“Wingman Culture” and Military Sexual Assault

For various reasons, sexual assault in the military is both an issue I feel strongly about, and find exceedingly difficult to write about.  At this point, too many layers of misinformation and propaganda need to be scraped away from the topic before any semblance of the truth can possibly be addressed.  My thoughts on the mess this problem has become are best expressed by one of my favorite Moldbug quotes:

“It is impossible to enumerate the full list of reasons behind this belief. It’s like asking you why you prefer a romantic candlelight dinner for two at a simple, yet elegant, French restaurant, to being dragged alive behind an 18-wheeler at highway speed until there is nothing on the rope but a bloody flap of skin.” – Mencius Moldbug, “An Open Letter to Progressives,” pg 121

Accordingly, this post will be short on analysis.  I will merely clarify one point up front: the term “wingman” is commonly used in modern parlance to roughly mean, “a friend who facilitates one’s sexual adventurism.”  In the institutional culture of the US Air Force, however (where I believe, but can’t prove, that the term originated), the term “Wingman” is analogous to the the Army and Marine Corps’ concept of “Battle Buddy” or the Navy’s “Shipmate.”  The understanding is that once you cross a threshold from safety into danger (combat, or otherwise), it’s “game on” and everyone is obligated to be vigilant and pro-actively protect and correct one another.  However, the term has morphed to include not just authentically dangerous situations, but everyday life.  It has gained a connotation of “collective punishment,” or “babysitting,” which is expressed more thoroughly in the article I’m about to link.

So, perhaps you are familiar enough with Air Force culture to see where this article relates to counter-sexual assault efforts.  Perhaps you are not familiar with the culture, but are perceptive enough to imagine how this could tie in to the very public issue of sexual assault in the military.  If so, check out:  The Real Meaning of “Wingman”  (If not, perhaps this post just isn’t for you!)

Wingman. For the Air Force, this has become a loaded word.  For decades, it was a term associated with the long understood criticality of mutual support in combat operations. It stood for the proposition that assertive teamwork was the key to mission success. In recent years, it’s been hijacked by sloganeers who’ve used it as a rhetorical device to saturate bomb airmen concerning their duty to take care of, safeguard, and surveil one another…When I ask airmen what the word  means to them, the answers are mostly negative, with emphasis on the idea that “wingman” and “motherhood” have become too synonymous in the Air Force lexicon…

Here’s what “wingman” means to me.

First of all, it’s not as simple as “take care of each other.”  Sometimes being a wingman requires much more than that.  Sometimes, it requires much less.  Three qualities define a good wingman, and each has its own texture…Mutual Support…Situational Awareness…Individual Reliability

Despite considerable Air Force preaching to the contrary — especially among senior enlisted leaders and especially where off-duty conduct is concerned — a wingman culture is not a tool for collective responsibility.  Individuals are responsible for their actions.  Wingmen are encouraged to step in when things are headed down the wrong path, but they are neither law enforcement officers nor morality police, and in most cases they have no authority in off-duty contexts to tell their teammates what they can and cannot do.  Individual responsibility has always been and must always be the dominant logic governing matters of good order and discipline.  Blaming wingman action or inaction, even perceptually, when an individual does something wrong, transfers core accountability away from the wrongdoer and on to someone else.  Other potential wrongdoers view this as indulgence are emboldened.  Wingmen grow resentful of being blamed for failing to prevent wrongdoing by what amounts to judgment calls in gray areas, and tend to avoid off-duty teammate interactions in the future.  This degrades mutual support rather than enhancing it.

It shouldn’t be too hard to see the connection between the “collective responsibility” definition of being a wingman and the social phenomenon of White Knighting.  There are few things as infuriating as watching unsupportive, unaware, and unreliable “wingmen” place themselves and others in danger, and refuse to learn from their mistakes even after sobering up and hearing a debrief of their misadventures.  Except being held accountable for those misadventures, “even perceptually.”

It’s enough to make a white knight hang up his spurs.

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Google-ization Atomization

Business Insider recently ran this article:

Ignoring Your Neighbor On A Plane Is A Weird Practice That Needs To Stop

One of the weirdest things about commercial air travel is pretending that the people sitting in your seat row are invisible. I find it truly odd—maybe it’s just me—sitting next to someone for four, five, six, or twelve hours pretending that they’re not there.

This phenomenon exists in a different form on the internet:

“Let Me Google That For You.”

Nearly any internet-savvy person recognizes the quote above communicates three things:

  1. The answer to one’s question is easily found on the internet
  2. The answer-er is uninterested in the topic
  3. Condescension from the answer-er that one would have even asked the question at hand

There’s even a pretty catchy music video about this very concept:

Taryn Southern – Google That Shit

Google That Shit

The atomization of society in the wake of the collapse of social institutions is remarked on somewhat frequently in the orthosphere…

…and I’ll add my commentary here.  “Let me Google that for you,” is in many ways another form of atomization.  I grew up with the internet.  I read random things on it all the time.  I write a blog!  I know that Google has the answer to just about everything.

Some time ago I realized this, and then deliberately began to ask people questions because I didn’t just want the answer, I was interested in their answer.  At times, I only asked the question to prompt social interaction of any kind, for whatever reason.  So the first time I that the “Let me Google that for you,” after asking a question because I wanted a particular person’s answer to an easily Google-able question, it kind of caught me off-guard.  The attitude is sort of a community-killer.  I guess human interaction can seem pointless, and doubly so when it is done just for its own sake (vice Google-ing something instead…), but isn’t that the point?

