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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Resolve vs Agreeableness

This is another one of my famous "not even about writing" posts, but I think many of you will find this topic to be quite interesting. Actually that might not be entirely true--there are some aspects of this that apply greatly to main characters, which tend to be an important part of most stories, so in the end it will be somewhat writing-related after all. This post is somewhat political so you can skip the whole thing altogether if you don't want any of that.

The topic of this essay is the two different schools of thought, and to some extent penetrates into "risk vs reward" territory.

In psychology, it's generally widely accepted that men tend to be more disagreeable while women tend to be more agreeable, but these are mostly at the medians and the extremes, and while that distribution of traits is very important, it does not imply that there aren't severely disagreeable women or highly agreeable men.

In order to continue, we need to understand precisely what being agreeable or disagree even means, and whether or not one quality is better than the other is highly subjective.

Both qualities have their advantages and disadvantages; to be agreeable is to be more "fluid" in that you're willing to change your values or actions on behalf of others, and to be disagreeable is to stick to your guns no matter what.

It's easy to paint agreeableness as the virtue of "open-mindedness," as agreeable people are willing to hear others out, to compromise their ideas or actions in response to new ideas and to mold themselves to be better suited to their environment.

But the danger lies in "going with the flow." Agreeable people will "go with the flow," and if the flow isn't particularly good, they'll go with it anyway.

Likewise, a disagreeable person will not go with the flow. They will go their own way and do what they feel is right no matter how unpopular it makes them.

But there is a downside to that, which is that if they're wrong, they'll never know it; it takes a certain confidence and stubbornness to be disagreeable. It also requires an unwavering self-assuredness. A disagreeable person won't compromise for you for any reason--they know exactly what they want and believe and won't change no matter how popular the opposing belief is.

Both characteristics can make fools out of people in their extreme forms.

Let's take agreeableness for example; you might have seen the "social pressure" experiments where a bunch of actors in a group does something that makes no sense to see if the only real person will start doing it too. They usually do.

Now, it's important to understand the real goal of social conformity; it is largely attached at the hip to the idea of Loss Aversion. In psychology, Loss Aversion is the tendency for people to fear loss more than they desire gain. This manifests itself across multiple dimensions of our behavior; for example, the YouTuber Daryl Talks Games does breakdowns of the psychology behind games, and one video of his, this one, to be specific, talks about the reason why players like me gravitate towards brutally punishing games like Hollow Knight, Salt and Sanctuary, Celeste, Dark Souls, Cup Head, Dead Cells, et cetera. And what Daryl discovered is that people who gravitate towards video games with brutally punishing, hellish difficulties don't do it because they really want to win, but because they fear failing more than they desire winning.

Another example of Loss Aversion is the price of items; a person might buy a cup for $8 in a store, but if they've used the coffee cup for a little while, they might--not only not sell it cheaper--but want more money for the same cup later if they were expected to part with it. If they paid 8 bucks for a cup and later were told they had to sell it and part ways with it, they might want $10, 12, 15 or more for it. This is because they place more emotional weight on losing a cup than they do on gaining one.

When it comes to these social experiments, it's not hard to conclude that people don't stand up at the beep without explanation out of a desire to fit in, but rather out of a fear of standing out. The average person tends to lean more on the agreeable side of the spectrum, and social conformity experiments have been done countless times over the course of decades to support this fact. In a situation like this, agreeable people look dumb. The benefit of being a disagreeable person is that a disagreeable person wouldn't stand up at the beep just because everyone else was doing it. They'd say, "Why are you all standing at the beep?" and when the people respond, "Everyone else was doing it," the disagreeable person would say, "Yeah, okay," and would think they were crazy. And then the agreeable people would be in a pickle because they'd start to wonder if they were crazy or the disagreeable person was crazy--after all, they'd have no logical reason to explain why they should stand at the beep.

However, here's the type of situation where disagreeable people would fall behind; you're in the workplace, and it's extremely competitive. Your boss treats you like a slave, and always asks you to come in on days off or stay later than you're supposed to. In that situation, an agreeable person would do better, because they'd put up with that bullshit while the disagreeable person wouldn't and they'd get fired for it. That's generally how these things go; people with power will take advantage of you and if you stand up to them, you'll get fired, making you wonder whether your dignity and pride is worth your job.

But the other issue is when a disagreeable person is wrong. This works both ways by the way. An agreeable person can be gaslit more easily because they're more trusting and more open to accepting other peoples' points of view, which does lead to positive things like open-mindedness, but it also makes them targets and victims of gaslighting because it's relatively easy to gaslight an agreeable person compared to a disagreeable person.

Yet if an agreeable person actually is wrong, and someone points it out, they're more likely to actually recognize their mistakes and admit their error, while a disagreeable person will stubbornly stick to their guns no matter how wrong they are, which is infuriating to everyone around them. But again, this is a double-edged sword, because if an agreeable person happens to be right about something, they can be convinced by others that they're wrong even when they're not, and they're often taken advantage of in this way--hence the gaslighting.

Now, in defense of the nice Asian girl in the video above, if someone isn't a local or if they're a foreigner, they might not know what the customs and social rules are, so they'll just do what others do so as not to be disrespectful. For example, in Japan (not saying the chick in the video is Japanese, I'm just using Japan as an example because of their exotic social customs) it's rude to tip people for food. But the reason why it's rude to tip people is because the employees are actually paid well and don't live off of tips like in the West, so if you leave cash on a table as you leave they think it's an insult to the owner of the restaurant, like you're saying they can't afford to pay their employees. It's seen as condescending.

An agreeable person would have no issue abiding by these little changes in behavior for the sake of respect whereas a disagreeable person might try to argue against the very fabric of the culture's social norms just to win an argument with the disgruntled employee who thinks you're insulting their boss. They'd insist, "But I'm not insulting you, I'm being nice! It's a tip!" but wouldn't be able to accept that, in Japan, it just isn't seen that way.

That being said, this is not an endorsement for total agreeableness. This is slightly political so feel free to skip ahead if you'd like.

Anyway, a part of the culture war has been arguing for complete agreeableness masquerading as "respect," i.e., "Do whatever we say or you're rude and an -ist of some kind." That being said, there are actual hate crimes that exist, but cultural Marxists try to change your culture to something completely nonsensical and then call you rude and insensitive for not abiding by it.

So that's where you should draw the line; it would be rude to leave a tip in a Japanese restaurant, and the employees are paid decently anyway so it's no big deal to restrain your western ways for five seconds and not tip.

But if some small, vocal group infiltrates your culture, tries to change your social rules and then calls you a bigot for not following their rules--when your culture never belonged to them in the first place--you aren't rude for not going along with it.

Alright, rant over.

This whole discussion also plays a large role in college. As many know, I fervently despise the current state of academia, and I've been very vocal about that. And this topic can actually explain one of the main problems with it.

This also goes a little into MGTOW territory (not the toxic kind though) but it all ties together, I promise.

At the moment, women vastly outnumber men in college. On average, about 60% of college students are female with only 40% being male, but the graduation rates are much more extreme. Men are significantly more likely to drop out and quit college altogether.

Women are 29% more likely to graduate college than men.

And what disgusts me is that the mainstream media will use this as ammunition against the intelligence of men, saying that men aren't smart enough or that "toxic masculinity" is the problem. The reality is much more nuanced than that. A lot of it has to do with agreeableness vs disagreeableness. In gradeschool, boys tend to have more energy and like to horseplay while that is severely punished by "zero tolerance" policies that will uproot a boy's entire education if he roughs around on the playground or struggles to pay attention in class. Instead of creating an environment where both boys and girls can learn, they treat boys like defective girls. One aspect of agreeableness that manifests itself early on in development is the importance of grades to a kid. A large majority of elementary school girls said that grades were important to them, while less than 50% of boys said the same.

That's because, to a boy, who's most likely disagreeable as males tend to be, grades are just a dumb social construct and they want to play tag with their friends.

Now, whether they're right about that is something I'll leave to your better judgement, but that's how they think. For better or worse, girls will be better people-pleasers. Sure, there are tons of downsides to this, but in school that's actually an advantage. School rewards agreeableness.

As for the "women are smarter than men" argument, I don't buy that for one second, but there is one interesting piece of information regarding that. While this doesn't account for things like emotional intelligence, wisdom, et cetera, we can still get some answers from looking at IQ distribution among the sexes.

Just a caveat, I don't think IQ is the best way to measure actual intelligence--what IQ is good for is measuring brain "horse power," but that's about it. Take a car for example. One car might have a stronger engine than another, but if the driver of the "weaker" car with the less powerful engine is a better driver, they'd have a good chance of winning a race against a bad driver who has a better car.

That's actually a pretty nasty oversimplification, but that's one of the best ways I can view it. This is an unpopular opinion, but I don't think highly of Stephen Hawking's intelligence in the slightest. He had a massively high IQ, but he overthought basic principals to an extreme degree and came to really absurd assumptions. He thought he was infallible because of his high IQ and thought he knew everything. Interestingly enough, his ideas were at odds with other geniuses like Einstein and physicist Richard Feynman, so before you say, "Stephen Hawking is way smarter than you, you have no right to criticize him," what are you supposed to do if two equally high-IQ individuals have completely different views? Whose side do you take? If two experts entirely disagree, if you side with either of them then you're opposing the other, and I don't think anyone should be above criticism or having their ideas challenged, not even Stephen Hawking. (I'm more of a Feynman fella myself, anyway.) 

High IQ doesn't amount to much if the person wielding it is too cocky, or too insecure to pursue valid pursuits, or plagued with mental illness. Or if they simply don't think things through very well. A person with a relatively average IQ can be much more intelligent than a person with high IQ if they're intellectually curious, humbled before the pursuit of knowledge, have a deep interest for learning and discovering the truth, and study voraciously. In many ways, a person's intelligence is the conglomeration of all that they know and understand, whereas IQ is more of a metric of possible potential. A person with a high IQ has more potential than a person with an average IQ in general, but if a person with average IQ maximizes their potential and the high-IQ individual does not, it becomes a matter of efficiency. Who is using their brain the best? That will determine who is more intelligent in the long run.

Anyway, there is some value in IQ measurement (even if it's abused by pretentious snobs who think IQ makes them infallible or themselves incorruptible). And data like this is the reason why. You see, men are simultaneously smarter and dumber than women. This is because of how their IQ is distributed along the bell curve; women are vastly near the center of the bell curve. Most women are not super smart, but not super dumb either. The IQ of men are distributed largely at the extremes; most men tend to either be extremely intelligent or extremely dumb, with little in between. This also makes sense; the vast majority of extremely intelligent inventors, scientists, philosophers and writers are men, but at the same time, if you turn on Jackass you'll see--surprise!--almost exclusively men acting like fucking morons. Men live in extremes--if they're not brilliant, then they will likely be absolutely retarded.

