Belonging — The Great Divorce a Blast from the Past From September 2015

*Sorry to be so late.  I couldn’t get into the back areas of my blog for over two hours, at which point writing a whole new post was out of the question.  This seems to continue yesterday’s theme, anyway – SAH*

Belonging — The Great Divorce a Blast from the Past From September 2015

To begin with let’s get something out of the way.  I know the popular idea of the libertarian out there on the public airwaves is the lone wolf, surviving by him/herself and needing no one.

That I know of that’s not true of any human unless he/she is actually insane — as in profoundly damaged to a level that can’t be retrieved.  Humans, whatever else we are, are social animals.  Okay, perhaps we’re not precisely animals.  Perhaps there is a greater animating spirit, an anima, if you will, there.

But rationality, no matter how shiny and glittery doesn’t overcome instincts laid so deep that they aren’t verbalized most of the time and we’re not even aware of it most of the time.

Whether we were made or just growed, what we came out of is a social animal base, and beneath the speech and the math, beneath the rocks we’ve gotten so good at piling together in sky-high caves, the social animal’s impulses and instincts remain.

Social animals — for our sins — have a need of belonging, and a need for the comfort of the band.  If I were a psychologist, instead of just reading a sh*tton about psychology and behavior (and yeah, I read about everything.  Wanna take issue with that?) I’d say it was perhaps worse in humans than in other apes because of our prolonged childhood which not only gives us the idea of a “golden age” when the group protects us, but also on the other side of it as an instinctive need to protect our kin, our kith, our tribe.

I’ve said before that tribalism is one of the greatest evils of the human condition.  In so far as it is exclusionary, it leads not just to racism and all the other isms that break humanity into bits, but also to things like voting for a president because he’s “our people.”  (And that’s not just a matter of race.  How many Catholics, whether they admitted it or not, do you think rushed to vote for Kennedy because he was “one of ours”?  If the bios I read are any indication, most of them.) Or refusing to listen to someone because he’s NOT our people.

The thing is tribalism is also one of the greatest goods of the human condition.  which of us has never had a group of people — friends, family, co-workers — that was just right and to whom we belonged?  Which of us doesn’t remember when you all gather together and everything works just right, with this sort of warm golden glow?

All those stories of large families, of kin groups, of villages that work harmoniously — why do you think they’re so successful?

It’s never quite right, of course.  There’s always one person who is an annoyance (I think lately at MGC that has been me, with all the late posting and stuff) and one person who is out of step, but it’s worth enduring it all for the golden glow of belonging.

There is a reason solitary confinement is a horrible punishment and few people emerge from it sane particularly if it takes a long time.

Which brings us to various evils of belonging, such as the instinctive ranking of people and positions, which brings us to “bling-radicalism” or “radical chic” which makes horrors like communism a positional good in certain (alas creative and academic above all) circles.

That will be dealt with in a later part of this.  Right now I want to talk about the groups that do not and cannot belong harmoniously to the whole, and the problem of their attraction for dictatorial regimes.

First I will give my cred for this.  Someone (ah — maybe more than someone, though in one body) on twitter was going on about how Brad and I were not real geeks/nerds and how we didn’t know the pain of not belonging.  (Rolls eyes.)

I don’t know what real nerds/geeks are.  There has been some intimation it’s tied to high IQ, but as a fan of mine who is a psychologist pointed out, we’ve got really good at measuring IQ.  We know it’s a consistent measurement.  We know what it does and how to test it.  What we don’t, in fact, know is what it’s good for.  Beyond that there are people of extraordinary intelligence who suck at testing.  Testing is really bad, for instance, when it comes to measuring kinetic intelligence.  There are tests that will do it, but not the normally applied ones.

I have reason to know this because there are indications both younger son and I (though doing well enough academically) are best at learning through our fingers.  What I mean is, I can figure out how to build something better by manipulating the pieces than by looking at the instructions, either drawn or written out.  And younger son, I swear, learned to read by learning to write, which sounds inane, but it’s what he did.

Anyway, so it all brings us to “what are nerds/geeks”?  Right now it’s hard to tell since so much geekdom has gone mainstream, but at its roots, and starting with us or our parents, you could substitute for both terms “odd” or even “excluded.”

And who are the excluded ones?

There are certain things that are almost constant about us. We usually have some things in common, like a tendency to overthink things, to have to do by thought what others seem to get instinctively, a tendency to like to take refuge in imaginary worlds and stories, and often (though not always) a tendency to create, whether machines or paintings.

Yes, I am aware that what I describe above sounds like “autistic spectrum” but there are some odds — me, for instance — who can read people quite well, thank you, and understand emotions perhaps a bit too well.

There is a phenomenon that my friend Dave Freer, who is a biologist and used to live in Africa, described to me.  Apparently ape bands have “odds” too.  He calls them “outliers.”  They’re apes whose behavior doesn’t quite mesh with others, and who often become the target of aggression.  The thing is they’re also usually the creative ones who figure out how to break the seed to get at the interior, or that a particular berry can be eaten if thoroughly rinsed, or whatever.

This brings us to the fact I think the medicalization of oddness, as well as the marginalization of it might be a factor of our mass culture.  With the advent of industrialization that required large scale machines, investment and labor, the concept of “normal” set in.  Since I grew up in a very weird place and time, I can still, sort of, see not so much through it as around it.

I’m not talking about “normal” as in “can look after self” but “normal” as in “does the expected.”

For instance, while dragging my kids behinds to school every day at the same time, and trying to get them to turn in homework, I became acutely aware that I’d have failed elementary school in the US. You see, the village hadn’t yet got the standardization thing and since my family was known to be — well — odd, but okay with all the learning stuff, the teacher didn’t bat an eye if I showed up at 9 or 8 or 10 or 11 or whenever mom persuaded me to go dragging into school.  And as for homework, well, the teacher proved willing to accept, in lieu of essays on “my favorite holiday” short stories about colonizing a planet.  Because standardization hadn’t hit.

But modern life and standardization have little room for outliers, which is why we medicalize it and treat it as an abnormality.

Recently (!) a friendly acquaintance in the field was lamenting that his son was “autistic” but the symptoms he gave was that the other kids wouldn’t play with him, and that he still couldn’t ride a bike or jump rope.

Well, by that definition, my entire paternal line is autistic.  When my brother was a star handball player, and part of the training involved rope-jumping, mom tried to teach him (and me.)  It couldn’t be done.  Brother never learned to ride a bike, even though it was the normal mode of transport over somewhat longer distances.  I’ve learned three times… and forgotten each time (and I was never great at it.)  And while mom used to go all over the surrounding areas on a bike as a young woman, I don’t think dad ever learned to ride, because all his stories are of WALKING everywhere, including high school which was hours away on foot.

