0401. on differing opinions, the Superficial Socialist podcast, & feminism

Regardless of your political inclinations, everyone should download and listen to The Superficial Socialist podcast, in which two millenials relay in universal and understandable terms the modern movements of the political left, discussing culture, politics and the media in society. The episodes are generally short and snappy, and if you’re feeling particularly uncharitable you can play at 2.2x speed on your chosen podcast app, for a listening time of less than ten minutes. (2.2x is the fastest speed that I find I can still safely consume most — but certainly not all — podcasts). As you can guess, they speak from the point of view of the left, and sound with low tones and knowing condescension like two middle-class white champagne socialists, but that need not affect the points they make, and in fact lends a much-needed perspective.

As noted by the mainstream media recently, there are consumer-friendly algorithms on social media to the point where if you click like on some articles and not on others, in no time at all you are only being shown the perspective that you agree with. Juana Summers, a political editor for CNN politics, said that social media is in effect an enormous marketplace for ideas, where every idea will come up against every other one, and the truth will be found for the betterment of society. But this has not been happening. For all the fuss about censorship on Twitter, my recommended feed is now almost entirely one-sidedly right-wing. Make a habit of buying the opposite newspaper one day, or subscribing to a dissident mailing list. I do not mean to infer the argument that the left is wrong; the right is wrong; the truth is somewhere in-between, but, for example, if you consider yourself right wing, you must understand and explore that which you disagree with, otherwise you’re just as bad as a group of 65 year-olds reading exclusively Marxist economics and barking about the Virgin Fields.

Anyway, the new episode is an exploration of pop culture and feminism, with the question Can a pop star ever truly be a feminist? I had to take it down to 1.2x speed for this one. About halfway through, Marxine seemed to define a feminist as a woman being a woman, which I think holds some credence. A woman who, though society may have moulded her in some way in the same way that society moulds any man, does what she wills in the purest way. A female, feminist artist, for example, is not necessarily her who takes up the banner and cause of feminism in its crudest definitions, but simply she who rises above such influence and drama to create the art that she wants to. This necessarily involves a stark realism, and is not a value judgement at all. This does not define feminism as a good social movement, but instead implies that a feminist — or egalitarian — society is one in which a woman can will. If a female, feminist artist created, in all honesty, a terrible piece of work, judgement could only be upon her, and it would still be an expression of a woman’s right to create. This is in contrast to the commonplace phenomenon of viewing a certain movement as progress — and therefore good — then being forced to justify its worst outcomes [the second part of that article], because of the umbrella term.

The conversation then drifts to familiar territory; misdirected fawning, negative energy and disdain for modern consumerism, the latter of which is of course an important topic, if a bit tired.

0508. on illfitting clothes

Most of my clothes now don’t fit. When I bought them they were slightly too small, but I could—with some struggling—get them on. I bought them one size too small because I thought they would get the ball rolling on my losing weight. (As an aside, this works especially well with expensive (for me), very good-looking clothes. I bought an £89 pair of woollen trousers from COS, & for weeks afterwards I stuck to a caloric deficit effortlessly in the attempt to look good in them.)

And then I lost more weight. And then I lost some more. In fact, it is extremely surprising to me just how much fat the body can fit in places where your silhouette / look doesn’t change much, but your waist size can change so radically again and again. Six months into going to the gym and intermittent fasting, I thought “only a couple more months and I will lose that last bit”. I have thought that a few times since, and keep getting proven wrong. In fact, I now think it again, even though I will probably be proven an idiot in a couple of months as my body finds another reserve of fat to draw upon. Perhaps I have another secret set of love-handles!

I have now poked two new belt eyes into my belt, and I still have a good amount of excess fat about my waist. All my trousers, in fact, are now suffering unfairly under a belt, material crumpled together and any semblance of shape and style gone.

This is a very happy kind of inconvenience.

0108. on quitting multitasking

Multitasking is the enemy.

While I was at University I made a conscious effort to increase my capacity to multi-task, whether this was as simple as playing a video game and watching a television show at the same time, or something more ambitious such as having two conversations at once. I think it comes from two things: firstly, the universal problem; a culture of single-purpose friends, an undesirable offshoot from the age of social networks, and secondly, a personal frustration with my own productivity.

