RW203 - Biff instead of Marty

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Staying up late to watch a Friendly Fire movie (Movies)
  • John waking up just in time from his inner clock (Sleep)
  • Can animals voluntarily hold their breath (Factoids)
  • Support the show on Patreon (Patreon)
  • Dan’s office neighbors bringing their kids to work (Dan Benjamin)
  • People who don’t take responsibilities for their dogs or their kids (Attitude and Opinion)
  • John’s daughter losing a friend who was not raised properly (Daughter)
  • Teaching your daughters not to accept non-consensual touch (Children)
  • Dismantling the institutions, but not replacing them with something else (Politics)

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • John’s prediction for the 2020 election (Politics)
  • How to ship your product and get over your imposter syndrome (Technology)
  • Dan Savage’s advice for people to leave their partners or fuck sense into them (Politics)
  • Presidential debate (Politics)

The show title refers to neighbors who don’t care if they bother other people with their behavior and who are not educated in the way they should so they are behaving like Biff instead of Marty (from the movie Back to the Future).

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Staying up late to watch a Friendly Fire movie (RW203)

John is tired because last night at about 1am he realized that his other podcast Friendly Fire was recording a special episode today after John is done with Dan, but he hadn't watched the movie and he started to watch this movie at 2am, a movie by J.J. Abrams called Overlord. They do a special episode for donors every month of a war movie that is technically not a war movie and this one is a zombie war movie, so in addition to being very late at night watching this movie, it was also a scary movie with lots of startles and fast zombies, slow zombies, all the zombies!

John gets startled by jump scares, which is the lowest form of art. People love it, though! Dan hates jump scares. Come on, really? Every time? You end up not trusting the movie and you are tense through the whole thing, not because of the plot, but because you know something is going to jump out at you. Overlord is an interesting movie. People who listen to Road Work and people who listen to their Patreon are a smaller group. People that listen to Road Work and Friendly Fire is an even smaller group, and then people that are listening to the Friendly Fire bonus content, now we are talking about a handful of people that cross over into both Venn diagrams. John could probably give them his entire review and it wouldn't spoil anything!

John waking up just in time from his inner clock (RW203)

John is 100% still asleep. He did the thing that he says he can do, but never quite trusts himself to do, but last night when it was time to finally go to bed he looked around for his phone, couldn't find it, didn't want to get up and search for it, and was like: ”Ah, I will wake up now!” That is pretty tricky because it was almost 5am, but it was one of those times where he knew he can do this, but he had never put it to the test, but he went to bed at 5am and he woke up at 10:48am, just woke up, looked around, got up, searched the house for his phone, found it, and realized that he had woken up 12 minutes before their show was supposed to start.

It is not quite a superpower, but it is definitely a thing John has cultivated! it is not like he wakes up at the same time every day. People his age often complain about the fact that they go to bed at 5am, but it doesn't matter and they will always wake up at 7am, no matter what. That has been Dan’s life forever! That is a skill, but also a torment because you would like to be able to sleep in sometimes. Dan would like to be able to have a choice in how long he sleeps for and when he wakes up, that would be nice.

During a period of time post college when Dan was first starting out with the job, when he was going to sleep he would say: ”I would like to wake up tomorrow at 7:00!” and he might set his alarm for 7:05 or 7:15, and he would focus on that and then he would fall asleep and wake up at 7:00 and it would it would just happen. He never tried waking up at 10 or 12 or something, but it was always within an hour time frame, but he was able to do it to the minute and he wants to get that back.

The frustrating part is that if Dan wakes up within an hour and a half of when he needs to wake up he pretty much has to be up because he won't be able to fall back to sleep. If he needs to be up at 7:00 and he wakes up at 6:05, most people will be able to sleep for another hour, but Dan’s mind won't fall back to sleep most of the time. Dan doesn’t resist sleep the way that John has described where he is fighting the urge to sleep and staying awake, but he tries the opposite by going to bed earlier, but he is not good at that either.

Healthy sleep is so elusive for so many of us. It should be the easiest thing in the world and it should be a choice. If you need to go to the bathroom you can hold it, if you have to carry something heavy you can push yourself and carry it, if you need to really focus, you can just focus, if you want to breathe faster, you can breathe faster. You would think that sleep would be like: ”I require rest now, it is time to sleep!” and close your eyes and: ”I will see you in eight hours!” and you open your eyes in eight hours.

Human beings are the only creatures on the planet that seem to have that issue. Cats don't have any problem sleeping, dogs seem like they are pretty good at it, Dan’s hamster always used to sleep just fine, all his iguana ever did was sleep, but human beings have all these issues. Maybe it is the modern world, maybe if we were living how we were meant to live, subsistence living and working hard every day, walking, living in a group of about 20 or 30 other people who all know each other, go to sleep when the sun goes down, wake up when it comes up in the morning and eating stuff we hunted and farmed, maybe we would all sleep great every night!

Can animals voluntarily hold their breath (RW203)

John’s sister always says that human beings are the only animals that voluntarily hold their breath for no reason. There are a lot of things that we can do that other creatures can’t. Dan wonders how we know that a dog couldn’t hold its breath and how we could tell it to do so. John is not sure he could tell the difference between an animal that could hold its breath but never does, and an animal that can't hold its breath. They are probably physiologically capable of it, but if they have never done it, then it is a moot point and the question of holding your breath voluntarily becomes a matter of the word ”voluntary” rather than ”can” or ”can't”.