Just to clarify, this isn't a hard caste rule, just a general distribution. But in practice it is accurate for the most part. Of course there are exceptions; there are women who are extremely intelligent (Candace Owens, Judit Polgar, Galatea van Outersterp, Emily Dickinson, etc.), and there are women who are extremely retarded (Cassandra Clare, Anita Sarkeesian, Alexandria Cortez, that one chick in my history class who thought that the continent of South America was in Africa, etc.), but for the most part women tend to be moderately intelligent while men tend to either be brilliant or slower than cold molasses on a winter morning.

I also find it fascinating how college highlights this; it's really easy to find out who the smart people are in college. It's not through their grades, though. (Exclusively, at least.) On any American college campus, there's not that many smart students, but the smart ones stand out like a sore thumb. (And why the hell does a sore thumb stand out?) The rules for the distribution of IQ among the sexes doesn't apply as much to college campuses as it does in the real world, and the reason why is because only two types of people go to college for the most part.

The first type of person is the type that only goes to college because it's legally required for their job. If they're trying to become an engineer and the job requires a degree in engineering, they'll put up with the bullshit on a college campus just to get their degree and gtfo. They don't care about art appreciation courses or writing an essay on colonialism. They just want to get their engineering degree so they can leave and become an engineer already.

Then you have the other type, and I suppose this type can actually be broken into two, but they both fall under the same umbrella. These are people who are going to college either for a useless degree or have no plans whatsoever and are going to college just because they're expected to and they're "going with the flow."

But then they're predestined to become very lost souls. That graduation date is only going to get closer and closer, and they don't have a tangible goal in mind. One day they think, "I know, I'll major in this!" then the next it's "No, I'll major in this other thing!" and when they start a new class and the professor asks what their major is, as is custom in every first day of class, they'll shrug their shoulders passively and say "I don't know yet."

Then one of two things typically happens; either they pick a major and set their sites on whatever job would come with it, and spend the next 10 years in this random field wondering if they made a mistake, if they made the right choice--or that graduation date creeps closer and closer and they still have no idea what they want to do with their lives. This is because meaning and fulfillment do not come from jobs or majors (although you can derive meaning from almost anything, including your job, but that is not the primary source of fulfillment for most people), they come from a plethora of incorporeal sources. Family, relationships, religion, hobbies, purpose, those are the driving forces behind finding any semblance of meaning, not what major you pick.

So these young, usually not-very-bright students start going to college with nothing at the end of the tunnel. Then when it comes to those who did pick a major--but a useless one like gender studies or liberal arts, or even--sadly--music--they discover that no one in charge of businesses gives a shit about their degree and they just wasted four years of their life slaving away over something so pointless and unrewarding. What I've generally noticed is that young women are typically the ones getting useless degrees, and likely their friends and family misled them into going for it and they don't realize how big of a waste of time and money it will be, and the ones with no goal in mind are the men. Why? Because if an intelligent man is going to college, he's only there to get a mandatory STEM degree like math or science, and only puts up with college because he has no other choice. This is usually the case because men are more disagreeable, so even if family members and teachers in high school try to pressure them into going to college, they don't do it unless they actually have a reason too.

But the handful of men who are agreeable also end up on a college campus, because when their teachers and parents tell them that they should go to college, they just obey and do it, and once they're finally there they have no clue what the hell they're doing. But the reason why so many guys on college campuses are timid, agreeable NPCs is because the vast majority of men--the disagreeable ones--immediately say "Nah, college isn't for me" and start a career, business, or say fuck it and join the military or something. That's kind of the male equivalent of a woman becoming a stripper.

The ones that do end up at a campus--unless they're there for STEM--are only there because they're going with the flow. But you know what? Fuck the flow. What has the flow ever done for us?

I can appreciate the subtle, horizontal subliminal messages here.

 Sure, if some of your views happen to align with The Flow™, that's all fine and dandy I guess, but if almost every single one of your views or opinions happens to align with The Flow™, you might want to ask yourself if your ideas are truly your own, or whether you've just been a Yes Man or a Yes Woman and let the world mold you into a perfect little obedient sheep.

However, let's look at resolve, because this is interesting. It is the title of this post, after all. When it comes to success, you could very well argue that agreeableness is actually a good thing. We've already established that in school, being agreeable is good for passing. Agreeable people are more likely to participate and do as instructed, and will pass their classes. They'll also do better in work environments that promote (force) obedience; if your job demands that you put up with copious amounts of bullshit, an agreeable person might swallow their pride and take it while a disagreeable person wouldn't and would get fired.

So let's say a Chinese girl is raised by a father that demands very specific things of her; from the moment she could walk, she was repeatedly told over and over again that she had to become a doctor when she grew up. If she gets anything besides straight-As he'll explode on her, and knowing nothing else, she has no choice and inevitably becomes the prodigy kid that gets perfect grades. Then she goes to college, studies hard, and after nearly a decade she becomes a doctor.

Here's my question: was her success the byproduct of resolve, or agreeableness?

It's a trick question by the way, the answer is both.

Her life path was chosen for her, she had no real say in it. She was basically indoctrinated since childhood to think becoming a doctor was her only option in life, when in reality she could have been an ecologist, or a hairdresser, or a teacher, or a bartender or a stay at home mom. She could have been any number of things, but didn't acknowledge the full breath of her options because of her childhood indoctrination.

However, becoming a doctor is extremely difficult, and this leads to a conflict: willpower vs agreeableness. An agreeable person will do whatever they can to be a people-pleaser, but what if the people around them are demanding the impossible? What if they're being pressured to do things or expected to do that which they are not capable of? You only have so much willpower, and there's only so much you could take before you snap and go off the deep end. (That's the plot of Office Space and Falling Down, both amazing films.)

"I'm the bad guy? But I did everything they told me to."

However, what fascinates me is resolve that isn't in the flow. It doesn't have to be directly against the flow, but resolve that is completely separate and divorced from any type of social construction, expectation, or obligation.

In "Why You Keep Playing Brutally Tough Games," Daryl talks about the psychology of loss aversion in gaming, explaining how even though not a single soul on the planet asked you to beat Celeste, you obsess over doing it anyway.

Well, not you, maybe you, I don't know if you, the reader who can be anyone, have ever played Celeste before, but the royal "you," as in people in general. (Yeah, yeah, I know, there is no actual "royal you," only the royal "we," but IDGAF.) We know millions of people have Celeste, and that it sold more than 500,000 copies right after release, so obviously there are some people who have played and conquered it even though no one told them to or expected them to.

While a certain amount of resolve is required in order to do challenging things that are expected of you, it's hard to determine how much of it is resolve and how much of it is agreeableness. But that guy who exercised everyday and lifted weights regularly to get ripped? Odds are nobody told him he had to do that or expected him to, but he did it anyway of his own volition.

Nobody told Vincent van Gogh to be a painter (in fact it was exactly the opposite), but he never stopped. Even when he was poor and broken, he painted.

Nobody told the employees at Laika when they were growing up that they had to join a stop-motion studio and spend countless hours making hand-crafted sculptures and moving them fluidly between shots in excruciating detail.

The point I'm trying to make here is that resolve is most bonafide both in writing and in the real world when the goal in mind is something that the person or character is completely determined to achieve no matter what, regardless of whether it's popular or not, but especially if it's unpopular. But it's also one of the major facets of what makes someone human; there's a lot to be said about predictability, both in philosophy and in writing. In writing, if the characters seem generic or stale, the reader will lose interest quickly. They want something interesting and exciting, so if your characters are "normal" they won't even have any reason to really read the book. (Unless it's cleverly plot-driven.)

But in the real world, it's more complicated than that. No one California girl who likes "Disney, adventure and the beach" think that they sound cliche, and if asked why they like those things, they probably wouldn't say, "Because everyone else does," but it's hard to believe otherwise when everyone in a certain category thinks the same. Now, if someone say, liked some popular stuff but also liked a good amount of unpopular stuff, the popularity is no longer a common factor and it's clear that their affinity for some popular stuff is organic and not superficial. Likewise, if someone only likes unpopular stuff, regardless of the quality of some popular stuff, it makes it seem like they're a hipster going against the grain just to seem edgy and unique, which is its own form of trend hopping, where they hop on the trend of whatever is deemed edgy and fringe at the time.

I won't go that much into the writing fiction side of this topic because I already devoted an entire essay to it, and you can find that essay here:

 (I couldn't insert the link as a single word like I usually can because Blogger is being fucking retarded with the formatting syntax.)

Resolve is one of the most rare and underappreciated virtues; it's an amalgamation of both bravery and determination, but usually requires some level of wisdom as well. The "resolve" character, or a person in the real world with tremendous resolve, has to be at least discerning enough to know that the thing they're resolved to do is worth it and that it's noble enough to justify with their effort.

There are some exceptions to this, of course, namely moral ones.

For example, a person might be extremely hard-working and determined, and maybe they're determined to get X degree in something and will put in tremendous effort and sacrifice countless hours of time, effort and struggle to accomplish their goal, but maybe they wouldn't literally kill somebody. Unlike Thanos from the MCU and Roland from the Dark Tower series, they wouldn't literally sacrifice a person's life to get to their goal, and you could argue that they aren't 100% determined then, but that's a pretty dumb conclusion because you could retort with, "They're 100% determined to reach their goal in the confines of basic human decency," meaning they understand that their goal might be the most important thing to them, but isn't literally the most important thing in the universe, and to apply Thanos-logic or Roland-logic to our real world actions is solipsistic in a negative way, although I talked quite a bit about using solipsism in a beneficial way here:

Although that does lead to an interesting question, and this is one that applies to writing fiction too and can be quite difficult to answer.

It's widely known in quantum mechanics that something can not be determined by nothing; with this in mind, what determines what a person or character is "resolved" for? How is their goal decided? Well, in Thanos's case it was just him being a massive SIMP. Because Thanos in the comics was just trying to kill trillions of life forms to impress Death, who of course is a hot goth chick, so he was pretty much just trying to wipe out millions of planets to impress her. I mean, I can't really be surprised, because for a lot of guys there is literally nothing they wouldn't do to get laid, or even just have a slim chance at getting laid, which is pretty sad and pathetic but it's just the reality we live in. Simps are everywhere.

His motives in the movie make no fucking sense because he's like "The universe is overpopulated so I'm going to use my omnipotence to make it less populated" but didn't even put 2 seconds into considering other ways of fixing the problem, such as:

1. Creating more resources.

That's it, that's the whole list. That would have literally solved the problem.

