Book Review: Go Wild

Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization by John J. Ratey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read. The idea is that humans are wild animals, and for all the trappings of civilization we wrap ourselves in, we’re still running the old jungle OS. We’re primitive creatures with primitive drives trying to force ourselves into the shape demanded by a modern world, and it’s making us fat, sick, and crazy.

The concept is a sort of natural expansion of Freud’s suggestion from Civilization and its Discontents, but less pseudoscientific and quacky. Freud said we’re animals. So did the Bloodhound Gang, in their seminal 1999 treatise “Bad Touch”. According to Siggy, the root of all neurosis is our superego trying to cram our id into the acceptable conduct box, so We might continue to Live In A Society.

Ratey says the same thing in more modern and empirical terms. Evolution programmed us over the last couple million years to exercise constantly, socialize constantly, eat huge quantities of fats, and maintain a state of mindfulness (which is just awareness of our surroundings so we don’t get eaten by bears). Our stress was immediate, and faded as soon as the danger was gone.

Flash forward to the present day. The most physically fit among us exercise seven or eight hours a week. We live in privacy boxes with immediate family or a couple roommates, who we tend to avoid because of how stressful talking to people at work or school is. Most of what we eat is corn and sugar. We don’t have time to be aware of our surroundings due to the constant hyperstimulus beaming a stream of shining blue data from the attention-hog computer we keep in our pockets, directly into our frontal lobes. We are mad at our computers because someone said something WRONG about VIDEO GAMES on the INTERNET, and we maintain a constant high-boil of cortisol because the tried and true tactic of “sprint until you escape” doesn’t work on student loan debt.

The answer? Knock it off.

The first book I read by Ratey was Spark, which changed the way I looked at exercise. I’ve always been obsessive about it (I tend to be hyperactive to a point just south of mania, Jackie Chan snap-kicking out of bed a few seconds before my alarm goes off), but I didn’t realize the effect it has on mental health and hormone profile. Most of what ails you, regular exercise will cure. Present research suggests that in trials for treatment of depression, anxiety, and ADHD, daily cardio worked as well or better than medication in terms of treatment. So naturally, that’s what they lead with in Go Wild: get off your ass and get your heart pumping, remind your body it’s alive.

Then comes groundbreaking life advice like “Zebra Cakes aren’t dinner”, “Sleep regularly”, and “Talk to people you like, in real life”.

I’m doing it a disservice with the pithy summary, but it’s an amazing book, and one I took my time reading because I didn’t want it to be over.

SECOND READ:
Read it again. I was right the first time, although now that I’m older and wiser I can recognize some of the reaching Ratey did in the last few chapters. A lot of the evidence was anecdotal there and instead of providing sources or studies he was like, “Try it! You’ll like it!”

I also found myself getting a little defensive when he talked about his other psychiatrist friend who insisted that PTSD therapy didn’t work and qualified it as “yakking”. So how do you resolve a lifetime of the collected, complex trauma from childhood physical and sexual abuse? Just go ahead and dance it right out. Join a Zumba and all those scars will evaporate. Oh, and slam down a handful of these super special drugs every day, of course.

I was going to write “get fucked, van der Kolk”, but in googling what the hell his name actually is I found out that he initially formulated the PTSD diagnosis and has been researching it for 50 years. He’s an authority, and pretending I know better based on my own anecdotal treatment experiences would be disingenuous, especially considering how often I push physically active coping skills on my clients.

The bleedover is van der Kolk tends to focus on ritualized movement methods within cultures like dancing, shamanic and wildly boolin’ religious practices (Shaker/Quaker style), and ancient Greek theater. A lot of these things included elements of psychotherapy right in them. Catholic confession is the most on-the-nose example, but exercises like shamanic soul retrieval have persisted largely unchanged into modern psychotherapeutic practice, so maybe our man has a point. I’ll give you this round, van der Kolk, and I’ll read The Body Keeps the Score someday.




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Book Review: The Chimp Paradox

The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Steve Peters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I know it looks like get-up-and-gotivation office jockey tripe, but it’s a ruse. The market for business books is probably better than the market for self help. Nobody wants to do things “for themselves”, especially in America, but everybody wants to make more money.

Peters hammers the reader with any number of meandering analogies that are impossible to keep track of, comparing aspects of the personality to various structures in our solar system including, for some reason, the Kuiper belt, and describes reflexive unconscious schema as either “autopilot”, “goblins”, or “gremlins”. He’s English, and maybe there’s a more pronounced and innately understood cultural difference between goblins and gremlins there. I’m an American. I will not learn about English culture under any circumstances.

