Self-Forged Chains

I realized yesterday I would need to write this post.  I didn’t want to, because I’ll have to change details to protect the guilty and even so, there are people who, if they read this, will be very upset.  However…

My friend Patrick Richardson pinged me yesterday and pointed me to a post on Facebook, where the most brazen racist stuff was being posted in broad daylight.  As in “this race is better at this, and this race will never do that.”

Other people – a lot of you who read here – were piping in with “no, it’s not the race, it’s the culture.”

And I had to tell Pat, “No, it’s not even the culture, unless Marxism is the culture. These are self-forged chains.”

Then I explained how I KNOW so, how I know a lot of the recent results in the US are because it’s very hard for human beings to overcome… well… their natural inclinations (which are common to all humans) when they’re given a ready made excuse and when all their failures will count as sort of laurels of glory on the heads of martyrs.

First, let’s start by admitting that yes, different races – AS A WHOLE, ON AVERAGE – have different characteristics. But in this case we have to chop races very fine, and it becomes really hard to tell race from culture.

I’m the first to make jokes about my organization skills and point out I’m Latin and some stereotypes exist because they are true.  But the fact is I grew up in Portugal, and the CULTURE there discourages exactitude.  There is this sort of pride in “we do it haphazardly.”  In fact, because I’ve always been hyper-busy I had to develop some organization skills, which often resulted in my being called “Teutonic” and not in an approving manner. Now there might – or might not – be a genetic component.  Both my kids have had to work really hard at organization, but how much of that is from being raised with a devil-may-care-artistic (Ugh, I hate admitting that) – mother who was likely to forget lunch time, or to put them down for a nap on time, because she got caught up in a novel?

For that matter, how much of the chaos that tends to envelope my life has to do with my genetic origin and how much with the fact that I work for multiple bosses and have more duties than time to fit them in?

Which bring us to the whole “but certain races have lower IQs and certain races have lower organizational skills and certain races are naturally—”

Oy.  Under the microscope, and without looking at melanin it’s REALLY hard to tell what race anyone is.  My son did a cartoon image of me for my birthday 2 years ago.  He likes to give me gifts, and he was broke.  As he was coloring it, he got a shock.  He used a little darker pen, and came back to me and said, “Mom, did you know that your features are African?”  I laughed and told him that when I got a tan and wore an afro perm in the seventies, people IN PORTUGAL (who have a much finer range for what they consider “African”.  I.e. the (I)reverend Wright is “normal white.”) called me “the young lady of color” in stores.  As in “Go help the young lady of color next.”

Now, my hair is poke-straight (as in it’s hard to style it so it doesn’t look like a witch’s broom, my eyes are hazel and when my hair had color – shuddup wretches.  Color I didn’t BUY – it was a deep dark mahogany red/brown, almost black inside, but turning fiery when it caught the sun.  [My kids, finding a picture of me in full sun in the eighties, “Mom, why did you dye your hair to look like Ronald McDonald’s?”  Me “I didn’t dye my hair back then.”  Them “Oh.”  Yep, they’re both off my will.]) Most people seeing me don’t even think “Hispanic” or “Latin.”  They do think that of my sons who are both darker than I, and whose features have just a little of the Amerindian about the eyes.  But not of me.

Again, we’re all more mixed than you think.  Ancient statues in South America show people with African features.  Remains found here from way before Amerindian arrival (Sorry, but Native American is a politically correct abomination.  NO race of humans evolved here, that we know.  Calling Amerindians Native Americans is buying into their prevailing myths.  Kind of like calling all westerns Sons of Eve.  Even if you believe in it, you know there’s a difference between religion and proven fact.  Oh, wait, no you don’t.  Which is why it’s not taught that the oldest remains found in North America are Caucasian and why the tribes were allowed to claim them for burial because “Our legends say we were created here.”  PFUI.  I treat them like normal human beings.  And give them the same credence I give anyone else.  I no more believe their legends than I believe some of my ancestors were suckled by a wolf.  Deal.  And as for “they were named in error because Columbus was an ignoramus” – again, deal.  So were most people.  Look at the Pensylvannia Dutch, descended from GERMANS.  Look at the poor Germans whom the Portuguese call Alemoes (after the Alans, only ONE tribe.)  Look at any Portuguese from the North, called Luso even though the Lusitans only occupied from the middle of the country down.  The fact they’re called Amerindians because they were “named in error” just makes them like the rest of the human race.  Throughout history the name for other tribes was “those weirdos over there” however pronounced.  And the name for every mountain in a foreign language is as Pratchett pointed out “your finger, you fool.”)

Even in Europe, where every country has this mania for thinking they’re a separate race (and coming from a country with tons of tourism, I’ll tell you I could distinguish French tourists from Germans at a glance 90% of the time) they’re really all mixed.  For instance, I found while reading a book on 18th century England that after the Peninsular war a LOT of Portuguese went to England as servants to the point it was hard to find a servant who wasn’t at least half Portuguese.  Their descendants, by the late 19th century were as English as John Bull and probably talked in scathing tones of all those Portuguese who were undisciplined and unorganized.

On the subject of organization, what it seems to correlate to is how early the country was industrialized.  The same for most of the bourgeois virtues, which don’t really pay off in a rural society.  Now, there isn’t enough time for that to be evolution, so it must be acquired through the culture.

