:05 AM
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It is not at all uncommon for Australians to travel for a couple of years. It would need to have been a pretty fucking special trip to expect people to read about it.

When I was an undergrad the (already age-old) joke was hearing that some Aussie friend was taking a year off Europe to bum around the University of Melbourne.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:09 AM
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I resemble that remark!


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:10 AM
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I don't know who Gonerill is behind the pseud, but even I knew he was not from the UK!

FWIW, I find 'travellers' [rather than just people who think of themselves as tourists or who live abroad] to generally be insufferable.

re: 21

I don't judge people for not working that hard, but I do think it's weird when people make virtually no attempt to learn the language.

Usually when we go away, even if it's just for a weekend, I usually make the effort to get the basic greetings/thanks/toilet/food/booze/directions set down. It's not hard, and not doing it makes you sound like a tosser.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:12 AM
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25: I'm making coffee now. I'll be better soon.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:20 AM
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21: That way you get to experience the simple joy of being unable to comprehend everyone else's inane small talk.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:24 AM
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The other thing about picking up a couple of words is that it makes it easier getting into those great mime+cognates conversations with locals who don't speak English. I've done that in Italy a couple of times, and it's ridiculously fun -- you can talk to someone for an hour and wander away wondering if he was having the same conversation you were having.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:32 AM
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re: 28

Yes, my father-in-law and I have long conversations, despite not speaking a shared language.*

* I know quite a few Czech words, but don't have the grammatical skills to string together sentences more complicated than (subject noun)-(mime's verb because doesn't know many verbs)-(object noun).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:34 AM
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22: New Zealanders as well, no? I think the way I heard it put was that the number of New Zealanders was substantially higher than the population of New Zealand, because at any given time a quarter of them were wandering between Australia and England.

On working one's way around: I met an English guy in Western China who was on year three of a four-year bicycle trip. He was a steamfitter and boilermaker, and when he ran short of funds he'd fit some pipes and make some boilers or whatever, and be on his way.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:36 AM
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Worrying about how swipple something is seems pretty swipple to me.

I've certainly met people who fit LeBlanc's stereotype in 1, but they're a long way from a majority of Americans I spend time with.

I had my wisdom teeth out 30+ years ago, and am still cranky.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:47 AM
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22: New Zealanders as well, no? I think the way I heard it put was that the number of New Zealanders was substantially higher than the population of New Zealand, because at any given time a quarter of them were wandering between Australia and England.

I think the number people suggest is something like 1 million vs a home population of 4 million, although according to stats nz it is more like 600,000 vs 4 million.

And yeah, an OE is a pretty normal thing, traditionally going to London and mucking around in various alcohol related industries, as it were.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:47 AM
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I shouldn't have included the swipple links, which is distracting people from the amazingness of the NYT comment. he familiarized himself with greece, its culture, mythology and archaeology in 6 months! oedipus on a pale horse! c'mon, people. crank up the gears of bitchery.

also, good night!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:51 AM
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Meanwhile, aren't there some Pacific islands where more than half their populace currently lives in New Zealand?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:51 AM
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I've certainly met people who fit LeBlanc's stereotype in 1, but they're a long way from a majority of Americans I spend time with.

They do make up quite a lot of the Americans I meet, but obviously I live in Europe, and am younger, so I'm much more likely to meet that demographic. Prague is full of them, for example.

Last weekend, in Brussels, I was quite amused by the young American guy asking the bar man in a stentorian voice for 'the most Belgian thing you have'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:52 AM
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"I'm the most Belgian thing you'll ever have!"


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:54 AM
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American guy goes into a bar in Glasgow, says "Give me the most Scottish thing you have." So the bartender punches him in the face.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:59 AM
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And anyone ever meet a German tourist in Italy? Las Vegas? Death Valley?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:03 AM
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re: 37

Heh, my mate N tells a story of taking an American friend of his (from Oxford) up to Glasgow to watch an Old Firm game; takes him in to a well-known bar in the east end of Glasgow which is pretty rough. Before they go in he warns him to not draw too much attention to himself, and to keep fairly quiet. The door opens, they walk in to a room full of small weaselly looking tattoo'd guys.*

American friend, in loud voice: "Jesus, what's the aggregate level of malnutrition in here?"

* there's a certain Glasgwegian demographic that would need minimal make-up to have worked as Orc extras in the LOTR.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:03 AM
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Meanwhile, aren't there some Pacific islands where more than half their populace currently lives in New Zealand?

You mean apart from New Zealand?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:05 AM
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Last bus out of Auckland? Dude, Auckland's bad*, but it isn't that bad, and I'd hardly boast about being able to catch a damn bus there.

It's not like Chch or anything (where the river Avon has a wee bit too much in common with the Ankh, down to the occasional corpse).

(* there's a certain Auckland demographic that needed minimal make-up to work as Orc extras in the LOTR.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:08 AM
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he familiarized himself with greece, its culture, mythology and archaeology in 6 months!
Yeah, that seems like a long time. Only took me a couple of days.
crank up the gears of bitchery
I looked at his site, he seems earnest but not particularly objectionable. No-one's making me read his book. At least it seems better than the 'Year in Provence/Tuscany' I'm-a-smug-shithead-living-abroad-everything-is-so-rustic genre of travel writing.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:08 AM
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The image of Oedipus on horseback seems odd, not least because I think he preceded the stirrup.

The oral surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth had hands of Ricky Jay-esque skill: a needle here, gunmental pincers there, then he walked out without a word, leaving the nurse to display the bloody teeth.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:10 AM
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38: I suspect the seeds of the stereotype is common to affluent tourists rather than any nationality. I'm not sure of the broadening effects of travel. I'd believe it of living somewhere for an extended period of time (Peace corps, working and living, whatever) but a vacation?

I am willing to believe that it's sour grapes on my part (never had the money to go very far, and now the rest of my life and funds will be spent visiting in-laws), but sometimes I think "seriously? you got drunk somewhere you didn't speak the language and took some pictures. why does that make you well-rounded?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:12 AM
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It's the travel equivalent of being Up for a Professorship.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:13 AM
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"seriously? you got drunk somewhere you didn't speak the language and took some pictures. why does that make you well-rounded?"

Is there a strong class element to this sort of thing in the US?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:16 AM
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he familiarized himself with greece, its culture, mythology and archaeology in 6 months!

This seems pretty extensive for the purposes of becoming an informed tourist. Though it seems the commenter may be claiming some sort of greater communion with Greece, past and present, in which case of course it's lame. And yeah, Oedipus on a Pale Horse is a wankerish name for the "extended narrative" (whatever genre that is).

And 31.1 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:18 AM
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re: 44

Americans are definitely more vocal and more public about it. It's that whole puppy-ish enthusiasm thing that is stereotypical of 20-something Americans abroad.* I'd bet there's a certain subset of Americans having a better time than cynical Euro types worrying about being uncool, though.

* it's a stereotype, but not entirely ungrounded in reality, just like the stereotype of a certain subset of Brits as violent drunks is also grounded in reality**

** admittedly a reality that doesn't apply to the majority, but it applies to enough that the stereotype isn't totally unfair.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:19 AM
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it's that whole puppy-ish enthusiasm thing that is stereotypical of 20-something Americans abroad.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:23 AM
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I think "seriously? you got drunk somewhere you didn't speak the language and took some pictures. why does that make you well-rounded?"

This is absolutely true. OTOH, as I've said before, there's an argument for going and looking at Chartres or the Alhambra or the Taj Mahal without giving yourself airs about it. The argument is that they're amazing on a scale that photos just don't convey, and they will blow your fucking mind. Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of places in North America which are equally worth visiting, just that it might not take so much effort.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:27 AM
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re: 50

Yeah. Going places, and seeing stuff. Stuff is great. Other places are great. Adopting airs because of it, as you say, not so great.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:30 AM
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I'm not sure of the broadening effects of travel. I'd believe it of living somewhere for an extended period of time (Peace corps, working and living, whatever) but a vacation?

I think it can have broadening effects to some degree in shorter periods, especially when the traveler is coming from a place of extreme naïveté. My parents, especially my father, have carried with them these little, often banal observations from their limited travel in Europe. In Paris, we could get on the subway and get within a couple of blocks of just about anywhere we wanted to go! In Berlin, cashiers really appreciated correct change, and people didn't go out to eat at restaurants until after 8 o'clock in the evening! Now of course it's problematic if that's the sum total of your impressions of France or Germany. But there's something about realizing that things are different in other places that has been really important for them, I think.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:31 AM
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The argument is that they're amazing on a scale that photos just don't convey, and they will blow your fucking mind. Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of places in North America which are equally worth visiting, just that it might not take so much effort.

Absolutely. It's the airs, rather than the travel, that's the problem. If I were to take a two-week trip to Texas, eat some brisket, drink some beer, tour the Alamo and come back waxing about how I now understood the Texan culture, that would sound nuts.

Seeing awesome things because they're awesome is awesome.

45: bless you and your departed teeth.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:36 AM
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38:Met a young fraulein hanging on a beach just north of Santa Cruz once. She had a tent (winds) and was always naked during the day. I tried conversation and she politely sent me away.

After that I just kept an eye on her from a distance. She left after about a week. I stayed longer.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:36 AM
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49 nails it. My apartment currently has 4 mid-20s Americans, and the best description of it would be puppies with an allowance. That this does not change when I'm overseas should be a display of authenticity, not naivete.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:37 AM
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growing up in the us, you're sold this bill of goods about how america is the greatest country ever, and everything you could ever need or want is here

This bears repeating. I'm as snarky as anybody about the SWPL travel worship in the U.S. I really do run across a fair number of people who tell me their greatest joy in life is "travel", and I always think -- if your top priority is getting away from where you live and what you do every day, what does that say about your normal everyday life? But America is so provincial, and at the same time so active in the world, that it's really valuable for Americans to get as much broadening as possible. So many standard American pieties about the world and our role in it are such transparent BS, they melt away upon exposure to how other people see the world.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:38 AM
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And anyone ever meet a German tourist in Italy? Las Vegas? Death Valley?

Huh? Germans are everywhere.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:40 AM
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re: 57

Advance parties, I tell you. Erskine Childers had it right ..


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:42 AM
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||

Sorry about the cricket, ttaM.

|>


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:43 AM
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52: I suspect it depends on the person. I know a handful whose experiences of abroad ended up reinforcing the belief that everything the U.S. did must be better.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:44 AM
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OTOH, as I've said before, there's an argument for going and looking at Chartres or the Alhambra or the Taj Mahal without giving yourself airs about it.

There is something to be learned from the experience, for those that can learn, or there is not. Learning is in some sense improvement, for those who can be improved. I don't understand why this valuable experience should be devalued.

Is it a matter of quantity, al alamedia seems to say? That six months of studying Greece is contemptible dilettantism while 6 years is an achievement? Everybody has both large and lasting achievements and small and transitory ones. Everybody seems to be proud of their experiences and achievements, both sorts, and like to share them with others.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:44 AM
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re: 59

Ah, I suppose the result was a foregone conclusion.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:45 AM
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But there's something about realizing that things are different in other places that has been really important for them, I think.

Blume nails it. That is really valuable, and it doesn't take much to do it.

But the long-term travel thing can definitely play with your head. This comment on the article rang a bell:

A year spent traveling abroad is not really your the experience of a two-week vacation multiplied by 26. You begin to lose track of yourself, you are constantly worried about money, you cannot discuss anything in depth besides traveling, you do not feel at home anywhere. You've made yourself into nothing. Then you go back to your own country and you still feel lonely, because you find you have little in common with anyone except other travelers. That's why you decide to go away again

I've definitely seen that happen to people. ALthough they usually recover, unless they're pretty troubled and don't want roots.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:46 AM
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re: 61

It's a matter of adopting the correct perspective on one's own achievements, large and small. Presenting a small (but real) achievement or instance of personal growth as something others should be impressed by is intensely annoying.

I'm sure all of us are guilty of misrepresenting our achievements to ourselves, or to others, but it is true that the 'traveller' as a genus does seem prone to this.

And re: quantity -- yes, yes it is. And why shouldn't it be? Things that are hard work and take a long time generally are things we consider more of an achievement than things that are easy and don't take long. That's so trivially obvious it's almost not worth pointing out.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:48 AM
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Oedipus on a Pale Horse is such a great name. I don't know what to make of it. He came back and found he had married his mother? He turned into Death? He found that in Greece, the cultural folkways include industrial strength blenders in which to mix metaphors?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:51 AM
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I had my wisdom teeth out when I was a lad even though they were coming in fine. "Better safe than sorry!" Well, it wasn't my money. I did want to have them returned to me after they were taken from my jaw, but, surprisingly, when I came out from the anaesthetic I couldn't quite remember that ambition.

Also, I would like to return to Greece.

A friend of mine in college took the winter quarter off one year and bummed around New Zealand doing odd jobs. Sounded great.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:54 AM
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Probably worth reviewing this thread from February of this year that touched on much of the same territory. (The post was Heebie expressing conflicting feelings about travel.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:56 AM
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53: It wouldn't take two whole weeks to understand Texas culture. The only thing the stereotype leaves out is the tastiness of beef brisket.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:04 AM
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However, one might want to spend a lot of time acquainting oneself with brisket.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:09 AM
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64:alameida was obviously comparing her expertise on Greece to the subject's dabbling

I am unclear:Should I not read Thucydides, not admit I have read Thucydides, or consider ny reading of Thucydides to not have any value to me or others because alameida is a scholar?

I try to avoid sneering at anyone's experience.

The leveraging of knowledge and experience for rents and income is one thing. The leveraging of these things for status, authority, and positional goods is quite another.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:09 AM
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You should read Thucydides because it's great!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:15 AM
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Should I not read Thucydides, not admit I have read Thucydides, or consider nmy reading of Thucydides to not have any value to me or others because alameida is a scholar?

Read Thucydides. If reading him moves you to do so, read up around him. If all that moves you to do so, learn ancient Greek to read him in the original. Each stage has a value that will become apparent to you after you've done it, and may be greater or lesser, to you, depending on your other experiences and priorities.

You are not Alameida (though it would be pretty interesting if you were). Find your own place.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:18 AM
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I have no idea whether the book is any good or not, and it may well be mere dilettantism, but from the "about the book" blurb, it is clear that there is more to it than just "describe my Greek trip after boning up on Greece for six months" (and it provides a likely explanation for the Oedipus reference). Apparently he was a writer of fiction and poetry before and the narrative itself was not published in book form for some time after he returned.

When David Sheppard was 20, he considered a literary life, beginning with an extensive trip to Greece. But a potentially deadly encounter with his father derailed these plans, and instead, Sheppard pursued a thirty-year career in aerospace, on the way marrying and fathering two children. Now, 32 years later, he fulfills his life-long literary dream on a three-month solo odyssey through Greece, a journey that quickly becomes a quest to understand his past. In the process of relating his own life stories to those of ancient Greek myth, Sheppard succeeds in creating his own personal mythology, with the goal of settling a complicated father-son relationship, a divorce from his wife of 18 years, and the disappearance of his only daughter. Can he survive the search within while traveling this ancient land of murder and suicide? Travel with the author through this internal, mythic landscape as he uncovers startling revelations about his own life as a particular case of the human condition.

So:
1) This might not be the perfect example of the phenomenon.
2) The comment section on a NYTimes travel blog is probably not the best forum for not looking toolish when making sweeping claims about the wonders of travel.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:23 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:23 AM
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I am unclear:Should I not read Thucydides, not admit I have read Thucydides, or consider ny reading of Thucydides to not have any value to me or others because alameida is a scholar?

Not at all. Of course it can have value to you and others. One doesn't have to have an inferiority complex about it just because other people are scholars of the subject.

I have an interest in science, some of that is semi-professional, but mostly it's not. I know vastly less than scientific specialists in these areas. That doesn't mean that my reading in the sciences isn't value to me or that it doesn't inform my interactions with other people and, perhaps, have some value for them. It just means that if I was to call myself a physicist, actual physicists would point and laugh and be right to do so.

Similarly, reading great works of Greek antiquity can have great personal value for you, but if you were to make hubristic claims about your understanding of Greek culture, scholars who have spent a great deal more time studying the topic than you would have a right to feel affronted.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:25 AM
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Airs are dumb, pretty much whatever the reason. Only permissible when used as a shield, rather than a sword.

That said, life and work have sent me hither and yon, over the years, and I try to get something out of each little episode of it. And my standard is so low -- a peppercorn will do -- that I nearly always succeed. A day reading about the battle of Verdun before going to be place isn't going to make anyone an expert, but it's better than none at all. And you leave the battlefield richer for it (especially if you help yourself to some of the mirabelle that grow in that part of the country).

No reason to say stupid shit about it, but I'm not convinced that 20 somethings aren't the same in pretty much every area of endeavor. Present company excepted, of course.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:25 AM
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Do you have to have read about Verdun to appreciate the plums?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:27 AM
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Certainly on topic, even if slightly bizarre.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:28 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:28 AM
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68 -- Texas cultures. Amarillo, El Paso, Mineral Wells, Houston, San Antonio. Kerrville and Laredo.

I'm not much for travel reading, but the father of an ObWi commenter wrote a book about canoeing down the Brazos before Granbury filled in, and it's pretty compelling.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:32 AM
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. . . if you like that sort of thing. Do you have to know about a nineteenth century Comanche ambush just around the next bend of the river in order to enjoy paddling by? Of course not.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:37 AM
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78. is appalling. WTF was he thinking?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:41 AM
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And my standard is so low -- a peppercorn will do

This is great. Thanks, Charley.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:52 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:53 AM
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63: Yes. It's the gut realization that things can be different that's important. It changes the way one looks at the world, reads books, sees movies, et al.

For me, immersion in "The Heart of Dixie" was more of a culture shock than a few weeks each in Hong Kong, Bangkok, or the Scandanavian countries ever were.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:53 AM
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||

A squirrel just landed very hard on my deck. Heart beating, still breathing, looks to be dazed. Fetal position, I'd call it. I don't think he's going to make it.

I'm not planning to intervene.

|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:58 AM
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Landed from where?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:59 AM
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Tree branch, I think. Maybe 30 feet up.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:01 AM
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Do you have to have read about Verdun to appreciate the plums?

I'm sympathetic to bob's perspective here. I love travel, though I've never been able to afford to engage in much of it; when it does happen, I hope to see clearly without importing my own preconceptions, and without offending the local population. I assume alameida is objecting to what she perceives to be a claim to knowledge by the travel writer in question ... in which case, he made a strategic error, and that's about all. The call to bitchery comes from left field.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:02 AM
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86. Yes, leave it. They're astonishingly resilient. Might get up and go in half an hour.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:03 AM
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88: He or she might just be winded, in shock. I wouldn't intervene, no.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:05 AM
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Holy cow! He's up. And walking off. Slowly.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:10 AM
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Yay squirrel!


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:16 AM
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Stunned squirrel live-blogging!

A few years ago a pheasant crashed into an upstairs window of my house, then lay on the ground looking ill, then died. I'd have eaten it too, except (1) I ain't no pheasant plucker and (2) I was worried about Mad Bird Disease.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:16 AM
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Leaving behind a puddle of clear liquid. (I could see some fluid leakage when he was lying there, a big part of thinking he wouldn't make it. Maybe he just peed, though.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:20 AM
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A guy I know slightly ran into a pheasant with his car at speed and, being that sort of bloke, stopped and put in in the back, thinking "dinner" (he was on his way to work at the time).

A day's work later, he drove home and opened the boot (trunk) to get it out, and it flew straight past him and down the street.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:21 AM
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95. You'd pee too, if you fell 30 feet onto a deck.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:22 AM
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I don't know that living and working abroad did a lot to broaden my perspective. Or maybe it's just that I don't put much store by that kind of knowledge. Whatever. Knowing that things are different in another country hasn't been of use to me personally, except as a conversation piece of the kind people are saying annoys them. The extreme foreignness of the place is if anything a special irritant, as I can't relate my experiences there with my life before or since. This may speak to a more general problem of mine that I'm only dimly aware of.

The notion that I was lazy and ought to have gotten a real job is doesn't make a lot of sense, though, coming from a stranger who doesn't have anything invested in my future. Anyway, if I could have gotten a good job in the first place it wouldn't even have occurred to me to leave the country.

One thing I regret is my having written about another, abortive trip of mine for a book about working overseas. I thought getting a free copy of the book was a pretty sweet deal, and I was especially pleased that they didn't edit more than a few lines of what I wrote. I didn't anticipate having my name appear in Google Books next to an embarrassing anecdote. (Right now it's in "snippet view" and not readily accessible, but they'll probably make the whole book available when they publish a new edition.)


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:22 AM
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Obama as tourist. Traveling press corps as douchebags (per usual).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:24 AM
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And anyone ever meet a German tourist in Italy? Las Vegas? Death Valley?

Get quite a few European tourists in Utah. Seems like it's usually for the national parks and/or good rock climbing.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:27 AM
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Holy cow! He's up.

Squirrels are amazing that way. What, do you guys have no bones? You leap fearlessly from limb to limb! You fall sometimes! It is to amaze at.

There was a three-legged deer mama who frequented our back yard a year or two ago with her fawns. She and they cavorted teasingly and happily with one another -- the back yard is fairly large, and backed with a patch of woods with small (dinky) stream, and we let the back half of it grow up, and there are raspberry bushes around the edges, so it's attractive deer space -- anyway, the three-legged deer mama and her children jumped around, nipping and chasing each other around (periodic pauses to eat some raspberries) and she did fine. It was great.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:28 AM
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Who else has been to Bangkok? The hookers are to die for.


Posted by: David Carradine | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:30 AM
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I discovered recently that German people can both have a job, AND travel the world in a pretentious and ambitious fashion. The secret is something called "vacation".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:31 AM
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103. Most people have those. It's only the Japanese and Americans who don't. The Japanese are amazing. They get one week vacation a year, and thousands of them fly to Europe, do a whistle stop tour of the sights, and go home in time to get with the presenteeism the next morning. Stamina!


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:35 AM
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Hooray for squirrel! I reckon I would indeed pee under those circumstances, myself.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:41 AM
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104: From Andrew Hodges' Alan Turing: The Enigma I recall (correctly, I hope) one point where Turing was going on a short hiking trip to Scotland. There was a comment to the effect that what with the War and decoding work and all, his holiday time had been reduced to one week per quarter. Contrast with some self-made American oilman (Marvin Davis?) once saying, "I give everyone two weeks of vacation and I'd like to meet the son-of-a-bitch who has the guts to take all of it."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:52 AM
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German tourists were a feature of my youth in South Florida, where they kept on getting mugged and shot. This inspired the name of the local punk band, Dead German Tourist.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:53 AM
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I wish to commend rob's 11 way upthread:

I really resent the assumption that if you aren't doing something that makes money, you are wasting your time. The people who tell travelers "to get a job" are the same ones who tell you that you have "too much time on your hands" if you do something different or weird or creative. You made up a language for a fictional race of space aliens? You built a model battleship out of old six pack holders? You bake all your own bread? You have too much time on your hands. Pshaw.