Flexible vs Malleable

The Orwellian decay of our language is a common subject in the orthosphere.  Ambiguous and equivocating definitions make it near impossible to engage people in meaningful ways; every word becomes a lie of omission.  Usually, this is viewed as a pretty sinister thing, a la the IngSoc motto from 1984:

WAR is PEACE

FREEDOM is SLAVERY

IGNORANCE is STRENGTH

But it can also take more mundane forms in everyday life.  The inability to think clearly, or perhaps more accurately, the failure to notice unclear thinking, can lead us astray as well.

Flexibility is a virtue extolled by our culture.  “Roll with the punches.”  “Adapt and overcome.”  Do what it takes to succeed.  “Lean in.”  Pick your phrase.

In the name of flexibility, you change your routine.  You change your gym time from the morning to the afternoon, or cut it from 5 days a week to 3.  You cook fewer meals from scratch because you need to make time for “the big project.”  You see friends less because you are working later.  You go out less because your job takes you away from your cultural heritage; perhaps even from any significant culture at all.  You spend money to outsource everything from lawn care to child care.  You give up a reading habit, or a music-playing habit because all of the above leaves you too tired for intellectual leisure.

Years later, you’re weak and overweight from lack of exercise.  You are unhealthy because you ate fast food for nearly every meal…at least the ones you didn’t skip outright for lack of time.  Your relationships suffer, as does your cultural identity.  Your home isn’t so much your own, and someone else has raised your children.  You never did read that one book that caught your attention, nor the several others it would have led you to.  You aren’t any better at music than you were at the end of your high school band career.

Is this “flexibility?”

No.  A flexible thing yields under pressure, and then resumes its original shape.  Such an object might be thought of as being resilient.

There is another word that describes the above scenario; an object that yields under pressure and then remains deformed after the pressure is gone; we say such an object is malleable.

Too often people believe they are being flexible when in fact they are being malleable.  They have no concept of their normal state, and don’t seem to notice as they stray farther and farther from their baseline.

Clearly there are limits.  Any flexible item, if flexed too far, either bends permanently, like a paper clip, or snaps, like a toothpick.  Those points must be avoided if at all possible, and recovered from once experienced.

I bring this up for a two reasons.

1) Today I was talking about my thoughts on our culture’s disregard for social entropy, and the discussion centered around the huge amount of work required simply to maintain our civilization’s status quo.  While this discussion was at the societal level, I was also thinking about the individual in the back of my mind as well.  Individuals flex to accommodate circumstance, but I believe the rampant levels of diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles as well as mental health problems indicate that far too many people allow themselves to be permanently molded into routines which fail to address their basic physical and mental needs.

This plays out differently in everyone’s life.  For me, the mental alarm bells start to go off when I miss the gym two days in a row.  Not only am I physically thrown off by excess energy (and, likely, insomnia), but also in the back of my mind I wonder what’s going on that I missed such an important part of my daily routine.  I figure out what’s sapping my time and energy, figure out how long it will take to complete the project, silence the mental alarms giving myself peace of mind, and set plan to resume my routine on a schedule.  I’m planning to flex, rather than letting myself bend.

2) The military’s big catchword for dealing with mental health problems these days is one I’ve already brought up: resiliency.  They stress that people have setbacks, but the key to recovery is, well, to recover!  To “bounce back.”  And while this is a great idea in and of itself, in a broader context it is lacking.  In our increasingly atomized culture, people often have little to bounce back to.  Some literally have no idea what a healthy lifestyle is to begin with.  Among those who do know what they need to be healthy, many face demanding situations with no end in sight; their adaptive habits cease being a temporary “flex” and become permanent “bends.”

The rule I make with myself when I find my routine breaking down and I think about procrastinating is to ask myself, “If not now, when?”  Plan the return to normalcy before you deviate from normal.  Plan your self-maintenance before you need it.  I suspect a lot of life’s big problems would be solved if we prevented their little versions from accumulating without a second thought.

Divine Understanding

A friend asked my opinion on this article at tricycle.com: A Question of Faith. Fair warning: as a response, this is just a bunch of thoughts related to the article.  It is kind of rambling, and long, and doesn’t have a real clear thesis.

Here we go.

First, my analysis of the article is pointless without first squaring a problem of definitions. First, the author states a useful idea that I agree with:

At the creative heart of science is a spirit of open-minded inquiry. Ideally, science is a process, not a position or a belief system. Innovative science happens when scientists feel free to ask new questions and build new theories.

For clarity, I will refer to this ideal process as “science.” Contrasted with this, the author speaks of another thing. He doesn’t spell it out directly, but this quote gets at the issue:

The spirit of inquiry has continually liberated scientific thinking from unnecessary limitations, whether imposed from within or without. I am convinced that the sciences, for all their successes, are being stifled by outmoded beliefs.

Here the author faults scientists for limiting themselves according to contemporary paradigms, and seems to think there is a serious problem with the fact they continually make progress.

This deserves some criticism. The author defines science as a process which builds new theories, then describes the processing and refinement of its theories as a corruption! This is analogous to defining running as linear human motion from a given point, then criticizing the runner’s “running-ness” when he is later in a different point. If change within prescribed bounds is part of a definition, then change within those bounds cannot be held to violate the definition.  The author plays loose with which version of “science” he is criticizing.

For the sake of clarity though, let’s examine what he elsewhere describes as idealogically-driven science. I would not be the first to call this “scientistry.” I see this as a sort of hubris (one of my favorite words) that comes in two compatible flavors:

  1. The belief that the process has reached an “end” and what is known is both perfect and complete. (Remember “perfect and complete,” we’ll revisit this later.) This is the benign form of scientistry. It leads to things like the calls for the shuttering of the patent office.
  2. The belief that the end result of the process is already known, and that we merely need to fill in the gaps to get there. This is the malignant form of scientistry. It leads to concentration camp experiments to “prove” racial superiority/inferiority, and to the embarrassing debacle that climate change “research” has become.