Now, you can argue, "But Dylan, if they took the obvious route there wouldn't be a movie," and to that I say, "That's because his motivations are poorly-thought out garbage and they should have addressed that."

As stupid as it is, at least in the comics his motivations are logically sound. You might think him wiping out planets to impress a woman is ultimate simpery, but at least his actions make sense and there's no obvious plotholes with that.

Now, I think the whole "Eliminating half the population" thing could have actually worked if he made it about consumerism and mass growth. If he said, "When a population gets too big, its civilization stagnates and becomes complacent," now he's making commentary on the nature of people to become lazy and stupid the more advanced the civilization becomes, and is saying he wants to cut the populations in half to force them to be innovative again instead of it being a purely resource-based decision. That would be a little tough to pull off but wouldn't contain any massive plot holes like the current movies do.

Thanos just wanted a big-tiddy goth gf. I get it.

In The Dark Tower, Roland seeks, as implied by the title of the series, the dark tower, which is the entire multiverse contained in a single location, and the reason why he's after it is because he has reason to believe it's being toppled over, and he wants to prevent that because it would literally be the end of all existence if it did fall. So to him, there is literally nothing more important, because no sacrifice of lives would be worse than the sacrifice of literally the entire universe.

That's a motivation that's easy to follow because most people would agree that, generally speaking, it's better to save as many people as possible, and with this in mind the lives of the few are not more important than the lives of the many, which is a dark but widely accepted truth. That being said, while the average person can understand and agree with Roland's motivations, most people wouldn't have the bravery to do what he does, so that's where his resolve really shines. We actually see the same thing from Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero.

Also to any weebs out there who haven't seen any Fate, here's a weird recommendation with a caveat. The Fate franchise as a whole is a steaming pile of shit, but Fate/Zero is an absolute masterpiece and one of the best series I have ever seen, animated or otherwise. You don't need to watch the others to understand it because it's a prequel, so watch it but don't watch any other Fate shows or movies afterwards because they're legitimately awful. The only exception is a spin-off show called Garden of Sinners, and that's only because it was written by the same man who wrote Fate/Zero, Gen Urobuchi, who did Psycho Pass, and because it was also animated by Ufotable and the music was handled by Yuki Kajura. It's tied with Fate/Zero in terms of how much of a masterpiece it is, so essentially these two shows are equally fantastic in basically every department, from writing to animation to music, and that's literally just because they were the only Fate-related series to be done by Gen Urobuchi, Ufotable and Yuki Kajura, the Holy Trinity of anime development. The rest of the Fate shows, movies and spinoffs had poor writing, animation or music, or sucked at all three. (Most of them had good enough music though, but all of them had terrible writing.)

However, this isn't so easy in the real world. It's hard enough in fiction coming up with a good motivation for your character; in my manuscript Desolation's Reach, that's actually my biggest problem. I'm cracking away at it now, but for the first draft my character just seemed to be going with the flow, and that's a problem. As we've established earlier, "Fuck the flow."

If the main character just goes with The Flow™, they exist merely at the whim of the plot and make no interesting or important contributions of their own. You could similarly apply this philosophy to people in the real world.

So it's vital then that our protagonists especially do things their own way for their own reasons. What those things are and why they do them is something you will have to decide for yourself, but it has to be something worth doing.

One of the brilliant things about Don Quixote is that it gave us something that we didn't think was worth doing--buying a suit of armor and gallivanting around the Spanish countryside while acting like a medieval knight--and managed to convince us over the course of the story that it was a worthy pursuit worth doing. That is another sure-fired way to create an interesting and dynamic story; formulate the plot like a persuasive essay.

Make the story seem like something isn't good or is pointless at first, then gradually introduce things that make the reader question their own worldview.

This isn't to say it should or has to be used for political propaganda, rather it could be used for things the reader has never even thought of before.

I've been slowly working away at this "persuasive essay" idea with my manuscript Enid. I wanted the reader to disagree with the main character's worldview on martyrdom at the beginning of the story and then end up agreeing with them and seeing it through their eyes by the end. That's not the main goal of the story, of course, which is to entertain and teach, but it's one of the things that I would like to accomplish with it.

That being said, there is a very fine line between persuasive and propaganda. If the piece of art flat-out tells you what to think or what the "correct" answer is, it's propaganda. If it shows both sides of a nuanced discussion and lets the reader /viewer decide, it's art. So even though I have my own philosophy on the various facets of martyrdom, it's a concept that will be explored very thoroughly and the reader will have to decide for themselves whether they agree with the protagonist or not, because strictly-speaking there is no "correct" answer even if I have my own opinions on it.

One example that does this well is in The Witcher 3 when it talks about something called "The Last Wish." In the story, Geralt makes a wish to a wish-granting being, and the wish is that he and Yennefer--both immortals--will be bound by fate forever. But they also seem to be genuinely in love, so it's not entirely clear whether they have actual organic chemistry or it's just the wish keeping them together. During the quest, Yennefer wants to undo the wish to find out if their love is real or whether it's just the wish, and the player has to make that decision.

I'd like to change gears for a second and talk about where resolve comes from. And talk a little about something I'd call "misplaced" resolve. Something could be considered misplaced resolve if it's only done to protect your image of yourself. Each person has an image of themselves--the way they perceive themselves. And one thing I find quite interesting is how, apparently, people will act--in the future--in a way that aligns with how they perceive themselves. The sad thing about that is that it implies that a lot of the time we aren't making "decisions," we aren't sitting down and calculating the pros and cons of each option and making a choice that way. Instead we're acting within our own boundaries, but simply doing what we think is in-character for us. It's like each of us is in a play and playing the part of ourselves and we aren't allowed to deviate from that script.

With that in mind, I'd be willing to bet a lot of resolve comes merely from people being determined to protect their image of themselves and not step out of line with how they usually behave.

But this has some incredibly interesting implications; this means that not only can true resolve be determined by somebody acting against the social grain, but also when they act against their own grain. Each person has their own ebb and flow, but when someone breaks their usual routine--usually one that isn't working out so well for them--and does something that they never would have done a week ago, that's a pretty strong indicator that they're exercising actual free-will and not just doing what they usually do. It's all too easy to fall into a pattern where everyday is, for the most part, pretty much the same as the last, and the same as the one that will come tomorrow, and the day after that and the month after that, but when people make radical changes out of nowhere, it's proof that free-will still exists and can be tapped into at any moment.

Although with characters it's a little bit different, because you don't want them to be just "random." They should have a set of definable characteristics behavior-wise. Although luckily this whole thing about going against your own grain doesn't really apply to fiction, because unlike the real world, in a story you, the reader or viewer, don't start the story with their birth and sit through decades of complacent average everyday life. You start reading or watching wherever the story starts. So if the story starts with the protagonist setting out on an epic adventure, you get to hop into their life right where the adventure begins, not the countless years before where nothing interesting happened.

Although you still can apply it to fiction if you wanted to; a large part of my next story The Pen Pal is going to be about how his life was so monotonous and boring that he just kind of snapped and went crazy. It's similar to movies like Office Space and Falling Down in that regard, where the vapid emptiness of their lives is what makes them say "Fuck it" and go off the rails.

Although those are movies where the characters chuck-it-in-the-fuck-it-bucket to a comedic effect, while a movie like Joker (2019) does it for a serious and dark tone. (Although Joker is highly overrated IMO, yes the acting was fantastic but the writing was really cringey at times and came across like a generic edgy pity party.)

I think it would be interesting to rename "agreeableness" to something else, let's call it "bullshit tolerance." Agreeable people will put up with more bullshit than disagreeable people, whose bullshit tolerance is 0.

Although, while in theory it would be best to be disagreeable and have 0 tolerance for bullshit, the sad reality is that we don't always have the luxury. Maybe it was hard getting the job you finally settled on, and you barely scrape by as it is and don't have the luxury of quitting to escape the bullshit. A disagreeable person might be impulsive and make rash decisions in the heat of the moment the second they come in contact with even a trace of bullshit. There's simply too much bullshit in the world to say "Screw it" every time you encounter it, because then you wouldn't be able to do anything. I feel like in many ways that's all a homeless person is (in America at least). Sometimes when homeless people ask for me money, I'll offer to give them a lift to the nearest shelter so that they get free food and clothes and don't have to beg on the streets, and they always say no. I feel like that's because they don't want to be a part of society, they've made their bed outside of the system and want to sleep in it there.

That doesn't mean I'm implying homeless people love being homeless, just that, to a lot them, perhaps even most, they will refuse government assistance because it would mean giving up their freedom or nomadic lifestyle and integrating into society by getting a job, being tested for drugs, etc.

I have a theory that homeless people in general are nihilistic, and the bad thing about nihilism is that nothing matters, but the good thing about nihilism is that it means there's no responsibility. A person who has given into nihilistic dogma no longer has to be responsible for anything or anyone. Total and complete freedom.

From what I can see, it seems most homeless people were just normal people who became extremely nihilistic and gave in to that impulse to say, "Screw society." They don't want any part of it. The downside is--well, not having a home or good place to sleep, or any money or sense of security, but that's a price that a lot of people are willing to pay to avoid being re-integrated back into the system via homeless shelter and government programs. The only real good thing about being homeless is that you have complete freedom and absolutely 0 responsibility. You don't have to report to anyone, put up with anyone, pay taxes or give a shit about politics because you have your little corner where you sleep and you don't need anything or anyone else. Because freedom and a lack of responsibility is the only positive thing about being homeless, which is otherwise a terrible thing, I have to conclude that the reason why homeless people often don't want help (unless it's cash)  is because they'd lose those two things.

There's something tremendous and substantial about determination--it's a virtue that's never talked about. We hear a lot about "bravery," which is very important, but very few bring up the link between the two. Bravery is the fortitude to take the risk of starting something, but determination is the iron-will to continue what you've started no matter what.

And that's the ugly side of the coin that not a lot of people want to address. I've noticed in my own life that I am brave (not trying to toot my own horn here), or at least brave enough to take leaps that others might not, but I don't usually have the fortitude to stick with something once the going gets rough. And that's a problem.

The other issue is nihilism, because you cannot be a nihilist and simultaneously be determined to do something. Resolve largely stems from a faith that what you put yourself through will all be worth it in the end, and you can't believe that if you think that your existence is meaningless.

Your goal has to be meaningful to you in order for you to have any chance of seeing it through.

This largely ties into my essay about obscurity, because you have to be willing to be the only person doing something if it's important to you. You can't rely on social norms to make it convenient; if there is something deemed necessary enough to warrant your complete, unbridled determination, you have to be willing to carry it out by yourself if you stand alone on it.

