Sociology is a Science

People and Fighting and Brain Damage



It’s becoming better and better understood how massive blows to the skull bloody the brain and prematurely age the body.

Football players and boxers are the easiest cases to find. The culprit is a protein, tau, which builds in the brain as nerve axons are severed (these axons, and their synapses are the physiological structure of the mammal brain). Tau inhibits the growth of new synaptic connections, while, of course, preventing the re-growth of the ones severed after each successive concussion the athlete endures. 

The build-up of tau protein causes Alzheimers disease among countless other more subtle forms of mental deterioration.

So, I guess sports that injure brains aren’t the best. Luckily, I don’t really give a shit about football. It’s too fucking slow and un-athletic a sport, but the guys are great athletes (most), no disputes there. 

I do like fighting, however. Modern mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighting is fast paced, honest and brutal — modern gladiators. And not those goddamn gladiators with the red, white and blue frilly spandex underwear swinging gigantic foam toothpicks at each other.

Good mixed martial arts fighting is fairly simple; real people who just train all day to, as athletically as possible, beat the christ out of an equally skilled opponent.

Fighting is an obvious hit (pun intended bitches, I’m going for every fucking joke here) among humans, as it is probably the oldest sport known to humankind.

Thus, the UFC has gained a large degree of notoriety as the largest mixed martial arts company in the world:

Lately, however, the UFC has come under some heat from critics who say the sport poses an imminent threat to brain health, as serious damage can be done to the brain with less than a handful of serious concussions and UFC fighters routinely suffer two or three more than that throughout a career.

Fighting includes punches and elbows and knees and kicks…all of which should be to the opponents brain if one wants to win. 

The elephant in the room is that the word “fighting” has been used as a euphemism for “behaviors tailored to produce damaged brains in other humans”. If brains drive behavior, and the point of fighting is to cease the threatening behavior of another, brain damage sounds like plan A.

So the challenge for the UFC, and its president Dana White, is to find some way to promote supremely skilled brain damagers to the American public. In some ways, this is not hard. We are Americans, for chrissakes, show me some titties and some motherfucker getting blown away with a shotgun into a tanker which explodes and then more titties. So gratuitous violence….sells. 

Buuuut… do you get fighters to fight spectacular, energetic matches with one another? How do you get them to fight the “exciting” fights that the UFC profits from, and that the American public wants to see? After all, these guys know about the brain damage they are warmly inviting each time they step into the ring or cage. So, for the fighters, it pays to play it smart and safe in a fight instead of being wild and crazy  and athletic and, most of all, entertaining.

Here’s, the deal. First let’s get it straight that when UFC President Dana White (and anyone else) asks for “exciting fights,” they are asking for fights with brain damage.

Which I’m fucking fine with, by the way. If these fighters want to get in a cage and beat the soul and the shit out of one another, let ’em….But this is where the important point needs to be made…. 

We always hear about how much athletes get paid, how they are disgustingly rich and lead equally lavish and pathetic lives marked more by style and wealth than by substance and creativity. I’m with everyone on this. Kobe Bryant can go right on and get fucked by an elephant seal before he makes a penny more than 100k in my utopia (and the owners even less! The bastards!)

But fighting is different. Fighting is special. Fighting is where human grit and heart and creativity and skill and wit and strategy are on full, pure, raw display. Professional mixed martial arts fights usually only last a few rounds, maybe 3 or 4, when they’re good. And good fights, between equally talented adversaries, are physically brutal. Yes, above all, after a good fight each fighter should look like God himself came down and thunder-cock-slapped the spaghetti out of him. 

So I’m totally onboard with calling pro basketball/ tennis/ golf/ baseball/ football etc. player pay egregious and obscene to any thinking person….

But not so with fighting. Dana White should be ashamed of what he pays his athletes — the UFC should have the highest athlete pay of any sport in the world. As a very simple, basic, humane matter of human respect and decency. These guys (and GIRLS, I know, I know, just stop complaining) go to work each day in the face of guaranteed brain damage. 

Let’s agree on this, shall we? For a professional fighter to fight exciting fights is for them to seek to provide, and be open to receiving, copious helpings of brain damage. Moreover, no other major sport, with their offensively inflated salaries, asks its athletes to invite a mere fraction of the risk a typical mixed martial arts professional does over a career.

So let’s start giving the RIGHT athletes these grossly materialistic, filthy rich, lavish, lives. Let’s start treating people who put their very mental ability on the line for entertainment as the richest, most valuable among us. 

