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comment by veen
veen  ·  472 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

    And jobs can't love you because you're being paid to be around these people. They ain't your friends. It has to be that way otherwise society and capitalism would collapse. The way I have always dealt with it is to take care of my responsibilities and then ngaf. It helps you out psychologically to you know, have a life.

This, and a few other points you make, may be true for a lot of people but you seem to assume it’s true for everyone and I just want to point out that that’s not the case. Life is what you make of it, and that’s also true of work life. I like my colleagues and treat them like friends and you know what? It makes things a lot easier and a lot more fun too. Hell, I even started a board game club that has grown to fifteen people, of which three work somewhere else now but still join in from time to time.

Cynicism, which I am reading between the lines, is easy because you don’t have to do anything if the world’s fucked anyway. It’s boring as hell, too. You can spend a life dulled by it for sure, if you let it. Pushing back against the dark, reaching out to people, treating them like complex humans of their own? That’s more like what I would call being alive is about.

user-inactivated  ·  472 days ago  ·  link  ·  
This comment has been deleted.
kleinbl00  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're living my point. Here, it's a pyramid:

- You can be anything you want, baby!

- You can be anything you want, child, so long as you want it enough!

- You can be anything you want, kid, so long as you want it hard enough and apply yourself!

- You can be anything you want, teen, so long as you work hard, get the right grades and line up the correct afterschool activities!

- You can be anything you want, young man, so long as you do nothing else, are in the top 1% of your class, know all the right people and have a rich uncle to pay your bills until you make it!

- You can be anything you want, graduate, so long as you have the education to back it up, the connections to get you the job, the lack of obligations that might distract you from the path and the time to wait until you get your chance!

- You can be anything you want, man, so long as you have a pile of cash from your previous successful career, a bunch of friends who can smooth your path, a family that can take care of itself while also taking care of you and an unlimited amount of time for lightning to strike twice!

The argument of the article, to bring things back to where we started, is that American culture is predicated on the idea that if you do everything right, everything right will happen to you. Mary Roach has a great book called Packing for Mars in which she points out that the average American astronaut spends 20-30 years prepping for a 1% chance of working in space for 20 minutes. Look at it like the Olympics - your entire childhood is spent in preparation for a single footrace. I have a friend who spends maybe $25k a year so that his daughter can do a single 2-minute routine at the nationals.

As we age, we calibrate our goals to our efforts. I am not a Navy SEAL because I didn't want to put in the back-breaking amount of physical labor necessary so that I could exchange my freedom for the right to shoot strangers in the dark. Where you're at is the acknowledgement that the effort you put in didn't accomplish the change you'd hoped.

And I'm sorry. Thanks for trying. Thanks for not studying computer science and going to Google. But please - do me a favor.

Look in the mirror.

We're neck-deep in a philosophical discussion about the meaning of life here because the Wall Street Journal found some normies who didn't want much but didn't get it anyway. You? You're arguing that they didn't deserve it in the first place because they didn't dream richly enough. That's a different discussion and one that we can certainly have but it doesn't change the fact that all these schlubs with their West Hartford split levels are experiencing the exact same jaded disillusionment you are... they just didn't ever intend to change the world.

It's hard to change the world. It's admirable, but it's hard, and many are called and few are chosen, and don't fucking give up on that. Jack Nicholson used to say "it took me 20 years to become an overnight success" because while Chinatown made him a household name, Little Shop of Horrors did not. George Clooney starred in two series called E.R. and in between, he was the lead in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. The bigger you dream the more setbacks you can expect. Period.

But we're here talking about people with truly minuscule dreams. They've settled. Their biggest goal is New Car Smell at some point in their lives. And they're not getting that.

You are expressing big dreams. This is good. This is vital. This is something that took you a while to get to. And you are expressing big frustration that there's sympathy in the world for people whose dreams were curtailed long before they got their diplomas. I get that, too. I bailed on the world of TPS reports about fifteen years ago, but I did it kicking and screaming, and I did it with no safety net, and it was fucking terrifying. I am an accidental success. I know exactly how much fear and caution keeps you in your cubicle.