I would imagine there's also such a thing as using whatever generous vacation time you have to do something not quite describable as travelling the world in a pretentious and ambitious fashion.

Plus, rob, people who do things that don't make money aren't always building models out of old six pack holders.

The American work ethic is contrary to nature. It's dawned on me lately that I've switched from "life is what I do in between work" ... to "work is what I do in between living." It means I'm disaffected from my work, which is a problem.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:57 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:57 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:10 PM
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106: Is the book worth reading? I know Hodges' work in mathematical physics, which is brilliant, insightful, and nearly completely incomprehensible.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:12 PM
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I haven't read the thread yet, but my gut reaction to the OP is "fuck off." The guy found himself with unexpected time on his hands and decided to see more of the world. He engaged with other travelers, and we have no reason to think he behaved like an ugly American. He wanted to record his experiences -- so what? (It doesn't sound like it's a novel, BTW.) Lots of people keep journals when they travel.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:15 PM
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Do you think that Americans are substituting "travel" for the more meaningful experience (which I have not had) of actually living somewhere abroad for an extended stretch?

Most people in the world don't ever live abroad. Why is there some obligation for Americans to do so?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:19 PM
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113: Technically, almost everyone in the world lives abroad.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:25 PM
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OT: Has Obsidian Wings decided to be down?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:41 PM
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Not unless it's emigrated in disgust and shut down its comms to America. I can see it fine.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:44 PM
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116: Momentary problem, I guess. Meanwhile I checked Volokh and, um, a couple of other places, because I am actually pretty pissed off about this outing, but nobody is talking about it. Which is right, actually.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:57 PM
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Note 3: if that dude turned out not to be white, I guess the joke would be on me.

I thought it was understood that swippledom is not restricted only to white people?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:57 PM
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4.2: Bingo.

108: Why is disliking work a problem? (I mean, I understand how disliking work is a problem if one is in no position to work less because of one's dislike--if one already has a family, bills, etc.)

I assume some people enjoy their job and find it really satisfying to work it hard and true; I just don't understand why they have to rag on the rest, especially the hippies. Experiments in living.

Re: learning the language of a foreign country. Believe it or not, some people don't travel to meet the people of different countries (many these strange people are, in fact, merely introverted). Anyhow: is the experience of alienation a profitable one? I guess it depends on the person, whether it leads to critical thinking or just a hardened heart.

I've never had the money or time to travel (two concentrations makes a quarter abroad more difficult), but if things swing the right way I'll be teaching English abroad somewhere (hopefully SK, maybe China or Japan, or maybe somewhere else still) for a few years. Hopefully I can save enough to fund some kind of trip through other places where I'd like to live (eg, Scandinavia).

Not having any toe in the god-country-family swamp makes the whole travel-and-don't-look-back thing much easier. Also, I adore Hemingway.


Posted by: Currence | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:58 PM
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94 (1): (and perhaps this should go to Standpipe's blog):
... But are you a pleasant phucker?


Posted by: Unpronounceable Awl | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:58 PM
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And I see from the update on Obwi that people have been talking about it; I wasn't sure where to look.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 12:59 PM
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Way back to 46: I probably use universal health care as too much of an explanation for everything, but yeah, there's a real class aspect to 'traveling' for Americans, and I think it comes down to UHC and other social support structures. Bumming around for a year with no income coming in means either that your parents are paying your bills, so comfortably upper class, or at least that you feel financially secure enough somehow that taking a year off the school/grad school/job/better job treadmill won't do you any harm.

Europeans and Aussie/NZ types seem to be much more relaxed about fucking around with pointless dopey jobs for a couple of years in their twenties, and I think it's because the possible bad outcomes are less dire. (I'm not saying Americans can't travel without being financially secure, but I think it's harder.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:03 PM
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119:

108: Why is disliking work a problem? (I mean, I understand how disliking work is a problem if one is in no position to work less because of one's dislike--if one already has a family, bills, etc.)

One ideally enjoys to do some things. I've chosen to be a used book seller because I enjoy it, or have done so. I pay a price in income in exchange for freedom -- to wear whatever I want and arrive at the shop at roughly kind of around 10 am, to declare my own time off, to structure my working time according to my own judgment of what needs to be done.

Ideally one finds some income-generating work that one actually enjoys doing. If you think you've found that, then find yourself disliking it, it's a problem.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:13 PM
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Obama as tourist. Traveling press corps as douchebags (per usual).

Comma-splicing douchebags, to boot: "(Mom and dad only, it was past the girls' bedtime.)".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:13 PM
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AMERICA IS A STRANGE COUNTRY. WHEN YOU ORDER A SOFT BOILED EGG, THEY BRING IT TO YOU MASHED UP IN A GLASS.


Posted by: OPINIONATED CLARENCE, EARL OF EMSWORTH | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:14 PM
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119. This. I've heard it said since forever that it takes 4* support people to keep one in the field in wartime. Equally IME it takes n people doing boring or shitty jobs to enable one person to do work that enhances their personal growth and yada yada...

Everybody else should take as much time off as they can get away with and damn well enjoy themselves.

(*number quoted varies according to source, but the point remains good.)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:17 PM
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What I mean, Currence, is that work should be a vocation, a life calling. Something you believe in. Not something you drag yourself in to every day. This is, I would think, obvious.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:19 PM
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Obvious as a truth, or as a belief that has wide currency?


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:21 PM
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I'm endorsing One Fat Englisman's remark.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:23 PM
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work should be a vocation, a life calling. Something you believe in. Not something you drag yourself in to every day.

Just seems a tad unrealistic. 6 billion people aren't all going to get to do a "life calling".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:24 PM
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128: I don't know. I think it's obvious that people should not find their work something that's divorced from their lives. That's not to say that there is not communal work that needs to be done that nobody particularly wants to do -- yes. We should divide that up.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:25 PM
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The Japanese are amazing. They get one week vacation a year, and thousands of them fly to Europe, do a whistle stop tour of the sights, and go home in time to get with the presenteeism the next morning.

Many of them go to the US instead but basically do the same thing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:26 PM
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127. No no no. It can't be. When Karl Marx made that crack about people "hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon and engaging in critical criticism in the evening", he was joking. He was pushing back against people who were talking about Utopia. The brutal fact is that there is always going to be shit work in a complex urban society, and even if the hands on shit work becomes fully automated (ain't gonna happen) it'll only replace the traditional industrial diseases with boredom and stress related ones.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:27 PM
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I think you're overestimating the ratio of 'meaningful' jobs to the number of necessary sanitation workers and cleaners and waitstaff and so on. Thinking your life is problematic because your work isn't delightful ignores that most people in the world are going to be in that situation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:28 PM
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130: Scratch the "life calling" business. Something you don't utterly hate to do. It's possible there are too many people, also, who are made miserable by having to spend the majority of their time doing things they really don't want to do.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:28 PM
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Get quite a few European tourists in Utah. Seems like it's usually for the national parks and/or good rock climbing.

We get a lot of them here too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:30 PM
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It's possible there are too many people, also, who are made miserable by having to spend the majority of their time doing things they really don't want to do.>/i>

For "possible" read "certain".


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:31 PM
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And now I have to go give a tour. I'll have some substantial thoughts on both travel and work (which for me are intimately intertwined) later.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:32 PM
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Critical criticism is the best kind.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:34 PM
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||

No more masturbating to Hugh Hopper.

|>


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:35 PM
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I just don't understand why they have to rag on the rest, especially the hippies. Experiments in living.

I think the ragging on the hippies is easy to understand, however disappointing. There are two main directions of active dislike of the DFH's. One is from the authority figures (or more typicall their proxies and lickspittles) in the hierarchical systems the DFH's reject. This is hardly surprising. The other, more common, and more typical is I think from working/middle class types who, contrary to parsimons admirable but implausible ideal, really don't like what they do for a living much, but feel unable to change and invested in the systems it is part of. To some of them, the existence of DFHs is a (perhaps existential) challenge. Slogging away in a life you are more accepting of than enthusiastic about is much easier if there isn't some happy looking bastard down the way telling you it doesn't have to be like that.

So I guess in some ways it is really the same complaint. The DFHs are rejecting a system of social organization and ethics. The first group is annoyed that they are rejecting it's authority, the second it's trappings and motivations.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:37 PM
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134: Thinking your life is problematic because your work isn't delightful ignores that most people in the world are going to be in that situation.

It doesn't ignore it, actually. I've just been eliding it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:39 PM
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139. I hadn't tagged you for a Young Hegelian


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:39 PM
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re: 141

Yeah, I think that's right re: hatred of DFHs.

re: work in general

I'm always amazed by people who do treat their jobs like vocations. In my (non-academic) day-job I work with people I mostly like, doing stuff that's occasionally interesting and only occasionally stressful; it doesn't involve physical pain or discomfort, and I get decent holidays and the pay, while not great, isn't bad. On the scale of jobs, it's pretty good. Nonetheless, I'd still rather be sitting around reading books, or hanging out with friends, or doing any one of a thousand more interesting things than working.

If I was to get another academic job, I can see the vocation part of it slightly more -- I have enjoyed academic work in the past more than any other job I've had and there are things I really would like to achieve -- but work is still work. We have lives and existence apart from it.

I was stunned at a party once to hear an American colleague's wife complain that she got too many holidays. Just couldn't believe it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:45 PM
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Slogging away in a life you are more accepting of than enthusiastic about is much easier if there isn't some happy looking bastard down the way telling you it doesn't have to be like that.

This made me laugh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:45 PM
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140. Shit. There goes another bit of my youth.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:56 PM
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Another, more charitable interpretation of DFH-related resentment is the notion they're not so much rebels as innovators, in the sociological sense of the word---i.e., that their lifestyle depends on there being much larger numbers of people who have shitty jobs. I don't know if that's true or not.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:56 PM
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I'm always amazed by people who do treat their jobs like vocations.

Yes, I know people who say this: they're almost always artists, and they've assumed from moment one that they will have to work at things they don't like when they're not living their real lives, in order to make money. I understand; this is how our societies are set up; I don't think it's a pitiful perspective, or anything.

That said, when we've gotten to the point at which a majority of people are living what they consider to be their real lives only when they're not laboring at something they dislike, we have a mass psychological problem. Indeed, a societal dysfunction. This is what I thought was obvious.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:56 PM
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The other, more common, and more typical is I think from working/middle class types who, contrary to parsimons admirable but implausible ideal, really don't like what they do for a living much, but feel unable to change and invested in the systems it is part of. To some of them, the existence of DFHs is a (perhaps existential) challenge. Slogging away in a life you are more accepting of than enthusiastic about is much easier if there isn't some happy looking bastard down the way telling you it doesn't have to be like that.

Absolutely right. I have often felt this way myself, as someone who is very inclined to avoid risks, and tends to resent people who take risks and end up not suffering the consequences that deterred me from doing the same thing.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:56 PM
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I agree that Almeida 's call to mock this guy inthe OP was a little obnoxious.

I think that if we got a reasonable amount of vacation in this country (e.g. 6+ weeks) that our jobs would be more enjoyable. If jobs aren't miserable they have a certain value just as rooting you in a place and world. I start to feel at loose ends after about a month or so of doing nothing. Combine six weeks of vacation, plus family leave and support when you have young kids, plus a social safety net solid enough for some risk-taking in pursuit of a reasonably enjoyable career, and you get the makings of a nice middle class lifestyle.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 1:58 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:00 PM
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111: 106: Is the book worth reading? I know Hodges' work in mathematical physics, which is brilliant, insightful, and nearly completely incomprehensible.

I thought it was very good. Hodges maintains a very comprehensive website on Turing (and the book) ,here. Probably worth a look. To my knowledge it is pretty much the canonical Turing biography. I recall there was mild controversy/discomfort on some of the treatment of his homosexuality and the suicide/accidental death question, but I think that was mostly on the margins.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:04 PM
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149: I have often felt this way myself, as someone who is very inclined to avoid risks, and tends to resent people who take risks and end up not suffering the consequences that deterred me from doing the same thing.

Ned, can I ask you: is it your impression that the people who have managed to avoid suffering the consequences have gotten lucky? My experience is that they've worked not to do so.

An example: my roommate works (for free) at our local CSA, repairing their tractors, constructing deer fencing, setting groundhog traps and things like that. We have free produce for a season in exchange; we also have access to seedlings for all sorts of plants, some of which are in our backyard garden. Likewise, he works (for money) for the city's art commission in setting up and tearing down large public sculptures, since he has experience in that. We happen to get free building materials out of that, and have a small backyard greenhouse as a result.

Please don't resent people who put their lives together this way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:20 PM
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I was stunned at a party once to hear an American colleague's wife complain that she got too many holidays. Just couldn't believe it.

That is deeply weird.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:25 PM
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My perspective, as someone who wound up spending most of his career overseas:

1) Those who travel and do not have the idea of writing about their travels are probably, by and large, insensitive clots. Travel should expose you to experiences previously unknown and possibly unimagined; why wouldn't you want to share this with the world? (I suppose a younger generation might substitute a video/documentary for a novel; I'm a Word Man myself.) If you haven't learned anything new, why didn't you stay home?

2) OTOH, about 98% of those who act on this idea are fools. The fact is that your experiences, although new to you, are not all that new to human awareness. Others, with greater literary skill than you, have already said - in some book you haven't got around to reading yet - what you have learned, but better expressed and based on a more profound understanding of the foreign culture.

I would like to think that this recognition, rather than innate indolence, is what has prevented me from committing a novel all these years. (Of course I'm kidding myself - I'm really just too lazy to put in the effort to try to write something of unique value.)


Posted by: dr ngo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:26 PM
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It would be possible, however, for all the people with shit jobs to also have free time in which they can do things they enjoy. Not in the US, though.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:28 PM
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I start to feel at loose ends after about a month or so of doing nothing.

Absolutely.

On the DFH issue, isn't a lot of the resentment of hippies actually a resentment of their support through outside means?

I mean, there are the DFHs who have reasonable jobs that fund their general flitting joyousness during the rest of the time, and I don't think people mind them much (adult goths often fall into a similar basket as well).

There are also the hippies who actually go make something work in the woods, and they're working as hard as anyone slaving away in the city. I doubt anyone mocks or resents them, even if it might be thought an odd choice.

Finally, there are the hippies who seem to jump around happily on their parents or someone else's dime, which funds their living space, bare essentials of eating, etc. And then they have the gall to imagine they've found a loophole in life that no one else sees, allowing them to live ever so happily. Those people are obviously resented, as are all other manifestations of rich kid syndrome, but it's not due to their hippie abilities to step outside the system.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:28 PM
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Those people are obviously resented, as are all other manifestations of rich kid syndrome, but it's not due to their hippie abilities to step outside the system.

Similarly, few people truly delight in the antics of either a smug banker or a smug hippie, aside from other smugs of their same ilk.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:35 PM
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The other, more common, and more typical is I think from working/middle class types who, contrary to parsimons admirable but implausible ideal, really don't like what they do for a living much, but feel unable to change and invested in the systems it is part of. To some of them, the existence of DFHs is a (perhaps existential) challenge. Slogging away in a life you are more accepting of than enthusiastic about is much easier if there isn't some happy looking bastard down the way telling you it doesn't have to be like that.

See, for the guy in the office that happy looking bastard is the economic equivalent of the anti-vaccinator, freeloading on the fact that every other poor bastard is prepared to do their nine to five to stop the city falling apart.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:37 PM
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144

I was stunned at a party once to hear an American colleague's wife complain that she got too many holidays. Just couldn't believe it.

Studies have shown many Americans like to work long hours because they can't stand their families.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:39 PM
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Anecdata has shown that many Brits go on holiday separately from their families. But they damn well go on holiday. And do stuff they like doing,


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:42 PM
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OFE: Equally IME it takes n people doing boring or shitty jobs to enable one person to do work that enhances their personal growth and yada yada...

then

even if the hands on shit work becomes fully automated (ain't gonna happen) it'll only replace the traditional industrial diseases with boredom and stress related ones.

The machines of loving grace may never come along to tend to our every need, but I'm pretty sure the n you mentioned first has been declining steadily for a while now, and it could decline further.

I wanted to write "has been declining over the course of human history" but then I decided I could only justify "since the invention of agriculture" and Then I decided I could only justify "since the industrial revolution." Then I realized the industrial revolution created a lot of these shit jobs to begin with. So I decided to go with "steadily declining for a while now."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:44 PM
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163: I like a man who stands firm.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:51 PM
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Rob, I'm not quite sure what point you're making - most of the crappy industrial jobs are being replaced by stuff such as call centre work, spending your life grovelling to people who are screaming abuse at you.

Give me a date from which you think the number of people who are not alienated from their jobs started to fall, globally and significantly, and we'll talk.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:51 PM
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||
In other news the far right is sweeping the board in the European election. I might slit my wrists.
|>


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:53 PM
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Here's an indicator: literacy rates have been rising dramatically, and a greater proportion of the jobs out there in the world require literacy. Literacy is, in itself, one of the most empowering things in the world. If a job requires literacy, the job is more likely to be empowering.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 2:58 PM
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One could say physical strength is empowering, and the number of jobs which involve physical strength goes down every year.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:03 PM
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Or even just "physical skill".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:03 PM
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Rob, most of the call centres in India are staffed by University graduates. They still spend all day grovelling to people who are screaming abuse at them. Yes, they're better paid than their parents. Yes, they can do stuff on their own time with that money which humanises their existence. Yes, their prospects are better than they were in the village they came from. But their actual jobs are still a pile of shit.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:03 PM
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Similarly, few people truly delight in the antics of either a smug banker or a smug hippie, aside from other smugs of their same ilk.

So now is not the time to post this:

From the opening pages of a book called A Language Older than Words by one Derrick Jensen:

"Silencing"

There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.

In order for us to maintain our way of living, we must, in a broad sense, tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves. It is not necessary that the lies be particularly believable. The lies act as barriers to truth. These barriers to truth are necessary because without them many deplorable acts would become impossibilities. Truth must at all costs be avoided. When we do allow self-evident truths to percolate past our defenses and into our consciousness, they are treated like so many hand grenades rolling across the dance floor of an improbably macabre party. We try to stay out of harm's way, afraid they will go off, shatter our delusions, and leave us exposed to what we have done to the world and to ourselves, exposed as the hollow people we have become. And so we avoid these truths, these self-evident truths, and continue the dance of world destruction.

As is true for most children, when I was young I heard the world speak. Stars sang. Stones had preferences. Trees had bad days. Toads held lively discussions, crowed over a good day's catch. Like static on a radio, schooling and other forms of socialization began to interfere with my perception of the animate world, and for a number of years I almost believed that only humans spoke. The gap between what I experienced and what I almost believed confused me deeply. It wasn't until later that I began to understand the personal, political, social, ecological, and economic implications of living in a silenced world.

This silencing is central to the workings of our culture.


---------


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:06 PM
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159: No doubt. Smug people suck, though I'm certainly guilty of being one myself with annoying frequency. I'm just saying that people like Parsimon is talking about in 154 are great, and rarely resented. They're working hard to make a go of a niche job, doing damn well at it, and making life for others more pleasant. When people talk of hippie-hate, I don't think they're talking about people like that, unless they have no love in their hearts whatsoever.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:06 PM
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Please don't resent people who put their lives together this way.

I won't try to speak for Ned, obviously, but more generally I think that this is commonplace reaction, and commonly built from misconceptions.

People who are risk adverse and have been told all of their lives that they will die alone somewhere in a ditch if they don't go to college/get the right job/make the right investments/live in the right sort of neighborhood can find it very challenging to see successful examples of people taking different paths that seem to be working well for them.

It may be easier to see these people as somehow "lucky" that they didn't suffer the obvious and terrible consequences of their "mistakes", but this doesn't make it true. Perhaps the viewer has just been unfortunately risk-adverse, and resents missed opportunities. Perhaps the messages they took as gospel aren't as solid as thought. Perhaps some mix of all the above


Of course there are people who actually are at immediate risk of homelessness etc. most of their lives, who also painted with the DFH brush, just like during the 70s there were a bunch of goof-off teens & young 20s who were playful, rather than serious, about rejecting the usual paths. This is mostly irrelevant, except as fodder for complaints.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:24 PM
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Parsimon, you seem to be arguing that because a person is debarred by economic necessity from fully participating in the the wonders of nature, they have to be unaware of them. That seems patronising. It is also not an argument for allowing people who think their personal engagement with the wonders of nature is the highest priority to grind the faces of those who are less self centred in order to facilitate it.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:26 PM
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When people talk of hippie-hate, I don't think they're talking about people like that, unless they have no love in their hearts whatsoever.

But if they readily assume that anyone who looks/acts like a "hippie" in their minds is actually a hopeless flake living off other peoples efforts, they are in fact talking about people like that. They just don't know it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:26 PM
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I think this talk of slogging away at something you hate - and the thought that there was something better at x point in the past - elides the point that for all of human history there have been shit jobs that were (are) nonetheless necessary. One thing I'm struck by when reading 18th and 19th century sources is how much so many of them hated farming; I can't imagine that the situation was a whole hell of a lot better 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, etc. Feeding people is hard work.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:38 PM
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IME, DFH dislike isn't jealousy at all. It's more about defensiveness against rebuke. Like vegan-dislike: I don't care what you eat, but I don't think much of you calling me a moral monster because I have honey in my tea.

Your typical DFH proposes this that or the other way in which society can be made better, and each suggestion involves someone giving up something. That is, I don't think people are resenting the guy who recycles materials so much as the guy who wants to force recycling on everyone else, whether it makes sense or not.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:38 PM
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174: Also, children may hear the world speak, but they also have violent mood swings and spend most of their time scheming ways to get more sugar. There are a wide variety of brain injuries I would choose over being a child again.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:38 PM
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177: I think it depends on the DFH. A 20 something on tour with The Dead I mean Phish I mean ...who do people follow around these days?

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. I 20 something following a band around gets jealousy. A middle aged guy working in the nonprofit world gets defensiveness.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:50 PM
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174: Parsimon, you seem to be arguing that because a person is debarred by economic necessity from fully participating in the the wonders of nature, they have to be unaware of them. That seems patronising.

No, I was arguing no such thing.

It is also not an argument for allowing people who think their personal engagement with the wonders of nature is the highest priority to grind the faces of those who are less self centred in order to facilitate it.

Grind the faces of people? No. But what's with the self-centered accusation? I'm not sure I'm even understanding this: it's self-centred to talk about our loss of connection with the natural world?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:57 PM
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IME, DFH dislike isn't jealousy at all. It's more about defensiveness against rebuke

IME, it really isn't. People will often hold up an example of some vegan or peta activist or whatever, but that really isn't what they are doing. By which I mean, if you push someone for details about the person and situation they are complaining about, they'll start out with vague generalities similar to the ones you've mentioned (although "give something up" isn't exact the same as "change something" and presumes a net loss which isn't very accurate). However, when pressed, I've found typically this dissolves pretty quickly, and people rarely have specific actions in mind, rather a vague dislike. People defend that dislike with defensiveness, but it doesn't hold much water. The absolutely overwhelming majority of people I've met who might meet the DFH label aren't calling anyone moral monsters, and most aren't telling anyone directly how they ought to do anything.