That way, though no compensation can be given for the lost vibrancy of memories and personalities in aged fighters, at least the years they DO have are essentially financially boundless. 

Gain some money, to lose one’s mind, all of life’s a trade-off, this one’s mine.




Why I Am Not On Facebook Or Twitter Or (etc.)

Your life is of the utmost fascination to you. Of course it is.

After all, it’s YOUR life.

On your facebook, you have lots of photos of your friends, many of whom you never speak to, or only rarely speak to.

On your Facebook you have wonderfully memorable photos of profoundly unique experiences such as getting drunk, eating food, or going outside.

No doubt, you also have uploaded photos of your face and appearance. You are obviously the best looking person around (or at least one of them), and the rest of us would perhaps risk a seizure were we not reminded of this.

You have posts about your thoughts throughout the day. Almost without exception, these thoughts you have illuminate the dark shroud of stupidity and boredom most of the rest of us live under.

For a moment there, I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. I was lost, my spirit divided. Then you posted “Carpe Diem” and everything started to make sense!

I had no idea you had an egg roll for lunch! 

How neat that you saw a movie! 

Are you really THAT busy today? At first I didn’t believe you, but when you uploaded a photo of your “to-do” list, I nearly broke down — you poor thing! How do you do it?

If a photo of your face is taken at the right angle, and appropriately staged with lighting, along with numerous practice photos, I am gleefully convinced of your otherwise unimaginable beauty.

You are also very clearly a fascinating person.

I’m always glad to hear about your wonderful occupation at Verizon or AT&T or Bank of America. As these jobs are very difficult to come by, and require a massive amount of intellect, you would be foolish not to remind us of your staggering accomplishments.

Your sense of humor is amazing! Everytime you post something you think is funny, I can’t stop laughing until I vomit on myself. So embarrasing. But, hey, I’m not the comedic genius. Thank goodness you think to post everything that sort of sounds a little bit humorous to you!

Oh, and keep those photos of your friends and family coming. You have a Mom and a Dad, or maybe just a Mom or maybe just a Dad. You also have friends, some are fat, some are skinny, some are tall and some are short. Some are successful and some aren’t. I would be in the dark about your dynamic peer group if it weren’t for these photos! Simply fantastic!

I’m so glad we are in contact. How sad, indeed, it would be to forego your timeless wisdom, earth-shattering accomplishments, subtle yet gut-busting sense of humor and obvious physical beauty.

Oh, and those pictures of your new baby! Look at him/her! Infant-like, some hair but not that much, can’t quite speak yet and so instead makes cute noises and he crawls instead of walks! Without these photos, I’d be forced to assume your baby looks like every other baby — thank goodness you uploaded!

Keep in touch 4 eva!


Lance Armstrong Doesn’t Matter


Lance has donated millions of dollars to fund cancer research… now that IS a big deal.

Cheating while riding a bike for cash? Is that really a big deal?

Lance Armstrong, depressing asshole, has devoted 30 or whogivesashit number of years to riding a bike.  A fucking bicycle.

This is the thing you rode with your lesbian best friend growing up, or what you took to the store when you ran out of funyuns, or your “brand new car” after each DUI. 

Nobody dedicates their life to this. This poor bastard spent each waking hour of his youth and his adult life RIDING A FUCKING BICYCLE. That’s like dedicating your life to playing UNO.

And the guy donated his success to fund cancer research

And you are going to drag him through the mud for shooting himself in the butt cheeks with some muscle juice? Shoot… people would probably do worse things to raise money for cancer.

And, besides, have you seen how skinny he is? I don’t see how he could be taking too many steroids and still keep that Paris Hilton figure. 

Absurd! Leave the guy alone, he only has one testicle.

American People and Guns


Americans are not the most trusting people in the world according to those who’ve studied the topic.

I think this is part of the reason why, when one of those untrustworthy bastards breaks into our home, we, as a nation, feel so collectively giddy blowing their brains out and foisting our tattered copy of the constitution, second amendment highlighted, into the air with our right hand while suppressing a raging boner with the left.

Hell, we’re also just a violent people, having fought a revolution for national independence fewer than a handful of generations ago.

Here are my replies to several arguments IN FAVOR of the proliferation of guns in the United States:

Restricting ownership of guns is wrong because…”I like to hunt!”

Ok, look, I’ll be honest here, I have never hunted and the idea of shooting defenseless animals for fun sounds positively psychotic. Having said this, if I was force to kill an animal, and was allowed to choose which, I would choose a human being. This, indeed, makes me positively psychotic, thus negating my first criticism.

