- Diana Moon Glampers lives!
- Chilton’s Manual for Evolved Chimps.
- Mumford & Sons and the Death of Church Music.
- The One-and-a-Half Party System.
- Frackin’ Followup.
The Times Literary Supplement reviews The War of the Sexes, by Paul Seabright.
Surveying continuing wage disparities between men and women and the paucity of female CEOs, Seabright looks at possible contributing factors and then proposes a solution:
Seabright identifies a ragbag of gender differences that might partially, but only partially, explain gender inequities at the top. Some of these differences detrimentally affect women’s visibility in the workplace, whereas the economic significance of other differences is debatable. For instance, it seems that women have evolved to network differently: men’s contacts, including their friendships, are generally more transactional and opportunistic. They betray and forgive each other more seamlessly (47 per cent are easily reconciled, compared to 18 per cent of females, according to one study he cites). They have a greater number of “weak” ties. Women’s contacts, by contrast, are more emotionally laden “strong” ties with kin and people like themselves. Other research suggests men may thrive in starkly competitive environments (for instance, tournament-type settings), whereas women typically do better in more ostensibly cooperative ones. Yet other studies confirm what teachers already know: boys and men are likely to feel more confident and project more confidence than girls or women with the same or superior skills. Finally, it is indeed true that men generally negotiate with their bosses more aggressively – and on average male bosses negotiate more aggressively with women employees.
It’s important to keep in mind that these differences are based on averages – we can all think of plenty of exceptions. Seabright’s larger assumption is that on average, gender differences, however small, must result from the sexual strategies our ancestors used to procreate successfully. The reproductive ouput between the most successful and least successful male is potentially enormous – but this is not the case with females. Genghis Khan fathered a dizzying number of offspring – and other conquering or extremely conspicuous types fathered far more than their share; many hapless male rivals produced few or none as a result. By contrast, a powerful female like Cleopatra produced a mere four, perhaps no more than her lowliest female slaves. Risk-taking is likely to have paid off in reproductive terms for males in a way it didn’t for females. Or, put differently: extreme behaviour – risk-taking and the kind of over-confidence that enables it – was more likely to be selected for among our male ancestors. Similarly, there are plenty of evolutionary reasons to expect females to be more risk averse, somewhat more conscientious and to favour more cooperative settings. These evolutionary-honed traits or preferences persist – even if we are a “new” species.
Oddly, Seabright doesn’t get to the obvious reason why women are handicapped in the workplace until almost the end of his book – namely, maternity. Women take career breaks just when their careers are in their upward trajectories. They thus lose all-important visibility at a crucial time; a lot of research in fact suggests that the late twenties and early thirties are the worst time to step off the professional ladder. In the context of long lifespans, women are acting against their own long-term self-interest – against their later “bargaining power”. Seabright gallantly argues that it’s “stupid” for women to be penalized for being conscientious about motherhood. In addition, losing female talent and productivity in midlife is bad for the economy. The workplace – and our methods of organizing work – ought instead to make women the model sex.
Seabright’s solution is straightforward: “compulsory paternity leave”, so that career breaks don’t signal, as he puts it, a lack of CEO potential. This would certainly be a step in the right direction ….
Compulsory paternity leave. Now there’s a handicap that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, must have dreamed up.
In 10 Words You Literally Didn’t Know You Were Getting Wrong, a young word nerd rehearses some misusage that may or may not be common except for misuse of “literally.” There’s nothing uncommon about misuse of that.
I first became aware of its rampant misuse by paying attention to what was coming from pulpits. The silliest example I can recall was the pompadoured Chaplain of a Krustian “University” in the South saying that “college students on campus today are literally raising Cain.” (Or maybe it was “literally raising cane.” It was spoken, after all.)
It did nothing for my confidence in their exegesis that they claimed to be taking the Bible “literally,” of which literalism the apotheosis may have been Hal Lindsey’s suggestion that “locusts” in Revelation 9, which he took as prophecy, were military helicopters.
- Nobody takes all of the Bible literally – and that’s good because it’s not all literal.
- Contrary to what I was taught at one point as a young adult, there’s not even a preferential exegetical preference of “when possible, literal.”
