Do Not Let Me Hear Of The Wisdom Of Old Men


Donald Trump’s North Korea tweet was obvious enough that the instant responses to it included the word “dick-measuring” and the thought that he probably can’t find the button. It is becoming more and more obvious that he is indeed the WYSIWYG president. “There is no wizard behind the curtain — just an old, angry, obnoxiously ignorant man.”

The world is changing fast – away from the assumed preference for old white men. Even when their privilege was intact, within their value system they had a lot to be angry about. First, the physical decline. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to keep weight off, more difficult to maintain muscle tone. Joints begin to ache. Men’s sexual abilities decline starting at around age 20. There’s some cognitive decline; reflexes slow down.

Additionally, society keeps changing. People of color, women, people whose sexuality differs from cis-het all are being legitimated. Some are taking prominent jobs away from their rightful owners, those cis-het white men.

Fox News is the network for those old white men, run by old white men. Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch knew what old white men want because it’s what they want. Leggy blond women who know their place. News of how those non-white-men are doing a bad job and worse. People to hate, like that uppity Hillary Clinton.

Sex may be the vehicle, but harassing women is primarily about power. Let me give a couple of examples from my life.

When I came to Los Alamos, I had mixed feelings. My job as a technical writer was below my educational level, but it paid a third again more than a similar job I had before I got there. Because of my degrees, I was a staff member, then the title for any technical person not in management.

Back in the sixties, it was expected that staff members would attend The Tuesday morning colloquia. “Space Flight To Mars” particularly intrigued me. It was given by Wright Langham, the head of the health division. He had worked in the Manhattan Project and was internationally known in the field of health physics.

It was the beginning of manned spaceflight. The Laboratory was working on nuclear rocket engines for trips to Mars. I grew up loving science fiction and was enthusiastic about spaceflight, dampened somewhat by my recognition all the astronauts were middle-aged men.

There was a fair bit about radiation, how long the flight might take, the kinds of orbits and propulsion that might be needed. And then Langham talked about the crew. Psychological factors would be important on the long trip. And women would be included. I perked up. “Of course, their duties would be, um…” The smirk on the speaker’s face and the sniggering in the audience said it all.

I was well aware of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and wrote a memo to Los Alamos’s director, Norris Bradbury. I got a memo back telling me that the speaker was a famous and respected man and there was nothing wrong with what he said. I was marked as a troublemaker.

That was the end of my interest in space flight. Yes, women eventually were allowed to be astronauts, but now what I see is gazillionaire men parading their egos across the sky.

A few years later, I was in a job (still at the Laboratory) in which I was essentially subordinate to the group secretary. I was arguing with her. The group leader, another Manhattan Project alumnus, came out of his office, looked me up and down and commented on the transparency of a crocheted vest I ws wearing. His tone was not complimentary. He was clearly putting me in my place.

Those guys were middle-aged. The time of their Manhattan Project successes was passing, and arms control was beginning to reverse the arms race. So they needed someone to put down.


Do not let me hear

Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,

Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,

Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire

Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

T. S. Eliot, East Coker


Pictures of presidential staff and appointees have changed markedly from the Obama years. The overwhelming color is white in face and hair, and the gender is male, like the old man who is President. His Twitter feed reflects his television watching habits – the favorites of angry old men. He reassures himself of the size of his button and, further, his intellect and stability – all those things that old men feel they are losing.

It’s not just old men who do these things. But the power dynamic shows up clearly in the parallel between older men’s decline and the changing societal situation.

In the situations now finally being faced in the entertainment industry and others, sex can be demanded because of the power imbalance. In order to make a lasting change, those power imbalances must be corrected. Removing the offenders is the first part; the laws on harassment must be enforced, and more women must take their place in the power structures.


Top photo is Trump’s initial cabinet, January 2017.


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.


72 replies
  1. 1
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Reminds me of the end of “Dr. Strangelove”: the world is seconds away from blowing up, and all these guys can talk about is their fantasies of recruiting hot women for their mineshaft shelter to repopulate the Earth.

  2. 2
    different-church-lady says:

    just an old, angry, obnoxiously ignorant man.”

    Factor in “shameless” and you understand his success. He never tried to hide it, and the lizard brains responded.

