Bootstrap Nooses and the True Meaning of the Personal is Political
I have no idea how some could have an idea that the system is rigged and one’s own effort will not matter for whether one will succeed in a world where Bobo Brooks makes more than nearly every school teacher and nearly every starving artist or writer.
Bobo Brooks*, The NY Cum Stain on the Mattress:
The Character Factory
Oh Bobo. Laughable. Pathetic. Ultimate poster child for the underperforming, incompetent, and lazy child of privilege who lives in daily fear of the day actual meritocracy breaks loose and he has to actually work for his daily bread instead of waxing on about the Applebee’s fictional salad bars and gynocratic teacher overlords to assuage the consciences of fellow rich assholes who want to feel like their carefree piss parties splashing onto the poor are welcomed as liquid gold falling from the sky.
A sad caricature who wants to be seen as a modern Plato while possessing the intellect and reasoning ability of a particularly unthreatening puppy. A modern tragedy of the myths rich assholes tell to themselves, of how more meaningful one is when shepherded and protected by wingnut welfare producing comforting lies to afflicted the afflicted and comfort the comfortable, yet lacking anything of merit to show for it other than a forgettable stamp on the carousel of courtiers and jesters.
And Bob damn is he an irredeemable fuck.
Shorter (or the last port before Jungle):
- Really? REALLY? I mean, for fuck’s sake, man, it’s a Bobo Brooks column titled “The Character Factory”. What the fuck do you think it’s about… No, it’s not about a literal factory that creates cartoons, that’s just… It’s about young, poor people being lazy and morally corrupt bastards for not magicking jobs out of the goddamn aether. Like pretty much every other Bobo post since his paymasters shitcanned this economy.
You know, I never actually get tired of having my generation blamed for the economy that has victimized and pulverized us. It’s the most awesome, wonderful thing to be rendered completely shit-scared and hopeless, gathering more and more education to be regarded as trash no matter how many skills we obtain or whatever demeaning job we’re willing to work, and still being unable to reliably afford rent. To have people who staggered into their line of work stoned off their ass and straight out of high school criticize you for being a complete failure of a person because you somehow can’t just conjure a full-time middle-class job out of thin air. To be assumed to be lazy and wasting one’s life because you’re working 8 jobs and keep reliably losing the interview game to the unemployed members of the last generation who were lucky enough to get nice middle class jobs in the years when there was a functional economy.
It’s fucking amazing.**
Nearly every parent on earth operates on the assumption that character matters a lot to the life outcomes of their children. Nearly every government antipoverty program operates on the assumption that it doesn’t.
Okay, let’s just leave the blaring air raid siren pretending to be a dog whistle screaming about how poor hint hint black people are so utterly characterless and our anemic and underfed antipoverty programs don’t kick their ass enough right there on the window sill where we found it and trundle obliviously past it to a little game I call: “Even if you were right, you’d be wrong”.
Let’s play. Okay, let’s just ignore the elephant in the room and take this bullshit on its face as if it was a neutral statement.
No fucking shit. No fucking shit parents would care about character for their children but government programs wouldn’t. Parents are raising future adults. Full people who need to participate in society and handle its inequities and bullshit as best they can. Good parents want their children to have the strength to stand up for what is right even when it is hard and comes with sacrifices. Bad parents want their children to accept their rightful ownership of them and their genitals for all time.
That is a completely different purpose than a governmental program. See a governmental program is to provide a safety net or a service, indiscriminate and unobtrusive to people’s lives outside what is absolutely required. A government service doesn’t refuse to send your letter through the mail because you insulted a homeless person the other day. Or refuse to give you your driver’s license because you fuck puppies on the weekends. It doesn’t care if you are a monster or a saint, because at the end of the day, every living human being deserves basic services and equal protection under the law.
A government program isn’t there to “give you character”*** because it isn’t one’s fucking parents and isn’t raising you to handle a future system filled with moral challenges and provide your basic instruction on what it means to be a decent human being. They are fundamentally different entities aiming at completely different purposes.
And this is especially true for government programs that are anti-poverty programs for adults because adults aren’t fucking children and treating them as such and especially treating them as such when they are scared and hurting and wondering how they’re going to continue to live is just the ultimate fuck you a society could ever give.
Most Democratic antipoverty programs consist of transferring money,
YOUNG BUCKS EATING T-BONE STEAKS ARE STEALING YOUR MONEY! I’m sorry was the dog whistle too quiet? I’ll turn it up another 40,000 decibels.
Oh noes, how dare anti-poverty programs try and get poor people jobs? Don’t those poor people know their role is merely to be a background tableau of suffering for real people to feel better than?
or otherwise addressing the material deprivation of the poor.
Those bastards how dare, their filthy liberal anti-poverty programs… target poverty. Don’t they know you don’t need to eat or shower or have a roof if you have (rainbow sound effect) character. I mean, character totally replaces one’s fucking stomach and digestive tract and no longer makes one subjected to the physical, biological, psychological, and social debilitations of abject poverty.
Most Republican antipoverty programs likewise consist of
Setting poor people on fire as part of a betting pool on how long it takes a person to use their bootstraps to get a high-hanging bucket of water.
What? It’s more honest than the self-serving bullshit that was about to come out of your mouth.
adjusting the economic incentives or regulatory barriers faced by the disadvantaged.
Uh huh, sure. Poor people just needed to know that their first million dollars won’t at all be touched by estate taxes if they pass it on to their starved and dying offspring and that their multi-billion dollar corporation will be less regulated by the government. Then they’ll get off their ass and waste twelve billion dollars of their daddy’s money in ill-thought out short-term boondoggles like a Real American.
