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Culture

Day 686 and Code Switch

The social contract in America is breaking down but none of us have agreed on the new rules yet. Of course, some populations have never lived within the consensus social contract in America.

And yes there are a lot of Americans that don’t live inside our social contract. Being black or queer (or god forbid both) even in 2022 means speaking a foreign language in your own land. If you aren’t familiar with the term code switching I’d encourage you to look it up.

I’ve almost always lived within consensus norms. At least appearance wise. I pass as a nice white lady with a nice seems white husband. He’s Jewish so only the incredibly woke or the incredibly racist disagree. Though eventually even that protection may give way if we don’t have children.

Code switching isn’t cost free. You’ve got to think about your audience constantly. You adjust who you are based on the acceptable norms of discourse. And it’s an exhausting exercise if you’ve never had to do it.

One of the reasons Twitter has been such a combustible place is that people code switch all the time. If you get caught in a context collapse situation where what you said is fine in one community and heresy in a another you might find yourself getting canceled. Speech norms have always been context dependent.

I’ve recently become more aware of how much code switching I do because I’ve been trying to solve a problem that isn’t considered polite to have in rich stable white American society. If you follow me closely you know it’s related to immigration.

I really need to fix this problem so I’ve been asking around quietly and obliquely trying to sense my way around adjacent communities with rules that won’t turn me into a pariah. And it’s a ton of work. It requires the kind of sensitivity and social graces I’ve previously prided myself on only to discover it’s just the rules for the Western upper class whites. Everyone else knows justice isn’t for them.

As you might imagine plenty of people live with entirely different contexts and social graces than the Eurocentric worldview. And they are all fully and completely aware of the indignities of my problem and the varied ways in which one solves for it. And no one is judging me for it. But it’s been a bit shocking to me. I fully believed playing by the rules would eventually reward me. And of course that’s the real reasonable we code switch. Because different rules apply to different people.

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Culture Politics

Day 662 and Immobility & Gender

Americans are incapable of getting things done. Such is the popular sentiment of the moment. We are immobilized in some form of national endocrine collapse brought about by too many years of chaos and accelerating change. Our problems aren’t getting fixed and we are all too demoralized to do anything seems to be a popular consensus.

Some folks blame democracy. Some blame the degradation of the balance of power as our executive branch overtakes the legislative. Much ink and chatter is being dedicated to the upwelling of populism and it’s charismatic authoritarians as the solution to our stagnation and immobility globally. Or maybe it’s because we cannot imagine a better future.

I’m chewing on a new theory. What if it’s got nothing to do with democracy or a return to monarchy, or even lie inability to cope with chaos at all? What if history isn’t repeating but rather history has come to a crossroads and women are smack in the middle.

What if we can’t get anything done, because we’ve not come to terms with what power and authority women wield? What if this is mostly a reactionary period about what to do with women? What if the crisis of men is actually a crisis about women? What if all of the insecurities about modernity boil down to we changed gender dynamics quite a bit in the last century?

Populists and neo-monarchists are fucking themselves because they aren’t quite sure how to deal with the middle ground in which they find women. Women are neither fully in charge of the home, hearth and children (single earner households having become unaffordable) nor are they treated as equal actors in the public stage. The answer the throwbacks give is we should return to traditional gender roles. Except that’s not actually an option even if it would help.

Powerful women are at best mediocre ciphers (Liz Truss comes to mind) or one in a million talents (Indra Noyi for instance) such that gender is far beside the point. The middle ground of most American women is a mess of confusion about demographic collapse, loneliness, and the good life.

The Dominionists, Christian Nationalists and various flavors of neo-patriarchal traditionalists believe the solution is simple. Bring women back into the home and to the elbow of their menfolk. Men are obligated to the public sphere unlike their women for whom it shouldn’t be a concern at all. Which seems like a strange approach to problem solving. Return to only half the planet having authority.

This is a bit like putting the genie back in the bottle as we’ve got a full century of women’s suffrage under our belt and two generations of women working outside the home. Capitalism in particular loves women workers.

Combine that with the degradation of men in modernity and you start to see some of the challenges. All of our status markers suggest it is better to be unmarried as a woman than married to a loser. That didn’t used to be true but birth control and third wave feminism probably made it so. And in late stage capitalism most men are being framed as losers, lacking the soft skills to navigate corporate politics and higher education.

I frankly haven’t the slightest idea what anyone is supposed to do about this. Accordingly to the viral Female Delusion Calculator (funny how there isn’t a reverse option) my husband doesn’t exist at all demographically. But then neither do I.

So one can’t really be looking to some globalist asshole white Americans to solve this problem. We are the problem according to a large swathe of people. Unless we are the ones capable of overcoming immobility as we’ve got the spare capacity. But I think rich folks running the show been the default state for most of history so fuck if I know. But I do think I’m onto something with gender being at the center of a lot of our issues.

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Culture Politics

Day 644 and Status Equivalence and DAO Leadership

Capitalism has largely been a triumph of hierarchy as an organizing mechanism. As we evolved from mercantilism into corporatism, appointing and holding accountable a single point of failure in a chief executive officer has become an effective shortcut for managing complexity when deploying capital. Leadership is responsible for the outcome.

The aphorism “failure is an orphan but success has many fathers” abuts against the reality that while we love to lavish praise upon executives, monarchs and other singular nexuses of responsibility it’s often not reflected in reality. Our bias in the post-industrial revolution has been towards leadership via individual even as post Enlightenment values valorize democracy and community participation. It’s been a tension for since the Industrial Revolution. America exemplifies this as the country most committed to both participatory federalism and corporate capitalism.

I am particularly interested in this tension as I believe we may be on the crux of larger organizational needs and are seeing them begin to coalesce in crypto. As decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, make an attempt to become the new corporate governance structure in Web3, it seems worth studying the question of whether leadership is a singular or collective exercise for humans.