    My great depression after the election is mostly driven by my fear that appealing to the better angels of our nature might be forever dead.

  3. 3

    […] Cross-posted to Balloon Juice. […]

  4. 4
    realbtl says:

    Hats off to you Cheryl for managing in the lab culture. I was at the lab out west from about ’82 to ’99 and it was still about 98% male. The few women physicists and techs I knew were definitely fighters.

  5. 5
    Quinerly says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  6. 6
    Humdog says:

    @different-church-lady: @Appealing to better angels? They don’t even care about the semblance of virtue to give it the good old compliment of hypocrisy. Who knew I would come to miss hypocrisy.

  7. 7
    wvng says:

    @different-church-lady: “My great depression after the election is mostly driven by my fear that appealing to the better angels of our nature might be forever dead.” That is my fear as well. And what happens when a more polished and more focused but equally venal version of Trump comes along?

  8. 8
    different-church-lady says:


    They don’t even care about the semblance of virtue to give it the good old compliment of hypocrisy.

    One of the most succinctly salient statements I have ever read here.

  9. 9
    MattF says:

    @Matt McIrvin: True ehough, but I gotta say, my views about Strangelove have changed since learning that the original ending was a pie-throwing food fight.

  10. 10
    Another Scott says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m sorry that you were treated so badly.

    Here’s hoping that – finally – things are going to change at a decent pace. Too many women, and minorities, and people who are otherwise “different” but qualified to do the job, have been treated disrespectfully and badly for far too long.

    Thanks for telling your story, for posting here, and for working to make things better. Change isn’t going to happen unless people demand it.


  11. 11
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Traitors all.

  12. 12
    MJS says:

    “The world is changing fast – away from the assumed preference for old white men.” The world, or at least this country, is not changing fast enough for this old(ish) white man.

  13. 13
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    Male sexual decline begins at 20? I turned 56 today and now haz a sad. I think it is quite possible, however, to get better at it, more patient, less selfish.

  14. 14
    SenyorDave says:

    The 52% of white women who voted for Trump should be ashamed to their core. They should be required to do some type of penance. The 62% of white males are just beyond redemption at this point. Disclosure: I am white and male, although since I’m Jewish I assume lots of Trump voters would not consider me white.

  15. 15
    different-church-lady says:


    I am white and male, although since I’m Jewish I assume lots of Trump voters would not consider me white.

    If you did not vote for Trump, then a lot of his voters would not even consider you human.

  16. 16
    Timurid says:

    One sinister subtext of the planned expulsion of Dreamers and other immigrants… It’s not just a purge of racial and cultural immigrants. It’s a mass removal of young people.
    The most frightening thing that Trump and his enablers are building is not tyranny, oligarchy or herrenvolk democracy. It’s gerontocracy.

  17. 17
    waspuppet says:

    This is really well done, and the poem hits me hard too. I’m a white guy and I’m 53, and I’ve been seized by a varying-but-mostly-low level of terror of mortality for about five years. The idea that I am the model of cool rationality and competence is laughable. I actually had more of those things when I was 30.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Brachiator says:

    Here’s to the troublemakers!

  20. 20
    ruemara says:

    No offense, but I see things sliding backwards. Without a massive amount of sustained effort, we can be back where we were 100 years ago, albeit done in a way that sounds very nice and clean. Never underestimate humanity’s ability to make the wrong fucking choice for as long as possible.

  21. 21
    sharl says:

    Well damn Cheryl, I would have expected you to have horror stories from your professional past, but just the same, it’s sad and a bit jolting to see them written out. I’m sorry you – and so many other women – were put through all that shit.

    Regarding your observation here…

    Fox News is the network for those old white men, run by old white men. Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch knew what old white men want because it’s what they want. Leggy blond women who know their place. News of how those non-white-men are doing a bad job and worse. People to hate, like that uppity Hillary Clinton.

    …a visiting group of people from Salon magazine, including Joan Walsh, were explicitly told this was Fox News’ policy by Roger Ailes himself in a 2000 meeting. They were bound by a non-disclosure agreement that was voided with Ailes’ recent passing, so Walsh posted a bit on it in May of this past year:

    My Only Meeting With Roger Ailes
    “I created a TV network for people 55 to dead,” the late, disgraced Fox News founder told me in 2000. “And they don’t want to see anyone like you.”