Of course you do get pushy activists, in exactly the same sense you get pushy prosletiyzers, but that's a different issue, I think.

I agree it isn't exactly jealousy either, and hope that wasn't the impression I gave earlier. People resent the idea that a DFH might be right in ways that cast some of their own life choices and attitudes in a worse light than they are used to thinking of them. This really isn't the same thing as being jealous.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 3:57 PM
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||

166:Bad sign. Maybe I'll have to back to Lenin's Tomb and read his piece on the BPN. Is this iteration of the Right populist and protectionist?

Where are we at in this depression, 1930? I have been worried that if the left or center-left doesn't grab this crisis with a passionate partisanship and at least the rhetoric of class war, the Right, the populist Right would grab it instead.

People don't Palin's possible. They are wrong. And moderates, centrists, and bipartisan comity bullshit artists are dangerous.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:08 PM
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177.2: Your typical DFH proposes this that or the other way in which society can be made better, and each suggestion involves someone giving up something. That is, I don't think people are resenting the guy who recycles materials so much as the guy who wants to force recycling on everyone else, whether it makes sense or not.

That sounds like a liberal.

No -- I gather the idea is that a DFH will argue for forced policy changes (on ideological grounds), while a mere liberal will feel compelled to provide evidence, studies, for the proposed change.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:09 PM
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Soup biscuit is right about everything.

There are also the hippies who actually go make something work in the woods, and they're working as hard as anyone slaving away in the city. I doubt anyone mocks or resents them, even if it might be thought an odd choice.

I think the majority of Americans think the existence of people like this is flatly impossible, unless said people are abjectly poor. But would approve of such people in theory. But think that in reality, the idea of aspiring to such an impossible state of freedom is foolish and bubble-headed.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:10 PM
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I think the vegan example is perfect for a certain subset of DFH dislike. If I say to someone "I'm a vegetarian for moral reasons" seventy five percent of the time what they hear is "I think you are despicable," even though I said or think no such thing. And this goes for any number of DFH habits, from riding a bicycle to raising your children on Free to Be You and Me.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:10 PM
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That sounds like a liberal.

Remember that the triumph of the American Right has been to equate any form of American liberalism with hippiedom.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:13 PM
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I'm really tired of dealing with the DFH haters, actually. Can they get their shit together, or get over themselves, or will they continue to insist that DFH's must be free-loaders?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:15 PM
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186: Which is why I was a little surprised to hear it coming from CharleyCarp in 177.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:18 PM
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185: And the flip side for that is that anecdotally at least, for every vegan/vegetarian I've heard rebuking people for their diet, I have to have heard 50 or 100 non-vegetarians challenging a vegetarian to justify themselves. I mean these ratios literally.

It's mind-boggling common. It may be defensiveness, but it isn't defensiveness against rebuke (which isn't present). Defensiveness about self-image? I don't know. People are weird about food anyways.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:19 PM
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159: No doubt. Smug people suck, though I'm certainly guilty of being one myself with annoying frequency. I'm just saying that people like Parsimon is talking about in 154 are great, and rarely resented.

I agree! I thought I was chiming in with you, rather than disagreeing: smugness is annoying much like rich kid syndrome is, in a pure and shining fashion.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:23 PM
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Yes, they can do stuff on their own time with that money which humanises their existence.

Indeed. My sense of it is that the idea that work should be one's calling is not at all universal, but common, though not limited solely, to the upper middle class. (I just threw commas at that sentence.) Quite a lot of people go to work to make money so they have it to spend on things they like to do in their free time.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:26 PM
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In Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, Nicholas Higgins considers exchanging his job as a mill-worker for that of an agricultural labourer:

"You must not go to the South," said Margaret, "for all that. You could not stand it. You would have to be out all weathers. It would kill you with rheumatism. The mere bodily work at your time of life would break you down ... You would not bear the dulness of the life; you don't know what it is; it would eat you away like rust. Those that have lived there all their lives, are used to soaking in the stagnant waters. They labour on, from day to day, in the great solitude of steaming fields--never speaking or lifting up their poor, bent, downcast heads. The hard spade-work robs their brain of life; the sameness of their toil deadens their imagination; they don't care to meet to talk over thoughts and speculations, even of the weakest, wildest kind, after their work is done; they go home brutishly tired, poor creatures! caring for nothing but food and rest."


Posted by: Gdr | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:26 PM
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Parsimon:
Okay, cool, I agree with you about how work should be a vocation, or, barring that, something that is not hated. I asked (re: disliking work as a problem) because I wasn't sure to what extent you thought it unacceptable to dislike one's job (I wasn't snarking).

Re: DFH's. It seems, then, that many types of people get grouped under DFH. I hadn't even thought of trust-fund types when thinking about hippies. (I think because I'd like to call myself a hippie, and I'm nowhere near a trust-fund.) In the future I think I'll move from invoking the 60s' hippie, to invoking the 90s' slacker. (I'd think/hope that "slacker" would remove the possibility of having a trust-fund.) I'm more in line with the "yeah, I'm poor, and that's alright" peeps than the "yeah, I'm wealthy, and now I can indulge in green living, arts & crafts, etc." peeps. If there's no initial asceticism, count me out.

141 strikes me as reasonable. So there are the DFHs-destroy-our-moral-fabric types and the jealous/anti-privilege types. I'd much rather be seen as an existential threat than as an object of jealousy or whatever.

Somewhat OT: I've started reading Altemeyer's The Authoritarians, and I'm somewhat blown away. There are people like this? Where are they hiding? (As much a comment about where I am as where they are.) I had hoped that it was just my grandparent's generation, pre-sexual revolution, etc. but now I find it's a personality type and, therefore, likely permanent in some respect. That sucks.

(Similar: people who think that Bush's wars and torture were, like, totally what destroyed the greatness of America. Kudos for figuring out that the country sucks now; more kudos later (hopefully) for figuring out that it has always sucked.)


Posted by: Currence | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:27 PM
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It may be defensiveness, but it isn't defensiveness against rebuke (which isn't present).

This is complicated. Most vegetarians I've met are good-mannered about it. But there's a real sense in which anyone saying "I'm an ethical (rather than a taste or health motivated vegetarian)" is rebuking the meat eaters they interact with.

There aren't a lot of circumstances where you know, explicitly, that someone's moral code forbids, as a violation of that code, something that you do on a regular basis. And the only obvious reactions I can see are to either (a) accept their code, and feel guilty and uncomfortable about violating it or (b) reject their code, and think that they're awfully silly to be making their lives difficult for no good reason. For a meat-eater to be made uncomfortable by vegetarians isn't surprising or irrational at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:28 PM
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Saying you reject eating animal-derived products as unethical is implying that omnivores are habitually unethical. The rigorousness of the vegan lifestyle underscores the message, intended or not: If this guy is that serious about what his diet is about, he must think I'm a real asshole. Well, fuck him.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:29 PM
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It may be defensiveness, but it isn't defensiveness against rebuke (which isn't present).

The perception of rebuke happens entirely logically. The vegetarian says they have moral reasons for not eating meat and the nonvegetarian correctly guesses that these reasons are all premises that they would accept. (Animals suffer in the production of meat. Animal pain is morally significant, etc.) The rebuke can be formulated by the hearer with a few inferences.

Personally, I've just come to accept that arguments that seem perfectly rational to me seem like total non sequitors to other people.

In any case, there's a reason why food taboos are as widespread and varied as sexual taboos.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:29 PM
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for every vegan/vegetarian I've heard rebuking people for their diet, I have to have heard 50 or 100 non-vegetarians challenging a vegetarian to justify themselves. I mean these ratios literally.

Yeah, that came up in a recent thread.

Defensiveness about self-image? Maybe. It's constructed, in any case, and quite tedious. ("No, I am not giving you shit in any way, shape, or form. Really!")

Translate that to general hippie-dom: no, we are not troubling you -- at least not right now, by generally existing -- so get over whatever your problem is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:31 PM
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(I'd think/hope that "slacker" would remove the possibility of having a trust-fund.)

I think you'll run into the same trouble there, I'm afraid. There are and were plenty of trust-fund slackers.

This is complicated. Most vegetarians I've met are good-mannered about it. But there's a real sense in which anyone saying "I'm an ethical (rather than a taste or health motivated vegetarian)" is rebuking the meat eaters they interact with.

I agree. I never talk about why I'm a vegetarian if I can help it, and I get really really uncomfortable when people start asking. There is no good end to that conversation. Either it lands somewhere where I am inconveniencing others for trivial reasons or somewhere where I am rebuking others.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:33 PM
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I think that abortion is baby-killing, but please don't think that I'm offering any judgment on your political opinions. Get over yourself, OK?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:35 PM
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and the thought that there was something better at x point in the past

Subjectively better, in the mind of the anonymous, historical working stiff? That's a tough call to make. Also, the 18th and 19th centuries may not be remote enough to make a good contrast, since education and literacy and industrialization were beginning to take effect, at least in Europe, and the authors of historically-interesting documents would probably have been at the leading edge of that.

From what I gather the idea is that a premodern peasant or whatever did his work because that was the kind of person he was, and that kind of person fit into an intelligible, possibly satisfying, scheme of things. Whereas the call-center employee is only fortuitously (and unfortunately) a call-center employee. Maybe I'm exaggerating, maybe I'm out of my depth, but it sounds reasonable that work was different in some such way.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:36 PM
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189.1: Yeah, those ratios are probably about right. In many crowds, vegetarianism or low meat consumption is common enough to go relatively unquestioned, but everyone I know who's gone the veggie route has had to deal with all sorts of annoyances from family or some other group of acquaintances.

It's usually an interesting thing to ask about, since changing one's diet is a pretty big deal and so probably reveals some sort of intriguing thought process.

190: Oh, it's no worries. I'm just a mite defensive, since I am sort of a capitalist running dog and the beneficiary of far too much family privilege.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:39 PM
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This is complicated. Most vegetarians I've met are good-mannered about it. But there's a real sense in which anyone saying "I'm an ethical (rather than a taste or health motivated vegetarian)" is rebuking the meat eaters they interact with.

Well of course. In much the same sense that being a protestant is the same thing as rebuking catholics for being wrong.

You can't make choices in your life without implicitly judging the alternatives as inferior, after all.

But my point was, you are far more likely to run into the non-vegetarians forcing the issue than the other way around. At least this has been widely true in my experience, which is fairly broad as far as social circles goes. And it's interesting that this would be true, being a sort of defensive offense.

Which is what I meant earlier, roughly, about people feeling threatened. It seems they aren't feeling threatened by the actions of the individual, but rather by the existence of the person. Which suggests an unwillingness or even fear of the sort of self-analysis that this alternative suggests. Ultimately, this makes a lot of sense I think, even if it isn't particularly heartening.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:42 PM
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The perception of rebuke happens entirely logically.

Yeah. Meat-eaters are far more annoying to vegetarians than the opposite, but it really shouldn't be surprising to anyone that describing a common activity as immoral could easily be construed as an implicit rebuke, especially with something as socially and culturally important as food and meals, and especially when the arguments are from shared social principles. (This explains the difference in reaction to someone who abstains from meat for religious reasons (no expectation that the other person shares their belief) and the difference in reaction to someone who abstains from meat for the usual secular concerns.)

What seems to be the bad inference on the part of the meat-eater is that the specific person sitting in front of them is silently judging them. Most vegetarians I know don't really care what others eat on the personal level.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:43 PM
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From what I gather the idea is that a premodern peasant or whatever did his work because that was the kind of person he was, and that kind of person fit into an intelligible, possibly satisfying, scheme of things.

Perhaps. The argument has certainly been made, though, largely by relying on the documents of those who benefited from such an order. But I still doubt the claim that your average premodern agricultural laborer found a deep sense of joy from his labor in the fields and didn't wait until the moment that he could hang up the hoe and have a drink and do something else he cared about, or at least not be so darn tired anymore. Though I am sure there are exceptions to this, just as there were those in the early modern period who did find farming satisfying and didn't just want to get out as fast as they could.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:45 PM
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I think that abortion is baby-killing, but please don't think that I'm offering any judgment on your political opinions. Get over yourself, OK?

I teach abortion ethics at least once a year, and I'd say that this is by far the most common attitude for pro-life students to take. They sincerely do not want to offend people or come off as judgey. They are not activists parading photos of aborted fetuses. Nevertheless, they very firmly believe something that logically implies that many many people--including perhaps some people in the room--are murderers. It is a hard position to be in.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:45 PM
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Shorter 204: I just bristle at viewing the past as utopia. All periods had their problems.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:46 PM
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I would find it a little disconcerting and gratuitous if someone went out of their way to mention that they were an "ethical vegetarian". Maybe I'm excessively scrupulous.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:46 PM
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If this guy is that serious about what his diet is about, he must think I'm a real asshole. Well, fuck him.

This isn't rational though, as it is entirely plausible (and indeed common) for someone to make personal choices like this while at the same time valuing very highly the aspect of personal choice, and the difficulty of knowing others situations well enough to judge their choices.

Without knowing that he does, in fact, think you are an asshole, you are basically being an asshole about it --- you are denying all sorts of reasonable possibilities on his part and assuming you know what he thinks.

All of that could be easily solved by asking, if it were important.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:47 PM
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207: You mean, without any prompting? That would be weird. On the other hand, in may social circles the typical response to people finding out someone is a vegetarian (or whatever) is to ask them why, so I can see it coming up a lot for some people.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:48 PM
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Right. It would be weird to bring it up on your own, and I really wish people wouldn't ask why!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:51 PM
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It seems they aren't feeling threatened by the actions of the individual, but rather by the existence of the person. Which suggests an unwillingness or even fear of the sort of self-analysis that this alternative suggests.

This is right. Soup is entirely right in his comments along these lines. Certainly the analogy to, say, Protestants vs. Catholics was begging to be made: do you find yourself challenged by the presence of a devout Catholic in your home? Why then be challenged by a vegetarian of a certain sort?

It comes to this: don't assume that someone is judging you when they may well not be. If you want to judge yourself, that's a separate matter.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:51 PM
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202: I'd tend to surmise that the reason impoliteness about food choices tends to come from meat eaters boils down to numbers and resulting social power, and would balance out more in situations where vegetarians were a majority. The few times I've encountered vegetarians being jerks about it were at my college co-op, which was about half and half vegetarian and non; most people on both sides were non-combative, but there were jerks about it on both sides, which I attribute to the fact that the vegetarians felt like, and were, a power bloc in the house, And then a vegetarian partner I worked for once, who would literally look at your plate and start talking about how much that baby lamb had loved its mother like a stereotypical thirteen year old who's just given up meat he was outnumbered, but could fire anyone he was being a jerk to, so same difference.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:52 PM
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The perception of rebuke happens entirely logically

It really isn't logical to infer a particular position to the person sitting across from you with that sort of limited information though. For the reasons in 208. There are entirely consistent positions where I can hold that thing X is the right thing for me to do in my life without judging you for doing ~X, and failure to understand this of people is pretty weak sauce.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:53 PM
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Good lord. I don't know what happened to that last sentence at all. I think it's reconstructible, but I am consumed with shame.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:54 PM
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209: It does come up a lot. I mostly don't mention that I'm veg unless, say, I'm with a group of people who want food and the suggestion to go to a burger cart or order pizza in common arises. But then, if I say, "Hey, I'm veg, but otherwise not picky," we inevitably then have the undesired "why" conversation. And no one really wants to hear "Have you ever smelled burning human flesh?" right before eating. Sometimes I go with, "Eh, it's been 15 years; I forget why." But if you don't give a reason, you run the risk of someone deciding he's personally going to evangelize you into meat consumption, as happened to me a few weeks ago. I'm sitting there calmly eating my tofu at a Korean place, listening to a friend from school go on and on about how he used to be veg until he finally saw how stupid it all was because meat is so delicious, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:56 PM
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212: that might have something to do with it, sure. I was trying to be careful with the anectdotal side of it.

Societies are actively self-policing about social norms, and this sort of aggressive questioning/shaming approach is probably one of the less subtle forms of signaling. I guess we notice it more often where something isn't actually very normative, or the norm is changing, because the situations come up and aren't resolvable.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:56 PM
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I'm not sure what the Catholic v. Protestant analogy is supposed to show. That vegetarians and meat eaters should naturally get along and take a live-and-let-life attitude? That would ignore most of the history of protestantism.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:56 PM
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There are entirely consistent positions where I can hold that thing X is the right thing for me to do in my life without judging you for doing ~X,

Huh. If I rearrange this to say "There are entirely consistent positions where I can hold that thing X is a wrong thing for me to do in my life without judging you for doing X", which is the vegetarianism situation, I'm not coming up with a lot. There are specifically religious obligations like keeping kosher, but other than that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:57 PM
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I still doubt the claim that your average premodern agricultural laborer found a deep sense of joy from his labor in the fields and didn't wait until the moment that he could hang up the hoe and have a drink

Oh, no doubt. In fact, they didn't even wait until finishing laboring in the fields to start drinking. As far as I can tell (which isn't very far, not being an historian or anthropologist), most people before the 1800s who didn't hunt made it through the day by being on some form of drug. The hunters just had to wait until they put the deadly weapons down before they joined in.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:57 PM
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listening to a friend from school go on and on about

Nothing quite as tedious as a reformed [fill in the blank] activist, is there. I suspect they're searching for validation.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 4:58 PM
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218:

To stay with the hippie theme, try "X=drive a car"?

Otherwise, what about "X = have kids"?

I don't think it's hard to come up with examples, really.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:00 PM
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217: Right. Where Catholics and Protestants have gotten along peaceably, it's been precisely because they've convinced themselves that the differences in religious practice don't have moral weight.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:01 PM
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or "X = drink alcohol", although that's often a different issue.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:02 PM
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And then a vegetarian partner I worked for once, who would literally look at your plate and start talking about how much that baby lamb had loved its mother like a stereotypical thirteen year old who's just given up meat

A woman with whom I once worked would sort of aggressively and intrusively examine my lunch each day -- as in lean over me, sometimes read a label, etc. -- and pronounce it "disgusting." I was eating things like couscous or lentil soup, bog standard vegetarian fare. She was sorta/kinda joshy about it and I would just sort of roll my eyes at her and laugh (we were sorta/kinda friends after all). She ate McDonald's most days. Finally one day, having had my, oh, fried rice pronounced "disgusting," I snapped. "Do you want me to tell you what you're eating? I could make you cry." She never bothered me about my lunch again, but I am sure that I play the role of "bitch vegetarian" in her memory.
(For the record, it's not something I ever go into, etc.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:02 PM
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To stay with the hippie theme, try "X=drive a car"?

Hippies don't think it's bad that everyone drives big SUVs everywhere?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:03 PM
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217: Well, that does set a much easier bar for how well vegetarians and omnivores have gotten along thus far:

"Look, have vegetarians banned omnivores from holding government office? Have vegetarians flooded Holland just to avoid the invading armies of omnivores? No? Then we're doing pretty well in the grand scheme of things."


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:05 PM
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221:X=drive a car

See, if I'm refraining from driving a car because of the environmental effects, why wouldn't I judge someone who was negating my restraint by driving cars, and thus doing unnecessary environmental damage? I don't care about the car, I care about the damage, and the driver is doing as much damage as I would if I drove.

Having kids is a possibility, assuming that the driving force behind thinking it would be wrong for me to have kids is that I'd be bad at it, rather than that bringing kids into the world is an evil. If you believed the latter, though, why wouldn't you judge parents? They did something you think of as an evil.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:06 PM
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A woman with whom I once worked would sort of aggressively and intrusively examine my lunch each day -- as in lean over me, sometimes read a label, etc. -- and pronounce it "disgusting."

I now have a cow-orker who does that. He's done it twice now. Molly suggested I say "What were you, raised in a barn?"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:07 PM
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Hippies don't think it's bad that everyone drives big SUVs everywhere?

Some do, sure. But see 208.


Let's try a less contentious issue. Riffing of LB, imagine you are a group of NYC lawyers and one of you has just quit a lucrative BigLaw career to go do different work in a different place.

You can imagine a situation where they've decided the entire industry is full of evil fucks and they have to get out.

You can imagine a situation where they've just decided they're not getting what they want out of life, and want to change location/hours worked/whatever.

The former could be seen as an implicit judgement on all of you, the latter not so much.


To attempt to judge between the two with no information other than they left their job is inept.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:07 PM
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224: Oh, the vast majority of the assholedom comes from meat-eaters, certainly. I was only saying that I don't think that's due to any inherent quality of vegetarians, but mostly to the fact that they're more likely to be bucking a social norm than conforming to one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:09 PM
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I agree with LB here. If someone says that they have made some major life decision for moral reasons, they are saying that people who come from the same background and have not made that decision are either ignoring, or wrong about, an important moral issue.

Maybe the issue is our differing definitions of some word, possibly "judge".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:10 PM
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If you believed the latter, though, why wouldn't you judge parents? They did something you think of as an evil.

But that's the whole point!

You don't know (at least, that's what we're surmising .. sometimes you do know what they think, which is a different situation). You've shown yourself you can imagine a situation where the non-parents are not likely to be (negatively) judgemental, and one where they are. But you don't actually know. So absent additional information, attributing one of those two cases to them and acting as if it were true is completely irrational.


This even works for the no-car question, though I worded it contentiously, perhaps.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:11 PM
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To attempt to judge between the two with no information other than they left their job is inept.

No, the information you have, in this parallel situation, is that they left their job for moral reasons.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:12 PM
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230: Oh nono! I know -- I was more offering it as the sort of photonegative asshole coworker story.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:13 PM
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To attempt to judge between the two with no information other than they left their job is inept.

I've been talking only about ethical vegetarians on this point. Certainly, if you don't know why someone's a vegetarian, assuming they're judging your meat-eating is insanely touchy.

(And to be clear, I get along fine with ethical vegetarians, and only that one partner has ever been unpleasant to me about my meat eating, and he was basically the devil in human form anyway, and would have been with his mouth full of steak. I'm just noting that there's a sense in which I have to do a bit of consciously not thinking about the implications not to feel rebuked by ethical vegetarians.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:13 PM
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229: The problem is that the moral argument for vegetarianism depends on very general reasons. You can say "Well, I need to drive because I live in a rural area with no public transportation" but you can't say "I need to eat meat because..."