Where the book and the theory really shines is the divvying up of the Freudian id and ego/superego into “chimp” and “human” aspects of our mind. The chimp is irrational, easily angered, highly defensive, functionally feral. The human is logical, rational, capable of delaying gratification to get two marshmallows later, that kind of thing. However, both in your head and in real life, chimps are 5x stronger than humans per square inch of muscle, and you will never overpower your internal chimpliness with sheer force of will.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. You just have to be on good terms with your chimp. Just like you positively condition a dog with treats to get it to do what you want, you bribe, bargain, and placate your chimp into cooperation. When it gets worked up and “makes you anxious”, give it ten minutes to vent. Let your chimp bitch and moan. Once it’s done, the human steps in and says, “I know it sucks. It’s okay. How about we pound through the homework assignment right quick, then after we can get a drink with the lads?”

A well-exercised chimp is much more manageable. Take it out, let it run around. Let it scream itself out when it needs to. Your chimp likes creature comforts like food and sex and smoking weed, but it also likes things that remind your body that you’re alive, like exercise, cold showers, and social achievement (as the chimp is deeply concerned about its place in the troop at all times).

Peters presents a concise owner’s manual for fruitful chimp companionship. Take care of your chimp (and your body). Address your chimp’s need to chimp out (your emotions). Distance yourself from those irrational aspects of yourself, but stop punishing yourself for feeling things strongly! There’s a chimp in there, but he’s not necessarily you, in that you are more than just the chimp.

You don’t need to fly into a rage and regret it later when the chimp is exhausted and the human needs to pick up the pieces, which in turn humiliates the chimp, creating a feedback loop of rage. You can get the chimp out of the crisis zone, let him hop around in the jungle for a while, then come back at this when he’s contentedly eating bananas and you can actually steer the damn vehicle.

Excuse the mixed metaphor. Chimps shouldn’t drive, unless they have demonstrated a natural talent.

An excellent book for anybody with even a passing interest in psychology. I’ve been pushing it on a bunch of people, even though nobody ever takes my book recommendations. I don’t take it personal. Reading is hard, especially for a chimp, and if you didn’t have chimp management issues I wouldn’t be pushing the book on you in the first place.



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Book Review: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by David DiSalvo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Fisher-Price My First Neuroscience book. Somebody should have stopped him from publishing the introduction, it was so awkward that I almost stopped reading the book.

If you make it through that, it’s a primer on neuroscience and cognitive psych, citing the usual bunch of studies you would have learned about in a Psych 101 gen ed. The gorilla basketball experiment, the marshmallow one, monkeys creating a token economy, you know the drill.

The science was sturdy and the takeaway is that our brains are organized to prefer short-term benefits over the long-term promise of benefits due to an innate understanding of uncertainty, which served us fine living in the caves, but doesn’t fly as well trading crypto.







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Book Review: A Billion Wicked Thoughts

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire by Ogi Ogas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this book. I’ve got this problem when I love books too much, I’ll wait to review them so I can let everything percolate and get my thoughts in order. Problem is, much like when you don’t write down a dream right after waking up, you lose details. I finished this one over a week ago and I’ve been turning it over in my head ever since, but it was so convoluted that I’m worried I’ve lost some of the plot.

Here we go. The Largest Experiment wasn’t an experiment, but a comparative, blind meta-analysis of porn searches across gender, age, and orientation variables. The results wind up falling in lockstep alignment with the narrative pushed by evolutionary psychology since its inception in the 50s, which is why there’s so much high-pitched keening from all these other reviewers. Evolutionary biology and its appendages have decidedly not been asked to the prom in 2021.

The beauty of this non-experiment is all the data is naturalistic observation, beamed in directly from the crusty consoles of these degenerate perverts without their knowledge. Seems unethical, doesn’t it? That’s what makes it so hot.

The somewhat antiquated conclusions drawn from this ironically voyeuristic analysis of internet voyeurism is that men are cocked, locked, and ready to rock at virtually all times, assuming normal amygdal function and dopamine sensitization, because men tend to be attracted to individual parts. Not like in an Ed Gein way, normally. But men can do just fine looking at a super zoom-in of tiddies, because their brains are typically wired to respond to visual cues.