    I only met Ailes once, in about 2000, for an off-the-record meeting where Salon’s editor-in-chief and CEO were pitching a Salon-branded show to Fox. At the last minute they took me with them (with Ailes’s death, our promise to keep the meeting off the record passes, too). It was a crazy idea, but it was the kind of inspired zaniness that drove Salon’s founder David Talbot, who had a track record of making impossible-seeming gambits work. We weren’t scheduled to meet with Ailes, but at the last minute, he decided to sit in—as if he had to get a look at these bozos who thought “Fair and Balanced” actually meant fair and balanced. Of course, he took over the meeting, simultaneously bragging about his success and demeaning us, all while being some mutant form of charming. He dispatched our idea pretty quickly.

    “I created a TV network for people 55 to dead,” Ailes boasted to us. “Nobody believed it could be done, but I did it. It’s for guys who sit on their couch with the remote all day and night.” That seemed a condescending way to talk about his audience—not to mention, much of the Republican base—but it was fascinating anyway.

    “And they don’t want to see anyone like you,” he continued, looking directly at me. I wasn’t sure whether he meant a liberal, or a brunette newswoman in a dark pantsuit. “They don’t want to see you—they don’t even want to know that you exist!” And he was obliging them: he’d created a world where women were blonde and wore short tight skirts, men were in charge, and articulate, principled, complicated liberals—especially women—didn’t exist.

    Good riddance to bad, toxic rubbish.

  22. 22
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:


    Thank you, sir and/or madame!

  23. 23
    amygdala says:

    First, the physical decline. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to keep weight off, more difficult to maintain muscle tone. Joints begin to ache. Men’s sexual abilities decline starting at around age 20. There’s some cognitive decline; reflexes slow down.

    This, along with wrinkles and receding hairlines, are among the reasons narcissists generally don’t age gracefully. One of the good things about aging is wisdom, in particular in confronting adversity. For narcissists, the passage of time with its various depredations, is a constant affront, leaving in its wake a chronic state of rage.

    I am so sorry, Cheryl, for what was inflicted on you. I wish I had had better tools to deal with it; I stupidly thought that if I toughed it out and did a good job, there would be some sort of progress, if not for me, then for the women and other underrepresented people who came up after me. I was wrong, and it is one of the biggest regrets of my professional life.

  24. 24
    khead says:

    So, my ChemE class at VaTech (in the early 90’s) was almost 50% women. In a class of ~45. I never realized what an anomaly this was(is?) until I got into industry and saw that all the VP’s in the pilot plant at my first job were white dudes (12/12!). Several of those VP’s were, of course, idiots. My immediate supervisor in the pilot plant was a woman with a future, but I’m pretty sure she left the company due to a lack of opportunity. My graduate advisor when I went back to school after being laid off from the pilot plant job? A brilliant lady from MIT who took no shit from anyone. Current boss? Another sharp lady. They never jerked me around over some kind of bullshit ego trip or any other game playing. All business. I am very thankful for my experience(s) with them.

    Also, I am in touch (through FB) with 4 of the women from my ChemE class. None of them are in a job that I would really consider to be in an engineering field. They are all doing well – just not in engineering. Two of them straight up told me they were just tired of the bullshit they had to put up with as a woman.

  25. 25
    Mike in NC says:

    @Timurid: Also, too: kakistocracy

  26. 26
    debbie says:

    Pigs all.

  27. 27
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    I had the most bizarre dream last night. Dob’ t worry it fits with the topic of the boast. I dreamt a nuclear war had started; for some reason I thought it was Russia.

  28. 28
    geg6 says:


    I saw her talk about that, maybe on Joy Reid’s Show. Ailes makes me wish I believed in hell just so I could imagine him suffering for eternity.

    Keep telling your truth, Cheryl. We all have to keep doing that. Nothing changes unless we are relentless in telling our truths.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:


    We are currently sliding backwards. The question is if we can successfully halt the backsliding and start moving forward again.

