Keeping Your Job in a Knee-Jerk World

I laugh at the idea that we as a species are more empirical, less prone to believe in mystical voodoo, and use logic over emotion.

I mean, getting rid of this pesky “morality” thing was supposed to liberate us from the shackles of superstition, freeing us from our past so we can progress into a glorious future. Instead we–America but the world broadly–really seem to enjoy tearing each other apart over the stupidest things imaginable: prom dresses, what movies we life, being tall.

 

Seriously, this is a thing. And no, I’m not going to link to it. You know how to use the Internet: find it yourself.

I have written before about preferring to focus on things that bring people together as opposed to dividing us. That’s right, I’m wandering off the standard “our strength lies in our differences!” (and who the hell put us there, anyway?) because it is clearly and demonstrably a lie.

What does this have to do with anything? It has to do with everything. Look at your on-line world. Now look at your real-world job. You probably keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself a lot more in real life than you do on Twitter or Facebook or whatever other websites you frequent. Why is that?

You don’t want to be rude, sure. Most of us are decent and good-hearted. You can’t be anonymous in real life. But the real reason is much more basic: You can’t afford to lose your job.

And your opinions will cost you your job.There is a legion of screeching howler monkeys shaped like human beings ready to be unleashed on you for a wrong opinion or an inappropriate joke on-line. And it’s always one-sided. You are always on the chopping block, but they are not.

So what do you do? How do you balance professionalism with the ugly reality of America as we stumble majestically into the third decade of this God-forsaken century?

I’m glad you asked. For a guy who wrote “I hate bullet points” and “I hate lists” only one-and-a-half short years ago, here’s a bullet-pointed list! Continue reading “Keeping Your Job in a Knee-Jerk World”

Book Review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a hot commodity these days: people think he’s everything from a savior to, uh, a secret neo-Nazi anti-Semite white supremacist.

No, seriously.

Who he is is a Canadian practitioner of clinical psychology and a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in myth and symbol and what many call “self-help.” He got famous some eighteen months ago for openly refusing to comply with a proposed Canadian law making it a violation of the law to use the wrong pronoun (“he” when a biological male wishes to be referred to as “she” and that sort of thing). Since then, he’s become lauded by many right-leaning people and loathed by many left-leaning people, mostly for reasons that have little to do with what he actually says or believes.

Whatever. I’m here to talk about his second book, 12 Rules for Life, because that’s what I read. I’m not going to get into the extracurricular stuff except as it relates to this book. Because Peterson has become something of a father figure for a generation of young men, so the story goes, precisely because he doesn’t hate masculinity and doesn’t think it’s toxic. While his message is universal, it resonates with men because he offers a perspective that 60 years ago would’ve been common knowledge, but since the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s have been seemingly rejected by Western society.

You know, stuff like “Speak the truth,” “Stand up straight,” and what has become kind of a catchphrase for him, “Clean your room.”

There’s more to it than that, as we’ll see.

To say the man has become a phenomenon is an understatement. Peterson is everywhere these days, which might explain some of the backlash.

Jordan B. Peterson

I like him well enough. He’s an engaging and folksy speaker–and writer–who tends to ramble, but somehow manages to come back to his main point. It can be a bit annoying at times, more so in print than in person. And while I enjoy his lectures and interviews, I have to say that much of what he says is pretty basic. He just says it very clearly.

Maybe I’m not as impressed as others by 12 Rules for Life because I have a fantastic father. Maybe I’m not that impressed because in a lot of ways Peterson and what he says reminds me of my dad. Maybe I’m just not really the intended audience for this book.

In any event, I enjoyed the book well enough, some sections especially. And while I can’t say I agree with Peterson’s take on everything, or buy all of his arguments, there’s some good stuff in here that offers an interesting way of looking at things, particularly when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

That’s right: Peterson is huge into the Bible. For a non-Christian (I can’t tell if he’s an atheist, agnostic, or whatever else), Peterson sure loves his Jesus. Like, a lot. It’s interesting.

So what is 12 Rules for Life? It’s a self-help book with 12 rules Peterson thinks anybody can use to navigate the chaos of life. I won’t go rule-by-rule, since your mileage may vary on all of them, and I also don’t want to just rehash the book here. Instead, I’ll give you a few points I disagreed with or found goofy, alternated with a few points I found interesting or helpful–dare I call it wise. Here goes: Continue reading “Book Review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson”

If You Really Want to Change the World, Go Into Entertainment

People like stories. People like movies. People like songs that are catchy and stick in their brain.

