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  #51  
Old 02-09-2020, 08:04 PM
Llama Llogophile is offline
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I'm sure we could all point to some aspect of our lives that's changed for the worse. For me, working in aviation, it's that a lot of the joy of flying has been replaced by paranoia and officiousness. But the fact is, more people are flying today than ever before, so maybe that's just me. I'm close to it. I live it every day, so I notice it more. That's called confirmation bias, and luckily I'm aware of the effect.

As has been pointed out, there seems to be good evidence that a lot of things are much better than they were decades and centuries ago. Hard to notice on an individual level a lot of the time though.

Call me an optimist or a techno-utopia whatever, but around the time I was born federal troops were shooting college kids and in some parts of the country people were still being prosecuted for marrying someone of another race. We're doing a lot better now overall.
  #52  
Old 02-09-2020, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
Yeah, you're probably right. I'm sure the drug abuse epidemic, the election of Trump, persistent mass murder sprees, suicides, etc are happening because everyone is content and happy! Happy! HAPPY! and I'm just imagining things because I'm that one depressed guy.
You know, there is a middle ground between everybody being happy and everybody being miserable.
  #53  
Old 02-09-2020, 08:18 PM
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The Midwest represents the real economy of the US ie farming and manufacturing. The fact that this party of the country is in such disrepair should concern us all.
The idea that some parts of the country or some sectors of the economy or some groups of the population are more ďrealĒ than others is errant nonsense and is part of the tribalism that is creating unnecessary problems.

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In Star Trek the American dream is alive and kicking.

"Shitty reality TV" shows American homes where houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are entirely built of wood. Walls are hollow, and only a few inches thick. Seriously, this is unimaginable for many Europeans. When I saw (on the news) that American towns were almost completely wiped out by tornadoes I just couldn't believe it. Most houses in Europe are made of brick or concrete, with thick exterior and interior walls. Maybe houses in the USA have the same building standards and European TV viewers are presented a distorted image of the American life.
This is silly. The material from which buildings are made isnít an indication of the health of the economy or the society. Wood became a standard building material because it was abundant. This is a freaking huge country. It would be insane to try to build everything from concrete, stone, and brick. Materials are chosen for their practicality.

The value of housing is largely dependent on location and demand, not building materials.

There are housing shortages in many places because supply doesnít keep up with demand and local government Policies create the wrong incentives for builders and of course nimbyism.
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Old 02-09-2020, 08:21 PM
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I think Acsenray has had the best reply so far, though there have been many good points made.

I don't agree, however, with posters who say, "Same as it ever was." It's not. We've seen huge technological and social change happen over the past 50 years, and a lot of it has been tough to absorb within a human lifetime.

One difference that everyone should take note of is cratering birth rates in every developed country. If things are just peachy, why would that be the case? (Short answer: people don't feel they can afford to have kids and, in reality, it's tough to do so. Longer answer includes things like easier birth control and a huge range of social reasons.)

A big example for me is Japan, where I lived for 8 years. I saw the country go from a still-happy post-bubble state in 1992 to a country that is genuinely depressed and dysfunctional these days. All this despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and most definitely the most socially cohesive, with nearly 100% literacy and incredibly low crime. You can watch 1950s and 1960s Japanese movies and the country was having an absolute blast, even though it had just been blasted to hell. Now, it has no real problems, but it's pretty gray and bleak in mood.

I actually think that the reasons why things went south in Japan are the very things that lie behind the OP's observations. See this great New Yorker article: The United States of Japan, which makes this point very well.

To wit:

1. Capitalism requires growth to balance the books. It's much easier to grow from a small base than a large base. E.g., in general, it's much easier to grow a company 5% per year when you are starting at, say, $100,000 in sales (just $5,000 more!) than $1,000,000,000 in sales ($50,000,000--that's like having to start a huge new company--every year).

We have grown our collective base of capital and now it's much harder to grow in the traditional sense. We used to be able to depend on population growth alone to drive tremendous growth in the economy, plus we were plucking the low-hanging fruit of building up basic infrastructure, etc.

Every country eventually crashes into this wall. Every company does too.

2. Human psychology thrives the most not when things are good but when things are getting better. Japan was really, really happy and booming in the 1950s despite having a fraction of what it does now because it was building from a very small base (a destroyed base, in fact--check out Marx's comments on the destruction of capital as necessary to capitalism. I'm not a Marxist, but he still has many good observations...) and things were getting better all the time.

It's a sad part of human nature, but it's a big part of the explanation. Things are in many ways better than they were in 1965, but there was incredible progress happening in every field of human endeavor at that time. This was true in my lifetime as well (born 1971). My mother would talk about the incredible technologies that were coming, and we'd all be living to very old ages in great health because of the medical technologies coming down the pike. I mean, there would be flying cars, moon colonies, and all that.

Some will disagree, but I firmly believe that technological progress has flattened out, and...

3. Progress is more "give-and-take" than "just give" these days.

Cell phones and the internet have been the big new technologies of my lifetime, IMO. I would not want to do without them, but they are both burdensome in their own way. Do I need to go into detail on that?

Any individual technology has always had its detractors, but I think we have simply forgotten the optimism that used to accompany most innovations and inventions.

4. Everything has gotten sophisticated and commoditized in a very short period of time

This is similar to the "building from a smaller base," but now expand that to qualitative matters.

For example, coffee was shit in the US until basically the 90s, with the rise of Starbucks and indie coffee joints. It was thrilling to learn about the good stuff, drink the good stuff, and continue to learn more and more. Other people get into it, so we're sharing the fun. Fast forward a bit: Starbucks is soon everywhere (it now has more locations than McDonald's and is second only to Subway). The Keurig cups come out roughly around 2008 (a coffee shop owner who recently shut down said his business took a very noticeable dive after the cups became common). Good coffee is everywhere, and now it's no big deal.