Fucking hell, you could at least hide it a little bit that the Cannibal Anarchist Party doesn’t and couldn’t give a fuck about addressing poverty outside of using the fear of it to keep the few people still employed from rebelling against their corporate masters and rightfully slaughtering them for the last 35 years of bullshit.
As Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution pointed out recently in National Affairs,
As my fellow bought-and-sold think tank hack said in an infamous right-wing think tank designed to manufacture arguments in defense of the powerful, why don’t we focus less on why there’s less employment than ever when corporations have had more than they’ve ever had before in lax regulations and relative power and more on why poor people aren’t creating jobs like the job creators they… heeeeey, why don’t we all stop sharpening those guillotines and start hating poor and young people for being brown and young?
both orthodox progressive and conservative approaches treat individuals as if they were abstractions — as if they were part of a species of “hollow man” whose destiny is shaped by economic structures alone, and not by character and behavior.
Both sides do it, so let’s just reword the worst side as the centrist moderate option and our stock options, I mean everyone will be happy.
It’s easy to understand why policy makers would skirt the issue of character.
Since fucking when?
I mean, for fuck’s sake, ever since the beginning of Great Depression II: Electric Boogaloo, we’ve been treated to every variation of the “poor people are lazy and lacking in character” argument under the sun. Fuck, since the 80s. Hell, since the 20s. Hell, since forever. The rich and powerful, profiting from the stolen labor of the poor have always blames poverty on “loose morals and worshipping dens of iniquity”. Whether it be rants about “young bucks” and pretending that jobs are some infinite resource and poor people sending out job apps just aren’t “trying” hard enough, or rants about how the filthy poor of industrialization are too much drunkards and crude filthy rot to raise themselves out of the muck, or noblemen blaming the peasants for their foul and lazy ways harming the harvest numbers they stole out of their hungry mouths, or ancient rants about how the filthiness of the slave castes, won in battle, lack the work ethics of their owners.
Because it’s a comforting lie, the oldest IT’S ALWAYS PROJECTION, protecting them from the self-knowledge that their higher station owes more to accidents of birth and luck than some inherent superiority. That maybe they aren’t God’s chosen shit, but rather just another meaningless mortal speck on a floating rock, no better than the billions others trapped here.
Nobody wants to be seen blaming the victim —
Again. Since. Fucking. When?!?
Fuck, blaming the victim is pretty much the coward’s first resort. Every single victim in this great big world knows damn well that the blame comes early and often by those who want to believe that they are different; they are safe; they will be unaffected or are unresponsible for the horrors that have occurred to you.
Whether it be being a survivor of rape, a survivor of discrimination, a survivor of assault or oppression or hate crimes or any form of suffering. And especially when one is a victim of this broken economy, unable to participate fully and only able to scrounge what one can on the margins while discarding every dream we might have once had and losing any self-esteem we could lay pretense to. No matter what, we know. We know that the first things those outside bring you is added shame and hate. Blame for walking down the wrong street, flirting with the wrong guy, not working “hard enough”, because that’s easier than actually having to absorb just how bad things can get in this country and who might be responsible for that state of affairs, even albeit tangentially.
Nearly everyone loves to blame the victim. Hence why feminists have had to work so hard to convince everyone it is not noble and wise, but a weapon of a coward. And why, after many years of hard fought battles are only now starting to get people to realize that… appearing to be blaming the victim is bad, so one should blame the victim for trying to make them feel guilty as well.
spreading the calumny that the poor are that way because they don’t love their children enough, or don’t have good values.
And yet here we are always. Because noting that there aren’t enough fucking jobs paying real living wages to handle the ever-growing throng of indebted and desperate poor because the rich have been hoarding all the wealth in their little dick-waving contests of who has the biggest stacks of numbers that have long ago ceased to actually matter or be spent in a dozen lifetimes is just too hard and scary and threatening to said wealth-addicts.
So we blame the poor for being poor because they don’t care about their children or have the morals that God gave rich white people and we can hope and pretend that our corporate masters won’t turn and do the same to us.
It’s the reason that people like my middle class family react so violently to my impoverishment and have sought every reason to tie everything they don’t like about how I’m not fulfilling the heteronormative into it. Because the notion that they are just as subject to the impoverishment and the lowering into the muck as anyone else. That they are not better than the brown-skinned poor by virtue of their station and that they’re station is fragile and easily broken in this casino of an economy. Is terrifying. To their very core. So I and the other refuge on the bottom must have done something. Been too queer, too disconnected from effort, too lazy, to succeed and make the skin color proud.
Because otherwise, supporting that system at the detriment of their blood and kin was a mistake and they were wrong to cheer the death of the unions and the death-spiral growth of casino capitalism and the slamming of the gates behind them for temporary job security.
Furthermore, most sensible people wonder if government can do anything to alter character anyway.
Soooooo… by your own logic… wouldn’t that make youuuu… not sensible?
I’m sorry, I’m just trying to follow your crazy train of “logic” back to a station, man.
The problem is that policies that ignore character and behavior have produced disappointing results.
Yes, the Danish system sure is disappointing in its response to poverty. And our post-”welfare reform” character-focused system has been sooooo successful in eliminating poverty and “motivating” those miserable proles to get off their ass and invent jobs out of nothing… hey, no, bad poor person, no illegal stuff, that’s not what we meant by inventing jobs. You’re just supposed to silently and patiently wait and beg for the job creators to piss in your mouth and maybe you can delay dehydration another week. But only if you’re extra nice and lick the shit off his boots first.
Social research over the last decade or so has reinforced the point that would have been self-evident in any other era — that if you can’t help people become more resilient, conscientious or prudent, then all the cash transfers in the world will not produce permanent benefits.