I’ll say my son, the biologist, says that genes flick off and on and that certain characteristics show up in humans depending on what the instinctive back of the brain perceives as advantageous.  (Which might have bloody nothing to do with what IS rationally advantageous.)  Say you’re in a family where an artistic temperament is viewed as a mark of genius.  You’re going to develop very differently than if you’re in a family where order and performing rote tasks are valued. Since most of these “decisions” are made before you can talk, chances are that you’ll end up thinking you’re that way naturally.  (Not that there AREN’T situations in which parents are complete mysteries to the kids and vice versa.  Genetic inclination for this or that is a sliding scale.)

So, what I’m saying is that all humans are portions of this and that, and most humans have talents and abilities they’ve never developed.  I, for instance, have no talent for languages.  And I’ve produced two sons who have no talent for languages.  Foreign language learning, that is.

However, I took to English like a duck to water, right?  Um… sort of.  I studied English as I never studied any other language (and do keep in mind at one time I was fluent in six.)  Why?  Because my favorite writers wrote in English and I wanted to get at them in the original.  I studied far more than the people who were naturally gifted (drop my brother naked in an Amazonian jungle and two weeks later he’ll emerge speaking the tribal language without an accent.  Also, likely, with three wives.  Never mind.)  I studied more than should be possible.  But by my third year, I was coasting, and the acquisition of more English was easy, because I scrounged hotel lobbies for books discarded by American tourists.  Reading added vocabulary and colloquial constructions, and no one meeting me would think I don’t have a talent for languages.

Now, that said, yes, some populations consistently test lower for this and that, or do better at this and that.  Part of it might be culture.  (Do you know how hard it is to tell the effects of say nutrition on the brain as it develops? Or how the effect of not using the brain in a certain way from VERY early on show up later on?)  And part, yes, is hereditary.

But just like when you talk about men and women, when you talk of racial characteristics, you’re talking “mean” – no, I don’t mean you’re making people cry – I mean you’re talking about a statistical creation that might or might not apply to anyone in particular.

For instance, most men are better than most women at mechanical/math tasks.  But when I was taking those courses, I rarely found a man who could beat me.  (And this again brings up culture, or at least a different wiring.  A lot of the smarter – yes, I said that – girls didn’t even compete.  They wanted to get married and be looked after.  Since the “be looked after” doesn’t compute and I’m competitive as heck, I never pulled back. However, pushing girls to do what they don’t want to/aren’t by instinct inclined to do is a mug’s game and no one has ever explained why this is a conclusion devoutly to be hoped for.  Sure you can use your coffeepot to dig a trench and you can brew coffee in your shovel, but WHY would you want to do it?)

What I mean is, no one should, at any time, look at a person’s skin color or listen to a person’s accent and go “He will be a great basketball star” or “he should be a mathematician.”  Because people don’t come in neat packages.  And people CAN if they want to overcome all their natural “advantages” or “disadvantages.”

Which brings me to self-forged chains.

When I got married, we knew another couple, exactly like us.  They got married a week before us, and the woman was Portuguese, same degree I had.  She was from slightly better families (think regency.  While Dad’s family was probably older and “better” we were from the poorest branch and – this is my guess – from a long line of Odds, so we didn’t have the CONNECTIONS, let alone the money that came with being “of good families.”)  Her family had a vacation home in Spain (this is important later.)  My family went on vacation for the first time when I was 14 and stayed with friends for two weeks.  Oh, she is also blue eyed.

Anyway, when we came to the states, I had a year to go on my degree, and since Dan had just started work at a beginner programmer’s salary, and since my parents weren’t willing to pay for me to enter college here (and might not have been able to afford it, anyway.  I didn’t ask.  I put myself through college, including buying books) my only choice was to go back and take the exams for my degree at the end of the year (they didn’t take attendance.)  Which is in fact how I got my degree, and which has served me for about two years total employment in the US, but never mind that.

My friend’s family was better off, or perhaps more hands on.  They paid for her to go to graduate school in the US.  Because she had been in a slightly different track (Portuguese/English, I think) and they didn’t offer Portuguese here, she went with Spanish, in which she was also fluent.

Next I heard of her she was involved in all these Latin “causes” and student unions and attributed anything that didn’t go right to “discrimination.”

Meanwhile I got my first job in the US as a retail clerk, and yes, I can tell you there was discrimination.  Every one of my co-workers (including the one with a record) were taught to open the store safe, except myself and the black woman. However, when money was missing, we were the first asked about it.  At which point I walked and found a much better job as a multilingual secretary.  (The other woman walked some weeks later.)

Are there stupid *ssholes in the world?  Sure there are.  And some of them are racist.  (And not all of those are white.)  However, all that idiot’s actions did was propel me to a much better job.  Because I thought “I can do better than this.” And then forgot about him.

So, after working as an international secretary for a while, I worked as a free lance translator, and then I got pregnant and we moved, and I decided to try to become a writer.

We won’t go into (often reverse) racist *sses in publishing, shall we?  Asking me to write my biography and emphasize how Portuguese were oppressed by the US (this was implied, since it was supposed to be like “Rigoberta Menchu”) so they “could promote” me was nothing if not a piece of racism, or at least culturism.