The situation is entirely parallel to Catholics and Protestants. Each side, for most of history, has acknowledged no valid reason for belonging to the other side.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:14 PM
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234: Did your asshole coworker do this specifically because you were a vegetarian? I don't think mine even knows I am one. He just saw what I was taking out of the microwave in the break room and announced it disgusting. It was really weird.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:17 PM
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228, 237: I'm with Molly. Perhaps, "Didn't your mother teach you not to say rude things about other people's food?" Honestly. And in a college? The asshole is faculty? That's disturbing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:21 PM
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re 231, it's an awful black and white world that way.

I suppose you can argue any set of choices as judgemental of another person who faced those exact choices and came up with different issues but

a) this really never happens. and b) that doesn't allow for choices you've made that you aren't too sure about.


Also, I think some of you are suffering a failure of imagination for any sort of subtlety to these positions. And as far as I can see, subtlety is very common in these sorts of things.


Hypothetical example: Suppose I'm a fairly typical unfogged-er; middle class, reasonable income, academic or business/law type.

Suppose I'm worried a bit about my impact on the environment, and I decide to become vegetarian after researching the overall impact. However my job or academic conference schedule keeps me flying several times a year.

Now being a good empiricist, I've researched impacts (as above). So I realize that my flying around this much probably has more overall impact then shifting my diet, but I can't see a way to change it easily without leaving my career.

Does this not seem plausible to you? Even fairly common?

And in that situation, who the hell am I to judge a person I hardly know for eating a steak across the table from me? For all I know, they sold their house in the suburbs to get rid of the two SUVs and moved close to work because they worry about the environment,too.

So in the abstract I can certainly hold that we collectively should eat less meat or whatever, but if I understand anything at all about statistics I realize that tells me bugger all useful about joe across the table from me.

Swap this example around however you like. I still hold that the idea you can infer much useful from a single statement about a persons ethical stances insomuch as it pertains to their view of you is a joke.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:22 PM
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I haven't been following closely, though Soup is making fantastic points, but:

235: I've been talking only about ethical vegetarians on this point. Certainly, if you don't know why someone's a vegetarian, assuming they're judging your meat-eating is insanely touchy.

Finally gets it, and is appreciated.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:22 PM
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232: But this is part of the reason that the common first question when told someone's vegetarian is "Well, why?". And why it leads to so many problems if the clarifying answer is "Because I couldn't really support factory farms / eating animals that feel pain / the unnecessary carbon footprint" or (apparently) "Have you ever smelled burning human flesh?".

People want to know if they're being judged (in worse circumstances) or what the thought process of their friend is in order to better understand it and learn from it (in better circumstances), so the clarifying questions tend to come up and the potentially awkward situation of ethical vegetarianism is pretty unavoidable.

I agree that nearly every vegetarian I've known who stuck to that diet for ethical reasons was very flexible about their friends' diets. I do also wonder how much of that is due to pragmatism (anyone who really thought meat was murder would quickly go nuts in this society), and a much greater pressure to conform would appear if vegetarians were the majority (probably rightly so, and I say this as a mildly-guilty meat eater).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:23 PM
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233: fair enough, I didn't make it parallel enough. Suppose their statement was "I think there is too much X lawyering going on, and not enough Y"

I think that has the same nuance then. It doesn't necessarily imply they don't think any of you personally shouldn't do X.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:24 PM
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240: Given that my first comment on this, 194, explicitly restricted what I was talking about to self-announced ethical vegetarians, the 'finally' there suggests that you indeed haven't been following closely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:26 PM
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241: You might be right about that being (one of) the reason for "Well, why", but that doesn't explain at all why the typical conversation goes from there to some version of telling the vegetarian they are wrong.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:26 PM
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but that doesn't explain at all why the typical conversation goes from there to some version of telling the vegetarian they are wrong.

Because if the meat eater thought the vegetarian was right, they'd probably not eat meat themselves?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:29 PM
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237: Oh yes. At the publishing company I worked for, my age cohort would all eat together each day, either in the lunchroom or out. She didn't eat vegetables -- ever. In a, say, Thai restaurant, she would order the plainest thing on the menu (beef fried rice) and ask that it be made with no vegetables at all. So my very veggified lunches, to her, were I guess like plates of worms. And the fact that they were intentionally very veggied made it that much worse.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:29 PM
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235: I think I was not being clear enough about the distinctions, and hope 239 makes it clear why I think it is entirely plausible to hold both an 'ethical X' stance without being judgemental of *individuals* who don't hold it.

I think it's fair to say that being an 'ethical X' implies a certain judgement of the society as a whole in relation to 'X', but that's not the same thing.

Besides, positions like 'ethical vegetarian' can be pretty nuanced. I know of many vegetarians that aren't actually opposed to using animals as food, but are opposed enough to the way in which we do it that it mostly amounts to the same thing. For you, does that imply the same judgment of you eating a burger?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:30 PM
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I knew a kid like that in college -- lived on meat and sugar. Very little starch, even; mostly meat and sweets. Very weird diet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:31 PM
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Because if the meat eater thought the vegetarian was right, they'd probably not eat meat themselves?

Ok, so the meat eater is being judgmental, at least. But why do they feel the need to do this actively? Particularly in a social situation, where you have to overcome your socialization against making such a 'scene'.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:33 PM
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For you, does that imply the same judgment of you eating a burger?

Pretty much, assuming I'm eating a factory-farmed burger and that's what the ethical vegetarian objects to. (Again, I really get along fine with ethical vegetarians, and I don't blame any such for thinking that my meat-eating is immoral. I just don't think that, to the extent they notice my existence and diet at all, they have any other reasonable option than to think so.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:34 PM
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And in a college? The asshole is faculty? That's disturbing.

CA has a (giant slob of a male) colleague who does this about CA's jackets at work. CA is pretty natty and Slob Colleague will look him up and down and pronounce his jacket "awful." He is something!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:36 PM
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243: Sorry. I did see 194, but there are actually numerous reasons for being an ethical vegetarian -- I can even tell that I'm one without meaning to rebuke you.

This is Soup's territory.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:36 PM
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I just don't think that, to the extent they notice my existence and diet at all, they have any other reasonable option than to think so.

So you disagree with 239 in principle, or just disagree that such people typically exist (as is my experience, I think)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:36 PM
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but that doesn't explain at all why the typical conversation goes from there to some version of telling the vegetarian they are wrong

Oh, well, that's just because a lot of people are defensive pricks. I believe that sometimes (often) the answer just is that easy.

239 is a giant bowl of good points, and a large part of why I've never felt any real implicit judgment from my vegetarian friends. Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time extending the same degree of charity to strangers, either through imagining they've thought through the consequences of their actions and decided upon the best possible way for them to reduce their carbon impact, or through assuming that they think the same of us.

Also unfortunately, the tendency to think about environmental impact and to act on it through dietary or other changes probably has very strong clustering, so diet choices actually do reveal general moral considerations with fairly high probability.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:37 PM
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Ok, so the meat eater is being judgmental, at least.

Not clear what you mean by 'judgmental'. The meat eater likely thinks that the vegetarian is mistaken on a moral matter, but doesn't think the vegetarian acts immorally as a result; no one thinks eating vegetables is wrong.

But why do they feel the need to do this actively? Particularly in a social situation, where you have to overcome your socialization against making such a 'scene'.

Because they're impolite assholes who feel empowered by social norms to be assholes. I'm not, and haven't been, saying hassling vegetarians is polite or well-mannered, just that it's not inexplicable. It's a completely understandable reaction, that a wellbehaved person would know better than to express.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:38 PM
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253: You keep on referring to the possibility of ethical reasons to be a vegetarian that would be binding on one person but not another, if I understand you correctly. I'm not clear at all what such reasons would be, and I don't think you've spelled them out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:40 PM
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But why do they feel the need to do this actively? Particularly in a social situation, where you have to overcome your socialization against making such a 'scene'.

Because food produces very visceral reactions. My coworker, and perhaps oudemia's, saw something gross and said "eww."

Its not like they come from some strange planet where it is polite to lean over someone else's food and say "DISGUSTING!" They just felt disgust.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:42 PM
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LB is patiently explaining the mainstream state of being: what is understandable.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:43 PM
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Honestly, I get that a lot of the "why" questions I get from non-vegs are a sincere attempt to express interest in me as a person. Whether it's someone I'm dating or someone who's trying to get to be closer friends, they seem to be asking because they want to show their desire for intimacy. It doesn't help that I'm a vegetarian for stupid reasons. I'm not lecturing anyone about land-use or destruction of the environment or the cuteness of living things; my answer is basically nonsensical. So the person trying to "figure me out" for the purposes of intimacy-creation is stymied.

I sort of feel the same way when people ask me what music I listen to. It's an attempt to learn something about my character or aesthetic preferences, and my answers are mostly stupid and unhelpful. I think asking me about my work is a good way of finding out about my character and ethical commitments, but, as the above conversation shows, that's not true for everyone. Some people just have "jobs" and invest the larger part of their intimate true selves in their hobbies, tastes, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:43 PM
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I wanted to write a novel before I ever did much foreign travel/tourism and later I had an idea for a novel that would have involved tourism, but long before I ever did anything along those lines I determined that I can't write fiction well.

Maybe because most of what I know about travel writing comes from some book reviews and reading Paul Fussell's Abroad I associate that genre with people from the U.K. or the Commonwealth countries more than anywhere else.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:43 PM
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I knew a kid like that in college -- lived on meat and sugar

I have a friend like that now. I think the closest he comes to eating vegetables is ketchup.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:45 PM
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This seems to have mostly fallen into vegetarian/non-vegetarian examples, but it's the general point that I found interesting. The idea that you can know someone else's intent from such a limited amount of information, up to the certainty that a pre-emptive 'fuck you' is the right response, fascinates me.

Certainly I suspect I can tell a lot about people in the abstract from things they do. People who spend a lot of time watching NASCAR and WWF to me seem characteristically different than people who spend a lot of time watching operas and symphonies, and I might have a conceit that I could accurately predict some other things about the two groups.

But this is all in the abstract, and really statistical ideas about large numbers of people. In the concrete, individuals are pretty complex, and I've been surprised enough that I'd never try to make that kind of inference.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:45 PM
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258: Well, soup seemed puzzled by the commonness of the reaction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:46 PM
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Because they're impolite assholes who feel empowered by social norms to be assholes. I'm not, and haven't been, saying hassling vegetarians is polite or well-mannered, just that it's not inexplicable. It's a completely understandable reaction, that a wellbehaved person would know better than to express.

Ok, we're in agreement here.

But as for 256, I'm confused. How is my example not exactly that?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:47 PM
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Well, soup seemed puzzled by the commonness of the reaction.

No, I'm puzzled by anyone pretending it's logical.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:48 PM
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iow, it was the "preemptive fuck you" thing that got me going.

anyway, i'm off for a bit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:49 PM
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262: Oh, the general point: I do what I think right for me, which doesn't necessarily imply that I think the different things you do are wrong, given that you're not me, and our factual situations are different, is a very reasonable one. Ethical vegetarianism, though, is a bad example of that because the issues (at least the ones I can think of) are so generalizable.

And the general point weakens the more similar the person you're comparing yourself to is: someone who really was in precisely your factual situation, who makes a very different choice from you for moral reasons, seems to me to be likely to think you're acting immorally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:51 PM
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How is my example not exactly that?

The factory farmed meat example? If it's immoral for you to eat, it's immoral for me to eat.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 5:52 PM
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I'm not lecturing anyone about land-use or destruction of the environment or the cuteness of living things; my answer is basically nonsensical.

Not that nonsensical. Burning human flesh really does smell disturbingly like hot dogs and smell is pretty powerfully hardwired into our memories in a difficult-to-reason-out-of kind of way.

In the concrete, individuals are pretty complex, and I've been surprised enough that I'd never try to make that kind of inference.

This is very wise, soup, but most people aren't. If you ever need confirmation about this, just ask an asian female friend what pick-up lines she's heard recently.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:04 PM
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The pre-emptive "Fuck you" was something I mentioned by way of explaining a common reaction to self-declared ethical vegans. Which makes sense to me, even if it isn't my reaction. If it had been clearer that I was only mentioning the attitude it probably wouldn't have caused so much disagreement.

I still don't get, though, what it is about meat-eating that's so context-sensitive as to require lots of information about the other person's reasoning, job, travel regimen, or whatever, prior to forming a judgement about their diet.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:07 PM
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239 is very good and very clear. I don't quite understand why it doesn't answer LB's objection.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:16 PM
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||

I want a thread about Robin Henley, the guy on NPR who wrote a book called Do Over I mean he went back to kindergarten and chose to go back to the prom. Apparently his original kindergarten teacher had stepped on his back all the time and was committed the following year.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:25 PM
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I still don't get, though, what it is about meat-eating that's so context-sensitive as to require lots of information about the other person's reasoning, job, travel regimen, or whatever, prior to forming a judgement about their diet.

That wasn't the issue though. If they're a vegetarian, they're a vegetarian, judge that how you will.

However, you do need rather a lot more information in order to have any sort of informed opinion about what that person will think of your choices, though.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 6:33 PM
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The discussion seems to have moved on to issues about which I have little insight or interest, but here are some thoughts on travel and work:

I find the idea of working just long enough to save up enough money to travel for a while very attractive, and it's something I've done a couple of times myself in different ways. I don't think there's any way I could have managed to come back to this job without the six-week break after my internship ended when I did my big road trip.

In general, I find time off essential to my well-being, and while I do like my job, it's very much a job and I'm happier not doing it than doing it. Many of my coworkers are volunteers, mostly retired people doing this to fill their time. They're nice people and all, and I get along great with them, but there's a really fundamental disconnect between their attitude toward the work and mine. For them, this is the fun stuff they saved up money to do when they were working. For me, this is the work I do to save up enough money to do fun stuff. Differences in personality are the main factor here, I think.

That's not even getting into the various aspects of people's attitudes toward travel that I see in the course of the job, but that's a huge and very complicated topic not amenable to a simple distillation.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:07 PM
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If we're just talking descriptively, I don't think whether the opinion that the vegetarian is judging them is informed gets at the relevant question. All I suspect is going on is the assumption that the person is an ethical vegetarian and
1) their reasons for doing so are the sorts of secular animal welfare reasons in the public discourse
2) these reasons should be taken to apply to everyone
3) they should be judging me, even if they're being polite and not doing so now
4) oh, and here am I, doing unethical things right in front of them. oops.

Vegetarianism doesn't strike me as distinctly different from other ethical choices that are taken to be universal. But it is more public, because meals and food culture are shared experiences, and it's also one with a popularized awareness campaign, so the idea that vegetarians think eating meat is wrong isn't one that would require intimate knowledge of the person.

If we're talking prescriptively, many of the vegetarians I know either don't care, view vegetarianism as supererogatory (I know too many philosophers), or think that it's morally, but something that someone has to come to on their own. So no one should feel rebuked.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:12 PM
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271: Mostly, it seemed off-point because I'd be surprised to hear someone concerned only about carbon-footprint describe themselves as an 'ethical vegetarian' if there weren't accompanying concerns about animal rights and welfare.

Putting that objection to one side, it still seems that if you see reducing your carbon footprint by whatever means, including vegetarianism, as a moral imperative, then failing to be a vegetarian is a moral failing, because being a vegetarian is practical for almost anyone (barring particular medical conditions that I don't know details about). If you're imperfect yourself on the carbon footprint front, you might not judge someone else as worse than yourself for not being a vegetarian, but you'd still have to think that their meat eating was, in an abstract sense, wrong as an unnecessary source of carbon.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:15 PM
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view vegetarianism as supererogatory

This is a possibility that I'd been neglecting (not being a philosopher) which would allow for non-judgmentalism -- thinking of vegetarianism as a moral good but not a duty. It doesn't seem to go terribly plausibly with the animal rights/welfare reasons for vegetarianism, but it's a possibility.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:20 PM
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Here's the line of discussion, generally, summarizing madly. It's hard to draw a line and figure out which animals have rights and which don't, if we're trying to base it on something like pain or consciousness of pain. Cows? Sheep? Shrimp? Lobsters? Eggs? Dairy? Bees? It's really hard to tell. But wherever we draw the line, factory farming seems to be right out, and agribusiness practices also have the (argumentative) benefit of being really bad for human beings, and we're on firmer ground when we're talking about obligations to other people. So what's at most justifiable is eating sustainable and humanely raised meat, and that's going to mean eating less meat, and given how hard it is to tell whether the meat meets those criteria, there are good practical reasons for deciding to eat no meat at all. Like donating extra to charity.

People's reasons seem to be a mix. Then there's a question of living up to those reasons. I know plenty of vegetarians who think veganism is probably morally correct, but practically impossible to live up to.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:40 PM
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Interjecting after a hiatus. The shift from discussion of dislike of DFHs to dislike of vegetarians (or vegans) occurred, I think, at 185.

I don't know whether the shift was a mistake; the informing sensibility seemed to be similar. I would like to understand those of you who harbor a dislike of what you perceive to be DFHs. I will say that if there's anything that will make me walk away, it's labored argumentation designed to show that dislike of DFHs (or vegetarians, since these have become conflated in some weird way) is entirely reasonable. Well, there are other things that will make me walk away. But defense of hippie-hatred is up there.

Carry on.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:54 PM
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I was neither laboring nor arguing that it was justified, just understandable.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 7:56 PM
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But defense of hippie-hatred is up there.

From CharleyCarp, maybe (which is funny, because I think of him as, at least in the past, much more of a literal hippie than most other people around here). I don't think from anyone else commenting here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:03 PM
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280: For "understandable," read "reasonable." About the same. It's not dissimilar from any number of other observations here that adherence to the status quo is completely reasonable. No doubt!

281: Also from OFE, whose argument involved the notion that DFHs are free-loaders. Po-Mo began to say something similar, but then backed off.

Eh. LB, it has seemed clear to me that dismissal or dislike, if not downright hatred, of DFHs is par for the course around here. One gets tired of it, that's all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:17 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:18 PM
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Ogged!


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:19 PM
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Well, someone should say something to keep me from spitting. If that's Ogged, that's good enough.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:21 PM
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It's not at all apparent to me that anyone in this thread is arguing that dislike of hippies or vegetarians is "reasonable" in the sense that the arguer finds the reasons for it convincing and agrees with them. Most people seem to be arguing that it's "reasonable" in the sense that it is possible in the abstract to determine a coherent reason for it. Why this is a worthwhile pursuit remains obscure to me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:24 PM
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dismissal or dislike, if not downright hatred, of DFHs is par for the course around here

Did I miss the place above where the term "DFH" was found to pick out a clear, agreed-upon group of people?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:33 PM
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287: Mmm. I have understood 'DFH' as from its origin (it's Atrios talking about attitudes toward antiwar protesters, right) to usually refer to people who are being unjustly or irrationally dismissed because they're perceived as having a countercultural association.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:37 PM
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This seems to have mostly fallen into vegetarian/non-vegetarian examples, but it's the general point that I found interesting. The idea that you can know someone else's intent from such a limited amount of information, up to the certainty that a pre-emptive 'fuck you' is the right response, fascinates me.

I think it's connected to this: I guess we notice it more often where something isn't actually very normative, or the norm is changing

For example, my mother got a pretty significant amount of guff (insults, assumptions, rude remarks, people feeling generally entitled to comment on it) for not changing her birth name when she got married. You can read her choice as an individual preference that was not a society-wide judgment -- and indeed, when I am trying to smooth things over with a stranger, the friendly pre-emptive thing I say is that my maternal grandfather had no sons, and thus no one else to carry on the name.

Or you can read it as a big fat judgment on her part towards all of the women who were merrily and unquestioningly becoming Mrs. John Smith. (In real life I suspect it was both, mixed in with some real principles about already being known under her own name and not wanting to change it.)

Regardless, it is absolute fact that a very significant number of total strangers -- bank tellers, grocery store clerks, doctor's office receptionists -- felt entitled to interrogate her about why she had not changed it, to pronounce that her children would suffer for her misjudgment ("They'll be confused about who's in their family!") and so on and so forth.

These days, it's enough of a norm that in many circles it elicits no comment, in others a bizarre kind of praise ("Good for you!"), and in some a rather defensive "Yes, I thought about doing that, but...."

But for a long time, that was not the case. IME it continues to be true with any visibly outside the norm difference. I suspect that one reason for the strong reactions are the purity and traditionalism beliefs that are so important to a subset of our society.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:42 PM
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Whoops, 289 was me.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:43 PM
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288: Aha, that original definition makes some of 282 make a bit more sense. But still, some of the critical remarks that parsimon is responding to are picking out more specific things and aren't just kneejerk dismissal.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:44 PM
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From people who are generally left-liberal, I really don't think what you see is "hatred" of hippies as much as friendly ribbing, like the following from a newsletter I got this week:

"[. . .] The Fiver owes its well intentioned sandal-wearing, mungbean-munching, yoghurt-knitting colleagues at Big Paper a huge debt of gratitude and a pint of hemp protein shake with flax seeds and goji berries, because if they hadn't made Sustainability Day a reality, we'd never have had the imagination to dream it up for comedy purposes ourselves. And with today's selected highlights including a company wide clothes swap, Dr Bike's maintenance clinic and a bee-keeping workshop conducted over the rhythmic soundtrack of Arabian Dholaks being beaten by a raggle-taggle band of stoner students, it's small wonder the following news about this weekend's internationals looks rushed. [. . .]"

Is there really a point in asking, "but why do these writers feel the need snark about an earnest 'Sustainability Day'?" It's just sociological comedy that you would do of any subculture of people, whether hippies, or yachting enthusiasts, or academics or whoever.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:47 PM
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287, 288: I actually did spend some time a year or so ago trying to find the origin of the term. It tracked back to something like Atrios's use -- maybe not him specifically, but the anti-war puppeteer connotation, yes.

My sense is that its use has since expanded tremendously. You should all explain this to me please: who are the DFHs you refer to now?

If you know that they're unjustly or irrationally dismissed (per LB's 288), why do you continue to dimiss them? Is it just a cute joke?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:47 PM
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And on the dislike-of-hippies, I own up to a major-league impatience and contempt with entitled young people who don't acknowledge that their ability to live so-called counter-cultural lives depends on invisible financial support and a social safety net (of, e.g., white middle-class connections such that a three-year gap on a resume will not cost them later on) that most people don't get to have.

Many of these people seem to self-identify as hippies, and visibly present as hippie-ish. My dislike of them in no way leads me to assume that a) they represent most hippies or countercultural folks, or b) that I am not myself exactly the kind of DFH that many people object to.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:49 PM
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My sense is that its use has since expanded tremendously. You should all explain this to me please: who are the DFHs you refer to now?

This was my sense as well in this thread, which is why I was so taken aback at 282.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:52 PM
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292: Criminally Bulghur, I wouldn't take offense at that newsletter, are you kidding? It's great.

No, the dismissal of DFHs I refer to is not a case of over-sensitivity on my part.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 8:58 PM
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Gee, I see to have stirred something up with my blatant violation of the analogy ban.