The whole “hunting” pass time seems to share more in common with hobbies civilized people have abandoned. Consider that, in the Middle Ages, witches and warlocks were “hunted” and killed as a kind of communal cleansing for the neighborhood — just good stress relieving fun. Same with black people pre- (and post-) Civil War, and with gay people until recently and on and on.

So, clearly, the smartest of the rednecks got the magnificient idea that, since humans were going out of style as things which can be stalked and murdered for stress-relief, animals would have to do.

In my mind, this is the clearest logic explaining why most “hunting” people enjoy hunting. They like to stalk and kill stuff for the power rush, and can’t do it that much to people anymore so whatthehell.

Restricting gun ownership is wrong because…”I hunt and eat what I kill”

No you don’t, you jackass.

Restricting gun ownership is wrong because…”I need to protect my family”

Yea, ok, I can see eye-to-eye with people on this. I really would like to kill anyone who tried to enter my house to hurt me or my family — I’d feel deeply hurt and cheated if I wasn’t allowed to kill that person.

Besides, what if an intruder is armed? Then you would need a gun just to have a fighting chance…

So, I do think that this is the best case that can be made.

Now, as a criminologist, I find this argument obscene and nauseating in its logic. Your likelihood of being victimized by a home-intruding armed robber (in even the worst areas) is virtually zero. In upper-income areas, the probability is zero. Literally generations of families in this country have lived and died without ever experiencing any kind of violent break-in; you are probably a member of one of these families.

There were only 716 burglaries in 2009. 716. In a country of over 310,000,000. Do the math.

Here’s all the statistics you could ever want on the matter if you don’t believe me:

Oh, and by the way, this kind of crime is also following a steady rate of decline.

Yet, the notion that it’s RATIONAL to buy guns to protect oneself is only found to be fully stupid upon recognition of the rate at which children are killed by firearms —

The number of people killed by guns is so far beyond the number of people who should be worried, RIGHT NOW, about someone breaking into their house tonight and raping their wife and dog.

So, as Joe Twelvepack, the “protect ma’ home” argument really resonates. As a thinking person, it does not.

Having said this, I expect to own numerous guns in the future because I watch tons of CSI and I’m scared shitless.


Restricting gun ownership is wrong because…”I need to protect myself from a potentially tyrannical government” 

I’m heartened by this argument. It’s a little bit like watching a down syndrome boy gallop, for the first time in a long stifled life, muscularly into an open daisy field. Before being fully consumed by a flock of owls, whom the boy attempted to befriend. An allegory for life, I say.

In other words, the argument sounds good — governments cannot always be trusted and power corrupts. This is true, I suppose. Yet, it’s funny because the whole point is how BAD the government is. But if you follow this to its conclusion, you see the argument makes no sense.

Here’s why:

So it’s the United States Government VS. You (and your stupid family or whatever).


YOU — a pistol, and an AR-15.

Get my point? If the US government really did turn on us, we’d be fucked.

And you would be too with your goddamn dinky semi-auto rifles. Get over yourself and take a bath for chrissakes.

Restricting gun ownership is wrong because…”It’s my right!”

This is ridiculous. This is not an argument. It is also not an argument to say ” But it’s in the Constitution!” This would be like me trying to argue that I was owed a new plasma-screen TV by Best Buy because “It’s written in my journal!!” Just because something is written down somewhere on a piece of paper, doesn’t mean what’s written is actually a good idea.

I’m inclined to think much of our constitution is quite good, but this gun control thing is tricky…


Why Religion Is Going Away

Religion is leaving us. It is quitely and politely walking out the back door. Though once the life of the human party, it now sulks, irrelevant and tragically incompetent, out the patio door.

Take a look here at a recent analysis which depicts the increasing proportion of people who don’t care about religion:

Sociology, as a science of human beliefs, can tell us why this is the case.

Humans “believe” things because they feel obvious. Beliefs really feel, from a subjective, individual’s point of view, more like observations. Beliefs have this taken-for-grantedness feel to them simply because others share them with us.

If person A is told by Person B that this guy Jesus died for their sins,  Person A holds this story in memory. However, if Person A then develops friendships (through everyday  random interaction, or perhaps through one’s parents) with Person C and Person D, both of whom are positive of the story of Jesus, Person A begins to see this story as a fact, as he comes to see it as a generally accepted (i.e., factual) aspect of the world around him.