This requires being extremely disagreeable and having tremendous resolve, and the shortcoming this comes with is a stubbornness that could lead to you being wrong. It's possible that you or the character you're writing will be completely mistaken in their pursuit, but they're too set in their path to listen, change course or stop.

Yet, in fiction even when the character is completely wrong, it's much more interesting watching a resolve character who is completely wrong acting out their will than one with no such resolve.

This also applies to the real world... for better or worse. I'm not condoning it, all I'm saying is that being insufferably stubborn and disagreeable is a much more interesting life than going with the flow, even if it makes you a complete jackass.

Wait a second, I wrote an entire post condoning just that, wow I'm really inconsistent 0.o

Let's just pretend I'm not.

The last thing I'd like to talk about is failure. Determination is Bravery's ugly step-sister that no one likes to talk about, and failure is Determination's even uglier step-sister who's shackled in the basement making weird barbaric noises through the floorboards.

Failure is the vessel through which growth occurs; there can be no success without it, and Determination means nothing if you never fail. How can you say you possess great determination if your willpower has never been tested? Without a gauntlet of grueling failure, how can you know what your limits are? How far you can make it?

There's another issue.

The human spirit, body and mind all yearn for stimulation, for a challenge. The human form was precisely designed to conquer obstacles and climb mountains. It needs something to overcome, otherwise it becomes stagnant and aimless, feeling empty and void of purpose. Having a tough challenge to overcome is something we practically lust for by our very biology.

Many people might seem content just taking the easy way out and avoiding any challenge, stimuli or anything that might be inconvenient. In the pursuit of convenience, we've regulated all the challenge--and, by extension--all the meaning from our experiences.

Let me ask you something--do you enjoy any board games or family games? Monopoly, chess, Mario Party, Twister, Scrabble, anything? Or even remotely competent at any of them?

For most people, they'd have a good time playing at least one of these types of games or activities (and all of them are fun drunk, especially Twister), but would you have the same fun if you could only play against 5-year-olds? If you could only play Scrabble, Monopoly, Mario Party, Chess or any other board game or family game with a young child, would it still be just as fun?

Probably not. And why is that?

Because you'd effortlessly wipe the floor with them in every activity you tried. Even if you suck at some of these games, the massive disparity between an even below-average adult and a 5-year-old is so huge that there would be no effort or thought needed on your part to beat them every time.  It wouldn't be fun.

There's no pride or achievement, no sense of accomplishment. If the only goal was to win, then we would all be playing these games exclusively with severely under-whelming players, but the goal isn't to win, it's to win against a worthy opponent.

You wouldn't brag about beating a little kid at Mario Kart, but you might if you beat that sibling of yours who never loses. No one is impressed that you beat Luigi's Mansion, but beat The Radiance in Hollow Knight or Sans in Undertale and now we're talking.

This doesn't just apply to video games or personal goals, it applies just as much to learning. Cultivating a scholarly mind is no easy feat, and requires tremendous dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. The horrible curse accompanied by this is that when you become knowledgeable of certain topics, you begin to see all the ways in which we're being lied to. It's generalized that, on average, you're lied to about 100 times a day, with the lowest numbers being about 10 and the highest spiking to 200 or more. Being lied to 10-200 times a day and only catching a few of them regularly is a pretty bad success-to-failure ratio. However the more you educate yourself, the more of these lies you'll catch, and the more disagreeable you'll have to become in order to adapt. Once wool has been lifted off of your eyes and you discover things you wish you didn't, you have to either blissfully ignore them and undo the progress you've made, or you have to change the way you see and interact with the world in light of this new information. Especially if you learn things that most others have not, because if you're one of a select few who found out something, you can't bring it up without being dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. That being said, there are conspiracy theories out there that are so stupid they should just be ignored, but not every one of them is wrong, and willingly being a conspiracy theorist in light of new information is not something that's easy to do. It means resigning yourself to fighting against something that virtually no others even know exists let alone fervently believe in, and it means accepting the consequence of potentially being ostracized and outcast for this very reason.

"There is no courage, no faith and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient." -Jordan Peterson

And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Life of a Writer Update: The Quest for the Oculus Quest

Don't worry, I haven't devolved into just making updates, but the essay I'm working on is a biggie (aren't they all?) so it'll be awhile before it's ready. In the meantime, let me regale you with my sad tale.

My tale begins this morning, this the 31st of June, but one day before August, the month named after Augustus, one of the people we can blame for the calendar being screwed up, the other being Julius, of whom July was named, for without them, December--which begins with the prefix "dec-", which means 10, would have been the 10th month, correctly, and not the 12th, which makes no fucking sense. At least one of them was stabbed for the time-measuring chaos they caused in their vanity, which I've heard is endless, but I would have preferred if Augustus got what was comin' to him too.

Anyway, all obtuse rants about the failures of calendars aside, I was given 2 days off after working nine 12-hour night shifts in a row without any break (that was 84 hours of working for the first 7 days of that, holy shit), and once I saw my pretty decently sized paycheck, since working 44 hours of overtime tends to lead to that, I decided to give myself a small reward by spending a few hundred on a VR headset.

This one, to be exact:

But since I had to go back to work after one more day, likely for another week--or weeks in a row, without any days off because I'm a slave, I wanted to try to buy a headset in person so that I wouldn't have to wait for shipping and would get a chance to use it this weekend before I go back to work, but after going to three Walmarts, four Best Buys and one Gamestop, I asked an employee at Best Buy if there was some way to check if other stores have it in stock that way I could just drive straight there, and they informed me, "No store within 250 miles has it."

And their range is 250 miles, so that does not mean that there is a store 251 miles away that does have it. When I went to the third Walmart, I asked them and they said that no Walmart within 400 miles had it, and I guess that was their range or whatever, and the Gamestop could only give me a 50 mile radius but they said no Gamestop within 50 miles had any.

What the tartar sauce???

The first Walmart I went to told me i just missed it, and that they had one sitting on the shelf for months before it was bought a few days ago, and that stung. But it also meant that these things weren't selling quickly, so it's not like it was out of stock because there's such a high demand for it. You could say that since it was in low-demand they don't keep it in stock, but there's a problem with that--all of their promotional material pushes this thing. Like if you google "Oculus Quest" you'll see Best Buy, Walmart and Gamestop ads, promos and commercials for it, all saying that they have it in stock and want to sell it to you.

Apparently fucking not.

Looking for a VR headset in So-Cal like:
I mean, I understand not having a lot of them in stock, but not even keeping one around just because it's advertised that they have it? And even if it takes a while for the one unit to sell, it's no biggie because it will sell eventually, and in my humble opinion businesses should carry something if they spend so much time promoting it. I don't know, I just feel cheated and lied to. I wanted to give them my hard-earned money in exchance for a VR headset so I could play Beatsaber, but that was too much to ask for. Now I have to wait until August 14th for it to arrive via Amazon.

I hope you're happy, Best Buy, Walmart and Gamestop. You've stolen my hopes and dreams with your empty lies.

So I went home, empty handed except for a car charger (I lost mine) and some Carls Jr., with my tail between my legs, and I had to settle for Amazon standard shipping (it was not a Prime product).

So this ends the tale of my unfortunate quest for the Oculus Quest--empty-handed, dejected, down 30 bucks in gas and 4 hours, and 1,500 calories heavier (I got the double-western-bacon meal again, don't judge me I was sad ok?), and overall just feeling like a pupper with no pecker. We all know that nothing is happier than a pupper with two peckers, but likewise there's nothing sadder than a pupper with no pecker.

Anyway, new post coming up soon, look forward to it!

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Life of a Writer Update: Spicy Memes

So I've recently had an epiphany. I was driving home from work when I was struck by the sudden realization that I don't have to exclusively write gigantic, eye-bleed-inducing essays all the time. Like, the world won't implode if I drop in small updates between big posts. So one thing I'd like to start doing is these little quips of my daily misadventures and funny / notable events.

These updates will usually be short, sweet and to the point (a completely foreign concept to this blog).

So this will be the first of many of those.

Anyway, into the story, I've been shot down for many reasons, but this is the first time I've ever been shot down for posting spicy memes.

There's this unspoken rule that if at least one person doesn't want to (or successfully) cut ties with you because of your memes, you're probably not funny. Because funny people inevitably crack a few eggs along the way. Obviously that doesn't mean being an unpleasant and unlikable person, just that one or two people will take offense to your humor.

Anyway, so this girl seemed awesome on the surface; she was a Christian, a computer and gaming nerd, we had all of the same major hobbies and interests, and hell, she even liked Dark Souls. What are the odds?

So we had agreed to a time and date to grab coffee together, but then she messages me saying she changed her mind. Why? Because she saw my Instagram and apparently my memes weren't "Christian" enough.

So I just replied with this image:

After that I actually thought of a great response, and I was gonna write up this whole spiel about the difference between puritans and Christians but then she unmatched before I got to make my snarky comeback :(

Anyway that does lead me to one interesting thing though, and that's that I find myself in kind of an odd situation. I'm very adamantly Christian--I'm a very religious person--but I also have a sense of humor. Too many people think being "Christian" is about having a stick up your ass and thinking you're morally superior to everybody else because you don't laugh at "crude" humor or use "bad" words.

This is an unpopular opinion among Christians but bad words aren't inherently bad. For example, the words "phallus" and "dick" both mean the exact same thing, but if I referred to a guy's junk as a "phallus" I'm sophisticated and polite, but if I say "dick" I'm being foul.

Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for swearing. You wouldn't hear me cursing like a sailor at someone's funeral. Context does matter, and, just like with any other word, the way you use it determines if its usage was bad or not. It also matters if they're using it correctly or not--someone dropping an F bomb in rare occasions is perfectly normal, but someone who drops F bombs in every sentence is just annoying. The only people who do that are illiterate people who don't know any other way to describe things so they have to use "fuck" to describe anything and everything. "F this, F that, that F'n thing won't work, my back F'n hurts..." we all know those people. It's like "fuck" is the only word they know. That actually ties into my previous essay about language.

So to give perceived puritans the benefit of the doubt, I agree that those types of people are annoying, but a normal person using swear words normally is not bad. But if you think you're morally superior to someone because they have crude humor or use naughty words, you're probably just a boring, fun-hating puritan. Sorry, I don't make the rules ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

People who never swear or make offensive jokes:

 My next post will probably be about "Agreeableness," stay tuned for that.

And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Obfuscation of Language (and the State of Things)

This is not a drill: The Blogger gods are trying to smite me.