Look at the complaint about vegans, though. It's not about the silent and private vegan, but specifically about the judgmental person. This has nothing to do with people who aren't acting in an assholish judgmental fashion. (Except to the extent that some folks might become preemptively defensive in the presence of someone they think is likely to be silently judgmental -- not altogether fair, to be sure, but understandable).

And some carnivores prone to annoying assholish behavior? Absolutely. But there is a qualitative difference between calling someone an earnest flake and calling someone a moral monster.

I don't dislike DFHs. I don't dislike vegans. I don't like being lectured by either, any more than I like being lectured by conservatives, or glibertarians. I think a lot of dislike of DFHs is dislike of being lectured -- or fear of a lecture to come. Obviously, this only affects a small subset of people who might self-identify as hippie . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:03 PM
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194

There aren't a lot of circumstances where you know, explicitly, that someone's moral code forbids, as a violation of that code, something that you do on a regular basis. And the only obvious reactions I can see are to either (a) accept their code, and feel guilty and uncomfortable about violating it or (b) reject their code, and think that they're awfully silly to be making their lives difficult for no good reason. For a meat-eater to be made uncomfortable by vegetarians isn't surprising or irrational at all.

I am not completely convinced. I see a) as a problem but not b). To me vegetarianism is just another nutty religious belief (so being a vegetarian for ethical reasons is equivalent to being a vegetarian for religious reasons). And I am not particularly bothered by nutty religious beliefs unless they directly inconvenience me.

And I agree with a lot of what soup says.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:05 PM
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For "understandable," read "reasonable."

No, I meant "understandable", because I don't find it reasonable implying endorsement, nor (pace teo) do I find it to be a terribly abstract problem.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:11 PM
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293

If you know that they're unjustly or irrationally dismissed (per LB's 288), why do you continue to dimiss them? Is it just a cute joke?

I thought the DFH hatred on this site was a joke. Are you saying it's real?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:12 PM
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The analogy above to catholic vs. protestant is only applicable to the extent someone has converted. Most people stick with whichever they were raised with. But if some convert goes about telling followers of his/her former religion that they've got it all wrong, and the other team has the one true vision, a certain dislike would be a pretty natural consequence.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:15 PM
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But, on the other hand, the Fiver is the Guardian's football thingy, it can make fun of DFHs because by quite a lot of definitions the mere act of reading it makes you a DFH.

But there is a qualitative difference between calling someone an earnest flake and calling someone a moral monster.

Morally perhaps, but when I just want to eat dinner, either is offensive and impolite. And arguably `flake' is worse because it comes from a position of hegemony.

I can't be arsed making the proper argument about cultural hegemony and the construction of difference and all that, but seriously, it isn't the poor omnivores who get the worse deal.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:18 PM
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Third comma in the above should be a fullstop.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:20 PM
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To me vegetarianism is just another nutty religious belief

If we're going to go there (oh man, why am I going there?), please explain to me which prophet handed down to you the dictate that you would consume feed-lot cows, shot up with antibiotics so that they might make it to slaughter, or chicken-shit-filled chicken coops where chickens know not the ability to walk about.

I'm a vegetarian for taste reasons, and I'll gladly cook meat for a guest. But the way a lot of meat is processed in the US is extremely fucked up, and I rarely hear a counter argument other than "But bacon is awesome!"


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:21 PM
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But there is a qualitative difference between calling someone an earnest flake and calling someone a moral monster.

This is the second time you've said this. I'm not after you in particular, by the way.

But maybe people don't know that people perceived as DFHs are driven out of places: refused, or given begrudging, service in a diner. Asked to leave a campground. This is the reason I don't find it funny, for that kind of response goes beyond calling someone an earnest flake (tangentially, why is being earnest so fucking deprecated?).

I can't afford to care much what people here think, because they are substantially dedicated to the status quo.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:22 PM
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I am loving Keir in 302, though I don't know what the football thingy is about.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:30 PM
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why is being earnest so fucking deprecated?

Because it makes other people feel uncomfortable.

Why it makes them uncomfortable, I don't know for sure, although I have several avenues of speculation. But yeah, I think that's it: People are uncomfortable when feeling cognitive dissonance; earnestness has a tendency to point up the contradictions between rhetoric and behavior, or between professed beliefs/principles and behavior; one way to resolve the dissonance is to strike out at or eject the person who brought it to consciousness.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:31 PM
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I think, pars, we're using DFH in different senses, and you're using it much more literally than I would. Of course it's wrong for people to be denied service in that fashion.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:32 PM
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You can't separate earnest and flake in my formulation. I'm sure we've all met people who are oh so very serious about astrology, trying to figure out how to run their lives around the proper orientation of the planets etc. Earnestness in the pursuit of astrological harmony is going to be deprecated every day of the week.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:36 PM
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300: I thought the DFH hatred on this site was a joke. Are you saying it's real?

Ogged hates hippies, but he's long gone, and I never understood his animus (something about how they "smell like goat"), and frankly didn't want to discuss it with him. Generally, yes, I think there's an animus toward hippies, but I think people's understanding of who or what they are is gravely misguided, and it astonishes me that such an otherwise allegedly open-minded group of people would be so dense.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:38 PM
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304

If we're going to go there (oh man, why am I going there?), please explain to me which prophet handed down to you the dictate that you would consume feed-lot cows, shot up with antibiotics so that they might make it to slaughter, or chicken-shit-filled chicken coops where chickens know not the ability to walk about.

I don't have any moral or religious beliefs that require me to eat such food, just none that prohibit it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:38 PM
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276: Thanks for the explanation. But then I understand this:

If you're imperfect yourself on the carbon footprint front, you might not judge someone else as worse than yourself for not being a vegetarian, but you'd still have to think that their meat eating was, in an abstract sense, wrong as an unnecessary source of carbon.

to suggest that "judging" is being used in only the loosest sense. If we're all in the wrong, then the judgment doesn't really have teeth; I don't get uncomfortable sitting across the dinner table from someone who thinks we're both contributing minuscule amounts to the larger destructive behavior of the human race, in the way that I might from someone who thinks I'm an animal-murderer and they're virtuous.

At any rate, it's probably true that few would call themselves "ethical vegetarians" if they're motivated by reducing their carbon footprint. (For that matter, I don't think I know any vegetarians for whom reducing their carbon footprint is the primary motivation.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:40 PM
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But, on the other hand, the Fiver is the Guardian's football thingy, it can make fun of DFHs because by quite a lot of definitions the mere act of reading it makes you a DFH.

To the extent that this is true*, you could just substitute "Unfogged" for "The Guardian" and the point would still stand, right? That is basically what I was trying to say, though I didn't make explicit the context with respect to The Fiver.

* I actually think the political affiliations and cultural background of the readers of the Guardian's football page, especially online, is broader than the paper's general readership, just because they have better football journalism than the other major newspapers and media outlets, and the political slant doesn't show up that much. I'm not British though, so I couldn't say for sure, because I don't encounter the relevant populations in real life.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:40 PM
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310

... Generally, yes, I think there's an animus toward hippies, but I think people's understanding of who or what they are is gravely misguided, and it astonishes me that such an otherwise allegedly open-minded group of people would be so dense.

I am pretty sure many (most?) of the DFH comments here are ironic or sarcastic.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:45 PM
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308: Okay, my friend. It's actually friends over in B.C. who have been denied service in that fashion, and boy have they been upset about it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:45 PM
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310: But the non-showering, patchouli-wearing stereotype of hippies you're talking about now is only a tiny part of "people who are being unjustly or irrationally dismissed because they're perceived as having a countercultural association." (From LB's definition of DFH above.) Unless I'm still not understanding the DFH term in its original sense.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 9:47 PM
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Ogged hates hippies

Ogged lives in San Francisco.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:01 PM
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The Guardian is way more DFH than Unfogged is though. Remember, the Guardian isn't hugely left wing by historical UK standards --- compare to the Tribune or the old Daily Herald --- and it was quite involved with the Social Democrats. It is very flakey & bourgeois liberal though. It appeals to lots of people Orwell would be rude about.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:04 PM
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316: This becomes silly, since I'm talking about Ogged who is gone, but he was arguing at the time against a larger subset: those who mention free love, love of one's body however it is, ecological awareness, and suchlike. He concluded with "god, I really hate hippies." He was referrring to a list of hippie traits that Megan had generated.

I don't want to revisit this. It made me quite angry.

With respect to this blog as it is now, I'm prepared to accept that it isn't hippie-hating, if it isn't.

And after all that, no, I don't really know what people mean by "hippie." Clearly different things.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:11 PM
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I'm sure we've all met people who are oh so very serious about astrology, trying to figure out how to run their lives around the proper orientation of the planets etc.

We had some visitors like this here yesterday and today. A group of middle-aged women. One of my colleagues asked them what they did. One was an accountant. Another said she was an astrologer. She took great pains to point out that she worked hard at it, meeting with people all day.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:16 PM
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316 -- See, I don't think the perceived countercultural association is the reason the people are being dismissed; it's just an excuse. If you have a group of people advocating an inconvenient position, and somel percentage of them (no matter how small) can be identified as hippie-oriented, then you can dismiss the whole position as the public policy equivalent of astrology. Not in good faith, of course, but none of that exercise is in good faith.

It works because there are still millions of people who were traumatized by the sixties, and unable to face the fact that on every significant issue (especially national security) for the last 40 years, we were right and they were wrong. Astrology and incense are the only arguments they've got.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:17 PM
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Ogged lives in San Francisco.

Still?

A little precious, maybe, that place.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:17 PM
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And giant puppets.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:19 PM
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We also had a guy who was climbing around on the walls of Pueblo Bonito yesterday. When we heard a report about it we sent our chief law enforcement ranger out to check it out. He ended up bringing the guy into the visitor center but not citing him or anything; I don't know the details. I think he did run a check on for any outstanding warrants.

Anyway, the guy came in this morning to pay for his campsite from last night. Barefoot, with a red plaid shirt and dark sweatpants of some sort. Long gray hair and a beard. He went on and on about his theory that the reason people like Chaco so much is that it's man-made but out of "God-made materials," unlike the man-made materials we use in our buildings today. He's building himself an adobe house in North Carolina. He figures he'll cover the outside with bark or something to protect it from the rain.

All sorts of characters around lately. Full moon, I guess. (I just went out to look at the moon. It's pretty spectacular.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:24 PM
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Full moon in Sagittarius!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:31 PM
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321: Charley, you do confuse me at times. I'm entirely agreed that "DFH!" has been adopted in order to dismiss a constellation of policy positions. Obviously.

Are those the hippies we were talking about? Well, anyway, full moon in Sagittarius must be good.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:41 PM
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I don't know what people mean by "hippie" in this conversation. Probably Charley would be seen as a DFH in some quarters.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:46 PM
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326

321: Charley, you do confuse me at times. I'm entirely agreed that "DFH!" has been adopted in order to dismiss a constellation of policy positions. Obviously.

I thought DFH was adopted (by leftists) as a strawman characterization of rightwing views.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:46 PM
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I don't know what people mean by "hippie" in this conversation.

I don't think anyone does.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:49 PM
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329 -- Right, because Shearer is right in 328. Except that I know what I mean: an earnest flake of a particular flavor.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:52 PM
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And with that, I bid you goodnight.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 10:53 PM
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I thought DFH was adopted (by leftists) as a strawman characterization of rightwing views.

What?

I assume Charley's DFHs are new agers. Not just people who grow their own organic food and wish to overthrow capitalism.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:10 PM
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It doesn't help that I'm a vegetarian for stupid reasons. I'm not lecturing anyone about land-use or destruction of the environment or the cuteness of living things; my answer is basically nonsensical. So the person trying to "figure me out" for the purposes of intimacy-creation is stymied.

I have to say, the jump you make from your first two sentences to your third makes no sense to me. From my perspective, the fact that your reasons for being vegetarian are non-standard is even more useful in terms of getting to know you. Ethical vegetarians are a dime a dozen; you have a good story.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:28 PM
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332

See 288.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:35 PM
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For that matter, I don't think I know any vegetarians for whom reducing their carbon footprint is the primary motivation.)

In comparison I've met dozens of people whose diet is functionally basically vegetarian for this reason, and/or rejection of CAFO foods and industrial feedlot operations, etc. They will often explain their dietary constraints as 'vegetarian', because it's simpler than 'well, I'm not actually a vegetarian, but I won't eat any or the meat products available here' or whatever.

Several people with this sort of view of things will in theory eat some meat products (though not daily, if they are serious about the carbon footprint stuff) but essentially never do. They're pretty hard to distinguish from most self-identified vegetarians from diet alone, and may self-identify as vegetarians for lack of a better label.

There are certainly large numbers of people out there that refuse to eat some/all classes of meat (in the above sense) for ethical reasons that do not include an ethical conviction that eating meat is inherently bad. Many of them are more concerned with the human impacts of the externalities of our current system, others find our treatment of animals unethical and refuse to be part of it. Vegetarians? I dunno. That's their call really.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:40 PM
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erm, 'large numbers' in 335 is in context, hopefully obviously. Clearly a small percentage of, say, the US population.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:44 PM
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I don't eat beef because of the carbon footprint. It seems to be an order of magnitude more eco-unfriendly than any other animal protein. So I see that as better than nothing, anyway.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:46 PM
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In comparison I've met dozens of people whose diet is functionally basically vegetarian for this reason, and/or rejection of CAFO foods and industrial feedlot operations, etc. They will often explain their dietary constraints as 'vegetarian', because it's simpler than 'well, I'm not actually a vegetarian, but I won't eat any or the meat products available here' or whatever.

That's me. Though I didn't become mostly-vegetarian for those reasons initially. Now it's just habit, a gross-out factor with preparing meat (icky!), and shying away from what I know to be disturbing factory farming methods. Will I eat venison otherwise? I will.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:51 PM
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I thought DFH was adopted (by leftists) as a strawman characterization of rightwing views.


A strawman characterization of rightwing views, or a characterization of rightwing strawman views?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:55 PM
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I suppose a third possibility would be to characterize the views of a rightwing strawman, but that's less likely.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 7-09 11:56 PM
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339: No, a strawman characterization of rightwing views. Like "brown people".

e.g.
Rightwing person: "[Statement]"
Leftwing person: "Shorter rightwing person: The DFHs and brown people are up to no good."

An equivalent strawman characterization of leftwing views would be anything involving the word "kumbaya", or, aaaahhhh,,, I have been drawn into a vortex of meta-discussion and


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:00 AM
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a characterization of rightwing strawman views?

I assume it's this, though James put himself badly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:01 AM
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339

The first in my opinion. Or perhaps a strawman characterization of rightwing strawman views. I don't actually see that much DFH type stuff on right wing sites.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:02 AM
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I guess you'd have to go back to the genesis of the term -- or of the accusation -- which may have been around the Seattle WTO protests a while ago now. When the DFHs first started showing some power, with their puppets. I do believe the right wing blustered quite a bit at the time with references to the dirty hippies of the 60s and such. And fears of violence by the dirty hippies, who really couldn't be trusted.

If the claim is now that the right wing no longer fearmongers about the dirty fucking hippies and how they're going to mess up our children's virginity, well, do tell.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:11 AM
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||

The f'cking BNP have won two Euro seats in the UK

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8088381.stm

>


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:51 AM
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Also from OFE, whose argument involved the notion that DFHs are free-loaders.

A long way back, but I must defend myself against this. My argument was emphatically not that DFHs were freeloaders in any economic sense. It was that people who are privileged to do work they love (inc. many DFHs, and Parsimon) are not justified in casting aspersions on people who do work they do not love for not having got their shit together. Because somebody is going to have to do that work unless you're willing to go without sewerage treatment and Medicare. And who gets to do it is mainly a matter of luck.

Telling Joe 9-5, "I got my shit together because I work with all this lovely stuff and you didn't" is not a good thing to do. Obviously people's work should be rewarding and inspiring, but in the world we live in that is utopian, Utopian, UTOPIAN. And I don't deal in utopias as prescriptions for real world ills.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:56 AM
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Brown seems to have decided he wasn't going to be Maxton, and has ended up being MacDonald.

The poor useless sod.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:59 AM
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Yes to 346.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:06 AM
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The problem is not just England though, apparently. The far right has won all over place. Four fucking fascists from the Netherlands, of all places. If it was just England (it isn't Scotland or Wales), I could understand it, given the recent history of Labour, but it's even worse than that.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:12 AM
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re: 349

Yes, and the left has done OK in a few places, too; better than the centre left in a lot of countries. It has been a polarising election, with centre-left votes leaking right and left.

In Scotland, of course, the centre-left* SNP has done very well.

* not really that left, but much to the left of the current Labour party, of course.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:14 AM
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not really that left, but much to the left of the current Labour party, of course.

A lot of things are. That's putting a good spin on it, but the aggregate Left bloc vote is down half a percent, and the "no group" numbers, which are mainly far right, are through the roof.

The Scots and the Welsh acquitted themselves well, though. I like the idea of a PC MEP.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:27 AM
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Yeah, the far right have definitely done pretty well. A bit of a kick in the teeth for those who expected that the collective crisis of capitalism would lead to an increase in left votes.

Although I do not that the Greens were being somewhat spun against in the news coverage, with the increase in their vote in the UK continually ignored in favour of coverage of the BNP (even in those areas where the BNP didn't do well at all). The Green's increase in votes was double the BNP's (as a % rise), for example.

I can understand the focus on the BNP but I'll bet some of the Greens are feeling a tad bitter about it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:42 AM
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Peter Kellner, the pollster, tells the BBC that Labour got the lowest share of the vote in a national poll since 1910. Or, to put it another way, it's the worst result for 99 years.
Um, Keir... Have you got a minute?
Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:17 AM
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re: 353

?

[As an aside, I'd never heard of Maxton -- just looked him up. Very interesting.]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:56 AM
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And discovered his quote was the source for the title of Owen Hatherley's excellent blog, which I also didn't know.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:57 AM
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354. Just riffing on the idea that last time Labour was in this position electorally it was led by a man named Keir.

I hadn't known the source of that quote either. Will anybody have the cojones to use it at the next PMQ?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:13 AM
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On a further Hatherley note, I bought his book, 'Militant Modernism' and it's really good.

Reading about Maxton, and the ILP, makes me very nostalgic for the days of bad-ass Scottish socialists. Including men with the name Keir ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:28 AM
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From what I gather the idea is that a premodern peasant or whatever did his work because that was the kind of person he was, and that kind of person fit into an intelligible, possibly satisfying, scheme of things.

Furrfu...

Why did you think most of these peasants jumped ship for America first chance they got?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:40 AM
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Shearer in 328 is wrong btw. The DFH thing is not a leftwing strawman of rightwing opinions, but a cynical summation of the way the media treated anybody who was opposed to the war in Iraq: as dirty hippie flakes. This continued long after the hippies were proven right.

Rightwingers are much more direct and just call you traitor or anti-american.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:45 AM
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319: You have to remember that Ogged went past hating hippies into liberals as well, despite mostly being one. I'm pretty sure that hippie-hating isn't something that Ogged believed and lots of other people agree with, despite being too chicken to say it -- it was one of the things he started fights with. (Believed? Didn't believe? This was Ogged, so who can tell.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:49 AM
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358. Good Lord! I'd missed that gem.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:00 AM
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I like the formulation in 359 better. The point, for this discussion, is that at the outset the term DFH was coined by people who were reacting to, not making, the slur.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:05 AM
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The BNP? Ick? I knew somebody who was a solid Labour voter who really disliked Europe, as in the European Union enterprise. She considered voting for UKIP once in the European elections, although she wasn't sure whether that wouldn't be wasting her vote and she oughtn't vote conservative instead.

She had a lot of sympathy for people who were uncomfortable with their Indian neighbors because their cooking caused too many smells, but she would never consider voting for the BNP.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:15 AM
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re: 363

The BNP only got around 6 percent of the vote nationally, but the collapse in Labour support and a depressed turnout meant that that translated into 2 Euro seats.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:30 AM
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362 - That sounds about right. Back in the halcyon days of "anti-idiotarianism", Janeane Garofalo being brought on as the anti-war voice on Tucker Carlson specifically because it allowed Carlson to marginalize her as a Hollywood flake**, or Richard Cohen's "Fool or a Frenchman" column**.

* I was looking for the video in which Tucker Carlson offered to eat his shoe if she was right, but it seems to not be on youtube. She apparently made the judgment that it was better to have someone pointing out the lies, even if she was knowingly playing into the Fox News framing of the issue.
** An all-time disgrace from the Washington Post's stupidest columnist; I view this as basically DFHism, since as we all know, the French are all cheese-eating surrender monkeys.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:44 AM
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I was looking for the video in which Tucker Carlson offered to eat his shoe if she was right, but it seems to not be on youtube.

The Tucker-Shoe thing was his bet that HRC's memoir would never be a best seller. HRC later went on Crossfire with a shoe-shaped cake for him.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:46 AM
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The first and third photos in this article are very disturbing.

Finally, white people have a reason to be happy! We've accomplished something! We've fought back against anti-racism, which these days is the only real racism.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:01 AM
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My unrelated Google News search for "Jaaskelainen" found this which also looks like bad news. Though I know nothing of the "True Finns" party, there is a certain heuristic that goes along with names like that...


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:05 AM
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Good news from Sweden?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:12 AM
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368. No, not nice. Basically rural Poujadists, AFAICS


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:28 AM
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341: Actually, DFH works as a characterization of right-wing strawman views, in North America at least, which is something the right wing have done to themselves. There are exceptions to the rule, but it is a rule*, that a Republican having what passes for an "argument" with someone not-Republican will be making some sneering reference to their presumed hippie-dom inside of ten minutes.

Hippie-hatred seems explicable to me as part of something broader than just being about people with satisfying vocations and those without (I'm not actually convinced that all that many latter-day hippies have achieved satisfying vocations, it may vary by locale). What it's about is "realism," the byproduct of the Boomer generation's collective a) embarrassment about their overprivileged youthful antics, or b) working-class resentment of the overprivileged youthful antics of UMC kids, or c) accumulated and calcified youthful resentment about other people's overprivileged antics to which you never once got invited, the fuckers, even if they were your god-damned roommate in college, not that you would have wanted to go anyway, of course, because those antics were un-American bullshit and you weren't fascinated by them in any way (what we may term The Lileks Syndrome for short). Subsequent hippie-hatreds are basically just hand-me-down versions of one of these attitudes, which taken collectively span pretty much the whole of the mainstream political spectrum.

In almost every case, people seem to regard it as somehow telling that the hippies didn't bring about the Age of Aquarius, did they, so they're all a bunch of dupes and failures. It's not a done thing -- but would be the correct thing -- to view them not as failed Revolutionaries of 1848 but as essentially a pop culture movement, much like everything from flappers to punk to metal to hip-hop to Baile funk is a pop culture movement, and compare like with like. If you do that, they compare pretty favorably. (And let's face it, they compare even more favorably yet to the Very Serious People of the media and fnancial and political establishments that gave us the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and Guantanamo, and the economic meltdown.)