As contrasted to the average woman, where the arousal process tends to be much more psychological and convoluted. The odious comparison they draw in the book is with someone named Miss Marple, who I am too young and cool to know about, but by context clues deduce that she’s some sort of horny, geriatric detective. Women need a sequence of different things for arousal – very few of them can just look supercuts of big ol’ donguses and be ready to go – and the usual suspects tend to include things like status, attention, emotional connection, power, safety vs danger (which operates on a sort of sliding scale, both with their moistening potential), and actual physical attractiveness across several domains, all added somewhere in the mix. You don’t need all of them, but you need at least a couple.

Another fascinating little quirk of female arousal discussed in the book is there’s often such a significant disconnect that the brain doesn’t realize that the body’s aroused. In a neat little experiment they gauged the physiological, sexual readiness of both men and women when exposed to pictures of straight porn, gay porn, lesbian porn, neutral stimuli, and monkeys having sex, then asked the participants to rate how aroused they were by each stimulus in the moment.

Men had a direct 1:1 correlation. If they were gay, gay porn did it for them; if they were straight, straight and lesbian porn did it for them, and their self-report arousal matched what it said on the pressure cuff around their ding-a-ling.

Women’s results were all over the place. In most participants, physiological arousal was triggered by every sexually charged image, including – INCLUDING! – the monkeybang, whereas self-report of arousal varied widely between women, but generally across categories you’d expect (straight women generally preferring straight and gay images, lesbians preferring lesbian images, though by no means with the same numerical frequency or intensity as happened for the men). The take-home is that lady parts were pretty much always ready to go when sex as a concept was present, but were so often vetoed by the frontal lobes, and so quickly, that the woman herself wasn’t even aware of it, or of her own physiological arousal.

Because of the differences, the book tried to make the comparison that porn is to men as romance novels (or smutty fanfiction) are to women. It seems counterintuitive from whichever side of the road you’ve been assigned, but when you look at the data they compiled, especially subscription rates to these paysites across gender lines and their, ahem, use… it tracks. Especially when you consider that both of these things are peddling an unrealistic fantasy.

In porn, women are rendered objects. There’s no emotion or personality in the mix, unless some kink requires it, because the end-all is that these digitized dreamgirls are the sum of secondary sex characteristics. Sex objects in the purest conceptualization, and distillates of these visual, sexual cues, breasts and butt and legs and hips and, if you can spare one, a half-decent face. The fantasy sold to habitually porn-consuming men (Coomers, in the parlance) is of compliant sex robots frankensteined together from all the best parts for rapid, goal-oriented, emotionally vacant sex. If the woman speaks, it is to insist that her life is changed by the present sexual experience taking place, and upon completion (as defined by male orgasm, of course) there is an immediate decoupling and everyone goes their separate ways, no muss, no fuss, no further words spoken.

This type of sex is possible, of course. Through Allah, all things are possible. But it’s the exception, and not the rule. And if you’re cranking your hog to porn a few times a week (or a few times a day, in the case of the addicted), the expectation of that fantasy encroaches on your understanding of reality, and supplants it. That’s a tall order for your average woman, who has never even watched porn.

Because she’s busy reading The Baron’s Secret Mistress and getting… maybe not equivalently hot and bothered by it, but comparably. The sex is sort of an afterthought in lady smut, because the sex isn’t the point so much as is the emotions surrounding the sex because, as established, female arousal is a psychosexual Rube Goldberg machine.

The love interest in these works trend to type, too. They are dark, brooding, strong, dangerous. Mention will be made of their chiseled jaws, and perhaps of their powerful thighs. They are sought after, and unfailingly rakish. They are powerful. They occupy a high strata in whatever society they’re in – if he is a Viking he will be a chieftain, if he is a pirate he will be the captain, if he is a brigand he will be a sort of jacked, smirking Robin Hood, never a Little John or a Friar Tuck.

They will be rich. There isn’t much of a market for “The Long-Haul Trucker’s Concubine” or “The Forbidden Doublewide Trailer”, for some reason.

They will be heartbreakers. They will sometimes even be rapists; that’s an alarmingly popular trope in this kind of fiction.

And then, over time, the hypermasculine caricature that is the love interest will realize, often after a chance encounter with the protagonist’s magic hoo-hoo (operant definition provided by Ogi Ogas), that his life of freedom and philandering has been a sham leading up to the moment that he met the heroine, and he has been able to think of nothing else since. This culminates in a climactic, over-the-top declaration of love, “It’s you, it’s always been you” style, which the heroine will magnanimously accept, resulting in happily ever after.