At the time of writing, this is the third re-write of this essay. The first time, Blogger just freaking deleted it after I had been writing for 4 hours, and the second time, after about 6-7 hours of progress--even further than I got the first time--I instinctively hit "CTRL + Z" out of habit, which normally will undo the last word you typed, but instead it undid everything I typed from start to finish, and it auto-saved immediately. When I tried to undo the undo it was like "Nah."

So I need you to understand that if you're reading this, which you are, it means I had to write, re-write and then re-write again this same big-ass essay for like, 15-20 hours. I hope this time I can get it out properly before Blogger smites me. I'm going to religiously copy-and-paste everything I type here into a Google doc just to be safe, because I don't trust Blogger any more than I trust the alibi, "The glove didn't fit." Also just a heads-up, this essay is long, feel free to take your time or read in sections.

Suck a cock blogger.

Moving on, I'd like to mention my own personal "political policy," it you will. Feel free to skip this part if you just want to get to the essay--I'll label it for you.

Generally, I see two schools of thought; the first I'll call the "apolitical" route and the second the "freedom of speech" route.

I tend to lean more toward the former but allow me to elaborate. When it comes to content creators, people are put off by being bombarded with political opinions. If some chick clicks on a fashion blog, she's there to read about fashion, not your political rant. If someone watches a YouTube video essay about writing or creative story-telling, they're there to learn about writing, not for your political opinions that nobody asked for.

However, I understand where they're coming from. It would be ridiculous to suggest that content creators can't also have strong political opinions outside of their content, and that's fine. I think the bigger issue people have with it is when they use their platform that was built on fans of one thing to expose as many people as possible to their ill-informed worldview. That was the primary reason I couldn't stick with Chris Brecheen's writing blog; it felt alienating going to his blog to read his writing advice only to be lectured to and insulted for my political beliefs which have absolutely nothing to do with writing. But even if I did agree with his political opinions, I would still be annoyed because it would seem like he was just preaching to the choir when all I want is writing advice, not political rants.

But what about freedom of speech? Don't content creators have the right to say whatever they want?

Sure. That doesn't mean they should, but they have the right to.

Here's what I think the best compromise is; if they talk about politics a lot, make a separate blog or YouTube channel for it. Have your main platform just for the original purpose it was made for, and have a secondary spin-off platform for fringe stuff. That's something that no reasonable person would have an issue with. Even if a content creator's personal or political views are the exact opposite of mine, I have no issue with that whatsoever if it doesn't affect their content. Because at the end of the day, I judge a creator's worth by what they create, not what they're like in person. It ties in with separating the art from the artist. You might not like a person, but you can still like what they do.

It's worth noting, however, that if someone only rarely brings up political topics, they shouldn't be expected to create a whole separate blog or YouTube channel for it.

For example, I can only think of maybe two-to-three times in this entire blog's history where I said anything political, and both times I labeled them so that the reader could skip them if they wanted to. Personally, I find that to be the best option for creators in my situation. If you don't normally talk about anything political but make an exception one time because it somehow directly ties into your main point, just give the reader the ability to skip over it. No one could say you're abusing your platform if you do that. I can't tell you how insufferable it is having your favorite channels and creators all suddenly getting up on their soapbox to lecture you about politics. I do believe that they have the right to express those opinions, but they could at least respect their audience enough to separate the political from non-political content.

Alright, rant over.

Actual essay starts here:

I'll cut straight to the point; partial or complete illiteracy is an epidemic in America, and I have strong reason to believe that there is, not only a direct correlation, but causation between literacy and cognitive ability.

But it's much more than that--it's not merely "Literate people have high IQ," it's more like words themselves or the lacktherof can behave as gatekeepers preventing the subject from grasping abstract concepts or complex ideas.

Allow me to explain.

It's easy to dismiss this argument by simply pointing to the false cause fallacy. You can say, "Maybe literacy doesn't improve intelligence, but instead intelligence leads to literacy."

That's a valid counter-argument on the surface, but there's a few major problems with it. The first is that the causation is unilateral; people don't become intelligent and then well-spoken, they become well-spoken first. This is not the type of thing that any studies would have meaningful data on, so I can really only make a priori arguments, but I think you'll find them to be quite potent.

In order to understand why words directly affect a person's ability to formulate ideas, we must understand exactly what a word is. There are a few different schools of thought, but I'll tell you which one I believe is the correct one. Words are handles that give abstract ideas a tangible thing to hold on to.

To some extent, you can kind of argue that people are intelligent first and well-spoken second, because you need to have a firm understanding of an abstract idea in order to explain it verbally, but that observation actually feeds back into my hypothesis.

No one can explain complex ideas simply if they don't already have a concrete understanding of it, but you can't develop a concrete understanding of something without an adequate grasp of the best words to describe it. With this in mind, the more complex an idea or set of ideas are, the more fluent you have to be in your respective language to both completely understand its inner machinations as well as develop the ability to explain it to others in a way that they can understand.

I first started to suspect this when I encountered a few individuals who blew me away both with how well they were able to formulate verbal explanations as well as their ability to formulate ideas.

The great speakers and thinkers of our era such as Jordan Peterson and Galatea van Outersterp simultaneously take my breath away with how fiercely intelligent they are and how easily they can give corporeal form to extremely complex ideas. The poetic simplicity of how they present mental objects is evidence of both their understanding of the ideas as well as their understanding of the English language.

Whenever I have the pleasure of hearing one of these two speak, I am both tremendously impressed and horribly humbled. It's hard not to see people as admirably disciplined in thought as these two and not feel a terrible sense of inadequacy. But this did lead to an interesting exchange of ideas that I had with myself while writing this essay.

For those who don't know, Jordan Peterson's wife was hospitalized for reasons I don't entirely know--I think it was cancer--and JP was prescribed anti-depressants by his doctor. The anti-depressant medication he was given was addictive, so shortly after Jordan Peterson sought medical help to rehabilitate him.

In one angry exchange of words I had with another person, they tried to write off everything Jordan Peterson has ever said because "Oh, he's just a drug addict." So that's kinda annoying, the man's wife was dying in front of him and he was given prescription medication that he didn't actually need, give him a break. Not to mention that a person can be flawed and still have valuable ideas to contribute to society. Someone on the Internet actually said something really cute and really intelligent in response to JP's critics coming after him for this, and they said, "We should be allowed to do a little bit of good and then fall apart behind the scenes without people talking about it." I adore that phrase so much. For all of my harsh criticisms of the Internet, stuff like that reminds me of why I love it anyway.

Anyway, seeing what he was going through actually made me feel a little bit better about my own shortcomings, because here was a man who was the very personification of spiritual and intellectual integrity going through some rough shit, just like any other regular person. In other words, it proved he was human, and not this avatar of life advice and rhetoric that I had initially made him out to be.

But then I was immediately humbled again when I realized how terribly selfish it was to be relieved that someone developed an addiction to medication and had a wife who was hospitalized for cancer purely because it made me feel better about my own insecurities, so we've come full circle.

(This next bit is somewhat politically controversial)

Similarly, Galatea has a profoundly good understanding of the human condition and I think this is best demonstrated in her video about Femininity in Fiction, in which she breaks down the far-Left's disdain for femininity, citing that women are considered "empowered" in fiction if they embody male traits.

Just to clarify, I'm not referring to classical or moderate liberals--the statement above is only about the extreme far-Left, not moderates or left-leaning liberals who have a shred of sanity. Most normal people who aren't on either extreme of a political or ideological spectrum can agree there's a wild hypocrisy in claiming that female characters can only be "strong" if they're bland, unlikable, testosterone-fueled "badasses" who effortlessly take everyone down without struggle. (Captain Marvel COUGH COUGH.)

I didn't realize it at the time, but Galatea's breakthrough in understanding the dynamic appeal of actual femininity is likely what sowed the seeds that would lead to my dedication in writing my current manuscript Enid, because I wanted to try my hand at writing a female heroine who wasn't actually strong, who couldn't effortlessly beat up 10 grown men, and who wasn't a bland teenage girl with a 1,000-year-old love interest. It was also inspired by Dark Souls because I wanted the story to be an allegory for suffering out of love, so the female protagonist of Enid isn't a Strong Female Character™ in the traditional sense of the word, but she's strong because of how much she would sacrifice to do what's right, even if she can't open a jar by herself.

Now, unlike the tortured mind of Jordan Peterson, I don't know much about Galatea off-screen so I couldn't tell you what her flaws were, but I'm sure she's far from perfect in the same way JP is. Just two people who contributed a little bit of good to the world with ideas and words, and probably fall apart sometimes behind the scenes.

In short, Jordan Peterson and Galatea are just ordinary human beings, and my admiration for them stems from a developed skill, or skills, that they possess--intellectual curiosity, and an affinity for words.

It's important to note that this is not "small words bad, big words good," it's much more nuanced than that. The quantity of words is important to a language too.

This is most apparent with tone. For example, the words "scream" and "holler" both technically convey the same thing--a person raising their voice--but they have two completely different interpretations.

If a person was in actual pain and danger, or if they were absolutely livid, you would use a word like "yell" or "scream," and if someone raised their voice playfully you would use a word like "shout" or "holler."

Generally, it's better to have more words than fewer because each iteration of a "word" has its own spin on things. This doesn't mean we should have a million-bazillion synonyms for every word in existence, but having a handful to choose from is leagues better than just having one. Just now while writing this I had to acknowledge the difference in usage between "fewer" and "less."

On paper they seem to imply the same thing--and that is the lower, limited supply of something--but they don't. "Less" refers to things that cannot be quantified while "fewer" refers to things that can.

You wouldn't say "fewer milk," you'd say "less milk." If you were to give it a quantity, such as "gallons," now you can have "more" or "fewer" gallons of milk. "Fewer" means not as many, while "less" means not as much. To know whether you should use less or fewer, you'd have to ask yourself if the object can be quantified as "many" or only "much."

I wouldn't say "How many milk do you want?", I'd say "How much milk do you want?"

Of course if I gave it a metric I could change it to "many," such as, "How many glasses of milk do you want?"

So just there we have a complex example of two words that mean the "same" thing but actually don't because of the abstract mathematical concepts they come in tandem with.

Sure, you could always just tack an adverb onto the end of everything, but where's the fun of that? The exchange of ideas shouldn't be limited to a list of adverbs. "He raised his voice angrily," "he raised his voice playfully," none of that. That makes for bad writing as well as bad communication in the real world. There's no nuance or subtlety to that.

However, over the course of the last several decades, we've gotten closer to just that.

But how could I even know that for sure? There likely aren't going to be a whole lot of studies on this extremely specific and obscure topic, so any evidence I have is purely anecdotal--and I won't shy away from the fact that it's largely anecdotal. However, thanks in large part to the advent of the Internet, it's become easier than ever to be exposed to the ill-informed and poorly-formulated opinions of millions of people, making it pretty easy for the average media user to see how people talk.