(* It doesn't get at the full range of epithets, idiocies and rhetorical dodges, of course, to which we'd have to add calling the not-Republican a terrorist -- in the spirit of the way anyone not-Republican of old was a "commie" or a "pinko" -- comparing them to Neville Chamberlain, denouncing them as the "real" racist in any conversation where racism comes up, and so on. Basically, though, if you think you're going to have any kind of coherent argument with a bloc composed largely of right-wing authoritarian personalities, you're kidding yourself. And good on whomever mentioned the Altemeyer book, BTW, which is necessary reading.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:49 AM
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And let's face it, they compare even more favorably yet to the Very Serious People of the media and financial and political establishments that gave us the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and Guantanamo, and the economic meltdown.

One of the annoying things about hippie boomers to those of of a younger generation is that the people who brought us the '60s' and the people who brought us those wars, and economic meltdown, are often the same people.

But yeah, I think your tripartite explanation looks pretty plausible.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:04 AM
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DS, the Age of Aquarius came about just two weeks ago, on this very blog.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:14 AM
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I missed this whole discussion, but I just want to note that some people are extremely freaky about being "judged" (that's in quotes because I find that such people are very attached to the word. "Don't you judge me" is something I've never once said in earnest, but have heard repeatedly from such people, being deadly serious). IME it's mostly people from lower SES backgrounds, but that's probably just how I've categorized it.

But I bring it up because there are people in the world who feel implicitly "judged" by all sorts of behavior, including proper grammar usage (not little bitchery; just usage by another), and get very defensive/aggressive. I think it's useful to bear this in mind when worrying about how people react to a given behavior. Some people are just looking for an excuse to take offense.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:23 AM
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372: the people who brought us the '60s' and the people who brought us those wars, and economic meltdown, are often the same people.

Yup, their greatest sin has often been the betrayal of their younger selves. But subsequent generations -- like, say, the Dennis Millers of the world -- didn't really fare much better.

373: Impossible. I was not notified. I would have been notified of something like that.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:26 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:31 AM
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I'm sure that to the extent that I am hippie averse, it has nothing to do with the right wing hippie-dismissal phenomenon we are talking about here. But though hippies have given us many wonderful things, I am a lot happier no longer living in Berkeley, and I don't think it's because I felt judged and resentful. It's because I found many of my neighbors really annoying.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:40 AM
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I hate to sound as if I'm endorsing anybody I emphatically wouldn't want to endorse, but more Boomer hippies than not were not left wing at all in any sense beyond opposition to the war. Which most of them opposed more from motives of self preservation (even in Britain, where the possibility that Wilson might cave to Johnson/Nixon and send troops was always present) than principle.

Which resolves the apparent conundrum in 372.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:48 AM
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378: Again, compare and contrast with other pop culture movements. How "liberal" was/is your average punk? Headbanger? Hip-hop head? How many of each had the sense to oppose war even out of self-preservation, even if we concede that "most" opposition to the war was "not principled"? I'm a big Jello Biafra fan but it's not as though he's the rule.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:55 AM
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(379: Which is to say, regardless of the sins of their elder selves, the hippies of the Sixties taken broadly were pretty distinctive among pop-culture movements in even having politics, letting alone getting the politics right with a fair degree of frequency.)

377: Depends on how deep the aversion goes, I guess. Someone's merely being annoying seems like a poor reason for any aversion serious enough to be really worth mentioning -- cheerful church ladies are sometimes annoying, guys who talk about curling and the ceremonies at their Elks club are sometimes annoying, but so what. What the annoyance usually seems to boil down to, in many cases, is some version of scenario A in 371: my goodness, they're embarrassing!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:06 AM
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379. Yeah sure. As a pop culture movement they gave us some cool stuff. But, speaking as a boomer hippie (although not really first generation, I hung around with a lot of those people), when they stopped playing or painting or whatever, it was a good time to stop listening.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:07 AM
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371: I occasionally meet conservatives who don't seem to be obviously evil and/or insane (less so these days, but back in the early Bush years and before).

If the subject of political views and reasons for holding them came up, without fail their commitment to conservatism came down to some variation on "the hippies were mean to me in college".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:14 AM
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381: Well, seriously, they're pretty much the only pop-culture movement that tended toward progressive attitudes about things like war, racism. poverty, religious tolerance -- however deep the attitudes did and did not go, whatever their motivations, all of which would have varied widely.

Yes, I'm sure hanging out with your local hippie wasn't the equivalent of chilling with the Peripatetics in ancient Athens. But so what? As opposed to all the other pop culture movements that were swarming with deep sophisticates?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:15 AM
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384. Some did, some didn't (tend towards progressive attitudes...). I came across hippies in the early 70s with views which would make it very easy for them to get a job working for Cheney. I don't get a feel for how old you are, but I suspect you might be romanticising your youth a bit.

Look, I was a hippie. I'm still a hippie by some measures. I don't hate hippies, I just don't surround them with some halo of virtue either. Maybe because I was close enough to it all in the 70s to see every side of it. Don't get me started on the original hippies' attitude to women.

All I was trying to point out was that there's a tendency among hippies who have "got it together, man" to disparage those who haven't. And it's not a good thing. Showbiz kids making movies of themselves...


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:25 AM
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It works because there are still millions of people who were traumatized by the sixties, and unable to face the fact that on every significant issue (especially national security) for the last 40 years, we were right and they were wrong. Astrology and incense are the only arguments they've got.

is great.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:28 AM
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OFE gets it right in 384.

I'm the child of hippies, brought up as a hippy child, etc and I have no hatred of them at all. But, I've heard a chuffing lot of hippie self-aggrandisement and it gets tired.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:31 AM
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383: Most pop culture movements don't have quite the hold on politics and the popular imagination.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:32 AM
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384.1: Oh, I'm sure you did. Again, I'm not saying that everybody was a progressive saint, I'm saying that on balance (pace ttaM), chuffing hippie self-aggrandisement is a far less obnoxious phenomenon than complacent hippie-dismissal, especially coming from eras (like any decade post-Sixties) whose pop culture couldn't manage even the minimal degree of political consciousness and discernment that teh hippiez managed to maintain.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:40 AM
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387: Especially in that so many people remain wedded to poorly- or pettily-motivated resentment of it. Basically I'm just saying, enough with the resentment and I don't care whether people think patchouli is annoying or not, the hippies got a lot of shit right and it's time to sort of just accept that and move on.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:43 AM
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The hippies I run into in central North Carolina (I'm not counting college students here, but people who have maintained such a lifestyle through adulthood) are mostly just organic farmers and artists living out in the rural parts of the counties who keep to themselves. For me, they're just the main local source for meat and vegetables, candles, and ceramics. Net positive.

Oh, and I guess the earth-mother pagan people would be considered hippies, but although I'm anti-religion generally, they certainly play a much more benign local role than their Christian counterparts. Or, at least, they don't have anything to do with blue laws or school board takeovers or closing down entire lanes of traffic on Sunday morning for parking. So.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:50 AM
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Also, weed. Yay, hippies!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:51 AM
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especially coming from eras (like any decade post-Sixties) whose pop culture couldn't manage even the minimal degree of political consciousness and discernment that teh hippiez managed to maintain.

But the point is that that isn't an accurate picture; the picture of a unified movement with shared values and a uniquely high degree of political consciousness. The late 70s and early to mid 80s in the UK, for example, could similarly be characterized, for example, and it'd be just about as true. Which is to say, true to a certain extent, but open to retrospective simplification and over-idealisation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:53 AM
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One thing about hippie-ism is that it's sometimes a youthful phase like bisexuality. And so you've got a lot of strident idiots in the 18-24 year old range who make a loud impression. But the people who are hippies, or bisexual, or bisexual hippies after age 25 are reasonable and normal and not obnoxious, but unfortunately tarred by the same brush a little bit.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:54 AM
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392: I'm not saying it was a unified movement. That's the point of qualifiers like "on balance." No pop culture "movement" is really a unified Movement, but all of them have trends and predominant cultural currents nevertheless.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:58 AM
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393: Bi-phobe.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:59 AM
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strident idiots in the 18-24 year old range

Well put. That is exactly why I excluded college students in 390.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:59 AM
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re: 394

Yes, and I'm saying that the picture of that movement as unique is false [and also heavily marketed].

I can think of several phases in my life-time when youth culture/popular music was at least loosely associated with politics and changes in social values.

I just don't buy it that the hippies were unique. And in terms of actually achieving something, I'll take their parents generation, thanks very much.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:00 AM
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Media saturation may have something to do with anti-DFH sentiment. I was in High school in the 80s and we were force fed self-aggrandizing 60s nostalgia to the point of gagging.

When Heathers came out I saw it in a theater full of people around my age (18-20), and when Winona Ryder told her aging hippy teacher to "get a job" the whole audience burst in to applause.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:02 AM
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Bi-phobe.

I'm a teen-bi-hi-phobe.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:03 AM
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Wasn't the teacher employed as a teacher?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:03 AM
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Anecdata: Over the past year and a half or so I've been moving from what you might call moderate DFH-ness to being fairly hard-core. That is, I went from going to the occasional anti-war demonstration, doing some volunteer work at the activist bookstore, biking some, being vegetarian and hanging around mostly with middle-class social services types over to going to a lot more demos, doing a lot more work at the bookstore, doing some radical media work, biking everywhere, being vegan, getting much more involved in anti-border and anti-police repression activism and hanging around with my social services friends but making a lot more radical legal activist/green anarchist/squatter/anti-racist friends. I moved left, is what I'm saying--it's a mixture of cultural/lifestylism/actual work. I'm a lot happier now.

I used to....well, not despise the kind of people I'm working with, but they were the end of the left that my social services buddies and I would joke about. We held a lot of stereotypes about them--they were judgmental and unfriendly, they not only smelled but would judge you if you didn't, they were simultaneously crazy hard-core and really flaky, they lived these ridiculously uncomfortable lives and didn't understand how it was perfectly okay to have the various swipple accessories that we did. Those stereotypes, in fact, were part of what bound us together. (I kind of had to reconstitute all my old friendships on new grounds because we could no longer snicker together at the Earth Firsters (even though I'm still lukewarm about Firsters)) Believing that the left-leftists were ridiculous was a way for us to justify the gap between what we said we believed and what political action we took, plus it made us feel good/perceptive/reasonable.

The thing is, now that I'm down amongst the green anarchists a bit more, I can say pretty definitely that I was wrong. There are certainly some flakey people, but actually there are a lot more flakey people in the center left activism that I also do, people who don't take the work very seriously. I've met a lot of really tidy, organized activists--tidy because they're always using their houses for meetings and events so they have to be tidy, organized because they have so many commitments. I myself am somewhat less lazy than I used to be, which has come as a great surprise to me. Even the smelly people aren't particularly smelly, and I've never had anyone say anything to me about my regular hair-washing habits. There is some intra-left nagging that goes on (be more vegan, don't skip the meeting, etc) but that's pretty much between people who are on the same page. My friends nag me occasionally because they know it's okay.

I look back at my previous ha-ha-green-anarchists mode and I'm not proud, honestly. There was no real justification for my attitude. Every tiny negative interaction I'd ever had with anyone who could possibly be called a green anarchist/person-hippier-than-me I blew out of proportion so that I had a whole "the hippies were so meeeeeeeeaaaaaaan" narrative ready to justify my behavior. Really, I had run into one genuinely awful person and one fairly awful person in a large movement nine years ago, and that was pretty much what I was trading on.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:05 AM
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Hypothesis: every social movement or adjacent generational cohort is annoying if you're not a part of it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:06 AM
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For the record, however, I had large exposure to the growers in Humboldt county, and they were nothing like Frowner's group. There were extremely nice and non-judgemental and lived organically, but the whole "it takes us four days to get around to leaving the house for the grocery store" thing made me go buggy and yearn for the uptight rat-race.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:11 AM
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I just don't buy it that the hippies were unique. And in terms of actually achieving something, I'll take their parents generation, thanks very much.

I don't think they were unique, but in the U.S., one difference between the hippies and other movements was Vietnam. Lots of people who weren't hippies opposed Vietnam, and I sometimes wonder if the anti-hippie/pro-hippie arguments aren't just re-hashing that fight.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:14 AM
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397: I'm taking the subsequent phases in youth culture and popular music into account.

Punk and politics? Sure, you've got your Jello Biafras and your Fugazis, but few and far between, and this was also a context in which Henry Rollins could be taken seriously as an intellectual. Punk often gets talked about as being organically (at its origins) the voice of working-class rebellion, but to the extent that's true it's a mixed bag. Punk and race, especially when you get to talking about hardcore and straightedge etc -- whole essay there in itself, but suffice it to say I'm neither entirely dismissive nor terribly impressed.

Metal and politics? You have occasional blips on the radar like Living Color, but for the most part metal was aggressively apolitical, and overwhelmingly right-wing (and stupidly so) whenever it turned its attention to politics. (Cf. Metallica's "Don't Tread on Me," Guns 'n Roses "One in a Million," etc.)

Hip-hop and politics? There was an element of political commentary in early "gangsta" rap that's mostly gone by now, but even those parts of hip-hop that didn't get sucked into the Postmodern Minstrelsy Machine -- what are loosely referred to as the "conscious rappers" -- are usually to be found peddling either variously-coherent versions of Black nationalism or semi-conservative spiritualism. (We can include Reggae and Rastafari here. A Reggae festival in Toronto a few years back had to do media damage control when several of the Jamaican musicians they brought up made virulently homophobic remarks in radio interviews.) Saul Williams is so much an exception, and so conscious of being one, that he doesn't even like to be talked about as a hip-hop artist.

Electronica and politics? Pffft. You might as well talk about the "politics" of Disco.

Mind you, these are all youth culture and pop culture "movements" that are familiar and beloved to me in various ways. I grew up listening to hip-hop and metal, I fell in love with sexy rave princesses in high school and spent many a night dancing til seven in the morning, I love Reggae and punk and post-punk. Truth to tell, I'd sooner listen to most of this music than to the music of the Sixties. But OTOH, by no means do I have any illusions about the youth cultures they were associated with, none of which should think or talk about themselves as having a patch on the political achievements -- however patchy and spotty they may have been -- of the Sixties counterculture.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:19 AM
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I sometimes wonder if the anti-hippie/pro-hippie arguments aren't just re-hashing that fight.

I think nearly all of American politics during my lifetime (born 1968) has been one interminable, excruciating re-hashing of that fight.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:19 AM
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re: 404

I'd imagine that's right. And, although OFE alludes to the anti-Vietnam movement in the UK above, I'd imagine that colours the hippie/non-hippie divide in the US rather more than it does in the UK. Plus, the US is a very different society anyway.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:19 AM
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The dynamic 401 describes is pretty common, I think.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:22 AM
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re: 405

Remember, I'm British. I am thinking about different movements. I am thinking of two-tone, and post-punk, and the mass movement against the National Front, via Rock Against Racism, and various anti-Apartheid groups in the late 70s and early 80s. The near universal experience of the early years of Thatcher in the UK and how that completely infects and colours most of the youth culture from that period, and so on.

The pop-culture/politics connection there was pretty clear and I think was quite different here from there. It wasn't universal, but I don't think it was radically different in tenor from the hippies of 10 years earlier.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:23 AM
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But isn't Ogged somewhat representative of a big group that's both anti-Vietnam and anti-DFH? I don't think it's just re-hashing Vietnam.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:24 AM
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We didn't have any widespread punk movements in the US in the 70s/80s. Only in southern California. Everywhere else the love of Reagan was creating the most reactionary young people in history.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:26 AM
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where "it's" = "contempt of hippies".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:27 AM
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You might as well talk about the "politics" of Disco.

There's actually a terrific book about the politics of disco, Turn The Beat Around. It's a bit sloppy in places and not very well paced, but it's absolutely full of interesting information. I believe there's material on the punk/disco crossover, plus the chapter on Chic is really neat.

As far as the politics of punk are concerned, when I think of working class punk I think of music that defies easy left/right, reactionary/progressive categorization. Consider the Pogues, for example. "Transmetropolitan" isn't--to put it mildly--left wing. Consider Joy Division. Consider (in the US) X--a band whose politics have always been rather unattractive. The Clash, the Raincoats, the Pop Group--all those art school bands were left as the middle class recognizes it because they were middle class.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:33 AM
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410. I thought that group was called "moderate conservatives whose party has left them".

I don't think it's just rehashing Vietnam either, though. To some extent it's the game of "pick a victim and all pile on". To some extent it's that the word hippie has become void of meaning. Frowner implies that her green anarchist (yay, green anarchists!) friends who are highly organised and tidy people are somehow hippies because they're green and anarchist, which I don't see. Why does that make them hippies except that the right use it as an epithet?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:35 AM
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414: If you saw them, you'd know. They look like hippies. (Just saying that would get me kicked out--they think they're punks.) They're just movement hippies.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:36 AM
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isn't Ogged somewhat representative

I don't think Ogged's anti-DFH thing was political, but rather aesthetic. Remember also that Ogged was in favor of invading Iraq. It's easy to be anti-Vietnam in retrospect, just as a lot of people will be anti-Iraq in retrospect.

I don't think it's just re-hashing Vietnam.

I guess I'm using Vietnam as a proxy for a general culture/counterculture fight.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:37 AM
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Frowner, would you consider the Pogues working class? Shane was a student here until he got slung out for possession.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:39 AM
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re: 417

And Joy Division weren't, iirc, really working class either. Depending on how expansive your definition of working class is.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:42 AM
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Did "working class" mean "unemployed" at that time?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:46 AM
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Away We Go may make a fine test case for whether accusations of smugness cover up resentment at feeling judged, if this review is any guide.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:47 AM
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But isn't Ogged somewhat representative of a big group that's both anti-Vietnam and anti-DFH? I don't think it's just re-hashing Vietnam.

Like apo, I'm using it as a proxy for other fights, but I think resistance and polarization to Vietnam was big enough that it really colors those fights in an interesting way. My dad wasn't a hippie, but protested Vietnam like lots of students at the time. He grew up and turned into a conservative Republican. I don't think he's all that uncommon (someone had to elect Reagan, after all) among that age group. It's not unique, just a bigger event and with an age cohort that is also large and has as a result dominated a lot of pop culture.

To be honest, I'm not sure to what "hippies" would refer today, besides aesthetic choices.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:49 AM
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To be honest, I'm not sure to what "hippies" would refer today, besides aesthetic choices.

Around here, it tends to refer to naked earnestness or kindness; the forgoing of a sheen of protective cynicism and preemptive disparagement about the expression of wonder or individual, ethical, spiritual or ecological betterment.

So you can see why parsimon would get touchy.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:54 AM
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417: Scholarship boy, though.

As far as Joy Division is concerned, I'm looking for the really good Mark K-Punk essay which lays out the class/conservatism thing but since he writes about Joy Division so much I'm having a bit of trouble finding it. I'll be back!


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:25 AM
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410: But isn't Ogged somewhat representative of a big group that's both anti-Vietnam and anti-DFH?

My parents. They've both been center left (that is, very left by middle class American standards, somewhere around center Unfogged, with my mother having a strong but not reliably ideological streak of bob mcmanusism (i.e., voted for Obama, is now expressly wishing he'd never been born)) their whole lives. (Dad tells a story about having a guy he played baseball with in his twenties explaining that "No one would talk to a communist like you, [Breath], if you couldn't play ball." Not that he was a communist, but that he looked like one to his age/class cohort.)

But they're a couple years too old for the hippie thing, and have a distinct lifestyle antipathy to hippies, considering them goofy, self-indulgent, and politically unserious.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:31 AM
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411: We didn't have any widespread punk movements in the US in the 70s/80s

"Widespread" does a lot of work in that sentence. What about Positive Force in D.C.? Not to mention the New York scene, and all of the regional scenes (which, admittedly, were mostly hitting their stride in 1985-1987).


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:35 AM
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425: Holy crap, in the late eighties in my third-ring suburb of Chicago there was restaurant that hosted regular punk shows, like small Maximum Rock and Roll shows...."Punk" like nineties Rancid/Green Day/anarchy-tee-shirts-from-Hot-Topic, not so much, but a far-flung network of punk shows, zines, distributors &c, yeah.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:39 AM
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425: Yeah, I'm not sure what qualifies as a punk movement, but in the late 80s in NY, I'd expect a teenager with active leftist politics to have a punk esthetic.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:44 AM
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405: Hip-hop and politics?
And what about Sage Francis, Rhymesayers artists, The Coup, etc? Admittedly, this is not mainstream hip-hop, but how political has the mainstream of any music subculture ever been? 1960s hippy music was only "political" in any meaningful sense on the very margins.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:45 AM
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413: Also, re the politics of disco, this is a story that is still very much waiting to break into mainstream discourse. There was an amazing biographical play done here in Mpls in 2000 about Sylvester which totally foregrounded the underlying liberatory politics of the early disco scene. Probably one of the top 5 plays I've ever seen, but unfortunately only about 2-300 other people got to see it. It was amazing, and amazingly politicized though, take my word for it.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:49 AM
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428: how political has the mainstream of any music subculture ever been?

We may choose to disqualify it from being "meaningfully" political, but I don't think it's at all disputable that the "mainstream" of Sixties counterculture music was overtly political with a frequency that subsequent subcultures are simply not. That's what parodies like "Folk Song Army" are playing off.

From what I've heard of the Coup I'd class them with the "conscious rappers" described above. Who indeed are not remotely in the mainstream of hip-hop, and that's the point. There is lots of great and unfortunately obscure alternative hip-hop out there, but to the extent that it's political the politics aren't necessarily all that progressive.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:21 PM
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429: Okay, I did not know that. But if Disco had liberatory politics going on it is indeed a pretty well-kept secret.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:23 PM
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I'm glad this thread continued; I'm sorry for getting shouty last night. Thanks, DS, for 371. You have a particular skill in -- or perhaps just willingness to -- step back and sum up.

346: It was that people who are privileged to do work they love (inc. many DFHs, and Parsimon) are not justified in casting aspersions on people who do work they do not love for not having got their shit together. Because somebody is going to have to do that work unless you're willing to go without sewerage treatment and Medicare. And who gets to do it is mainly a matter of luck.

OFE, I didn't intend my protectiveness of hippies to be, simultaneously, an offensive against those who (have to) do work they don't love. I certainly understand your annoyance if it seemed that way, so I apologize.

The complaint that hippies are ridiculously idealistic, UTOPIAN even ... well, there's an important role to be played by aspirational thinking. I can't give up my dedication to asking how we would like things to be, observing that things are very much not that way, and considering how we might possibly steer them in a better direction. No matter how dopey that is!

Peace! Dammit.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:26 PM
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Re vegetarians:

Yes, when they become the majority, they are judgmental. Most people in my country are vegetarian for religious as well as ethical reasons, and the judgment comes from both.

Not that I mind. I think that there is no good excuse for eating meat that is factory farmed. But I keep eating it, feeling guilty and horrible and vastly enjoying my dinner.