What you're missing is that in order for you to dream big, a whole nation has to dream small. You are the tip of the spear. You are the NGO mutherfucker venturing forth and making something for everyone else to donate to so they feel like they're contributing a little. You are the adventurer beyond the wall whose tales of daring-do inspire the Walter Mittys of the world. but without a healthy and satiated populace of Walter Mittys, Free the Children Equador has no budget.

Not everybody wants to build schools in Afghanistan and that's okay. The guys building schools in Afghanistan are either (A) independently wealthy or (B) dependent on the fundraising abilities of an army of nebbishes arrayed at their backs. The issue at hand is that you can't even dream of being a nebbish anymore. Your boring-ass computer science gig now includes a third of a million dollars in debt.

In short, those guys who didn't even dream as big as you are facing equal disappointment.

And that is bad for society.

kingmudsy  ·  472 days ago  ·  link  ·  

...Did you read my article? It's from an old post I made years ago:

The point of the article isn't, "Don't be friends with your coworkers!" or "Don't treat your job like a friend!", it's a reminder. To quote _refugee_: "I think we buy into this whole "you have to go above and beyond and commit and be amazing all the time" idea that really benefits our employers and no one else. Your company won't be loyal to you. Don't be loyal to it."

I'm not my job. I'm not trying to be my job, or really feel satisfied by my job. My satisfaction with life needs to be portable because my 8-5 doesn't love me and it never will. It isn't my friend, it isn't my family, it's something I do so that my life outside the office can be what I want. I'm not slavishly devoted to work, and I'm sorry to learn that it means I'm not, "Actually alive on this planet."

user-inactivated  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're definitely alive on this planet KM.

I guess what I meant to say in some kind of bad way that ended up just coming out as a wavefront of improperly expressed broke-student anger was people that just didn't care. It's not about dreams. It's not about thinking you "won" the game of life. Did I win? Certainly not.

But it's just people who had the advantages. Who had everything. 99.8% of people on this planet would kill to have even a fraction of the life that couple has. The family bothered me because I could sense they made it and it just wasn't good enough for them. That their solution to the economy sucking was to just get further and further in debt so they could look nice. The niceness that only <5% of people in the first world have anyway.

Who is middle-class at 25? Who can buy a house at 26? Or 28?

And maybe that isn't the case because I really don't know them. But that's what I meant by not feeling alive. They're seriously jeopardizing the future of their kid. And I know countless families here in C-to-the-anada that do things like lease new Beemers they can't afford just to look the part. That is not being alive. Having a great job in coding and taking care of yourself? That's being alive 'fo sho. And just because Dad could do it doesn't mean I've absolving them of their responsibility. I asked my Dad and while everything was way cheaper people couldn't get credit.

Foveaux  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Super thankful my parents never bought into the "We could do it in our day, why can't you?" shtick. They've just bought their first house this year, they've been renters all their life as we shifted a great deal up and down the island.

I could buy a house now, at 29, though what's stopping me is the absolute cut-throat nature of real estate in our country now. I'm sure it always has been, but now it's glaringly obvious how fucked you are if you don't time it right. My two flatmates just bought their house last week, a really exciting time for them but I watched them bounce from open to open home, all absolutely packed with families of 4/5 wanting to buy a two bedroom home because it's all they could afford. Then come auction day a 2 bedroom house with an RV of 190k going for 450k - seeing them return home each day entirely outclassed in the finance realm by people just wanting to add to their investment portfolio.

I don't have anything against making wise investments, but the way we treat housing as a source of income scares the shit out of me.

My flatties wound up buying a place by strategically attending the first open home on a weekday so families would find it harder to attend, getting alone time with the vendor, writing a soppy letter about making milestones in the house and the sound of kids running down the hallway and making an unconditional offer knowing that's pretty much what you have to do these days.

