The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Open Thread

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How To Relax, Change & Be Free


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 1, 2023


  1. Chuck Mire

    Social media may prevent users from reaping creative rewards of profound boredom – new research:

  2. Willy

    I work inside people’s homes all the time. The primary hobby activities for almost all of the adolescent males I encounter is playing video games with chat and taking naps. Most of these males have few if any meatspace friends. They seem incredibly shy if they even acknowledge my presence at all. Most disturbing to me is that most all of the boys have pets which go completely ignored, as if a terminally bored pet should just go play DogCraft or take longer naps. Their homes are never filled with other people, although I do meet the occasional Ukrainian house cleaner or Salvadorian yard crew from time to time.

    Contrast with when I was a kid, when I considered myself introverted. On nice days I’d go outside and listen for any sounds of action, then go over there to play some yard sport or street game or help some car tinkerer. On not nice days I’d try to find some action in somebodies basement like in That 70’s show. If nobody was around I’d read or draw or go to the park to toss frisbees with my dog. I also bought tools with paper route money and built stuff. But these were last resorts.

    I think that childhood is preparation for adulthood whether kids consciously know it or not. Today’s kids seem to be reflecting a completely different prospective reality from what I’d expected.

  3. mago

    Communication is tricky yet necessary in all times and situations. However, communication has changed even over the past five years.
    It’s difficult for an oldster to communicate with the young. Words and context have different meanings and connotations. Sensibilities and vocabulary differ generationally, but there seems to be a quickening.
    What this portends, who knows?
    Feliz Año Nuevo.
    May wisdom prosper.

  4. mago

    Addendum to my comment in moderation:
    listening is lost in nihilism
    and self absorption
    who cares?

    To the eagle’s flight and higher domains.

  5. GrimJim

    “I think that childhood is preparation for adulthood whether kids consciously know it or not. Today’s kids seem to be reflecting a completely different prospective reality from what I’d expected.”

    I don’t expect most folks these days are teaching their kids wilderness survival tactics, community building, and various skills found in the Foxfire Books or the US Army Ranger Handbook.

    I think those would be most useful.

    But then, probably 19 out of 20 of these kids won’t live long enough to use those skills, anyway. Only those who make it through the wholesale hellscape of the Great Collapse will even have a chance, and that’s if we don’t finish each other off first by lobbing nukes at each other before the Great Collapse is partway through.

    I figure, let them have their “fun” as best they know it today and can have it, while it and they last.

  6. bruce wilder

    I was watching a video of John Mearsheimer answering questions before a small group, presumably a semi-academic setting — don’t remember the specifics of that – and as he considered a challenge to his thesis, he said something like, “I have considered the possibility, but I’d want evidence” and then went on to explain the specifics of the evidence he would need to change his mind about the balance of probabilities and plausibility (this last prepositional my formula).

    There is in a lot of moralistic narrative-spinning and in certain brands of scientism too a hostility if not to logic and evidence per se, at least to the informal bounds of plausibility and coherence. I wonder if this is a product of or pre-requisite to the flood tide of propaganda and disinformation. Do people lose their ability to reason when they see no examples broadcast in media?

    I guess I think it might be true and might account for how and why so many seem to lose their bearings in controversies, unable to even remember established facts or use those facts to bound their own arguments in reality-space. Or, to distinguish highly implausible speculation or claims as disinformation.

    The views of a great many people on important topics seem to me to be unanchored to anything but the norms of a social group or class with which they identify. Ecological collapse. War with Russia. COVID-19 public health policy. Some of that may have to do with the way controversy is moved into a realm of counter-factuals, projected future trends and the like, where facts are a distant remove. And some is that old reliable — disengagement. At base, is it just teh stupid? Or powerlessness? (if you cannot act, do not think, it is too scary)

  7. bruce wilder

    Jonathan Haidt has an opinion piece in WSJ that looks at the psychological impact of social media on GenZ — he’s alarmed, especially for girls, claiming that boys often form competitive groups as teams even in the virtual spaces of games and that helps them against depression.

    I decided to give up TikTok, at least for a couple of weeks. We will see if unrelieved boredom helps.