And explaining why you are a meat-eater to a bunch of vegetarians is a damned sight more difficult than the reverse. Your reasons are inevitably trivial...how I would like to say something like 'You know, spinach has feelings too.'


Posted by: LordKrishna | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:28 PM
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if Disco had liberatory politics going on it is indeed a pretty well-kept secret

DS is clearly not homosexual.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:30 PM
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430: But what was political in the 1960s? A bunch of Stax, a little Motown, some of the Beatles, the MC5 (shudder), some Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Ochs, some Dylan, some Arlo Guthrie, a smattering of songs from other chart-toppers. Even if we narrow it down to the hippiest of hippy music (Grateful Dead, Procul Harem, Joplin, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane etc) you're still only getting a vaguely political message, and then only part of the time. Your unabashedly, uncompromisingly political sixties music (like Ochs for instance) was hardly more mainstream than Brother Ali or MF Doom. Turn on the radio in 1968, and you certainly weren't going to hear Ochs sing "Joe Hill" -- in June and July of that year, you'd most likely have tuned in to Herb Alpert!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:35 PM
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Oops. I opened this thread several hours ago, refreshed it only now. Conversation has moved on, I see.

FWIW, the Left is winning in much of Asia. And they're pushing through some far-left programs. In the US the far-right has used the word 'socialism' for Obama's policies, but here in India, his approach would likely qualify as centre-right. They are right now set to expand job guarantee programs, as well as reservations for certain groups in both education and government (49% of all openings as of now). I could go on, but I'd depress myself.


Posted by: LordKrishna | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:37 PM
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Reference.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:37 PM
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I cannot find the Joy Division article. It was IIRC about the sort of proto-conservatism of Joy Division and the situation of Northern England (Ian Curtis voted for Thatcher, I believe). It may be that Joy Division seems working class to me as a USian because "working class" is a much broader term than it is in the UK (or at least that's how folks have always spun things to me).

Vis a vis Shane McGowan, his family appears to have had a farm in Ireland but his parents worked in London in jobs that casual Googling does not reveal but that seem to have been unglamorous. His mother seems to have done traditional dance and been quite famous at it but not in a World Music lots-of-money way.

With disco, Turn The Beat Around basically says that through the seventies disco was this subculture that was fairly multiracial, plus of course all the GLBTQ stuff. Pretty typically, the mainstream success of disco resulted from a systematic erasure of people of color from the subculture (Chic has some stories about their label, too) and a partial degayification. A lot of people doing GLBTQ political work were involved in disco. Curiously, most of the first punk club nights were at gay bars that played disco, because gay bars were reasonably tolerant and not averse to the money on an off night. Actually, with disco it's the POC who are written out of the main histories (plus teh political gays) and with punk it's the gays.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:46 PM
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Finding out about the political history/implications of disco finally made the "Disco Sucks!" thing comprehensible. While I never had much interest in music, I was completely puzzled about why disco, particularly, was supposed to be so obviously contemptible -- knowing that it was an anti-gay reaction cleared that right up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:49 PM
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439: In Freaks and Geeks, Nick's low point comes when he decides he wants to become a Disco God, and starts hanging out with Discophiles, who are all social outcasts. I remember wondering why they were so reviled, and feeling uncool myself for not knowing.


Posted by: Elide | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 12:55 PM
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I dunno. I'm not denying the subtext of Disco Sucks at all, but it seems to me that, if you like Led Zeppelin, believing that disco music does, in fact, suck is hardly a conclusion that requires extratextual explanation. Now, to go from there to rioting at Comiskey Park probably does, but there's this weird implication that, if not for homophobia, American mooks would have found disco music irresistible.

Likewise, clearly a lot of anti-rap sentiment is race-based, yet it is in fact radically different-sounding from rock or rock 'n' roll, and I don't quite understand why it's taken as a given that only a racist would choose not to listen to Jay-Z (in contrast a rock fan saying "Living Colour sucks" probably is being racist, because, by rock standards, Living Colour was pretty good).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:06 PM
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422: Around here, it tends to refer to naked earnestness or kindness; the forgoing of a sheen of protective cynicism and preemptive disparagement about the expression of wonder or individual, ethical, spiritual or ecological betterment.

This conversation suffers a bit from not having an agreed-upon definition of "hippie," but Wrongshore (and Frowner and DS) know the same kind of hippies I've known. I ain't one of them - I'm too much into pre-emptive disparagement and protective cynicism - but I can say without exaggeration that I never met a hippie I didn't like.

And as political entities, it's hard to fault hippies for anything other than being ineffectual.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:08 PM
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441: No, seriously, there was this whole discourse of disco-is-effete, counterposed to "rock". Part of this derived from a weird super-saturation of the market (again, if you like this type of music history trivial I really recommend TTBA--the various disco-related merchandising failures are pretty hilarious. There was basically a disco bubble). Disco was positioned as this urban/decadent/hedonistic-seventies thing over and against both punk and rock. That's why there were several stadium based "let's burn disco records" events; that's why there was a California-ish antipathy between seventies-disco-hedonists and punks, even when the actual politics involved were similar. (Consider the Dead Kennedys. if you will!)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:14 PM
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441: There's a difference between disliking disco, and making "Disco Sucks!" a meme that even someone with no interest at all in any relevant genre of music is fully aware of; that is, there's no similarly iconic thing a rock fan would say about whatever the proper name for Lite-FM is. The dislike could have been about the music, but the exaggerated cultural weight put on the dislike, less so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:14 PM
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Consider the Dead Kennedys

how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:15 PM
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432: ...there's an important role to be played by aspirational thinking.

Indeed, and the lack of at least some sort of aspirational thinking is a soul-killer.

The thing is, the entire political spectrum consists of aspirational thinkers of some stripe or other. The thing that drives me up the wall about DFHs is that the aspirational thinking tends to be very much informed by an UMC cocoon that insulates them from the worst consequences of their actions, including the consequences borne by other people. Most especially the category of DFHs that I find most annoying are those who have a very clear ideology based on fundamental failures to grasp basic human nature. Kumbaya doesn't work when the other guy is a sociopath, for example. There is no way to love someone like the murderer of Dr. Tiller so much that they won't do evil.

What actually works is small improvements in things, incrementally moving towards good ends. Comprehensive Utopian visions of social transformation are a dime a dozen. They simply never work. Only incremental changes, sometimes with large increments, sometimes with small ones, ever produce net improvement on social conditions.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:17 PM
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by rock standards, Living Colour was pretty good

pretty good? pretty good??

Heh. I love those guys. Though I have no idea what they're up to these days. Vernon Reid was doing some kind of social outreach work asssociated with UMass Amherst in the late 90s when I lived in that area; not sure of the details, but man, I was nothing but smiling about the whole thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:21 PM
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It's easy to be anti-Vietnam in retrospect

True, but in my HS in the late Reagan years, there was a hell of a lot of Rambo-infused "we would have won if not for those dirty hippies."

Actually, now that I think of it, we* didn't blame the hippies - it's not clear whom we blamed, but we liked the hippies (listened to the music, read the books, wore the clothes). And, at the same time, felt that we should have won in Vietnam.

I guess the bottom line is that we were receiving the culture, and in the Reagan years, the reactionary, pro-Vietnam/anti-hippie side was ascendant politically, even as the pro-hippie side was having a revival (musicians I saw in HS: Clapton, McCartney, Simon, Starr, the Who). Weird time.

* "we" in the sense of my friends; I was conservative at the time, but I don't think I gave a shit about Vietnam


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:22 PM
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447: late 90s s/b late 80s

asssociated s/b associated, for that matter.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:23 PM
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there's no similarly iconic thing a rock fan would say about whatever the proper name for Lite-FM is

Middle of the road
Man it stank
Let's run over Lionel Ritchie
With a tank.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:28 PM
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pretty good? pretty good??

I was hedging. "Solace of You" is on the wedding CD AB & I made for our guests. On the 30th anniversary of Hendrix' death I saw a tribute thing in the NYC Meatpacking District with Reid. Awesome.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:30 PM
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Curiously, most of the first punk club nights were at gay bars that played disco, because gay bars were reasonably tolerant and not averse to the money on an off night.

That's interesting. Here in Austin the first club that offered punk shows was at the time a blue-collar Mexican bar.

Actually, with disco it's the POC who are written out of the main histories (plus teh political gays) and with punk it's the gays.

That's also interesting. Here in Austin two of the biggest local punk acts (The Big Boys, The Dicks) had openly gay singers (Biscuit, Gary Floyd, respectively). Dave Dictor, the singer of MDC, Austin third "big" punk band, famously got into a beef with Bad Brains because of the homophobia they directed towards Biscuit.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:34 PM
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Deathtöngue, Deathtöngue, the beast rises tonight!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:36 PM
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I have always been vastly entertained by knowing that CBGB stands for "Country, BlueGrass, and Blues." I figure that must have been an interesting transition, although I don't know any details.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:37 PM
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446: Most especially the category of DFHs that I find most annoying are those who have a very clear ideology based on fundamental failures to grasp basic human nature

I suspect that this is what Ogged hated as well. My only answer to it is that that's just one category of hippie (there are terms for those people, too, within hippie communities). There are others who perfectly well know that work and planning and policy-making and -execution needs to be done.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:44 PM
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But what was political in the 1960s? A bunch of Stax, a little Motown, some of the Beatles, the MC5 (shudder), some Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Ochs, some Dylan, some Arlo Guthrie, a smattering of songs from other chart-toppers.

But you've included some of the biggest bands in the world. It's not that every Beatles single had to be "Knee Deep in the Big Muddy;" it's that the big musicians of the day were presumed to be down with the Movement, and that - for many - it was true. The Beatles made a conscious decision to oppose Vietnam (and relatively early); the fact that the word never appeared in their songs is irrelevant. When a Beatles song came on the radio, the hippies were bolstered and the Cheneys were knocked down.

I actually think part of the reason the reactionaries felt so oppressed, even though even play-acting hippies (let a lone serious, back-to-the-land types) were never more than a sliver of the populace, was that the youth culture was presumptively anti-reactionary, even though many culture creators (MJagger, LSE) were politically conservative.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:50 PM
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455: I pretty much agree with you. I know some damn practical DFHs myself.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:56 PM
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I figure that must have been an interesting transition

I meant to say earlier in the context of music and cultural battles, it's fascinating to me how rapidly the South went from a place where you could get your ass kicked for wearing your hair long to a place where long hair + Southern Rock = ultimate cultural authenticity. I guess, as long as you've got the stars & bars on your band's logo, you can get away with wearing your hair "like a girl."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 1:58 PM
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Think of how fast flags on/as clothing turned from countercultural defacement to conservative endorsement.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:01 PM
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But you've included some of the biggest bands in the world. It's not that every Beatles single had to be "Knee Deep in the Big Muddy;" it's that the big musicians of the day were presumed to be down with the Movement, and that - for many - it was true.

I'm pretty sure everyone knew who, for example, Jay-Z and Kanye West supported in the last election.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:05 PM
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457: Heh, I've just recalled one of the terms -- not complimentary -- for some of the air-headed hippies. If she's a younger hippie who thinks she can just looooove the bad negative shit out of people: she's a "bliss chick."

Anyway, yeah, it's not like hippies are monolithic, stupid, or unable to see the other people around them.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:08 PM
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435: Note I was talking specifically about The Hippie; obviously The Hippie, being a counterculture, would not have dominated top 40 radio in the Sixties. However, we are talking about a pretty large-scale, well-represented counterculture movement, as were the early phases of other youth culture movements thereafter.

Counterculture movements are also basically pop culture movements, or pretty close to being so; certainly the segment of the Sixties counterculture that was actually interested in revolution was very small. Obviously all this stuff also eventually bleeds into commercial culture and using The Sixties Hippie as a unit of comparison starts to get tricky. But if anything, I'm manipulating those comparisons to be as favourable as I can to the later movements. The really relevant comparison between politics in hip-hop and politics in the Sixties counterculture would be the golden age of hip-hop in the late Eighties and early Nineties, for instance, but even compared on that basis hip-hop culture simply doesn't fare that well.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:14 PM
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454: Wasn't it basically just that Kristol thought he could make a club for the music he personally liked, then realized that didn't sell nearly as well as the Ramones and Blondie?

456: But you've included some of the biggest bands in the world
Black Eyed Peas have been at the top of the Hot 100 for the past couple of months. Are their politics really that much different from the Beatles (allowing for the fact that they've moved -- to the same degree -- in the opposite direction)? It's true, anti-war sentiment has been marginalized in contemporary popular music, but is that due to the artists' apathy, or the fact that media consolidation has reached a point where e.g. a Sage Francis simply can't get past a certain glass ceiling, given that his politics are threatening to the more conservative corporate interests?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:21 PM
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I'm pretty sure everyone knew who, for example, Jay-Z and Kanye West supported in the last election.

Even correcting for income level, there's about an 80% chance you know whom every black rapper supported in the election.

Anyway, a presidential election is a quadrennial event. How many of the people who performed at Vote for Change things in 2004 continued political engagement on any level in the subsequent 2-3 years? Springsteen is an outlier: after decades of studious nonpartisanship (No Nukes yes, Mondale or Dukakis no), he pushed hard for Kerry, then recorded a bunch of political songs, started talking politics in interviews, and then pushed for Obama. But it's what happens between elections that defines a "political" artist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:26 PM
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446: See, I'm sorry to pick on you but this is exactly what gets on my tits about complacent hippie-hatred: all this "there are serial killers in the world so nobody should be talking about peace, love and understanding" horseshit. Hippe peace & love is far from the only -- and far from the worst -- ideology operating in American politics that's disconnected from human nature, and the other disconnects are giving birth to far worse things. So the hippie aspirationalism should be something we give a shit about why, exactly? By and large it's that set of priorities that leads to the kind of bowdlerized pseudo-realism that enables your entire poltiical spectrum to be dominated by various flavours of far-right to centre-right and various flavours of militarist to laugh everybody else out of the room when talking about foreign policy.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:33 PM
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So the hippie aspirationalism should be something we give a shit opposing. Give a shit about opposing.

And JRoth has it right, I think.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:35 PM
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The really relevant comparison between politics in hip-hop and politics in the Sixties counterculture would be the golden age of hip-hop in the late Eighties and early Nineties, for instance, but even compared on that basis hip-hop culture simply doesn't fare that well.

Can you spell out what you're asserting as the specific accomplishments of the 60s counterculture versus golden age hip hop? I can't really tell what you're using as your criteria for comparison in order to reach the conclusions you do.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:36 PM
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but is that due to the artists' apathy, or the fact that media consolidation has reached a point where e.g. a Sage Francis simply can't get past a certain glass ceiling, given that his politics are threatening to the more conservative corporate interests?

I think the draft was a huge factor.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:40 PM
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Everywhere else the love of Reagan was creating the most reactionary young people in history.

It was the boomers that elected him in overwhelming numbers though.

There was a large political undercurrent in the sixties, but the hippies weren't it. It was all out of dropping out of politics, out of the whole headgame your parents played, rejecting both left and right for what was at base a largely reactionary movement. The quintessential image of hippiedom is that image of the blonde girl with "love" written in lipstick on her forehead endlessly checking herself out in the mirrror.

Disco was actually incredibly radical for its time: black and white, gay and straight getting together to dance to the same music, in ways that had never happened with rock or soul music. But it was largely a working class music and lifestyle, hedonistic rather than explicitely political so it's been largely ignored. Disco was the musical expression of what was happening in the seventies as various barriers between races and genders started to come down.

And some of the punk / no wave movement was of course a conservative backlash against this phenomenon. Keeping music pure and unpolluted by "commercial" influences (and at least one music burning party iirc...)

Meanwhile the same backlash in the UK with punk and Oi and such got turned around into Rock against Racism, 2-tone and all that. A somewhat healthier reaction...


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:42 PM
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465: I admit that those thoughts crossed my mind as well.

Canadian.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:42 PM
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468 was me.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:43 PM
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467: The Sixties counterculture's characteristics that I'm talk about are the (on average) left-wing politics that dominated the counterculture every day (yes, even counting Charles Manson, the Jesus Freaks, and that hippie so-and-so met one time who was totally into guns and hated women). The overtly political, left-wing counterculture that opposed war, disdained militarism, promoted tolerance (and even "love"), promoted environmentalism (to an extent)... all the sorts of things which they've never been forgiven for getting right.

What I'm saying is that at no stage of its evolution has any subsequent counterculture come close to highlighting those kinds of politics -- politics most of us, BTW, basically profess to agree with -- to anything like the same extent. This most emphatically includes hip-hop, which where it does get political -- as I've said earlier -- is generally dominated by various flavours of Black nationalism or quasi-conservative spiritualism.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:45 PM
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465: There are ways of approaching real problems that don't involve utopian thinking, and those ways have the advantage of actually being effective. DFHs are broadly speaking on the same side as me, which is why it is irritating to see some of them do things that are ineffective or counterproductive. When wingnuts do ineffective or counterproductive things it's a net plus in my mind (sweet Jesus can we have more teabagging parties? That shit was awesome!).

As to the last sentence: It's not disliking utopian aspirationalism that's buggered our political system, it's that the other side was being effective in getting what they want, and our side was being ineffective. They wanted to shift the paradigm right and we tried to all get along, split the difference, yada yada yada when we should have been fighting back.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:48 PM
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473: You're fudging. Say what you like about the spirit of the Sixties counterculture, it was never ambiguous about the need to fight back against the other side. The people who were trying to "get along" with conservatives were the people who were embarrassed about utopianism, worried about being seen by the other side as serious, eager to distance themselves from (or join in the mocking of) the DFH. They're responsible for those decisions, not The Hippies.

I'm not saying that everyone should agree with the consensus of the Sixties counterculture. I am saying that wasting time piling onto it or kvetching about it or trying to distance oneself from it is precisely the game that produced the vapid "centrism" of today.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 2:59 PM
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when we should have been fighting back.

The hippies did fight back. It just turned out that Sharon Tate was less of a linchpin than was commonly believed at the time.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:00 PM
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(The Hippies in 474 are often, of course, the same people. We've talked about that upthread.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:06 PM
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473: They wanted to shift the paradigm right and we tried to all get along, split the difference, yada yada yada when we should have been fighting back.

Sir, I thought you'd been arguing precisely for splitting the difference; what was that above about incrementalism?

Hippie aspirationalism, if we must call it that, is about shifting the paradigm left, and insisting on it. This is precisely what you've been dimissing as utopian and foolhardy.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:07 PM
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Point of clarification: When we say "The Hippie" are we talking about the hippies that the Provos (in the Netherlands, not the PIRA) and the Diggers (in San Francisco, not St. George's Hill) were openly contemptuous of? Or are we talking about some vaguely defined countercultural world historical individual that actually included the Diggers, the Provos, the Yippies, etc? And where to the Panthers, the Hell's Angels and the Young Lords fit into that schema?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:10 PM
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477 is a good catch, I didn't notice that earlier bit about incrementalism.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:10 PM
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479: togolosh pretty much staked his claim with that. I'm not sure how he can walk away from it, unless he's going to do a radical rethink.

Your 474.1:

The people who were trying to "get along" with conservatives were the people who were embarrassed about utopianism, worried about being seen by the other side as serious, eager to distance themselves from (or join in the mocking of) the DFH. They're responsible for those decisions, not The Hippies.

is right on. As long as people continue with that behavior -- as they do -- we're looking at incrementalism (aka hedging) and a condemnation of what's decried as utopianism, and if it falls on its face, I will want its proponents to own up to the failure.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:19 PM
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478: Good golly, I'm sure glad you're here, because I guess it just never occurs to anybody else at all that more than one thing happened in the Sixties, right?

No, we're not talking about anarchist movements in the Netherlands or San Francisco, we're not talking about Black or Puerto Rican nationalists. We are talking about the loose pop cultural movement originating in the states that variously embraced psychedelia, communal living, sexual revolution, peace and love, cannabis, protest against the war, all that shit, right? I get the feeling you're being deliberately obtuse, now.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:23 PM
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Sir, I thought you'd been arguing precisely for splitting the difference; what was that above about incrementalism?

Sir!?

My 473 was written in haste and failed to clarify that I'm not objecting to the larger category of DFH, but rather the subset who are detached from reality in their ideology. Even then, the subset of the subset who are uninvolved in politics are pretty benign.

I am not arguing for splitting the difference. That's pretty obviously stupid, as it provides a big incentive to advocate extreme positions. I think your misperception of incrementalism as splitting the difference is both common and very harmful. It's not about compromising with horrible people (though that's sometimes a necessary evil). It's about making small steps in the right direction so that (1) unexpected negative effects can be caught before they cause major damage, and (2) they create a useful stepping stone for the next incremental step. The other side's preferences are only relevant insofar as they affect political strategy.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:40 PM
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Sir!?

It originally read: Dude, etc. Then I thought that might be rude.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:43 PM
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483: Thanks for the clarification. Dude is fine, as is "you idiot."

I have to run off for a bit, but I'll try to check back this evening. Threads always get interesting just when I have to bail.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:47 PM
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Dude, I can't believe you're bailing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:52 PM
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I think your misperception of incrementalism as splitting the difference is both common and very harmful.

I think this has been discussed here before. Emerson's not around, which is probably for the best at this moment.

Really, tog, I understand that large-scale public policy changes must, perforce, happen slowly. It's the end in sight that's in question. Recuperating from the so-called financial crisis, for example, can bring us back to a state of being able to carry on with more of the same; or it can provide a stage for redesigning capitalism as we know it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:53 PM
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togolosh has bailed, right, and in fact I'm going to as well for a while.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 3:58 PM
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481: Well, there's no reason to get shirty. I was sincerely asking that, because it seemed like a lot of the claims you were making did, in fact, involve lumping in the actual, politically defined social organizing structures of the time with the pop-culture aspect. Which, as you correctly deduce, I find somewhat problematic. Like where do the Hare Krishnas fit in to this? They were certainly strongly identified with hippie culture, but like the Diggers and Provos, they were inimical to many of the aspects you list. Or take a pop culture text like Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969). Is this "Hippie" in the sense you're defending/advocating? If so, what did it advocate, politically, that's so much better than contemporary analogues?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:46 PM
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485: Sir, I have returned.

486: It's the end in sight that's in question.

Ayup. Full agreement there. I realize I've been kind of unclear on some points, but trying to be really clear was either going to be absurdly long or take far more time than I could spare. Still, worth the effort to at least get some feedback from smart people.

The end in sight, IMO, is exactly the issue. I think it is actively harmful to have too clear of an end in sight. The ends envisioned by leftists span the range from extremely general ideas about human dignity, social responsibility, individual autonomy, and the like all the way to folks who have very precise ideas about how the future should look, down to the details of technologies to be used and how people should interact on a personal level. I think that the more details in the vision of the end the less likely the end is to come about, but also the less likely some other, also good, end is to come about. The details make competing good ideas the enemy, and they tie immediate improvements in people's lives to things that are abstract and possibly not even realizable.