You could argue that people talk differently online than they do in person, but this argument is nullified by video, since there's a functionally infinite number of YouTube videos where people talk in real-time, as well as footage of things that happen in public, and just from video alone it's not hard to see where the shift is.

But there are some important numbers that prove this main point; for example, writing test scores in public schools.

As of 2017 (but I can assure you it's only gotten worse, not better since then), 14% of American adults were completely illiterate. This could possibly be--not the result of regular Americans not knowing how to read or write--but the result of illegal immigration; maybe they can't read or write in English, but can read and write in Spanish. So this number might actually be a lot lower if we're talking about total illiteracy and not just English illiteracy. That being said, I have a hard time believing that all 32 million illiterate adults in America are Mexicans. Just by virtue of probability alone a chunk of them have to be regular Americans who have English as their primary language. Oddly enough I've actually met immigrants--not strictly speaking, Mexicans exclusively--but immigrants from all over the world who speak more fluent English than some American adults. How badly must our education have failed us in order for some foreigners to have been taught American English better than our own country? [Although I do acknowledge that the differences between British English (English English?) are minimal at best, so really a foreigner learning English through a British lens would make little difference.]

21% of adults read below a 5th grade level; I have literally no doubts or asterisks about this one whatsoever. I personally know tons of adults who can't communicate above a 5th grade level here in California, and in some southern states it's even worse. Hell, one of my parents is embarrassing to be around because he talks like a toddler. (He doesn't much like me anyway so I'm not particularly worried about soiling his Good Name  or anything.)

Some other fun statistics include:

19% of high school students not being able to read, 85% of juvenile criminals being illiterate, and 70% of inmates not being able to read above a 4th grade level.

There's this interesting correlation between illiteracy and crime, and it's honestly hard to tell which one is the cause of the other, although it's possible that it's a positive feedback loop and that they both simultaneously expedite the other.

The 2007 movie Freedom Writers explores this idea quite well, by using English class as a backdrop for helping students in a ghetto neighborhood get through gang violence and teaching them to love learning through writing and reading. It's worth a watch if you haven't seen it already.

Now, before I go on any further, there is one thing that I have to clarify: while I argue that an understanding of the English language is vital to being able to formulate ideas, not everyone who uses "big words" is smart, not by any stretch of the imagination. The Internet has no shortage of pseudo-intellectuals who will hide their shitty arguments behind thesaurus abuse. "Big words" =/= smart.

There is a huge difference between someone using the best possible words at their disposal to communicate ideas effectively and someone throwing out as many syllables as possible to try to look smart. That's just obtuse.

At this point in the essay I've already failed to explain one of the major points that needs to be made, and that's the title of this post. When I say obfuscation I don't just mean the general decline of English as a whole. More specifically, I'm referring to its massacre. I specifically use the word "obfuscate" because that implies something that was something was initially clear, and either by force or by nature it became muddled, hazy--vague.

(I just realized using a word as obscure as that one right after inserting that Plankton meme totally makes me look like a pretentious hypocritical prick, but let's just blissfully ignore that. It wasn't intentional, I promise.)

We're at a point in time where the English language is being culled so hard that it's hard for anyone to really communicate ideas effectively, and this is an epidemic that permeates all of our interactions. (Not anyone, per se, but anyone who had to rely on the American education system as their only primary teacher.)

Not sure if this opinion is considered cultural or political or whatever, but I really hate weed. Maybe that makes me an uptight loser or something, but every single friend of mine in high school who started using weed regularly started talking much slower, began speaking almost exclusively in filler words, and became paranoid about really stupid and inconsequential shit. This isn't something that a lot of people talk about when debating the pros and cons of weed, but it's common knowledge that it makes you paranoid, and if you don't believe me, I kid you not, there are dozens of highly viewed YouTube video tutorials teaching pot smokers how to banish their paranoia because of how common it is. That's why so many potheads are also conspiracy theorists.

But all mentions of pot-induced paranoia aside, the thing that bothers me most is how much it slows their ability to link words and thoughts. And just cognitive ability in general.

Impressionable millennials already have enough working against them as it is, what with the atrocity against humanity that is common core being the cornerstone of their education and cheap lazy entertainment being the go-to, we don't need them all getting high on a routine basis too. Although maybe that's why it's called "high" school.

Moving on, my hypothesis about words acting as handles for abstract ideas becomes most obvious when trying to learn a new language. Since other cultures value ideas, concepts and philosophies that yours might not, the fact that they have words to describe those concepts highlights their relevance in the culture they come from.

For example in Japan there’s a word Ikemen, which refers to a very specific type of guy, one who is slender, well-dressed, soft-spoken, and financially successful. In the English language to describe that type of person in conversation, the closest we could really get is something along the lines of, “Tall, dark, and handsome businessman,” which is essentially what the word means, but in Japan they have a word that means that exact description. We don’t have a word for that because, simply put, we don’t need there to be a word for it.

Yet because that’s considered the “ideal” type of guy in Japan, it makes sense that they have a word for it there.

The US and other western English-speaking countries aren’t immune from this phenomenon either, of course. For example, the United States is one of the most spread countries in the world. By “spread” I mean large and regionally diverse. Sure there are countries like Russia and Canada that are larger, but the United States has more diverse landscapes than most countries. Few if any countries have beaches, forests, mountains, snowy tundras, massive stretches of deserts, canyons, cornfields, cities, and swamps all in their borders, but America does. Just like its diverse people, the United States has very diverse locations, so it only makes sense that there would be some words to describe people from different regions.

Take a word like “Bumpkin” for example. Obviously Europeans use this word too as any country with a, well, “country” landscape would have country folk in it, but in America there are words to describe people from all sorts of places.

This isn’t something that everyone watching this will relate to, but I grew up in the mountains, so we referred to people from “down the hill,” AKA anyone who lived in the city below, as “flat-landers.” The term was slightly derogatory because it was almost exclusively used as an insult.
That's because flat-landers only come up to the mountains to fuck shit up.

Not literally of course, but that’s always what ends up happening. The only time people from off the mountain came up the mountain in large numbers was during the summertime when the city was too scorching hot for them, or in the winter time when it was snowing.

Yet none of them had any experience driving in snow, and most of them didn’t even bring chains, so my tiny mountain town would suddenly have hundreds upon hundreds of stupid flat-landers stranded on the streets and on the side of the road because none of them prepared for the snow prior to invading the mountain for its ski resorts. (Maybe I'm being a bit hyperbolic, just a teeny-tiny tad, but I don't care.)

And during the summertime they’d come up during the 4th of July and launch fireworks, which pissed off all the locals because forest fires were really common and lots of homes had been lost to forest-fires in the past. 

So whenever someone on my mountain used the term “flat-lander,” they weren’t merely referring to someone who lived on flat ground. They were referring to a specific type of person, to the type of person who grows up in the city below, has 7 kids, and drives up the mountain with all their family and friends to get stuck in the snow or start a forest fire during the summer. That’s the specific imagery attached to that word, and most words have an image or connotation of their own that they carry.

It's part of the reason why I can't stand pointlessly ambiguous words like "vibe." That stupid word could mean anything.

Relaxing with a friend? Vibin'.
Listening to music? Vibin'.
Playing an instrument? Vibin'.
Eating food? Vibin'.
Watching The Office? Vibin'.
Relaxing alone? Vibin'.
Two people feeling horny? Vibin'.

Anytime someone does something you approve of it could be called "good vibes" and anytime someone does something you don't it's "bad vibes."

Alright, fine, you caught me using Hinge, but it was worth it for this screenshot. I regret nothing.

I hope this goes without saying, please don’t misquote me and label me as one of those “le wrong generation” types. I’m not one of those hipsters that thinks the past was the “glory days” and that everything else stinks now, I’m just making commentary on one thing that’s gotten worse over the years, but I can name several things that have improved.

I’ve also been noticing a rise in filler words. I mean, people have used “Like” and “Um” in the past of course, although discourse in general seems to be becoming more filler and less substance. And personally I have nothing against those words, in fact I struggle to articulate myself verbally so I sometimes need to pause or use filler between concepts. That’s why I enjoy writing so much, because it enables me to communicate effectively in a way that allows me to trim, edit, or re-phrase anything into what I want it to be. With verbal communication what’s said is said, but when writing something like a script, blog post, or novel, you can alter the words on the page as much as your heart desires until it resembles something you approve of.

So perhaps I’m being a little too harsh when I leverage the increasing use of filler words against humanity as evidence that we’ve fallen from verbal grace, but at the very least I think it’s evidence of one thing; I think that the reason why filler words are used more often is because it’s become harder for people to find the right words to match the concept in their heads.

Don’t get me wrong, this essay isn’t meant to degrade all millennials or say that they’re all stupid for saying “um” or “like” repeatedly in a sentence, rather it’s to serve as evidence that it doesn’t matter how smart you are if you have no words to express your thoughts.

I want to be careful here because that seems like a contradiction, but I can elaborate on it a bit. "But Dylan, didn't you just say that literacy is a prerequisite for intelligence?" Sorta. I think it's important to differentiate between "smart," "clever," "intelligent" and "wise." In many ways these words are synonyms, but the smallest differences in their respective definitions makes a massive impact. For example, the word "clever" really just refers to surface-level thinking skills. If someone had good problem-solving skills, they would be clever, but not all clever people are intelligent. This is also the type of intelligence that describes most "smart" animals--with the exception of emotionally intelligent animals like elephants and dolphins, most "intelligent" animals are just clever. I do not consider primates to be intelligent, because while they are smart and clever and can solve puzzles and learn skills like tool-making, they cannot grasp abstract ideas. Primates, no matter how smart they seem to be at a glance, can no more fathom the intricate inner-workings of the human condition or philosophy any more than a cat could understand the squiggles on this screen. (I stole the cat analogy from Vsauce, but who gave it to him in the first place?)

In order to communicate ideas, we need to use words as a catalyst for exchanging those ideas. It doesn’t matter how theoretically intelligent a caveman is if he doesn’t have any words to communicate with the outside world. A genius who grew up in isolation might be perceieved as stupid by the first person to find them. Let’s call it “The Tarzan Effect,” since Tarzan is a movie about that. Well, I don’t know if Tarzan is a genius or just average intelligence, but at least we know he’s not a dumbass.

Again, just to reiterate, I do not propose that we concoct for ourselves an unnecessary over-abundance of synonyms in order to diversify the English language; a hefty handful will suffice just fine.