And everything has been like that. Music, food, movies, you name it. There was room for sophistication and growth in every domain, and people were inventive and motivated and made tremendous progress in a tiny, tiny amount of time.

People crave the new, that excitement, just as much as they ever did--it's part of human nature. But there just isn't as much new to go around these days. Further, when you want to be creative and make your mark in any of these domains, it's hard. Because everything feels as though it's been done at this point, and largely it has.

That's what I got. Tell me what you think!
  #55  
Old 02-09-2020, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
The Midwest represents the real economy of the US ie farming and manufacturing. The fact that this party of the country is in such disrepair should concern us all.
Putting aside environmental concerns, farming and manufacturing are doing just splendid. Farming and manufacturing aren’t in disrepair. The issue is that farming and manufacturing no longer requires large numbers of small farmers/farm owners or Unskilled/moderately skilled factory workers.

This shouldn’t be a concern. This should be Good for everyone. The problem is that political trends are interfering with a smooth transition.
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  #56  
Old 02-09-2020, 08:45 PM
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I don't think we'll ever reach a techno-utopia. I don't think our destiny is that of an ultra high tech society of super-abundance. I think our destiny is to go medieval.

Imagine a reduced population toiling the long abused land to be able to eke enough out of it too survive through the winter. Consider a world where the electricity runs intermittently, and perhaps even not at all. Imagine a world where men and women once again function in different modes of labor and different social spaces. Imagine a world where ideologies such as feminism, Modern liberalism, etc are no longer viable. I think this world is far more likely than what the techno-fantasists have dreamed up for us.
This is apocalypse fetishism. Provided we figure out how to fight environmental collapse, fascism, nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and other reactionary trends, the long term will be on an upswing.

There will never be a broad collapse resulting in an atavistic pre-technological hellscape. Thatís a beloved fantasy of reactionaries.
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Old 02-09-2020, 08:49 PM
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When people claim that we're living in some kind of dystopian nightmare, I always say....dude, spend 5 minutes reading about debtors' prisons during the time of Charles Dickens, then say that again with a straight face. The PAST was the dystopian nightmare.
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:15 PM
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The Plague was kind of a drag, too. And iron lungs! Who remembers iron lungs?
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  #59  
Old 02-09-2020, 09:20 PM
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Opiates, suicide... it has been often quoted that a deterioration in vital statistics for the "heartland" involves "deaths of despair"-- the transformation in the economy and society is happening and many communities just are being forced to deal with it with no parachute or airbag.

Then again you could have said the same thing about rustbelt towns and family farms in the 80s, or about inner cities in the 70s.

But at the same time it is not uniform or universal (I've seen places in Baltimore that still look like they did 30 years ago while similar places across town are now gentrified), many communities are doing well while others are not. But we have our lovely social networks to tell us we are DOOMED, I TELL YOU, DOOMED! THE SHIT IS ABOUT TO HIT THE FAN!!!, over and over 24/7.
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I also think a lot of people are going through shit, and it is harder to cope with shit now than it used to be in the past. [...] One little mistake or accident is enough to make the whole house of cards come tumbling down. Maybe we've always had such a precarious existence and we just didn't know it because we weren't exposed to all the cautionary tales out there. But I don't think it's always been this precarious.
Back when, you could count on your network -- family, neighbors, congregation -- to be there when you stumbled. Not so much now in a society that is connected online but atomized and scattered IRL (heck, myself when the MD says "the day of your outpatient procedure there's got to be some person there to assume responsibility for you on discharge because you'll be anesthesized" it's a PITA to try and have someone disrupt their life for my sake, since my "network" of people with actual personal bonds to me is spread across a continent)

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I think Acsenray has had the best reply so far, though there have been many good points made.
[...]
1. Capitalism requires growth to balance the books.
[...]
2. Human psychology thrives the most not when things are good but when things are getting better. [...] Things are in many ways better than they were in 1965, but there was incredible progress happening in every field of human endeavor at that time. This was true in my lifetime as well (born 1971).
[...]
And everything has been like that. Music, food, movies, you name it. There was room for sophistication and growth in every domain, and people were inventive and motivated and made tremendous progress in a tiny, tiny amount of time.
Oh, and yours is also an excellent set of observations. I remember when I took Intro to Economics that it gnawed at me, the assumption that you HAVE to have growth, that steady-state is undesirable stagnation. It just stayed at the back of my mind: wait, it is a finite world, you can't have continuous fast growth forever.

Also my own experience coincides in that people are more sensitive to the rate of the change in the slope of the curve, than to the actual slope. This is also why we hear about "a cut" to this or that expenditure when it only means it will go up by 1.5% instead of by 3%.

Oh, and for sure, I read recently an article that posited the notion that it is extraordinarily rare to have an actual "civilizational collapse", but rather it is states or politicoeconomic systems that collapse, but the people continue living more or less at the same level of development only under a different political system or in a smaller, less powerful state.

( And as long as we're talking experiences from decades past: when I was 7/8 years old, I watched men travel to another world. Hell yes there were high expectations. )
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:23 PM
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This is apocalypse fetishism. Provided we figure out how to fight environmental collapse, fascism, nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and other reactionary trends, the long term will be on an upswing.

There will never be a broad collapse resulting in an atavistic pre-technological hellscape. Thatís a beloved fantasy of reactionaries.
I didn't say that a medieval-style future was a certainty, just that it is far more likely than a techno-utopian future.
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:45 PM
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Back when, you could count on your network -- family, neighbors, congregation -- to be there when you stumbled. Not so much now in a society that is connected online but atomized and scattered IRL
Yeah, I've been in a new town on assignment since October, and I was talking to one of my friends today and said, "I don't really need to make friends here..." One of my best friends is my roommate in Chicago (I have an apartment with her there), my gf and I live in Indianapolis, and one of my other best friends I talk to every day on WhatsApp is from and lives in Buenos Aires. Now I've spent and continue to spend time with this "crew" IRL, but they pretty much satisfy my ongoing friendship needs even though they are not with me in my current location. Nevertheless, my gf is not with me here, so I am lonely for daily companionship.

