Embedded in the work harder, earn more ethos is an unspoken, unhealthy and inaccurate implication: suffering (working “hard”) is equivalent to value creation.
The problem here is not-so-much in that it forces people to work more than they need to, although that is unhealthy and damaging in itself. The real crime here is that this belief obscures what is truly important in earning more: creating tangible value in the world and having a bigger impact.
“YouTube comments aren’t “just the Internet.” They’re not the product of a group of otherwise nice guys who suddenly become evil when they wear a veil of anonymity. YouTube comments are actually a nightmarish glimpse into the sexist attitudes that define the fabric of our own existence in the “real world,” a world that, like YouTube, is owned and dominated by men. The most terrifying gift that the Internet has given us is that it’s shown us how men honestly perceive the world: as a place where women exist exclusively for their sexual pleasure.”—
I was talking with someone recently about how much harassment on the internet bothered me: not just the implied violence, but the fact that anyone could think such things, much less feel it was okay to say them, anonymous or not.
The person I was talking to, a guy, shrugged it off: “Teenaged boys just think all kinds of horrible shit. Their brains go to dark places.”
Assuming this is true, my question now is, *why* do they go to dark places? What is going on in our socialization processes that lead to this? It seems we don’t unlink the deep, evolved ties between sex and violence, for a start, but surely there is more here.
“I use ResearchGate and JSTOR and Google Scholar and everything, but I sometimes find a more effective approach is to just Google for my search term plus “PDF.” That turns up a lot of old papers professors stick up on their personal websites that aren’t indexed anywhere.”—
Why is it that people are willing to spend $20 on a bowl of pasta with sauce that they might actually be able to replicate pretty faithfully at home, yet they balk at the notion of a white-table cloth Thai restaurant, or a tacos that cost more than $3 each? Even in a city as “cosmopolitan” as New York, restaurant openings like Tamarind Tribeca (Indian) and Lotus of Siam (Thai) always seem to elicit this knee-jerk reaction from some diners who have decided that certain countries produce food that belongs in the “cheap eats” category—and it’s not allowed out. (Side note: How often do magazine lists of “cheap eats” double as rundowns of outer-borough ethnic foods?)
Yelp, Chowhound, and other restaurant sites are littered with comments like, “$5 for dumplings?? I’ll go to Flushing, thanks!” or “When I was backpacking in India this dish cost like five cents, only an idiot would pay that much!” Yet you never see complaints about the prices at Western restaurants framed in these terms, because it’s ingrained in people’s heads that these foods are somehow “worth” more. If we’re talking foie gras or chateaubriand, fair enough. But be real: You know damn well that rigatoni sorrentino is no more expensive to produce than a plate of duck laab, so to decry a pricey version as a ripoff is disingenuous. This question of perceived value is becoming increasingly troublesome as more non-native (read: white) chefs take on “ethnic” cuisines, and suddenly it’s okay to charge $14 for shu mai because hey, the chef is ELEVATING the cuisine.
“Most notoriously, the Nazis claimed to have used Baedeker’s guides in a 1942 series of air attacks on English cities, which would become known as the Baedeker Blitz. There’s some disagreement among historians as to whether the Nazis really did use the books, but this was Nazi propagandist Baron Gustav Braun von Sturm’s claim: that Baedeker had unwittingly identified the targets by highlighting Britain’s most beloved landmarks and towns, the places whose destruction would deal the biggest blows to the national spirit, including the cities of Bath and Norwich. More recently, shortly after American troops entered Iraq 10 years ago, Lonely Planet Iraq was pressed into duty for precisely the opposite goal, assisting officials who were prioritizing sites for protection.”—Go you own way, an article by Doug Mack. Published in the Mornig News, Mack argues that the best travel guides deserve to be added to the literary canon.
RM: One thing that bothers me is large numbers presented without context. We’re always seeing things like, “This canal project will require 1.15 million tons of concrete.” It’s presented as if it should mean something to us, as if numbers are inherently informative. So we feel like if we don’t understand it, it’s our fault.
But I have only a vague idea of what one ton of concrete looks like. I have no idea what to think of a million tons. Is that a lot? It’s clearly supposed to sound like a lot, because it has the word “million” in it. But on the other hand, “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” made $7 million at the box office, and it was one of the biggest flops in movie history.
It can be more useful to look for context. Is concrete a surprisingly large share of the project’s budget? Is the project going to consume more concrete than the rest of the state combined? Will this project use up a large share of the world’s concrete? Or is this just easy, space-filling trivia?
I gave a talk a while back on how important comparative data is. My take was more grandiose—I think it’s really the ethical obligation of the Internet-makers to design it in to every web property— but Munroe succinctly nails why it’s so important. Without context, facts just ain’t useful.
With comparative data, we not only can build up a narrative around the news we hear and the goings-on of the world, but we close the loop: things are easier to grasp, make more sense; alien countries and religions seem more understandable, recognizable, familiar.
One way to think about this is to consider the various adventures younger people pursue to find themselves. “That sort of exploration to see what fits and feels like you may be the process by which you can start to figure out what sort of ordinary life to build,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.
Once you know yourself, the deliberate pursuit of more ordinary things can then deliver that same level of happiness. It doesn’t hurt, either, that you may appreciate the ordinary much more once you’re more aware of the decreasing number of years you have left to enjoy it.