site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of January 1, 2024

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Sure, but the same is true of smokers, drinkers, drug addicts etc. and no one expects to take the Alcoholic Acceptance movement seriously or check my Drinks-In-Moderation Privilege.

Oddly, if anything, as fat acceptance has grown, acceptance of smoking and drinking has shrunk.

Medical guidelines for what constitutes "acceptable" levels of drinking have been reduced to very low levels. A single glass of wine is now the limit of what is allowed under new British guidelines. Pointedly, the new guidelines also eliminate any difference between males and females.

The science on this is less than clear. For one, we don't really know if moderate drinking (2 glasses wine/day) is good for you, bad for you, or neutral. And certainly, men can safely drink more than women for many reasons, including higher body mass and the fact that they don't get pregnant.

Perhaps this a noble lie, that by advising people to drink 1 glass a day, they will reduce consumption from 4 to 3. If so, this is immoral and unlikely to work.

I think more likely it is politically motivated.

Oddly, if anything, as fat acceptance has grown, acceptance of smoking and drinking has shrunk.

Acceptance of smoking tobacco has shrunk. Acceptance of smoking marijuana has grown.

I doubt that we will eventually find marijuana to be significantly better for you than tobacco(although there is enough crap in cigarettes that it would shock me if they weren't worse than pure cannabis leaves).

Generally don't smoke leaves, mate. The good stuff concentrates in the flowering portion, the female sex organs specifically.

Low effort post really wants to be incoming. Instead I'm going to wax nostalgic and write another scrollpast.

Many years ago I got high for the first time with my good friend, R. Let's just call him R. It happens to be his real first initial, but whatever. I loved him dearly. Past tense not because my love has ended, but because he is dead now; I'll get to that.

R was the son of a very interesting father who probably once worked for the CIA in some capacity in the 70s. R's family, due to his father's interesting career, in R's childhood at least, traveled all over the world, in particular the middle east, and he had the tchotchkes and prints and flotsam of such trips all over his high school downstairs room (he was from a wealthy family and his "room" consisted of the entire downstairs.) R's dad--who treated him shamefully post-divorce until he decided he wanted to bond with his only son--had similar decor in his own home: Original folk-type paintings of sheiks, large brass platters on the wall, various brass tea urns and pitchers, حُقَّة, etc.

R told many evocative stories about his childhood travels, mingling these with reflection on the pain of his parents' divorce ("like getting shot with a shotgun in the gut"), his sadness at the inevitable loss of the childhood idyll, and his suspicion that he would, if he ever became a father, fuck up his own children (He never did. Either.) One memory of his that sticks, oddly, with me, I who may be the only one who has any memory of it now: He, his father, his mother, his sister, on some beach in Greece, happened upon an American woman sunbathing topless. They--his family, the woman--happened to be once-removed through some friend back in Alabama, and ended up cooking an octopus in the sand.

My own childhood memories were of sitting in a screened-in deck at a rented cabin in Gulf Shores staring at jigsaw puzzles and giving myself third degree burns upturning an electric pitcher of hot coffee. Less romantic.

Anyway the first time I enjoyed the intimate ministrations of Mary Jane I was probably 17 or so years old. This would have been circa 1985. Rocky had reached IV. Brazil had just come out. It was the year of The Breakfast Club. Don't you. Forget about me. The first time I got high, possibly smoking whatever parts, possibly the female sex organs but I doubt it seriously: I felt nothing. I sat there over our board game of trivial pursuit ("Who killed Jabba the Hutt?" So easy as to be laughable, but these were the days before you could look anything up in five seconds) and, after smoking at least one shared joint and taking several hits off a water bong, asked: "What am I supposed to be feeling?"

I have since learned that this is not unusual the first time. One expects the drunk, the alcohol buzz. It's different. I would get high many times after this, though always only with R. This was as much about naïveté as trust: I didn't know anyone else well enough to know whether they got high, or when, or how often. I knew R well enough to know all of the above, and also to be invited along. I remember he would sometimes share a joint with me and then have to be somewhere else--his social life was always very active. He eventually became some sort of crystal meth dealer, which, contrary to my own understanding of how the world should work, altered his social circle such that he did not have to hang around with the likes of me, but was often surrounded by extremely confident and well-dressed people: leggy women, beautiful female French exchange students, sardonic boys with what seemed like an inexhaustible supply of witty comments and, ever ready, subtle putdowns. In other words, The Rich.

I remember sitting on a rock in a creekbed, midnight. My parents were long asleep, not knowing where the hell I was but trusting that I wasn't doing what it was I was, in fact, doing: Getting high with my feet dangling in the water. Everything was funny, or extremely important, or beautiful. R had a cassette deck with batteries and he took it out and made a recording of us talking on that creekbed, sitting on that rock, and I still have this recording--it is, alas, on the same cassette that he made it, in a pile of cassettes my wife periodically urges me to toss: For we have no cassette player. When I read reddit comments or any ripostes of the young, I sometimes remind myself of this: Someday they, too, will have memories they cannot access simply because they don't have whatever the future equivalent is of a fucking cassette player.

R and I stayed friends for many years. Have I mentioned he was fat? He was. I remember walking through supermarkets with him and his picking out the Snackwells and counting the grams of fat (not, in those tender years, concerned with the sugar). He lost the weight, then gained it back, then lost it again, then gained much of it back. It kept going like that. Fast forward through time, through his great lake parties, his girlfriends, both true and not, his studying to be a chef in Italy, his eventual marriage to the woman I think, in my worst moments, may have been the instrument of his death. His last email to me of his health problems--liver failure. Or maybe it was kidney failure. Or both.

When I flew home to see him in his hospital bed the doctor assured me his brain was already so full of ammonia that he would have no idea of what was going on. And yet when I had entered the room no more than twenty minutes earlier, R had grasped my hand, sat up, and looked at me with what I can only describe as anger. That he was being kept alive. That he had been reduced to this bloated mass surviving only because of machines. Or maybe he was still pissed at me for something I had done 20 years ago.

He died, had a funeral, I delivered the eulogy, the mic didn't work, then probably three years later his dad was reduced to a bedridden shadow of his former robust self. I remember holding his hand at his makeshift bed in his house while his home nurse gave us a moment. "I commune daily with R," he said, speaking of his son, my friend, the guy I had many times gotten high with. "He speaks to me," he said. I had my doubts. I, who in the years since R had died had tried all manner of ways to get in touch with him--astral projection, lucid dreaming, everything but paying a village shaman to do us a seance. Because I loved him, and he was gone too soon, and to this day getting high I remember him--though of course to get high in Japan will land you in all sorts of hot water. And so I don't. And this isn't some opsec bullshit. I truly don't. Not that it matters to any of you.

But if I did, and when I someday surely again will, I'll ask whoever it is I get it from for the female sex organ of the cannabis. So thanks for the tip, is what I'm saying.

Edit: Leia. Princess Leia killed Jabba the Hutt. Of course she did.

Bravo, honestly. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed that, and I hope you have a good night. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Wow. That's a heck of a story, bud. Thank you for sharing.