It is easy to see where the author finds “blind-faith, self-righteousness, and intolerance” in the realm of scientistry. I don’t disagree with him. But this isn’t an indictment of science.

The author also tries to draw equivalency between faith in science and faith in religion. Here, again, I believe he is being ambiguous in an attempt to prove a point.

I’ve already described the issue of faith within scientistry, so now I will address faith within science proper. The equivalency that most religious types tend to draw goes like so:

“Well, you’ve never seen God firsthand, but have you ever seen an atom firsthand? How do you know that DNA contains a blueprint for an organism; have you ever seen a cell consulting its nucleus for direction?…” and so on.

The error here is one of false equivalency. It is true that no individual scientist has ever reproduced all experiments ever performed in the course of deriving the body of knowledge he basis his work upon. Newton freely acknowledged that he “stood on the shoulders of giants.” Yet in the course of the process of science, inaccuracies in the passed down knowledge will be discovered. Inconsistencies such as these lead to Kuhn’s paradigm shifts. And, thought he hasn’t reproduced those experiments and results, others have. And, if he was so inclined, he could too, re-validating all acquired human knowledge for as far as he could get until he died of old age. The scientist is trusting that his assumptions are true for the purpose of his experiment, but remains upon to a change in belief based on his experience. And he has the option to actively seek to validate his beliefs through experiments and observation.

In this light, it should be clear that a scientist’s “faith” in observable, falsifiable assertions about the world is significantly different than a religionist’s “faith” in unobservable, unfalsifiable assertions about the world. In the first case, the issue is the limitations of the observer, in the second case, the issue is the limitations of the observed.

This is a good point to tease out a definition, that of scientific materialism. I believe the author and I both agree that scientific materialism is a worldview which breaches the boundary delineated above: when the scientific method of observation is trained on the unobservable. From a contradiction, anything can follow, and it isn’t particularly fruitful to detail the myriad ways this can go wrong. I only pause to recognize that this is where scientific materialists conclude that the unobservable does not exist, which is admittedly a fallacy of falsifying an unfalsifiable. It is, however, instructive that such beliefs (if they are to have legitimacy, at least), are described as “revealed religions,” which appeal to an unchallengeable authority of long ago rather than to repeatable observations. (After all, a group which creates its own unfalsifiable beliefs is derided as a “cult,” rather than celebrated as a religion.)

Having sorted these things out, this quote seems like the next thing worth analyzing:

What is the relationship between the many successes of science and what you see as the current situation of its inflated and unfulfilled promises? Materialism provided a seemingly simple, straightforward worldview in the late 19th century, but 21st-century science has left it far behind. Its promises have not been fulfilled, and its promissory notes have been devalued by hyperinflation.

First, this clearly smells of scientistry of the second type; the one that makes promises of future discoveries. It would be worth disregarding for this reason alone, but there is a reason I hesitate to ignore it as well. That reason is a sense of disappointment.

This disappointment is what I see as the root of postmodernism. Modernity promised that all human problems had technological, scientific answers. I think of The Jetsons and The World of Tomorrow-style cartoons as examples of modernism ideas being expressed in a modernist age. Once technology failed to provide these answers (but not before it made us fabulously wealthy! <link postmodernism series>), society swung to the other extreme; the idea that all truth is relative and ultimately no answers are to be had.* Ironically, the effects of this idea are almost indistinguishable from the effects of reductionism the author warns us about.
(*Also ironically, I suspect that in the end, science will actually provide some of those answers and the much-maligned human biodiversity movement will come to discover that many “subjective” parts of human experience are actually the result of objectively observable genetic differences. After all, what sense does it make to claim, for example, that sexual orientation is a subjective experience if it is guided by objectively determined and observable genetics?)

It is also with no small amount of irony that the author refers to scientists as “priests of progress.” There is nothing inherently ironic in this, so my remark requires (minimal) context. Nearly the entire Western world (and therefore, I assume, the author and the majority of his readers) believe in “progress” the very progress he derides! He is on solid ground while speaking from an Eastern tradition that believes that the world was born pristine and has been corrupted over time and will eventually be destroyed and reborn. But the predominant view of history in the West is one of progress. From hunter-gatherers to city-states to nations, democracy, the end of slavery, universal suffrage, human rights, LGBTQ rights, and beyond, Progressives believe that the world is…well…progressing! Getting better! And to complete the ironic image, consider the only other creed in America which at all parallels Eastern history. That’s right: fundamentalist Christians who believe humanity began pure in the Garden of Eden ~6000 years ago and are surviving increasing corruption until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ which will usher in the Apocalypse and the salvation of His loyal followers. Good thing progressive hipsters like irony, right?

At this point, as my final asides, I will point out both that:

  • A large-ish body of thought has been written about the idea of Progressivism as a religion (these links being my personal favorites:)
  • Progressivism inexorably leads to a single, forcefully imposed, “scientific” doctrine of everything.  The author seems to recognize this with respect to science/religion, but I doubt he appreciates its political aspects. (Or he may truly be a socially conservative Western English-speaking Buddhist. And a unicorn)  See:
    • An Open-Letter to an Open-Minded Progressive.  (Cntl-F and start at, “What one word, dear progressives, best describes the modern Western system of government?” and read through the section on “public policy”.)

But, much like Arlo Guthrie only really meant to talk about the draft, I didn’t really write to say all of the above things. I wrote to share a different set of ideas.