  30. 30
    Quinerly says:

    Speaking of old men, another deplorable gets a second shot:

  31. 31
    Chip Daniels says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): 57 here, and I have been pleasantly surprised how much there is to appreciate in aging.

    I’ve heard it noted that as men and women age, we begin approaching each other as we did before pubescence, where our bodies start to resemble each other, and we are less riven by the mating desire. I sort of like that, that rather than seeing age as something lost, we embrace what is good and wonderful about it, that I can view women as something other than a conquest.

  32. 32
    debbie says:


    That would be the best thing for Kansas. Get him the heck out!

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷:

    Welcome to my brain circa about 1984. I’m sorry that young people have to re-live my nuclear war nightmares. 😪

  34. 34
    Quinerly says:

    Speaking of women of a certain age💚, RBG plans on outlasting Trump:

  35. 35
    fuckwit says:

    @Mnemosyne: 2 steps backwards, 1 step forwards

  36. 36

    Thanks for the solidarity. I feel that I got off easy – no attempted rapes or major scenes. And I believe that living well is the best revenge. Some of the things I’ve had a chance to do have been pretty remarkable. I’m pleased with that. But I want for younger women not to have to deal with the garbage.

  37. 37
    Quinerly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Linky not worky for me on smarty pants phone. Is it from my end?

  38. 38
    Gozer says:

    This reminds me of a statement made by…Massha Gessen I want to say that part of the deal with Putin in Russia and many older leaders of his kind (aside from the rampant misogyny and homophobia) is a resentment, bordering on hatred, of youth itself. Hence the extreme displays of machismo.

  39. 39
    karensky says:

    What Ms. Rofer said

  40. 40
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @ruemara: Amen and amen.

    Plus all the people I and many of us know who see absolutely nothing wrong with what’s now being done. Trump has been divinely chosen to save the US, as all Jim Bakker (and other televangelists and preachers) followers know.

  41. 41

    @Quinerly: The link in #36 works from my desktop and from my phone.

  42. 42
  43. 43
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    It almost happened twice in 1983. I was really scared in early 2014 over the whole Crimea mess. It was my senior year of HS and I thought it was the start of a new Cold War. Turns out I was right.

  44. 44

    @Quinerly: That’s a good piece.

  45. 45
    Quinerly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Won’t display on my aging Microsoft Windows phone. It’s been glitchy on BJ site for weeks, though. I’ll try on the Kindle later. Packing/organizing for leaving for your “Land of Enchantment” right now.💚

  46. 46

    Thanks for this.

    I do have to wonder about the last paragraph. Getting more women into positions of power certainly will help, but I’m not fully convinced it’ll solve the problem entirely. Unfortunately, as we saw last election, white supremacy can be more powerful than sisterhood, and a rather distressing number of women have been willing to make excuses for abusers. Moreover, some women are, of course, also abusers. They are far fewer in number than their male counterparts, to be certain. But they exist. My cynicism about human nature leads me to question whether the disparity in gender among abusers is due to the nature of the genders or simply due to a disparity in opportunity. Or, as is often the case, it could also be a mixture of the two.

    None of this is to attempt to divert attention from a very real problem. At the same time, I want it to actually be dealt with. I should note that I’ve been a sceptic of hierarchical authority for most of my adult life speaking, so there could be some confirmation bias speaking here, but time and again in these cases of powerful abusers I see power structures that go all-in on protecting the abusers. Weinstein is the most flagrant case in recent memory but you saw it with Sandusky, Ailes, Lauer, O’Reilly, and it’s still happening with Thrush at the Fuck the fucking New York Times. I’m strongly convinced that hierarchical authority is innately prone to abuse, and unfortunately sexual abuse does not appear to be an exception.

    But, as said, my priors lead me to be innately suspicious of top-down authority structures to begin with; my politics are libertarian soc!alist bordering on anarchist. And, as usual, this is probably a both/and problem: it’s entirely possible that hierarchical authority innately enables abusers who attain positions of authority to sexually abuse subordinates and cover up their misdeeds, and that men, particularly in our innately misogynistic society, are more prone to abusing positions of authority in such a manner. But I think it would be a mistake to look at gender as the only variable here. We also need a serious discussion of how such putrid misconduct was covered up for so long, and I don’t think misogyny provides a satisfactory explanation for this by itself. Misogyny aided and abetted by existing power structures, yes, but that means we should examine those power structures, too.

