July 30, 2012

"Self-reliance — the new edgy lifestyle for the trendsetters among America’s youth?"

Glenn Reynolds asks in a NY Post column.
In today’s culture of immediate reward, a work ethic centering on self-discipline and the ability to defer gratification is almost, to use a favorite term of the avant-garde, transgressive. Hmm: With so much of our economy and politics now based on the absence of those characteristics, maybe it really is a bit transgressive.
He's looking at a new reality show — "Princess" — that makes entertainment out of forcing young women how to live within their means. And he's comparing it to pornography, which isn't exciting anymore. Supposedly. Despite the big "Shades of Grey" trend (which he mentions).

Could self-reliance become trendy? Maybe if it's imposed on some annoyingly bratty girl on television, but self-reliance is a low-profile matter in real life. It's about not getting noticed, not asking for help. Pornography is truly exciting when it interacts with shame. That's why the word transgression comes into play. There used to be shame in taking advantage of handouts and welfare, and people would apply themselves quite seriously to the tasks of remaining independent — staying off "the dole," as people used to say.

These days, half of Americans are getting government benefits. We've gotten comfortable leaning on each other, and where's the shame? People feel entitled, and we don't want to lose what we have, even if we perceive that what we're depending on might be/must be collapsing. But even if we did feel shame about our dependence, becoming independent would not be the escape from shame that one feels from pornography. When a person escapes shame through pornography, he is going ahead and indulging in the things that were the cause of shame. In the analogy, it's dependence on others that would be the source of the shame, and avoiding that dependence would be refraining from doing that which you're ashamed of. So quite aside from the present-day absence of shame, the analogy doesn't work.

You can't get to excitement and edginess unless you transgress — you move toward the behavior you were ashamed of. It might nevertheless — and for different reasons — feel beautifully rewarding to behave so well that you don't suffer from shame. But let's be clear about the analogy: self-reliance corresponds to chastity.


Brian Brown said...

gotten comfortable leaning on each other, and where's the shame?

I'm one of the, shrinking in number, being leaned on.

And I'm not "comfortable" at all.

This isn't the social contract I signed up for.

rhhardin said...

It's not about independence but rather not hitting the other guy on the head and taking his stuff, even if you have a majority.

Self-sufficiency independence is the road to extreme poverty.

The rule is specialize and trade.

Far from independent, you have to figure out what will make the other guy better off and supply it for less than it costs you.

It's knowing what to do, not independence, that makes it work.

KCFleming said...

Agreed; we don't lean on each other. That's an Elizabeth Warren obfuscation of the truth that some lean on others.

edutcher said...

Maybe Ann doesn't get it, but leaning on other people is supposed to be respectable. Going all survivalist by being self-reliant becomes very edgy. We're supposed to like our chains. Choom said so; the Lefties have been saying so for years and making anybody who wants to be self-reliant look, well..., strange.

It's almost like you're part of a militia.

Next thing you know, these crazy kids will start feeling independent the way their great-great-great grandparents did. Start reading about how they made their own stuff.

Phil said...

I don't read his analogy as inconsistent with yours. Chastity, is a specific example--quite the appropriate one I agree given his starting point--of deferring gratification. It is being self-reliant rather than having a need to have sex on other than one's own terms.

If you don't think there is shame implied these days in having traditional values, well you aren't fit to be mayor of Boston, Chicago or even NYC that is for sure.

bagoh20 said...

Aging is not going to be kind to the modern leaners. Nothing is so unrewarding and regretted in the long run as is sloth. It can only be enjoyed in the moment, and afterward is seen as a very poor substitute for how you could have spent that time, time you never get back.

And many are not leaning; they are riding high on my back and their feet haven't touched the ground since they crawled across the floor to mom's teat.

Lem said...

Good call Pogo.

I didn't understand what the professor was objecting to, until she suggested a better alternative at the end.. so I went back, read it again and this time it made sense.

Chastity... its cleaner.

Unknown said...

"...There used to be shame in taking advantage of handouts and welfare, and people would apply themselves quite seriously to the tasks of remaining independent — staying off "the dole," as people used to say.

These days, half of Americans are getting government benefits. We've gotten comfortable leaning on each other, and where's the shame? People feel entitled, and we don't want to lose what we have, even if we perceive that what we're depending on might be/must be collapsing..."

Yeah, voting for Obama helped accelerate this trend quite a bit.

But that was a completely obvious moral hazard of him winning.

53% of the electorate shrugged their shoulders and collectively said "we want ours."

Well, welcome to America's future, where the parasites outnumber the hosts.

Cannibalism isn't a sustainable model.

But Liberals are too smart to see that.

HA HA HA said...

As far as "leaning on each other", we've always been comfortable helping each other out. Barn-raising, helping out with the harvest, all that sort of mutual assistance thing. If you took more than you gave, you were regarded with pity. It was shameful to be a net drain. When charity is local, there are social sanctions against taking it, and the recipient is surrounded by people setting a better example, and who will personally benefit both financially and emotionally by getting the recipient on his own two feet. You have to be wary of romanticizing an age that was poorer than ours and much rougher in many ways, but human beings have been living together in small communities for a very, very long time. We've got some practice at it.