Upside: I can survive without making new friends here. Downside: No need to build a network here means I don't reap those benefits. (I am open to meeting people here, to be sure, and I have at work, but I am not *pushed* to do so...)
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:53 PM
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I'll just address the barns. First, a barn is no longer a useful outbuilding on the modern farm, so most have fallen in to disuse. Second, the barn has a huge amount of roof area. The cost of re-roofing a barn can approach $50k. Rather than invest money in a useless building, they just let it collapse.
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Old 02-09-2020, 10:09 PM
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The wooden beams in barns can be repurposed for other purposes and can command high prices if they are in good condition. If you have a barn, do not just let it fall into disrepair. Contact an architectural salvageman and see if you can't make some money by selling parts of it.
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Old 02-09-2020, 10:26 PM
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Yeah, I don't think "society" or "the times" or "people today" are any particular way. Some places are grim and joyless, sure. It's also the case that, depending on how old you are, when you're comparing today with the past, you're either comparing it with an imaginary, idealized version of the past that you never experienced yourself, or a past that you did experience back when you were younger and more optimistic, so a lot of the grim parts either didn't register or you've forgotten about them.

This is not to say that there are not real and serious problems facing us today, but every era in history has felt uniquely grim and apocalyptic to the people living in it, at least those who are temperamentally disposed to feel that way about the world.
I think that's often true when people get carried away (to me anyway) with gloom and doom. Also as to particular places that are supposedly grim the Bronx in 1970's was mentioned, but NY (the city) as a whole, movies based on a dystopian NY back then were a sub genre. That's changed pretty dramatically. Of course people have happy/sad lives in NY and there are particular social and economic issues to be addressed, as always and everywhere but not only various hard facts (violent crime down on the order of 80-90% from the 90's when it got higher than 70's) as well as just not being the predominant easy, lazy kind of story to write anymore.

The way 'forsaken flyover towns' has become. Again there are hard facts in particular places*, and also hard national facts like rising rate of 'deaths of despair' in certain demographics. But...there's also IMO a good deal of pile-on writing of easy lazy stories and oversimplifications. For example opioid abuse isn't just about bleak places, but also irresponsible marketing of the drugs to doctors and just bad practice of medicine.

And plenty of rural places are very nice places. I'm from NY multi-generation, but my daughter has lived in two rural towns one in Midwest and now in upstate NY (what people from the City consider 'upstate' anyway). The first had some symptoms of the rural malaise and backlash that's become a standard story (in MN, county with very high % Trump win in 2016, like the vast majority of the *geographic area* of MN, which went for Clinton fairly narrowly mainly based on the vote in the Minneapolis area). But basically a nice place, reasonably prosperous. The second fits even less well into that story. That area, Hudson Valley, has had poverty in the wake of deindustrialization for a *long* time, it wasn't new in 1970. But that's not really the predominant thing going on now.

As for partisan politics, 'politics is downstream of culture'. Public policies cumulatively over a long time help form or change the culture, but whoever is in office at a particular time is very likely much more a symptom than a cause of whatever the underlying problems are.

*I watched docuseries on the Flint MI police dept on Netflix, a so-so production overall but one telling stat was semi-accurately quoted: the real version being that median household income there was on order of $80k in 2019 $'s around 30 yrs ago, but is now it's in the mid $20's k. That's a real change you'd expect to have profound ramifications to the quality of life, and a reason the PD has get by with around 1/3 as many officers with only a slight decline in population (though I believe it's one of biggest household income drops anywhere in the US).
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Old 02-10-2020, 12:32 AM
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I think Acsenray has had the best reply so far, though there have been many good points made.

I don't agree, however, with posters who say, "Same as it ever was." It's not. We've seen huge technological and social change happen over the past 50 years, and a lot of it has been tough to absorb within a human lifetime.

One difference that everyone should take note of is cratering birth rates in every developed country. If things are just peachy, why would that be the case? (Short answer: people don't feel they can afford to have kids and, in reality, it's tough to do so. Longer answer includes things like easier birth control and a huge range of social reasons.)

A big example for me is Japan, where I lived for 8 years. I saw the country go from a still-happy post-bubble state in 1992 to a country that is genuinely depressed and dysfunctional these days. All this despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and most definitely the most socially cohesive, with nearly 100% literacy and incredibly low crime. You can watch 1950s and 1960s Japanese movies and the country was having an absolute blast, even though it had just been blasted to hell. Now, it has no real problems, but it's pretty gray and bleak in mood.

I actually think that the reasons why things went south in Japan are the very things that lie behind the OP's observations. See this great New Yorker article: The United States of Japan, which makes this point very well.

To wit:

1. Capitalism requires growth to balance the books. It's much easier to grow from a small base than a large base. E.g., in general, it's much easier to grow a company 5% per year when you are starting at, say, $100,000 in sales (just $5,000 more!) than $1,000,000,000 in sales ($50,000,000--that's like having to start a huge new company--every year).

We have grown our collective base of capital and now it's much harder to grow in the traditional sense. We used to be able to depend on population growth alone to drive tremendous growth in the economy, plus we were plucking the low-hanging fruit of building up basic infrastructure, etc.

Every country eventually crashes into this wall. Every company does too.