Okay, you know, I know, and Bobo knows that this is bullshit. But I wonder how this is supposed to work (dramatic voice) IN A WORLD (/dramatic voice) where this crap was uttered in good faith?
I mean, the fuck. How does making one more “resilient, conscientious, and prudent” do anything to actually address the material disadvantages of poverty? Oh yeah, I can withstand more pain, burying it within myself to the point where I can no longer actually process the horrible things that happen to me every year, hurray, now I’ve conquered the need to eat or sleep somewhere safe! Ooh, I’m more kind to those even more impoverished than I and more thoughtful of my place in the world and what little I have to be grateful for. Clearly that removes my need for medicine or to pay my bills. Gosh, I’m so prudent, thinking about the future I’ll never be allowed to have, gosh now I really don’t want to kill myself before my landlord throws me out for being behind on rent.
All the moral values in the world don’t matter if you’re too desperate to focus on them. I know this as well as any other person who’s stared into the abyss with no rope, that it’s hard to be as moral as you want to be, as you know you can be, when you’re scared and feeling helpless. When you’re depressed and convinced of your own worthlessness and the impossibility of crawling out of the hole.
I’m far more capable of being an optimistic friend, a noble volunteer, a proud spokeswoman for my communities, and a loving girlfriend when every neuron I have isn’t filled with blind panic of short-term survival. As is most.
But then, it’s not really about the reality of the situation for the poor.
It’s about the rich. And their inability to ever look beyond themselves. Of course “character” seems more important than “infinite cash transfers”. They have trust funds and a limitless credit card from daddy. They have more money than they could ever waste in a lifetime no matter how much cocaine they snort up their nose or how many classic cars they smash up or how many police members need to be bribed to make the bodies go away. More money is meaningless to them, so they cannot possibly understand why it would matter to anyone else. More money doesn’t make them happier or more able to live their lives, because they are so used to drowning in privilege that the only thing they need is some direction and some morals so they stop thinking that beating up a new homeless person every night is a fine and productive way to live one’s life.
To them, the children of privilege, what they need most is character and genuine empathy… but since they lack it, it becomes an IT’S ALWAYS PROJECTION. What I need most is character and what I need least is more money, so poor people clearly need chiding over their character and less money while we give the powerful and spoiled infinite wealth… because fuck you, you’re all figments of real people’s imagination, anyways.
A fictional other to serve as scare story to the “help” and nothing more. Certainly no one alive and real. No one who might feel ill done by being feed “character” speeches by people with none instead of yanno food.
Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment demonstrated that delayed gratification skills learned by age 4 produce important benefits into adulthood.
Oh happy day, I do so love when wingnuts turn to their poisoned fake science to try and prove their “points” about the inherent superiority of the rich and white.
Oh man, where to start on the infamous marshmallow experiment… Okay, so what it was was a study that purported to study whether or not a child was willing to forego eating a marshmallow immediately with the promise that the researcher would give a better reward when they returned and then returned and kinda sorta not really did a follow-up study where they did some famously biased studies that only measure whether one came from families of wealth (SAT scores, IQ scores), even though the follow-up group used was terribly tiny for a sample size, didn’t actually show the effect they claimed in score numbers, and may not have even taken the initial test to begin with.
And there’s the fact that what it actually tests is whether or not a person grew up in a stable environment and had a reason to believe that old white men would keep their promises to them.
In fact, a lack of trust in adults had the strongest correlation of any effect with the test and by pairing the test with another test wherein a scientist either kept or broke a promise, you could see a direct connection with whether or not someone was willing to hold out for the promise of pie in the sky tomorrow as it were.
Oh yeah, and there’s the way rich parents promised their children better treats if they played along and the fact that there has only been one attempt to reproduce the effect with the sample population and it actually proved not only that the results were worthless, but didn’t even correctly predict self-control to begin with.
Like many terrible and class-based tests claiming to be a proof of grand-sweeping success and moral superiority, it has been madly embraced despite its absolute uselessness by wealth-fellating whores like Bobo and his fellow think-tank posse and has been adopted as a “weeder” for those “charter” schools that are so very much about merit and not at all about creating a permanent serf class and locked and barred class divisions.
Because it’s about “future potential”, not whether one is from a stable upper class family and reinforcing Bell Curve style fictions about how white straight rich men are just morally and socially superior to everyone else and just work so much harder than us poor bastards on the margins pulling down 8 jobs and looking for more.
Carol Dweck’s work has shown that people who have a growth mind-set — who believe their basic qualities can be developed through hard work — do better than people who believe their basic talents are fixed and innate.
Oh man, Dweck. Ahh, where to begin with Dweck.
Dweck is super popular with business gurus, pop psychology afficianados, and yes, the think-tank crowd. Why? Well, it’s because she deflects all that malarky about generational oppression, bigoted education standards and so on and places the blame where it belongs. On those dastardly people for not having what she terms a “growth mentality”. See in Dweck’s estimation everyone is either 100% a “fixed mentality” meaning they assume that their talents are innate and no amount of effort will change it or they are 100% a “growth mentality” which means they believe that hard work and repetition will build skills over time.
Which, therein lies the hook. Obviously, as pedagogical studies have long maintained, effort and time and willing to try again is how skills are built. One does not burst forth, five years old and the greatest writer on Earth. One has to read and write and edit and read and write some more until every iteration is better and more polished than what has come before. That is how skills are built.
But by breaking everyone into this one category or the other, inherently, it takes an equalizing message about the importance of effort and makes it into an innate quality. Either one is someone who is willing to try again or one is a person who gets frustrated and stymied and never the twain should meet and it just so happens that the most successful people on Earth are the people who are inherently those who always try again. Please buy my book that is nothing more than a 1 page article summary, some random anecdotes about celebrities trying to force them in one category or the other, and of course, advertisements of her expensive “educational product” now available if you want to know more!