As for getting along…

We might not know what Odds/Geeks/Nerds are, but normal people do.  They tend to be the rejected kids, hanging out, solitary, often with a book (I suppose these days with a tablet) in a corner of the playground.

In my family we usually figured it out and could “ape” normality enough to have a social life by the end of elementary/middle school. Some of us were so good at it that we got a little lost, and the suppressed oddness came out with a vengeance in old age.

But anyway, I know what it is like not to belong.  My normal number of close friends is three or four.  I was “popular” in college but the acting and constant watching yourself in public made it difficult.  And even then I was only popular as the “Weird friend.”

So while I can’t point and say “I was a different color/gender/orientation and that’s why I was excluded” I can say I was an odd and an outlier, and I know what it is like to be outside.  (And in point of fact, at least in high school and college, I was a different social strata and a provincial — even though the village was only ten kilometers from the city, it’s a long distance when your transportation is mostly public buses — and my gestures/dress/speech showed it.)

Now I know, I understand, the desire and need to belong, and how, like a mirage, it recedes the more within your reach you think it is.  Short of denying who you really are you can’t “fit”.  It’s just not there.  And particularly for kids, this is very painful.  You don’t expect no to belong.  And when you don’t it comes as a shock and anger.

I think this explains why racial, orientation and gender minorities both tend to resent the regime they live under, particularly if it’s more or less free, and wish for a more top-down system.

Our first experience of belonging (or not, for some) is of a family.  And even in dysfunctional families, the parental authority, if it’s worth anything enforces the “he/she is weird, but he/she is ours.” In school, also, for the truly odd kid, the teacher and the supervising assistant, or whatever, are the ones who intervene to stop abuse by peers.

So at the back of the mind of a lot of oddlings — no matter how or what makes you odd — is the idea that a benevolent dictator could MAKE others accept you.  That you could fit in.

I completely understand the radicalization of minorities.

But I submit to you it also comes from a total lack of knowledge/acceptance of history.

There is a reason in my revolution-against-a-suffocating regime I had a gay couple as heroes.

I know that in many places, from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia, Odds, including racial and sexual minorities, were part of the supporters that brought the regime to power and were also the effective target of those regimes, sometimes to the death.

I know that in no dictatorial/oppressive regime is ANY minority free to express itself.  It might be tolerated as long as it stays hidden.  And that definitely includes those undefinable individuals who are “merely” odd.

This is because cohesiveness is the greatest tool of an oppressive regime.  You can’t kill all dissidents, but if you create the impression “we’re all this way” you stop a lot of rebellion before it happens.  Hence minorities must become invisible in the whole, or perish.

In the Soviet Union (refer to Nicki’s essay yesterday) racial/ethnic minorities were excluded/treated like second class citizens/encouraged to hide themselves.  Sexual minorities…

I invite you to tell me in which communist or otherwise dictatorial regime homosexuality is free to express itself.  In China, apparently, there’s a concerted effort to deny that Chinese CAN be homosexual (and sexuality as a whole is considered a sort of downfall unless it’s married sexuality in its proper place.)  And we all remember Iammadjihad assuring us there were no homosexuals in Iran.

What else?  Cuba? Ah.  Even in Russia in his gathering, non-doctrinal dictatorship, Putin very much wants to exclude any sexual minorities.  I confess I have no idea what he’s up to with racial minorities, but I’d warrant it’s not good.

As for the other “Odds”, those of us who just don’t fit in and aren’t sure why, (And I’m aware some of you are double odds, yes, both an excluded, obvious minority and one you don’t know why you’re excluded, sometimes by your own subgroup) we also don’t do so well.  You see that “creative” and “doesn’t do what is expected” makes us the bane of dictators, who want both predictable and stable societies.  The stable is sort of how they sell themselves to normal people.  “You won’t be rich, but you’ll know exactly how poor you’ll be tomorrow.”

It seems to be part of the social destiny of the odds that in striving for inclusion and fighting against the regime we grow up in and which seems to exclude us (which if it’s a free regime is not exactly true.  We are excluded by structures remaining from mass industrialization and from the habit of “normal” in our schooling and society) we end up installing a regime that denies us/kills us.

On the other hand, the era of standardization, mass industrialization and “normalization” is passing.  The coming era of fractured production and industry and more importantly the coming era of communication long distance, allows each oddling to find his/her group and to belong without sacrificing all of oneself.

Which is something that will produce, hopefully, creativity without the pain of not belonging.

Even if the remnants of the mass-industrial-art complex are still doing their best to pound us square pegs into round holes.

It doesn’t matter.  Theirs is a time that is passing.  Ours is the time that is coming.

In the end, we win, they lose.

Ca Ira.

164 thoughts on “Belonging — The Great Divorce a Blast from the Past From September 2015

      1. I think RES likes carp. And this is the way to get it for free. Well, almost for free, just needs to think of some more horrible puns. Carp pun exchange.

        1. Piffle. It requires no effort of mine to generate horrible puns. They are a natural byproduct of my intellectual processing, just as flatulence is a natural byproduct of my gastrointestinal processing. My only problem in regard to punning is to release them amongst a safe populace lest I explode.

          1. There isn’t. I don’t have the reference, but I overheard oldest talk about it. It’s one of those disasters that isn’t happening, after all. I’ll ask him for the reference when he gets home. Apparently bee keepers just started more colonies and there is no bee collapse.

          2. Unless they “fixed” the news search again, you can go to the google news search and find a cycle– it’s roughly every 5-15 years, but the actual trigger is when bee keeping becomes a fad in an area.

            Coast to Coast AM had a REALLY funny episode where they had a guy who came in an explained exactly that; there’s mites, and there’s the colony growing faster than expected so they swarm, there’s some fungus (which looks like the bees vanished– some wander out to die, some turn to dust) and diseases. Sometimes folks misusing pest control measures, too.

            Basically, there’s a reason that folks who keep bees long term have a LOT of hives– they are fickle creatures to keep!

          3. Because that is not the question. To bee or not to bee, that is The Question.

            Or Vic Sage, although they’ve so entangled the continuity that I think they’ve forgotten the question.

        1. But but but teh all natural bee hives keep turning up EMPTY!!!! It must be a dire plot, it can’t be that bees are hard to raise even if you’ve got decades of experience!

  1. Long ago I read a paper that suggested that everyone has three basic fantasies: The fantasy of what’s truly desirable; the fantasy of what’s truly horrible; and the fantasy of what’s the minimum that will keep you safe from the true horror. I think a lot of people don’t realize that for libertarians, while the true horror is forced belonging to a group or organization or collective, rugged individualism is the defensive/protective fantasy, the shield against forced belonging; it’s not what’s truly desirable. What’s truly desirable is belonging voluntarily to a voluntary community. The crucial point is that voluntary community and involuntary collective are poles apart.

