site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of February 20, 2023

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.

I'm also suspicious of single men (after a certain age) because it suggests that there's something flat out wrong with them. Whether it's inability to find a good partner or lack of willingness to keep one, they're doing something that's going to make me trust and respect them less. I don't know that I've met a man in his 30s that is loyal, smart, and likeable that isn't married. The best you're going to get in most cases is two of the above.

I agree. And i think more men in my age cohort need to hear this. I know a number of single men in their 30s. I cant point to any character defects, but I agree that there must be something there.

I firmly disagree with both you and @Walterodim. I myself didn't marry until I was 32, but I assure you (patting myself on the back incoming) that I am both loyal and smart. It just so happened that I didn't meet a woman who would give me the time of day until I was in my 30s. Same goes for a good friend of mine. He's a good man in every way that matters, but he's never found a woman to settle down with. He would love to have one, but isn't having any luck with finding them. Same for a guy I grew up with in my church. He married in his 50s, but he's a good man who is very much worthy of respect. He just never met anyone before then.

The problem with the view you both are espousing is that there is a huge factor of luck in dating. You may simply never meet a person who you are attracted to, who is attracted to you, and who is good marriage material. You can tip the scales in various ways, but ultimately it's not in your control. Casting aspersions on someone when they could simply be an unfortunate victim of bad luck isn't a good thing to do, imo. It also kind of comes across as myopic - maybe you had the good fortune to meet someone who you could marry when you were in your 20s, but not everyone else is going to be so lucky and you should be sympathetic rather than judgmental.

In support of you, and contra @Rex and @Walterodim: Citing back to my informal survey of Mottizens on the topic* the norm seems to be about 1-3 strong marriage prospects across one's youth. When I think of my own response when thinking of the question, out of the 4 (I'm dropping one in this context), three of them I met under circumstances that were highly luck based and contingent, they could easily not have happened if I were "sick that day" or whatever. I can very easily imagine having gotten to 28 or so having met with only one strong marriage candidate, and failing to bag 1/1 is a pretty tough standard. It's not hard to imagine being in a position where contingent facts leave someone with few, or even no, real opportunities to get married across a lifetime.

On the other hand, in support of Rex and Walter's points, I gave this example to our friend GettingRadicalised before.

Deciding to propose is like deciding to go all-in during a night of poker. You get a good hand, you can judge the situation based on what you see around you and on the hands you've been dealt in the past, and your knowledge of what a good hand looks like. But you can't know what hands you'd be dealt in the future. Maybe if you fold 10-10 now you might get dealt Q-Q next hand! And you can't KNOW what anyone else is holding, you might go all in on A-A and some dipshit who went against you with 9-10 offsuit and got 9-10-2 on the flop beats you.

Going all-in is scary, you never know, you could lose everything. But Kipling tells us (by implication) that if you can't "make one heap of all your winnings, And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss," then you will never be a man. That's what commitment is, going all-in on a gamble, and fearing commitment is thinking that you just want to see one more hand, another hand, one more hand, and maybe you'll get A-A or A-K on suit, then, THEN you'll bet. But if you never commit, if you're never willing to gamble on a good hand, you'll likely-as-not play all night, folding constantly, losing little bets and blinds and antes, and leave the table with your pockets lighter than when you came in.

So at age, let's say 35, you're judging a group of men on marriage choices, it's like judging guys coming out of a little poker tournament. Guys who never really gambled, who just lost small bets folding all night, will say they had weak hands all night. Maybe they really did just get crap pocket cards all night, and the great RNG in the sky was against them, and any second now they'll get the cards and be ready to gamble intelligently. But maybe when you see a guy who never gambled, he got the same hands everyone else did more-or-less, but he was too timid to gamble, always hoping that he'd get an even better hand, not willing to go all-in until he was absolutely mathematically certain he had the nuts at the table. That might not be a guy you judge highly, he needs more courage, more commitment.