People follow and adopt the beliefs, values and worldviews of others because they FEEL factual, and what is factual is what is “confirmed” in the accounts of others.

Now, as an aside, it was of course the Enlightenment which helped humanity ditch this abysmal method of developing beliefs. We know now that no matter how many people believe something, it doesn’t make it true. Why? Because there is an objective, stable, external world out there which we can measure. Beliefs do not determine truth, only measurment determines truth.

So as for whether or not Jesus died for our sins, the question is nonsensical through a scientific lense. Again, it is an issue of measurement, this time of the biology of life. If Jesus was ever a man, he must have been subject to the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. Did he rise from the dead to absolve our sins? Well, do the atoms which comprise the human body operate unimpeded after the electro-chemical activity of the body ceases? No, they do not and cannot. On the scientific account, spontaneous resurrection is fucking ridiculous.

But for everyday people, as opposed to scientists, facts are things confirmed by the beliefs of others.

Ok, but, importantly, for a religion to survive, its belief system must be transmitted to subsequent generations. Religions “survive” to the degree that they pass down a relatively coherent, intact doctrine to the next generation.

There is a kink in this process of generational transmission, though. Several good studies by the sociologist David Voas have revealed that when parents of different religious backgrounds marry, they tend to raise kids who ignore religion.

In other words, if two Catholic people marry and have 2 kids, there is a high probability that they will successfully transmit their Catholic belief system to at least one (and probably both) of their children. However, if a Catholic and a Buddhist (or Muslim, or Hundu, or agnostic) marry and have 2 kids, there’s a good chance neither child will grow up to claim membership in any major religion in adulthood.

And, as it turns out, this “intermixing” of faiths in marriage has been on the rise ever since WWII.

As America’s technological/scientific sophistication and wealth have increased, increasingly larger amounts of people are leaving home for college, living in a state other than where they were born, travelling more and building ever-more extensive social networks across geographic borders.

All of this activity and movement of people has facilitated demographic inter-mixing in marriage. Racial inter-mixing in marriage is also at its highest rate, as part of the same sociological trend.

So, modernity brings a truly profound intermixing of people, ideas and ways of living.

And this beautiful flowering of human culture is so bright, it blinds us. We are blinded by multi-cultural movies, foods, music, religions, technologies to the point that we don’t even see culture anymore. We all increasingly seem to share in each others’ culture, so as to make the monolithic idea of a single, better culture implausible.

It makes increasingly less sense to ask “Which culture is superior?” in a modern society, and increasingly more sense to ask “Which cultures interest you?”

The transmission of belief systems depend on their perceived (from the believer’s point of view) superiority over other belief systems.

We se this everyday as parents attempt feverishly to transmit belief systems deemed crucial (whatever they may be) to their children. Those belief systems which seem more and more arbitrary, more and more unlikely to be crucial in later life, are not actively disliked, but simply ignored.

A parent in a traditional society (or, in America, one who has low levels of education) asks themselves, “How do I encourage my child to believe what I believe, for their own moral and social health?”.

A parent in a modern society (or, in America, one who has higher leverls of education), by contrast, ponders another question : “How do I encourage my child to actively and successfully pursue their own interests?”

The traditional parent thinks their religion is superior — they will have fewer friends from other faiths, will be less likely to live in a diverse city and less likely to be educated about religion (even, hilariously, oftentimes their own).

The modern parent thinks that all religions are equally valid descriptions of the sacred — they will have more friends from faiths other than their own, will be more likely to live in a diverse city, and more likely to successfully answer survey questions about the religious faiths of others.

The diversity of religious beliefs surrounding the individual ( generated from diverse friends and experiences, as in attending college), makes the idea of one special, superior system of beliefs seem unlikely. Intolerant and ignorant, even.

So, when parents begin to see the faith of their upbringing as just one among infitinely valid expressions of the sacred, they are heartened by the idea of their child’s OWN pursuit of THEIR sacred.

Yet, the consequence of this is that religion as a system of coherent beliefs will dissolve as well. When everyone pursues their OWN truth, there is no longer THE truth.

Thus the transmission of any ONE belief system, from generation to generation, begins to slowly decline, as it has been all across the Western world for about 200 years.

Religion is walking, quietly out the door.

What’s fascinating is that sociology tells us that humanity will simply forget to wave goodbye.

Sociology and Misanthropy


Misanthropy is a point of view.

It says that all humanity is cruel and vile. People cannot be trusted. The closer you are, (friendship,romance) the further away you get (the creeping pain of vulnerability). Emotional closeness deconstructs and destroys us.

