Skin in the Game

There’s a fascinating old book called Codes of the Underworld, that discusses things like face tattoos on convicts.  He makes an obvious — yet almost entirely unobserved — point: The kind of folks who do things like that have totally given up on “straight” society.  Those tattoos, and other mob-type behaviors, aren’t intended to communicate with normal folks; they’re signals to other lowlifes.  To normal society, they convey only one message: “I am dangerous; stay away.”  But to their fellow scumbags, prison tattoos and the like contain a wealth of vital information.  Only people who are part of that world can understand.

We normal folks have the same problem when confronted with Leftists.  Just to stick with a theme, consider tattoos.  A quick googling suggests that something like 20% of Americans ages 18 and older have at least one tattoo.  This Federalist piece doesn’t cite its source, but the claim that 40% (!!!) of those aged 18-29 are tatted up sure feels right — anecdotes aren’t data, of course, but I taught college for years; I’ve got lots of anecdotes.  Kids these days are slathered in garish, gaudy ink.

Now, it’s probably safe to assume that those tats don’t mean anything criminal… but how would you know?  Back when only sailors and military types had tattoos — you know, those dim dark days before about 1994 — tats had fairly obvious meanings.  Globe and anchor — Semper Fi, buddy.  But these days they seem entirely random.  Which is the point — if you catch yourself wondering “What kind of idiot would get that permanently etched into his flesh?”, then by definition the message isn’t for you.  But think about how much time, effort, and money is expended on tattoos.  They mean something, I promise you.

Dealing with Liberals is like that.  Every element of every tattoo is recognizable, but the meaning of the whole is utterly opaque.  So it goes with Leftist language, Leftist gestures.  We understand all the words that they say, and they do all the things normal people do, but not for any reason any normal person can figure out.  We don’t live in their world.

Actually it’s worse than that.  We think we know what they’re doing.  We’ve got a cute label for it: “Virtue-signaling.”  But that doesn’t go far enough.  What virtue, specifically, are they signalling?  Figure that out, and we might be able to find a way to break it.

I suggest that the key to understanding Leftism is: Conspicuous consumption.  I think it’s the point of all those weird college-kid tattoos, too.  The whole point of the exercise is to show that you have the resources — the money, tight young skin, and above all time — to undergo such a laborious process.  Time is the most precious commodity of all.  All the money in the world won’t buy you a single second more.  Every second you spend worrying about your pronouns is a second you can’t spend doing anything productive… which is, I submit, the entire point of worrying about your pronouns.  Only the young, or those stuck in permanent adolescence, can be so profligate with time.

This is why young people are the Left’s shock troops.  The Left uses young people to break into organizations they want to ruin the same way they use gays to break into neighborhoods they want to “gentrify.”  Since gays have nothing but disposable income and will never care what the schools are like, they can jack the neighborhood rents up to the point that it drives out the Vibrancy.  So it goes with the young folks.  As I’ve written many times, you simply can’t beat Trigglypuff.  She has more time than you ever will.  Even if you somehow could drop all your normal-person commitments — you know, your job and family and the like — you’d still have less time than she does, because you have to sleep sometime and she doesn’t (college kids can’t use an apostrophe correctly to save their lives, but they all know how to game Student Health into giving them unlimited prescription psychotropics).

The key, then, is to somehow get these young people to put some skin in the game.  If time’s what they’re wasting, then take their time away.  Stopping the student loan scam would be a fantastic start.  Universal conscription would be even better.  How to get either of those actually passed is beyond me right now, but hey, it’s a start.  Suggestions?