Let’s get back to where I left off near the beginning, with “perfect and complete knowledge.”

In his book “Imagined Communities,” Benedict Anderson discusses how several Western institutions shaped the colonial world. Among these was the modern, Western use of the map. The earliest maps often were simple pictographic depictions of local landmarks and the routes and distances between them. The world consisted largely of locations worth being nestled among locations not worth being. In the age of city states, the human perception of space was still that of a centralized relationship to the nearest city. The strength of relationship between hinterland and city was somewhat proportional to the distance involved. A village equidistant to two cities might have roughly equal relationships to both.

The modern Western map changed this. Cartographers no longer labelled only cities, landmarks, or regions; they drew borders on the map and associated complete ownership of all parcels of land to the capitol city associated with that parcel. In the process, two hypothetical villages two miles apart, on opposite sides of the border, came to “belong” to their respective capitals. By the time the cartographers were done, all land on Earth belonged to one capital city or another. This was done without regard for affiliation, relationship, or even if the claimed location was “a location not worth being.” There was no such thing as unclaimed land; only owned land which had yet to be explored. Everything was made neat and orderly: Britain owned this, Germany owned that, and so forth.

Anderson refers to this all-encompassing ownership as “totalizing classification.” It is, in a way, the metaphysical version of “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Viewed this way, the world was no longer a collection of cities nestled among the wilderness. In fact, there really was no “wilderness.” The authority of a state was theoretically just as strong on a desolate mountaintop as on the floor of Parliament. The world became “smaller.” For example, Americans living in Oregon and Maine both see Mexico as their “southern neighbor,” but erase international boundaries from the map and it hardly seems reasonable that residents of Portland and Augusta should share a common spatial perception of Mexico City.

Returning to the issue at hand, I’d like to borrow Anderson’s “totalizing classification” of land and apply it to sea monsters. Just as pre-mapped people understood the land around them as a relationship of tiny places worth being among large swaths of places not worth being, pre-modern people understood, say, animals, in terms of ones they had seen, and ones they had not. A fisherman understands fish; he sees them all the time. Perhaps the odd turtle is spotted on the beach every year. These things fit in the villager’s cosmogeny; the fish give birth to more fish, the turtles give birth to more turtles, and circle of life continues. But then a giant squid washes up on shore. The villagers have never seen such a thing before. Even the region’s itinerant medicine man has never seen such a thing. It does not fit in the village’s cosmogeny; they are uncertain where it came from, what it does, and how it ended up on their shore. Perhaps it gets called a Kraken and is understood to have been a one-off creation by a deity. Perhaps something else happens. But it is seen as an aberration, and one that will fade into a vague figure in oral history generations later.

Contrast this to a modern person encountering a beached giant squid. Although he has never personally seen one before, he has heard about them. He knows that they have washed up on shores all over the world, and that he is not the first to see one. He knows scientists have dissected dead ones, and recorded live ones under the sea. While they are rare, they give birth to subsequent generations just like every other creature. All this fits within our “perfect and complete knowledge.” No deity is needed to explain its seemingly ex nihilo origins.

Similarly, if a person were to encounter a thing he had never even heard of, he would likely place it somewhere within the totalizing classification of all the things he is familiar with. His instinct is to assume it has an equal place in the world with all other creatures, just as the modern geographer asserts that the Aleutian Islands have an equal place with Washington, DC as American soil.

Through this process of aggregating knowledge and eliminating “one-off” phenomenon, to the point that even novel observations are assumed to have a natural, rather than supernatural place in the observer’s cosmogeny, a great deal of wonder for the world has been lost. Through our understanding of the natural world, we have driven the divine out of it, and replaced it with our own knowledge. This particular elevation of human knowledge is a process that I’ve come to refer to as “divine understanding.” I see this as something different from materialism, which states that the physical world is all there is…it is a negative outlook that simply removes the supernatural. Divine understanding, to me, implies the simultaneous elevation of human knowledge, however cynically, to a divine state.

It is divine understanding that has turned the coca leaf from a gift of the gods enabling high-altitude living to an alkaloid stimulant. It is divine understanding that has turned rainbows into refractions of daylight through suspended water droplets. And, back to the author’s point, it is divine understanding that has reduced human emotions into series of electrical and chemical interactions within the neural and endocrine systems.

I am critical of the seeming triumph of divine understanding in modern attitudes though. Even outside of the realm of the supernatural, it seems off that a sense of wonder is ruined by greater understanding of its mechanisms. Is the rarity of the exotic materials used in spaceflight, and the precision with which they are shaped, and the accuracy with which their operation is timed, diminished in any way because we know where the materials were mined from, or who did the shaping, or the formulas which govern the timing of the various operations? (Put another way, how does “rocket fuel is made with ammonium perchlorate and potassium nitrate, by Haltermann Solutions in Texas, in ratio X:Y,” substantively different than “Bilbo’s shirt is made of Mithril, found in the mines of Moria, crafted by dwarves?” Why does one of these things seem mundane and the other epic?) Does the incredible effort involved in turning a plan into reality count for nothing? Is anyone capable of simultaneously envisioning every single process happening during a launch? In these regards, it seems to me that a sense of wonder should rightly remain, even if the mystery is gone.

This post sure went all over the place, but I’ll leave off as the same place as the author does.  He is concerned that scientific fundamentalism is a dangerous, ideological thing.  I have already responded to that; science as a process of truth-seeking is not an ideology – an a priori worldview into which observations are shoehorned – it is a process.  Ideological science, or “scientisty,” is of course dangerous, but it also isn’t science-as-a-process.  Scientific materialism, and the related idea of divine understanding, seem to conflate mystery and wonder, and by seperating them out I believe one can be scientific and truth-seeking while avoiding reductionism.

