Book Review: And the Band Played On

While doing research for an upcoming book, I read up on the early history of the AIDS epidemic. I came across And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts, a very in-depth documentary of events from July 1976 through January 1986.  Far from being a dry treatise, it comes across as an engaging epic of this catastrophe.  Overall, it’s a grim read, though this is certainly to be expected for a disease that was striking mainly young people and sucking the life out of them by inches.

Before I read it, I expected that the main part of the blame would be cast on the Presidency. Shilts does take shots at Reagan whenever he can, though it turns out this actually isn’t too often; if the President dropped the ball, so did almost everyone else in the beginning.  The way I’m reading it, any inaction on Reagan’s part was small potatoes compared to all the other missteps.  There was quite a bit more blame to go around at the federal level – the various health agencies (the people whose job it is to deal with these things) and Congress – as well as state and municipal authorities.  Even then, governmental factors were only the tip of the iceberg.

There were some early observers who had a good idea of the magnitude of the problem and what it would turn into. Like the myth of Cassandra, they were prophets that nobody believed until it was too late.  The government health agencies didn’t want to hear it, the media didn’t want to hear it, the scientific community didn’t want to hear it, and the gay community didn’t want to hear it.

When the inevitable happened and things were starting to get seriously out of control, the paralysis went on. Immediately there were ego-fueled scientific turf wars.  Worse, researchers were starving for funds, their hands tied while the bureaucratic bungling went on.  Congress was playing numbers games to put on the appearance that they were taking decisive action, but that wasn’t really happening.  Mayors and city officials kept dragging their feet.  Blood banks didn’t want to implement the elementary testing procedures available then because that would cost money, or ask questions about sexual history because that would offend gays.  As for the reaction of the gay community – the hardest hit, especially in the beginning – this is where it gets surreal.  The few sensible voices who dared to speak up were shouted down.  Factionalism was a contributing factor to the big mess.  The mere suggestion of closing down the bathhouses – where gay guys were getting infected on a daily basis – got the same reaction as taking a lollipop away from a toddler.  Really, what the hell were they thinking?  An even worse lapse of responsibility was that there were plenty of guys – including Gaetan Dugas, “Patient Zero” – who knew they were infected but kept on having unsafe sex.  As for the media, eventually they did take notice, but it wasn’t until the death of Rock Hudson toward the end of the book that the crisis really reached public consciousness.

That’s how the book tells it, though as for the last conclusion, I’ll have to disagree. I was around then, and by the time Rock Hudson died, there certainly was much public discussion about it already.  We certainly did know about AIDS, how it was spread, and what you had to do to avoid getting it.  As I recall, Rock Hudson’s death was more like a ping on the radar than a watershed moment.

So now here we are, thirty years later. The reactions back then by those at the forefront – in science, politics, the media, the blood banks, and the gay community itself – certainly was as much of a clusterfuck as anything that went on in those bathhouses.  Suppose that in the beginning, everything had gone right instead – the scientific community had acted with unity, the government had immediately released suitable research funding, the press took notice early on, the blood banks implemented whatever testing and precautions that were available, the mayors started AIDS education and services, the gay community saw what was happening and realized the danger, the bathhouse owners made “safe sex only” rules to keep their clientele alive, and overall everyone acted together to grease the wheels of bureaucracy – surely many lives could have been saved.

How much of it was inevitable? By the time word got out about the dangers of unsafe sex – and more importantly, most started believing it and protecting themselves – for many people it was already too late.  This was true for Bill Kraus – one of those early voices, and one of the sensible characters.  As for “Patient Zero”, it turns out that he wasn’t the first person in North America with the virus, though his willful irresponsibility after he was told he had a communicable disease caused him to infect likely hundreds of others in the early years.  He certainly wasn’t the only one who didn’t realize the difference between liberty and license.  The nature of the disease itself certainly made it difficult for the scientific community – it’s rare for new viruses to come along, they’re fairly hard to detect, and that’s only the beginning.  Those who were on the right track had to fight tooth and nail to be heard.  Hopefully some lessons were learned.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a catastrophe before people start taking notice. Those who have their head buried in the sand don’t see the storm coming.  This is definitely true for certain trends affecting Western civilization, though all that’s another subject for another day.