However, — this is not a brag – I always have the greatest distaste to conforming to what people in authority want me to do.  So I continued my own path, often sideways.

Do I still meet with “discrimination” – oh, sure, but so does my husband, whose family has been here since the revolution.  So do you.  Yes, every one of you.  People will make assumptions about you based on how you look, how you dress, your weight…

I read that people are being turned away from grad school because “if you don’t have the discipline to stay away from carbs, you can’t make it.”  Well, take older son.  He’s been carb free (more than low carb) for 4 years.  He’s still overweight.  He’s just not morbidly obese.  He’s also the most self-disciplined person I know and takes a huge load of classes as well as starting two businesses on the side.  But he’s a pre-eclampsia baby and some studies indicate this creates a permanent metabolic problem.

So, every one of you, be you ever so lily white, will meet with *sses of another or the same race who will discriminate against you.  Because we’re human and distinguishing our tribe from “those weirdos over there” is the first thing humans do.

What is the best way to deal with it?

Sigh and go on.  Not associate with those people, if you can help it.  Go around, go under, go through.

BUT unfortunately Marxism, taught not just at our universities but on a grand scale across the world, teaches people that it is impossible to succeed in the face of discrimination.

EVERY minority in the US is taught this. EVERY nation that’s poorer than the US (all of them, pretty much) is told that they are poor BECAUSE the US is rich and “discriminates” against them.

Add in political correctness and teachers who’ll demand less from certain kids because of… well, the “soft racism of lowered expectations.”  (Like, my younger kid managing to get to sixth grade without learning anything and with massive sensory issues.  One idiot told me she thought his speech impediment was because “you have an accent.” And “you speak Portuguese at home.”  The second is not and never was true, and the first means every American would have a severe speech impediment [You British readers want to hold your tongues.  No, really.])

Do minorities test lower because there’s something genetic?  Even if there is something genetic, is it because certain genes got flipped very early?  We don’t know.  No one does.

What we do know is this – if you go through life adhering to Marxism, believing victimhood is a sort of glorious condition, and excusing all your failures by someone else holding you down, you WILL FAIL.  And anything you try to administer will be a completely mess.  And any country where everyone believes this will fail gloriously and from on high (so to put it.)

I haven’t studied the history well enough to pronounce, but superficially Argentina pre and post Marxism would seem to be a case study.  Marxism is also largely why Brazil is the nation of the future…. And always will be.  The characteristic of the future is that it never arrives.

Which brings us to…

It’s impossible to assume someone is failing because of their race, when their race is likely – through indoctrination in our schools – endow them with the certainty everyone is doing them down.

And it’s impossible to assume a nation is failing because of this or that genetic characteristic because in fact it’s more likely to fail because of its Marxist beliefs.

Take Portugal (I’m not using it!) – once the leader of the world.  Now perpetually broke (to be fair it was that even while leader of the world, but that’s something else) and begging on the international street corner.  Years ago some member of a racist organization posted here the link to a site that claimed this was because Portugal had got so much darker.  They used as “proof” the fact that Portugal’s last kings looked German.  I almost hurt myself laughing.  The Portuguese kings were always – like every other king in Europe – related to NO ONE BUT OTHER ROYAL FAMILIES.  And to those they were VERY intimately related, if you know what I mean.

Now there are reasons for that spiral, having to do with too much money foolishly spent, and with certain cultural idiosyncrasies.  Race would be a hard one to swallow, since Portuguese are a mixed lot with a lot of English in the North (three of my grandparents were blue eyed and two were blond.)  And to be fair Marxism is a late comer to the mess, though it hasn’t helped anyone.

So about those startlingly racist comments – they should remain out of bounds, not because all humans are equal – which is a piece of nonsense – but because we have absolutely no clue what part of a human’s performance (if any) is influenced by his/her race and in fact, it’s far more likely to be influenced by his/her Marxism (acknowledged or not.)

Now, if we could set up this experiment, where every human being is equal under the law (you can’t stop racist *ssholes, but you can make them irrelevant.  Most people, in my experience, are decent) then maybe we could actually eventually determine if there are genetic differences and discuss how to help those who need help.  BUT a country where everyone is equal under the law is, as we all know, a pipe dream.

Oh, and my friend?  Yeah.  She doesn’t talk to me anymore.  You see, the professors discriminated against her, so she never finished her degree.  And her bosses discriminate against her too, so she’s  retail clerk.  And I am stuck up because I’m a published author (this was the reason given for hanging up on me when I called her.  Okay, I hadn’t called her in a year or so, because I’d lost the number.  But neither had SHE called me.  Also, btw, at that time was right after my first series tanked.  “Stuck up” had very little to do with my state at the time.)

Also, I’m just lucky, because people have never discriminated against me.

I guess I am.




116 thoughts on “Self-Forged Chains

  1. I think a lot of minorities in this country are darned smart; and they can be good at anything they really want, if the community and family supports them. Whenever they support something academic or “brainy,” brainy kids magically emerge. If the community beats them up, they’ll usually bend their brains elsewhere or drop into the background.

    Yesterday, I saw most of the PBS documentary “Brooklyn Castle” about IS 318’s famous chess program for junior high kids. The chess club is notable for having several African-American junior high chess players achieve the level of Master, and for winning tons of national chess tournaments. The club also has white kids, Asian kids, Hispanic kids, Indian kids, etc — tons of everybody doing well.