Misanthropes see human beings as sharks with huge frontal lobes. That is, humans are as predatory and strategic as any animal, yet they ALSO have a neo-cortex with which they can engage in highly sophisticated planning, memory, abstract thinking ability and alliance formation.

We are the king predators. We dominate Earth, as we dominate each other.

I contend that sociology gets us to precisely this conclusion.

The study of sociology is misanthropic in its essence. Truly, its ESSENCE, and I choose this word specifically. Sociology did not start out misanthropic. Historically, it’s trajectory is indeed often emphatically humanistic. All I am suggesting here, is that sociology’s basic foundational theoretical assumptions are misanthropic in their implications.

Sociology gave the world its first conscious statement of the doctrine of symbolic interactionism. This school of thought argues that all of human life is the shared construction of symbolic meaning during various encounters. So, a husband and wife are “married” because they have constructed a fictive world of fairy tales, eternal promises, and entwined souls. Symbols with which this fantasy world is constructed and maintained include stone-encrusted rings on fingers, new ways of behaving, unusual, rule-based dress during ‘sacred’ ceremonial proceedings and new socially demanded identities, even new names among other things.

This is just an example of marriage, but in principal, symbolic interactionism is applied to all domains in one’s life, not just the family (e.g., occupational, peer/friend, parental). This account of social life is Herbert Blumer’s, and he promoted it heavily.

It was Erving Goffman who came along in the 1960s and 70s and emphasized how strategic and self-absorbed all of this symbol-manipulating really was.

It was Goffman who showed us that symbolic interactionism entails misanthropy.

Why? Because the SIZE of the ring a man gives his wife is a signal to her about his economic lavishness.

It does not, however, and in fact, indicate this.

The sizeof the ring might only indicate only how many months he was willing to go without Netflix to supplement his shit income to get you to finally agree to let him hump your indifferent and half-asleep (you being the only breadwinner) body for the rest of your life. Yes, it often turns out like this.

Goffman showed us that the ring, the dress, the hair, the outfits, the walk, the talk, fuck, ALL of it is just a bunch of (mostly bad) acting in pursuit of self-interested goals like adulation and support.

Consider, on an everyday basis, why you REALLY wear the clothes you wear or say the things you say or believe what you believe. If you changed ALL of these things TOMORROW, how many of your friends would you have? How much of their respect would you lose?

On Goffman’s account, your life is a fucking circus act of manipulation to accumulate an ever more bloated self-image.

In other words, humans do not use symbols only to communicate — they use symbols to profoundly and tirelessly exploit.

Sociology also answers the question of why humans bother to dress and act as though they were mere parts in a play. They do so for continuous admiration and adulation,of course, but specifically, they do it for 4 reasons.

This is Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology, by the way. He argued that humans possessed four forms of ‘capital’. Cultural capital is comportment; that is, styles of dress, ways of talking and walking and standing, ways of starting, conducting and ending conversations and so on.

Cultural capital is behavior in an interaction.

It’s the difference between your plumber being a temporarily out of work Economist named Bertrand from Harvard vs. a chronically out of work rapist named Biff from the local homeless shelter. These guys would act completely differently, and one would be acceptable while the other creepy and unsettling — knowing the difference and knowing how to act correctly is cultural capital.

Social capital consists of network connections/networking opportunities. Networking opportunities can be turned into cash, status and power in rather obvious ways. I won’t belabor this point.

Symbolic capital, on the other hand, includes ideas and worldviews. You know how some music is ‘cool’ to like? I remember when I was in high school, all the kids would be EXTREMELY, LIKE TOTALLY absorbed in some rather awful, obscure underground music.

Now, some unknown artists are great, nobody is denying this. However, liking a musician primarily because they are ‘underground,’ along with knowing the difference, is symbolic capital.

Generally, symbolic capital are things like worldviews, political commitments and the like. But to the degree that music constitutes a worldview (as it does for many), it is symbolic capital.

So people engage in dramatized ‘acting’ with others so as to manipulate them into disseminating valuable cultural, symbolic, social and material (money) capital.

Sociology teaches that man is the parasite of man and that social blood has four types.

Is it so? Is social life a beautiful abandonment?

Sociology of Sex Question…

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I was just briefly at a gathering and I brought this up.

There was some disagreement, so I’m going to pose it here.

It’s a “sociology of sex” question.

We all get infected by bacteria or viruses on occasion.

Sometimes they affect our throat or breathing or mouth. Consider strep throat (bacteria) , the common flu (a virus) or cold sores (virus).