In the same way the average woman cannot do that thing you want her to do from porn because she can’t hold her breath for four minutes, the average man will never become unhinged in his obsession with your “beautiful and unique you-ness” (ill-defined as that may be even in the novels) and ejaculate the innermost workings of his heart aloud to you on some windswept Scottish crag during a pounding storm, the rain plastering your hair to your head, his muscled chest heaving, his eyes, previously so commanding, now desperate, pleading for your answer.

The average man will, however, play Call of Duty for hours, and fart into the couch.

The book spent more time on porn than on romance novels, presumably because the data was much more direct and much more available. It drew some peculiar conclusions about popular trends in pornography, and in the sociosexual landscape of our age in general. I could pontificate about it for hours, but I’ve got things to do, and I’m sure you do too. I’ll try to make it brief.

Age was the most sought-after category and one of the most significant cues for men, but that could be due to how it was factored in. “Teen”, “mature”, “milf”, “stepmom”, etc. all got swept into the same category, whereas something like “nurse” had less wiggle room. The early chapters comparing different categories of porn and their popularities were eye-opening.

Ogas’ postulation on the growing popularity of cuckoldry was especially fascinating, since it seems like such a counterintuitive thing, with our main evolutionary drive as men being certainty of paternity. The suggestion is that’s exactly the point. Evo bio has a grody old chestnut that says the scoop shape of the penis and the presence of specialized cells in semen that are only there to kill other, foreign sperm suggest that the sexual encounters of early sapiens could get somewhat… crowded. From a perspective of natural selection, seeing another male potentially impregnating the female on whom you called impregnatin’ dibs could serve to arouse you (the cuckold) because it is critical to the survival of your genes that you get in there NOW and undo what he just did!

Which was a possible explanation for why men are so obsessed with wieners. The female eye tends to gloss right over them, taking them in as part of the totality, but the studies suggest that males, regardless of sexual orientation, find them train-wreck fascinating. And that sensitivity to the penis as a sexual cue was then used as a potential explanation for why transsexual porn is overwhelmingly consumed by heterosexual men; gays rarely found it to be very interesting.

Another peculiarity was the establishment of gay men being attracted to traditional markers of masculinity, and so much of gay porn is “about” straight men. I’m a cishet shitlord so I’m trying to step carefully in my paraphrasing, but the take-home was that, although the stereotype of flamboyance serves as a sort of marker to identify other gays in the wild, the overwhelming majority of gay men are more attracted to stubble-and-calluses machismo.

Which would also serve to explain their general disinterest in tgirls. It seems circular, I know, but I’m leaving out hundreds of citations and data points. If you want to be convinced, read the book.

In fact, if anything of this struck you as interesting, (and it should if you have a pulse), read the book. Draw your own conclusions. It might make you mad, it might make you disgusted, but it’ll certainly make you think.





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Book Review: The Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method: Own Your Mind, Master Your Biology, and Activate Your Full Human Potential by Wim Hof

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Here’s the thing. The method is sound. Wim Hof unlocked a bizarre neo-yogic biohacking technique that allows him to manually override functions of his autonomic nervous system. All you have to do is breathe in an incredibly unnatural way for twenty minutes and boom, you’re immune to external temperature changes for a while. The same concept can also be applied to pain.

And if this book were just a how-to manual on how to hotwire the meat shell that limits us all, I would have given it five stars. Unfortunately, it’s also an autobiography of Wim Hof, who seems like a deeply unlikable man.

That’s not to say he’s an unpleasant man. He really leans into that 60s throwback peace and love shit you get from every white dreadlocked ketamine dealer who lives in a van, and they can be decent conversationalists, in small doses and accompanied with doses. What rankled me is how he kept using the hippie-dippie shtick as a means of justifying his lifelong, jubilant parasitism.

He begins by talking about his sustained joblessness, give or take a paper route. He brags about squatting in an abandoned punk house for ten years, which really helped him center his chi, do yoga, and play guitar. For ten years. He eventually met a wife in his punk house – the fact that she was also a career squatted could serve as a sort of Chekov’s gun for her emotional stability – and pumped her full of a veritable fleet of welfare babies. Fortunately, Hof continues to boast, the Netherlands has among the most comprehensive and developed social programs in the world. He fails to mention the Dutch tax rate is around 50%, but that’s probably because he’s never paid them.

But he explains to the foolish wagie reader that this multigenerational mooching was imperative to his development of the Wim Hof method of controlled hyperventilation. He also demonstrates its efficacy by setting arbitrary world records whenever he gets into an argument with someone, if his anecdotes are any indication.