2. Human psychology thrives the most not when things are good but when things are getting better. Japan was really, really happy and booming in the 1950s despite having a fraction of what it does now because it was building from a very small base (a destroyed base, in fact--check out Marx's comments on the destruction of capital as necessary to capitalism. I'm not a Marxist, but he still has many good observations...) and things were getting better all the time.

It's a sad part of human nature, but it's a big part of the explanation. Things are in many ways better than they were in 1965, but there was incredible progress happening in every field of human endeavor at that time. This was true in my lifetime as well (born 1971). My mother would talk about the incredible technologies that were coming, and we'd all be living to very old ages in great health because of the medical technologies coming down the pike. I mean, there would be flying cars, moon colonies, and all that.

Some will disagree, but I firmly believe that technological progress has flattened out, and...

3. Progress is more "give-and-take" than "just give" these days.

Cell phones and the internet have been the big new technologies of my lifetime, IMO. I would not want to do without them, but they are both burdensome in their own way. Do I need to go into detail on that?

Any individual technology has always had its detractors, but I think we have simply forgotten the optimism that used to accompany most innovations and inventions.

4. Everything has gotten sophisticated and commoditized in a very short period of time

This is similar to the "building from a smaller base," but now expand that to qualitative matters.

For example, coffee was shit in the US until basically the 90s, with the rise of Starbucks and indie coffee joints. It was thrilling to learn about the good stuff, drink the good stuff, and continue to learn more and more. Other people get into it, so we're sharing the fun. Fast forward a bit: Starbucks is soon everywhere (it now has more locations than McDonald's and is second only to Subway). The Keurig cups come out roughly around 2008 (a coffee shop owner who recently shut down said his business took a very noticeable dive after the cups became common). Good coffee is everywhere, and now it's no big deal.

And everything has been like that. Music, food, movies, you name it. There was room for sophistication and growth in every domain, and people were inventive and motivated and made tremendous progress in a tiny, tiny amount of time.

People crave the new, that excitement, just as much as they ever did--it's part of human nature. But there just isn't as much new to go around these days. Further, when you want to be creative and make your mark in any of these domains, it's hard. Because everything feels as though it's been done at this point, and largely it has.

That's what I got. Tell me what you think!
These are good arguments but some things have legitimately gotten worse.

Suicide rates in the US are up. The opiate epidemic is killing far more people than it did in the past (opiates kill more than car wrecks now). Health care is becoming more and more unaffordable. The % of jobs in the economy which are low paying or permatemp jobs keeps going up.

Authoritarianism is on the rise all over the world. Fascism is coming back in Islamic nations, western and eastern European nations. Xi and Putin are cementing their rules. Venezuela, Brazil, etc. We went through a period of democratization and liberalization in the 1980s, then levels of democracy kind of stabilized according to freedom house, now we are going backwards in many ways.

Climate change keeps getting worse. Renewables keep getting cheaper which is good, but they are still a small fraction of energy sources.

As far as cratering birth rates in the west, that seems to be a problem even in western nations with a lot of programs to help out parents. Nations with universal health care, free tertiary education and subsidized daycare are seeing low birth rates too, so I don't know how much economics plays into it.

I wonder what role 9/11 played, at least in the US. We've been at perpetual war for 20 years, and society has become very polarized.
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Old 02-10-2020, 01:47 AM
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The material from which buildings are made isn’t an indication of the health of the economy or the society.
I couldn't agree more. My post describes the subjective reaction of a European to an American reality: the fact that houses worth hundreds of thousand dollars are entirely made of wood, with relatively thin and hollow exterior and interior walls. This is an aspect of the American physical existence that I have become aware of by means of reality TV, which certain posters here claim can never be counted on for showing the truth. My point was that even though one is entitled to doubt the stories, certain images (such as those showing what houses are made of) can be taken for granted.

As soon as I started posting in this thread I stated the fact that I don't know how the US is really doing and added my guess that its economy must be doing fine while people may have lost their faith in the American dream. My comments focus on what the American mood seems to be like from the limited and fragmentary pictures that I have had access to. These are feelings, and people's sentiments may or may not reflect reality. For instance, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the US economy was thriving and its military brawn was unparalleled, many working class males and even middle-class youth adhered to the greaser subculture, which was characterized by disappointment about and rebellion against the state of affairs in America.

So this is what I think this thread is all about: mass psychology in the midst of the current American social developments, where there is a possibility that people should experience those "tremendous unnecessary suffering" and "apocalyptic religion and tribalism" you yourself mention.

Last edited by UY Scuti; 02-10-2020 at 01:48 AM.
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Old 02-10-2020, 08:09 AM
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"Shitty reality TV" shows American homes where houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are entirely built of wood. Walls are hollow, and only a few inches thick. Seriously, this is unimaginable for many Europeans. When I saw (on the news) that American towns were almost completely wiped out by tornadoes I just couldn't believe it. Most houses in Europe are made of brick or concrete, with thick exterior and interior walls. Maybe houses in the USA have the same building standards and European TV viewers are presented a distorted image of the American life.
We build our houses differently than you. And for what it's worth, your brick houses wouldn't fare too well against a tornado either. Our brick buildings certainly didn't.
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Old 02-10-2020, 11:40 AM
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I couldn't agree more. My post describes the subjective reaction of a European to an American reality: the fact that houses worth hundreds of thousand dollars are entirely made of wood, with relatively thin and hollow exterior and interior walls. This is an aspect of the American physical existence that I have become aware of by means of reality TV, which certain posters here claim can never be counted on for showing the truth. My point was that even though one is entitled to doubt the stories, certain images (such as those showing what houses are made of) can be taken for granted.
First off the exterior walls of stick built homes aren't hollow. Interior walls typically are but there is very little reason for them not to be hollow. Exterior walls are typically filled with insulation in fact a stick built home with proper insulation will be much warmer than a brick or concrete home. Take a look at some of the nordic nations moving to stick built homes particularly staggered 4" construction methods.