    Anyway, once again, thanks, Cheryl. I can’t think of a single post you’ve written here that hasn’t taught me something.

  47. 47
    Quinerly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I have a real fondness for Dahlia. Actually met her once. She always makes me smile when I see her on tv.

  48. 48
    Ithink says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷:
    Was there a clear cut winner & instigator or did you awaken before the Grand Finale?

  49. 49
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @Another Scott: Nope. It’s still happening. Shamelessly. My brilliant 20-something niece is a Ph.d student in chemical engineering at a major university and was awarded an NSF Grant last year. She’s the only female student her advisor has. At a recent conference this advisor introduced ALL his male students to an attending bigwig… and, conspicuously, NOT my niece, who was standing right there with the group.

    I fled academia many eons ago because of such sexist bullshit; it’s heartbreaking to learn it’s still happening. Sadly, she’s thinking of leaving too. This isn’t the first such incident she’s experienced. So much talent has been lost over the decades because of pig-men in powerful positions. Spit!!!

    Yes, I’m angry. This shit has to stop.


  50. 50
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    Honestly, no.

    In the dream, after the bomb dropped, everything went on like normal. It was like a MOAB had dropped instead of a thermonuclear device. Dreams are weird. I know this wouldn’t happen irl. We take supply chains for granted. Info I learned about nuclear attacks (fallout, radiation exposure,etc.) flashed through my mind. I recall feeling immense despair in knowing that even of I were to survive and not die of rad poisoning my life would be over anyway.

  51. 51

    @(((CassandraLeo))): I’m glad you liked the post. Getting more women into positions of power is a first step. It can be done relatively (!) easily. I’m a great believer in taking the first step and then figuring out what comes next. Often that next step isn’t something you would have predicted before that first step.

    It’s true that solidarity among women has been a problem since the start of second-wave feminism and probably before that. Just gotta keep pushing on it.

    The Los Alamos Laboratory had a less formally hierarchal structure back when I started than it does now. It’s better in how women are treated, but that’s more likely a result of better enforcement of the laws and troublemakers like me than it is structures. I haven’t told you half of it! Structures and requirements can protect from abuses of power, though, and I lean more toward that than anarchy.

  52. 52
    Ithink says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷:
    Thats semi-hilarious! I love Fallout Shelter.

  53. 53
    J R in WV says:


    Dude, I just turned 67, and many of my friends are dying, one just the other day of a coronary. His wife was a nurse, did CPR while on the phone to 9-1-1, they got him to the hospital, a great one, he lasted 24 hours in ICU.

    Don’t talk about mortality, it’s just around the corner for all of us with Dump in charge!!

    And Cheryl, thanks for all the good posting. So glad you stuck to your career and rose above those old white men, who are now unimportant if not really dead.

  54. 54

    @Cheryl Rofer: I should note that I regard anarchy as an ideal to aspire to. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime.

    I also divide hierarchies into necessary ones, like parent/child and student/teacher, and unnecessary ones, like boss/employee or, to a lesser extent, representative/subject (I suspect there will always be some sort of representation even in an anarchist society, but I’d like to see measures introduced to make representatives much more directly accountable, firstly, to their constituency as a whole, and secondly, to marginalised populations – LGBTQ people, those with mental and physical disorders, racial minorities, and so on – who are otherwise underrepresented). The necessary ones we will always have with us. It’s entirely possible to imagine a workplace where hierarchies except trainer/trainee are mostly or completely flattened, though. The constant I notice among the necessary hierarchies is knowledge, expertise, and experience. That’s something that takes time to transfer onto others, and it can’t always be done entirely (it depends somewhat on a student’s abilities and, perhaps more importantly, willingness to listen and learn; beyond that, some things perhaps can’t be taught).

    I definitely agree on taking first steps where possible. It’s certainly likely to be better than doing nothing. I’m also a great believer in experimenting on small scales to discover what works, then working to expand successes to a larger scale. I definitely think there’s room for a lot more experimentation with different organisation structure, management styles, and so on, and it only feels more urgent to me to see this done after the consistent onslaught of horrible headlines over the past couple of years.