- If you want to know how to interpret the Bible, which is a laudable objective, it would be a good thing not to listen to people who think it’s God’s equivalent of a do-it-yourself Chilton’s Manual for homo sapiens living on Earth.
Since I’m a bit of a dinosaur (not literally, I hasten to add), I’m not familiar with Mumford & Sons, but I am familiar with the downward trajectory of Church music in “conservative” Protestant churches up until about 15 years ago. Jordan Bloom at the American Conservative sees a connection.
The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business is a pretty good telling of several of the reasons I now despise both parties.
The big-business-big-government double-edged sword slit the throat of Freddy’s Bar in New York City. Few businesses elevate themselves to the level of communal institution with the consistency of the neighborhood bar. In Brooklyn, the old style saloon, rated the best bar in New York City by the Village Voice and Esquire Magazine, became a home for eccentric friendships, creative nocturnal identities, and camaraderie among likeminded and un-likeminded people. It was a perfect example of successful entrepreneurship. A small business owner provided a sanctuary and service for people eagerly seeking both. He profited by making people happy. Freddy’s enriched the lives of its employees and consumers, and it improved its neighborhood. A few billionaire real estate moguls decided that they could use the space for more profitable purposes, and the New York City and State governments decided that they too could use the space for more profitable purposes, as in tax revenues.
The Atlantic Yards Project, which includes famous recording and touring misogynist Jay Z, invaded Brooklyn with plans for the once New Jersey Nets to become the Brooklyn Nets and play basketball in a new “state of the art” arena that will sit on top of Freddy’s, other demolished businesses, and seized homes. Promises of “job creation” give the ugly fiasco a pretty, but ultimately thin and transparent veil. Cleveland, Detroit, and dozens of rust belt cities have tried top down economic stimuli with convention centers, sports arenas, minor league baseball stadiums, and NASCAR tracks. They’ve all failed miserably, but even if such measures created conditions of utopic prosperity, the principles at stake—personal freedom and communal autonomy—should outweigh financial gains. Those principles did not prevent the United States Supreme Court from ruling in 2005, in the now infamous Kelo v. City of New London case, that eminent domain can expand to any project that will potentially increase tax revenues. The United States government—at all branches—has created a system of normalized abuse and institutionalized corruption. In the ongoing war between the dueling conceptions of citizenship and consumerism, the government, becoming a consumer itself, has consummated its long courtship of big business. Eminent domain is one of its many delinquent and destructive children—running around vandalizing neighborhoods, while he shouts that it is for everyone’s own good.
Abuses of eminent domain is just one example of the dangerous alliance. There’s also:
- The prison-industrial complex.
- The Financialization of the economy generally.
- The individual health insurance mandate.
So how does this fit with Leviathan liberating people from oppression? Pretty poorly, unless you think sexual license is the only freedom that counts. But golly, people liberated from parents and churches and social opprobrium are gonna come to Atlantic Yards and worship the god of Fun! And if you think the neighborhood’s going to be better for it, even with Freddie’s gone, you haven’t been paying attention to how these grandiose sports and convention centers end up abandoned, lifeless and forbidding except for the few hours per week when there’s an “event.”
The most important political conversation Americans need to have is about how the old conversations no longer matter. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party—called the one-and-a-half party system by former Republican Senate staffer Mike Lofgren—largely serve the same interests …
The new project for American improvement must begin with citizens banding together to create an alternative conversation—an alternative conversation that spotlights the dangerous alliance between supposedly differing factions of centralized power. Without this conversation, elections will continue to devolve into contests to see who will emerge as the least reviled character, and invective infected shouting matches on television will continue to resemble the royal entertainment of court jesters and carnival barkers. Political debate will have no resonance with the American people, problems will intensify and multiply, while solutions will become invisible and untenable.
The great philosopher Mick Jagger sang in The Rolling Stones’ underrated populist anthem, “Salt of The Earth,” that, for everyday people, elections were the choice “between cancer and polio.” Now voters are able to choose both simultaneously, and get two for one. The real radicalism is finding ways to empower families and neighborhoods, while the real choice is to resist the imposed choice by insisting on the establishment of a new one.
Here’s to hoping the conversation can begin over glasses of whiskey and bottles of beer at a bar like Freddy’s. When it comes to solving the world’s problems, a public house feels like the best place to start.
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