“And to prove it’s okay to drink beer, I am going to go outside in the winter and hold a martial arts horse stance… for three hours!”

Okay. That’s cool. I’d be much more impressed if you held something like a job, to support your five children.

Of course, he has money now, and his kids all work with him at the Wim Hof Foundation for Cold Showers and Goofy Breathing. In pursuit of peace, love, and the circus, of course. He has only ever wanted to give back his endless, beautiful, shining, perfect cascade of love back to all of humanity to bring us closer and unite us as one, etc.

He talks like a cultist. Much of the book is hard to get through because he goes off on these peacenik rambles about the connectedness of human beings, and how all you need is love.

But for as much as I dislike this person conceptually, I’m glad he stumbled on this method, and I’d like to see it get more clinical traction. Early trials have demonstrated that the Wim Hof method can be used to combat and, in some cases, eradicate certain chronic diseases, including intractable autoimmune and gastric diseases like fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, IBS, a whole mess of them. Diseases that are typically treatment and medication resistant.

The thing is, these diseases often have a pronounced psychological component that nobody likes to talk about because so many people conflate psychogenic symptoms with malingering. And since the Wim Hof method does, by his own admission (and unbearable blustering) operate on a personal and emotional level, grounding the practitioner and allowing them not only to become acquainted with themselves but also to learn physically active coping skills that recalibrate the CNS and sort of speed-meditate… it’s possible that the physiological benefits of the method, with regard to chronic pain, only become physiological by patching the leaks in the psyche.

For the record, I think he’s nuttier than squirrel shit, but less of a quack than many actual doctors. Cold showers, deep breathing, and outdoor exercise do attune you with your nature, which does improve every aspect of your physical and mental well-being. His little toolkit can be used to do impossible things, like climb Mt Everest in a day without altitude sickness. He has done things that should have killed him, and they didn’t, and he has taught other people to do them, and they didn’t die either. That’s proof enough.

But don’t buy the cult of personality hype. Wooks is wooks, and you can pursue an agenda of universal holism and be responsible enough to hold a job at the same time, no matter what they tell you.



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Book Review: The Artificial Ape

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution by Timothy Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A fascinating book about how using tools makes us human, and how that’s not necessarily a compliment.

The main thrust of Taylor’s argument is that we started using tools that shouldered much of the burden that we would otherwise need actual shoulders for, so the shoulders we had went a little vestigial from generations of disuse. I know that analogy sounds kind of clunky, but it’s literally what happened in the case of our 10% loss in bone density over the last few thousand years.

The perspective makes sense. Orangutans are strong enough to rip the lower jaw clean off of a crocodile, and have been observed doing it, so don’t fuck around. But that kind of power requires a lot of upkeep, at the expense of other systems. We had a common ancestor 12 million years ago. The human genetic code contains the blueprints to be that kind of jacked manimal, but instead we started throwing pointy sticks around. We didn’t need to be that strong. The strength, or lack thereof, wasn’t making that big of a dent in the gene pool anymore.

Bipedalism was our first big advantage, and we’ve been coasting on that ever since. Hands free mode let us tinker, and the clubs, spears, and baby slings (for carrying, not for throwing) let us outcompete pretty much everything else in the world at the time. Fire was our next big W, and we became so reliant on it that we lost a large portion of our intestine, which is why gorillas can get donkey brolic on nothing but nectarines and foliage while a vegan diet is a death sentence for any human outside of the 1st world. Our stomachs aren’t long enough, or multiple enough, to break down the plants into nourishment. Cooked meat was a shortcut to an unprecedented amount of easily absorbed nutrition. Why waste the biomass maintaining a massive gorilla colon for processing 40 lbs of roots and leaves a day when we’re getting everything we need in a pound of mammoth flank and a few handfuls of high-glucose berries?

What I found most interesting was the sort of fork-in-the-road that our skulls and jaws took. When you look at animals with a preposterous bite force like a gorilla (1300 PSI) or a pitbull (2000 PSI), you see the long, threatening canine incisors first. For good reason. Evolution has programmed us to steer clear of seeing those incisors pointed our way, as it often precedes getting got. In order for the canine incisors to be functional, they have to be deeply rooted into bone. A pitbull’s teeth wouldn’t be much use if they snapped off every time he clamped his big square head onto something.