What's new is outright parasitism. What's new is the end of the "mutual" part: Leaning, and more than just leaning, on people you've never met and to whom you feel you owe nothing in return, socially or financially. Cruelly, the people most completely released from social pressure to pull their socks up are the ones who most need it. Not that progressives have a problem with that. The underclass are politically useful in direct proportion to their misery.

That's new. The left wants us to pretend that the traditional American flat hierarchy of mutual aid, for which we all have an ingrained respect, is identical to their neo-feudal hierarchy of parasitic, impersonal, non-reciprocal obligations.

But that's a joke. You can't industrialize neighborliness.

Lem said...

Chastity is the counter to Obamas Julia.

Although, if Obama is the one, he will still work in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

Btw, by Chastity I'm assuming its not Bono.. issues of transformation are beyond my hermeneutics ;)

hawkeyedjb said...

"This isn't the social contract I signed up for."

You didn't build that welfare state. Somebody else did that.

Rob said...

"Leaning on each other"????

How about leaning on our lenders? Leaning on the next generation?
Leaning toward bankruptcy?

Carol said...

"afterward is seen as a very poor substitute for how you could have spent that time"

Oh they'll never admit it..not nowadays, when the style is to never admit one's regrets or self-criticism.

Now it's all guilt-based anger turned outward at the state or Society for not paying enough benefits, not catering enough to this or that perceive racism or bias or disability.

People are full of fucking excuses now.

The Godfather said...

In evaluating the significance of the statistic about 50% of households receiving government benefits, it's appropriate to take account of the nature of Social Security and Medicare. These programs were sold to us over the years as "insurance", something that we paid for while we were working, so we could get the benefit of them in retirement. I think most people who receive payments from these programs don't see themselves as "on the dole". They see them the same way you would see a pension that you paid for while working.

Ralph L said...

I was about to say, Godfather, that's why SS and Medicare will be so hard to reform. People thought they were paying for their future benefits, when in reality they were paying their parents' benefits, and they didn't have enough children to pay theirs.

Several years ago, I read that nearly everyone gets their SS contributions back with interest by their early 70's. Benefits are already proportionally larger for low income people, so means testing or raising the income ceiling will only make it more unfair to higher income workers.

chickelit said...

bagoh20 said...
Aging is not going to be kind to the modern leaners.

I have to admit "leaners" has a nice double entendre. I approve.

Biff said...

I worked for several years at a very large, very well known multinational company. The company decided to reduce its US footprint, so it shuttered its main US research facility. (I had no idea that pink slips were actually pink! At least in my state, they are!)

Anyway, at the time, I was making a rather comfortable salary, my company offered a very reasonable severance package to the entire staff, and, since I had been living well within my means, I had ample savings. There was no question in my mind that I would either find reasonable employment or start my own business long before I would feel any financial pressure.

It never even occurred to me to file for government unemployment benefits. I walked into our department's conference room, and it seemed like half the staff, including a couple of VPs were all filling out applications for unemployment benefits. The lowest paid person in the room probably had a $65,000 base salary, and the highest would have been at least $250k, which would have been dwarfed by his stock options and performance bonuses. An HR person was there, and she handed a state benefit application form to me. I declined the form and left quietly. She looked at me as if I had just landed from Mars.

I learned that I caused quite a stir. People really thought I was being stupid and self-righteous for declining to file for state assistance. I had almost two years of salary in the bank and in liquid investments. Why would I want to receive a few hundred bucks from the state for a month or so? Spend it on people who really need it, I thought! As far as I know, there was only one other person in the department who did not file. He had a reputation as a solid, boring, church-going fellow. In contrast, the VP was bragging about getting back a few pennies from the state. Maybe he had a point, but still...

As an aside, my dad was a laborer, a tough, old school laborer, and the early 70s oil embargo hit the construction industry very hard. As a result, Dad was out of work for months, and pretty much the only time I ever saw him on the verge of tears was the day he finally relented and filed for unemployment benefits. Like father, like son, I guess.

Swen said...

"This isn't the social contract I signed up for."

Darth Obama: "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

Paul said...

So self reliance is now 'trendy'.

Hahahahahaha.... so us old geezers have been 'trendy' for decades!

Face it folks. welfare is a dead end. Socialism is a dead end. Any 'universal healthcare' will be a dead end (just find out how shoddy the NHS hospitals are in the U.K. and you will see why.)

Self reliance is just so John Wayneish it took almost 40 years to catch on! But I sure hope it does.

Caroline said...

self-reliance corresponds to chastity.

Self-reliance corresponds to masturbation.

Could self-reliance become trendy?

How many articles quoting young (and not-so-young) Hollywood celebs bragging about how their vibrator is "better than sex with a man" does it take before we spot a trend?

One can argue whether masturbation is a traditional "value"; but it is unarguably a tradition practiced by untold generations.

Duncan said...

I think there is a certain transgressive aspect to self reliance. People do consider it extremely deviate if you mention that you don't have a Social Security number or if you are one of the .8% of Americans over 65 who are not covered by the Medicare system. Or even if you make obvious observations like "Public Education is the most frequently committed form of child abuse in America today."