Saturday, January 30, 2021

Red Pill, Blue Pill

You have it backwards, my friend. Oh, do you have it backwards!

A reader writes that he is refreshed by my perspective in my previous posting in that I am embracing the "blue pill" philosophy. Unfortunately, I think he has it backwards.

In case you were late for school, the red pill / blue pill trope derives from the movie The Matrix, where you are given the choice of taking a red pill and seeing how the world really works, or taking the blue pill and going back to the superficial world we live in, where everything is a fantasy.  Bear in mind that The Matrix was an entertainment, not a documentary - the premise is laughable and the plot is full of holes.  It is a roller-coaster ride, cotton candy, and not meant to be taken seriously.

In online forms, this trope can take on an entirely different meaning. There is a "how to pick up women" forum (and of course, books for sale) that uses this analogy. The red pill people are the people who understand how to abuse women and manipulate their emotions in order to violate them sexually. The blue pill people are idiots who can't figure out what's going on and never get laid. Needless to say, the people who subscribe to the sort of nonsense are not only idiots, they're misogynist. Moreover they probably never get laid. It's funny, but as a gay man, I probably had more sex with women than they have. I'm not bragging or anything it's just the truth.  When you feel entitled to sex, you rarely get it.

What my reader gets wrong is the idea that embracing the red pill, or the reality of the world means embracing conspiracy theories.  It is like the annoying man I met who opened his mouth and told me his entire life history. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, but then he started expounding upon various conspiracy theories and told me what a rotten place the world was now it was filled with all sorts of horrible things. And not surprisingly, he was a chronic underachiever and was living with his mother.

If that's the red pill, you can have it. I guess that is the red pill experience - living in your mother's basement and going on the internet and exposing all these grand conspiracy theories. But how does that profit you personally?

The rest of us, the people who work at jobs and save money and invest in our 401(k) and become wealthy over time, we're the stupid dumb-ass "sheeple" as they call us, who just have nice houses and nice cars and money in the bank and can pay for things. Oh, and we make society work. We're not the ones shouting up the basement stairs for our mothers to make us another plate of chicken tendies, while they surf the net looking for more biting information to expose George Soros, once and for all.

It is hard for me to embrace these alternative realities.  Getting a degree in Engineering is about as red-pill as you can get.  You learn how the physical world works and how technology works.  And that is part of the problem right there - most people today are technologically ignorant and proud of their ignorance.   Cell phones are a mystery to them, so of course it "makes sense" to them that 5G causes Covid - I mean, they came out at the same time, right?   Sadly, when you are an Engineer, it isn't possible to indulge in such fantasies.  They won't let you.

Getting a law degree is even more red pill - you learn how our society works - because that's what laws are, the rules of the game of this thing we call civilization.  Tax law, for example, was a real revelation to me, and what started me thinking about my future and my "net worth" which at the time was zero.

This is not to say, however, that all Lawyers and Engineers are rational - think Rudy Giuliani.  Maybe he was rational at one time and then lost it - it happens.  Or an lawyer friend of mine who got caught up in a "tax protester/tax denial" scheme.  I mean, how can you pass the bar exam and believe that the tax laws are imaginary?  So it happens, even rational people go off the rails.  And these days it is happening a lot.

I think one reason why is that a lot of people can't make sense of their world, as it is changing rapidly - too rapidly for some.  I predicted a decade ago that many colleges would go bankrupt, and indeed, small, expensive, liberal arts colleges were struggling for the last decade, and many have gone out of business in response to the CoVid epidemic.  The problem is, being small, they have huge overheads and small endowments.  Tuition is expensive and a Liberal Arts degree doesn't take you very far in life.  It might be nice to have education-for-education's sake, but today, you do need some sort of marketable job skill.

In my parent's generation, you could get such a degree and get a job "in industry" starting in the mail room and "working your way up" to the top floor and corner office.  A college degree - any degree - meant you were smart and ambitious and would succeed.  Well, that was 1948, this is today.  And high school guidance counselors are giving out career advice that is well-past its sell-by date.  I suspect that quite a few college-age kids these days are re-thinking this advice, as they have read, for the last decade, the horror stories about student loans.  The kid signing a loan doc today for a worthless degree?  I don't feel sorry for him at all - this problem has been well-documented by now and there is no excuse to plead ignorance.