    In Atlas Shrugged, Rand has a tramp tell the story of how he used to be a worker at a factory whose heirs decided to run it by “from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.” And when a woman became pregnant, the other workers would ostracize her husband, because he’d just added one more “need.” But under the old, capitalistic system, they’d have congratulated him, and maybe raised money to help pay for the hospital bills, if he was financially pressed. There’s the difference between the two in a striking example.

    1. Very true about the various fantasies. Though I think that the “rugged individualism” is usually stuffed up as a straw-man in order to have something that can be easily destroyed, after all, we all depend on each other. And then it’s possible to ignore the difference between those voluntary relationships of interdependence and the ones that we’ve no choice about.

      I told a guy last week when he was getting all virtuous about taxes that you don’t get to claim Virtue for something you’d be arrested for if you didn’t do. You only get to be virtuous about what you do freely.

      And that’s sort of what Rand is illustrating there. Not only do you not get to be virtuous for what you’ve no choice over, you also don’t get to feel good about it. People most certainly will feel resentful of someone who chooses to put a greater burden on the group, to “need” more in a way that obligates them against their will.

      1. I’m as big a fan of “rugged individualism” as the next person who’s grown their own hops and barley to brew their own beer as a minor.

        But I’ll be among the first to admit that other people really are needed.
        Even if I’d generally prefer a bit more time when I didn’t have to interact with them.

        1. My mom calls it “people who need people to show they don’t need people.”

          Even if I’m just sitting in the mall and never say a word to anybody I don’t know that isn’t purchase related, there are people.

          Being truly alone is kind of like sleep– I need it, I need SOME quiet, but it could easily reach toxic levels.

      2. It’s probably uncommon among libertarians who think about it– sadly, those aren’t usually the loudest!

        You get a lot of both College Libertarians and the “you’re free to want what my theory says you should” type libertarians who do the radical individualism shtick.

        They’re usually the ones being obnoxious and dumb with things like I’ve got to let you hit me before I can act like you swinging your arm is a threat, because otherwise the theory requires judgement and becomes a lot harder to defend. (Never mind that dozens of times, different folks here have pointed out that just encourages one to make dang sure you only NEED one hit.)

          1. At which point I get screamed at that I’m a horrible person/authoritarian totalitarian whatever they wanna call me this week, irrational and such.


            1. Come over and take a look at the Libertarian Futurist Society. I don’t think we have any of those. We read books and give an annual Best Novel award (and inspire annual comments from SF bloggers about how they don’t understand how we could have nominated this or that book, but that’s another story). You can find us at if you’re curious.

              1. No, thank you; basic philosophical disagreement about the inherent dignity of humanity, rooted in a belief in objective good.

                  1. *grin* It’s not universal for libertarians, but an awful lot are getting their religious fix at the same time. They find someone with organized religion who can speak rationally on the subject to be a threat; it is not enjoyable or enlightening.

                    So I avoid it. 🙂

                  1. I assumed that you are 1) familiar with their views, and 2) would not aid in misrepresenting them as self-described libertarians.

                    I further more know that they are scifi fans.

                    As they are not also described using any other modifier, a standard selection of views can be expected.

                    Given that information, the chance of there being a negative reaction to my not genuflecting at someone’s definition of “rational” being functionally identical to what they would do approaches zero.

                    As it is apparently an enjoyable place, since you don’t tend to troll and suggested it, I politely declined the invitation.

                  2. Reposted* from below:

                    *TWEET* Assumes fact not in evidence! That she did not provide evidence does not mean there is no evidence, merely that she thought the facts self-evident.

                    As is the case with many a minor sect, to know, know, know them is to loathe, loathe, loathe them. And we do, and we do, and we do.

                    *Stupid WP. I put in the URL for replying, why didn’t WP make it a reply?

    2. A character described that factory as a combination of a hospital and a slaughterhouse.

      An apt description of many prog-dominated institutions today, although the slaughter today in (so far) mainly metaphorical.

      1. What about the murders, bombings etc? otherwise I agree. I think we’re slowly sliding into a state of violence.

        1. I was thinking, for example, of a university at which everyone is viewed as totally fragile, in need of crayons and therapy dogs, etc….that would be the *hospital* part…and where anyone guilty of political deviations is dealt with in a ruthless fashion–that is the (so far, metaphorical) slaughterhouse.

          I guess one could see something of the same pairing in Democrat-controlled cities, in which the slaughter is not metaphorical, but then, also, the inhabitants are not treated as gently as are high-paying university students.

  2. The Greater Good is all find and dandy, but at what point do the needs of a small minority have anything to do with the Greater Good?

    Making room for the odd-ball is the polar opposite from the Greater Good. The Most benefit for the Most People is the opposite of any accommodations beyond the trivial for someone who is an outlier or who needs special services.

    1. It’s not only a small minority. Madison warned in the Federalist about the dangers of “a faction which is a majority”: That it will mistake its own interests for the good of society as a whole, and feel free to violate the rights of minorities. Aristotle distinguishes good government from bad by saying that good government acts as a trustee for the interests of the whole community, but bad government acts for its own benefit at the expense of the whole community—and majorities are just as capable of that as minorities.

      1. I’m not a Socialist so I’m not enamored with the concept of the Greater Good (though I’m a bit of a utilitarian, philosophically).

        But it does seem to be a logical failing to think that the Greater Good is going to apply to the fringe case of *anything*. And yet, people seem to think that it will.

        I suppose they do that by insisting that “diversity is our strength” or something… but they want that “diversity” not to involve a focus on or guarantee of individual rights. Bottom line is that it’s a very weird way of thinking.

        1. “Bottom line is that it’s a very weird way of thinking.”

          But it ISN’T a way of thinking. It’s a way of emoting. It’s a club to belabor the Enemy. It’s an excuse for feeling morally superior.

          It’s a way of NOT thinking.

          And, sadly, it’s entirely too goddamned common.

        2. I myself am totally not a utilitarian. Utilitarianism is what Ayn Rand calls a “sacrificial ethics”: It says that it’s legitimate to injure someone for the benefit of someone else or a lot of someone elses. For the utilitarian, someone is always going to be sacrificed, and it’s just a matter of trading off the sacrifices as equally as possible.

          The basis of a nonsacrificial ethics is that you don’t compel one person to suffer for another person’s gain. You can use force to stop other people from that sort of exploitative or abusive act; but if people haven’t attempted such a thing, you leave them alone. As Jefferson put it, if it neither breaks your leg nor picks your pocket, it’s not your business.

          Ursula Le Guin wrote a vivid parable abou this in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” though I’m not sure she ever realized it.