    The major thing I noticed about the school is that it honestly seems to have a culture of nice, even though it’s a public school in a poorish area. When they showed the lunchroom, it wasn’t just the geeks and the chess club sitting together with no distinction of race or money levels; it was everybody.

    One of the chess teachers, a gem of a lady, pointed out that nobody can tell ahead of time how good you’re going to get at chess. It’s not just innate talent, or even mostly; and there’s no one-to-one guarantees about how much work you have to do to get to the next level. People jump up to new levels whenever something finally clicks with them, and nobody knows when that will happen. So she’s willing to work with any kid who’s willing to be interested.

    I am pretty much the complete and total opposite of a chess player (tiny children can beat the heck out of me at strategic, tactical, or spatial games), so I couldn’t follow the finer points. But it was really fun to see a mix of “normal” and geeky kids doing geek stuff. There were some interesting reflections on geek kids beating themselves up over not being perfect, which even we adults may find useful.

      1. I also found Rochelle very interesting as a study. I think mostly it was just the cold of A/C at these competitions (I sympathize with anybody who gets cold easily!); but she definitely morphs back and forth in how she carries herself, between the two sides of her activities and interests.

        1. Oh, and the assistant principal guy is apparently conservative or libertarian, because at one point he says something and the other teacher sounds surprised and says, “That’s the most liberal thing I’ve ever heard you say,” and he replies, “And you’ll never hear it again.” 🙂

          I think it’s a rule that assistant principals have to have bulldog personalities because of their disciplinary role.

  2. ::BRAVA:: Well said! Our lives are what we build them to be. Not everybody gets the same tool kit or materials – but we build the best we are able. We don’t sit and howl because we only got steel nails but Able over there got the cool wooden dowels. We use what we have to the best of our abilities.

  3. The interesting thing about race and genetic inheritance is how little we are able to separate them from culture, nutrition etc. (A point you made). Are there racial differences? Almost certainly. Do we really know what they are and can we categorize them well, no. A lot of this goes back to the Eugenics movement in the 30’s. Now we are afraid to look at these issues honestly. On one side we have straight up racism, on the other the implied racism of the lefts “do gooding” and on top of that, the fact that if there are clear genetic markers for “better” and “worse”, in any category, we have some very difficult questions to answer.
    I say, let everyone do their best and let’s not worry about the rest.

    1. Are there racial differences? Almost certainly.

      No, because that would require that “race” exist as an objective thing, rather than being roughly a cross between a thumbnail sketch description (hair/eye/build) and a list of the relatives one brags about.

      Genetic differences are totally different.

      It’s like the BMI– useful as a sort of identification tool because it’s something that is relatively easy and cheap to look at that can have a decent overlap with whatever you’re looking for, but it’s crazy to treat an identification tool as the things it can help find.

    1. Probably a little bit, considering how the Phoenicians got around (around the Med, around the Pillars of Hercules, . . .)

      1. Circumnavigating Africa. (We know they did that because they knew that the sun moved to their north, which they could not have figured out.)

      1. One story I read about Romulus and Remus explains the legend of them being “nursed by a she-wolf” by having their adopted mother having the “nick-name” of “She-Wolf”. Apparently she was an “interesting” woman who you didn’t cross lightly. [Wink]

          1. I read that as well, but I still like the idea that their foster-mom was a real tough woman (ie a bitch). [Grin]

          1. And why, in Latin American countries, [term for female dog] is more or less equivalent to [term for woman of ill repute]. Which is kinda why it’s an insult, which it also is in the anglophone countries, but we’ve forgotten why.

            1. C. S. Lewis observed that the term was losing meaning in his day, because people just used to smear, without remembering that it was an analogy between the woman in question and a she-dog in heat.

              1. A hetaera would socialize with you as well as put out, and she didn’t have to necessarily accept any customer that came down the pike. Since respectable (and unrespectable) Greek women usually had to stay home and keep weaving all the time to produce a cash product for the household, and since respectable Greek women usually never got to talk to any male who wasn’t either their husband, or their father and brothers, men didn’t necessarily get to socialize much with women.

              2. Courtesan has some of the same connotations as hetaera, your paying for the whole experience, going to dinner, dancing, being seen with a beautiful woman on your arm, etc. and then getting to take her home. A prostitute you are just paying for a tumble.

    2. “Philistine”

      don’t be silly. The Philistines are to the east of you. The Portuguese are to the west. It’s a wonder you held onto that empire for that long with geography that bad.

      1. Ah. But the Portuguese were first colonized by the Phoenicians which also begin in Ph. Little known about the Julius or as we used to call him Julie the Great: he was dyslexic.

        1. Keep in mind that Rome’s greatest terror — Hannibal’s At The Gates!!! — built his base in the Iberian peninsula but came from Carthage, a Phoenician/Philistinian colony. An obvious encirclement.

        2. …And as we all of course know, they all vehemently hated the cold, and thus eventually settled in Phoenix, AZ, which explains Gaius Iulius’ aversion to that fair, if warm, city.

  4. There is something to the idea of “race”, but it’s not what most people conceive it as.

    When you get right down to it, most of it stems from self-conceived and self-actuated ideas, just as Sarah is saying here. Think of yourself as an oppressed victim? Hey, Presto!!! You are!

