Social Calculus

Soon to be boiled frog!I just don’t get the calculus behind the choices being made by people like AG Barr and so many others in politics and government today. Do they not understand that their legacy is likely to cast them as great Villains in American history? Could they be so stupid, so arrogant and vain, that they don’t care about history when the moment promises fame, wealth, and power?

Or do they think they can actually win, that they can remake the world in their image? That we have so lost our way morally and culturally, that they can run roughshod over us and seize the world for their own gain and purpose?

The former possibility is scary enough, but the latter is terrifying.

Unfortunately it explains a lot. Like why these Villains are so willing to be public about crossing lines that would have destroyed their reputations just a generation ago. They think it won’t matter. They think they’ll win.

Because — in case you hadn’t noticed? — they are.

They keep pushing and, with each victory, or rather, with each failure of the system to stop them, they gain a little ground.

They change the norm.

They get us to live with just a little bit more.

And bit by bit, like a stage magic act, it all changes to something else.

If you aren’t terrified, you just aren’t paying attention.


I’ll tell you now, this is free form and raw. A way to express my rage and horror at having to even exist at a time like this when the human race is acting like such a waste of skin. Maybe I’ll go back and edit. Maybe not.

(Now that the Mathness is over (for the moment), I’m back to ranting. One reason I love the math is that I don’t have to deal with this social, cultural, political bullshit. Math is sane.)

The thing is, this shit is a serious assault on my sensibilities.

Part of my mind has been in a constant scream of outrage since that fucking toad slid down his gold-plated escalator with his whore.

My scream has just gotten louder over time.

It hasn’t gotten better and curse those idiots who ever thought Fuck Toad would ever “pivot” to being presidential. How could so few see the danger — it was always in plain sight.

I can hardly bear to watch any part of the news anymore.


It isn’t just politics, although that’s by far the biggest, most urgent, thorn. (Where’s that mouse?)

I’m also sick to death of our culture’s cynicism and commercialism.

Not to mention the fragmentation and polarization. We’ve become highly tribal again, and warring tribes, to boot, just like our most distant ancestors.

Our cynicism and distrust of every institution devalues science and education, so we backslide towards the dark ages of superstition and mysticism.


Some say it started, at least politically, with Watergate. That’s when we began to lose faith in government.

But is it that we finally saw the truth that was always there, or did politics change with the times? Did our values begin to slip?

I do put a large part of the blame on an increasingly mechanical, material, secular world. Religions may offer twisted moralities, but at least belief comes with some code of behavior, some guide as to how to be.

I’ve wished we’d updated religion as we did medicine, both of which have long been usefully with us in primitive form, but only one of which we ever applied ourselves to modernizing.

My faith not only gives me heart, it gives me beauty, joy, and soul.


Speaking of faith, how appalling it is that so many of these American Villains cloak themselves in the trappings of faith while disdaining everything it stands for.

A characteristic of actual faith is easily withstanding questions, even the most aggressive. These villainous pretenders deflect all questions with outrage: “Who are you to challenge my faith?”

Anyone may challenge. The faith is in the response. These Villains are liars and pretenders, evil by just about any definition.

And yet we suffer them.

We think it’s normal — just the way it is these days.

What has happened to the world?


In a word: Fear.

The world has become, at all levels, complex beyond understanding. It takes serious effort, and education, to keep up with technology and science.

That complexity is hard enough for us evolved apes to handle, but then we add so much bullshit into the mix, so many lies.

Life is hard enough these days without turning truth into a commodity to buy and sell, to twist to the convenience of a huckster trying to make a buck selling snake oil. Our greatest peril lies in disconnecting ourselves from truth, from facts, from the physical world.

We don’t know what to believe anymore.

We’re lost. Rudderless.

And scared shitless and witless.


In times of fear we look inward, we become more conservative.

And we look backward to “better” times. Nostalgia is a balm. We mistrust the new (that caused our problems) and seek the old, which we remember fondly.

Or we bury ourselves in distractions, games, mindless entertainment (math!), drugs,… anything to keep reality at bay.

Meanwhile the world seems to be changing around us.


One way to look at this is to say: “This is what humanity is now. This is the new normal, get on board.”

Maybe we’ve risen as far as our species, at least in its current form, can ever do. Maybe a species evolved as tribes can’t quite manage herds, let alone hives with teeming millions.

Maybe each time we rise this far we are doomed to fall back.

It certainly fits the cycle of history.

Every great empire we’ve known (save ours) has fallen. Why would we be the exception?

As Yeats so famously wrote, “The center cannot hold.”


I (if it’s not obvious) have lost what faith I did have in humanity. I now consider the human race a fail.

I think we succumb to our own self-contemplation, ignorance, and tribalism.  I foresee a repeating cycle of enlightenment and decline. I don’t think we’ll ever get out of our own way.

I think we’re staring right in the face at one answer to the Fermi Paradox.

Unless we pull our collective heads out of our collective asses.

And always remember… it’s not them… it’s us.


Ultimately, we’re all in this lifeboat together. It all starts with that one simple fact. One way or another, we will perish or persist together.

Keep paddling, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

5 responses to “Social Calculus

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I do feel a bit better now.

    But only a bit.

    • SelfAwarePatterns

      Better because you got it out of your system? 😀

      This is why I mostly read the news these days and do my best to stay away from TV and cable news. Even reading it, I also try to stay away from partisan news sources.

      But mostly by reading instead of watching, I don’t have to actually watch Trump talk. My outlook has been better since I started minimizing that exposure.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Right. Better to scream out loud than silently in your head! There is also evidence that expressing yourself is mentally healthier than keeping to yourself.

        I also read most of my news (through a newsfeed, Google or Apple News). I often watch Nicole Wallace on MSNBC, but that’s the only cable news I see anymore, and I sometimes skip her show. Yesterday, in fact, the news was so aggravating I had to turn it off and start on this blog post. Far better than sitting there stewing.

        And I know exactly what you mean. I wish Wallace didn’t show so many clips. It’s possible to discuss what he said, and to debunk the lies, without actually subjecting us to them. (At least they hardly ever show his tweets anymore. They were really into that for a while.)

        They can’t seem to understand the mistake they’re making in giving him any air at all. The trick is to mock and ignore him. Report on the damage and the lies, but don’t elevate the person. They don’t seem to understand the role they’re playing in his success. The media falls for his bait every time.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        For me, it’s Google News, a local newspaper site, and a couple of political news blogs I follow. I also listen to NPR in the car, but turn them off when they get too political.

        The big problem is Trump being obnoxious, followed by outraged reactions, is good for ratings. It’s all part of the strategy to rile you up so you keep watching, or clicking.

        Reading science articles, or science fiction, is a lot more pleasant 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Or math! Or baseball! 😀

        Both of those serve the purpose of escape from real life. I got so into baseball back in 2010 when, seriously stressed out over work, channel surfing I realized baseball was very relaxing and calming. Most other sports aren’t, especially the soccer-like ones.

        (Oddly, I find NASCAR pleasantly mindless sometimes. Go figure.)

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