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29 thoughts on “Skin in the Game

  1. Maus

    At first I was tempted to state that the young Leftists squander time not out of a profligate sense of conspicuous consumption but rather from the self-loathing knowledge that they are utterly useless to society: a kind of 21st century street theater representation of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” But I realized that was far too highbrow as cultural analysis. Your recognition that Leftist antics are a time-wasting trap for the unwary, tempting one to set aside value-producing efforts to engage pointless nihilism, triggered just the right middlebrow metaphor. Our response to the elaborate posturing of the world’s Trigglypuffs should be precisely that of Indiana Jones to the overwrought display of the swordman clad in black: waste no time but immediately draw your gun and shoot them dead (rhetorically and figuratively, or otherwise, is entirely your choice).

  2. MBlanc46

    They have time…until they don’t. Unless their folks are rich, sooner or later they fall off the academic conveyor belt, or they reach the end of it. A very few of them get to write editorials for the NYT. Another tiny few get to “work” for “nonprofits”. The rest have to take their humanities*/grievance studies degrees to Starbucks or the equivalent. I gather it’s not easy to keep up with Hiptown rents on a barista’s wage. I do however, whole-heartedly agree with abolishing federally-backed student loans (although I have no idea how to bring this about, either). If folks want to borrow money for higher education, let them do so at market rates under market conditions. Although I understand the value of universal conscription, I oppose it until we have separated from them. Conscription can only be justified in a unified society, one in which “we’re all in this together”.

    * Not that I’m denigrating humanities degrees. I’ve managed to keep body and soul together with my philosophy degree, and I gather that Our Host did all right with his history degree. If others of the fifteen want to weigh in with their academic backgrounds, I’d be interested to hear it. Mostly STEM guys? (I also had an undergrad major in maths, so I consider myself at least in part a member of that contingent.)

    1. Maus

      At the risk of doxxing myself, I am probably the paradigmatic Humanities student of the 80s. While I started university as a chemistry major, post-calculus math proved to be the pebble that tripped my STEM ambition. I meandered through economics and history and eventually earned a B.A. in rhetoric with a minor in classics. Talk about barista fodder… I and most of my peers did the then typical “corrective” of going to law school. After receiving my J.D. and passing the little quiz to become an attorney, I promptly went back to school to pursue graduate studies in theology. To do so, I was first required to get a second bachelor’s degree in philosophy. I lived the ramen and blue jeans life until my mid-thirties before finally getting a real job and making some money. After about twenty years as a prosecutor, I retired on a small pension to eschew sophistry and become the naval-gazing philosoper I was destined to be. Humanities rule! Grievance studies, not so much.

    2. WOPR

      Business IT degree. In other words, I actually had to take business classes along with programming.

      My plan would be to keep student loans. However, any school accepting student loans cannot have tuition exceeding the earnings of a student working minimum wage 35 hours/week for three months, and 15 hours/week for 8 months. Then you simply have to work out some limits on housing and fees.

      One problem right now is the resume rush for college admissions. It sucks the kids into the unreality void of credentialism. They don’t end up with time for anything else beyond sports and academics. We’re busy replicating the Chinese method of creating an elite. I would shift it by:
      1. Banding scores on the SAT and ACT. Ditch so-and-so got a perfect score. Split everything by percentile bands (90 and above, 70 to 89, for example) and no one know the exact score they got. Anything to kill the grind mentality.
      2. Prioritize kids who actually worked jobs. Not the volunteer crud. Actual jobs.
      3. Allow kids to want to work a year before college keep their scholarships as long as they can show they averaged 30 hours per week.

      I hate tattoos. A military guy having one on his shoulder, fine. Looking like wallpaper is horrible. When the one navy woman was given a slap on the wrist for her role in the ship collision, she talked about how she got a tattoo to remind herself that the crew comes first. I would have resigned in disgrace, and been fighting drug and alcohol problems for my failure.

      Personally, tatted up gang freaks should be executed on sight.

    3. Pickle Rick

      BA in History, with a minor in Military History. However, my time in the Corps was spent as a artilleryman, in Fire Direction Control, which is using math to kill people, so I had a foot in humanities and STEM.