Yeahhhh… it’s some grave bullshit, long before we note that her study is part of a field I call “we dunno, so throw some weak ass shit up and call it neuroscience”. Usually it features a bunch of piss ignorant people staring magic-eye like at brain electricity pattern scans because “ooh, look pretty pictures that would look good in any journal” that feature a big helping hand of unsupported interpretations and just-so social assumptions. But a lesser form is the likes of Carol Dweck’s work, creating two “binary categories” that are neither binary, nor distinct, nor isolated categories, having a researcher decided “system” for determining which is which that is formulated after one has designed a test that looks good in theory but does nothing to control for outside variables and seen the results.
It’s the type of “science” that’s beloved by newspapers because it’s full of flashing lights and advertisements and big comforting hugs to the comfortable and lacking in any real yanno science that might inconveniently require a journalist to fucking know something.
So yeah. Dweck’s “experiment” is especially egregious because it doesn’t even test what it claims to test. Dweck’s test was to have two experimenters work with kids. One had tests that could be solved. The other had tests that could not. Then, late in the day, the impossible guy switched to possible tests. The kids who could then solve his tests then were clearly the personality type she said was innately better because “science”.
Yeah, it’s some glorious bullshit. Especially since the test less tests persistence and ability to learn as it does inability to recognize rigged systems (likely because of unfamiliarity with any system that isn’t rigged in their favor) or reaction to intentional gaslighting.
Surprisingly, groups that are historically told they are absolute failures reacted more strongly in self-blame when faced with the impossible tests as actual scientists have already demonstrated in the way that historical narratives of innate inability seem proven by personal inability.
In the same way that someone repeatedly told they are a failure who will never succeed will stop believing that they are capable of even basic tasks (see the way most poor people are trained to believe they are worthless and incapable because of inability to succeed in the only way people count). Or the same way that someone used to systems rigged against them will be quicker to recognize a system that is impossible and be less likely to assume the game will suddenly get unrigged in their favor or they will be allowed to compete fairly.
But hey, let’s ignore the real discoveries or points or historical information in your supposed area of study to just sell some “trying hard is an innate skill” hogwash to the children of the rich and powerful. Because fuck actually doing any hard work in this steal or be stolen from economy.
Yeah, not a particularly big fan.
Angela Duckworth has shown how important grit and perseverance are to lifetime outcomes.
… Do I even need to bother with the deconstruction? I mean for fuck’s sake, her supposed discrete study parameter unaffected by social forces is fucking grit and self-control and her lab website, i.e. the site that is supposed to synthesize and explain the main focus of work for curious grad students is a complete joke that devotes almost as much word space into emphasizing how the enormous for-profit empire of the fake theory totally has nothing to do with the lab. Oh yeah, and the synthesis on the theory admits that there’s a weak correlation at best and more likely has absolutely no correlation even though it claims that these are totally correlated and BUY MY FOR-PROFIT WORKS!
It couldn’t be more of a sign of a scam and a lack of genuine scientific research if it had a blinking red price tag and a tagline praising the Discovery Institute.
College students who report that they finish whatever they begin have higher grades than their peers, even ones with higher SATs.
It always comes down to SATs and IQ scores for these “indicators of future success” scam papers, doesn’t it? It makes sense. SATs are an important gate-keeper for college, which has become a requirement for even minimum wage jobs, so of course, nervous middle-class and upper-class parents will latch onto any fad if it can claim that it improves the metrics. And IQ tests flatter the ignorant by pretending to actually be worthwhile and about intelligence. It’s a great way to fool the scientifically illiterate and make it look like your secret method is the fast-track and it only becomes easier to sell if you make it about how your white upper class artifact child is inherently better and more capable than those lesser mongrels. Science says so.
Fuck, it’s at the point, where if it’s claiming to be a measure of success and it presents something mostly correlated with class like IQ or SAT score, I just start thumbing through until I inevitably get to the part where they pretend an extremely weak correlation uncorrected for other social factors is floated as some grand impressive proof.
Spelling bee contestants who scored significantly higher on grit scores were 41 percent more likely to advance to later rounds than less resilient competitors.
Again, a measure mostly of class. Ability to afford intensive study lessons on format and structure. Also, really? Uh huh, sure. Yeah, people who study spelling specifically are totally producing this really strong obvious effect with this “totally intuitive test” that definitely isn’t a just-so rationalization of existing effects in a way that isn’t based on comparing whether people who study and care a lot do better in a competition’s early rounds than someone dragged there by their parents and couldn’t give less of a shit.
Yup. Definitely. BUY THE BOOK! I HAD A TED TALK!
Summarizing the research in this area,
You have jack and shit except that people trying to profit over the desperation of rich parents are more likely to spin whatever fake pop-psych, pop-education bullshit best sells the notion that children of rich parents are just so naturally better at having the pluck and hard-work necessary to succeed and if you just buy this program, your artifact child will be even more ahead in the Battle Royale we’ve morphed our education system into.
Oh hey, did I forget to mention that Dweck has an extra-special fuck you in her pop-psych scam wherein she slaps on this completely unsupported and unsubstantiated salve to old people’s ideas about education these days by stating that her “fixed-state” category has nothing to do with Calvinist systems that purport that some people are just inherently better at some things and are more destined to have success than everyone else or strong cultural messages that some people are inherent failures or lack of social support or even people telling children they are inherently better than anyone else because they are rich and white and their daddy will buy them a company at graduation.
Nope, it’s all down to the coddling “praise culture” that mealy-mouthed liberal feminazis have been using to feminize all them kiddies and make them believe that everyone is a winner instead of some being the chosen ones and others are their rightful prey, to be slaughtered like sheep on their climb to the top.