I've worked on homes built from the 1950 to modern homes and there is nothing I hate more than working on homes built before building codes were developed. The myth of things being built better is the past is pure crap. The average american home has improved substantially in the last 50 years and from what I can tell anything from the post war boom to the 70s is close to utter garbage. Homes have gotten much better.

Secondly, I've been a sidekick on an American reality show on the biggest cable network. What you see is nearly 100% fake. We filmed a driving scene where our producer went around town and paid people to take down their christmas decorations so that the episode would appear to take place in the fall or the spring. We bought out bars and restaurants so we could have private talks in public places. When there are people in the shot they all have to sign releases so their faces can be shown. If you see it on TV there is a very good chance everything is being structured for your entertainment.
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Old 02-10-2020, 11:48 AM
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No? Then again, I'm not super prone to being over-dramatic and thinking every little thing that sucks is the end of the world
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Old 02-10-2020, 11:58 AM
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Sorry, wanted to edit my post but it timed out. Just wanted to add that, yes, I live in the Midwest, and I have so my entire life. Like always, some people are depressed and struggle, while others are successful and happy, and countless more are in-between. It's beyond ridiculous to say that the Midwest is more "real" than other areas of the country, or that everyone here is struggling and depressed. Some of us are minorly successful and depressed Although it's something I've always struggled with, and I'm not blaming society or the economy or anything else for it.
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Old 02-10-2020, 12:16 PM
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Paradoxically, major depression is more common in high-income countries than lower-income ones. No doubt much of that is due to greater access to medical care, and thus more diagnoses, but I imagine some of it is due to the fact that people in lower-income countries don't have time or the opportunity to be depressed - they have to work to survive whether they feel depressed or not.

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Old 02-10-2020, 12:33 PM
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The Trump campaign did something pretty brilliant around where I live. They'd put up large MAGA signs on dilapidated buildings. He really played up to this sentiment. Of course, I doubt that will be a good look this time around, since those buildings are all still there.
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Old 02-10-2020, 01:03 PM
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The Trump campaign did something pretty brilliant around where I live. They'd put up large MAGA signs on dilapidated buildings. He really played up to this sentiment. Of course, I doubt that will be a good look this time around, since those buildings are all still there.
Perfect! All that Dems need to do is add a question mark at the end.
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Old 02-10-2020, 03:13 PM
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Paradoxically, major depression is more common in high-income countries than lower-income ones. No doubt much of that is due to greater access to medical care, and thus more diagnoses, but I imagine some of it is due to the fact that people in lower-income countries don't have time or the opportunity to be depressed - they have to work to survive whether they feel depressed or not.

Regards,
Shodan
Historically low-income folks have had cultural resources that have provided some protection against depression. Religion is a big one, but so is family. Poor folks tend to have close-knit families out of necessity. The downside is that the burden of bad choices tends to be inherited and shared. But the upside is you always have someone to look after you if should need help. All that rugged individualism goes out the window. So does much of the judginess and stigma over failure and low achievement.

Psychologically, it is easier to be low man on the socioeconomic totem pole when everyone you know is right there with you. There is no shame in getting food stamps when everyone you know is standing in the food stamp line with you. You can't find a job after being laid off or fired? Well, no one in your family is going to lecture you on the poor choices you must have made, since everyone in the family has likely made the same choices you have made. Plus, everyone you know is cynical about financial success anyway. From an early age, you have been taught that the system is rigged against you because of where you come from/what you look like. So when you don't have much success within the system, you arent't the least bit disappointed.

Middle-class people can't fail without enduring a lot of guilt and shame. Some of that is internally imposed, but most of it comes from friends and family in subtle and not so subtle ways.

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Old 02-10-2020, 03:23 PM
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"Ignorance is bliss." Before the storm of social media and news sites that are looking for as many hits as possible by trumpeting anything and everything grossly spectacular, we simply weren't bombarded 24/7 by so much negative stuff. In a very real sense, what we didn't know didn't hurt us psychologically. Now, if you watch the news 5 hours a day for a week, you're ready for antidepressants.
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Old 02-10-2020, 03:42 PM
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"Shitty reality TV" shows American homes where houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are entirely built of wood. Walls are hollow, and only a few inches thick. Seriously, this is unimaginable for many Europeans. When I saw (on the news) that American towns were almost completely wiped out by tornadoes I just couldn't believe it. Most houses in Europe are made of brick or concrete, with thick exterior and interior walls.
A strong tornado can easily rip apart brick and concrete buildings. And earthquakes hit brick and concrete buildings harder than wood, their brittleness and mass makes them easier to break. Even a relatively mild earthquake can cause brick walls and facades to just fall apart.

Wood and steel flex under stress; they can withstand stresses that will shatter brick and concrete. Thus wooden and steel frame buildings are often more durable.
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Old 02-10-2020, 04:45 PM
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Yeah, you're probably right. I'm sure the drug abuse epidemic, the election of Trump, persistent mass murder sprees, suicides, etc are happening because everyone is content and happy! Happy! HAPPY! and I'm just imagining things because I'm that one depressed guy.
I know you meant this post to be sarcastic but it is the truth. Yes these are all bad things, but there always have been and always will be bad things. To your list I could counter:

The Civil War, the great depression, slavery, lynching, terrible medicine, appalling conformity, child labor, unsafe food, unsafe travel, Vietnam, and I'm just going to stop here.

Would you rather be a black person now, or in the 50s? Would you rather have surgery now, or in the 50s? Would you rather fly now, or in the 50s?