Other times it is the less flattering areas so inflicted. Consider herpes (virus), or chlamydia (bacteria) or syphilis (bacteria).

So if viruses are viruses and bacteria is bacteria…why so much attention to STD’s and STI’s? All day all I seem to hear about is safe sex, use protection, be responsible, make good choices…

Oh, I should clarify…I work on a university campus with these kinds of posters around, I’m not some kind of un-registered sex offender relaying tonight’s (court mandated) sex addicts anonymous meeting.

So my issue is this: why is it that if you found out your  upcoming blind date had had a cold sore 6 months ago, it might merit a shrug.

On the other hand, if you were to find out that this upcoming date had herpes, you’d spin around and run away so fast you’d break your own neck.

Is this stigma around sexuality legitimate? Or is this just a social construction?

Are STD’s unduly viewed as awful, terrible and unseemly? Is this a Christian guilt thing?

Or is the idea of sickly genitals somehow biologically hard-wired to produce extra disgust? After all, evolution is a process of gene selection — if what transmits those genes now has oozing bumps because of 1 too many beers and 10 too many Cuban hookers, this might justly influence perceptions of one’s character…

Tell me what you think in the poll below…

The Four Types of Reality

We foolishly use only one word to describe what confronts our senses.


This is what is “real,” it is “what we know,”  that which is “true,” and “out there,” “outside of our minds.”

Well, there are, it turns out, a few realities.

There is, first, your personal reality. This is the reality in your head, your subjective awareness. This is your conscious state, or the sensation of wakefulness upon waking up from sleep.

This where we feel love and anger and pain. This is where our opinions come from, as well as the worldviews which produce them.

Cognitive psychology tells us that human opinion is easily swayed through mental “heuristics,” which the brain produces to easily deal with complex problems in the environment. These heuristics are closely related to mental stereotypes and very often lead to very simplistic, illogical and error-prone thinking.

We also know that human opinion is powerfully pushed around by emotion. Social psychology knows now that most people, most of the time, come to their most cherished political and moral views entirely because of some emotional attachment or emotionally-charged perception. That’s it. The whole concern for logical consistency, evidence and plain old good-reasoning comes AFTER the belief or worldview has been fully accepted as true for emotional reasons.

So our personal realities, our subjective views, are almost tragically, hopelessly untrue.

These constant visions and experiences we call “reality” are, to make matters worse, interpreted through evolution’s own public relations firm: ego-enhancement. We tend to think that ideas we can identify with, feel comfortable with, feel safe and connected with are more likely to be real or true. Our beliefs are usually not only flatly false and a bit ridiculous but often magnificently self-serving.

Yet our inner reality FEELS real. And it is. It’s our personal, subjective reality. It’s just not really worth shit, outside of being able to feel intense emotional experiences.

But hold on, three other kinds of reality exist.

The second type of reality is social reality. This reality exists collectively, that is, it exists because it is shared by two or more personal realities.

When an idea, belief, worldview or whatever, is shared by at least two people (i.e., shared by two personal realities), it takes on a new character.

It’s easy to see that this kind of reality exists with a little trick.

Suppose you are an Occupy Wallstreet protestor (is that movement still happening? I’m a social scientist, so I try to learn about how humans work instead of supporting their political causes). Imagine you have a dream one night about painting a mural on the side of a building. You think that this piece of art will stimulate the protesting spirit of local youths in some truly unique and pathbreaking way.

Yet, imagine that your mural idea is just a little weird. A little off, maybe a little creepy, even. So, though you are personally convinced the mural idea is great, you can also imagine that other people might not find it to be so wonderful.

Now, imagine you attend some job-related social gathering a few weeks later and, offhandedly, tell a few of your colleagues about your dream and about your (somewhat weird) mural idea. Your co-workers smile and clap their hands almost involuntarily. A great idea, they say. That’s genius, and yet so obvious, how has nobody thought of that?

Now imagine how you would feel about your mural idea walking  home from that party. Compare this new,uplifted , feeling to the original doubts and uncertainty about the opinions of others that accompanied initially waking up from the dream.

The difference? Now it seems as though your mural idea really is, in fact, truthfully, in reality a good idea. As more people come to share this belief that the mural idea is good, the mural idea, literally, in social reality, BECOMES a good idea, simply because people believe it to be so. You feel this belief as increased motivation and excitement which wills you to further think about the mural idea.

Its brilliance has become socially real.

Shared personal realities constitutes a second type of reality, a social reality.