What sticks in their brain is the important thing.

This is where I have changed my opinion on what some call “message fiction”: fiction (or any medium traditionally called escapist) that sets out to make a sociopolitical point as opposed to being pure entertainment.

You know what? Being against “message fiction” is why those of us who have messages counter to the post-modern rot infecting every artform don’t get anywhere.

The question about message fiction isn’t whether or not to produce it. It is instead whose message is being pushed?

If you want to change minds, you have to engage with the arts. This is where those who in any way run counter to post-modernism, radical leftism, and identity politics always fail.

As time passes, I realize my thinking is more in line with my friend, author Rawle Nyanzi: it is a question of temperament:

Art is not immediately useful; it neither grows your food nor supplies your energy. Except for a handful of megastars, art is low-paid. Most artists rely on either a job or on other people to support them in their endeavors; “don’t quit your day job” is a cliche for a reason, as is “starving artist.” It requires the mind to break with conventional modes of thinking and spend much time speculating on bizarre possibilities. Art requires one to focus on emotion.

This is as far from the conservative mindset as one can get.

If you are actually good at creating music, or fiction, or movies, or art, you’re probably not a run-of-the-mill “conservative.”

I’m pretty traditional and well-ordered in my personal life, but I’m also pretty artsy-fartsy, I would encounter so much knee-jerk push-back from my conservative friends and family a lot of things: the clothes I’d wear, the music I’d listen to and produce, the people I’d hang out with, the movies I’d like, even the way I’d do my hair.

“You listen to that band?! They’re blah blah blah.”

“You liked that movie?! The director is blah blah blah.”

“You liked that book?! It’s so weird and the author is blah blah blah.”

“You’re friends with that guy? Yeah, he’s a good guitar player, but he’s so weird!

And so on. To paraphrase Brian Niemeier, this is why we lose.

One thing conservatives are good at is preserving tradition. This is important–I’m an Orthodox Christian, for crying out loud.

But one things conservatives–or maybe just a certain type–are bad at is appreciating or creating anything new or different or innovative.

I think that this is just how some people’s mind works. It’s a double-edged sword. “New” or “different” = bad and dangerous to many. Maybe it boils down to the idea that society has been burned by new ideas before that have turned out to be disastrous.

But when it comes to art, this can hamper the creative process, as creativity is often making connections between things that other people don’t see.

The leftist’s problem is that his initial reaction is to automatically embrace the new and different and not only replace the traditional, but outright destroy it.

That is insanity.

Personally, and this is how my mind works, I crave novelty, but I like trying to fuse it with tradition. This is why I can’t see “message fiction” as a dirty word anymore. Politics is downstream from culture, after all. Why would anyone opposed to what they see in the arts unilaterally disarm themselves by being outrightly dismissive of the arts?

Yet that is exactly what the self-professed “Defenders of Civilization” have done for decades.

“We’re too busy working real jobs,” they snark smartly. Oh, go to hell.

What these clowns don’t realize is that the message doesn’t even have to be political. It can be something as elemental as “good exists and should be protected.” Hell, intellectual consistency and equality under the law are messages that could be woven into a story in such a way that the reader won’t even realize that they’re imbibing a message. But the message will stick with them, because that’s what art does. Continue reading “If You Really Want to Change the World, Go Into Entertainment”

Interesting People, Vol. 1: Adam Lane Smith

Welcome to a new feature here on Amatopia! It’s called “Interesting People,” and I’m going to interview people I think are interesting. Simple enough, right?

For this inaugural installment, I interviewed author Adam Lane Smith. Adam wrote one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long time, a sci-fi mystery/adventure called Making Peace. I reviewed it upon release, and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, or anyone just looking for something a little different than what you’ll find on the bookstore shelves.

Adam is also a very intelligent and easygoing guy, and I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know him over Twitter. In essence, he is the very definition of an interesting person. I hope you enjoy the conversation (my questions in bold, Adam’s responses in normal type):

* * *

Before we get into anything else, tell me one thing: why on Earth don’t you have a blog or website of your own?!