I'm not a "Techno-utopian" to use your phrase. Mainly because I don't think that there will ever be a utopia, at least not for many lifetimes. I just don't see this time as being particularly worse than any other time in American history.
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Old 02-10-2020, 04:52 PM
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This seems to be a lot of rose-colored glasses and selective viewing. To go back in time, there were a ton of decaying buildings back in the 1970s, and a lot more trash on the streets to boot (this was before the major anti-littering and anti-pollution campaigns). The Cuyahoga River fire (in 1969 but that's close enough) certainly wasn't a sign of happy, well-put together towns. There was plenty of protesting and rioting, things like the Kent State shootings certainly hit the "grim and joyless" marker for me.

As far as 'censurious' nature and people getting arrest, that seems much better to me. Gay bars don't get raided by police, women who live on their own and have careers don't get nearly as much lecturing, couples who live together without marriage don't get the same disapproval, interracial and gay couple can get married without disapproval or arrest, and minorities get arrested for being in 'white areas' a lot less than they used to. Getting a job as a man with long hair, a black person without highly treated hair, a woman at all, or anyone with visible tattoos or non-ear piercings is certainly easier now than in the old days. Oh, and pot arrests are way down since a number of states have legalized it or made it fine-only.

While people may not be golfing and bowling as much, the fall off of particular leisure activities isn't a sign of a decline in society. There are rock climbing places, breweries with games and other events, axe throwing bars, zipline courses, escape rooms, and other newer activities taking over some of that. And my experience is that technology makes connecting with people for social activities vastly easier than in the old days - I can organize a spontaneous get-together with friends through texting that would just not be possible in the old days, and things like meetup and facebook groups make finding activities with shared interests much easier than the old 'maybe it's in the classifieds' days.

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Back when, you could count on your network -- family, neighbors, congregation -- to be there when you stumbled.
What era was this where someone who realized they were gay could consistently count on their network of family, neighbors, and congregation to not abandon them as soon as they came out of the closet? Or is this only for certain demographics?
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Old 02-10-2020, 05:00 PM
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As far as the "European perspective", I'd like a cite for the claim that it's common to see heavy activity in restaurants and parks in all towns under 100k people at all hours of the day that don't have major tourist attractions nearby. My experience in the US (going back to the 1970s) is that (outside of really big cities and tourist attracktions), on weekdays during the school year parks tend to see little activity until school lets out. Restaurants tend to have a lot of people at lunch and dinner time, but if you come in mid-morning or mid-afternoon there will be few people. This isn't some sign of some kind of malaise but a sign that people have things to do.

And the idea that Euorpean buildings shrug off tornadoes is just silly. I mean, provide a cite if you can, but brick and concrete don't stand up to direct hits from a tornado, and while there may be some pieces of structure so that you can say 'the building wasn't completely destroyed', you're still going to have lost your posessions and have to rebuild most of the interior and all of the roof and windows of the house in addition to repairing the outer walls. If you're having do spend as much to fix a house as you would to just replace it, it's a total loss either way and there's no practical difference.
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:02 PM
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My post describes the subjective reaction of a European to an American reality: the fact that houses worth hundreds of thousand dollars are entirely made of wood, with relatively thin and hollow exterior and interior walls.
There was an multiple threads discussing this topic. I find it amusing that Europeans are so shocked by the ubiquity of wooden-framed homes and have a tendency to assume they are all cheap and flimsy because of it . Not the case, needless to say. Masonry and brick isn't necessarily superior - certainly not out here in earthquake country.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 02-10-2020 at 06:04 PM.
  #81  
Old 02-11-2020, 03:55 AM
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Yes, things are objectively, statistically better than ever before, but what I perceive more and more is that societies are getting more allergic. By that I mean that, just as a person raised in an aseptic environment will have a greater chance of developing allergies, which is an over reaction to usually harmless stimuli, as societies become more secure some people become hypersensitive to any minor thing, real or perceived.
Then real damage results from this over reactions, this is the part that worries me. I often comment to people that most of the big problems in the world stem out from people's knee jerk reactions to little, happenstance problems.
On top of that the corporate news media complex has become very good at yanking people's chains, this days all it takes is a (monkey?) whistle by the media to have the monkey start dancing and grinding the organ while the person running the show just sits back and cashes in with no effort.
The constant, fast paced and more often than not slanted stream of outrage fodder is the perfect breeding ground for harmful, kneejerk reactions by the public. Which is great for the news industrial complex.

Another thing that is becoming worse is that most people have no bleeping clue how the world around them works, and I don't mean political machinations, I mean the nut and bolts of it. It doesn't even enter people's minds what it takes to make our civilization function, people shuffle around with machines that are wonder of applied science and technology in their hands and it may just as well be all powered by magic. We are literally living in A. C. Clark's world, where a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic for most people. I believe that lack of understanding drags people down, it's like attending a game and not knowing what the rules are, how it's supposed to be played, who the players are, what are the skills involved etc, etc... that person will probably be bored to death by it all, while a sports fan will be having a blast.
There is so much around us that should fill us with gratitude and kinship to our fellow humans for what we have achieved to last a lifetime.

I will add one thing, I find it rather grating to hear people living in the richest country in the world, enjoying freedoms which many, many people in the world are actually dying to achieve, moan about how bad they have it. Try feeling grateful at what you have for once, maybe you won't be so miserable.
  #82  
Old 02-11-2020, 04:38 AM
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I will add one thing, I find it rather grating to hear people living in the richest country in the world, enjoying freedoms which many, many people in the world are actually dying to achieve, moan about how bad they have it. Try feeling grateful at what you have for once, maybe you won't be so miserable.
A couple of generalizations here I would quibble with. In nearly all countries in the world, people have pretty much the same day-to-day freedoms Americans have, including voting for one of two power-abusing jackasses in a flawed electoral process. And for richest, my Filipina wife and I would be happy to live in the US, but her health insurance alone would cost nearly my entire pension, and although she speaks seven languages, is not qualified for any more than a minimum wage job, which is not my idea of rich..
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Old 02-11-2020, 04:46 PM
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As some have said above, everything is relative to your age and perspective. Young children, up to perhaps their late teens who have no perspective of how things where may think that our current era is the best thing ever.
I don’t think they do. I have two teenagers and they’ve been doing active shooter drills their entire school careers. That, combined with the increase in the cost of college, leading to huge student debt (which they’re well aware of because they have to be, now that they’re deciding on college plans) makes them quite bitter about the state of the world they live in. And then they’ll start talking to you about climate change...