    4. contrariandutchman

      Masters in Law and in History here (in the Dutch system of my time you picked the doctoraal ie masters immediately, doing 2 was feasible provided you read fast and could wing it at exams, you didnt have to pay extra for a 2nd masters at the same university which was nice). My STEM oriented education ended at the end of highschool where I did have a very STEM oriented package (with physics, chemistry and math) as preparation for Medicine. Never tried to sign up for medicine in the end and went to Law like everybody else who wasnt sure what to do.

      It worked out allright for me. I dont think I would have enjoyed medicine seeing what its like with friends and I have come to appreciate the practice of law.

      1. MBlanc46

        Here in the US it is reported that digitization and AI have eliminated a lot of jobs of lower-end lawyers. Is that also happening in Europe? Also, the rush to promote women in everything has made it rough for men. I considered law for a couple of hours back in the early 1980s when I decided that it was time to stop hippying around and get a real job. I decided on publishing instead. I’m pleased that it worked out for you.

        1. Severian Post author

          PhD History, obviously, though I had (and have) a non-Humanities job that actually paid the bills for my entire time in the Academy (since that’s specific enough to get me doxxed, that’s all I’ll say about that). I thought long and hard about getting a JD, but decided what’s the point? We’re already living in El Banana Republico.

          There’s a whole lot of formal learning on our side… but better yet, we have the proper attitude towards learning. I always laugh when people start throwing their degrees around in online arguments. Buddy, if you’re doing it right, the more you know about a given subject, the more keenly aware you become of your ignorance. This is especially true of graduate degrees — all an MA or a PhD reveals these days is that you’ve spent a lot of time mastering an arcane lingo, which you use to fill in ever-more-elaborate Social Justice Mad Libs.

        2. contrariandutchman

          Haven’t noticed any reduction in legal work here, if anything as we shift into a low-trust society there is ever more of it as more things need checking and much much more needs to be taken to court. (but we aren’t at the US level in that regard still, so thre is still room for more of that)

          Digitization happens but mostly seems to mean everybody has ever more expansive literature and case law to argue from.

          Its become harder to establish a private practice as the number of registered attorneys has about tripled since the mid nineties while the number of clients who can afford it hasnt rise nearly as much, and larger companies and the government have insourced much work as increasing work volume made that more viable.

  3. Pickle Rick

    Ok, tattooing is a good way to get into leftist heads. It’s TRIBAL. In the very old days, tattoos were earned. Your entrance into the warrior caste was signified by specific marks, tattoos, hairstyles, etc. These Marine tattoos I have used to mean something, that I was a warrior above the others, it was a symbol of my permanent acceptance into the brotherhood (now that Suzy can be an “infantrywoman” or ”artillerywoman” it doesn’t mean jack shit anymore)

    It’s exactly the same with the SJW crowd- the tattoos and fuscia hair means “I’m totally committed to destroying Western Civilization by any means necessary “ and there’s no going back. It identifies who is an ally and who is an enemy.

    Universal conscription? Absolutely no way. The military is already infected, probably terminally, with the pox. The high command is politically motivated and full of wannabe commissars and the ranks are increasingly unable to perform basic combat skills. Dumping surly conscripts into that is a recipe for disaster.

  4. ganderson

    I have a BA in European History, ( minor in Swedish) and I’ve spent the last 35 years as a high school teacher. I’m done after this year. I’ve mostly enjoyed my time, but am glad to be getting out.
    Like the rest of you, I hate tattoos. One of the trends I’m seeing is kids getting tattoos for their 16th birthdays. Yuk.

    I have a question for Pickle Rick. I saw on the news yesterday (I was at the gym- I never turn on TV news at home )

    An Army officer was testifying in front of one of the impeachment panels- he was wearing dress blues with all his ribbons. Most of the time you see green units, or ODs if they’re Marines ( are those still called “ pink and greens”? Is it normal or was there something else going on there?