    That’s the rub: If a society tells, through its memes and mechanisms, that a particular group is anything at all, it won’t be long until that group conforms to that “anything”. People are like that. Tell a kid he’s stupid, he’ll behave that way. Call him on his bullshit, keep him isolated from his peers who reinforce his self-conceptions, and he’ll eventually turn into himself, whatever the hell that may be.

    That said, I do think there are behavioral and intellectual characteristics encoded into our genes, and that some of those are consistent enough to be termed lineage-related characteristics. However, they are not consistently distributed among those other characteristics we routinely use as racial markers to be useful in characterizing races or nationalities in detail. We do that, but it’s just not reliable. For every well-organized Teuton you can cite, I can name half-a-dozen dozy dreamers who were born speaking German.

    1. That said, I do think there are behavioral and intellectual characteristics encoded into our genes, and that some of those are consistent enough to be termed lineage-related characteristics. However, they are not consistently distributed among those other characteristics we routinely use as racial markers to be useful in characterizing races or nationalities in detail. We do that, but it’s just not reliable. For every well-organized Teuton you can cite, I can name half-a-dozen dozy dreamers who were born speaking German.

      Well said.

      Hehe, example came to mind: it’s like walking under a ladder being unlucky. It is, when you have a bucket fall on your head….

      1. There are observable physical differences between the races at the medical level (sickle-cell anemia and lactose tolerance, for obvious examples). It would be a case of special pleading to say “only those physical genes, and nothing having to do with behavior”.

        Granted, we’re all pretty well “mixed” ancestrally, and we can (and should) ethically choose to hold all equal under the law, but we would be daft to say there aren’t differences that are racial in nature. The real issue is “so what?”

        Generalizations are true, until they aren’t. The quick summary judgments you make when walking down a dark street may be unfair, but stereotypes are just as much a part of a survival behavior as attributing that unidentified rustle in the undergrowth to a lion is. It’s how we (species) think, and the siblings of our ancestors who took too long to draw those conclusions are no longer represented in our gene pool.

        But genes aren’t necessarily destiny. Ethics compels us not to penalize broadly, and individuals can still choose (much of) their behavior. Always best to judge actions, not potential, anyway.

        1. There are observable physical differences between the races at the medical level (sickle-cell anemia and lactose tolerance, for obvious examples). It would be a case of special pleading to say “only those physical genes, and nothing having to do with behavior”.

          Rather the opposite– it’s special pleading to claim inherited genetic quirks are “racial” just because, being inherited genetically, they show up in vaguely the same distribution as “race” markers.

          It’s easy to prove, too– there are blonds with sickle cell. You either “no true scotsman” your own example, or show that “race” is meaningless as an objective thing.

          1. How can you talk like special pleading is a bad thing — it’s how everything works in this country, don’t you know? Obamacare is the law for everyone… except Congressmen and politically-connected unions. Dissent is patriotic… unless the President is black. We should have civility in our political discussions, you nazi. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

        2. When the Daughtorial Unit was young enough that she was just beginning to generalize about categories such as race, we advised her to eschew hating people wholesale on the grounds that they would give you ample reason to hate them retail, that some small number of the focused group would not merit your hatred, and that there would be a very large number of people you overlooked as outside that group who would amply deserve your hatred.

          Truly, it is so easy to discern reasons for disliking other people in very short time there is no significant benefit to be derived from anticipatory enmity.

  5. I’m impressed, not only with your grasp of the English language, but also with the discerning commentary on racism, cultural differentiation, etc. You have said it much better than I could begin to say it.

  6. One thing, though. Failure isn’t a permanent state unless you allow it to be. Of course, if you have the attitude that you’ll never succeed because “The Man” is keeping you down, then naturally, you assume you’ll never succeed.
    In fact (and my wife was reminding me of this just yesterday), failure is often a necessary precursor to success. It’s the picking yourself back up after that separates those who eventually do succeed and those who don’t.

    1. There’s an immense value in discovering (or observing at close range) how not to do things. Unless those errors involve explosives or flammable liquids.

      1. They can involve *other people* doing things with explosives or flammable liquids. Or in my father’s case, moss-covered cedar shake roofs. He sailed off ours on multiple occasions. Fortunately no broken bones due to Mom’s fondness for sturdy plants, but still a valuable life-lesson for us impressionable children. (Lesson being: Don’t Do What Dad Does, It Ends With Blood and Stitches)

      2. Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that. — Benjamin Franklin

      3. Southern redneck battle cry: “Hey Y’all, come watch this!”
        And, yes, I have been on either end of that exchange on more than a few occasions.

    2. I don’t know whether it is behind the paywall, but if need be I will provide “photocopies” of the Wall Street Journal’s article from last Saturday:

      October 12, 2013, 8:50 p.m. ET

      Scott Adams’ Secret of Success: Failure
      What’s the best way to climb to the top? Be a failure.

      If you’re already as successful as you want to be, both personally and professionally, congratulations! Here’s the not-so-good news: All you are likely to get from this article is a semientertaining tale about a guy who failed his way to success. But you might also notice some familiar patterns in my story that will give you confirmation (or confirmation bias) that your own success wasn’t entirely luck.