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Old 02-12-2020, 03:21 PM
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Whenever I go out, I can't help but feel the heavy, almost crushing weight of despondency in the air.
1) You're getting older, so you notice this stuff more.

2) Ignoring the richest 1%, who you don't interact with and never will interact with, the USA is poorer than it's been in a long time. In the past decade, the average wealth of a citizen in the bottom 50% has gone negative.

(We're still richer than a lot of nations, of course, but that's not what we compare against. We compare against our own past.)



I think that's all unrelated to why downtown shops are all dead, which makes some towns look really bleak. That's more about how big box stores are a lot more convenient to people who use personal cars for transport.

Even towns that are doing ok economically, really have to make a coordinated deliberate effort to combat that, and even then they can't return to their pre-walmart glory days.
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Old 02-12-2020, 03:54 PM
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1) You're getting older, so you notice this stuff more.
He is in his 20s.
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Old 02-12-2020, 05:37 PM
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I think I know where the OP is coming from; just in going between Houston/Dallas or Dallas/Austin, you get well out into the country, and it's a different world than the big cities. There doesn't seem to be a lot of industry, and farming/logging/oil doesn't really seem to be generating a lot of prosperity out there either. Everything just seems run down, shabby and old, including the storefronts and commercial parts- I often wonder if these places were nice and well-kept in say.. 1930, or if they were grungy and ratty then, just with a new building or two. So the small towns aren't exactly impoverished, but they're not optimistic or hopeful places either.

It's definitely a contrast with the bigger cities- while they do have similarly run down parts, they're generally in the extreme low-income parts, with pretty much everywhere else not being that run down, especially not the commercial areas.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:14 PM
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The Midwest represents the real economy of the US ie farming and manufacturing. The fact that this party of the country is in such disrepair should concern us all.
I think my short answer is that most people with the means and wherewithal to do so would rather work lucrative jobs in finance, high tech, pharma, media, law or nearly anything else on the planet in busy, vibrant cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Philly or Pittsburgh rather than a farm, mill or factory in the Midwest (or anywhere).

And I'm not sure why you think agriculture and manufacturing are any more "real" than any other sector of the economy. They aren't even the largest:
https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/...ed-states.html
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Old 02-13-2020, 03:06 PM
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I think my short answer is that most people with the means and wherewithal to do so would rather work lucrative jobs in finance, high tech, pharma, media, law or nearly anything else on the planet in busy, vibrant cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Philly or Pittsburgh rather than a farm, mill or factory in the Midwest (or anywhere).

And I'm not sure why you think agriculture and manufacturing are any more "real" than any other sector of the economy. They aren't even the largest:
https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/...ed-states.html
There are professional careers in the less populated areas of the country, too. The financial upside is generally a little more limited. And lots of talented professionals are content in small town America, where one can trade off financial success and big city entertainment for less stress and a greater sense of community.

But to the larger issue of this thread, yeah, I've driven through lots of small towns recently which used to be a lot more self sufficient and now depend much more on bigger metro areas down the road apiece. Those might be less stressful places to live but the opportunities there are increasingly rare and the inconveniences growing. A lot of the decisions we make in 21st century life center around convenience.
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Old 02-13-2020, 04:36 PM
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Because the media distorts things and focuses on the negative. The truth is that we're living in the most secure, safest, peaceful, prosperous time - by far - in human history. Wars are at an all-time low. Most people's lives are miles, miles better than even just merely half a century ago, thanks to technology. The U.S. economy, overall, is doing pretty well (although it might be a tax-cut sugar rush.) Sure, some people are suffering, but there'll always be some people suffering no matter what.
Pure rationalization. I'm not on the spot in the USA to do a field study, but why are there so many reports about crumbling infrastructure, abandoned buildings, many homeless, and people desperate to keep their jobs that do not pay more over time. I'm sure some parts of the USA are fine, bur evidently there is a shadow side.
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Old 02-13-2020, 04:45 PM
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And the idea that Euorpean buildings shrug off tornadoes is just silly. I mean, provide a cite if you can, but brick and concrete don't stand up to direct hits from a tornado, and while there may be some pieces of structure so that you can say 'the building wasn't completely destroyed', you're still going to have lost your posessions and have to rebuild most of the interior and all of the roof and windows of the house in addition to repairing the outer walls. If you're having do spend as much to fix a house as you would to just replace it, it's a total loss either way and there's no practical difference.
Places like Germany have started having tornadoes but they are not anywhere near as big and destructive as the US ones. Usually, if they go through a house the roof takes a hit and the windows blow out, but the house is still standing. Usually.

