Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wong is Wrong: 6 Kind Corrections to "6 Harsh Truths"

On December 17th of 2012, David Wong published an article at Cracked titled 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. Read it for yourself if you haven't; he makes a valid argument underneath a lot of less-than-polished writing, and it deserves to be heard. I originally posted this response to my personal journal, but decided to repost it here as it does deal with an aspect of this 'blog's mission: to counter the toxic memology that Empire uses to keep us enslaved.

Caught up? Good. Now, on with it:

  • #6: The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You

    So. Fucking. What.

    What Wong does not address is that this is a two-way street. If the rest of the world only cares about what you can do for it, then there's no fucking reason to give a shit about a world that has nothing for you either. This, therefore, a completely toxic meme that cannot help but to demonstrate its own fallacious nature- and we are indeed seeing this come to pass now, again, as it has several times before in acknowledged history.

    Wong's half-right in that what matters is the relationship between you and the world you live in, but gets it wrong in that it is not an abusive co-dependency affair where you're only together due to being unable to fulfill your own needs independently (and yes, that's what "...only cares about what it can get from you." means; it's exploitation, in the same way that slavery is exploitation, and therefore inherently an act of wrong-doing that never ends well).

    No, the world is not a heartless soul-sucking beast that's concerned (because this is not any reasonable form of caring) only with what it can gain from you. It wants you to show that you can participate as a full, equal and competent partner in the creative collaboration that is a healthy and vital civilization. (Which, I must clarify, is NOT what we have now- not yet.) As it is for the world in general, so it is with individual relationships, as we'll get to below.

  • #5: The Hippies Were Wrong

    Wong's actual point--that what matters is what others see that you do for them (not necessarily your job), and not what you say that you are--has merit. If it weren't buried under references to Glengary Glen Ross, and his false claim that the world is a sociopathic entity (no, it isn't; nature is not a sociopath, and our environment is not the world), then I doubt that I would be making this post because there would be no error to correct here.

    That didn't happen. What did happen is that he made the claim that your worth is equal to your total useful skills, and then doubled-down on the inherent sociopathic world claim. This isn't correct.

    What is correct is that this is (a) a matter of perception and (b) a moving target. "Useful skills" varies by time and place, and that variation can happen instantaneously, and the definition of "useful" is NOT synonymous with "increases your income, wealth, prestige or other sign of desirability or respect in the community" because that is a moving target. The needs of others, quite frankly, does not define what is or is not useful; the circumstances do, and those ALONE do so. Since this is not reliably predictable, it is fallacious to claim (as Wong does) that what matters is what you can do to meet others' demands (not "needs", because "needs" are rather easy to handle oneself; he means "wants", and those are demands).

    This comes down to "you are nothing more than what economic provisions you provide", and as we all know through first-hand experience this is utter bullshit; true needs are not those of economic demands, but existential requirements, and if one seeks "useful skills" then those which satisfy such requirements are actually the ones that you ought to master- and, as noted below, this is NOT what Wong thinks that they are.

  • #4: What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People

    The summary is useful. It's unfortunate that Wong then goes on to make this about Nice Guys failing to find girlfriends, because by doing so Wong loses the plot.

    Wong argues that by being someone that a woman would want to be with, by being able to show a talent or skill that marks a man as interesting and therefore a concrete demonstration of any claimed qualities, this is proof that (a) one has to produce and (b) it has to benefit people.

    This is, quite frankly, utter bullshit.

    This is a confused section, and the other way to tackle it--by going after the Nice Guy thing--is worthy of a post to itself so I won't do that here. Instead, I'm going to go after what Wong should have done, but didn't: actually building on his summary.

    First: due to the accelerating rate of automation in all sectors of society, more and more people don't need to produce a god-damned thing anymore. It's hard to quantify "useful skills" in an environment when what those skills are changes frequently, and often in the way of reduction as well as complexity; today's well-educated, well-trained profession is tommorow's McJob due to de-skilling and the day thereafter is turned over to a self-replicating machine with self-coding software. Talk of "what do you have to offer", in such terms, is thus a complete waste of time and so is talk of "producing". By extension and consequence, so is all talk of "benefiting other people" in such terms. Again, the correct response focuses on the existential requirements of life and not on economic demands (that are already yanked out of most of the population).

    Second: define "benefit" in terms other than retail economics, and preferably without referring to economics at all, and you'll actually hit upon the answer to what that word actually means in terms all can comprehend. The engineer who works to replace our current system of burning fuel for power is someone that provides a benefit to others; the engineer who just makes a new way to burn fuel does not, and will soon find out just how not-useful he is when the technology becomes both technically obsolete and politically untouchable.