The short answer is that I’m lazy.
The long answer is that in the process of writing my book I had to deal with many pitfalls and time sinks. My former publisher went full SJW and let me know in a passive-aggressive manner that I was no longer welcome at their company, and then in an aggressive manner threatened my day job. I started and then completed an apprenticeship as a psychotherapist. I worked a traveling job. I started two new jobs. I conceived and then had my first child, and then conceived my second. I worked long hours reading everything published and unpublished from fellow authors while networking with them and raving about their works on social media so they’d know who I was when I finally published my book.
The struggle wasn’t limited to my personal life. After I finished writing the book, I unwillingly went through three separate people for my final cover. My second cover artist almost opened me up to being sued by using copyrighted material and claiming it was legally okay after I confronted him. I had to learn about editing and got a punch to the gut from the fantastic editor I hired, which necessitated 45 hours of editing and rewriting after I’d thought I was done.
All of that is my sniveling way of saying I was exhausted. Rhett C. Bruno mentored me through the launch and warned me sternly not to launch without a website, but I was beyond caring. I wanted to be a real author and be done with the cursed work which had tormented my soul night and day for three years. (Is that tortured enough for me to be considered an artist?)
But, unlike with modern Hollywood trash writing, there is a happy ending! I’ve got someone working on my author website right now. That’s registered at AdamLaneSmith.com, and will eventually exist once I prod him hard enough.
That’s a pretty good reason not to have a blog, but I’m glad to hear that the official home of Adam Lane Smith on the web will soon be up and running.
 
Your answer dovetails nicely into my next set of questions. As someone who really enjoyed Making Peace–indeed, it’s one of the strongest Pulp Rev works I’ve read–I’m eager to discuss writing, but I’m also intrigued by this publisher who tried to get you fired. What’s that all about?
 
Before getting into that, though, how about a little of your background, to the extent that you’re comfortable talking about it? You know, the kind of thing an actual professional interviewer would’ve asked you about first.
I grew up in Central California in George Lucas’ home town. When he writes about Tattooine and has Luke complain about how miserable it is, that’s what he’s talking about. When he writes about Mos Eisley, that’s our home.
I grew up poor in the ghetto. My mother came from a wealthy family but was disowned and disinherited for marrying a Christian man, and my father grew up with a divorced mother in trailer parks. No one helped us, and my parents each worked multiple low-paying jobs day and night to keep us fed and scraping by. Life was hard. Much of this is mentioned or hinted at in the afterword of my novel.
People died, friends were molested, I fought for my life several times against violence and untreated sickness, I developed PTSD, family members were abducted and raped by gangs, violence was ever present. One of the first lessons you learn is to lay on the floor with the adults on top of you so they die first and the kids might live under the corpses.
I learned to love reading as an escape, and dreamed of being a writer. By the grace of God, I worked my way out with the help of my diligent wife. Now we live a life of relative comfort and safety on a farm.
Those who’ve read Making Peace probably see a great deal of my upbringing in the setting.

Book Review: The Art of the Argument by Stefan Molyneux

I like Stefan Molyneux. I find him a very smart, interesting, and entertaining speaker. He is a philosopher with a wide area of focus: Politics and government, culture and entertainment, philosophy and the nature of truth, economics, religion . . . it all gets discussed on Molyneux’ podcast at Freedomain Radio and on his YouTube channel.

A lot of people don’t agree, of course. They mock his catchphrase, “Not an argument,” call him “LOLyneux” for some of his more esoteric ideas like peaceful parenting (e.g., never ever spank your kids), and generally think he’s a fraud or a quack. I get the disagreeing with him about stuff, but where the fraud and quack accusations come from eludes me.

An author of many other books, Molyneux is what you could classify as a right-of-center liberal. He’s big into individual freedom and small government, and is staunchly anti-socialist, but is also pretty socially liberal nationalist who believes that every nation has the right to determine its own destiny free of foreign meddling. He’s anti-globalism and anti-war, as well as being anti-racist . . . but takes a lot heat for his views on, say, the racial distributions of certain things such as IQ.

And yet, with Molyneux, it seems like he just point out things that appear to be objective facts in order to discuss, understand, and make sense of them in order to do something good with them.

I never get the impression that Molyneux hates certain types of people.  I mean, he’s an atheist who sees all religion as a bunch of anti-rational mumbo-jumbo used to explain things in earlier times, and yet he also defends Christianity and fully recognizes its important to the development and continuing survival of Western civilization.

In short, he’s an interesting guy.