    It’s good to read of some of those reforms, though. On the whole, the more broadly accountable an institution is to those who work there or whom it represents, the harder it should be to cover up abuses. At least in theory. Even if an organisation isn’t restructured to reduce potential for abuses, enforcing existing regulations against abuse is still a major step forward.

    Also, since I think I neglected to mention it above, sorry for all the crap you went through; even if you feel you got off lightly, that’s more an indictment of how horrible things are on a systematic scale.

    @O. Felix Culpa: That’s also horrible. I don’t have anything insightful to add, just… that’s horrible.

  55. 55
    debbie says:


    Loved the speech and am loving all the glowing words written about it. But I don’t think anyone’s even mentioned her first point:

    I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.

    That was the most-in-Trump’s-face part of the speech, I thought.

  56. 56
    Another Scott says:

    @O. Felix Culpa: Indeed it’s still happening. My wife J has lots of stories, also too.


    It’s long past time that it stopped. Here’s hoping that a critical mass is building to make it so.


  57. 57
    zeecube says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): What you say is true. After 20, the mind learns to compensate and improve upon our physical limitations, to all’s benefit. Personally, I find thinking about baseball helps.

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:

    To me, the biggest message from Hidden Figures was that we were holding ourselves back by deciding what jobs people should be allowed to have based on their gender and race rather than their actual abilities.

    Trump et al want to return us to the days where your gender and/or race was more important than your actual skills and abilities. 😡

  59. 59
    Quinerly says:


  60. 60
    dnfree says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Yes, thank you for this post and for reminding me of T.S. Eliot!

    I graduated from college in the 1960s and became a programmer at Argonne National Laboratory in 1967. I also was “staff” (one of my biology peers claimed that it was really spelled “staph”). In those days you could become a programmer at a national lab with very little actual experience or training–I had one course in college, and that’s all there was at my school.

    I could tell stories from those days–how as a physics minor I had to be lab partners with the only female physics major, because if either of us partnered with a male we were treated as the “gofer” for the experiment while he did the work. But I would say about 1/3 of the programming staff at Argonne at that time was female (most more qualified than I was just out of college), and they were respected and treated as equals by their male colleagues. So even though there was some harassment (or even just cluelessness) then, it was very minor compared to the mindset in tech in the 21st century. That’s what discourages me–that it was taken for granted in the 1960s and 1970s that women were good programmers, and that now there’s a substantial group of men who think hiring women as technical staff is just “affirmative action” for people who can’t make it on merit. I don’t know how that happened and I don’t know how to change it.

    I should add that shortly after I was hired I encountered a young man equally qualified to be a programmer as I was, and he was a computer operator. He couldn’t believe I had gotten a programming job and he was stuck in operations. When I asked around, the head of computer operations would not hire a female operator. So that’s one of the few times being female worked in my favor.

  61. 61
    dnfree says:

    @(((CassandraLeo))): As a fan of anarchism, have you read Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed”?

  62. 62
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:


    I want to read The Power, which addresses some of the questions you raise.

  63. 63
    Felanius Kootea says:

    @Mnemosyne: Bingo!

  64. 64

    @dnfree: Yep. It’s one of my favourite books ever written, alongside The Left Hand of Darkness. I think she’d get my vote for being the best living American novelist, largely on the strength of those two novels and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (OK, it’s a short story, but it’s better than most novels). I still haven’t read much of her other output, which I keep meaning to get around to fixing, but it’s difficult to read (or, for that matter, focus on much of anything) when you’re suffering a dissociative disorder. (It’s a small miracle that I can even write these four- and five-paragraph comments right now. I haven’t written anything much longer than about ten paragraphs in months – for comparison, I wrote about 65,000 words in an approximately two- or three-month span ending approximately eight months ago. The dissociative mental state wasn’t to blame for the initial halt in productivity, to be clear – real life, starting with a move, got in the way of writing for about four months.)

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): Sounds interesting, and I may want to add it to my list of things to read when my mental state recovers. Who’s the author?

    @Mnemosyne: This should be printed in 20 foot letters… IDK. Somewhere where it’ll penetrate the minds of people who aren’t paying attention. If that’s even possible. Which it probably isn’t.