  8. Mark Level

    I share Willy’s concerns . . . one of my friends has 2 children, an older daughter 19 and attending college, a son about 9. I met the son when I visited their place just after Thanksgiving, & he could barely acknowledge me, just sitting with mom who was watching the World Cup & sewing, he was on his phone looking at a game or some diversion. (To say something better, his daughter’s home for Xmas with a boyfriend who dad likes, etc. so that’s good at least) . . . moving back to the upper Midwest I thought people would be somewhat friendlier and open as I recalled though I left very long ago, 1980. No dice! The younger generation, male and female, will not generally deign to make eye contact or say hello– I use the shared gym in my building and it is awkward because whenever there are people there, they won’t make eye contact or even acknowledge my existence in passing. I respond in kind because what’s the value of being friendly when people are clearly social-phobic. The funniest (in a sick sort of way) interaction I had in the gym was when I was next to a younger guy on the walking track next to me after doing my weights workout. So he would not make eye contact or acknowledge me, but then a family member called him & I overheard his phone conversation, rather sad family dynamics in detail!! His mom apparently had temporary custody of his kids (1 or 2, not clear) but was drinking and keeping them away from other family members, I guess including the biological mom who lived nearby but was evidently no longer with this dude. I would’ve been a little circumspect to share such grisly details publicly with someone I won’t even acknowledge being in the same room, but . . . well, whatever I guess. These people seem broken, I guess the fact that they feel no self-consciousness about sharing it so publicly could be looked at as healthy individualism or as being reconciled to lives of overwhelming misery and (not “quiet”) desperation! I can’t say whether the social honesty is glass half-full or half-empty (my parents were extremely uptight about acknowledging ANY family or personal shortcomings publicly, an attitude which I early on rejected as unhealthy). Anyway, not just the social safety net in USA is torn, any social net or community seems to have been rejected, permanently. I guess it will take the real hard times many of us expect to come to rebuild some community? I guess I’ll stay tuned and see.

  9. Willy

    I know religious folk who despise what they see as “scientism”. They say: How can Neil DeGrasse Tyson possibly know everything about spiritual realms when his animal senses only want material proof? Fair enough I reply.

    But then I offer that maybe scientism-tists have gone that way, where they ignore any not-immediately profitable speculations, because they’re owned by MBAs. As we all know, in modern MBA culture you’d better be making bank with your science or else you’ll be getting no toilet paper. And even if your science is profitable enough to be getting toilet paper, MBAs will continuously cut quarterly costs and rentiering profits and buying back shares until the customers know they’re being scammed and the organization collapses.

    Yes, I know that many of the religious conservative anti-scientism-tists will immediately think me to be in league with Satan, so tricksy and false. But hopefully I’ve planted a seed or two.

    As for our emerging nation of child-zombies, maybe there’ll be an app for that. When they finally do take to the streets en-masse to revolutionize “the way things are going”, a good phone app will show them how to do stuff like march and chant and raise fists in unison, instead of just walking around aimlessly staring at their phones.

  10. different clue


    I like the concept ” scientism-tists”. I suggest a slightly shorter version of it, easier to say and to spell. ” Scientismists”. If you like it feel free to use it. If not, then not.

    A close parallel form of the concept might be . . . scienticians.

  11. someofparts

    Well, to the point about the young being glued to phones and video games to the point of being so anti-social they ignore pets, I could add my own geriatric observations. Even guys I know who are in their 50s and 60s escape from the world into their video games. The couple of guys I know who are doing that are having terrible lives, enduring poverty and isolation. The members of my cohort who are prosperous are semi-literate and sports-minded, with special emphasis on sports that require ostentatious, expensive gear like playing golf, skiing, or tooling around on thousand-dollar bicycles.

  12. Willy

    I’ve done work for people who own expensive skis, clubs and bikes. I never see them actually using these things. While some might think them status symbols to be hung up and displayed but never used, I have a different theory. I think they’re desperate grabs at material things which the new owners are hoping will make some inner angst go away.

    I did significant work for a middle-aged DINK couple, an MBA and PhD. They bought a large fixer on neglected acreage and I advised and helped them turn it into a modern idyllic paradise, room by room, space by space, over several years. Closet-sized master roman shower/tub, multi-level entertainment view deck, chef’s kitchen, even a sitz tub and LED fireplace for aging mom living in the downstairs MIL suite. There were hundreds of specialty garden shrubs which they seemed so proud of that I dare not mention them lest I have to take an hour-long tour, again.

    When the projects were all finally completed, I fantasized a home-n-garden-warming party where I’d be a star guest. I fantasized wrong. They immediately put the place up for sale and disappeared never to heard from again.

    At first I thought this had been their master plan: to find an agreeably talented sucker/loser to do all the heavy lifting in some slow-flip of an investment property. But the more I think about it, the whole thing seemed a desperate psychological grab at happiness, or more specifically, the mental peace which their parents had known. They did after all, never have a job which lasted for more than a couple years even at their educational level.

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