      If you’re just starting your journey toward success—however you define it—or you’re wondering what you’ve been doing wrong until now, you might find some novel ideas here. Maybe the combination of what you know plus what I think I know will be enough to keep you out of the wood chipper.

      Let me start with some tips on what not to do. Beware of advice about successful people and their methods. For starters, no two situations are alike. Your dreams of creating a dry-cleaning empire won’t be helped by knowing that Thomas Edison liked to take naps. Secondly, biographers never have access to the internal thoughts of successful people. If a biographer says Henry Ford invented the assembly line to impress women, that’s probably a guess.

      But the most dangerous case of all is when successful people directly give advice. For example, you often hear them say that you should “follow your passion.” That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?

      Here’s the counterargument: When I was a commercial loan officer for a large bank, my boss taught us that you should never make a loan to someone who is following his passion. For example, you don’t want to give money to a sports enthusiast who is starting a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty. That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He’s in business for the wrong reason.


      On the other hand, Dilbert started out as just one of many get-rich schemes I was willing to try. When it started to look as if it might be a success, my passion for cartooning increased because I realized it could be my golden ticket. In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.

      So forget about passion. And while you’re at it, forget about goals, too.

      Just after college, I took my first airplane trip, destination California, in search of a job. I was seated next to a businessman who was probably in his early 60s. I suppose I looked like an odd duck with my serious demeanor, bad haircut and cheap suit, clearly out of my element. I asked what he did for a living, and he told me he was the CEO of a company that made screws. He offered me some career advice. He said that every time he got a new job, he immediately started looking for a better one. For him, job seeking was not something one did when necessary. It was a continuing process.

      This makes perfect sense if you do the math. Chances are that the best job for you won’t become available at precisely the time you declare yourself ready. Your best bet, he explained, was to always be looking for a better deal. The better deal has its own schedule. I believe the way he explained it is that your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job.

      This was my first exposure to the idea that one should have a system instead of a goal. The system was to continually look for better options.


      If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.


      My system of creating something the public wants and reproducing it in large quantities nearly guaranteed a string of failures. By design, all of my efforts were long shots. Had I been goal-oriented instead of system-oriented, I imagine I would have given up after the first several failures. It would have felt like banging my head against a brick wall.

      But being systems-oriented, I felt myself growing more capable every day, no matter the fate of the project that I happened to be working on. And every day during those years I woke up with the same thought, literally, as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and slapped the alarm clock off.

      Today’s the day.

      If you drill down on any success story, you always discover that luck was a huge part of it. You can’t control luck, but you can move from a game with bad odds to one with better odds. You can make it easier for luck to find you. The most useful thing you can do is stay in the game. If your current get-rich project fails, take what you learned and try something else. Keep repeating until something lucky happens. The universe has plenty of luck to go around; you just need to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn. It helps to see failure as a road and not a wall.


      What I learned from that experience is that there is no such thing as useful information that comes from a company’s management. Now I diversify and let the lying get smoothed out by all the other variables in my investments.

      These failures are just a sampling. I’m delighted to admit that I’ve failed at more challenges than anyone I know.

      Read the whole thing — I’ve given you about half of it.

      1. You are gonna fail — until you succeed.

        Or, to use other terms, you’re gonna lose until you win. Never quit until you win. People who don’t quit until they win are called winners, even though they might’ve lost far more than they’ve won. People who quit before they’ve won are just losers.


      2. I’m going to read the whole thing, and I’m going to appreciate it–I’m starting a “business” (in quotes because it will be part-time, 8-12 hours a week, and I have no idea what I’m doing except that I want to start something, and learn new things, and hopefully find something that people need done, that will make a profit)–but I can’t help but be amused by the inherent contradiction of the piece: “Don’t listen to what successful people say, but I’m going to tell you how to be successful.”

        Having said that, I attended a “Launchup” meeting for startups a few months ago, at an Open Source Conference, and I remember the same advice–don’t listen to successful people, essentially because they were successful on their terms, in their domain, but (1) they may have been lucky, and (2) their business might have nothing to do with your business.

    3. “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

      “Yep — lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

      [W. Sherman, and U. Grant, following Day 1 of the Battle of Shiloh]

  7. Oh yea– the royal family joke (intimately related) made me laugh too– yep, I might have some connections there too… and intimately *snort

    As for the rest, well, my grandfather, father, and I were sent to electronic schools when we went into the Navy. Grandfather was a radar operator/technician. So I do think some things are genetic. Also there were writers and singers in the family. That seems to come through the line. So yea, some things go through families. I do think it is genetic and has very little to do with culture or race.

    My opinion only– BTW I have two sisters, two brothers, and father who look Hispanic except they have blue eyes. The rest of us are blonde hair with blue eyes. They used to ask me if I was adopted.

    1. Actually, ASVAB results through a long enough time frame might make an interesting study, to try and find family relationships correlating with scores by area.

      1. Yes, it would be interesting. Funny, my father did teach electronics to the boys, but not the girls, which is why my high scores on the ASVAB including on tools was quite strange.

        1. In the ’70s, it was a ‘Which tool is the hammer?” sort of thing, as well as a ‘Which end of the screwdriver do you grab?”