But for those teeth to support that bite force, the muscles wrapping around the skull have to connect to occipital bone. That’s the big knot of bone toward the back of a dog’s skull. All the great apes have them, too, except for us. Those powerful biting muscles sort of squeeze the braincase, which requires the bone to be thicker and sturdier overall, but that’s okay. Fair trade. Most animals have much greater need for dangerous teeth than for the wasted space of extra cranial capacity.

Enter man, a scavangening omnivore who can comfortably walk a hundred miles a day, supplements his arsenal with his lethal little arts-and-crafts, and eats his prey cooked. Absolutely no need for those canine incisors anymore. No need for the muscles supporting them, either – no matter how much gristle is in the steak, it won’t compare to the 8+ hours a day spent chewing if all your food was raw. And thinner, more pliant cranial bones make for an easier escape from the birth canal.

Nature did what nature does, and as those muscles loosened as they became less necessary for survival. In conjunction with our easy nutritional intake and the burgeoning protoculture that comes from being social animals…. our brains exploded to three times their previous size, maybe? No one actually knows why that happened, but Taylor’s guess seems as good as any.

Great book. I knocked off one star because I found it dry in some parts, but that’s to be expected, the man’s an archeologist and most of them aren’t Indiana Jones. Well worth the read if you care about anything I said in this review.



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Book Review: Industrial Society and Its Future

Industrial Society and Its FutureIndustrial Society and Its Future by Theodore J. Kaczynski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only thing Teddy hates more than civilization is the god damn liberals.

His rhetoric is by now archetypal of shrub-crouching anarchoprimitivists, and relies on the same general arguments appealing to nature and drawing attention to the absolute state of the place, and humanity’s psychological and “moral” decay since we really doubled down on agriculture.

Society, as we know it and jocker .gif live in it, was a mistake because it runs so contrary to what evolution programmed us for. We did just fine for two million years living in accord with the land, “in the hands of the gods” as Daniel Quinn succinctly put it, until about 10,000 years ago when we decided to start watchdogging plots of dirt that grew calorically dense but nutritionally vacant grasses that, truth told, we don’t digest so good. Finally given a reason to go to war, we started going to war. Progress marched on, technology continued to advance, and with every new jump it brought with it the promise of a better, more fulfilling, and easier life that ultimately culminated in actual slavery (before giving way to the modern, wage kind), war, murder, rape, animal abuse, all of it. Name a bad thing and you can eventually trace it back to the technological advances that brought us out of the shrub.

Most of these green and black philosophers make vague allusions to how bad farming was, usually connecting it to being cast out from Eden (whether they mean to or not), and drop hints that something must be done, nudge nudge wink wink. Teddy makes his suggested solutions pretty obvious by, as Epictetus advised, embodying his philosophy. He also takes things a step further by suggesting all technology starts as a key and becomes its own lock. Every new bit of tech that guarantees simplification of life leads to greater reliance on that tech, and its providers, ultimately adding another layer of dependency, which takes its psychological toll.

The main thrust of Teddy’s argument is that man has an ingrained psychological need to be free, like every other animal, and wandering around the savanna scrounging out each day’s existence provided more freedom than does farming, sitting in a cubicle, or being a mathematics professor. The further we get from this freedom, the more we lean on the allowances and permissions granted us by the “masters”, the keyholder technocrats, the more miserable and neurotic we become.

Teddy believes the system benefits no one but the system, which is why we’re feeding children drugs to make them sit still in school, throughout the years where every comparable animal would be running, playing, and exploring, so they can grow up to become automatons of appropriate malleability. Obviously, no creature can distance itself from its nature so completely, so maintaining the status quo into adulthood many require further prescriptions, recreational chemicals like smonk and drink, and that good good Netflix, to maximize docility.

He suggests the power process (a psych term he seems to have invented for this manifesto) denied by modern life is sublimated into hobbies and work, so people pursue things like an academic career, collecting Magic the Gathering cards, or maximizing their body count (in either sex or homicide), providing them a sense of purpose that would otherwise be met with daily Darwinian attempts at survival and reproduction.

He also smashes libs unceremoniously and remorselessly. Here are a few occasions on which the lib status was adjusted to destroyed:

Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman, or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual white males from middle- to upper-middle-class families.

The language in this screed is a little dated, my dude, but I trust your judgment regarding university professors.

It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never had a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car to his house. It is the man whose need for the power process has been satisfied during his life who is best prepared to accept the end of that life.

In which the fear of death evaporates by a life well lived. Socratic.

The people who rise to positions of power in leftist movements tend to be leftist of the most power-hungry type because power-hungry people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power. Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement, there are many leftists of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to oppose them. They need their faith in the movement, and because they cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders.