I suspect a lot of these conspiracy theory people are folks who feel cheated by the system.  They filled in all the boxes and checked-off everything on the list, and yet they are broke and living with their parents. They delve into conspiracy theories, which insures no one will hire them, as no one intentionally hires a mentally ill person - the liabilities are just too great.  This in turn, alienates them further from society.  The folks in the alt-right arrested at these various protests are often discovered to be unemployed or underemployed and living with their mothers. The fellow in Charlottesville, for example, or a recent one arrested today, who bore a pouch at the insurrection with the motto, "Mom thinks I'm special!"  She does indeed.

Lest you think I am picking on the far-right, the far-left (which is the same thing, really, they overlap) is made up of the same sort of people.  "Anarchy" and "Antifart" are just as ridiculous as Qanonsense.  Same shit, different day, and it would not surprise me if people from each group switched sides on occasion, which they do, as more than one "Bernie Bro" has turned into a Trumpian, without understanding what either side stands for.  And oddly enough, many Trump supporters today are asking, "where's my stimulus check?" not understanding what the words "Conservative" and "Republican" mean.

If the red pill / blue pill an analagy has any merit, it's entirely opposite of what our reader states. If you want to understand the truth of how the reality of how the world works, you have to confront reality. You have to realize that you're constantly being marketed to and manipulated by various commercial and political factions. The people selling you the Qanonsense conspiracy are not acting in your best interest, they're trying to manipulate you into acting into their best interests.

If the red pill is the path of truth and enlightenment, then it doesn't mean falling down into the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. Those are indeed the blue pill.

Act rationally in an irrational world. That has been sort of the mantra my blog. If you can see through the smoke and fog of the world, and the people who constantly try to deceive us, whether it is Vladimir Putin with his Internet Research Agency, or merely Procter & Gamble trying to sell you a new bar of soap, you can get ahead in the world. There are a countless number of people who want to manipulate you, toward their commercial or political ends. And it is not that they're necessarily evil people, it's just that they're acting their own best interests, not yours.

Vladimir Putin doesn't see himself as an evil person. Believe it or not, he believes himself to be someone trying to save Russia from encroachment by Western powers.  And he's willing to do anything it takes, including poisoning his opponents, to preserve his own power base and to preserve the status of his own country. And if you put yourself into his shoes, you probably do the same thing, if not similar things.  The fact that he is lining his own pockets in the process doesn't create any cognitive dissonance for him.

Yeah I know, it's shocking, human beings act in their own best interest and act in the best interests of their own survival.  People don't just lay down their lives so that you can have nice things.  The key is, of course, for you to act in your own best interests, not theirs.  The people "exploited" in this world by and large let themselves be exploited, whether it is signing a payday loan or a lease on a new Camaro.  Or falling down the rabbit-hole of conspiracy theories - which allow one man to get elected, so he can enact policies that certainly don't benefit you.  Turning your life over to someone else's politcal cause is just plain stupid - as these Capitol rioters are just now finding out.

The marketplace is a battlefield. I noted that a long time ago. You have to look out for yourself and you have to embrace reality.  And no, reality is not subjective like in the movie The Matrix, where there is a superficial shell of reality and then an underlying reality which is not apparent except to the enlightened few.   Reality is there, right in front of you, not on some weird website or youtube video.

Rather, reality is available for any of us to view, but few of us choose to view it - probably because it is boring, involves hard work, and personal responsibility. We all rather live in a fantasy land of consumerism, where all we care about is what next shiny bauble to buy, whether it's a new video gaming console, a giant television set, or latest smartphone. Or maybe the fanciest new SUV they're advertising on the giant television and the new smartphone.  The thing bootstraps itself.