The worst part? They're never going to have kids. They don't want them, they just knew they had to present themselves in a certain light or they'd never get a look in. So the letter was fabricated and it worked, the vendor is an English teacher who loves kids and wanted the house going to a similar minded couple. She said the letter was a huge factor in the decision and they got the offer accepted last week.

Shits fucked man.

kleinbl00  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I graduated with no debt from a program that paid an average of $65k a year. My wife graduated with no debt from a program that paid an average of $50k a year but she's really fucking good at her job and she was making $80k a year within six months of graduating. Within another year she had bought a house for $175k.

Fast forward 20 years. My program now averages $72k a year and it costs five times as much. Her program now averages $50k a year and it costs five times as much. Meanwhile the house is currently worth half a mil.

Me, 20 years later, is epically fucked. It's the timing. Purely. But wait, there's more - we happened to have not great credit on paper while also never missing a payment on the house so TARP funds got us out of a 30 and into a 15 at a lower payment. My mortgage payment is less than my neighbor's HELOC. I looked at paying it off last year but it would literally save me about $3500. Fate and circumstance has been kind to my family but if I had less clarity about the situation, I'd assume that kids these days can't afford a house because they're too busy eating avocado toast.

Foveaux  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I was absolutely stoked to see I now only have 19k left on my 42k student loan for a Bachelors degree in Psychology (which hung on my wall as I started working in retail the day after graduation). Thank goodness our government made it interest free. Over half way baby!

The interesting thing is, I don't feel particularly hard done by on a day to day basis. I earn bang on 60k a year and my living expenses mean I can quite comfortably save for fun, a house, and enjoy things every week. If I didn't get paid for a month or two I'd be comfortable living on my savings until things got sorted. Plenty don't have that luxury and I am appreciative of that.

But as soon as I look at buying a house, it suddenly looks impossible. Aside from the stress, I need my partner on board with her income otherwise we can't afford the repayments as the average house in our city has shot to an average of $460k, up from $306k in just 2016, and we're the lucky area that's experiencing relatively slow growth!

I'm telling the young lads at my local gym to seriously consider trades and not to be put off by people who look down on Polytech courses - if they want to get into building or plumbing, we sorely need skilled people in those realms. They get told they need a University degree to be employable and to avoid working with your hands - same message I got in high school in 2007. Trades are for labourers and unintelligent people, apparently. Turns out they're plenty bright, earning well and quite often doing something they genuinely enjoy.

kingmudsy  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    ...what I meant to say in some kind of bad way that ended up just coming out as a wavefront of improperly expressed broke-student anger...

Hey man, your thoughts are valid. I don't want you to feel bad about them just because I reacted to them with frustration. Let's not pretend my indignation is any more or less 'correct' than your wavefront of broke-student anger, it's just where we were when we wrote those comments! Sorry for being uncharitable to you, I know you better than to think you'd actually be insulting me.

I think the 'point' got away from me, and the conversation went awry. But at its core, I agree with you - these people can't afford the small dreams that they want. This is, fundamentally, something that they're doing to themselves - their debt is an irresponsible, irrational thing that they're subjecting themselves to.

At the same time, I get where Klein is coming from. People have relatively quaint dreams and it feels bad that they can't even have that. Maybe I'm being too sympathetic, though, because there's nothing wrong with waiting until middle age for New Car Smell? But their household income is twice the natural average, and it feels like I've been fed a line about how New Car Smell (tm) should be possible for People Who Did It Right (tm) at 28. And I guess there's some dissonance between that image and reality.

Ah well. I've got some thinking to do. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so :)

kleinbl00  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    “Wealth - any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband.”

- HL Mencken

I'm thankful my wife didn't die in childbirth, like 1 in 5 women used to. I'm thankful my daughter didn't die before reaching the age of 6, like 1 in 4 children used to. But I'm not really thankful for this most of the time. I take it for fucking granted. You see, my social contract is not with Victorian England, it's with modern America. Cholera is off the table.