Part of what I mean by incrementalism is figuring out what the end looks like in detail by attacking problems one at a time until the major issue at hand is something we currently consider to be utterly trivial, like the dignity of ants in ant farms. People will still get worked up about it, but AFAIAC, that's a pretty good end.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 4:54 PM
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488: Yeah, when someone disingenuously asks me: "So is your argument this obviously idiotic thing or this other obviously idiotic thing?" I sort of lose patience. Obviously I must be ridiculously touchy, my bad.

No, the claims I am making involve talking -- as I've made pretty clear several times at this point, and in fact right from the outset -- about the overall politics of the popular culture movement, which have nothing to do with actual defined political structures of the time. I am comparing this popular culture moment with subsequent popular culture phenomena, and have explained quite clearly what I see as different between it and other such phenomena. I'm having trouble seeing what you find so hard to grasp.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:26 PM
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(Okay, looking back, perhaps "Sixties counterculture" as a shorthand was confusing, since that's technically something much broader than Hippies. I thought it was clear from context what I was talking about, but if that created confuzzlement, I sincerely apologize.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:29 PM
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(But to the extent that that broader counter-culture also gets folded in with all the Hippie-hating, that shouldn't happen either and many of those groups, too, have earned more respect than they've been afforded.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 5:31 PM
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I remember being a wee girl and talking to my mother about when she was in college. She was telling me about how she lived with a bunch of her longhaired friends, and did antiwar work and civil rights stuff, and fun times with the American Friends Service Committee and SDS.

I asked her, "Were you a flower child?" (I think I had just been reading The Great Gilly Hopkins and encountered the phrase there.) I remember vividly how VEHEMENTLY she said, "NO."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:28 PM
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perhaps "Sixties counterculture" as a shorthand was confusing, since that's technically something much broader than Hippies

Yeah, rfts's anecdote is apt here. The SDS crowd, for example, did not necessarily love the kids called "hippies." So "hippies" can't really stand in for "everyone politcally good in the 60s" and "hippies" weren't all "politically good."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:49 PM
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Nobody said either of the things in 494.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 6:57 PM
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But it's what happens between elections that defines a "political" artist.

I don't like this definition of a `poilitcal' artist; it seems to narrow politics down to a pretty simplistic partisan elctoral politics mode, and to reduce musical politics to the explicitly political things musicians say, and ignores the political aspects of formal properties of music.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:18 PM
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489: I think it is actively harmful to have too clear of an end in sight.

I agree. Which is why I mostly keep my mouth shut, actually, about the kind of society I'd like to see. (a) It ain't gonna happen, (b) it would alienate any number of people, given trenchant conservatism, and (c) when you're talking about political change, the US system is deliberately set up to move slowly, for good reasons. We're not going to be overthrowing private property or free-market capitalism anytime soon.

I see you've invoked the perfect is the enemy of the good. The phrase makes my childish self grit my teeth, and indeed I'd never encountered it before coming upon this place, but sure. Just let the rest of us dream once in a while.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:34 PM
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496: I think you've misconstrued my point 180 degrees. What I was trying to say was that being a political artist =/= endorsing a presidential candidate. What I meant by being political between elections - and again, Springsteen is instructive here - is keeping engaged, both artistically and (for some artists) rhetorically in the larger political scene. Nothing on Springsteen's Magic is about electoral politics, yet it is a very political album, dealing with America in the Bush years, and the about-to-be post-Bush years. And the Beatles had no more than a handful of even obliquely political songs, yet their extra-musical careers defined them as quite political artists. That's why I was arguing that West's and Jay-Z's endorsements in 2008 didn't suddenly make them political artists (West arguably has been political for a long time; Jay-Z has a social awareness, but I don't think it would be right to call him a political artist - could be wrong).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:35 PM
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Ah, yeah.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:46 PM
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489: I think it is actively harmful to have too clear of an end in sight.

Actually I think the opposite of this is true: it's actively harmful to have too vague and ill-defined of an end in sight. No movement will necessarily reach all the aspirational goals it sets out for itself, but it stands a much better chance of getting somewhere if it does get specific, and talks a bit about how it sees its goals playing out in society and what exactly it is that everybody's supposed to be working for.

Demanding the right to engage in this kind of aspirational thinking and writing, while simultaneously denying everybody else the legitimacy to do so lest they be deemed flaky, is one of the niftier rhetorical tricks of the American right. SF and fiction shelves are heavily dominated by the aspirational fantasies of libertarians, technophiles and militarists. But God forbid we have any repeats of Callenbach's Ecotopia, because gee, that would just be tacky.

This business about trying to cleans oneself of utopianism is pointless and self-defeating... and worse, politically impractical. What is it, exactly, that you imagine is going to keep people motivated and with you through all the steps of a sober, practical incremental agenda?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:50 PM
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and indeed I'd never encountered it before coming upon this place, but sure

Really? I can't remember when/where I first encountered the phrase, but it was well before I discovered this place, and in any case, I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment. I'm with togolosh on the value of incrementalism, which needn't imply a hatred of hippies, I think.

There's nothing wrong with dreaming. And without a certain kind of utopian thought experiment, I guess nobody would ever even begin to imagine other possibilities. And I do think the hippies (broadly defined, as per DS) were right about a lot of stuff (opposition to imperialism and militarism, e.g.), though I also think they were wrong about some other stuff (free love and psychedelia as the basis for a better society, e.g.).

My "natural" (not really natural, of course, but nothing is...) impulse is toward piecemeal reform, though. I want things like single payer health care, dammit, which you don't get by dropping out of the system, but only by working with the system and then subverting it from within.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 7:54 PM
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Further to 497: I can't believe I'm conceding like that, but yes.

Look (she says), this discussion didn't begin as a debate over whether hippies had something substantive to add to the political process as it currently labors on. It was, or became at some point, about whether they had something to contribute to our societal vision. On that I will, obviously, stand firm. Peace, love, and happiness? Well, duh. Honestly, what is there to object to there?

That's why hippie-objectors sound so weird: what are you objecing to? You don't really want everybody to be alienated, constrained, stressed out and demoralized. I assume. I understand that ironic detachment is fashionable in the last decade or two, but it's a little fucked up.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:00 PM
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500: Callenbach's Ecotopia

Have I mentioned that I love ya?

I've been not mentioning that book. Because that would be embarrassing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:05 PM
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OT: Anyone here know how to determine if a torrent is safe? I'd like to download the Harry Potter books (mock me if you must) for our trip this summer, but I don't know what I'm doing. Also, will torrents work on my iPod?


Posted by: nothing to see here, folks | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:07 PM
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504: Are the Potter books on audible.com? You can sign up free for a month and then cancel, if you're worried about torrents.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:10 PM
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500: You don't think those techno-utopian visions make right-wingers look like nitwits? That shit's propaganda gold. If I were a billionaire and I started my own cable channel, I would make making fun of "Galt's Gulch" job one. (I'm picturing a reality show where the romance of libertarianism gives way to the reality of subsistence farming.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:13 PM
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DS is making a hell of a lot more sense than I have been about all this; I've been mostly trying to keep my anger in check. For the record. I'm so glad DS is commenting on this stuff.

Shorter me: 500 gets it right.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:16 PM
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will torrents work on my iPod?

A torrent is just a pointer to files. Once you finish downloading a torrent, then you have either mp3s or movie files or what have you. Audiobooks play fine on an iPod.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:21 PM
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I give all due praise to the Feminazis in my life for pretty much anything intelligent I have to say on this topic.

506: Yeah, and yet notice how Ayn Rand is a multimillion-copy bestseller who enjoys about a hundred thousand times the intellectual prestige she ever earned? There's a lesson there for people determined to snicker at the power of aspirational thinking, or writing. At minimum, if you have the confidence to decide that your audience is worth writing for, you have a fighting chance at being taken more seriously even by people who'd normally disagree with you.

Obviously I prefer aspirational work that is not infantile, of course. The common wisdom on the right seems to be that people should eventually grow out of reading Rand, and I understand why that is. But notice also that there much subtler delivery systems for similar ideologies to be found on the shelves; Neal Stephenson would be a good example.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:27 PM
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490: Yeah, when someone disingenuously asks me: "So is your argument this obviously idiotic thing or this other obviously idiotic thing?" I sort of lose patience.

Well, perhaps now you can empathize with my position last summer when people were snidely sniping at anarchism. ("Just-so-stories" indeed! Hmph.)

I'm not against the sixties as a cultural moment. I just think it's less useful to talk about amorphous now-you-see-it, now-you-don't things like "the counterculture" versus privileging the discussion of actual political decisions that people made or are making. The "Summer of Love" was just a marketing gimic by the Haight Independent Proprietors, after all. We forget that at our peril.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:34 PM
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509.1: Feminazis, really? In any case, sorry for the overload of praise; it's out of my system.

Minneapolitan is also a fan of Ecotopia.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:36 PM
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SF and fiction shelves are heavily dominated by the aspirational fantasies of libertarians, technophiles and militarists.

I keep waiting to see paperbacks of a certain sort of SF blurbed as "Frankly fascist!" but I wait in vain.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:37 PM
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That's why hippie-objectors sound so weird: what are you objecing to? You don't really want everybody to be alienated, constrained, stressed out and demoralized.

Objecting to some roads not taken, I think, which also had as their destination the goal of people/workers achieving (relative) freedom from alienation, deep stress, bankruptcy over medical bills, and so on, but without the drugs and the free love. Or objecting to some detours, maybe, which didn't advance those goals at all, and which can look like UMC indulgence, in some lights.

I suspect maybe the British commenters here have an interesting perspective on all of this, because what the (non-hippie-ish, and pre-hippie-ish) British Labour Party did between 1945 and 1950 was really quite amazing. They thought they could eliminate poverty and disease almost completely, which, as it turned out, they couldn't, but they made a real attempt, and what they achieved was pretty damned impressive, by any standard. Today's Labour Party is a hollow mockery of that party, needless to say.

My problem with the "hippie" or "countercultural" movement in America is that it turned its back on the working class, saw that constituency as part of The Man because it was working for The Man, and to very unfortunate effect. Hence, no single payer health care, and etc. (And not to sound like mcmanus or anything, but still).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:37 PM
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509.2: Which is a recent-ish development. Finding those books took some searching (in the snow, uphill both ways) when I was a nitwit 14-yo.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:38 PM
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513: but without the drugs and the free love

Certainly that part is not central.

Your 513.last is interesting, and thanks. I don't mean to dismiss it, at all, but I'm off for the night now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:47 PM
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Feminazis, really?

A witticism! It was obvious that was a witticism, right? Shit, now I'm all self-conscious.

510: Yeah, I remember that thread. Maybe I was too harsh in disagreeing with you, I don't know; I sort of have a more exacting standard when we get into talking about the details of the aspirations than when we're talking generally about whether the hippies were ridiculous for wanting "peace" and "love" and stuff.

In general I probably wasn't clear enough that whatever the deficiencies of certain answers to certain conundra about hierarchy, social order and the individual, I tend to agree with anarchists much more often than I disagree with them. (Even the Black Flag, for all that I mocked them for trying to attack a McDonald's.) I'm sorry if that didn't come across.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:50 PM
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Thanks. Now I just have to figure out to download a torrent onto a mac. Or something. God, it would probably make my life easier if I understood the first thing about computers/the internet.


Posted by: nothing to see here, folks | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:53 PM
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And I left the e-mail in 517. Oh well, prison should be fun. I hope they let me bring my iPod in with me.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:54 PM
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Double crap. (crawls under rock)


Posted by: nothing to see here, folks | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:55 PM
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I am Spartacus!


Posted by: nothing to see here, folks | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:56 PM
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Spartacus is figuring out how to download a torrent onto a Mac! This excites him tremendously!


Posted by: nothing to see here, folks | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 8:57 PM
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522

Oh well, prison should be fun.

No worries, Ari. If you go to prison in your (home? or just current?) state, they'll probably set you free in a week or so out of budgetary considerations. Ask not what your Governator can do for you; ask what you can do for your Governator, o convicted felons!


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:03 PM
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522 is slightly premature. The Gubernator, inspired by Spartacus, will be sending state employees to the arena to sort out who gets funded. Round 1: UC faculty vs. prison guards. So prison will be a useful warmup.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:06 PM
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524

522 is slightly premature.

Well, I'm all about the vanguard, of course.

Even the Black Flag, for all that I mocked them for trying to attack a McDonald's.

DS, do you remember when that guy attempted to hijack the Canadian parliament by commandeering a Voyageur bus? So, so amateur, and so totally embarrassing, both to himself and to the country at large. God, even our terrorist attempts have been small-school, and a little bit comical. The Americans, for all their over-reaction (to which I strenuously object), have had, I think you must admit, some bigger fish to fry.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:20 PM
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525

Eh, sorry. 524 was me.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:26 PM
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524: In fairness, our law enforcers have put in their share of work at manufacturing more credible terrorist scares.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:28 PM
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Start by downloading the Mac bit torrent client from bittorrent.com. If you've already found the torrent file, you can go ahead and download that. It will be tiny. You open that file up in BT, and it finds other people who have it and starts downloading.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:28 PM
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527: I've done all that. Is it normal for it to take forever? Which is to say, "Apo, it's huge!"


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:32 PM
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And what are the ethics on this, do you think? A friend suggests that as long as one only downloads things one wouldn't otherwise buy (no, I'm not going to spend $300 at the iTunes store for the Harry Potter books, thanks for asking) it's okay. But one should never download a product one otherwise would buy. That sounds like a really good rationalization to me. Thoughts?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:35 PM
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526: Yeah, that was totally ridiculous. But wait: they had bomb-sniffing dogs! It's the Fido syndrome; and Toronto is fast becoming a city of bed-wetters who probably need to be hit on the nose with a wet newspaper, so what can I say?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:36 PM
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You're a bad person, Ari, and Spartacus despairs of you.

Also, it's normal for it to take awhile. And the ethics are: hoover up all the free shit you can find before they can effectively shut you down.


Posted by: nothing to see here, folks | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:37 PM
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I'm not sure I'd bring ethics into it; ethics and IP law have so very little in common all they can ever talk about at parties is the weather.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:39 PM
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528: There are some things you probably shouldn't say to Apo, Ari. Just saying.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:39 PM
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Apo's heard it all before, MC. And I'm not sure about how much I'm willing to hoover, 531, but I'll be glad to have the HP books for the long drive (though I think Stephen Fry is reading them, which will be a bit odd, right?).


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 9:43 PM
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All 7 will be a huge file, and torrent speeds are all over the place. This will be much faster.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:11 PM
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Amadeus amadeus, amadeus.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:16 PM
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Link in 535 opened one popup not caught by my popup blocker, and presumably several other aborted popups, plus, for no apparent reason, Adobe Acrobat.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:18 PM
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I was wondering where you were, Tweety. I even tried finding you earlier. Anyway, Apo, I'm about 15% into downloading all 7 from another site (only 4ish hours to go!), so I'll stick with that for now. But thanks. Really, I appreciate it. Also, I'm using Vuze, which I'm told is a good choice for morons like me. Anyway, if it doesn't work out, I'll try amadeus.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:19 PM
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537: I had similar weirdness happen. But if you managed to get through the crap, the proper site was there, lurking in the back.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:20 PM
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Just got back from my bachelor party weekend, and I have a final tomorrow. But let's run this!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:20 PM
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In what class? And were you appropriately debauched?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:22 PM
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only 4ish hours to go!

Oh, that's excellent transfer speed then. Good on you!

opened one popup

Huh. Nothing here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:22 PM
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500, 503: Ecotopia was recommended to me by a guy I was rooming with one summer. It's been long enough that I don't remember the specifics of my objections, but I came away with the sense that it's a nice fantasy, but you can't get there from here and trying is likely to cause enormous harm. Same guy convinced me to go to an Earth First! meeting and demo. The demo was hella fun, and the meeting had a person who was a fucking caricature of an FBI provocateur - I was frankly kind of embarrassed for her. Anyway, back to the point - Said guy did in fact take Ecotopia as a blueprint, which unfortunately somewhat poisoned my view of the book. It's nice to see it praised by people who are more sensible than he - perhaps it's worth a revisit.

If you're going to go with Utopian fiction as blueprint, I'd much prefer The New Atlantis.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:24 PM
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I used Vuze and the Pirate Bay to download Photoshop, which I could in no way ever have afforded otherwise. It has come to my attention recently that the friendly Swedes who made my stolen free Photoshop possible have formed a political party and have gotten one of their own elected to the European Parliament. Amazing stuff.


Posted by: Piratical Mormon | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:25 PM
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541: cognitive neuroscience, and yes. There was debauchery to be had.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:55 PM
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cognitive neuroscience

Oh, that's easy.

There was debauchery to be had.

Fun.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 10:57 PM
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546.1: it actually should be, happily.

546.2: you know what, though? It was so much more than debauchery! We visited nature, and went hiking, and looked at native plants, and got attacked by gulls! That kind of crap. It was very atypical. Then we retired to my friend's place with the turntables and the cocktails and so on and it became more typical.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 8-09 11:03 PM
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547.2: Were all requisite attendees present?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 12:37 AM
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In some sense, yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 12:43 AM
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Sorry -- all requisite attendees.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 12:44 AM
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Ah. That would have been depressing, as I do enjoy cake.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 12:50 AM
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Ah yes, Ecotopia where coincidently all the Black people chose to segregate themselves from the white folk which may be a bit akward as "The political and economic problems are monstrous, of course, but such things were carried out in Eastern Europe after WWII."

If that's a blueprint for the left, count me out.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 2:52 AM
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Point of clarification: When we say "The Hippie" are we talking about the hippies that the Provos (in the Netherlands, not the PIRA) and the Diggers (in San Francisco, not St. George's Hill) were openly contemptuous of? Or are we talking about some vaguely defined countercultural world historical individual that actually included the Diggers, the Provos, the Yippies, etc?

I must confess my pop-cultural ignorance. Could someone explain to me who the Provos and the Diggers were?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 5:48 AM
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I knew about the Death of the Hippie thing, but of course there's much more to know about the Diggers.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 5:53 AM
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Including this "evolved out of the radicalizing maelstrom" of the local mime troup. Suddenly, I understand why our current counterforce is so anemic: send in the mimes!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 5:57 AM
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I enjoyed Walden 2. Rammed earth! Double glazing!

Presumably there were social elements as well.

I do think it's worth noting that the hippies were inspired by Emerson and Thoreau (among others) while the former head of the Fed was inspired by Rand, but the former were woolly-headed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 5:58 AM
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Wikipedia is there for you, BG.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 6:04 AM
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511: Ecotopia is an interesting read, and it was important to my political development, but I'm not uncritical of it. As pointed out above, the racial politics are, to say the least, a little dubious, while the gender politics are really, really messed up. You know what's weird though? Callenbach's Living Poor with Style has much, much better politics than Ecotopia, even though it came out three years earlier. And Ecotopia Emerging, despite coming only six years after Ecotopia, seems like it was written by a different person.

Of all the utopian fiction about the Bay Area, Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing is closest to my heart (although it's not much in the way of blueprints). Last summer I read Chris Carlsson's After the Deluge which is fun, but fails as a fully-realized utopia. G.A. Matiasz's End Times: Notes on the Apocalypse is choppy, but he does at least try to imagine some ways to "get there from here." Same with Jack London's The Iron Heel, which is kinda unique in utopian fiction in that we see everything about to go to hell, and get a nice epilogue, but the actual utopia/dystopia is absent. I guess you could almost see Emmett Grogan's Ringolevio as a project of utopian fiction too, since so much of it is heavily embellished. But it has serious political problems as well.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 6:56 AM
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Rammed earth! Double glazing!

Sensibly designed dishware!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 7:19 AM
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If that's a blueprint for the left, count me out.

Guess it's a good thing I wasn't citing it as "a blueprint for the left." It does happen to be an example of aspirational thinking and writing. I personally think there should be much, much more diverse examples of such on the shelves coming from the left as much from the right, and much much less bitching and pissing and moaning about "utopia" every fucking time we discover a flaw in such a book coming from the left. This doesn't seem to me like it should be a difficult point.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 7:40 AM
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re: 560

I think that's where the hippie movement of the late 60s did have something going for it: in terms of a certain willingness to explore other ways of living.*

Not unique to that period, but probably that was the high-water mark.

* in Hatherley's book on modernism he has an interesting discussion** of 1920s attempts at 'byt-reform' in the Soviet Union, which covers similar earlier experiments. The whole notion of 'byt' in that context is very interesting.

** which I think comes from Buchli on the 'Archaeology of Socialism', but I've not read that yet to be sure.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 7:58 AM
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561: I'm fascinated by intentional communities, but they rarely seem to last past a single generation or so. Now I think about it I realize Twin Oaks has made it past the single generation mark, and they are an easy drive from where I live. I should probably go visit sometime.

Does anyone know of a good book that surveys the range and history of intentional communities? It'd be a doorstop, but I'm sufficiently interested to plow through something like that.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 8:56 AM
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I don't read Ecotopia as a blueprint, either. It's a thought experiment, and a fairly developed one at that. It's been quite some time since I read it, and didn't notice its racial shortcomings at the time (though it doesn't shock me that they're there); its gender issues I was, yes, uncomfortable with, puzzled by.

But no, one doesn't read these things expecting to be told how to solve all the world's woes, such that the discovery of something problematic should be taken as a personal affront.

Does anyone know of a good book that surveys the range and history of intentional communities?

I have one such thing, but confess that I haven't read it. Hm, entitled Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective. It's dated -- 1972. Haven't read it, as I say. Every intentional community I've encountered has run into huge problems with consensus decision-making, becoming paralyzed with developing fights between various strong personalities. It's clear to me that a (governmental, if you want to call it that, otherwise just organizational) superstructure is the only way out of such impasses.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 10:51 AM
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Whoa. The link Martin provides in 552 shows visits from Unfogged.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 11:17 AM
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That's a link from Unfogged. By Martin himself, in comment 552, to his own site!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 11:19 AM
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Oh. That's his own site?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 11:43 AM
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563.LastSentence: Full agreement. How these things work or don't is fascinating to me.

One set of intentional communities that have been fairly successful is Kibbutzes, but those have a hierarchy of authority that "real" communes don't have.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 2:16 PM
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567: Kibbutizim. And they really haven't been particularly successful at all. In fact, as Israel has abandoned its welfare state over the past fifteen-plus years, most of the kibbutizim have been selling off land and moving to a new model.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 8:16 PM
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Monasteries and convents.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 8:27 PM
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569: God, I hate Dirty Fucking Catholics.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 8:49 PM
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Then you'll love monasteries and convents!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 8:56 PM
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Ya down wit' DFC? Yeah, you know me!
Who's down wit' DFC? Every last clergy!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 9-09 10:37 PM
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568: Kibbutzim. Two "i"zim, not three. Or, in English, Kibbutzes.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-10-09 7:05 AM
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