Return on Investment

One post I find myself linking fairly frequently is on the ever-controversial site Return of Kings (quoted liberally, shorted to the points relevant here):

Society Can’t Afford The Educated Woman

Women are making great strides academically, so much so that I think it fair to claim at this point that they have overcome just about all of the road blocks to higher education previously placed in front of them….

That’s all good and well, but a recent perusal of a New York Times article got me thinking about a crucial aspect of this growing academic “fempire” that seems overlooked: the utility of the educated woman.

I’M a doctor and a mother of four, and I’ve always practiced medicine full time. When I took my board exams in 1987, female doctors were still uncommon, and we were determined to work as hard as any of the men.

Today, however, increasing numbers of doctors — mostly women — decide to work part time or leave the profession. Since 2005 the part-time physician workforce has expanded by 62 percent, according to recent survey data from the American Medical Group Association, with nearly 4 in 10 female doctors between the ages of 35 and 44 reporting in 2010 that they worked part time.

This may seem like a personal decision, but it has serious consequences for patients and the public.

Medical education is supported by federal and state tax money both at the university level — student tuition doesn’t come close to covering the schools’ costs — and at the teaching hospitals where residents are trained. So if doctors aren’t making full use of their training, taxpayers are losing their investment. With a growing shortage of doctors in America, we can no longer afford to continue training doctors who don’t spend their careers in the full-time practice of medicine.

Tremendous amounts of economic and social effort have gone into the promotion of the educated woman and the more gender-diverse workforce. Tremendous amounts of real capital have gone into the promotion and education of women, the goal being to bring them fully up to par with men in both ability and opportunity.

Are we getting a good return on that investment? This is a question feminists do not want to hear about, but how long can it be avoided?

When it comes to educational costs, women are by all means equal to men. It does not cost less to educate a woman at Harvard Law or [insert prestigious and preposterously expensive medical/law/business school here] than it does to educate a male. It does not cost less to send a woman to an elite liberal arts school than it does to send a male. These costs, I don’t need to tell you, are massive.

Society is, collectively, making a gargantuan investment in educating college students with the hope that there will be some return on that investment. That return doesn’t have to come in the form of capital, but rather in productivity: those receiving these extravagantly expensive educations are expected use them in order to enhance their performance in professional fields. Said enhancement leads to better performance of professional fields as a whole (ex: a larger number of competent doctors, lawyers, investors and the like available to a larger share of the population), and that in turn leads to a better society.

The problem here is that men are offering a greater return on that investment than their equally well educated female counterparts.

The maddening reality for feminists is that this can’t be blamed on the patriarchy. There are many more women capable of holding elite white-collar positions than there are women actually holding them. That differential is, as the article above mentioned, due to female choice, not to male oppression. Women not only self-select out of many demanding, prestigious and high paying fields (even if they’ve not shown any lack of mental capacity to do the work), they also seem to very strongly favor the birthing and raising of children (and the professional sacrifice that comes with it) to the maintenance of a life on the hard-charging career track…

The problem, however, is not one of principle but one of practical matters, particularly those relating to finance. Western nations are running out of money and, as the aforementioned New York Times article notes, running out of educated professionals in many crucial fields:

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that, 15 years from now, with the ranks of insured patients expanding, we will face a shortage of up to 150,000 doctors. As many doctors near retirement and aging baby boomers need more and more medical care, the shortage gets worse each year…

Despite this:

But their productivity doesn’t match that of men. In a 2006 survey by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, even full-time female doctors reported working on average 4.5 fewer hours each week and seeing fewer patients than their male colleagues. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 71 percent of female pediatricians take extended leave at some point — five times higher than the percentage for male pediatricians.

This gap is especially problematic because women are more likely to go into primary care fields — where the doctor shortage is most pronounced — than men are. Today 53 percent of family practice residents, 63 percent of pediatric residents and nearly 80 percent of obstetrics and gynecology residents are female.

How long can this go on? I’m sure the pie in the sky ideas promoting absolute gender equality and the costs associated with it were more bearable in an age when economic growth seemed endless, an age in which the generation that largely began this whole gender revolution (hi boomers) grew up in.

Today, however, we’ve got a harsh reality staring us in the face: we’ve decided to take a massive portion of society’s investment in education and focus it on women and we’re seeing less of that investment returned to society. We’re paying more and, essentially, getting less. We’re committed to maintaining equality in our investment, but totally unconcerned with the equality of the return. This isn’t sustainable in world of finite money/resources.

The answer, surely, is not to stop educating women. Rather, it is to find a way to improve the return on the investment that said education symbolizes...

While RoK gets all sorts of accusations of misogyny, the author clearly states that he isn’t interested in any sort of moralizing about who’s getting educated, or even who is better suited for the job.  His concern is a pragmatic, financial one: are we getting adequate return on our investment?  Statistics clearly indicate that we are not, and it is already having serious consequences which are further worsened by recent healthcare reform.

But, Athlone McGinnis’s point is bound to be lost among the shrieking hysterical feminist crowd, so another perspective is in order.  Furthermore, I like to make connections between things, and this is my blog, so it makes me happy to connect similar events even if none of them are in danger of being “discredited.”

An article from last fall recently made its way through my Facebook feed pertaining to the Air Force’s struggle to retain pilots.  The author points out that the Air Force tries to retain pilots with financial incentives, and is struggling to understand why the pilots aren’t taking the retention bonus.  While the article is very long and worth a read in-full, I’d like to focus on the relevant connection:

The Fighter Pilot Bonus

A few years ago, the general in command of United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE)…asked the fighter pilots in his command to explain why they think this is happening and included this very telling statement: “My concern is not that you’ve made the choice to pursue a new path, but that we don’t really understand why you made the choice.”