          1. So, a Utilitarian is the embodyment of Mencken’s Law

            “Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretext of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel”

            1. I sympathize with the sentiment, but I think as a free human being I have a natural right to be annoying.

              But yes, as far as political and social philosophy goes, that sums it up.

              In ethics, I see the great divide as having taken place around the time of Kant. Before him, you had Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Spinoza, for example, all saying “the point of ethics is to teach you how to find happiness” and “prudence is a virtue.” Then Kant comes along and says that the whole point of ethics is to do your duty out of respect for the concept of duty and that anything done out of inclination or prudence (for example, saving your friend’s life) is morally worthless. And after him you get Schopenhauer teaching that all of human existence is suffering and the only right thing to do is to spend your life relieving other people’s suffering; you get Comte saying that you should be totally focus on the needs of others and that any concern for yourself is evil (I read a biography of him that quoted him saying that “Love your neighbor as yourself” shows that Jesus had no understanding of morality, because he thought it was okay to love yourself and indeed made it the standard for love); and the utilitarians saying that it was okay to be concerned for your own interests as long as you were equally concerned for other people’s (in today’s world, I think that allows you 1/7,000,000,000 of your moral concern). I really feel that something went badly wrong with Kant. . . .

              1. “I sympathize with the sentiment, but I think as a free human being I have a natural right to be annoying.”

                Ah, but are you annoying on the pretext of saving or improving something?

                1. Not necessarily. Occasionally it might be just for amusement (though I no longer find it as amusing as I did half my life ago), or to relieve my feelings. Sometimes it would be to be true to my principles, which is for the sake of my own integrity and not as a way of improving other people. It could very well be inadvertent. In any case, I think that other people have a perfect right to rebuke or shun me, but not to send me to prison or otherwise forcibly restrain me. That’s why I would never live in the UK or on the continent; I don’t think fascism is improved by wearing the mask of politeness.

          2. To be sure, that turns on the moral thing being to walk away and let other people continue to exploit the kid.

            You could walk in, speak a kind word to the child, and bring down the whole rotten edifice.

            1. “To be sure, that turns on the moral thing being to walk away and let other people continue to exploit the kid.”
              Maybe that explains Rotherham-Telford et al.
              I, personally, Kant understand that kind of “morality” at all.

              1. Well, I’m not proposing that “walk away” is the right thing to do. I’m just saying that the setup Le Guin envisions follows completely logically from the utilitarian premise that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” And so it memorably demonstrates what that premise implies.

                1. This is not the way I view “utilitarian”. Any philosophical, uh, class breaks down rather quickly into excuses but if a social norm isn’t useful on a practical level, it’s sort of pointless. And if one’s ethical rules, or the rules of how one is supposed to be in order to be “Good” have no practical application, if they don’t *work*, then what good are they?

                  It’s like Rand saying that people ought to be selfish and all the dingbats running with that because they can’t comprehend that one’s self-interest could ever include charity or human connections. No, it’s all killing that golden goose out of greed and destroying everything in the process. Because *of course* a selfish person is too stupid to keep the golden goose alive.

    2. Isn’t it in the Constitution about how the rights of minorities should be protected? Not racial etc.

      1. An individual is a minority of one. Individual right that the government shall not touch is what the Constitution is all about.

    3. > Making room for the odd-ball is the polar opposite from the
      > Greater Good.

      No, it’s not.

      Making room for the odd-ball is making room for a different perspective, for that touch of genius that looked at that looked at the weird mold around the Staphylococci, that noticed that people who got cow-pox didn’t get small-pox.

      In a lot of ways making life better depends on the odds and sods, so if you DO NOT make room for them you do not make progress.

      1. Ah but “Those Who Look Out For The Common Good” might believe that “Progress Isn’t Good For The Common Good”. 😈

        1. Or they have a very strange idea of what “progress” is.

          The usual expression of the Greater Good isn’t to value the oddball or at least not to value ALL the oddballs. In practice the concept is an excuse to do something “for the greater good” that isn’t the best for an individual.

          Arguing for an emergent Greater Good as the result of protecting an individual’s rights first is something I agree is the case.

    4. That’s one of the places they’ve successfully stolen meaning.

      The Greater Good is poisoned by injustice–which abuse of the individual is. Justice is also something that can be sort of mechanized, but it needs mercy to keep from being perverted– and that can’t be mechanized. That requires someone stepping up and fixing the damage done by the person who can’t or won’t fix it.
      Greater Good beyond the most immediate possible level– as your example points to, wheelchair ramps don’t do any good to most people, and they do cost– is complicated, and even folks who are close enough to know a situation well aren’t going to make perfect choices. The further away you get, the harder it is to get enough information.

      You need a bunch of sub-groups, and different levels and focuses, preferably only loosely connected. “Subsidiarity” is the term the First Vatican Council came up with for it– can be rephrased as “deal with everything at the lowest reasonable level.” (more at link)

      Probably part of the problem is they only use “greater good” when there’s no other way to brow-beat folks into doing it– and they don’t usually bother to justify it, either!

  3. How to spot an “odd” in high school with near 100% reliability.
    – Not a member of any of the athletic teams.
    – Last picked for any team or study group.
    – Not a member of any of the school clubs.
    – Never attends school dances.
    – Almost invariably the ones picked on and bullied.
    – Any and every member of the special education classes.

    1. Eh, maybe, but today we were discussing one of the all time greatest sports press conferences that happened a few years ago during March Madness.

      Reporter: So why do you think your three-point shooting has improved so much during the tournament.

      Player: Before I address that, I just want to say a few words: xylophone, cattywampus, onomatopoeia.

      I’d bet that he was one of Us, even if he was deeply in denial about it.

      1. I loved the one where a reporter asked a Duke player (Tim Duncan? Bobby Hurley?) about a great game and he replied, deadpan, straight faced, “You see, we have a contract with ESPN Classics for three games per season…” Coach K almost fell over trying not to laugh.

    2. my hubby is an odd and he played defensive tackle and nose guard. Was not bullied. Would you want to bully a large football player? He was a chameleon.

    3. Pure odd here, and did #1, 3, 4, and missed out on #5- as Emily said, people who are 6’2″ and 190 pounds don’t get picked on as much.
      We also had a lot of kids from wealthy and connected families, so there was a pretty good group of very smart people in the top social rank of the school.
      Plus, most of the “jocks” were black, so the classic “jocks vs nerds” dynamic never really came into play.

      1. Sounds like the school hubby went to. It was a private school. Governor’s daughter as well as the children of the wealthiest attended.

        1. Ours was a public school, but it was a big, well funded public school. We didn’t have any good private or charter schools in the area at the time.
          Plus, the Academic Athlete had some merit for your application, so all the nerds ran track. As did all the jocks- our football coach was also the track coach, and anyone who wanted to play football had to do a spring sport.