The third type of reality is objective reality.

Objective reality is what would exist even if there were no humans alive. It is what exists completely independently of our minds and our feelings and our experiences. When humans talk about “facts” they are referring to this objective reality.

This one’s easy to grasp. Let’s go back to the mural example.

Imagine everyone loves your mural idea and they think it will re-ignite the (dead? God, I don’t know!!) Occupy Wall Street movement. Several unbiased people you know like your idea, and so this idea is now truly, and in social reality, a great idea.

Yet it fails. Fails terribly and pathetically. Suppose your name was “Hailey.” Your mural goes over so horribly, you are legally re-named “Faily” by your scorned parents. Moreover, that mural of a young Mexican boy vigorously fucking a defeated bald eagle (Take THAT America!) draws lawsuits that bury you for decades.

So, in your personal reality, on account of your dream, the mural idea was awesome. In social reality, on account of the shared perceptions of others, your idea was awesome. In objective reality, however, your idea was false — it was calibrated to incite protestors and it simply didn’t.

Lastly, there is a very special kind of reality.

We’ve only been able to truly comprehend this reality for roughly 500 years, but there have been those who’ve had glimpses of it for thousands of years…

Remember that personal realities are embedded in the social reality. Social reality is just a collection of personal realities.

But social reality doesn’t always meet up with objective reality. Sometimes it does, I suppose,  but because objective reality is “outside” of our heads and “outside” of human awareness, our human realities (personal and social) don’t always line up with objective reality. Hell, this why the mural idea failed…

Without further ado, the fourth type of reality is shared objective reality. We perceive this reality when our social realities line up with objective reality.

You would have experienced this type shared objective of reality if your mural idea had ACTUALLY worked. It would have worked because it would have actually tapped into a latent, unmet need of protestors for motivation. It didn’t do this, and that’s why it failed so terribly.

So, then, I propose to you four realities.

As a sociologist, I think these are the four realities that matter: personal, social, objective and shared objective.

Hmm….Oddly, my mind just blanked.

I don’t think I have anything more to say on this.

The Ayn Rand Effect


Ayn Rand was a brilliant Russian writer, satirist and political commentator.

She was sickeningly smart, oftentimes simply dominating interviews and, almost of necessity, turning them into informing, intriguing lectures.

Youtube her for chrissakes, it’s really something.

Smart Lady.

Sociologically dense as a lead brick, however. Dumber than a Catholic priest applying for a coaching job at Penn State. She was sociologically retarded, but I’ll get there in a second.

Her otherwise brilliant wit and reason has captivated political conservatives in our country.  To followers, her message is one of liberation and of freedom.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is misanthropic. It states that altruism is evil because you are entitled to the fruits of your labors and abilities; anyone who would suck them from you (for whatever need or personal weakness) takes your life from you.

Humans have one absolute reason for life — to live. We are to grow, to create and to foster others to do the same.

Weakness is to be punished or eradicated. Weakness and lack of success may be the result of lack of effort or lack of ability — either way, no good.

Weakness is non-adaptive and weakness definitely isn’t to be rewarded or subsidized with help from the strong willed and (economically) successful.

Getting the idea?

Ayn Rand speaks to the men and women who have had enough of peoples’ GODDAMN constant fucking demands and crises and cries for help. Ayn Rand speaks to people who have found themselves needing to turn down the noise in their lives, people who’ve had to ditch the deadbeat lover, the abusive mother, or the cruel best friend.

Ayn Rand speaks to those of us who have been smart and self-aware enough to watch ourselves get hurt and remember the pain vividly and continuously. This is the mark of an active brain, a high need-for-cognition even.

But this is a brain focusing on interpersonal pain. Interpersonal anger, pain and regret are not the best emotional lenses through which to analyze social policy.

So, of course, the Ayn Randers of the world think that taxing the wealthy (the “strong and successful”) is obviously immoral, as their very success helps all of us. It sets an example, and the wealthy produce more wealth and new products. Why take their money, their livelihood, the very fruits of their creativity and adaptiveness?

Why hurt or punish those doing so economically well, those resisting temptation and outworking the rest of us?

The biggest problem is that Ayn Randers tend to forget that people in our lives hurt us for all kinds of reasons. Some were vindictive and seemed to enjoy being mean. Others were clearly abused by others and helpless to notice their attacks. Others were peer-pressured into saying or doing things they probably otherwise would not have done.