We’ll get to the why in a bit.

This summer, the Air Force Times reported that the USAF decided to offer fighter pilots an financial bonus to try and improve retention…follow-up article from the Air Force Times reports that pilots aren’t taking the bonus….

We’re going to take a look at some of the factors that detract from pilots doing the job they thought they signed up for. First, though let’s look at the costs of training a USAF pilot:

  1. CollegeSomewhere around 35-50% of USAF pilots each year come from the USAF Academy at a taxpayer cost of $300,000+. Beyond that, many of them received some level of ROTC scholarship. Let’s average things out to a cost of $150,000 taxpayer dollars paid per pilot for college.
  2. Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT)UPT has been quoted for years as costing $1,000,000. That number is old and the costs are probably much higher in today’s dollars. Let’s leave it there and just say that UPT is an order of magnitude more expensive to the taxpayers than college was.
  3. Aircraft QualificationAfter UPT, each pilot has to attend a program to get qualified in his or her aircraft. We don’t have hard numbers for these programs. The cost of the flight hours for UPT isn’t more than $500,000, so there are a lot of other costs for academics, simulators, airfield management and operation, etc. Knowing that, let’s look at the hourly cost of flying USAF aircraft. We can get rough numbers from comptroller.defense.gov (PDF).Let’s say that on average it takes 100 hours for a pilot to get qualified and reasonably competent in an aircraft. This includes Mission Qualification Training (MQT) after the pilot gets to an operational squadron. For an F-16, C-130 or KC-135 pilot those 100 hours cost somewhere in the range of $1M to $1.5M. For an F-15 or F-22 pilot those costs double. For a B-52 or B-1 pilot you’re looking at $3.6M to almost $5M. This is just the bare minimum cost for just the flight hours to get a pilot qualified.

We can summarize that to say that it costs the US taxpayers anywhere from $2.1M to $6.1M (low end estimates) to get a USAF pilot operationally qualified in an aircraft.

You’d think that after an investment like that the USAF would want to keep that pilot focused on flying that for several years to recoup their investment. Supposedly, that’s why we make pilots sign a 10-year contract when they finish pilot training. The pilots would love for that to be true.

Taxpayers and lawmakers of the United States, make no mistake: you are not getting that return on your investment! Listed below are some of the things that detract from your ROI. These are the same factors that are frustrating the hell out of fighter pilots and causing the retention problems mentioned in the articles and post above.

  1. Alpha ToursYou’d think that when the Air Force spends all that time and money getting someone qualified in an aircraft they’d want to keep them in the cockpit as long as possible. No such luck. The first operational assignment for a fighter (and other) pilots is only 2 years, 3 at best…
  2. AAD/PME…Since the USAF lacks the leadership ability to differentiate between the best and worst officers using job performance as the primary factor, it sets some benchmarks that it requires all officers to meet. Two of these are that they require all officers to earn a Master’s degree (Advanced Academic Degree or ADD) and they require officers to complete Professional Military Education (PME.) Every officer can do PME in correspondence, but they compete to do it in residence at a variety of programs. The AAD is generally done at online schools in an officer’s spare time because busy work and deployment schedules make attending classes in person impossible. The US taxpayers cover up to $9000 of Tuition Assistance to help pay for this degree and each officer has to pay any extra out of pocket.The AAD can be in any subject and need not apply in any way to the officer’s job. Several for-profit, online-only schools have popped into existence in the last few years. They charge exactly the amount of money covered by the taxpayer-funded Tuition Assistance program. They are notoriously easy degrees that would not get a shred of respect from anyone who graduated from residence graduate program at a “real” college. Military officers love these schools because they are essentially free to them and the degrees are easy to earn with minimal effort. That’s what your taxpayer dollars are getting.

    A quick look at promotion statistics shows that ADD and PME are easy cop-outs for promotion boards. Officers who complete both are almost guaranteed promotion. Officers who are too busy deploying, flying and studying the employment of their aircraft to get one or both of the ADD/PME finished have much lower promotion rates. The contrast is significant. The statistics show that promotion boards haven’t really needed to focus on job performance…the ADD/PME cutoffs take care of their quotas for them.

    This sends a clear message to fighter pilots (and officers in any specialty): If you focus your time and energy on your primary duties you won’t get promoted. If you focus instead on an AAD and PME that may or may not apply to your job, you will get promoted….

  3. DeploymentsFighter pilots don’t deploy as much as many other people…
  4. Staff Tours…Part of forcing all officers onto that track is requiring officers to complete a staff tour. This is generally a non-flying assignment of 1-3 years in length…For taxpayers, it’s another 3 years that an officer spends out of the aircraft that they spent millions of dollars training him or her to fly…

Taxpayers and Lawmakers: I hope you see some of the reasons that your USAF is having trouble retaining fighter pilots. I hope you see that fighter pilot retention is tied to problems that are wasting your tax dollars. You’re spending millions of dollars per pilot to train people who will only get a few years at best in their aircraft. If you could get the USAF to let fighter pilots focus on doing their mission you would simultaneously get more for your money and solve a lot of your retention problems.

One might think that women going to college and fighter pilots leaving the Air Force would have little to do with one another.  One is about women’s rights, the other is about…military discipline?  Motivation?  The problem is that these are third-order effects of what I believe the root problem is: wealth!