          Oddly, I did worst in Administrative, which is where I spent most of my career. They also serve who can alphabetize and file…

          1. late 80s when I took the test 😉 I knew people who studied for the test. I just took it without preparation and if I had been male they would have shipped me off to the nuke program. *shudder

      2. Dr. Thomas Sowell uses ASVAB and other military testing results often when debunking racist ideas; he points out that poor white Southern military recruits in WWII scored significantly lower as a group than poor black men from the North. This does rankle my Southern pride, but numbers don’t lie.

  8. “they are poor BECAUSE the US is rich “

    That’s just yer basic Marxist precept in action: wealth is a finite commodity, and one can only gain wealth by making someone else poorer, in the Marxist theory of zero-sum economics. (Actually, Marxism states that one class can only become richer at the expense of the other, but you get my drift.)

    Yet another wonderful example of how socialism is flawed at its very foundational premise. As I said yesterday, socialism has only three critical flaws: theory, execution and outcome. Other than that, it’s fine.

    Or, as I said somewhere else: socialism attempts to suppress human nature, while capitalism only exacerbates it.

    1. Well, they are poor because the US is rich.

      After all, there are poor in America. Do they lack the basic necessities of life? Of course not. Indeed, they live in the 70th percentile world-wide. Their “poverty” is lacking things that richer folks have.

      They would not be poor if they did not cast envious and covetous eyes across the ocean.

  9. The Combat Accountant has an interesting tangentially related post up today: Larry had his DNA tested for national origin markers, and guess what – he’s from all over the place.

    Like most modern humans, he’s got a little of this and a little of that. His takeaway: “If there is one thing the Portuguese are awesome at it is travelling around the world and picking up chicks!”

    To tie into the point of Sarah’s post today, anyone who thinks that the mix and mash that is modern human heredity is anything like a coherent, or even comprehensible, story is just fooling themselves. Humans as a species are really just not that selective, hooking up with whoever strikes their fancy from the available pool, and basing any prejudgements of individuals on visible or regional characteristics is bound to be not only stupid, but useless.

  10. Great post, as usual my mind latched ahold of the unimportant minutae, however. I don’t believe it is just statues in the past in South America that have negroid features. If you look at National Geographic some of the ‘native’ South American tribes today have more prominently negroid features than you do yourself. (honestly I haven’t seen them in the online pictures and interviews of you I have seen, so they aren’t that obvious, but until I meet you in person I’ll take your word that they are there)

    Our mixed up genetics can produce some interesting results at times, I went to school with a family (and later worked for the father). The parents were both straight, brown haired (father medium dark, mother kind of dishwater blond) typical northern European looking. They had three kids that more closely resembled albino Africans than anything, they all had pale white skin, white blond hair and blue eyes, but they had afro curled hair and the ‘typical African’* facial features, large broad nose, prominent lips, etc.

    *I know not all Africans have these features, but many tribes do, enough so that it is commonly recognized as typical.

    1. BTW, my family– which does have some Indian blood– tends to ask if it’s not totally obvious: “Feather or dot?” when folks mention things are “Indian.”

      1. Hence why I use AMERINDIAN. Incidentally, since I wore braids till 12, my dad’s name for me was India — which in Portuguese can mean “female Indian” or the country. eh.

    2. As a sailor and boat designer/builder, I’ve paid a lot of attention to archaic and native boats, particularly the Polynesian canoes. My opinion is that back then everyone was going all over the place and the records are just lost in antiquity. Even a modest sailing canoe has intercontinental range, and the native navigation techniques work just fine. Island hopping or following the ice edge will get you anywhere you want.

    3. I’ve long suspected the prehistory of the Americas was much more complex than we thought.

  11. It’s pretty simple: Don’t put your salvation in someone else’s hands. They don’t have the urgency to fix it.

    A number of years back, I got to meet Dave Pelzer, the subject/author of A Child Called It and its sequels, and the victim of one of the most horrific publicly documented cases of child abuse in California. (At least, one of the most horrific that was survived.) The odd thing was that he was a very funny man—an excellent public speaker who had the audience laughing. He works with victims of child abuse, and the thing he tries hardest to do is instill some sense of agency in them. When they react with anger as a default, he’s trying to get them to understand that as a trained reaction, and that they actually have the option to react otherwise. It sounds basic, but as he knows, it’s very hard to get out of the sheer survival mode and into a space where you realize that you have control over your own life.

    If he can get kids who have been beaten and terrorized to take charge of themselves and dream big, ANYONE can learn that sort of thing. It’s a big scary thing, taking responsibility. But it can lead to amazing things.

    1. Aside: I read A Child Called “it” some years back. Haunting, and hard to get through because of the empathetic pain. Would like to meet him, myself.

        1. I put Child in my wish list for a revisit, I’ll probably work through the series from there. Had intended to read further before but I guess it just fell off my list…

  12. Race And Culture: A World View by Thomas Sowell. Read. Enjoy. Learn this all on a grand scale.

  13. The problem with “Race” is that it veils that which truly shapes our personalities, our lives and our destinies: Astrology.

    Sure, the science has been discredited by all the silly focus on sun signs while ignoring the importance of the Ascendant and the influences of major planets such as Jupiter and Saturn, but that is just distraction. We are the sum total of the stars at our births and nothing can change that. Race is a tawdry means of obscuring that fact.

