Addiction and Virtue

Interesting long form book review.

Consequently, if detoxed addicts cannot replace addiction with something that is as equally compelling and consuming they will remain vulnerable to addiction’s allures.

And yet, as we’ve seen, modernity, because it lacks a Story, cannot give us anything as compelling or consuming. Thus we remain ever vulnerable to addictive habits and lifestyles.

Beyond filling the existential void, addiction also reduces the feeling of loneliness in modernity. As Dunnington says, “Lonely people make good addicts.”

Again, loneliness is a uniquely modern problem. We are, as Robert Putnam has so ably documented, “bowling alone.”

Addiction thrives in this social vacuum. Addiction often starts in social contexts, is sustained by circles of friends, and is often maintained by a webs of connection between fellow users and suppliers. And even when addiction isolates us from others it does so by becoming a surrogate “friend.” Addicts often refer to the chemical they are addicted to as their “best friend.” Addiction is a companion.

On the Measures of Meaning

Well written, but heavy emphasis on the Cat Disclaimer for this one.


This post was inspired primarily by a liberal acquaintance–we’ll call her Juliet.

picture-6Since the election, Juliet has been suicidal. I don’t mean she’s actually tried to commit suicide; (suicidal women very rarely actually commit suicide, unlike suicidal men.) I just mean she’s posted a lot of angst-ridden things on the internet about how she wants to die because Trump is going to destroy everything in a giant fireball, and literally the only thing she has left to live for are her 3 dogs and 10 cats.

Juliet is one of those people who thinks that we are one heavy bootstep away from Holocaust 2.0 (despite such a thing never having happened in all of American history,) and that the US was an oppressive, horrible, quasi-genocidal place up until 4-8 years ago. (She’s the same age as me, so she has no youth excuse for not knowing what life was like…

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Lots of good discussion of the Tribes vs Ideology post over at Tumblr. Check it out if you want to debate people.

Awesome Games Done Quick was this weekend. They raise money for charity by marathoning speed runs of classic video games.


Even after the political warfare that has devastated the gaming community, I find AGDQ a delightful tribal oasis. You kind of have to watch it to understand what I mean, but, they just really love showing off their skills and tricks, and raising money for anodyne causes. (Superficially at least) it’s free of drama and political one upsmanship, despite the many potential political arguments you could make about it (it looks 95% white male.) They’ve clearly just swept various problems under the rug, but you can’t deny that they’re happy.

If you just want to relax with atmospheric tribal happiness, you can watch their videos here. The blindfolded Ocarina run is amazing.

Self-Segregation: Forming Communities or Destroying Them?

danah boyd on the ever interesting topic of the Big Sort

The problem is not simply the “filter bubble,” Eli Pariser’s notion that personalization-driven algorithmic systems help silo people into segregated content streams. Facebook’s claim that content personalization plays a small role in shaping what people see compared to their own choices is accurate. And they have every right to be annoyed. I couldn’t imagine TimeWarner being blamed for who watches Duck Dynasty vs. Modern Family. And yet, what Facebook does do is mirror and magnify a trend that’s been unfolding in the United States for the last twenty years, a trend of self-segregation that is enabled by technology in all sorts of complicated ways.

Sometimes Rules Aren’t the Issue

Some tribes can be as small as a polyamorous network of people dating each other, and Ozymandias helpfully points out that healthy relationships of people who respect each other look fairly similar, no matter what rules structure they use:

But in practice, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between Reasonable Sensible People Polyamory With Rules and Reasonable Sensible People Polyamory Without Rules. My husband does not have a veto over whom I date, but he does get to have opinions. Naturally, I respect my husband’s judgment about other people, so I will listen to him to see if he’s seen something I’m blinded to by new relationship energy. Naturally, my husband respects my judgment about other people, so he will listen to me about the merits of the person he’s judged distasteful. Naturally, he doesn’t want to make me unhappy, so he will swallow his dislike and be cordial if necessary. Naturally, I don’t want to make him unhappy, so I will avoid squeeing about the awesomeness of people he dislikes. And if in spite of all this we can’t resolve the conflict, we’ll figure out how to manage it while keeping the lines of communication open so we can maybe find a resolution.


McDonald’s Communities

This is the sort of thing I assume everyone who reads this blog already has seen, but I guess I forgot to post it. An excellent article by the Guardian about how McDonald’s has become the community center for a lot of poorer communities.

When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks. They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s.

Betty and Omar on their wedding day.
Betty and Omar on their wedding day. Photograph: Chris Arnade

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.

This sort of class demography connects loosely to this fascinating list of 66 types of American community by demographic interest made by the marketing firm Claritas. All the way from

01 – Upper Crust:  The nation’s most exclusive address, Upper Crust is the wealthiest lifestyle in America haven for empty-nesting couples over 55 years old. No segment has a higher concentration of residents earning over $200,000 a year or possessing a postgraduate degree.

02 – Blue Blood Estates:  Blue Blood Estates is a family portrait of suburban wealth; a place of million-dollar homes and manicured lawns, high-end cars and exclusive private clubs. The nation’s second-wealthiest lifestyle, it is characterized by married couples with children, college degrees, a significant percentage of Asian Americans and six-figure incomes earned by business executives, managers and professionals.


64 – Bedrock America:  Bedrock America consists of young, economically challenged families in small, isolated towns located throughout the nation’s heartland. With modest educations, sprawling families and blue-collar jobs, many of these residents struggle to make ends meet. One quarter live in mobile homes. One in three haven’t finished high school. Rich in scenery, Bedrock America is a haven for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.

65 – Big City Blues:  With a population that’s 50 percent Latino, Big City Blues has the highest concentration of Hispanic Americans in the nation. But it’s also the multi-ethnic address for downscale Asian and African-American households occupying older inner-city apartments. Concentrated in a handful of major metros, these young singles and single-parent families face enormous challenges: low incomes, uncertain jobs and modest educations. More than 40 percent haven’t finished high school.

66 – Low-Rise Living:  The most economically challenged urban segment, Low-Rise Living is known as a transient world for young, ethnically diverse singles and single parents. Home values are low-about half the national average-and even then less than a quarter of residents can afford to own real estate. Typically, the commercial base of Mom-and-Pop stores is struggling and in need of a renaissance.[4]

WARNING: DO NOT read this list to find which of these communities is you, and where that falls on the status ladder. That way lies endless status anxiety that has no cure.

It’s a pretty powerful reminder of how many Americans are just old and not highly-socially-mobile, in a way that is fairly underrepresented in media depictions of “the average American.”