Wooden houses and eathquake country: I lived in Tokyo for over a decade in a wooden house. Dunno if it is still there: the Japanese tend to demolish after about 40-50 years, partly because it is often to rebuild than refurbish a small house. One problem in japan is that land has value, but houses do not. So there are an increasing number of abandoned houses outside the towns. Coincidentally, I saw pictures in the Internet very recently about how Russian villages are becoming depopulated and the wooden houses are left to fall down. Sic transit gloria mundi.
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Old 02-13-2020, 04:57 PM
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Barns


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The wooden beams in barns can be repurposed for other purposes and can command high prices if they are in good condition. If you have a barn, do not just let it fall into disrepair. Contact an architectural salvageman and see if you can't make some money by selling parts of it.
Funny you should say that. I am looking at maybe buying a plot of farmland here in Poland, and the plot includes a house and barn. The house looks as if it will be condemned due to mildew and similar good things, and I don't see much point trying to do up an architecturally dreary brick-built house of no great age that does not have proper foundations and insulation. The barn is maybe a century old or thereabouts, with brick walls that are not lead-bearing and a decrepit roof resting on some very nice old wooden beams. Unfortunately, the beams have been eaten through and the roof could collapse in a bad storm. I hate to think what big pieces of wood such as that would cost, plus the crane to put them in place, plus the cost of tiling the roof ... and what would I do with a barn anyway? It would look nice, but does not have all that much utility.

If the deal goes through, I'll be looking for a demolition contractor.
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Old 02-14-2020, 07:00 AM
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I posted some version of this theory before, but IMHO society seems to get "worse" for a number of reasons:
- Changes in population: If more people move into an area, you get a sense of overcrowding and strain on existing infrastructure. If people move out of an area, you get a sense of abandonment and dilapidation.
- Increasing information and connectivity: We didn't have the internet or 24 hour news when I was a kid. Now it's non stop.
- Everyone always acts as if the next great advance is going to destroy the world.
- Gentrification: Hey, it's great that they developed Hudson Yards over the old LIRR railyards in Manhattan. But now I have these giant glass Blade Runner style buildings blocking my view of Manhattan.
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:22 AM
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Iím a hospital librarian. This week I was asked to do a search on the importance of nurses communicating with their patients. Thatís the state of the world. The only communication is texts/tweets/Instagram. Iím sad that nurses have to be told ďyou need to talk to your patients.Ē
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:57 AM
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<snip>

But to the larger issue of this thread, yeah, I've driven through lots of small towns recently which used to be a lot more self sufficient and now depend much more on bigger metro areas down the road apiece. Those might be less stressful places to live but the opportunities there are increasingly rare and the inconveniences growing. A lot of the decisions we make in 21st century life center around convenience.
"Convenience" is such a perjorative word, as if modern people are incredibly lazy and soft compared to their forebears. But what I see and experience is not laziness, but technological/social changes which sweep everyone along willy nilly.

The cost of health care, the shame of the United States, drives many economic decisions these days. The reason many people are abandoning small towns and rural areas is because they are being driven out by economics, not because they are too lazy to make a go of it. Megacorporations have destroyed small farming, small businesses, and small towns, and there is almost nothing in government policies which mitigates this process (unlike in western Europe).

Another economic reality that shapes much of the social landscape in the modern era is the emancipation of women. There's a real case to be made that the single most significant modern invention is birth control. When women are not virtual slaves to men, and have no choice but to, unremunerated, bear children, raise children, and also care for the sick and elderly, an enormous, unprecedented shift happens. Not everything in that shift is of benefit to the general society, something that every conservative knows. We are still, I think, in the throes of it.

Last edited by Ulfreida; 02-14-2020 at 08:58 AM.
  #95  
Old 02-14-2020, 09:16 AM
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"Convenience" is such a perjorative word, as if modern people are incredibly lazy and soft compared to their forebears. But what I see and experience is not laziness, but technological/social changes which sweep everyone along willy nilly.

The cost of health care, the shame of the United States, drives many economic decisions these days. The reason many people are abandoning small towns and rural areas is because they are being driven out by economics, not because they are too lazy to make a go of it. Megacorporations have destroyed small farming, small businesses, and small towns, and there is almost nothing in government policies which mitigates this process (unlike in western Europe).

Another economic reality that shapes much of the social landscape in the modern era is the emancipation of women. There's a real case to be made that the single most significant modern invention is birth control. When women are not virtual slaves to men, and have no choice but to, unremunerated, bear children, raise children, and also care for the sick and elderly, an enormous, unprecedented shift happens. Not everything in that shift is of benefit to the general society, something that every conservative knows. We are still, I think, in the throes of it.
I did not mean "convenience" as a pejorative. Most of technological advances are designed to make things in life more convenient as well as more efficient and productive and I think that's a good thing.

That's an interesting point about disruption. Yes, one of the things that separates liberals from conservatives is that conservatives fear the consequences of change more than they appreciate the potential benefits while I think liberals are the other way around.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:20 AM
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I did not mean "convenience" as a pejorative. Most of technological advances are designed to make things in life more convenient as well as more efficient and productive and I think that's a good thing.

That's an interesting point about disruption. Yes, one of the things that separates liberals from conservatives is that conservatives fear the consequences of change more than they appreciate the potential benefits while I think liberals are the other way around.
You could just as easily argue that most technological advances are designed to make money for the company marketing them. "Convenience" is an advertising device, more often than not.

The fact that I don't need nor understand nor use 90% of the functions on any given electronic device (I'm a little extreme but not bizarrely so in this respect, according to my anecdotal evidence), tells you something about "covenience" of technology.

And, not to make this political, but I don't think you have the liberal vs conservative dichotomy quite figured out.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:51 AM
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You could just as easily argue that most technological advances are designed to make money for the company marketing them. "Convenience" is an advertising device, more often than not.

The fact that I don't need nor understand nor use 90% of the functions on any given electronic device (I'm a little extreme but not bizarrely so in this respect, according to my anecdotal evidence), tells you something about "covenience" of technology.

And, not to make this political, but I don't think you have the liberal vs conservative dichotomy quite figured out.
You wouldn't be the first to make this charge. I probably misunderstood this part of your post, "Not everything in that shift is of benefit to the general society, something that every conservative knows" and would welcome the opportunity to have it fleshed out for me.
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