    4. Not necessarily. A lot of special ed is for real, severe physical impairments.
      And hell, I attended school dances. And I formed a couple of clubs: SF and theater.

    5. BUZZ
      But thanks for playing.

      Granted, I was targeted by bullies a fair bit. It just never turned out the way the bullies expected it to. I might have been a late bloomer when it came to size, but had aggression and strength to more than make up for the lack.
      Other than that…

    6. > – Almost invariably the ones picked on and bullied.

      You blacken an eye or two and word gets around.

    7. I ducked a lot of those checkboxes. I wasn’t on any teams, but I wasn’t last picked in PE, or for study groups. There were few school clubs and I didn’t belong to any of the formal ones, but I did do state crew. I didn’t go to the few dances (they were always held at one of the affiliated Girls’ Schools) but I was the one girls came to to explain Guy behavior (never did figure out why).

  4. My partner does physical and verbal therapy with high functioning autistic kids and there is big difference between Odds and people with full on autism. My partner says many researchers think 90% of males are autistic because of our propensity to systemize and most men are just on different points of spectrum. Odd people seem peculiar but they can still fit in with society but asperger and autistic people can’t even manage that.

    My partner and I are part of group of twelve people who get together on Saturday nights to play board games. There are three males who have known each other since elementary school and two of them are Odds and one is asperger’s.

    Two Odds are peculiar but they are married, both have children, and middle class jobs. The asperger fellow has never had girlfriend, so either a virgin or prostitutes, works night shift as baker in small bakery by himself for past twenty five years and leaves in early morning before any other employee arrives. Incapable of regular human interactions, small talk is impossible and he can only have conversations about things he interested in, which are very narrow.

    1. if 90% of people are on a ‘disorder’ spectrum, then its a feature of normal personalities, not a disorder.

      1. Exactly! Some female psychologists think that men are defective women. So I would expect one of them to believe that 90% of men are disordered.

        1. Oh,. my joke is that in order to buy an INT that high we had to take some disads at character creation. But yes, i totally agree with that.

        2. Wechsler or Stanford-Binet? Those were the two most used, right? Which one are Americans usually talking about when they give a number?

      2. It is only extreme cases get diagnosed with autism. People who are completely incapable of following even basic norms in social situations, like saying hello to your host when you arrive at their home, and zero ability to read other people’s facial expressions or emotions. Most males have some autistic symptoms but we also have empathy skills as well, which asperger’s don’t at all.

  5. Two comments.
    First, my father who was close to true genius always said, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a meatball.”
    Second, there is a whole program, which anyone can use but which will especially work for dyslexics, to teach reading called . Just FYI. ; )

      1. Problems spelling?

        My problem is that everybody else insisted that their way of spelling is correct and mine was wrong. 👿

        Mom (a school teacher) got frustrated with me and spelling. She keep wanting me to “sound it out” and while I knew the word I often couldn’t think of the pronunciation. 😉

        1. I could spell the word (from my extensive reading), but I could say the word. lol I always got it wrong… so other people would look at me like I was speaking a different language.

          1. My brother and I both have had that problem our entire lives, him more than I. I think part of his problem is that he’s also got the “couldn’t spell his way out of a wet paper bag” thing going on as well.

            1. Can’t spell, period. To the point I have to change wordage & sentence structure to get my meaning across if the word I wanted I can’t get close enough for spell checkers to provide the correct word.

              Then there is correct pronunciation. When I was in school, we learned to read “phonically”. It was determined I couldn’t read because I couldn’t even come close reading aloud. Even when we would read to our son (& I was well over 30) I still have problems. Dr Seuss. We just agreed, dad had his (correct) way & mom had hers. Then son would chime in with his. Kid does better than me.

              Social situations. I. Will. Shut. Up. because invariably I will horribly mispronounce something & get chided; ridiculed will stop immediately, because I guaranty hubby or sisters will stop that.

              The frustrating thing is I hear it correctly, in my head, if not a new word, but word does not come out correctly.

              Conversational situations flat out exhaust me.

  6. Something wrong with my comment… The program is called
    The Writing Road to Reading… Which I thought was funny because you said your son taught himself that way.

    1. LOL. The younger (and more severely dyslexic one) yes. He’d come to me ask how to draw a letter, and what sounds it made. Then started putting letters together, etc.

  7. I think you all might find this note, “When Nerds Collide” interesting:

    Basically, Meredith tries to describe the principles that her group, computer nerds, believes, and the conflicts between it and other groups. Especially the people that try to take over computer-culture because it is now seen as a way to get wealthy and/or powerful.

    1. Excellent article, thanks for the link.
      However, I have now spent about 4 hours tracking along the related links to equally interesting articles.
      Educated-but-exhausted seems to be the usual state-of-being for obsessive readers.

      1. I pick up a moderately large share of my income from writing books for Steve Jackson Games. Each new GURPS supplement is an excuse to do research on a new topic. “A curiosity such as mine is the most agreeable of all vices,” as Nietzsche said—but it’s even better when it pays for itself.

  8. “In school, also, for the truly odd kid, the teacher and the supervising assistant, or whatever, are the ones who intervene to stop abuse by peers.”
    Unfortunately not my experience.
    I do understand how the young fall for the “diversity is our strength” lie though, because of course that should mean us odds should get accepted. It takes experience for them to learn that despite what anyone may preach, honoring diversity is the breach rather than the observance, and that “social justice” is actually the opposite of justice.

    1. No, the key thing is that the sort of diversity that is honored is the sort that excludes anyone who says, “Hey, this isn’t accomplishing what it was supposed to, maybe we could try something else.”

    2. Nope. Not in my experience either. After all, if they intervened, they’d make the popular kids whine… and then they have to deal with the popular parents.

      So, so much easier for them to just ignore it. What’s one troublemaker against the rest of the grade? Pfft. After all, if the Odd started a fight with ten other people, they got what was coming to them, right?

      (Yes, that was actually what they claimed happened. I was far more upset by the slur to my intelligence than the bruises.)

    3. Like Mary mentioned with her reaction to when folks try to “befriend” her and it sets of her alarms– some of us eventually learn they only accept us, sort of, when we can be of use.

      I got that lesson much earlier than most, because I’m quiet and helpful if asked…which folks tend to mistake for being a resource absolutely at their disposal. This goes badly when they rely on it, and then I turn out to be a human being with ideas of my own. Some of which I’ve told them, and they ignored.
      (probably would’ve learned earlier, or wouldn’t be mistaken for it so much, if I was any good at asking for help…but I can usually do it myself, and really don’t mind helping when folks ask, unless I know it’s one of those things where they want me to do it for them when they could do it themselves, where htey don’t NEED any help.)

  9. I never understood why I didn’t get along with my sisters until I left home. They were boy crazy and I didn’t know why. My life continued that way in various ways until I found my late-hubby Otto. He socialized me.