Now, if you’re thinking A) Wait, that whole “everyone is a winner” bullshit doesn’t actually exist in schools as right-wingers claim and it’s not like kids are earning unearned praise all over the place as anyone who has any understanding of actual educational practices should know, B) Wait, wouldn’t convincing kids that they have it in themselves to complete a task if they put their mind to it and that some kids aren’t just better but that its a product of hard work produce more of the supposed category she says is best rather than less. And wouldn’t claiming win or lose and putting down kids that don’t get it immediately communicate exactly the opposite message than the one she is claiming will lead to success, or C) Wait, does this person even understand the nature of praise, inherent ability, or the pedagogical methods of learning? Also wouldn’t this be an argument for better funding schools and giving kids more time to try and try again instead of saying X is better, Y is worse, give up on Y?
Then you’re a fucking traitor who doesn’t understand character and you should kill yourself immediately to save your betters the indignity of having to use their inherent God-given hard work abilities to wipe your ass off the map.
Also, you clearly you would have failed the all-important grit manly test.****
Reeves estimates that measures of drive and self-control influence academic achievement roughly as much as cognitive skills.
And continuing to hammer on these pieces of shit, but it’s really impressive how fucking tied they are to class and of course, how willing one is to trust the system will play fair to whether it will fuck you. And for those of us fucked over and over again, it gets harder and harder to believe that this time the game won’t be rigged and the blocks we can’t see or the marshmallow promised in the future if we’re just oh so good will eventually pay out and allow us access. The more promises are broken and systems fail to aid and societies seem to communicate with all their hate one’s utter inability to deserve even the decencies of basic survival, the harder it becomes to believe that one can succeed if one keeps trying.
It is the “no longer seeking employment” rub. Counting as no longer employed those who’ve been beaten and broken and no longer believe the system will ever turn up for them or that luck will pay out.
And it’s praising those who have been used to always having the support and the rigged game in their favor. Who believe they will succeed because they’ve always succeeded and their daddy has greased the palms to ensure they succeed. Who don’t need marshmallows right now, because they have halloween baskets filled with sweets and don’t see candy only when they scrape it off the street at the site where an unarmed black teenager was gunned down. The kids who are used to luxury and having adults keep their promises and a system that treats them fair.
And this, in essence, what pisses me off most as a teacher. Not as a person or a poor person or a person hard done by the system in recent years. No, as a teacher. That we continue to circle around the real answer. That if we do right by students, treat them as people, give them a genuine chance, and genuinely care about them, you can do a lot to reverse learned helplessness and that sense of having given up at 12. When you stand by students no matter what and let them know that this time, the adult understands how the game is rigged and will try and do right by you as best they can, that is when you can work miracles.
Not when you divine new and exciting ways to call students uneducable or find excuses to do the same old shit where only the rich and white who can afford that “extra care” and “leg up” deserve effort and belief.
And those kids who’ve been kicked and beaten and called worthless by society don’t need a new crop of rich white assholes hoping to trade their Ivy-League Think-Tank names to other rich white assholes for profit coming round and inventing new ways to call them worthless and justify making the game even more rigged against them.
It’s a gross act of malfeasance and to call that the “science of education” is a vile betrayal and violation of every word under those quotations marks including “of”.
I mean, fuck bro, “of” was an innocent, just a tiny little kid. Leave it the fuck alone. Not cool, bro. Not cool.
Recent research has also shown that there are very different levels of self-control up and down the income scale. Poorer children grow up with more stress and more disruption, and these disadvantages produce effects on the brain. Researchers often use dull tests to see who can focus attention and stay on task. Children raised in the top income quintile were two-and-a-half times more likely to score well on these tests than students raised in the bottom quintile.
Oh wait, what? Real science? In a Bobo article? I think I need to pinch myself. And not only that, but it’s an actual admission that test scores are more strongly correlated with income level and the reduction of stress and disruption that comes with that than any of the nonsense about “grit” and “moxie” in the previous several paragraphs.
And it’s even a full end to a paragraph. Not a savior period or a savior comma where it’s just a dull respite before jumping off the cliff into the rapids filled with spikes. I don’t know what to do with myself, it’s so refreshing and unprecedented and-
But these effects are reversible with the proper experiences.
… Oh I’m sorry, apparently, I need to adapt the “savior” family to include a savior paragraph break. Strongest of the family, but no less capable of blocking the inherent flow towards stupidity and victim-blaming from being derailed by actual reality and its blunt forceful point.
What is that? The stresses of economic desperation extend down to the very performance of the children, robbing them of a sense of stability that is most strongly correlated to performance and any bastardization of that mugged and drugged by the Sisters of Scamalot? Thus proving that genuine safety nets and an absolute guarantee of a minimum threshold of instability to ensue a true meritocracy is the most powerful thing one could do for both child development and economic aid. And is aptly corroborated not only by real, non-for-profit science and the way that Denmark keeps kicking our ass in every known metric known to man including school performance and entrepreneurship, despite focusing more on a guaranteed safety net than “austerity measures” about how poor people just need to strangle themselves to death with their bootstraps.
Eh. Whatever, I’m sure those lazy bastards could fix that if they just tried hard enough.
Not only does it completely and intentionally miss the point in order to continue believing in the easy and comforting lie that supports his self-delusions in his own maverick-style importance despite not even having the will of effort to learn that Applebees doesn’t fucking have a salad bar or feminazis aren’t actually lurking in his closet to cut off his penis and sell it to black people, but it comes with one beautiful weasel-rationalization.