And to carry the poker metaphor, you are highly unlikely to highly judge anyone positively if they walk out with their pockets emptied, the result if you go all-in and lose. Now, part of that might be luck, some might have gotten rivered on a great hand; but on a big enough average the ones who go broke probably gambled too aggressively on a bad hand, or folded too often and got themselves behind and had to go all-in on a mediocre hand to try to get back in the game and failed. These are your divorces and your patently-unhappy marriages. Society judges them, I think, more harshly than those never married at all. So you really are taking a social gamble when you get married, it's not all roses after you propose.

TLDR: To summarize all three points, marriage status indicates whether a man knows when to hold-em, when to fold-em, when to walk away, and when to run.

*Shoutout to @ZorbaTHut for making this easy for me to find, it only had two upvotes but a ton of children

Wow, great writeup. I'm in the middle of deciding this very question with my partner - this helped move me more towards committing. I've been waffling/worrying if it's the right choice, but this framing helped me realize it's always going to be a risk. (Almost) Nobody is 100% sure going into marriage it seems.

And what about those who draw terrible hands all night long - and choose to leave the game? The 5'4" doctor will wind up at best in a relationship with someone who is only using him for his money; at worst he will be a nurse and caretaker to a wife who is in and out of some kind of institution or other. Hospital, jail, rehab - he takes his pick, but if he wants a partner, the only real question is whether he will be treated as a walking ATM, or a nurse and caretaker.

Is it any wonder, then, that the short men I've known are all - with one exception, and he's a neurosurgery resident with enough charisma for a career in politics - have chosen to "focus on their career" or are "too busy to date"?

And what about those who draw terrible hands all night long - and choose to leave the game?

I have to lay my cards on the table, I'm an elitist: I fundamentally care less about people who truly get terrible hands than I do about others. We should do what we can to mitigate their suffering, but we can't reorient all of society around their problems.

The 5'4" doctor will wind up at best in a relationship with someone who is only using him for his money; at worst he will be a nurse and caretaker to a wife who is in and out of some kind of institution or other.

But I have to be honest, I don't see this as all that terrible a hand. Are there no women with similarly unfortunate sets of features? ((I'll admit to being a romantic, I once spent a month in undergrad trying to set up a date between a brilliant but blind friend and a friend with a 10/10 body and a face that was severely burned in an accident. Match made in Heaven!)) Being 5'4" sucks, I'm sure, but so do lots of other things, things that happen to women. Why does his height entitle him to a woman with attributes that are socially valued at a higher level than his own attributes are valued at? What you seem to be saying isn't "He can't find a partner" it's "He can't find the partner he thinks he deserves." And that tradeoff doesn't have to come in terms of morality or stability, it can come in looks! 5'4" makes you ugly, ok, you are ugly; date an ugly girl. That's how life works, has worked for a thousand generations.

All of which would stretch my poker metaphor well past the breaking point.

I feel like the poker analogy is working against you here. Try asking around a table how people would feel open jamming TT with half their life savings and years of their life on the line, whilst only getting to play 3-4 sessions (in this case, marriages prospects).

It's a numbers game. No one wants to cash at a specific tournament, or win a specific cash game. They want to come out ahead over all tournaments and games they play. You put your money in good spots and let the law of large numbers take care of the rest. And there'll will always be those unfavored by Fortuna (or Lady Variance, if you prefer), getting it in with AA vs KKs 8 times and losing every time.

If anything, I'd say slot machines are a more apt allegory, a game rigged against you unless you understand their inner workings.

In the poker metaphor I was thinking tournament style poker night, where it's position rather than chips that matter at the end of the night (how we typically played). Because really, if you want to be a man with a trad family, commitment is the only game in town. There is no moneyball solution, you're gonna have to bet big on somebody, at some point.

I mean we can torture it to death and say maybe it's more like MtG because you get to set your deck up even if luck of the draw comes into it.

But at the end of the day, the survival of a nation requires a huge number of men to take what can be a sucker bet. Marriage is one, it might be a foolish bet but if nobody takes it there are no functional children and the country dies. Joining the military is another; you might get hit by artillery fire before you ever even see the enemy up close, but if nobody is willing to take that chance the country dies.