Trying to make a word for every concept in existence is both impossible and counter-productive for society, but preserving words and phrases that were coined for a reason might be worthwhile.
Of course, there will always be words and phrases that fall in and out of fashion, and there’s no need to try to bring back dead words and phrases from the grave to try to force them back into relevance, but what we can do however is try to express ourselves with the best words at our disposal.

The ability to speak doesn’t make someone intelligent, but I do believe that the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is one of the many facets of intelligence. However, if there’s no words at our disposal to describe thoughts, ideas, and concepts, then how can we communicate effectively?
Our choices have narrowed drastically. Whereas in relatively recent history the common man was able to communicate efficiently, it’s become increasingly difficult the closer we’ve gotten to today.
I don’t think school is helping either. Forced vocabulary lessons simply aren’t the answer. The only answer is getting people to care about the English language; if people don’t care about the English language, they aren’t going to care about the implications of our ability to communicate with it.
One reason I particularly don’t like school and dislike college even more is the mere fact that everything is so tightly regulated. The things I was taught both in highschool and college felt generic and mass-produced, and even though I’ve always been a huge English nerd, I loathed English class the most.
More often than not it felt like English classes were designed to make me hate essays and books instead of appreciating them. And I find that ironic since I’m currently writing an essay for fun as we speak, which you are reading. So despite public education’s best efforts to make me despise the English language, I’ve found appreciation in the field anyway, thanks primarily to YouTube. (I'm pretty sure I said this same thing in my "Essays" post, but I'm too lazy to check. I'm allowed to plagiarize myself, right?)
Most of the words I’ve added to my verbal arsenal over the years weren’t ripped from some vocab quiz I was forced to learn in the 10th grade. Most of the words I’ve learned and started using were picked up from a book I liked, or a video essay I watched, or a podcast I listened to. Maybe a blog post here and there.
Does that mean that all vocab quizzes are essentially useless?
Pretty much.
Sure, it is theoretically possible that one or two words I use today I learned in a vocab quiz, but anytime I think of a word that isn’t popular in everyone’s vocabulary already, I can usually remember where I learned that word.

For example, I remember picking up the word “popkin” from the Dark Tower series, which is gunslinger slang for “sandwich.” I’ve been using that stupid word for years. One word that I like using in philosophy is the word “Sonder,” which I learned from a Vsauce video. I learned the word “Deftly” from a song by Cake. In fact I’d say listening to any Cake album will improve your vocabulary more than any vocab quiz ever could. Some Professor Elemental albums would also suffice.

That does lead to an interesting point though, which is that music is a great way to learn new words and phrases. The nature of music is that we listen to songs repeatedly over the course of years, so someone who grew up listening to Cake and Professor Elemental would probably subconsciously absorb a lot of the words and phrases that they use in their songs and use them in their own speech.

Obviously I can’t trace back literally every word I use to a source, but usually when the usage of a word makes enough of an impression on me for me to then try to remember it and incorporate it into my own speech, it’s hard to forget the source material. If it hadn’t made a profound impression on me then I wouldn’t have remembered the word in the first place.

[In fact, in this very essay, I used the phrases "fiercely intelligent" and "avatar of--" when talking about Jordan Peterson and Galatea, and it just so happens I picked up the phrase "fiercely intelligent" from Galatea (I think it was her Harry Potter video?) and the use of the word "avatar" as a representative feature from a Jordan Peterson lecture. I'm kind of adding this in spontaneously, but I think I subconsciously used those phrases specifically when I was talking about them at the beginning of the post because in the back of my head I associated those phrases with those two. Okay, I'll shut up now.]

That’s part of the reason why vocabulary quizzes do more harm than good. Not only are they not an effective tool for teaching impressionable young students new words, but the arbitrary act of memorizing a list of words and connecting a line to their definitions only serves to make the student loathe vocabulary and associate it with a chore, something western education excels at.

If students were able to learn about vocabulary organically by observing someone they admire speak brilliantly, it would make a much more positive impact on how they view not only words but the English language as a whole.

I remember taking a public speaking class in college and just being stunned with admiration by the professor’s ability to speak. I don’t just mean to say that he didn’t have stage fright and was able to speak coherently, but he was a wordsmith by every definition of the word, stringing together ideas and sentences in a way that made understanding incredibly complex and abstract concepts simple.

That was also one of the only college courses I actually enjoyed; because I learned and was inspired while I was there.

They’re a dying breed, but I can think of a few public speakers on the Internet who can accomplish the same thing. And as rare as they are, I’m sure most of you watching this can probably conjure up a very specific person in your mind who fits that description.

Link to his channel: YouTube
I remember watching Quinn Curio’s video on criticism in the animation community and having that same sense of awe (just stay away from her Twitter, like many other people I admire seeing their social media kills the image I had of them. Like a boppin' song with a terrible music video, once you see the awful music video it almost taints the song for you because you'll always think of that music video when the song comes on). Every now and then I find YouTube essay-ists whose ability to communicate ideas verbally exceeds my own, and all I can do is lift my jaw off the floor and start taking notes to hopefully absorb some of their communication wisdom. He might not use a lot of flare or quote-on-quote “big words,” but I remember having similar thoughts about the Act Man when watching his 50-minute analysis of Dark Souls. I ended up buying, playing, and writing a lengthy blog post about Dark Souls purely because his impassioned speech about the game got me emotionally invested in the IP. None of that interest I generated in the game would have come to fruition if it weren't for the Act Man's excellent persuasive speaking skills and his grasp on the fundamental ideas that made Dark Souls a masterpiece. I owe my entire adoration for the wonderfully-built world of Lordran to this brilliant man because of his video essay.

Not very many people have that power, and as lame of a super power as it may be, it’s an admirable one worth wielding. 

As a writer, if I was offered the choice of a power from some omnipotent genie with malicious intent, I’d choose word-smith powers in a heartbeat. I’m not sure what the comical and unfortunate twist would be, but genie’s are creative, so I’m sure he’d be able to think of something. Maybe my knowledge of words is greatly enhanced but my fingers and tongue fall out. That’d be a good twist.

That or the ability to rotate my head 180 degrees around like an owl, since the Sea Rabbit got me thinking about all the mischievous potential of that one. If you’d choose invisibility that’s a great answer too, but if you'd choose something stupid like flying then you’re just a dumb poopy-head and your opinion is wrong.

After all, any opinion I hold is objectively correct.

Now, I can already hear some of the criticisms ringing in my ears from the distance--to make one thing clear, I’m not suggesting some sort of education reform where common core does away with vocab quizzes and instead makes listening to Cake mandatory (even if that class sounds like a blast). I’m not claiming to have the solution, all I’m doing is pointing out that school doesn’t do a very good job of making young students like English, and for a solution to that we should look to someone who’s more knowledgeable about the subject than I am.

At the risk of sounding like one of those old DirecTV commercials with the slippery-slope fallacies, I worry that one day we’ll be reduced to communicating exclusively via grunts and gentle head motions. Like the zombies in Warm Bodies.

(This is where things start to get political, at least mildly, so just a heads-up)

One day we start using more filler words, the next we’re using the words “vibes” and “bodacious” to describe everything, and the next we just grunt and nod approvingly. Where does the barbarity end??

All jokes aside I do think language is important. Another phenomenon I’ve noticed is words and phrases losing their impact through misuse and abuse. Take for example how everything is compared to Hitler. Why does everything have to be compared to Hitler? Aren’t there other historically bad things that things we dislike can be compared to? We need to get more creative, I want to see more people using straw-man arguments and brainless slurs to label their ideological opponents Harvey Weinsteins and Piers Morgans. There’s a whole lot of people and things to choose from besides Hitler, you know.
Nevermind that the type of person to mindlessly call every "evil republican" Hitler doesn't know a damn thing about fascism, but that's neither here nor there.

There’s even an Internet law called “Godwin’s Law” which states, “The larger an Internet forum or thread becomes, the higher the probability of someone randomly comparing someone else to Hitler or the Nazis.”

Kinda sad that we’ve reached this point but I don’t think I need any examples to demonstrate how common that is. Although the most egregious sin isn’t the missed opportunities for more clever insults, but the fact that comparing everything we disagree with to Hitler completely waters down the significance of that comparison until it means fuck-all.

We see this all the time with insults especially. Once upon a time there used to be insults that were saved for only the worst of the worst, and were rarely used because of how sacred and exclusive the usage of those words were.

But then somewhere along the line we discovered power levels, and realized that we can just jump straight to toxic insult level 9001 instead of gradually working up the ladder. So now everyone is Hitler.

And, of course, anyone's who read my blog before knows where I'm going with this...

I love this stupid meme, it's so damn versatile.
If everyone is literally Hitler, then nobody is. (Except Hitler. But that dude's dead.)

It isn't just insults, but I do think the deterioration of insults is a byproduct of the deterioration of our dialect in general.

However, while the arrival of the Internet and social media is one of the main culprits in the death of the English language, it's also its savior. Memes and sites like The Urban Dictionary and Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows are constantly introducing new words and ideas to millions of people and revolutionizing the way we look at language.

For those that don’t feel like watching through EmpLemon’s lengthy video of how memes determined the outcome of the 2016 election, essentially a meme can be defined as any concept that’s spread like a virus through images, sounds and video. This means that, in theory, anything can be a meme. Scribbles on a wall from a hundred million years ago can be a meme.

The only requirement for something to be a meme is that it must:
A) Convey an idea or concept
B) Do so without directly spelling it out.

Memes in nature are usually funny but some memes are meant to be more mocking or informative, like the "Epstein didn't kill himself meme" which had some funny variants, but in general was more about just making sure everyone on the planet was never allowed to forget this actual serious issue--but at the same time it was a big inside joke with the entire Internet.

This means that anything that communicates a concept without flat-out telling you can be a meme. It doesn’t mean that everything that shares concepts in a non-direct way are memes, but anything that does can be a meme.

To better explain it, a meme is essentially an inside joke but with thousands of people. It can be only 10 people or millions, but it’s usually an inside joke with one or more circles on the Internet. Although as 4chan has shown us, they don’t have to be exclusive to the Internet, and can leak into the real world or even start in the real world if enough people make it relevant.

For example, Internet Historian did a video breaking down the history of the “Pool’s Closed” joke. For the uninitiated, this gag started as people creating identical afro-tastic avatars in an old-school kids game and blocking off virtual pools.

But then in real life, they started hanging up signs with the afro-tastic mascot that simply read, “Pool’s Closed.” It’s not uncommon for a lot of this stuff to leak in the real world, and likewise a lot of memes on the Internet can have their roots traced back to real-world events.

So what does that have to do with any of this?