  65. 65
    Jay says:


    I learned how to talk with women in my early 30’s to women, through work and being married, most of which involved listening.

    During and after my divorce, in my late 30’s, I learned where the button was.

    As an old man now, I’m nothing like what the young me was in any regard.

  66. 66
    Lizzy L says:

    Remember James Damore, writer of the famous Google memo? He’s suing Google for discriminating against white men.

    Thank you for this post, Cheryl.

  67. 67

    @Lizzy L: “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” -Sarah Hagi

  68. 68
    Tokyokie says:

    @Mnemosyne: In my experience, incompetents always make hiring decisions based on factors other than a candidate’s skills and abilities. People who can actually do the work well remind them of their inherent shortcomings, so they will make hires based on who’ll fit in instead. And those who will fit in are other incompetents (usually white and male) like themselves.

  69. 69
    Bill Arnold says:


    I also divide hierarchies into necessary ones, like parent/child and student/teacher, and unnecessary ones, like boss/employee or, to a lesser extent, representative/subject

    Not just hierarchy. Any dominance relationship at all, and any system of obligations or other practices that tend to form dominance relationships. (These need not be acyclic graphs.)
    Been fascinated of late about egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, e.g. How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways
    Any related reading suggestions would be appreciated.

  70. 70
    Bill Arnold says:

    Cheryl, just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your work tale. Thank you.
    (Am a white male with plenty of grey hairs, fwiw. In listen mode here; wrote 4+ versions of a longer comment and deleted all of them.)

  71. 71

    @Bill Arnold: This seems to be a major theme of David Graeber’s work, of which I must admit I haven’t read as much as I want to. (Debt was among several books I lost in a move; Piketty’s Capital in the 20th Century, as mentioned in another thread yesterday, was another.) His argument, though, is that for most of our species’ existence, barter was something you did with your enemies and others you didn’t trust; amongst friends and family, the economy functioned much along the lines of something we today would call a gift economy.

    Because we don’t have written records from most of this part of our existence, though, we tend to understate this part of human nature in our understanding of what is popularly called “human nature”, which is in reality quite a lot more malleable than most people believe (though, to be fair, not so malleable as to be completely nonexistent as some utopians would like us to believe, either). We have a lot of records from capitalism, communism, and various other economic systems that are centred around governments because, to summarise, bureaucracies almost always keep records (it’s kind of their thing) and ad-hocracies are a lot less likely to do so.

    Another point of Graeber’s work that ties in directly with the discussion here is his attempt to formulate a new understanding of value, beyond either the subjective theory of value that undergirds most capitalist economics or the labour theory that undergirds most communist economics. Graeber focuses not just on what is deemed “productive” labour in the GDP, but other forms of labour that generally aren’t accounted – emotional labour, broadly speaking. Domestic labour like household tasks; caring for children/elders; and so on. He originally named this the anthropological theory of value but in a later essay renamed it the ethnographic theory of value. His central goal here is to recentre the understanding of economic value around human beings rather than around, well, consumption.

    I’d like to go into further depth about not just Graeber but also about a number of other anarchist and soc!alist writers, but it’s already kind of late and I suspect I am approaching the limit of my ability to write coherently. Of all things, TV Tropes (yes, I know) actually has a surprisingly extensive and informative essay about virtually every aspect of anarchism one could hope to ask for. (For those who aren’t familiar with the site, it is a notorious time vacuum. The quality of its analysis can also vary widely, but this particular article is very, very good.) The article also mentions a number of other writers and works that are likely to make excellent next steps. The only other warning I have about the article apart from the standard TV Tropes disclaimer is that it’s really, really long, and a lot of it is pretty densely laden with ideas, so don’t feel you need to read it all in one setting.

    (I should also note that I’ve contributed somewhat to this particular article, but in this case, it was largely in the form of copyediting – and not even particularly heavily by my standards, since it was already well written.)

  72. 72
    Bill Arnold says:

    Dead thread, just wanted to say thank you for that last long comment.
    And thanks for the link and pointer to David Graeber. The list of his work at goodreads is uniformly interesting-looking.

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