This comes tailing a hundred or so pages about how leftists are crippled by their personal insecurity and so enroll themselves in massive collectivists movements because it’s only through that union, through joining with this mob, that they can conceive of having personal power.

If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to invent problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.

He also argues that these libs, these despicable libs, tend to champion causes that are already part of the established status quo. Virtue signaling wasn’t a coined term when he wrote this, but it’s the same concept. I don’t have it marked, but let me paraphrase:

A leftist of this type will come out in staunch defense of something like racism being bad, which is a socially accepted perspective as it stands. The ones who argue that racism is good are social aberrants. Everyone agrees racism is bad. So when this leftist gets on the soapbox and bellows “racism is BAD you stupid FUCKERS! How many TIMES do I have to SAY IT?”, they’re not necessarily doing it to advance an anti-racist agenda, as the overwhelming majority of “the system’s” agenda is already vocally anti-racist.

Well, who could say? If Teddy was as smart as they claim, he wouldn’t be serving four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years right now. The philosophy makes sense in spots, but it’s predicated on a lot of assumptions that you need to be pretty disaffected to accept in the first place.

Four stars. It lost a star because I don’t want to be on any more watch lists than I already am.

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Book Review: Ishmael

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Ishmael, #1)Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A hugely condescending gorilla bullies the narrator about his affiliation with civilized society and the mythology perpetuated by agriculture.

The titular Ishmael puts out an ad in a newspaper encouraging starry-eyed idealists who want to save the world to come to his darkened office, whereupon he talks down to them both for the ongoing ecocide of their species and their mistreatment of the Jews.

The narrator is a monke masochist and eagerly returns day after day to receive another telepathic lambasting from a pompous gorilla who, we are repeatedly assured, smells “meaty”.

Ishmael tells him that every society has a creation myth, and humanity’s prevailing myth of evolution, while correct, is organized so that creation is complete with the coming of man. Man is the reason for the creation, the world is man’s to conquer, and these are the reasons man is such an absolute asshole to ecology in general.

That’s the Takers mentality, or the people who opted in to the agricultural revolution and all the grody little kinks to our individual and collective psychology it brought with it. The Leavers are the isolated bands of humans who opted to keep living in accordance with nature, and they’re doing just peachy keen, as they had been for 2 million years. At least, they were peachy keen, until the Takers’ unrelenting destructive grabassery threatened (and continues to threaten) an extinction-level event.

There was a cool little Biblical analogy spun in there, where the story of Genesis is an allegory written by the Semites (Leavers, nomadic herders) and co-opted by the Caucasians (Takers, agriculturalists from the fertile crescent. Don’t be alarmed, this is before Caucasian was synonymous with white) after the smoke cleared.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the belief that the eater can distinguish exactly that, which was otherwise left up to the gods. When the first farmers started stockpiling grain, they were no longer at the mercy of the fates. They knew what was right. Their way was right, and anybody who disagreed was in for a good old fashioned reckoning.

Like any good fledgling empire, they expanded recklessly. They ran across the Semites, ancestors of the Hebrews, who were pastoralists, and they started killing them because they needed the land. The Semites, as you can imagine, were baffled.

This brings us to Cain and Able. Able represents the Semites, favored of God, his very chosen people, and Cain represents his murderer, the increasingly militarizing Caucasians, decidedly not their brother’s keeper for the first time in recorded history. And guess what that makes the mark of Cain?

The gorilla teaches the narrator that every civilization before us has crashed and burned, empires keep turning to ash, and we’re next in line, with the added bonus of destroying most of the environment.

“What do we do?” pleads the narrator.
“Knock it off,” says his instructor.
“How?”
“Destroy industrialized society and go camping again.”
“No,” says the narrator, “I mean what do I do, personally?”
“Teach 100 people.”

Cop out! Raise awareness? Come on, Ishmael. Nut up and advocate ecoterrorism. We’re all thinking it.

In the end of the book, Ishmael dies of pneumonia before the narrator can rescue him from the carnival sideshow. This was the masterstroke, in my opinion, because he didn’t need to die. When the narrator offered to help him, he insisted he wouldn’t live “off anyone’s largesse”. He didn’t even tell the narrator that he was sick.

He was trying to ignore it. He was too proud to change what he was doing, too proud to reach out for help, and it wound up killing him.

The same way we’re killing the world.

Hooooo, don’t it just give you chills? Five monke out of five.