It is my belief that the material cause of most significant problems in our culture is that we have grown up in a society so wealthy we have no appreciation for cost or opportunity cost.  We don’t know how to invest for the future because we’ve been getting by pretty handily while spending for today.

I link these two concepts together not only to provide myself some “not-a-he-man-woman-hater” cover, but also to show how widespread the problem is, and to bring it into focus in an organization that is undeniably suffering the consequences of its mistakes.  (Something harder to “prove” with society at-large.)  What got me into blogging and later brought me into the Dark Enlightenment/Neoreactionary circles were my own observations on systems ignoring feedback mechanisms, business practices, and financial basics.  My desire isn’t to moralize on women in college or the motivation of our armed forces, but rather to continue to explore facts and ways in which our systems can be brought back to an interface with reality.  This post will serve as Exhibit A in my Human Relations tribunal on charges of being a miso-whatever-I’m-accused-of-hating should I ever need it!

Time to Focus

I have reason to use the word “Serendipity” about once a day.  Although it seems unlikely, the reason is a spin off the old saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation and chance coincide.”  I pay attention to a lot of things, and when one casts one’s nets often and wide, one is certain to catch things frequently.

And so it was that today an article came across my screen that caught my sentiments of late perfectly:

Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is.

It’s hard to describe it in words.

So, I use pictures.

Read below for the illustrated guide to a Ph.D.

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty:

A master’s degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now:

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 LicenseThis post originally appeared at Matt Might’s Blog.

For years, I have thought “something is wrong.”  I found A Voice For Men, then The Spearhead, then Heartise, Dalrock and countless others.  For about a year, I soaked all that up.  I had internalized most of what I figured I’d learn from that crowd, when I learned that this was only a smaller cluster of a much larger thing:

darkenlightenment2

Specifically, I stumbled into the Neoreactionaries of the upper left-hand corner.  Depending on your point of view, this crowd either extrapolates the observations of the former bloggers to their logical conclusions, or has worked backwards to find their first principles.  It doesn’t really matter which; this is a whole ‘nother level of thought that has caught my attention.

It shouldn’t take too much explanation to draw the connection between the Ph.D. post and the map above; a huge body of knowledge covering vast ranges of topics is mapped above.  My blog, which originally was just meant to house some of my own original ideas, took an interesting turn as I began to find others who already had reached the same conclusions I was writing about.  Often they had already written about those concepts themselves.  They have almost always done a better job of it than I have.

As I got more interested in this and found more people to interact with, I broke down and started using Twitter both to find other reading material and put my own material out into the ‘sphere.  I added more blogs to my RSS feed reader.  I got more traffic on my own blog, some commentors, and it appears I’m about to engage in a pretty long correspondence with a blogger from the other side of the fence.

Along the way I encountered something I don’t run into very often; my own personal limits.  Writing is much, much more demanding than reading.  I really began to appreciate the different roles people play in this community; the chroniclers, the commentators, the marriage and dating advisers, the theorists, the public-relations/marketing/WTF is Return of Kings? and others.  While it is tempting to want to put my own stamp on a “Theory of Everything” tying it all together, no one person can fill all these roles, and a true Theory of Everything is probably the work of a lifetime, not a beginning blogger.

So, much like the Ph.D.’s above, I realize if I’m going to be productive, it is best not to re-hash what has already been said, but rather pick an area and contribute.  It’s time to focus.  I’ll be writing less, but striving for higher quality.  I’m honored to have one of my series appear in the Neoreactionary Canon, and I think it is best to spend my writing time attempting to continue producing works worthy of keeping around.  My “to-write” list includes:

  • a follow-up to my post-modern progressivism series which will “rewind” back to my thoughts on modernism as well
  • an expansion on my post-modern progressivism series incorporating my recent thoughts on narcissism as its “Final Cause”
  • fulfilling my duties as “Ambassador” to Body Crimes
  • discussing what I see as the practical application of neoreaction vis-a-vis memes and intentional/targeted social cognitive dissonance
  • thoughts on Benedict Anderson’s “Totalizing Classification” and how it relates to nation-states, city-states, Middle Earth, and the United Stated Unified Combatant Commands
  • various applications of neoreactionary thought to military doctrine and culture

To this end, I’ve cleared out my RSS reader to just a few closely related to my own intended areas of writing, and will be staying off Twitter as well.  I’ve also finally conceded that Facebook has become a BuzzFed/Gawkerized echo chamber, very few who post anything there are interested in any actual discussion, and it doesn’t do me a whole lot of good to hang around there either.

While I realize few of the communities/blogs I’m taking a sabbatical from will even notice I left, it seems appropriate and gentlemanly to at least say, “see ya later.”  It has truly been transformational to read you guys, and I hope my own contributions measure up down the line.

Isolation is Part of the Deal

A tweet by C.M. Sturges of Apocalypse Cometh led me to a post on the blog called “Body Crimes:

IS THE RED PILL BAD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?

Anyone who’s spent much time reading this blog knows that in the past few months, I’ve become entranced by the New Misogynists – bloggers, both male and female, who believe that civilisation started collapsing the day women got the vote. These Manosphere bloggers are themselves part of a wider neo-reactionary movement that’s coming to be known as the Dark Enlightenment, (though it should more properly be called The Extinguishment, because it seeks to overturn the Enlightenment virtues of liberty and suffrage).

Although the more pretentious members of the movement have started to use the term ‘Dark Enlightenment’, most of the everyday bloggers refer to themselves as ‘red pill takers’.

The ‘red pill’ reference comes from The Matrix. If you swallow the red pill, you see the world as it really is. If you swallow the blue pill, you remained plugged in to a comforting dream.