    1. WOPR

      It’s theater. From what I heard, he’s on the NSC right now and shouldn’t be wearing a uniform. The other thing is the guy was born in the Ukraine.

    1. Pickle Rick

      That’s the “new” Army dress uniforms. Because their uniforms sucked and they were jealous of our Marine dress blues (which we, rightfully, called “panty droppers”) the army brought back wearing actual blue uniforms for Class A wear, which they had abandoned back in the 1950s. Now they are also redesigning the stupid green bus driver uniforms into a close copy of the WWII army uniforms, which looks utterly ridiculous on Lieutenant Ta’Squeeshia and her ilk. Those are originally called pink and greens- the Corps has always worn a beautiful shade of forest green in the 20th century.

      You can’t polish a turd.

  5. The Right Doctor

    I have a BS in chemistry and a BA in German. I’ve spent the last twenty years reading the stuff I wished I’d read, starting with the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible, on to more Greeks and Virgil, through to Shakespeare. Now I wished I’d learned some dead languages.

    I had a patient one time with full facial tattoos. He said, “People discriminate against me because of my tattoos.”

    I asked why he got them. He said it was to tell society to eff off. I said society gets the message.

    1. WOPR

      I got into the honors program at a StateU. (Trust me, as should be obvious to anyone, I’m far from brilliant.) Everyone in the program had to take three quarters of what they called Readings Conference. You had to write three papers each quarter and the grade was pass/fail. You read all of the Western classics and sections of the Bible. It was interesting because other than the papers it was simply a discussion of what was read for each class. It was a good class.

      People want to be rebels without a cost.

  6. kirkforlatt

    High school grad here. Served four years in the Marine Corps and then four years in the French Foreign Legion. Tried to earn a BA in English, but found sitting in a classroom full of shallow twits, being “taught” by bored degenerates to be intolerable, so I simply walked away from it. Paid the price, too…a lifetime of low-level jobs, pushing rocks up hills, wage slavery, forced to work with/for some of the most stupefyingly animalistic diversities under the sun, growing old without security or status. But it’s been a hoot, too. Extraordinary wife, daughters, grandchildren, plus I’ve read most of the great books I would have finished had I stayed in university. I’ve learned to hate and mistrust most of the churchians and their teachings, but I’ve grown to love and admire the common folk who sit obediently in the pews, waiting for true direction. Honored that you gents let me hang out here in the lobby. I’ve learned a lot — and I mean a LOT — since finding Sev and his perceptive, hilarious, poignant writings.

  7. Wildgoose

    BSc(Hons) in Computational Science. Aged 16-18 I studied Maths, Further Maths & Physics. I wanted to do History as well, but it clashed with the afore-mentions “STEM” subjects. As you can probably guess from the ‘s’ appended to “Math”, I’m English.

    I used to be “British”, (and of course I still am a “British” citizen). And I used to be moderately left-wing.

    But I now consider myself a (white heterosexual male) English Nationalist. Because that is what happens when someone is constantly demonised and discriminated against on the basis of things that are an accident of birth rather than a matter of choice.

    I feel there must be many more people like myself out there. That is one of the reasons I find Brexit so appealling. It’s not just escaping a corrupt corporatist pseudo-state, I hope that it may be the spark that can eventually trigger a national renewal and a new sense of purpose.

    Because that is what we desperately need.

    1. Severian Post author


      I envy you the “English” thing. If you no longer want to be “British,” you have an identity to revert to. What do we “Americans” have? The country I grew up in was very silly, and the rot had already gone deep, but until about 1995 or so I could still in good conscience consider myself an “American.” Now, though?

      1. Wildgoose

        I think the Civil War ended the equivalent option for the United States. Before that, the individual states were semi-independent parts of a greater whole and you could put your State identity before everything. Afterwards, the individual States were clearly subservient. Although I’m not sure at what point that what this really meant dawned on the wider population.