Stefan Molyneux

Which brings me to The Art of The Argument: Western Civilization’s Last Stand. The subtitle is a little hyperbolic, but argument and debate have been some of Molyneux’s most discussed topics for a long time. In fact, the idea of “the argument” permeates everything he does.

Basically, Molyneux pushes for clear, rational, and evidence-based thinking as a means of presenting viewpoints and ways of life in the battlefield of ideas. The more evidence-based and divorced from emotion and selfish gain an argument is, the better people will be persuaded to see its truth. Similarly

On the other end of the spectrum, we have sophistry. Sophistry is Molyneux’s pet peeve. Sophistry is the facile manipulation of emotion, rhetoric without truth, designed to confuse and enrage the listener to support an anti-rational and often counterproductive position that usually benefits the sophist. And more often than not, the sophist is coming from a position of pain, projecting their own neuroses, hatreds, and hangups on the world at large as a way of lashing out at “unfairness,” “inequality,” and “injustice.”

In short, Molyneux stresses that there is an objective good–what can lead to Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB) as he calls it–and that it revolves around the age-old battle between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.

On this topic, I find it hard that anyone can disagree with Molyneux.

So when I heard that he was writing a book specifically about what he calls “The Argument,” I was excited.

So how does it fare? Is it the intellectual battle manual we were promised? Does it really lay out the best ways to think and reason and debate?

Not quite.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an interesting, well-written and clearly thought out book. But it doesn’t exactly deliver as promised. Continue reading “Book Review: The Art of the Argument by Stefan Molyneux”

Kids As Pawns

My family went up to Mount Vernon not too long ago. We enjoyed the first President’s estate, the excellent museum, and of course, based on our son’s enthusiasm, the gift shop.

One would normally expect a five-year-old to be into toys and other knickknacks, but not our son: Ever since his school started taking about the Founding Fathers and other presidents, he has been obsessed with them. And like me, George Washington is his favorite.

So when he asked us if we could get him a book about all of the Presidents of the United States, how could we turn him down?

This book has actually become his go-to nighttime reading lately. He loves memorizing facts about them, and has prompted me to memorize them all in order, which has proven to be a handy mental warmup in the morning. But I digress.

What struck me was the disparity in feeing over the earlier presidents to the modern ones. We take descriptions of past people’s lives as gospel, but a similarly neutral description of someone alive at the same time we were evokes a very different response.

“I was there! That’s not what happened!”

Yet, when reading the book with my son or talking about presidential history, I keep my personal opinions to myself.

Maybe this is the wrong tactic. Maybe I should indoctrinate my son before somebody else does. Everyone else’s parents seem to do so around here. But you know something? I find that kids who spout what their parents say without actually understanding it obnoxious, and I would like to keep my son as free from politics for as long as possible.

That’s right: no super-woke six-year-old at my house.

Continue reading “Kids As Pawns”

Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day

It’s tricky to walk the line these days. So many people are binary thinkers, meaning that they want to paint you with the guilt-by-association brush for the mere fact of agreeing with a person they themselves find disagreeable, even if the person in question is right about the thing in question.

I’ve written about this phenomenon before, coming down firmly on the side that it’s okay to like a work of art despite the politics or unsavory personal predilections of the artist in question:

Life is more fun when you experience things and engage with them. Communication is the purpose of art! If you don’t like a message, nobody’s forcing you to live by it. However, it’s hypocritical to say “I’m open-minded!” while categorically refusing to listen to the “other side” and its points-of-view.

And if there’s one takeaway I hope you get from this post, it’s this: You don’t have to feel guilty for liking something. Save the guilt for, you know, actual sins.

Roman Polanski raped a child, but that doesn’t make his movies bad. Michael Jackson had inappropriate relations with children, but that doesn’t make his music any less fantastic.

Which brings us to Vox Day.

Now, I am in no way equating Day, real name Theodore Beale, with Messrs. Polanski and Jackson. However, Day has a similarly unsavory reputation among polite Internet society in politics and among the mainstream sci-fi/fantasy community. Many find his hypotheses on gender, race relations, immigration, religion, and culture in general distasteful, and he’s been involved in several, admittedly nerdy and kind of inside-geekdom-baseball controversies over the years. But despite all this, two facts remain:

  1. The man can write; and
  2. The man is spot-on when it comes to SJWs

(Note: For an explanation of what an SJW is, check out my review of SJWs Always Lie and my post about beigeness.) Continue reading “Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day”