Nobody risks la migra and coyotes in order to live better than their buddies in Honduras. They stake it all to live like Americans. Sure - 99.8% of the planet would kill to be up to their eyeballs in debt in a 1700 sqft house with two Priuses they can't afford in the driveway. Shit - I'll bet a block away there's a guy arguing with the voices in his head about what he'd do if he could afford a tent and a sandwich. You're making the "kids are starving in China" argument - sure they are, but we're not in China and I don't want to eat my fucking peas. Yer goddamn right that if I'd been living under a tarp and licking the insides of c-ration cans for two weeks I'd chow the fuck down on your freezer-burned, mealy-ass Birds Eye TV dinner but I'm not. And neither are you. And neither are those poor fuckers in West Hartford. They sat down at this gaming table, not the Honduras table, not the Yemen table, not the Lesotho table. Hey let's grab those guys from the Norway table and let 'em know that they'd earned the right to spend their lives servicing debt and hoping against major medical bills in exchange for 16 years of schooling. How do you think they'd feel about that?

Who is middle class at 25? Fuckin' three quintiles, bitch. Who can buy a house at 26 or 28? Fuckin' everybody 20 years ago. That's the point.

You're making the Brexit argument - sure it might be hard but we survived The Blitz. Yeah ya did. But there are no Nazis in the skies. Freedom does not face an existential crisis from totalitarian populists with a hankering for genocide. It's not about winning - nobody with a fuckin' Prius thinks they won. They just think they aren't falling behind. 3-0 is a great soccer score, a terrible football score and an unbelievably bad basketball score. Surviving to ten was a masterful accomplishment once but here in the place where we used to celebrate our constant upward mobility, it's a fucking given.

Foveaux  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

|"I think we buy into this whole "you have to go above and beyond and commit and be amazing all the time" idea that really benefits our employers and no one else.

Took me a good while to A) understand and then B) accept this. My current role is great, I work with good people, I work under good people, I feel valued and I've had two pay rises and one nice bonus in 18 months with another two increases scheduled.

However, this is the immediate realm I work within. I now understand the organization as a whole, does not care about me. My immediate boss would be gutted if I left, and she takes steps to make sure I am supported. But anyone higher than her doesn't know who I am and I am genuinely a number on a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet with a total cost they are desperately trying to cull.

So I've had to find the sweet spot between making myself very useful and difficult to replace, while also allowing myself to exist outside of it. I could go hard and gain a tiny bit of extra credibility amongst my immediate group, but it would net me nothing in the higher ups estimation. So I do my job, I am efficient and personable and plan for the future to maintain that efficiency, but when it's time to go, I am gone. I am enjoying all the things I can afford with the time and money.

veen  ·  472 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I wasn't sure if I read your comment correctly, but now I'm definitely sure I didn't. Text is not the best medium for this kind of semi-toungue-in-cheekery. To me you flip-flop between 'baduhh' and sarcasm and tbh I find that hard to parse. (English is not my first language as you may already know.)

All I wanted to say is that I was worried you'd be despondent. You've done some awesome stuff that you should be proud of.

user-inactivated  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No, a hundred percent. Sorry for the aggression. It's not like my magical adventures in saving the world really got me anywhere. Having a decent job and volunteering occasionally after work is good enough. Or even just saying the right things.

It's a lot easier to see where everyone stands in a face-to-face conversation. Because we're all reading various things and coming to our own conclusions on what people think and or where they stand but none of us really know eachother.

That comic is helladope. Thank you.

kleinbl00  ·  471 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Do not, for one minute, give up on the magical adventures. There is a drive within you. It's really obvious. It's equally obvious that it's frustrated right now. Aggressively so.