    In the personal sphere, the "jerk" (because that too is a misleading label when talking about the Nice Guy matter) also has a short shelf life because he too thinks in too small a frame of time- he's the guy who becomes the engineer focused on how to burn fuel instead of replacing all need to burn fuel entirely. In other words, what he "offers" is nothing of actual worth; there's no "there" there, and like a foolish pro athlete he soon squanders his true wealth and find himself penniless on fields he once strode through as a conquerer. Compared to that, the one who avoided doing harm but otherwise stayed out of the way is the superior man (i.e. did "nothing").

    Now, Wong's not entirely wrong; as said above, it is useful to cultivate masteries that show your quality as an individual, but not because they benefit others alone. Rather it is useful because it benefits you first and foremost as a way to develop yourself into a fully-actualized and mature adult; by doing this internal development, what others see--the external--transforms their opinion of you and what you once sought will become drawn to you without effort on your part. This, in truth, is what "having something to offer" really means; you made yourself into a quality individual, for reasons that are purely internal to you, and the external thus becomes a reflection of your inner quality. They want to be with you because of who you are, not because of what you do.

  • #3: You Hate Yourself Because You Don't Do Anything

    Not true. You don't do anything because no one bothered to explain to you, in no uncertain words, why you should do anything. If the world offers you nothing, and there's nothing internal driving you to act, then why do anything?

    The answer is to find something--anything--specific to you that will drive you to act, to do something and then to keep at it until you master it. Wong's missing this critical point and again using economic arguments that don't win people over; anything that requires the falsification of one's self is not worth doing, and that's what his argument here is actually pushing for. No wonder he gets so much crap for it; he's Doing It Wrong. He's so focused on the external that he doesn't perceive the relationship between the internal and the external; people don't need things the way that he claims. People have existential requirements, and no about of fakery--and that is what he's pushing for here--can fulfill those requirements. It's fraud, and he ought to know better.

    No, the proper response is to sit down with that individual and start finding out what internal processes are fulfilled by his pursuits. There's no point is trying to turn a duck into a platypus; you're doing serious harm to him, making yourself a criminal, and doing damage to the community when the faking inevitably comes out (because you will be thrown under the bus for it). Instead, you help that individual become the best damned duck that he can be; once he's got a reason, something true to who he is, to act then he won't need to be pushed to do it and he sure won't resent you for it either. Get inside his head, find what drives him, show it to him, show him how this can get him from here to there (CRITICAL ELEMENT!), and then point him in the right direction. The rest resolves itself.

  • #2. What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do

    He's got this backwards. What you do matters only because of what you are inside. He's so fixed on the external--his "fruit" point--that he again loses the plot. If you're not driven to do it, if what inside is irrelevant, that shows up in what you do and all competent employers know this; this is why the best workplaces are holarchic in nature, staffed one and all by people who want to be there because they believe in the work and enjoy total fulfillment in it. Having witnessed the difference many times, I cannot believe that someone who claims to be an example of it gets it so completely backwards; it makes me doubt Wong's sincerity in writing this article as it undermines his credibility to be so wrong about such a load-bearing pillar of his argument. If you don't want it, then what you do is irrelevant as it is not inside you.

  • #1: Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

    Almost correct. He's got the point about needing to modify your social environment to remove toxic connections and other obstacles, especially the internal ones, but that again misses the real point: if you want it, then inside and outside will become in accord and you will WANT to remove all obstacles to your improvement.

    The other error here is that, as he did above, he dismisses the possibility that the world has nothing to offer to you. If there is nothing out there to get, then there is no need to make improvements; what you have is enough, and all you need to do is ensure that the logistics will endure. He makes no allowance for contentment; for most people, "good enough" really is good enough. This is not a bad thing.

    His position presumes that status-seeking is healthy, that exploitation is normative as well as sustainable and desirable, and that the only benefits are those that feed into a short-term sort of economic thinking. None of this is true, as those of us who've been paying attention see quite clearly. Wong's so close so often that I'm a bit dismayed at how wrong he is with this article; had he paid greater respect to the spiritual dimensions of this matter, he would have nailed it time and again.

So, a summary: the real truth is that this life seeks competent co-creators, and therefore what you need to bring to the table is an array of demonstrations of that competency; these can only come from an honest assessment of who you are, fueled by an earnest and honest passion that can be mistaken for naivety by the damaged and predatory out there, and that results in masteries of a sort that mere economic thought can never achieve. If these are present, difficulties will melt like butter; if not, you can never be more than a shadow of your true self, unable to participate fully in what this life has to offer. Ignore this spiritual core of existence at your peril.

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