Want to help kill this damn bug? The good news is that parallel computing projects are under way, and you can participate.  This works like the popular SETI@Home project, where spare CPU cycles are used to listen for ET to phone home.  The World Community Grid has an AIDS project, as well as several projects to wipe out many other dreadful diseases.  While you’re watching funny cat videos or conquering the World of Warcraft or even away from the keyboard, your computer will test molecules in the background.  Get involved today!

Book Review: And the Band Played On

Deconstructing the narrative of microaggression

At first glance, the term microaggression – a big hit in academia, and major buzzword for feminism – seems pretty silly.  When one first encounters the word, the reaction might be one of these:

  • Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names may never hurt me;
  • All the feminists using the term should grow a pair (irony intended); or
  • Do a million microaggressions equal a punch in the nose?

Still, although ridicule definitely has uses (especially with something like this), we should first try to understand the theory so we can point out why it’s wrong.

So what does “microaggression” really mean?

From the sounds of it, one would think a microaggression happens whenever someone says or does something that hurts someone else’s feelings.  However, road rage incidents, someone saying your favorite team sucks, your fashion sense getting criticized, and the like – none of that really counts.  The subset of daily incivilities we all endure as a part of life – objective or perceived – classified as microaggressions are limited to those relating to “essential categories”.  When the concept came out in 1970, it was about race.  Soon, the feminists picked up on it big time.  Among others, the LGBT activists got into the party, today’s cause-du-jour being transsexual potty privileges.  Already this seems pretty curious – if incivility in general is bad, then why focus so much attention on “essential category” based stuff and not a word about anything else?  The reason why, of course, is that microaggression theory is a political weapon for drawing attention, pushing guilt trips, and angling for preferential treatment and special rights.

A microaggression can be a very tiny thing, hence the “micro” prefix.  As for the “aggression”, this sets the predetermined conclusion that it’s morally equivalent to violence.  Even so, these are mostly things that people with skin thicker than paper just laugh off and forget about the next day.  In fact, many claimed microaggressions are very “micro” indeed!  For instance, asking an Asian “Where are you from?” qualifies as a microaggression.  It doesn’t matter if the question was motivated by innocuous curiosity or a desire to learn about other cultures.  Neither does it matter whether the intent actually was to find out what domestic city the Asian was from, rather than his or her country of origin.  If a man asks a female co-worker for coffee, it’s microaggression; if the roles were reversed, she just wants some coffee.  It’s all about perception.  The problem is that if everything is about subjective standards, and even the tiniest things are magnified into little slices of violence, then it’s basically impossible to avoid randomly causing offense.  Rather than solving any problems, this aggravates the “walking on eggshells” feeling in today’s increasingly politically correct society.  This feeds the frame that society is a big toxic miasma because of “the patriarchy”, “the Man”, or whatever.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

In the usual weaponized form of microaggression theory, it only counts when the offender is higher up the supposed privilege ladder (thus, lower on the real political pecking order) than the offended.  So if a White guy asks “Why do Hispanics wear hair nets?” then that counts.  If the Hispanic asks “Why do gringos wear baseball caps backwards?” it doesn’t count.  However, if the White guy was gay and got called a “joto” or a “maricon”, and the Hispanic guy got called a “breeder”, then the gay White guy got microaggressed and the straight Hispanic didn’t.  Well, maybe; the rules of the “victimization Olympics” game are far from set in stone.  Inconsistent application of standards is yet another problem with microaggression rhetoric.  For that matter, deciding who’s a bigger victim as a determinant of who’s right or wrong is fallacious reasoning.  Actually, by objective standards, radical leftists commit microaggressions practically every time they open their mouths by very blatantly putting down Whites, males, straights, and any other group they don’t like.  Further, distorting the news and lying about history to fit their agenda is pretty irritating to anyone who cares about the truth.  Social Justice Weenies are worse hypocrites than televangelists.

The pat answer to skeptics of microaggression theory is that it’s invisible (except to the receiving party, of course).  This is the same trick used with “privilege” – they say privilege is invisible to the privileged.  The glaring problem is that it makes the whole discussion basically tautological.  If one party claims that something exists but is invisible to the other party, then there can be no agreement on first principles – a necessity for productive debate – and no meaningful dialogue can follow.  You might as well debate the existence of the Tooth Fairy with a four year old.