You are not going to be happy sitting idly by and truncating your designs on the universe. Regroup. Turn that frustration into fuel. I do what I can to make the world a better place in the tiny corner I occupy but I wouldn't have coined the phrase "if you have to live in a gilded age, best be a goldsmith" if I hadn't fundamentally given up on stemming the tide. I stared at the tsunami and knew the only thing I could do is throw on some waterwings and hope for the best.

But I'm old and jaded. You aren't.

user-inactivated  ·  470 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yer a good man Kleinski.

The worst part was I never even hit a wall in my career. All those opportunities are still available to me. I just discovered in the end that I no longer wanted certain things. Some of the people I met at NGO's seemed a bit... off if you know what I'm saying. Like they were at war with themselves just as much as the world.

I ain't ever givin' up, but sometimes the dreams change and that's okay too. And even if I become Jack Nicholson I'm still not going to be able to buy a flippin house. That was the edge. The cake has been a lie since 1945.

kleinbl00  ·  470 days ago  ·  link  ·  

E. Fuller Torrey is an MD - not a psychiatrist - who wrote one of the more popular support books on schizophrenia. In it he recommends against assuming that a psychiatrist is the best type of doctor to care for your schizophrenia (or that of your loved ones) because schizophrenia is not a mental disorder, it's a mental disease characterized by a panoply of well-known and well-diagnosed organic maladies. He further argues that, well, psychiatrists are kind of off as a breed. The phrase he uses, which I wrote down, was "not all of the strangest birds in the menagerie are in cages."

I put a psychiatrist's daughter through social work school. Like everyone else in the family she was a laundry list of psychological disorders and past mental trauma. It meant hanging out with a bunch of social workers. As a tribe, they are a broken people. Nobody pays $80k to spend two years in school to earn $16 an hour snatching babies out of labor&delivery. There's a drive there, and it's not one that fits well in ordinary culture. The normies tend to wash out and go into human resources.

Which doesn't mean that psychiatry is a profession purely for crazy weirdos or that social workers are universally codependent wounded warriors. I've known plenty of sane, sensible people who are making the world better one client at a time. The trick is to figure out how to give without giving everything.

You're going to figure that trick out. You might even get a house out of the deal. Jeffrey Sachs seems to do okay.

Foveaux  ·  465 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I realize I'm returning late to this conversation between two other people - though I am learning that Hubski operates like this, the concept of "necro-posting" isn't an issue. Which I am thankful for. But reading your comment got me thinking.

    The trick is to figure out how to give without giving everything.

Is exactly why I stopped my Psych studies at the standard Bachelors level. I was acutely aware I wouldn't be able to not give everything. I'd never be able to avoid bringing my work home with me. It would eventually consume me. My plan was to focus on Child Psychology and do what I could to help young people in awful situations - my parents, bless them, warned me I was a very sensitive individual who would/could connect with anyone and everything, and that this could be used or abused in equal measure by my future profession.

In the end I decided they were right - I wouldn't have found the off switch without some serious work and part of what drove me in that direction was not having the switch in the first place.

Not that I've given up wanting to help people, I just now operate within the realms I can handle. Took a while to figure that out though.

kleinbl00  ·  465 days ago  ·  link  ·  

We all want to help, I think. The healthy among us do, anyway. The trick is knowing how you can help forever.

My wife's profession is intense. She delivers babies out of hospital. It is a profession that draws people with a semi-religious zeal for female empowerment and the advocacy of mother-centered motherhood. And most people who practice as midwives in the United States make it 4-5 years and flame out, never to practice again.

user-inactivated  ·  465 days ago  ·  link  ·  

When you help one person, you help them all. People often have no idea what positive impacts they're having. You're definitely a good person for even wanting to do that.

I too got called "highly sensitive" growing up. It took me a while to realize what that actually meant was "having a soul."

Want to help kids? Tell them it's okay to have feelings. Tell them it's okay to be sad, confused, upset, angry, hopeless, afraid, whatever. If I heard that even once growing up it would have made a world of difference.