Firstly, the single-purpose friends is a concept taken from Fight Club, but instead of a friend who has a single serving, they have a single purpose. This was more pronounced when I was younger, but it still retains truth today; I will have a friend for talking about films, a friend for talking about politics, a friend for talking about romance, and our interactions and relationship will be stunted by this semi-conscious definition—in the same way that an adolescent group may have “the funny one,” and entertaining a meaningful conversation with them is a rare thing. The second facet is easier to unpack; I have a mental inadequacy when it comes to doing something that I have been told to do. Whether it comes from a misguided mistrust of authority or misdirected masculine pride, it is something that leads my life to be very productive personally and creatively, but lacking in achievements both institutional and social. If I am directed by an authority figure—or in all honesty, even a friend—to research a topic, or complete a task, I will be unwilling to do so, and it will take a great deal more energy than if I had come across the topic myself, or if I had thought the task needed doing independently.

These two problems, each of which could require a counsellor if I was a child of the 00s rather than one of the 90s, make it so that I have a predilection for multitasking, or to put it in a more honest way, an inability to concentrate. Watching a film becomes a background activity as I choose to prioritise Instagram or Snapchat, reading an article—who am I kidding?—reading the first two paragraphs of an article becomes a ten-tab venture into how the material I’m reading fits in with the rest of my life, and what social network would be best for sharing the article to, to more accurately project interests that I clearly do not hold.

So each time I find myself doing two things at once, I will try to ask myself, Would I be doing either of these things if I had to do them by themselves? And if the answer is no, which I imagine it will be much of the time, I will stop doing both of them, as they are not worth my time.

This has been my first go at an article since deciding to blog again last week, and it is a jumbled mess of ideas not fully fledged and not adequately conveyed, but it’s a start! And for clarity, I concentrated wholly on the writing of this article, with only music in the background, and I only checked my phone once—yes, that’s an accomplishment!

2807. on returning, or trying again

I made this blog in the run-up to the General Election, when political interest was piqued, and inevitably, afterwards, in a slow decline, I lost interest, but I feel I should return to it in some meaningful way. My brother encouraged me to become more productive again, and I hardly need much convincing nowadays. So I am going to write about my voice and views. First step is finding some blogs to follow, and then thinking of things to write about.

XXXV. on tipping

I think the practice of tipping is generally good. When I have a sit down meal I always tip. There are times when I eat a meal and feel that my server has increased the value of my experience past what my money (to keep the restaurant and their job going) provides. In England in most restaurants a tip of probably 10% is most common. Some places declare that they charge a 12.5% service charge, mostly in London and big cities.

When it comes to America, though, I hear constantly that servers live off their tips, that their employer doesn’t pay them and so their tips are their only source if income. Now, as an outsider reading your law, it seems tips can only be used to offset the minimum wage, which employers still have to meet. It’s illegal for the restauranteur to only pay someone in tips unless the tips they make amount to more than minimum wage.

At least, that’s how it reads. Is it widespread practice for restauranteurs to break this law, age it goes unreported? Or is that not what people mean when they say that their employer doesn’t pay them?

Unskilled service is a hard job, but there are many hard unskilled jobs that earn minimum wage. And from personal experience in England, it is very easy to find a place to learn silver service, which pays upwards of £10 on ten hour shifts. (Once again, it is a very small percentage of people who earn minimum wage for a significant amount of time.)

Finally, about 40% of U.S.A. tips go undeclared as far as tax is concerned. I go back and forth on this, but at the moment I don’t think avoiding to pay taxes is an acceptable thing in the long run, either for personal gain or intentional sabotage of the state.

XXXIV. on Schopenhauer and pessimism

Certain it is that work, worry, labour and trouble, form the lot of almost all men their whole life long. But if all wishes were fulfilled as soon as they arose, how would men occupy their lives? What would they do with their time? If the world were a paradise of luxury and ease, a land flowing with milk and honey, where every Jack obtained his Jill at once and without any difficulty, men would either die of boredom or hang themselves; or there would be wars, massacres, and murders; so that in the end mankind would inflict more suffering on itself then it has now to accept at the hands of Nature.

I think about these lines — or this concept — often. Pessimism has, in the mainstream, & even amongst many philosophers, come to be synonymous with unhappiness, with glumness, & with nihilism; that to be a pessimist is to be a weak person, to give up your hands to Fate. I think it has in it this implication: because there are many things that should make a man unhappy, I will be unhappy.

Schopenhauer’s passage is the traditional starting point of Pessimism (capital “P” for emphasis); it is only stating truths, and drawing no conclusions other than those which are clear from Nature and experience (we know of the mouse utopia). But from there he can make all the assumptions and jumps he needs, & there is little argument for how well he makes them. Appealing to the brute’s way of life, having children only as a thoughtless act…. Pessimism is (and should be) a great way to embrace the struggles in life, and once the strife is accepted, & you understand that you have to work, worry, labour and trouble, you can find allconsuming happiness (however fleeting) in meaningful ways. Good as a positive, but also not as the absence of evil; we need not turn to God.