What does the historical and anthropological record have to say about how we organize? What are we evolved to prefer and are we capable of evolving further?

The bias we operate with now is great man theory. But what if that is not just wrong but not even the predominant form of human organization through history? Critics of cooperation might do well to explore this in particular.

I came across a Rob Henderson blog post which is an extended overview of a piece of sociology Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior by the UCLA anthropologist Christopher Boehm. According to Rob’s post, the main question of this work is whether humans are by nature hierarchical or egalitarian. And it turns out our hunter gatherer forefathers were mostly egalitarian. The bulk of our history is egalitarian.

The anthropological record along with research on extant modern hunter-gatherers suggests that for most of human history we have been egalitarian, defined as “status equivalency among the decision-makers of a group.”

Rob Henderson reviews Hierarchy in the Forest

If you extrapolate this into a modern corporate context, the C-Suite or executive team, or perhaps even the founding team, are roughly the status equivalent decision makers. Maybe there is a first among equals in the CEO or founder but they can, in theory, be replaced by a board. But what if instead of a C-corporation you are managing a cooperative like a DAO? What then?

Apparently we humans are rather good at maintaining status equivalence. Richard Wrangham’s Goodness Paradox discusses how humans have self domesticated to avoid too much resource and power aggregation.

Over time, early humans eliminated those who were overtly aggressive. They killed or ostracized upstarts hungry for power; men with aggressive political ambitions. Other men would quietly organize to commit collective murder of troublesome male

Rob Henderson on Goodness Paradox

Moral communities evolve and punish those who deviate from acceptable standards. If you are too ambitious as an individual we swoop in as a species. It seems a bit miraculous in that light that we live in an era of kleptocracy and power consolidation given our tendency to murder upstarts. Great man theory isn’t all that sustainable. Or is it? Perhaps it’s that we asset influence obliquely. I’d wager any woman would agree.

Oftentimes, headmen display “self-effacing” behavior. Headmen and informal leaders usually obtained their roles through talent in hunting or warfare, storytelling ability, or congeniality. They rarely assert direct authority.

Rob Henderson on Boehm

If indirect authority is a sustainable organizational preference in the anthropological record, perhaps corporations are more amenable to reconstruction as DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) through the principle of status equivalence.

The autonomous part seems the trickiest, but decentralized authority inside tribal organizations are at least recognizably human. If as a group we disliked a status or resource hungry “great man” we leaned on the leadership preferences of status equivalent equals and forced you out.

I see no reason we can’t write in similar parameters into a smart contract as an experiment. At the first hint of a rug pull let the burning begin! We are already seeing political battles for resource allocation inside bigger organizations like MakerDAO. Crypto may be a worthy space for experienced leadership to show that figureheads like CEOs or founders are not the crucial lynchpin for progress and stability we believe.

Which would be quite a balm to me personally as I’m deeply skeptical of authoritarianism as a solution for our technical and social problems. I’d much rather we explore the wisdom of past tribal knowledge to guide us than look to a mythical great man to save me.

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Culture

Day 622 and Uneven Bars

I’m not very temperamentally even. I run hot and excited and passionate and I’ve got a mean streak a mile wide. I can only assume the reason I’m so popular with some men is they love a bitch. Everyone does.

It’s not the most appreciated trait in popular culture but it does seem to be the dominate preference of a lot of very intelligent people. At least these days plenty of people both conservative and progressive appreciate the necessity of a ball buster. It’s a status object too. We don’t trust men with weak wives. It makes them look weak.

But I’m not sure anyone thinks it’s a particular good thing for the majority of women to act forcefully. If you hold your ground it can bring out howls of ostentatious victimhood. Which if you point out, they quickly gender the tactic a dark feminine trait of less less powerful that they learned from you.

It’s a really stupid party trick that somehow works well past the age of reason. After about 21 you should have really learned men tell you are weak because they know you are powerful over them. But honestly I still get caught flat footed by it. It’s a fickle power to be wielded without assurance or trust. But it is still a power and it’s insulting women women don’t claim it.

Women deciding to dismiss the uneven hold of their power makes balancing power for everyone a bit of a mess. The default switches from human manufacturing got reset.

Gender essentialism is pretty deep. It’s very jarring for the literal minded mainstream of society in particular. And unfortunately for everyone the world is run by the mainstream and they are prone to revanchist sentiment. Just look at everyone simpering for monarchy. Even if you are above that sort of thing no you are not. And so the uneven bars of progress continue. If you aren’t a realist about it you might get screwed.

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Culture Politics

Day 610 and Labor Day Weekend

America isn’t much for holidays compared to say Europe. The Chinese outwork us with 996 but by and large Americans are a people that work. Paid time off isn’t really our thing. Well, it’s not something that capital is keen on allowing labor to have as a thing.

But you can rely on Memorial Day and Labor Day to act as the basic bookends of summer and as days you should have off from work. I find it a bit comical that we have a holiday celebrating the labor movement. You’d think we would have rolled it back with the Reagan Revolution. But Labor Day is the summer ending day off we all know and love even if we killed most of the unions.

Ive got labor on my mind as I’ve taken all of August to move my family to Montana this summer. Most of my energy went into getting us here and settled. The month flew by. It still feels like I have so much left to do. And not just because we still don’t have a dining room table or a mirror in the bathroom suitable for doing makeup. Getting unpacked is a process.

I’m slowly readjusting my mindset back to a workflow that includes labor outside the home. Well, I still work from home. But labor with other people beyond my family. Calling it labor is a bit funny in the context of Labor Day as my labor is working with capital I suppose I’m allowed to celebrate Labor Day as the spiritual placeholder for back to work season even if I am technically “the man.”