    Although, I suspect the Japanese focus on the influence of blood types may be almost as important.

      1. Only if I get to call the position (after the form of “The Merlin”) in honor of the wise Irish astronomer Mack E. O’velly.

        ‘Tain’t somebody’s fault if their ascendant house, combined with the placements of Saturn and Mars condemns them to a disposition to treason, but ‘twould be wrong of us to not act to prevent their dishonoring their family by acting on such predilection.

      1. I hope you will autograph a copy for me. I will happily exchange for it a copy of my monograph: Prediction Per Proctology.

    1. I hate to be the one to Spica your theory or to suggest that anything Mars your logic, but the Algol of astrology is really to offset the illogical approach of numerology, not to make predictions.

      1. Astrology is a poor tool for prediction, but a superb one for character analysis, understanding those aspects of character which are expansive for housing Sol or Jupiter, constricted by the presence of Saturn or excited through the occupation of Mercury. A skilled reader of horoscopes can determine an individual’s personality with compelling conviction. The great thing is, the horoscope doesn’t even have to be accurately cast!

    2. Yes, I’m a Gemini. Therefore I’m two-faced. [Very Big Evil Grin]

      1. As a Gemini I have always been of two minds about Astrology. But it is probably as accurate a predictor of individual attributes as is race.

              1. In my opinion, that right there throws it all out the window. My wife is a Leo and her mom was a Cancer, and they fought like cats and dogs. If you were like those two, you would have killed him when you were on the Prednisone.

                1. Well – you have to take in account Sun, Moon, and Rising sign. 😉 I heard a theory that my moon sign (water) and his sun sign (water) were compatible. My mother is a Taurus and I am a Leo and my mother and I didn’t get on (unless you call WWE get it on as getting on).. I think that is the mother daughter tension that you find in most families–

                  My father is also a Taurus– and both my parents have strong opinions and no one else has opinions (supposedly typical of Tauruses).

                  Sun signs only tell a portion of the story which is why I don’t agree with most astrology –this is your day forecasts. 😉

                  Plus sun sign only– is an average Cancer or Leo. It doesn’t take in account the individual which changes from leo to leo… and so forth. I am still in the Leo category, but the Scorpio moon really changes me a lot– I love deep dark secrets and tell dark stories. Plus I am an introvert… if you go by the sun sign only, then I should be an extrovert. That is — if you agree with it as a personality chart. Even Meyers and Briggs has different introverts and extroverts. (See how I turned that into a personality chart?) Now… the Chinese astrology imho is more accurate than the Western astrology.

                  Also– astrology and astronomy started at the same time (study of the stars and planets). Astronomists just don’t like to acknowledge it. The Chemists have a same problem– alchemy. 😉

                2. BTW that is supposing your wife is a leo like I am a leo (I am a cusper so I don’t even act like one). And your mother-in-law is a Cancer like my hubby is a Cancer. If you throw out the fact that male/female changes the equation as well. 😉 Science has its exceptions too.

        1. Dude*, I’m a goat with a freaking FISH TAIL for no apparent reason!

          *”dude” in the California sense of “person to whom I am speaking,” not the new-Cali sense of “person to whom I am speaking who is of a masculine leaning.”

  14. If there’s anything to the “White Privilege” nonsense, it’s the tendency of white males to categorize the *ssholes they run across as *ssholes and ignore them to the maximum extent possible, while minorities cleave to them as totems of their “oppression” and thus an excuse for their failures.

    1. White Institutional Male Privilege (or WIMP) = the inability to blame others for your personal failings and therefore having to actually work to make something of your life rather than invest your time in whining and blaming others.

      1. The latest flavor of this that’s been making the rounds in my circles is the “men can’t write women because… They’re men. And inherently sexist. But women can write men, of course.” Because they’re magically impervious to the effects of hormones, or something.

        Eye-rollingly ignorant, but even people who have been doing their art for a long time fall prey to it. > >

      1. Well, yes, but my point is that white males aren’t conditioned to see discrimination, so they tend to attribute *sshole behavior to something else, even if it is due to discrimination. On the other hand, those who have been conditioned to feel that they’re discriminated against will see discrimination everywhere, even in bog-standard *ssholes.

        Since people who are always complaining about discrimination – which they see only because they look for it and want to see it – are going to be less successful than those who simply work around *ssholes, bigoted and otherwise, you get the only correlation between “White Privilege” and reality.

          1. if you whine about other people and don’t focus on improving yourself and making sure you function as best you can you’ll get ahead.

            To use a somewhat earthy metaphor, you can sit in your crap and blame others or you can clean yourself up and go do things.

            1. if you whine about other people and don’t focus on improving yourself and making sure you function as best you can you’ll get ahead.

              Part of why I’m a housewife instead of a Naval Chief by now…. *sigh*
              My whining is humor, rather than to tactical advantage; it really doesn’t make one feel better to know that what can’t go on won’t, especially when the “not going on” is probably going to hurt.

  15. “I read that people are being turned away from grad school because “if you don’t have the discipline to stay away from carbs, you can’t make it.” Well, take older son. He’s been carb free (more than low carb) for 4 years. He’s still overweight.”

    Riiiigghhht, so I guess Eskimos must not go to grad school much, because judging by their BMI they just don’t have the discipline to stay away from carbs.

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