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Book Review: Civilized to Death

Civilized to Death: What Was Lost on the Way to ModernityCivilized to Death: What Was Lost on the Way to Modernity by Christopher Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a big fan of Sex at Dawn, but that was more specialized. This one is wide-ranging and deeply disappointed with the absolute state of the place.

The take home, as is usually the take home in my beloved unga bunga bullshit books, is that the more civilized we became, the further we got from ourselves, which is why the modern world is such a seething morass of anxiety and rage. Ryan draws from the left-field guesses about our origins that constitute anthropology along with modern studies of hunter-gatherer tribes to conclude that we probably enjoyed like a lot more when it was simple and we were living in accordance with the animal drives embedded with us over the millions of years it took for us to turn into hairless apes.

We’re living in overcrowded Skinner boxes. We were never meant to see this many people, let alone see them every day. We were never meant to intake this much data. We’re highly adaptable, which is why we’re still alive as a species, but this is a freshwater fish in a saltwater tank situation. The adults are miserable because they eat things that aren’t food and spend all their time doing fake things that they don’t care about. The children are doomed because they’re kept confined and medicated to oblivion if they behave like children, especially during the federally mandated eight to ten daily hours of Sitting Still and Doing Math that constitutes early education. Being forced to live so counter to our instincts causes that civilization discontent Freud was popping off about, which leads to anxiety, rage, madness, an increasingly worsening world that makes the next generation suffer all the more.

Most jarring for me was the chapter on death and dying. Ryan champions a sort of stoic, honorable acceptance of death, reflected in primitive societies where the old, feeble, useless, or potential liabilities would take it upon themselves to functionally commit suicide by nature. Horrifying for us to consider, until you take a closer look at the state of the health care industry. A full 33% of the health care budget, 33% of all money that pertains to medicine in America, goes toward the 5% of people in the health care system who are going to die that year. It’s a huge money funnel dedicated to prolonging the process of dying. CPR, ventilators, chemotherapy, all these last ditch “well, something has to work!” efforts don’t heal the sick. It’s a racket, a ritualized worship of pain that ends up bankrupting whole families for generations.

It’s hard to read books like this and hope that the end isn’t well and truly nigh, especially in light of the Corona outbreak. So many people are hyperventilating at the prospect of things “never getting back to normal!”

Why would you want things to go back to normal?

I’ll see y’all in Thunderdome.

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Book Review: The Human Swarm

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and FallThe Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall by Mark W. Moffett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An exhaustively researched analysis of human tribalism and the evolutionary underpinnings of in-group selection, cultural identifiers, and racism, for some reason put together by a tropical biologist who specializes in insects.

Humans are unique in that they can pass other, strange humans on the street without it becoming an ordeal. Very few social animals are capable of ignoring one another due to instinctual acknowledgement of potential competitors. We’ve adapted to being able to disregard strangers, but that’s not the same thing as acceptance, and our monkey-mind still has us giving preferential treatment to those we deem to belong to our group/tribe/band, which is usually divided along lines of nationality, religion, and ethnicity. You’re invited to feel guilty about it, but the full gauntlet of implicit bias psych tests demonstrate that shades of bigotry come standard with the human portfolio, and no amount of re-learning can shake the heuristic from its root.

Neither does this give us carte blanche, so to speak, to be 12-year-old Call of Duty gamers. This reflexive identification with others like us at the expense of others not like us only registers for a few milliseconds before our higher reasoning circuits kick in and we’re able to make up our own minds. That initial impression could color the rest of the interaction, but it’s up to us and our utilization of the orbitoprefrontals as to how. It’s like a balloon popping. There’s no getting around the startle reflex, but then it’s your choice to either laugh it off, or to curl up into a corner and shriek until sedated.

A lot of the book was about hunter-gatherer societies, which I consider to be my jam as I am a major proponent of being joined in the shrub by my brethren. They tend to exhibit the usual human level of xenophobia, scaling in severity dependent on how violent their societies are, but with the exception of cross-tribe exchanges, usually of women, as a means of avoiding the incest taboo. They are avoidant of leaders as we know them, suggesting that human rulership is a relatively recent development; the anthropologists all agree that in these close-knit tribal communities, humility is the coin of the realm, and braggarts are smacked right tf down by everyone else. It’s common for the tribe to heap praise on the hunter who bagged tonight’s dinner, while the hunter is apparently expected to say things like “No, this was the smallest one there!” and “I was just lucky”, stuff like that. Self-aggrandizement is viewed with either suspicion, best case, if not outright scorn.

We’ve come a long way.

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