  10. Ultimately, any time somebody starts referring to ‘the Greater Good’ to justify their actions, it’s time to start reaching for a tire iron. Something that actually IS gor the greater good can usually be sold on its clear merits.

    If there is an exception, it is the work governments have done fostering networks of various kinds. Canals, railroads, interstates, the phone system, rural electrification….all seem to be cases where government support was needed because the network would not be paid for by the people who would benefit, of their own volition. But governments ALSO support networks, like the DC Metro, that are of questionable benefit. It needs study. In any case, most such beneficial projects appear to have been sold on concrete benefits and with minimal blovation.

    Unlike, say, the California High Speed Boondoggle, which everyone who could read a balance sheet knew was puffery and bovine excreta from the get-go.

    1. When I saw that Rod Diridon was involved, I pretty much suspected that was going to be the case. “Choo-choo” Rod was the force behind Santa Clara Country light rail. It might possibly be better now, but it was pretty awful the first several years. Some design decisions were blindingly stupid Running the trains in the median of North First street, thus making the first Ace (5 cars hit per train driver) a quick result was only the first. (Barrier gates? You must be kidding.)

      I think they took the bad decisions from light rail and figured they could top them for the train.

      1. I’m faily sure it was by reading Thomas Sowell that I learned the primary attraction of “Light Rail” and its variants. Once the track is laid it is very difficult and expensive to move it. So property convenient to the stations becomes significantly more valuable. For example, a subway station in NY City will generate more retail space around it and generate higher property rents than a bus stop because bus routes can easily be re-directed.

        Then there are all the political benefits that can be bestowed during construction and operation of light rail, with generous wages and benefits to union workers all around.

        1. Oh yeah, the contemporary articles about the routing were informative about who was pushing for the routing. In effect, they were trying to maximize the ability to get from the south suburban area to downtown, and from downtown to the high-tech area and government center north of there. Anybody from the bedroom areas south of downtown who wanted to go through, too bad, so sad. (The system expanded considerably later on, but I was leaving the Valley and wasn’t paying close attention to the details of the expansions.)

          For me, it was a wash. I was close enough to drive in the same time as to ride. It didn’t help that the tickets were by time windows (2 hours, daily or monthly), and that penalized the 10 mile daily commuters. The first couple of years, employers were subsidizing with free/cheap monthly passes, but when the subsidies wore out, it was substantially cheaper to drive the 12 miles..

        2. This leaves out a critical step where tearing up the roads for months to install the rails bankrupts the existing businesses along the route.

          1. And somebody needs to get those poor, distressed business locations (at a serious friends & family discount) so something will be ready once the rail is running. Oh yeah, /sarc

            I’m happy to be living (now) in a place rural enough so that such shenanigans are rewarded appropriately, although with more decorum than I’d use. No tar and feathers, but a few former county commissioners and the former mayor of the local city have learned the voters have a limit. I’m hoping our GOPe congressman will, but I’m not sure. $SPOUSE notes he doesn’t spend much (if any) time on our side of the district any more.

          2. That’s what’s called a feature if those businesses didn’t donate to your campaign…

      1. “The term “Greater Good” makes me shudder.”

        Yes. AND, my thoughts go “Uhhh, no, h*ll no.” Even if I agree with the basic premise. The minute someone says it’s for the greater good, I reevaluate; not that I remember agreeing with the “greater good”.

      2. More people having been slain for “the greater good” than for any other reason. More even have been tortured or destroyed while being left nominally alive. As Highlander comments, boys are being destroyed in the name of “ending patriarchy” and “allowing girls to shine” in our schools. And all it does is destroy people, and gain nothing.

  11. He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite & flatterer. William Blake

    1. Which is why every mention of how to do charity Christ ever mentioned involved individual giving.

  12. “Yes, I am aware that what I describe above sounds like “autistic spectrum” but there are some odds — me, for instance — who can read people quite well, thank you, and understand emotions perhaps a bit too well.”

    Empath. Not in the “I read directly your thoughts or emotions”, but the over empathy understanding others emotions too well. To the point that in large group gatherings I have to take small time-outs, even now. OTOH being 100% recluse would truly drive me insane. I have to have someone around sometimes, but interaction not always required, but have to have some interaction sometimes. No, I am not autistic.

    My son as a small child would take time outs. I forced childcare to accommodate him. He outgrew it by school & although could be the quiet introvert he didn’t have to self isolate anymore. I think my problems come from early forced interaction when things got overwhelming; or not – it’s been 60 years since I was that young.

  13. Coincidentally, I ran into a video on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, of which number 3 (after food and shelter) is belonging.
    I thought of the discussion on the Nail post yesterday, and wondered how many Odds would put that third on their list.
    Of course, the group to which one belongs is important, but it seems to me that many of us could be quite happy in a group of 1.
    Also, true Odds will reach Stage 5 much earlier in the process, possibly before reaching Stage 2 or even 1 (wasn’t there an xycd cartoon on that?): “Once they feel they belong, they are ready to stand out and excel” — Odds often excel precisely because they DON’T belong.

    “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology. It argues that there are five stages of human needs that motivate our behaviour. Abraham Maslow proposed his theory in 1943 after studying what he called exemplary people such as Albert Einstein or Eleanor Roosevelt.

    STAGE 1
    First there are physiological needs, such as the need to breathe, eat, drink or sleep. The moment we got enough of that and we feel awake and our bellies are full, we get motivated by the next thing.

    STAGE 2
    Now we want safety. We try to earn money, build up resources and look for shelter that protects us against dangers. Once we are satisfied and feel safe, we have time to think about what we want next.

    STAGE 3
    At stage three we seek love and belonging. We desire to be close to family and friends, belong to a society or join a gang. But the moment we feel completely part of a group we already wish to be a little different than the rest.

    At stage four we look for esteem, self-confidence and respect from our peers. We want to be someone. If we have money, we buy a fancy watch. If we have a brain, we write or think or work a lot. Motivation to perform and compete is now at its highest. Students, sportsmen and inventors excel. Neil Armstrong even flew to the moon.

    STAGE 5
    Only if we breathe, and drink and eat and sleep enough and we feel safe and part of a group and still special, only then we can reach level five: self-actualisation. Now we can relax, be creative, accept facts for what they are, give back or do whatever we want. No more pressure, unless of course there is trouble below.

    If you are leader and believe in the theory, use it. First make sure everyone has eaten well. Then make them feel safe and help them belong to a group. Once they feel they belong, they are ready to stand out and excel.”

  14. As we shall see when we reach Sowell’s essay on German History in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, a primary source of the Germans’ racism/identity politics came about as a result of developing Eastern European ethnic identity, as Poles, Chzecks, Slavs and other ethnicities became more assertive and prone to oppress those of German extraction who’d been living among them for generations.