Eh, I’m sure poor people could have outcomes like rich people despite the clear additional stress and chaos that comes with poverty… they just need to have the right “experiences”. I mean, if they had rich person experiences where there was no constant fear and stress and they were allowed to slow down, focus, regroup, and approach problems at their own speed without every action being made fraught with dire importance and potentially fatal consequences, they would surely have the same success as rich people.
Thus, we should spare them that dignity and instead tell them to get to work, you lazy bastards, no more tattered and broken remnants of a safety net for you! Because… I guess we’re just hoping for Soylent Green before the poor start breaking out the guillotines.
People who have studied character development through the ages
Man, is this empty and worthless. Studied “character development”? What is the definition of “character” and “development” being used? What standard are we using? It’s throughout the ages, so we can’t use the moral system of any defined society, nor the shifting standards of what makes one worthy of consideration or not as those are mercurial and ill-defined. So what is constant enough to be studied and progressive enough to evolve over time, but universal enough to not be offset by cultural mores? Well, at this point you’re talking about the science of the development of morality and empathy and how mutualism is positively selected in most species because parasitism can only thrive and exist in a system where it is small enough that people are still willing to play the game and continue supporting it rather than being put at risk by it. And at that point why call it “character development” as if it was a constant unless you wanted to ignore all that because it leads to uncomfortable questions about the relationship of management to labor in modern capitalism and instead just shift the conversation back to opining about how those young whipper-snappers complaining about being locked outside the economy are just lazy shifty no-goodniks too praised by feminine girl teachers to man up and get the moxie to succeed like all those sexy rich white guys around.
But that certainly wouldn’t be your style.
have generally found hectoring lectures don’t help.
Huh buh what?
Again, an acknowledgment that random ranting lectures at the disempowered and dispossessed don’t actually make people invent jobs out of nothing and become titans of industry? Is Bobo starting to break down and acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the reason he’s succeeded and so many have failed has little to do with his personal moxie, but rather societal systems designed to make it so much more difficult for some rather than others based mostly on societal factors, timing, and luck?
The superficial “character education” programs implanted into some schools of late haven’t done much either.
And even an acknowledgement that his chosen bugaboo has already been tried and failed?
Wow, this could be the turn of a new leaf and-
Instead, sages over years have generally found at least four effective avenues to make it easier to climb. Government-supported programs can contribute in all realms.
Bob fucking damnitt, savior periods, AGAIN? Gahhhhhhh! Fuck, why do I keep falling for the soft fakeout before the hard-sell on bullshit he discredits in his own fucking posts. Oh right, pretending to believe anything these shitmongers sell is a great way to feign drama and betrayal for comedy… and there’s the illusion shattered into a million pieces for y’all.
First, habits. If you can change behavior you eventually change disposition. People who practice small acts of self-control find it easier to perform big acts in times of crisis. Quality preschools, K.I.P.P. schools and parenting coaches have produced lasting effects by encouraging young parents and students to observe basic etiquette and practice small but regular acts of self-restraint.
Hey, is waiting till tomorrow possibly the thing that will lead to you dying or going homeless today? Are you scrambling to accept whatever you can or having to drop out of school because if you don’t work you and your mom and your brothers will go homeless? Are you having to give up your dreams of moving to a different city or going to college, because there’s no way you or your family could afford that?
Well, then you really should have thought better and have more “self-control”. I mean, wahhhh, I have bad habits and I’m thinking about my ability to survive in the here and now. Dreamless gobshite is what I hear. A true captain of industry would have rich parents willing to usher them from preschool to college in private courses and schools designed to ensure that they can always wait until tomorrow to let their dreams come true or not, because if they waste a couple million dollars and bum around for a year trying something out that failed it’s no skin off the family’s nose.
Really, I don’t understand why those greedy poor bastards just can’t practice some restraint and patience like that instead of always jumping at the here and now.
Second, opportunity. Maybe you can practice self-discipline through iron willpower. But most of us can only deny short-term pleasures because we see a realistic path between self-denial now and something better down the road. Young women who see affordable college prospects ahead are much less likely to become teen moms.
… Okay, breaking the snarky character here, because he so, seems to miss the point of the category he has created.
Sure, he interprets it in the standard Ha, ha, fuck you way, arguing that being forced into teen pregnancy is a factor of lacking “goals” instead of lacking comprehensive sex education, contraceptive access, and safe abortion services in case of “accidents” and trying to make this round peg fit in the square hole of “you lazy poor people suck, because you have no goals*****.
Third, exemplars. Character is not developed individually. It is instilled by communities and transmitted by elders.
Ah, the “role model” thing. Sure, sane people would take that to mean people who can model success within the community. Trans* people who have succeeded coming back and helping others get their starts and chances and demonstrating that there are ways to succeed. That people like Obama existing help show young black men that despite all the white people saying differently, there might be a chance to succeed and escape abject poverty and ghetto traps through education as much as music or sports success. Or better yet, people willing to pour their money back to their community, as the old rappers used to boast about doing before rich white people co-opted the art form, helping to alleviate the systematic oppression and dispossession of the community.
… Bobo doesn’t mean this.
The centrist Democratic group Third Way suggests the government create a BoomerCorps. Every day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, some of them could be recruited into an AmeriCorps-type program to help low-income families move up the mobility ladder.
Yeah… yeah… you heard that correct.
Bobo’s idea of what “role models” for success should look like is to have a bunch of people who waltzed easily into middle class jobs back when the economy was still doing okay and before Reaganomics made underemployment the default state of affairs prance around the poor communities that have been bombshelled and obliterated even further by an unacknowledged Depression. An unacknowledged Depression, specifically by old rich white types like him who want to pretend that the all-sainted Job Creators are creating millions of awesome jobs, but the poor lazy slobs just aren’t working hard enough for them.