On a demographic, or macro-social, scale, the same is true of populations of people. Some populations of people are just angry and vindictive (KKK, for example), other populations of people have been clearly abused by others and are largely helpless to notice their source of their needs (in the US, African Americans and Hispanics and Persians and Arabs; in Ireland Protestants and Arabs; in Iran and Saudi Arabia… uh…all women), and so on.

Ayn Randers have to understand that some populations of people, just like some individuals, can be totally fucked from the beginning through no fault of their own…

The corollary to horribly abusive parents and bad genes (individual level of analysis), is systematic institutional (hiring/wage/promotion gaps at all levels of occupational prestige) and cultural racism (disproportionate demographic concentration in low-resource communities), which constitutes a population level of analysis.

So some people just got (and get) fucked; so also do some populations of people.

Following the Ayn Randers, in life everyone gets a fair shot and ingenuity, creativity and willpower decides who wins.

In reality a lot of individuals just didn’t get a fair shot, but we have to remember that oftentimes this is so because individuals exist within populations. So…on that point…the “SUCCESSFUL” aren’t necessarily the most successful…some of them are, no doubt.

But others may have just had the dice thrown with a little a bit more luck where their demographic counterpart, in another neighborhood, in another skin color, in another family with another history, got unlucky.

Ayn Rand’s edifice falls apart if we understand that many social dynamics that occur on individuals also occur on populations.

That is, primate groups act similarly to primate individuals, lest we forget that I’m talking about dirty stinky apes.

Ah, humans. So the conservatives bone up with this Ayn Randism. Paul Ryan, Romney’s VP pick, was a loyal follower of the Cult of Rand. He required his interns in Washington to read her philosophy.

The whole don’t tax the rich idea rests on the notion that we all get a fair shot to do well from the beginning. Well we don’t.

And let me make it very fucking clear that many white kids, whose parents were either too abused, too high, or too far economically disadvantaged also don’t get a fair shot. We just don’t ever realize this because everyone today seems to assume that “whiteness” presupposes some automatic and intense privilege. Sorry, but even more than skin color, economic resources really matter; in many of life’s crises, money talks in a way skin doesn’t.

To summarize, then:

If Herman Cain and Bill Cosby had one too many appletini’s during a solitary “political evening” together, and bequeathed a child to the world, this child would be Ayn Rand. Though, I imagine, vastly more humorous and considerably less frail and barren.

Enough said, I think.


* If you think I mis-characterized Rand, say so goddamnit!

Letter To My Students


I am a Teacher’s Assistant (“TA”) at a research university in Southern California

The credentials for this job are a BA

The credentials for this job are nothing

I’ve just graded 900 papers in less than one week

This, in addition to my (numerous) other responsibilities

It’s getting to be where ivory tower work feels like blue collar work; I’ve done both

The former, at best, a mind-freeing nudge

The latter, at best, the upholding of someone else’s paycheck with one’s own toil

Grunt work

I gave none of you the grades you deserved

I could not have without first,

Being idiosyncratically clear with exactly how I grade, why, and what this means to you. YOU.

Re-defining, re-contextualizing and re-framing issues, examples and concepts that for whatever developmental, socio-psychological or economic issue, you may have found unclear throughout the course

Been vastly, vastly more attentive (than I am quite likely capable of being) with regard to those who are learning English as a second language

I speak in layered ways at times; I’m utterly comfortable with the language of my birth, which is English

I spent four years ‘learning’ Spanish in school. Being white, I knew I didn’t really have to learn it.

I’m ashamed to say that, but that’s un-earned sociological privilege as I am now an institutional gatekeeper

And many of you, as a consequence, might not have done so well on your paper tonight

Or, maybe you just didn’t try. Didn’t give a shit about your writing or your typos or how well you explained readings.To these people, I proffer a solemn and fantastic FUCK YOU. There are so many of you I would probably literally kill if you were standing next to me while I was forced to read this absolute feces of the written word.

Honestly, though, many of you just got fucked

I just can’t pay attention to 900 pages and most of your peers don’t really give a damn

I failed you, and I very, very, easily could have helped you

You never came to office hours, or never asked me very considered questions in emails

Hell, I can tell you are smart because you write well or, if you write like shit, you sound great in office hours

I can SEE, in you, potential

There are those of you who are coming back to school after braving the military, raising children, or fighting a disease

I guarantee you’ll just float into mediocrity

I can do no other

60, 78,85,65,83,62,79,70,85,81,88 …

Sometimes, I’m just thoughtless as to what variables explain this variance

To you I’m really really

I’m sorry