Microaggression rhetoric promotes hypersensitivity

There are a number of other problems.  Magnifying slights – mostly petty or unintentional – is unhealthy.  It’s unreasonable that people should go about the world expecting to be covered in psychic bubble wrap.  Being that thin-skinned is a step below being a wimp.  Also, walking around with a chip on one’s shoulder causes legitimate differences of opinion to be reframed as “you’re oppressing me”, “I’m triggered”, etc.  Microaggression theory boils down to the hypersensitivity in political correctness.  That’s sold as avoiding hurt feelings but is really about thought control.  Actually, since microaggression theory gives license to get enraged whenever a dissenting opinion is heard – no matter how moderately stated – that’s pretty aggressive itself!  It doesn’t have to be this way.  One should stand up for one’s opinion like a reasonable adult, rather than acting like a big baby.  As for perceived slights, the rational response is to shrug off little things and enforce boundaries proportionally as needed.  Finally, even SJWs have intense debates over proper application of the “victimization Olympics”.  Although they often march in lockstep, they do have their own individual perspectives, interpretations, and biases.  It shouldn’t be any surprise that an ideology as inconsistent as this is full of fault lines.  Sometimes revolutions end up eating themselves.

Really, more multiculturalism means more tension in society.  The strategy since the 1960s of promoting hyper-consciousness in some groups – while forbidding legitimacy for other groups to express solidarity, promote their best interests like everyone else can, have their own living spaces, or even have a right to exist – that just makes tensions worse.  So does pushing guilt trips, driving a wedge between men and women, etc.  That’s what cultural Marxist strategy is all about, of course, but they sell this social battering ram as “social justice”.  Is this really civility and tolerance?  Because of all this, microaggression theory basically deconstructs itself.

Deconstructing the narrative of microaggression

A former slave speaks about personal finance

I was reading some slave narratives recently.  There are a good number of them, recorded from the 1930s onward, in which elderly former slaves talked about their lifetime experiences.  One of them was Fountain Hughes, born in 1848 and interviewed in 1949.  He had quite a bit to say about his century on this world.  Right away I noticed some things quite relevant to people today.  He spoke at length on the subject, beginning with the following (phonetic spelling as given in the original transcript):

You all try to live like young people ought to live. Don’ want everything somebody else has got. Whatever you get, if it’s yourn be satisfied. An’ don’ spen’ your money till you get it. So many people get in debt. Well, that was all so cheap when I bought it. You spen’ your money fore you get it because you’re going in debt for what you want. When you want something, wait until you get the money an’ pay for it cash. Tha’s the way I’ve done. If I’ve wanted anything, I’d wait until I got the money an’ I paid for it cash. I never bought nothing on time in my life. Now plenty people if they want a suit of clothes, they go to work an’ they’ll buy them on time. Well they say they was cheap. They cheap. If you got the money you can buy them cheaper. They want something for, for waiting on you for, uh, till you get ready to pay them. An’ if you got the money you can go where you choose an’ buy it when you go, when you want it. You see? Don’t buy it cause somebody else go down an’ run a debt an’ run a bill or, I’m gonna run it too. Don’ do that. I never done it. Now, I’m a hundred years ol’ an’ I don’ owe nobody five cents, an’ I ain’t got no money either. An’ I’m happy, jus’ as happy as somebody that’s oh, got million.

So there you go.  Live within your means, and forget about trying to keep up with the Joneses.  I’m not sure what kind of interest they were charging for store credit back in those days, but now millions of people are getting royally screwed with credit cards.  If you’ve got plastic, pay it down every month.  Don’t let the banksters get their hooks into you!  Paying interest on a credit card does you as much good as feeding money into a paper shredder.  If Fountain Hughes could live over a century without running up even a nickel of consumer debt, there’s an example to follow.

A former slave speaks about personal finance

How I almost dated a SJW and what that taught me about game

My high school was full of fundamentalist prudes and stuck up rich chicks.  The prettier they were, the worse the attitude.  Some girls – including pretty ones – had pleasant personalities, but generally they didn’t stay single very long.  As a nerd with lousy game, my social life was doomed.  I practically counted the days like a prisoner until graduation.