To put it simply, memes can teach us a thing or two about the unbridled spread of abstract ideas. Nothing can quite propel the spread of an idea or concept faster or more effectively than a meme can. And the impressive thing is that memes usually have an extremely specific concept imbued into them that remains relevant for as long as the meme does.

Sure there are some vague and abstract memes like “E” and the moth attracted to the lamps, but for the most part the vast majority of memes have an oddly specific joke or punchline. They’re often so specific that they can only stay relevant for a short time period, because the idea that the meme revolves around is so specific that it can only remain both funny and relevant for so long. That’s why most memes only last a few weeks, but there are some that have stood the test of time by somehow remaining relevant years after their conception.
Then there’s the new words and phrases coined because of meme culture. The entirety of the Urban Dictionary only exists because of Internet culture. Words like:
Chad, soyboi, doomer, honkler, boomer, thot, simp, and countless others exist only as a direct consequence of the memes they originated from. And while these words are not immune to misuse and abuse, they have for the most part retained their original meanings and are usually used in their specific context. Each of these words has a concrete and very specific definition.
A person can not be called a doomer if they are not extremely pessimistic and nihilistic.
A person can not be called a boomer if they don’t drink Bud Light and make out-of-touch complaints about the youth.
I mean they can, but they'd be using it wrong.
I see a lot of people bringing up the stagnation of technological innovation but I think the stagnation of written and verbal communication is much more obvious.
I wonder if they’re somehow linked, where the same underlying causes of innovation slowing to a crawl are behind the de-evolution of our language.
To illustrate what these inside jokes look like, allow me to show the evolution of one meme as an example; this is a pretty average and typical progression and this is how most memes evolve over time.
The "E" meme began with this photo, where someone photoshopped the YouTuber Markiplier's face onto the body of Lord Farquaad from Shrek.

Around this time period, the "explaining" memes were gaining traction, which was a format for reaction images that shows one person trying to explain something to someone else, and so this led to the version of Farquaaplier where he's explaining math.

Then people made memes where he successfully SOLVES the math problems, and one of the problems wasn't actually a problem but was a formula for the mathematical constant "E," so then in response to Farquaaplier presenting the constant, the image where he finally comes to the conclusion became known only as "E." (Although some sources say that E actually came first, as a reult of Markiplier saying E in a funny voice, and then the math variant came next, although I am unable to either confirm or deny this.)

Then many variants of this meme spawned, giving us things like:


Out of context, nobody would know what the hell this picture was supposed to mean or why anyone would find it funny, but that's what makes memes funny--you have to be in the know in order to derive any enjoyment out of them.

Then there were variants that were combinations of other memes; it's common for two or more meme formats to combine into one cluster-fuck that only the biggest dorks on the Internet can understand.

Like this one, which is a reference to the old SpongeBob episodes where Mermaid Man would screech "Evilllllll!" at the top of his lungs, but now it's just his hair and nose photoshopped onto Lord Farquaaplier. No regular or sane person would know what to make of this picture out of context because they don't spend all day looking at memes on the Internet (oops).

There's also plenty of memes revolving around The Bee Movie, namely copy-and-pasting the entire movie script into random comment sections, and also the "You Like Jazz?" meme and the breaking neck meme.

So when you combine E memes with Bee Movie memes you get something like this abomination:

I could go on, but I think I've subjected you to enough.

I wouldn’t dare quote any part of this film as my example, but anyone who’s seen Idiocracy can probably see how, at the very least, the way we talk and think is getting closer to that movie than the creators likely intended. If nothing else, CHAZ's garden came strikingly close to the Gatorade scene.

Anyway, while I mentioned earlier that genuinely intelligent people have fewer opportunities to communicate effectively with fewer words, I also believe to some extent that the deterioration of English as a language makes people less intelligent in the first place.

This is because words act as a vessel to deliver thoughts and ideas, but when our dialect has been castrated and limited exclusively to words like “vibe,” we don’t know what anything really means any more.

Definitions become blurred and incoherent, and things with meaning lost whatever meaning they were initially imbued with.

It’s completely understandable and expected for the meaning of words to change over time, but it’s one thing for a word’s meaning to change and another for it to lose any and all meaning completely.

There’s a difference between a word like “boomer” changing from exclusively baby-boomers to people with “boomer-esque” traits and a word like vibe becoming an amorphous all-encompassing term. (Same with the word "political", apparently, and feel free to read over my Art is Not Inherently Political post for more details on that.)

Just to make something clear I didn’t just make this to bemoan about how much I hate the word “vibe,” I just think it’s a good example of words with no real distinct meaning. If it was some other trendy word instead of “vibe” I’d be complaining about that one, I just like to bitch.

There isn’t a whole lot of research about this topic, but I think we can come to some accurate conclusions using deductive reasoning.

One thing we know for certain is that the most critical point of learning in a person’s entire life is when their brain is developing as a baby. So doesn’t it then follow that if a baby is exposed to fewer ideas verbally, they will understand fewer abstract concepts?

Me forcing my future babies to listen to "Plin plin plon."

Despite common core’s best efforts, there are some concepts and ideas that simply cannot be taught in a school. Many of these ideas are things that can only be learned as a baby. Imagine if there was a baby who was in a coma until they were a teen. Sure, it might be technically possible to teach them how to walk as a grown teen, but the effectiveness of a walking-course or physical therapy would be nowhere near as effective as a baby learning to walk simply by observing it.

As a baby we’re naturally predisposed to learning, observing, and absorbing as much vital information as possible. If no one around us is using words that communicate specific ideas, then those specific ideas would be completely lost on us growing up.

Personally I think this has already happened with history; sometimes I’m shocked by how little people know about history. And I’m not claiming to be an expert or anything like that, I only consider my knowledge about history to be adequate, not extraordinary, but it’s starting to seem like most college students don’t understand any historical context whatsoever.

I only took a few history courses in college, but in that short time period I’ve encountered people who thought WWII happened in the 70s, people who thought South America was in Europe, and people who thought South Korea was a dictatorship like North Korea.

How can someone understand the historical and political implications of current events with that context? They’ve essentially flushed historical truth and context down the toilet and replaced it with fan fiction, this attitude of “History is whatever I want to think happened!”

Remember that time a few years ago when the enlightened students at UC Berkeley torched their whole school and rioted in the streets to prevent conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from coming to speak during Free Speech Week?

Oh... the irony.

And of course, I don’t want this essay to just be me lamenting the current state of higher education (although I’ll probably do a post about that later), yet I see English following in History’s footsteps.

One thing I have noticed however is that most college students are at least good at math and science. And that raises some really interesting questions.

How can there be such a massive disparity between most students’ understanding of Mathematics and their understanding of History?

Now before I continue any further I need to address the masses, obviously I don’t have any concrete statistical proof that college students understand math more than history or English, and I acknowledge that most of my observations are anecdotal, however I’m willing to bet that the majority of the people watching this who are currently enrolled in a college or have recently graduated can relate to what I’m saying. At the very least the Internet has helped expedite the process of discovering which subjects are the most and least understood, and from my experience it seems like college students all across the country know basic math but don’t have a firm grasp on history or English.

While I have spent a lot of time bitching about common-core things that shouldn’t be mandatory education, I actually think making public speaking a requirement is healthy because I’ve personally seen how it can teach students to communicate confidently and effectively. It’s not designed just to help people get over their fear of public speaking, it helps solidify concepts through words that the student may not have been exposed to before, and I know I’m not alone on this.

Anyway, back to what I was saying, I believe that the reason math and science are more widely understood than history and English is because those two things have something in common that the others don’t; they aren’t subjective.

Now there are some subjective concepts in science, but for the most part everything taught in math and science is very straight-forward with little to no deviation. However, understanding History and English is similar to understanding poetry or philosophy.

With history it’s interesting because it shouldn’t be subjective. Whatever happened is what happened, we don’t live in a multi-dimensional sci-fi world where alternate histories have happened. (To my knowledge....)

History should, if nothing else, just be a list of dates and events, like a backwards calendar. On this day X happened, on this day Y happened, et cetera.

But of course that’s not what history classes are about, and thank God they aren’t because that sounds incredibly dull.

Instead, they’re about understanding the context and cause and effect of certain events. The goal of any history class is to teach the students not just what happened, but why and how it happened.

In math, 4+3 will always = 7, but whether or not the Fault in Our Stars was a good book or whether the Haitian Rebellion was justified will always be up to subjective opinion.

Yet because an understanding of historical context is subjective, students who don’t have critical thinking skills or a grasp on abstract ideas won’t be able to connect with what’s being taught. And this goes hand in hand with English.

You see, an understanding of English and the communication of ideas is an integral part of understanding history, and an understanding of historical context lends better understanding to English.

The two subjects complement each other beautifully. Without one the other suffers, and right now they’re both kind of tanking.

I couldn’t tell you with complete confidence which field of knowledge started the vicious cycle, but if I had to take a guess I’d say it was most likely history. As much as I’d like to blame the deterioration of English entirely on the advent of the Interwebs, in reality I think it was an understanding of history deteriorating first that led to English being the next runner up. The Internet has only made the process more expedient.

There’s a lot of reasons why I think this is the case, but you've already been reading this for much too long so I'll cut to the chase. To summarize, I think it has to do with hippie students in the 60s and 70s becoming the hippie professors today who teach subjective history their way, essentially seeing history through a sort of hippie-lens and imparting their own subjective opinions and values unto their students.

But that’s just my dubious hypothesis and there’s a lot of factors involved, so I can’t claim that that’s the sole or only reason by any means.

Berkeley students when asked why they rioted to stop a speaker they dislike during Free Speech Week:
In summary I think we need a deeper appreciation for our words and how we communicate if we’re ever to get ourselves out of this mess, luckily the Internet has made some admirable strides in fighting back against verbal complacency by inventing new and original terms and phrases that represent specific ideas, but there’s only so much that can do and eventually that won’t be enough to keep the language completely alive.

I don’t think English as a language will actually be going away anytime soon, I’m sure that as long as there are humans on Earth there will be people speaking English, but I fear that a lack of exposure to concepts as a baby will lead to dumber kids, which in turn will lead to less effective communication and even dumber grandkids.

It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I do hold my clumsy tongue responsible and rest assured I will do everything in my power to remedy this and hopefully have a firm enough grasp on my next topic to not need to ramble so much. If anything my rambliness might serve as evidence that I myself have not been immune from this deterioration and that it’s hard for me to explain things simply purely because I don’t have the right words to accurately describe my thoughts easily.

Anyway, thank you for tuning into my long-winded rant about words n’ stuff, if you’ve made it thus far you’re either a huge nerd like me or you just really hate yourself, but either way I thank you for sticking with me.

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.