When did life-optimizers become snowflakes?

The audience for Tim Ferriss‘s books and podcast is broad, but their focus is on people seeking life hacks, particularly with a business focus, especially entrepreneurial.  He also sends out a weekly “5-Bullet Friday” email with interesting odds and ends, and I was shocked, recently, when I clicked through the link in the following, having prepared myself for the unsavory “unlikely source”:

“Are You Hunting Antelope or Field Mice?I often ask myself this, and I lifted it from the most unlikely of sources. Read this in two minutes for context, and don’t freak out because of the first few paragraphs. Strong metaphors can come from all places.

What diabolic personage might “freak out” people who seek wisdom from South African trackers and hunters, study stoicism, and experiment with systems and self-deprivation to optimize their work and lives?  Hitler, Mao, or Stalin?  Charles Manson?  Jeffrey Dahmer?  Nope.  Newt Gingrich.

This manifestly superficial trigger warning might be a better gauge than I’ve ever seen of the damage accomplished by handing education over to intellectual middleweights who despise our culture.  This crowd will find the spirituality in gutting a fresh kill.  They’ll watch movies with the darkest, most-depraved content.  They’ll constrict their muscles for more-efficient workouts.  They’ll lean into discomfort and pain.

Yet, apparently, in the area of politics, they are partisan snowflakes.  They have been so thoroughly conditioned that the only source of evil and fear they recognize is a smart and superbly strategic member of the other party. To the contrary, they should consider Newt Gingrich to be one of them, whatever his politics!

Think of how much wisdom this handicap must cost this crowd.  Think of the bizarre doublethink muck in which they must force themselves to swim to reconcile this distrust and hatred with the fact that Gingrich’s party is actually more aligned with their economic activities and the principles by which they live their professional lives.

Naturally, Ferriss’s audience would contest this assertion, which raises a fundamental contrast.  The Democrats and the Left promote an image of themselves as encouraging all self-expression.  In fact, the more individualized we are and the less we all have in common, the more susceptible we are to their manipulation.  The major caveat is that any resulting behavior must not conflict with their ascent to power.  If you learn to jump out of the way when their power requires them to trample something you hold dear, you can do anything and be accepted… especially if it fosters emotional isolation and mental illness.

Newt Gingrich is a night-terror, they insist, because his party wants to put up rigid walls.  But that isn’t true.  No group of tens of millions of people spanning the communities of a continent will be homogeneous, but generally, Republicans want to increase liberty.  They approach this goal by limiting what government can impose and relying on non-government institutions and lower-level governments to set standards at the most-local level possible.

A while ago, I proposed a political spectrum that divides the Left and the Right according to whether one sees an equivalence between government and morality (the Left) or culture and morality (the Right).  When the Left decides a moral question, its believers want the conclusion to be written into law at the highest level of government possible; that which is immoral should also be illegal, and that which is illegal is prima facie immoral.

The Right, in contrast, doesn’t see morality as particularly relevant to government. We decide morality culturally, and where it requires the force of law, we seek to make that decision out in the open as mutually as possible, according to fair and uniform rules, and over the smallest civic space possible.  In this way, the law follows culture (and can change); it does not come from some external source and impose itself on culture.

In the past decade, however, I’ve come to appreciate a nuanced distinction on the Left.  Yes, they hold that illegality is evidence of morality, but that doesn’t mean they feel they must articulate what is illegal and apply it regardless of circumstance.  The Right wants laws written down clearly so we can all understand them, plan our lives accordingly, and adjust them when cultural standards change.  But legality to the Left isn’t a set of written laws; it’s a determination of morality on which, as with “true Communism,” all human beings simply come to agree without knowing why.  To constrict that undulating spirit of knowing with written laws is to accept oppression by the people who agreed to write them down.

Just this week, a Providence judge entered not-guilty filings for Brown University students arrested for trespassing, opining as follows:

Judge Nicholas Parrillo said he was going against the objections of the city of Providence and Brown University in issuing the not guilty filing to the protestors because none of them had a criminal record, and because he said he thinks they held a respectful protest.

“I think this is a reflection of what nonviolent and peaceful resistance, frankly, is supposed to look like,” he said.

Note the language.  What aspects of the incident are “what nonviolent and peaceful resistance is supposed to look like”?  Would a group of pro-life or pro-Trump protesters receive the same benefit of the doubt — nullifying the private university’s right to protect its property?  Deniability is still plausible, at this time, but one suspects not.  In the past few years, we’ve seen again and again that the only thing that’s truly illegal is to oppose progressives.

Thus, the Left has its own rigid wall, but the terror is that it is apt to move, often appearing from nowhere.  Not only does it require adherence to an unpredictable stream of taboos and virtues we must signal, but failure to recognize where those lines are at any given moment can be the deciding factor for whether you are a criminal or member of the resistance and therefore untouchable by the law.

This understanding, one suspects, is behind Tim Ferriss’s care to include a trigger warning because an ideologically neutral bit of strategic advice comes from a Deplorable.  Associating with the wrong types of people can mean not only being excluded from the in-crowd, but perhaps even losing access to the protection of the law.


Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 40 and Photoshop AI.

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