        From an American perspective I would guess that the best suggestion is to declare yourself a “Heritage American” from the original melting pot, rather than a hyphenated American with divided allegiances.

        Here in the “United” Kingdom we are a Union of nations where the biggest, England, subsidises all the others, constantly sacrificing its interests in their favour. The thanks we get is that the English are constantly blamed for anything and everything, and told we have to accept this “for the sake of the Union”.

        And so the other nations have their own Parliaments and laws over which the English have no say but are expected to subsidise. Unlike the others, England has no Parliament of its own but is ruled directly by the Union Parliament. A Union Parliament that includes members from the other Nations who can (and do) sell their votes to the Government of the day and otherwise work to undermine the interests of England in their own nation’s favour.

        The tide has turned though, because the number of people describing themselves as specifically “English” has shot through the roof. Even more telling, is the number of English people who have made it clear they are more than happy to sacrifice the rest of the Union in order to ensure that England itself leaves the EU. Naturally, the commentariat are using this fact to attack the “selfishness and xenophobia” of the English while failing to consider the wider picture of what this response actually means.

  8. Publius

    The obvious solution is to smash the academic infestation that produces the pseudo-nomenklatura.

    The method of doing this is obvious, and staring us right in the face.

    What academia is doing is predatory. Everyone knows this. Going six figures into debt for a bachelor’s degree is a preposterous way to start off in life. Everyone knows this. College loans are crippling a generation. Everyone knows this.

    The focus of Our Thing needs to be meming the shit out of Predatory Academia. This will play in Peoria. Everyone has seen it first hand.

    And then, total college loan forgiveness. Don’t shift the money onto the FedGov, just wave it away. Make the banks take it in the shorts. And with this left-of-Bernie-Sanders approach, slip in the poison pill that ends all Federal subsidies, grants, and loans to higher education. Run on the loan eradication, and smash their funding stream with a hammer.

    They will squeal. Let them. Keep bringing it back to Predatory Academic Lending, A Generation in Debt, and Why Do You Hate Young People?

    Before long, half the liberal arts colleges in America either go belly-up or refocus on teaching actual useful classes for something like a reasonable price. It may take a generation, but they will lose the prime source of their Authority.

    1. Severian Post author

      I’m with you. And I have zero problem with the Left-of-Bernie-Sanders part, since pretty much everything that goofball says about the evils of “capitalism” is dead on. His solutions are insane, not least because they obviously couldn’t work even back when Eugene V. Debs was pitching them back in 1900, but he nailed the problem, all right. There is no such thing as a “free market” — either the government controls the corporations, or they form cartels and control the government. Fuck ’em all. As the guy who’s been predicting full-on fascism for the better part of a decade now (seriously – check the archives) I really don’t have a problem with national socialism, small-n, small-s. It’s better than the alternative, which is civil war and genocide.

      1. Publius

        My attitude is that monarchy, either sacral (crowned kings) or popular (what Aristotle called a tyrant, and we call a dictator) is the default, and when the contradictions of democracy become untenable, society reverts to the default. Which kind we end up with doesn’t really matter, because the second kind turns into the first given enough time. I don’t have any particularly warm feelings about this, and shall be pleased if we avoid it for a little while longer, but unless Caesar forcibly expropriates my house or burns my church I’ll probably line up to write the new Aeniad. Humans can get a lot worse, and they usually do.

      2. Pickle Rick

        Christ on his throne. OT here, but considering the birthday of the Corps is next week, I’d consider it something that you should do a post on soon. I’m fucking done with being proud of being a Marine. They killed any vestiges of love I had for my Corps and the traditions of it…

  9. Wildgoose

    You don’t even need to insist on a debt jubilee for College loans.

    Just allow the debts to be written off in the event of bankruptcy.

    A minor change with major consequences.

  10. MBlanc46

    I’ve much enjoyed getting to know you all a bit better. I hope the day comes that we can do more of this over beverages of choice. Just before heading out to burn the MFer down.

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