And these out-of-touch old fucks who still think that success is as simple as blowing the weed residue off the hand-written cover letter before sending it in and the job market works like it’s 1962 and they’re a rich white kid fresh out of college, are going to lecture at the filthy poor people about how they can totally climb up the class rungs if they just do that thing that totally worked 50 years ago, but thanks to decades of union busting and layoffs and so on, might as well be advice from a Martian on how to work your vibrator.
That sounds like a great idea. And that’s not at all because I’m currently having vivid memories of my uncle “giving me advice” or my girlfriend’s disability “coach” who was a rich white woman who only got a disability when she was practically retired giving advice to brave and hard-done people overcoming really tough disabilities that are pretty much “oh hey, did you try not having a disability until you were actually employed, that works gangbusters”. Or hell, any article written about young people or poverty that I eviscerate for this site.
Holy fucking shit, and I thought the “make schools more like boot camps” idea was the peak of Bobo stupidity.
Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it seem like his solution for “poor people and young people are underemployed” is “hey, let’s take a bunch of well-to-do and comfortable people about my age and give them an extra big bag of money instead of actually investing it in the people who need it”. I mean for fuck’s sake, let’s use that money to helping out older people who are having their Social Security gutted or creating more jobs for people who actually fucking need it rather than rewarding the Bobos of the world with even more unearned wealth they don’t know what to do with.
People can only practice restraint after they have a certain definition of the sort of person they want to be. Research from Martin West of Harvard and others suggests that students at certain charter schools raise their own expectations for themselves, and judge themselves by more demanding criteria.
Round and round and round we go for nearly 10,000 words and we end up pretty much where we thought we would. It’s your fault that the system is rigged against you. Go be a bunch of random cliches and have that morality you poor people all lack and if you fail it’s clearly because you were always the lazy layabout we thought you were. I mean, look at rich kids with safety, support, endless space to fuck up, and all the advantages you are denied. They’re succeeding. So clearly your failures are your fault.
Character development is an idiosyncratic, mysterious process. But if families, communities and the government can envelop lives with attachments and institutions, then that might reduce the alienation and distrust that retards mobility and ruins dreams.
I could continue the rant. Hammer home the bankruptcy of thoughts and morals and the nasty pit of embracing bad science made by scam artists clung to to avoid facing the reality of what works and the meritocracy that could eventually produce and how much that scares the literal shit out of weaselly little incompetent shits like Bobo Brooks.
But I’d rather dismantle this little bit and look at something very closely.
“But if families, communities, and government can envelop lives with attachments and instituions”.
This is not the statement that Brooks is trying to twist and shove it into. It’s something else. Something almost honest.
If people can have genuine support from families, either families of blood who value genuine connection and helping their brood no matter what or families of choice, banding together in the dark, protecting each other, the other discarded and abandoned scraps ill-done by the false ties of blood. If actual connection can overcome obligation. If people can be supported by something akin to a real family, whatever that shape and if conservative serpents can avoid shitting on every “family” structure that isn’t a Stepford re-enactment, then people could have love.
If communities can form and support each other and those of us with something, even if it’s just an afternoon here or there or a comforting voice when they’re going through something or someone willing to help run the cashier for the local blah de blah. If we can somehow support our own, give each other genuine aid into success and if those of us with hearts of stone and gold can continue throwing our broken and mangled bodies at societal hatred and suspicion and make things better for the next generation. If we can take even a small moment from the necessity of survival, if we are allowed that, to build something for ourselves. Our communities can be great and can serve as home for those alienated and alone.
If government can shake off this disease of conservatives and conservatives who want to pretend to be “reasonable moderates” with “common-sense ideas” and actually serve the function it was meant to do. Provide the safety net no one else will. Ensure that there is a bottom that no person, no matter what they have done or who they are or what they look like can fall beyond. That one must not be vouched for by Church or Corporation or a system of nepotism by the rich and powerful in order to participate. To ensure that no one need again panic and fear that trying to go back to school and learn a new trade is going to be the straw that ensures your baby will die of starvation. That minorities are protected from the predatory dominant groups who seek to eliminate and terrorize them. That we can all, no matter our income level, relax, slow down, get our head straight and give a long-shot a chance, just to see if that crazy weird idea actually would work. If we could have a real functional government that didn’t treat its citizens like an unfortunate cancer, maybe our country could survive this parasitical strain of capitalism with dignity and honor and maybe we could be spared so many needless deaths paid only to the bigotries and intransigence of those who could not accept anything less than complete domination.
And if everyone could count on having at least one person who loved them. Even just as a friend. As a person who’s got their back no matter what and who can emotionally pick up the pieces if they’re ripped apart and left to rot in the alley ways. An attachment that mattered. And if there were genuine institutions, not to enrich the rich or chide the poor on not having magical sorcery powers to make job creators into the thing they want to claim to be, but real safety nets and regulatory agencies and programs to put people back to work and pump money into rebuilding our broken infrastructure and becoming an actual first world nation, we could be great instead of something that will be better but will take a long time to equal the level of Scandanavia.
And the first step along that road is to throw Bobo Brooks and the other courtiers yapping loudly about cake on the Palace walls off a fucking cliff and actually do something to fix this broken mess we all want to pretend isn’t the death throe of an empire betrayed by the same rich authoritarian scum that betray all great nations.
But that is sadly a fantasy. Something someone with grit would be able to do. And as we all know, we meager poor, cowering in our hovels, lack such merit and character to even dream of such lofty and noble goals as that.
‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. One of the longest posts I’ve created for this site… it’s almost like this is partially an apology for having buggered off for two weeks into a minor breakdown brought on by illness and shitty life stuff. We are aware of all Internet traditions.™
** It’s extra amazing when you’re also getting it from your family who decide that your breakup with your long-time partner is a great time to double down on how much of a fucking failure you are and how everything you try will fail because you didn’t decide to become magically untrans* and poof your way into those entry-level 50 grand a year jobs that are apparently everywhere if you could just stop being queer long enough to notice… Oi, yeah, my family has continued their sterling record of support by undermining what little confidence I had left and making sure I understand that I’m extra disowned so don’t go turning to them if things are rough in recovering from a breakup and trying to make sure I can financially survive okay without a partner to share expenses with.
Family of the year, they are. I especially appreciate the way they managed to successfully convince me that I was a miserable failure who would never succeed and that all my efforts were vain thrashing in an uncaring ocean. Yeah, my self-esteem needed a good strong kick in the teeth to keep me limping forward. At least I had the loving support of those closest to me… Eh, I’m doing better now.
*** Well, minus things like school systems because that’s sort of a unique entity, but even then, right wing parents tend to get all forms of pissy when schools try and teach basic humanity and morality as part of the education program.
**** Oi, yeah, that’s the other thing with all of these. It’s just an extension of David Brooks last foray into school systems that assumes that students these days are hard-done by a system of feminization and loss of manly traits like “grit” and “hard work” that don’t actually translate into the supposedly masculine “blue-collar values” but the same old victim-blaming horseshit. Almost as if it’s tied to our patriarchal system by which things coded as feminine or non-white are viewed as worthless and lacking in character and things coded as masculine are viewed as truly important and the only thing worth investing in.
Also, we have no reason to invest in our school systems and actually update them to the 21st century, prioritizing education and fixing our broken safety net. Just blame all the “failures” of the game for lacking manly grit and hard-work so the cubicle cowboys can feel better about their soft, pampered, easy-street existences carefully protected from anything approaching a real meritocracy.
***** Hey, funny story. When my uncle called to rant about how I was a failure who was utterly worthless in every way that mattered as his response to having a breakup with my long-time partner of over 8 years, this was one of his sticking points. That I was a queer trans* fuckup whose 8 jobs and various skillsets and minor successes didn’t count because I didn’t have any “goals” and “moxie”. In his estimation, trying to do the best with what is available and try and plan methods of opening up options towards other forms of success and the very real things I was building at the time didn’t count as goals and moxie because it wasn’t the thing I had been trying for many years without success which was the way he got his first full-time job straight out of college back when unions were king and the economy was strong.
I point this out, because I’ve most appreciated the irony in the aftermath. As his words have dug around in my brain, I’ve doubted and minimized a lot of my plans and efforts and out of economic desperation, return in many ways to the shell I have been in the past, scrambling and focusing only on the short term and letting some of my long-term plans fall apart simply because the abuse from the family exemplified in that hour and a half long rant****** made me realize that I have absolutely no margin for short-term failure and have no safe harbor in a crisis of any form to crash into.
All that long-term planning and some building of self-esteem and pride in accomplishments, shattered like glass with the terror of uncertainty and the lack of a safety net.
But it’s our fault, those of us, on the raggedy edge, if we find it hard to focus on long-term, long-shot potential escape routes from our prisons because the issue of survival right here, right now has become fraught and absent any possibility of even the slightest possibility of failure.
The long-term, the long-shot cannot be entertained if one needs a guaranteed minimum place to fall to because there is nowhere else. And that’s the dirtiest secret about this garbage that the rich want to casually gloss over. The way the poor are forced to abandon dreams and genuine risk because they simply cannot afford the price of possible failure.
****** For those piecing things together in this addendum and getting rather worried about me. Don’t worry. Yeah, it’s been rough and yeah, my brain’s been doing exciting and interesting things to me and my ability to appreciate what scraps I still have and what I can continue building towards if I can get my feet dug in, my immediate survival taken care of, and my head straight.
But I’ve been crafting what is mine. Indeed, why things are extra fraught is that this latest round of abuse and weird games about trying to get me into a position where I’ll accept corrective therapy as the “price” for “having failed my life” and untrustworthy levels of emotional and physical support has left me with a situation where I need to ensure that my short-term is well-taken care of enough that I never have to need them for anything and can allow them to disown me and abandon me until such time that they stop being toxic every time my life has a rough patch and they start freaking out over my disgusting trans*ness.
In short, I can’t keep suffering through their freakouts and babying them through maybe almost accepting me some day if I’m really good and jump through the right hoops. And yeah, that might put some plans and ideas on hold for another year, just as the loss of my partner and the changes that will bring may do the same. And it may mean some rocky patches as I try and futureproof my life and give myself all the safety nets that society and circumstances insure I won’t have. But with uncharacteristic luck and some careful planning, maybe it will at least be healthier than what I’ve dealt with in the last year. Especially since there is a line in my self-respect and my ability to compromise and I simply can’t deny who I am, what I am, and my desire to do right by the communities I have been elected by biology to participate in. And that means being unable to accept the path of giving into self-hate and allowing myself to become the playthings of delusional abusers just to survive materially.
Who knows? Maybe it will all fall apart and there’s no escaping some really bad situations. Or maybe I can make something that could lead to an eventual happy ending of minimum financial security and an ability to focus on building things for my communities that matter. Either way, I need to do what I can right here, right now in real permanent ways to ensure I have a future to look forward to. And despite the fear and doubt and disbelief in my own abilities and worth, it’s a bit exciting too.
And hopefully, above all, a way to actually live my life. Honest, open, free, and hopefully, with luck I’ve never had, successful. By my definitions and society’s.
And besides you all were a way more kickass family than those assholes ever were anyways. (/sentimental Cerberus)