I guess I hadn’t stopped to think that one reason why government seems so insane right now is that the “governing” they’re trying to manage across wealthy, huge institutionalized structures like music, media, money, pharma, education, transportation— are fast becoming super-decentralized. All of them are fast evolving due to a tectonic shift in control. In this way, Governments themselves are just another “Woolley Mammoth System” like them. Like it or not, their Ice Age is ending. We’ve all watched various forms of power-decay impact these systems. Have you stepped back and wondered where all this is headed? That’s not what I anticipated talking about with this week’s guest, Jordan Greenhall. I thought we were going to talk about Nootropics. That’s where we started but Jordan quickly aimed the conversation at the dead center of these trends.
It’s a fact that god created the universe, reality is in three dimensions, India is a developing country, you need to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, that when you meet the right person it will be true love, and if you eat fat you’re going to get fat. These are indisputable facts. There’s no place for opinion, or feelings in any of this, right? If you opened your brain and added up all the time you’ve spent fact-gathering, how much time do you think that would add up to? How much of what’s in your head are anecdotes that you repeat and how much are simply true? Even if they’re not, who’s got time to figure out what the truth is, where to start, and how to see it?
Certainly, Science is true. That’s the bedrock of our culture. It’s always been true and it always will be true. That is, until you look to the past and realize it’s a modern invention not at all shared around the world. It blows up the closer and closer we get to it. That’s not anti-science sentiment just that we do need to take a closer look at ourselves, our minds and how we perceive reality. The closer we look, the more we realize there’s some pretty big gaps.
If you’re a regular listener to this podcast you’ve probably heard me bash capitalism a lot. The reality is there’s no escaping it, it’s taken over nearly every corner of the world. That certainly hasn’t stopped me from wincing whenever I travel to a far-away lands and am met with local trinket shops and people peddling their wares. But who am I to judge whether this is good or bad for a society. Oftentimes these are poor, macho communities with substantial pressures on them. They see the money come in and out of their world without them able to touch it. Often these countries also have remote destinations that house incredible archeological sites, but have a community that remains poor and helpless to take advantage of its history. And then there’s the question: should they? And if they do, what would that do to their culture? Would it be a positive or negative thing to suddenly take capitalism and mix it with something like archeology?
Food is #1. If you’re an American, there’s no dodging it— from turning on the tv and seeing that juicy hamburger, to reading article after article about how to lose weight, to gym memberships, to following crazy diets or eating philosophies, or hell just look at the most popular things on the internet. It's food and there’s a million points of view on it. In fact, if you haven’t had a conversation with a friend about how your pants are fitting or whose fat and how they look— you’re probably not living in our society.
I wanted to take a step out of that whole crazy zoo and look at things from more of an objective “zookeeper’s” perspective when it comes to what we eat, why we’re compelled to eat it, and what we can do if we want to outsmart our brains in this insane, food-focused environment.
If you’re reading this and are middle aged (especially a man) you’re depressed and don’t have any friends. That’s right, I’m talking to you and so are big industries who capitalize on your sad state like pharma, shrinks, and the tornado of advertisers who prey on your pleas for help. Us middle-aged people are crying out for help, just like our babies who we put in nursery rooms by themselves. By now, our kids have left, our marriage may have left, and all the friends we used to have are on their own little islands, suffering just like us. We’ve all over-declared our independence, our society has built a super complex, reinforcing system around it. I’m one of these poor souls, too: a middle aged guy with my wife as my best friend, whose put everything I have into my family and most of those kids are now adults who have moved on and left poor, old me feeling really isolated and lonely.
When you live in the Bay Area you pass tons of folks who appear to be mad. Most of us don’t spend enough time focusing on how our culture handles folks on the spectrum of some level of mental illness. When you think about it— the range of “madness” ranges from people with very serious mental illness to people who don’t socially fit in. As you look back across history, you can see just how we’ve dealt with it, who we’ve blamed for it, and what crazy treatments we’ve put in place.
Who better to talk about that than someone who studies it for a living. Andrew Scull, this week’s guest, is exactly that person. As a professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego, he’s written a ton of books on this subject over decades.
I guess I’m naive because I watch heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven and think nothing that elaborate happens in real life, but after my conversation with this week’s guest, architectural writer Geoff Manaugh, I have a dramatically different point of view. There’s sort of x-ray glasses that burglars use when they look at where we live or where we work, that the rest of us never see.
I have to say, after this week’s guest, I’m pretty embarrassed. And if you live in America, y ou should be, too. While America has pointed the finger with disgust at the genocides conducted by ISIL, German, and Bosnian powers— for example— we have yet to come to grips with our own Holocaust: The several millions of Native American families we slaughtered, enslaved and tortured in order to occupy and control their land and resources. This invasion and genocide doesn’t even show up in our culture— from classrooms, to memorials to even Wikipedia— we don’t even recognize it as a genocide, even though it meets every criteria. We have isolated ourselves from this narrative, responsibility and even the remaining Indian populations themselves, who we’ve cast off into camps far from us.
Have you ever looked at a super old picture and laughed at how mistaken all those people were about what they thought the we’d spend our time doing today? I know I look at pictures of myself as a kid and can’t believe I spent my time outside vs on a phone. Doesn’t sound like you? Well then maybe you were positive that the world would always adore Milli Vanilli. Regardless, it’s hard to argue that we’re incredibly blinded by the road we’re on, what’s coming and what we— as a culture— will value beyond today. Why is that? I had an interesting and hilarious conversation about that very thing with this week’s guest, famed pop-culture author Chuck Klosterman, who recently released the book “But What If We’re Wrong?” You might know Chuck, he’s got a pretty huge cult-following which started when he was a journalist for Spin, GQ, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and Esquire. Or maybe you’ve read his diverse, hilarious and insightful page-turning books ranging from Rock-n-Roll to Redskins, from Cereal to Serial Killers many of which have topped the New York Times Bestseller list.