    Push long enough and some folks will push back.

  15. Libertarians are distinct from hermits, no matter what their opposition claims. They are not avid too eschew human society, they merely want it to eschew compulsion, a laudable goal. The flaw in their ointment, however, is that there seems no practical way of getting there from here, wherever “here” might happen to be. The Left seems increasingly dictatorial and it is hard enough to maintain political support for small-government conservatives that any hope of non-compulsory governance seems doomed.

    1. Then there’s also the fact that any number of so-called Libertarians are just fine with government compulsion….. as long as the target is icky religious folks, or some other group they don’t like.

      1. It’s vulnerable in the normal way because it’s a currently simi-obscure, cool philosophy that lets you say “screw the rules” on a regular basis.

        It’s got an additional issue that it lacks authorities to check definitions on, and that some of the most coherent, persuasive spokesmen have different assumptions that go into how they build it.

        So you end up with unintentional, straight-faced funnies on par with the “International Organization of Anarchists.” (I still want a membership card for that, even though it’d be horrible for security clearances….)

        1. I find it’s simpler to simply substitute libertarian for pacifist in Mr Heinlein:
          ““A pacifist male is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described pacifists are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.””

  16. “But modern life and standardization have little room for outliers, which is why we medicalize it and treat it as an abnormality.”

    Standardization is a very big deal, and it good for two things: factories, and mass battles. For everything else it is CRAP.

    Signs are positive that the Factory model of manufacturing is going to die in the West pretty soon, swamped by the “custom to order” model. If you can make custom as fast as standard, who’s going to put up with the one-size-fits-all unit? (War is already there. Small units fighting terror cells is how it is done these days, the mass battles of WWII ended in Iraq with Desert Storm. Unless Putin attacks Germany, anyway.)

    That’s where we are going in the next 100 years. 3D print a new car. In your own garage.

    Education will, of course, be the last sector to catch up. Because those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t even teach get PhDs in Education and frig up entire school systems.

    On the bright side, those Odds that can’t get laid at high school because they’re too busy programing Lego Mindstorms? They’re going to be getting laid bigtime.

    1. Unless Putin attacks Germany, anyway.

      Or China invades some neighbor that has gotten tired of pushed around by a hundred small cuts (islands, fishing, etc.). Or North Korea implodes. Or ?

      Nope, big war is still around.

        1. Computer embroidery is an industry standard already. And don’t forget about the Jacquard loom. ~:D

          At the moment is is cheaper to mass-produce a t-shirt. That could be changed by not too many innovations in computer controlled fabrication, of which 3D printing is only one method.

          I’m sure there are plenty of items that will always be cheaper to mass-produce, like bricks. Maybe even t-shirts. But a lot of things that are bulky, like Ikea, that will vanish.

          Kitchen cabinets are already going that way. The most expensive parts of a new kitchen are the installation and the granite counter top. The cabinets are all punched out, custom-to-order, by robot milling machines. Some places have robot material handling too.

          1. There are generally two markets for any commodity, such as t-shirts: mass and luxe. For mass market t-shirts loose-fit is the preference and thus there is no market for custom-made. For the luxe market the materials and fit are high-end and the extravagant price is a feature, not a bug.

  17. One of the chunks of Catholic social teaching the SJWs haven’t appropriated yet is the idea of intermediate organizations– basically, if all you’ve got is gov’t and families, there is something seriously wrong.

    A frequent observation is that it tends to result in the family being attacked– and dang if that doesn’t have rather strong predictive power, starting with it being difficult to form families and moving on to authority of the family being attacked.

    Heck, even the attacks on self defense tend to take this form– starting with the apparently individualist notion that self defense must be only defense of self, although they’ll sometimes allow defense of immediate family. Defending children under your authority…that tends to go over better if you die, and so do most of them.
    Folks like that guy in Texas who knew his neighbors were out of town, saw their house was being broken into, and pulled a gun on the SOBs? He’s to be treated with extreme suspicion, because he wasn’t even friends with the neighbors– so clearly his only possible motivation was that he wanted to shoot someone.
    *eyeroll* No wonder superhero movies are so popular.

    Places like this are an intermediate organization. It’s a place we can all belong– without having to knock off important chunks.
    Actually, having to knock off some chunks is important– it is a way to identify that there are shared values. “This, I am willing to do– that, I will not do.”

    That’s why the demands for ever more wild accommodation don’t work. They want the pay-off of, oh, someone knowing you are Jewish so they use circumlocutions like “Himself”, but without the building up a giveadamn.

    1. I thought his position was pretty obvious after reading part of the Mars trilogy. However, this particular article isn’t really too nutty, and it’s becoming mainstream. I’ve read about this Utopia before, anyway, about 40 years ago; it always morphs into dystopian disaster, so KSR is right about needing “management” aka “socialist planning and zoning and elite control of the stupid masses.”
      It amused me once to read that a prominent “back to the land” econut later confessed that, actually, cities were better at preserving the environment that throwing a bunch of nature-nuts out in the country.
      Everybody agrees that Suburbs are Evil, except the people who choose (with very good reasons) to live there.

      Here’s part of his Wikipedia entry:
      Ecological sustainability
      Virtually all of Robinson’s novels have an ecological component; sustainability is one of his primary themes (a strong contender for the primary theme would be the nature of a plausible utopia.) …
      Robinson’s work often explores alternatives to modern capitalism. In the Mars trilogy, it is argued that capitalism is an outgrowth of feudalism, which could be replaced in the future by a more democratic economic system. Worker ownership and cooperatives figure prominently in Green Mars and Blue Mars as replacements for traditional corporations. The Orange County trilogy explores similar arrangements; Pacific Edge includes the idea of attacking the legal framework behind corporate domination to promote social egalitarianism. Tim Kreider writes in the New Yorker that Robinson may be our greatest political novelist and describes how Robinson uses the Mars trilogy as a template for a credible utopia.[2]

      Robinson’s work often portrays characters struggling to preserve and enhance the world around them in an environment characterized by individualism and entrepreneurialism, often facing the political and economic authoritarianism of corporate power acting in this environment. Robinson has been described as anti-capitalist, and his work often portrays a form of frontier capitalism that promotes egalitarian ideals that closely resemble socialist systems, but faced with a capitalism that is maintained by entrenched hegemonic corporations. In particular, his Martian Constitution draws upon social democratic ideals explicitly emphasizing a community-participation element in political and economic life.[14]

      The environmental, economic, and social themes in Robinson’s oeuvre stand in marked contrast to the right-libertarian science fiction prevalent in much of the genre (Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle being prominent examples), and his work has been called the most successful attempt to reach a mass audience with a left wing and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.[15]
      * * *
      Obviously, he doesn’t know that entrepreneurism IS capitalism. Socialists just can’t conceive of any capitalist form other than Big Corporation & Government Rent Seeking (which is also the end result of Socialism, just with different costumes).