Horrifyingly, the college social scene wasn’t much different.  The Princess Complex was just the same.  The rigid high school cliques were out, but status consciousness (read:  gold diggers) were in.  Politics was a new element; the predominant ideological climate would have made Comrade Gorbachev seem like a Republican.  Propaganda surrounded us:  posters littered everywhere, classrooms (indoctrination included even in my grammar class), and of course the fishwrap masquerading as a student newspaper where future cogs in the mainstream media machine were honing their skills at brainwashing the public.  Distressingly, I noticed others changing their beliefs to fit their surroundings; many people just “go with the flow” rather than think for themselves.  Some of the students saw through it; one of my old friends lamented, “I’ll get an F on this paper if I don’t lie.”  I was already politically Red Pill, pretty outspoken about my views, and pissing off many people.

Although Social Justice Warriors seem like a new phenomenon, actually they’ve been around for a good while; we just have a new name for it.  Back in the mid-1980s, there were already quite a few stormtroopers of political correctness on campus.  One was a former roommate who majored in marijuana, lowered his IQ tremendously, and eventually flunked out, though all that’s another story.  Another SJW almost became my girlfriend.  Let’s call her Lenina.

I met her on a campus commons, as she staffed one of many tables for propaganda distribution.  Lenina was chubby (though not too far from today’s average), but extra weight isn’t a problem for me, up to a certain point.  She had an enigmatic face, intense eyes, and clear skin – pretty cute overall, the way I see it.  On the down side, half of her luxuriant hair was shaved off – even before the Skrillex cut was “in” amongst this crowd – along with green highlights.  The stuck-up attitudes I had encountered from junior high onward were a complete turn-off, and as a result, I became quite open to “alternative aesthetics”.  (In fact, whenever I take a butch lesbian to bed and give her the best sex of her life, I’m serving as an ambassador for the reconciliation our society so desperately needs.)  I’ve dated conventionally beautiful women too, but not until much later.  But, I digress.

So despite my lack of game, I got a Number Close from an archetypal green-haired feminist, one who wanted to burn down our civilization.  Must be love, right?  I don’t pick my friends or mates by ideology, even if they believe in perfectly silly things.  In fact, the only girlfriend 100% on my political wavelength is one of my current ones (one of the conventionally beautiful ones).  As it happens, Lenina was an anarchist.  Personally, I think anarchy is unworkable and thus rather silly.  There’s a place for government in society – most preferably responsible or at least limited – and vacuums of power don’t last long.  In practice, Lenina was basically extreme left, anti-everything, into radical anything, and indistinguishable to me from the many campus Communists.  David Duke’s autobiography had a scathing anecdote about her – yes, that one…  Such lack of good taste on her part usually would be a disqualifier.  Somehow I let past indiscretions slide, though she had a pretty good idea of what I felt about it.

Anyway, I saw Lenina quite a bit after that.  Before too long, I clued her in that our views were very different.  Given her radicalism, that was basically like telling the Pope that the Beatles really are bigger than Jesus.  Surprisingly, she didn’t tell me to go to hell.  Later on, I made a witty comment about the significance of her haircut, referencing Tacitus on the subject.  Eventually, the sexual tension began to sizzle.  I wondered if the attraction was only on my part, or if she felt the same way about me – we’ve all been there, right?

One day I got brave and hinted that I thought she liked me.  That didn’t go so well; I got the standard “Men are all pigs!” lecture.  After that, I figured I was in the Friend Zone, though I didn’t have a name for this earthly version of Purgatory back then.  We still hung out for a long time after that – I did enjoy her company for its sake alone – but I made no further attempts to escalate.  One day she moved away, out of the blue.

By that time, my personal drought had broken after discovering cougars.  Fast forward several years.  I found Lenina on social media, pretty much accidentally via a common friend.  All’s well in her world.  Then she dropped off the radar.  Fast forward several years and several relationships.

Finally, Lenina contacted me again.  She was a little mellower, hair more normal.  She revealed that in college, she had intensely desired me.  Well, knock me over with a feather…  She never told me why she flipped out earlier if she liked me so much, but surely radical feminist indoctrination caused a knee-jerk reaction.  Anyway, so we decided to make up for lots of lost time later.  Unfortunately, she went ghost once again.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows (or almost, in my case).  I’m considerably older and wiser now.  I learned some things about game from my experience with Lenina, though fully realized some implications far too late to be helpful in that phase of my life:

Lesson 1 – It’s true that politics (along with money, religion, and sex) are hot button topics best avoided in the very beginning.  Be oblique or change the subject, since disagreements will result in you getting written off as a heretic, usually something ending in “-ist” or “-phobe”.  However, you can safely talk about these later on after you’ve built up a lot of familiarity.  In fact, you’ll pretty much have to get to these eventually if you’ll be seeing someone for very long.
Lesson 2 – Being resolute about your beliefs can be a good thing.  Had I pretended to agree with Lenina to try to win her favor – “Yeah, I hate Whitey so much that I want to play with a toaster in a bathtub, want to join me?” – it would have been counterproductive.
Lesson 3 – Quite inadvertently, I had stumbled across “Neg Theory”.  Had I fully understood what was going on, I could have used it to devastating effect throughout my wasted years of youth.
Lesson 4 – Sometimes – though not always, of course – a nasty reaction is just a default reflex.  She might even like you quite a bit.  If only chicks would just communicate honestly, or at least turn off the Bitch Shield when they like you, everyone would have more fun.  (Cue John Lennon’s “Imagine”.)  With a little Push-Pull, Lenina probably would have gone for what she really wanted, and I could have dated a flaming radicalinski.
Lesson 5 – The game ain’t over until the deal’s closed.

So Lenina, wherever you are, you have my best wishes.  If you still want to burn down our civilization, I still ain’t handing you the matches.

How I almost dated a SJW and what that taught me about game

“Hey, baby, how about it?”

Suppose a guy walks up to a stranger and asks her for sex – what happens then?  The results aren’t good.  Surely you’ve figured that out already, if you’ve ever gotten blown out for doing exactly that back in junior high when you were swimming in hormones and had no clue about being cool and smooth.  You might be interested to know that this has been proven – by science!  The things they put on PubMed these days…

If scientific-speak isn’t your strong suit, the abstract means there were three studies done where a total of 144 ladies got propositioned, and every one of them shot down the researchers.  Ouch!  Then there was yet another study done by an Austrian magazine in which 100 ladies were propositioned, and the success rate was 6.1%.  I’m not sure how you get 6.1 takers out of 100 very blatant cold approaches; perhaps six said “yes” and one said “mmmmmmmmmaybe”.  The abstract concludes:  “Various contextual differences, such as setting, subjects’ age and attractiveness, and age differences between requestor and receiver, probably contributed to the observed difference in outcome between the journalistic project and the original experiments. The present findings point to the importance of contextual effects in naturalistic investigations of women’s receptivity to sexual offers.”  So, yeah, I figure the Austrian guy was pretty hot looking and it was closing time at the bar.

Thanks to the seduction community, we have some better results yet from the “Apocalypse Opener”.  The most positive results I’ve seen were from one fellow who got 14 takers out of 100 approaches.  My guess is that he’s pretty good looking.  Surprisingly – given the relatively good results – he was selecting for very attractive women.  There are a few other key items of note.  Since he’s made over 500 posts to that forum, he’s familiar with game principles, and since he actually went through with the experiment, he’s not just a keyboard jockey.  Further, he wasn’t saying “How about it, baby?” but rather:

Wow you’re looking great.. HEY I just got a new place right up the street. Come on over we’ll play chutes and ladders!

So, that makes his pickup line slightly indirect, but the intent is pretty clear.  Also, he only approached women who were by themselves; this eliminates the factor of “Anti-Slut Defense” (this terminology is something else!) where she worries what her friends will think.  Interestingly enough, out of the 86 times he didn’t get a full close, none were harsh rejections, and some were actually number closes.  The seduction community’s general advice for the Apocalypse Opener – if you dare – is to be as cool as possible given the circumstances.  Specifically, that means deliver confidently, don’t act all pervy, and if you get turned down (which is quite likely) then don’t apologize and don’t act the least bit flustered.  In any event, others have tried with much less success; this isn’t for the inexperienced or faint of heart.  They don’t call it the Apocalypse Opener for nothing!

Let it be noted that I don’t encourage being really blatant like that.  Rather, I recommend subtlety.  You have to act like you’re interested, but not act like you’re interested.  Does that sound like a contradiction?  Of course it is!  On a more serious note, one must strike the correct balance.  Not coming across like a horn-dog helps save face in case it doesn’t work.  Actually, that’s most of the time no matter what you do, but still, you’ll get better results going about things the right way.

“Hey, baby, how about it?”