It’s a very funny and perceptive video. One of the most acute things he says is that one side effect of taking the red pill is that people who have swallowed it don’t seem to be very happy: “It may even be a depressant.”

And how right he is. Take a look at the post Red Pill Isolation, from the Apocalypse Cometh blog, where the author, C.M. Sturges, says:

“There’s a common misconception in our little corner of the webz. That exposing yourself to the truth, essentially going down the rabbit hole, is going to make your life better. Nothing could be further from the truth…

You are going to become isolated. Most notably socially but also with your thoughts, opinions and your ability to finally see what surrounds you in this crumbling society.”

Read the rest here:

She appears to be an observer of the orthosphere, and makes some rather level-head analysis of it.  Where I think her analysis needed some extra work was separating “red pill knowledge” from the application of said knowledge.  (See bottom on the role of diagnostician and clinician.)  Since she seemed very cordial with Sturges, so I hazarded a comment to her post.   Reposted in its entirety:

I agree with a large part of your assessment, but I would ask you consider this:

It is a well-known phrase that politics makes strange bedfellows. With the overwhelming degree of uniformity in the mainstream media and culture, it is inevitable that all dissenters will be lumped together as “The Others.” For example, in a world that bases equality of genders on belief in the *sameness* of genders, anyone who dares believe men and women are different is a dangerous heretic. And so you end up grouping together those who favor more traditional approaches to dating with those who believe women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

And so it is absolutely true that daring to question the premises of a culture we don’t believe in brings an incredible amount of intellectual isolation. How could it not? For merely stating an obvious fact, such as women bear children and men don’t, or that men and women tend to exhibit different problem-solving techniques, I am branded a dangerous heretic, or a “misogynist,” in today’s lingo. Interestingly, many of these facts when stated by women are considered laudable, but when stated by men they are detestable. This is usually fueled by fears and assumptions of the other party’s motives:

Woman: “Men and women think differently”: Yes! Celebrate our uniqueness and individuality!
Man: “Men and women think differently”: No! Gender is a social construct! A woman can do anything a man can do!

Facts can be stated by good people and by evil people. The problem is that public discourse has decided to disown any and all facts that could possibly be used as ammunition by evil people. This means that the system has chosen to designate as its enemies not just the “evil” people, but the reasonable ones interested in facts. It is this anti-intellectualism and counter-factualism that has created an environment of intolerance, and has spurred the rise of the “Dark Enlightenment,” “Neoreaction,” “Red Pill.” If you “criminalize” normality, then don’t be surprised when normal people become “criminals.”

Few of us are intent on doing evil. But all of us demand that the facts be heard.

The isolation is lonely. That is part of The Matrix analogy as well; compare the glitz and comforts of the fake world with the drab clothes, gross food, and ugliness of the real world. The analogy is not cherry-picked for its best parts; we accept it as a package deal.

But I’ll also agree with C.M. Sturges. It is liberating to understand that you aren’t going crazy, and others share your observations. We are building a community where we fit in, and finally have an venue to apply our constructive efforts. Don’t overlook the “manosphere’s” huge emphasis on self-improvement. (Nor its contrast with the Jezebel-esque attempts at self-delusion: obese is beautiful, you should be loved for just being you, you’re perfect as you are, etc)

And while I have refrained from the meta-writing impulse to place myself in context of the cosmology of the orthosphere, this seems like a pretty good time to do it.

At present, I consider myself a social diagnostician.  As I said in my intro to the Neoreactionary Canon:

A confluence of sharp minds is taking place on the internet. Intelligent writers covering a wide range of issues have realized that conventional understandings of civilization and its history don’t “work.” The theories fail to hold predictive value. The models are broken. To repurpose an image from one of the original writers:

“It is impossible to enumerate the full list of reasons behind this belief. It’s like asking you why you prefer a romantic candlelight dinner for two at a simple, yet elegant, French restaurant, to being dragged alive behind an 18-wheeler at highway speed until there is nothing on the rope but a bloody flap of skin.” – Mencius Moldbug, “An Open Letter to Progressives,” pg 121

To answer the above question would be difficult, not for lack of reasons, but for an abundance of reasons; it is difficult to decide where to start. Furthermore, the fact that the question was even posed leads the reader to believe that the questioner not only needs an answer, he needs help. Specifically, he needs help so badly that he doesn’t even recognize it.

I commit myself only to the idea that what we are doing isn’t working.  My series on The Revolution and my analysis of Post-Modern Progressivism focus firmly on the ills of the here-and-now.  My conclusions have aligned with those of the neoreaction, and so I am with them thus far.  (Reading Moldbug’s social commentary was like an exercise in reading my own thoughts.)

And yet deciphering what is wrong is a far cry from determining what is right, that is, to be a social clinician.  Several ideas of various levels of unorthodoxy have been proposed.  Serious discussions of monarchy and crypto-tyranny have arisen.  These I treat as interesting thought experiments, but things to which I am not willing to commit.  At the less serious, yet more successful end of the scale, bloggers such as Matt Forney and Return of Kings have inspired amazing levels of awareness and outrage at politically incorrect gender-relations truths.  While seemingly unrelated, Truth is Truth, and if the orthosphere is about the right to speak uncensored truths, than their role in this community cannot be denied.

This post covers a lot of ground, so to recap: Yes, the “red pill experience” entails a lot of intellectual loneliness.  No, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Yes, I align with the neoreaction.  No, I’m not endorsing monarchy.  Yes, I believe the truth about gender relations is suppressed.  Maybe, the way RoK makes their points is rough, but maybe that’s the only way the truths will be heard.  And yes, I will continue to write until I have nothing left to say.