      1. It amused me once to read that a prominent “back to the land” econut later confessed that, actually, cities were better at preserving the environment that throwing a bunch of nature-nuts out in the country.

        They didn’t take the extra step to looking at if the problem was the eco-nuts, rather than where they live, did they?

        The “last white rhino” baloney has this at the top of my mind– they’ve known for decades that the white rhinos, north and south, were in trouble.
        Of course they are– they’re giant and destructive, in an area where people are living close to the bone already.

        Well, some of the countries with the southern white rhino took action when they were down to a couple of hundred animals. They legalized hunting, in a way that brings in a bunch of money to local areas. They now have many thousands of animals.

        The ones with norther white rhinos got ever stricter about preventing poaching. And the last, quite old, male just died.

        Folks care enough to flip out about it, but not even enough to know that it’s the last of a sub-sub-species, not even the dang sub species. And their notion of what such an animal takes to live is obnoxiously ignorant.

      2. The Urbanauts tend to overlook the problems cities already have with affordable housing, violent crime and political corruption.

        Which is peculiar, as they tend to be at the forefront of those denouncing expensive housing, urban policing and … well, actually, they seem pretty much okay with corrupt governance so long as it remains corrupt in their favor.

  18. Reading around in Paul Graham’s (very old) blog essays last night, I thought this one might also address some of the ideas raised here.

    Just a small excerpt (below) for the “flavor” of the piece (it’s all very good), but it made me think about my own reactions to the usual school (and sometimes work) “incentives” — the classic being gold stickers on a chart — and I wondered if anyone else had the experience of deliberately NOT doing whatever the teacher was promoting, because the “rewards” were unrelated to the activity or the exertion required.
    Money I’m okay with.

    (Hackers, in this context, means dedicated, intense programmers, not the pejorative used by Mundanes.)

    “I know a handful of super-hackers, so I sat down and thought about what they have in common. Their defining quality is probably that they really love to program. Ordinary programmers write code to pay the bills. Great hackers think of it as something they do for fun, and which they’re delighted to find people will pay them for.

    Great programmers are sometimes said to be indifferent to money. This isn’t quite true. It is true that all they really care about is doing interesting work. But if you make enough money, you get to work on whatever you want, and for that reason hackers are attracted by the idea of making really large amounts of money. But as long as they still have to show up for work every day, they care more about what they do there than how much they get paid for it.

    Economically, this is a fact of the greatest importance, because it means you don’t have to pay great hackers anything like what they’re worth. A great programmer might be ten or a hundred times as productive as an ordinary one, but he’ll consider himself lucky to get paid three times as much. As I’ll explain later, this is partly because great hackers don’t know how good they are. But it’s also because money is not the main thing they want.

    What do hackers want? …”

    Lots of interesting answers to that question.

    1. Old answer – Herbert Hoover knew. “No doubt as years go by the people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts his name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other people’s money . . . But the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness which flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professions may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolade he wants.”

    2. “A great programmer might be ten or a hundred times as productive as an ordinary one, but he’ll consider himself lucky to get paid three times as much”….part of this is because Programming isn’t as directly *measurable* (speaking of results/value) as, say, Sales….(and even in the case of Sales, the ratio of pay to productivity is generally a lot less than linear). For programmers, measuring lines of code is silly, actually counterproductive. And you may have 10 programmers all working on different projects/modules with different degrees of complexity, different time schedules, different levels of crisis interrupts, etc….so measuring programmer goodness requires a high level of management judgment & discretion. Few organizations are willing to pay Jeff 20X more than Fred…when it looks like they are doing the same kind of work…soley because their mutual manager (and perhaps even a group of their peers) THINK that Jeff is that much more valuable. (It becomes even more problematic if we’re talking about Sam and Suzy)

      So, one way programmers get the opportunity to get paid more is by going to startups, via equity grants. In large organizations,

      1. Let’s think about linear pay to productivity.

        If you have a valuable skill, making money from it is not merely application of the skills. Identify an application that would be valuable, plan the application, apply the skill, recover money from applying skill, and cover your overhead before you recover the money.

        If you can do all these things, you can be your own business. You will probably do them less well than you do your valuable skill, so you won’t be able to recover the theoretical value of your skill. Or maybe you don’t have the information to make as good of decisions in those other areas. If you go into business with other people who are better than you in those areas, you recover more of your skill’s value, but have to split to cover your business partners.

        When your business involves several people with your skill, how are relative levels of ability and value judged? Can they distinguish 90 and a 110 times as good as average? Are the applications of skill in the queue going to be such that everyone with the skill will be consistently effective? What about minimum wage?

        For these reasons, I would expect a great deal of non linearity in ratios of pay and productivity value.

        1. “If you have a valuable skill, making money from it is not merely application of the skills”

          Very true, and there are a lot of people who are good at something but don’t really have the ability to market it, or at least interest in doing so. I expect there are a lot of very talented artists & musicians who few people will ever see or hear for this reason.

          1. It is a sad fact of the Arts that talent and excellence do not readily translate into income. Many an artist finds that talent is a hindrance to being accessible to a mass market, and that shaking booty (or, for those who have them, boobs) is more critical to building an audience than is virtuoso skill or a five octave range.

            A number of artists compromise by playing one thing for the public (e.g., the amazing number of classically trained musicians performing in heavy metal bands) and another for one’s soul. A fortunate few manage to build enough of a brand identity in the mainstream to be able to go up a tributary and still make a living (e.g., Ricky Skaggs’ route from mainstream Country to Blue Grass, or Steve Martin’s transition from stand-up comedy to the Steep Canyon Rangers.)

              1. Also, Lindsey Stirling– whose name I didn’t remember, but I know as “that violin lady that dances around while doing awesome music,” then I typed something like “violin rock techno dance” and recognized her figure. (Husband will have her stuff on when he’s painting– phone plays the videos, but most of the time he’s ignoring it and the kids will wander in to watch.)

                1. Also, Emilie Autumn, who was told in training that classical violinists don’t have style…

                  And yeah i chose this song because Shadowdancer prolly likes it 😀

      2. “programmers, measuring lines of code is silly, actually counterproductive.”

        Reminds me of the Dilbert Joke where management offers bonuses based off the number of bugs reported & fixed by programmers. Programmers whistling. “Going to write me a new car.”

  19. *TWEET* Assumes fact not in evidence! That she did not provide evidence does not mean there is no evidence, merely that she thought the facts self-evident.

    As is the case with many a minor sect, to know, know, know them is to loathe, loathe, loathe them. And we do, and we do, and we do.

Comments are closed.