Again, it's not that there's some evil intent on the part of these advertisers and marketers. Really, they're acting in their own best interests, much as Vladimir Putin is acting in the best interests of Russia – and of course his own private financial empire. You can choose to be a pawn in their game, or you can choose to do something different. It's all up to you.

(Jeff Bezos, Vlad Putin - same shit, different day, although Bezos hasn't poisoned any of his opponents, yet, mostly because he doesn't want to get caught, and likely because he doesn't need to.   By the way, using poison was considered, in ancient Rome, to be a woman's form of assassination.  No real man would use poison - he would stab you, and not in the back, either.  So we see what sort of coward Putin really is.)

But one thing there'ss absolutely no profit in whatsoever is believing in conspiracy theories. You can believe in Qanonsense or you can believe in some other conspiracy, but what does that do for your own bottom line?  Unless you are the one selling the conspiracy books, you don't make dollar one at it.  Have any of these Qanonsense followers people become wealthy or famous? The most famous of the Qanonsense people is probably the my pillow guy, and by embracing Qanonsense he's destroyed his own pillow empire. He claims that there is some sort of conspiracy against him, but the reality is the majority of us don't embrace these wacky conspiracy theories. Moreover, we don't want to support them by buying pillows from some guy who supports these theories. Sales of his pillows have dropped off the edge because  we don't want to buy them and that's not censorship. We can choose not to purchase things from crazy people. Too bad for him.

If he had taken the red pill, he would realize that the reality of the world is that people will buy anything that is advertised on infomercials, and that is the sole "secret" of his success, not any inherent superiority of his pillow.  If you keep your product value-neutral, people keep buying it. Walmart understands this. General Motors understands this. You don't want to politicize your product, or at least not politicize it too much.

For an individual, the same is true.  You become a Qanonsense believer, odds are, you'll find employment opportunities wither, and your popularity diminish.  Women by and large don't want to date a conspiracy theorist, unless they are one themselves.

If you look at reality the way it is, you realize that reality is actually pretty decent. The world is actually a pretty nice place, and one of the nicest places in the world is United States of America. We have it really well here it if you bothered to look. Compare existence in our country to that in any other country in the world, and most cases we come out ahead. And yet, there's some people willing to throw this all away for... I'm not sure exactly what. Some sort of abstract concept of "freedom" or something. They can't even articulate it themselves, other than they feel they're being exploited her downtrodden for some reason, as they text this idea to you from their smartphone while they wait in line at McDonald's for their supersize meal while their bloated SUV idles.  They are so oppressed!

It's hard to fathom, other than to think that they've taken the blue pill.   They've poisoned their own minds with conspiracy theories and other forms of derangement that made them believe the things are far worse than they are.  By going down this rabbit hole, they do make things worse for themselves. Their friends and neighbors and even family members become estranged from them because they've gone off the deep end. They lose their jobs and their spouses and their children in their pursuit of Qanonsense theories. And before long they're completely isolated and they wonder why the world is turned against them. But the world is not turned against they've turned themselves against the world.

I mentioned before that when you stack yourself out against the system, it only seems like the system is stacked against you. It's just a lot easier (and far more profitable) to go along with our society at least up to a point, and realize you can benefit greatly from interacting with other human beings. People want to see you succeed, whether you believe it or not. Hillary Clinton doesn't hate you or does she want to suck the blood out of your children. People want you to succeed only because when you succeed you pay your taxes and then the whole system works. When you fail, then the rest of us have to support you. And one sure way to fail is to embrace conspiracy theories and other oddball beliefs and end up in a mental institution - then the rest of us have to pay for your sustenance.

So just say no to nonsense and conspiracy theories and nutty beliefs. It's a one way trip to zero. There's really no upside to it. The Qanonsense people will never win, and even if they did, only for a brief period of time.  Recall that Nazi Germany existed for only a few short years before they are trounced by the rest of the world. And in the process they would end up destroying so much, and created so much hardship for everyone else. It's just absolute utter nonsense and there's no reason whatsoever for it. So just stop. Please.

The world is a beautiful place.  Let's not destroy it - over nothing.