Support the show on Patreon (RW203)

Dan asks John to give his take on who will win the 2020 presidential election in the After Show that is available to Patreon supporters. Dan and John discussed earlier this year that the after show is the thing that John really enjoys doing and maybe they should just make it the real show. John ran that by a lot of their listeners, he went over to Gary’s Van, the Facebook group where Road Work listeners congregate, and a lot of people there pushed back and said that they liked the publicly available Road Work show and they didn't want it all to go behind the curtain.

Dan’s office neighbors bringing their kids to work (RW203)

Dan’s studio in Austin is in a building. They have different classes for buildings, A, B, and C. Class A buildings would be a really fancy building with marble floors, nice elevators, good carpeting, and amenities such as a restaurant or cafeteria, meeting rooms, places where a nice lawyer would set up shop. Class B is still a nice building, but doesn't have those amenities, it might have a vending machine and public restrooms to use, but that is about it, but it still has decent carpeting, maybe good parking, and then a class C has none of those things and you walk up and walk right into the office. Although this is retail and not office space, a strip mall might qualify as a class C.

An acupuncturist or a massage therapist or an independent insurance office or, where you walk up and there are offices and private offices and maybe there is a lawyer in there who has rejected the corporate space, that is where Dan’s studio is located. Their next door neighbor are in land development, not quite architects, but not contractors either, something in between, and they are pretty quiet and stay out of the way, but all of a sudden just this week they have been coming in with their kids.

Dan has two kids, one is 9 and one is about to turn 13, and when they play they do the things that the kids do: They make noise, they scream, they shout, they laugh, they run around, and all of that stuff. For some reason the people have been bringing their kids over into the office, which is not a big deal and Dan has in the past brought his kids and gave them instructions: No shouting, no yelling, nothing like that. They can bring their iPads or Switches, they can use headphones and sit on the sofa right there or on this desk and do the stuff that they want to do.

They come in and they do it and they are quiet and they have conversations in the same volume that Dan and John are talking right now and if they get a little bit loud he will tell them: ”Guys! Time to be quiet” - ”Okay!” They are respectful and all he needs to do is say there are other people working besides just Dan, but in adjacent offices who appreciate quiet, and they get it. Dan had an office here in Austin for about 10 years and he brought them to the office many times, even when they were very little and they were really good about this. His children are not exceptionally well behaved or anything, they are average.

Kids will take any yardage you give them, so if you explain it to them and tell them what to expect and what they need to do and what the consequences are, generally speaking, especially if you start out raising them that way, they are going to respond pretty positively to that.

Now the dad from the neighboring office has been bringing his two boys with them into work and they are not exceptionally rowdy, but they run up and down a lot and they are shouting and stuff like that and Dan doesn’t mind that unless he is making a podcast or a YouTube video. He doesn’t need silence, he has done a lot to insulate the walls with acoustic panelling and the walls are decent, but it still reads through and you can still hear it.

The guy would come and he would open the door and slam the door and the kids are running back and forth and shouting and throwing each other against the wall, making lots and lots of noise, and the extent of noise is so much that even the most lenient parent like Dan would think: ”That is a lot of noise for two kids to be making, especially in an office!” They are not in their home, in their house or in their backyard, but in a public place and they are going completely wild.

When Dan had to record he knocked on the door and said: ”Hey, we record over here next door. We are a podcast and video studio right next door and we would appreciate it if you could keep quiet.” - ”Oh, no problem. Sorry about that! We didn't know!” - ”You did know, but that is cool!” and then they would be quiet and then you would think that would do it because now that man, the dad has been given information: ”We are a recording studio next door!” He knows that and he knows that the kids were making noise and he felt bad about it.

The next day, guess what? Same exact thing happens! The kids come in, they are running around, throwing each other at the wall, as if nothing had happened the day before at all. Dan knocked on the door again: ”Oh, by the way, we record over here, we are about to start. It would be great if you all could…” - ”Oh, sorry! Okay!” and this happens three or four times over the last couple of weeks. At no point did it register with him or did he care that something might be going on that wasn't about him and his kids.

Today there are more kids, the mom in there today, and the noise and everything is amped up like crazy, way louder than ever before. It was almost time to record and Dan could hear the commotion over there and totally wouldn't have been able to record at all. He knocked on the door and there is a little thin glass panel on the side of the door where you can see through and Dan was looking in at them and was watching the kids running up and down, and then the mom is there 10 feet away down their hall, looking at Dan through the thing, watching him knock and stand there, but she is not moving, not doing anything, just looking at him.

Dan did not come across as a physically imposing or threatening person. He was wearing a mask, maybe that makes him threatening, so he knocked again and she reluctantly came to the door and she already knew why he was knocking, even though she had never been here before, but of course she knows Dan said: ”Hey, I am sorry to bother you, but we are recording next door. We have a recording studio, and I was wondering if you could maybe keep it down a little bit!”

She immediately switched into attack mode: ”Our kids have to virtual school and you have to be accommodating to that!” - ”I understand, I have two kids myself, but we do recordings here and we can't do those if the noise is happening, so maybe you could keep it quiet!” - ”It is really tough. You have kids and you know that you are going to have to accommodate what we are doing. You are going to have to!” - ”Well okay, thank you for keeping it down!”

Dan came back in and asked Haddie if he sounded aggressive or anything that she said: ”No, you sounded very nice! You sound polite!” - ”Did you hear how she responded?” - ”Yeah!” - ”What do you think that was?” Dan’s theory is that she knew that what she was doing was not cool and she felt bad about it, but rather than taking accountability and responsibility for it her defense mechanism was to try to put it on Dan, that he somehow was in the wrong and needed to accommodate. It is okay for the kids to run, to make noise, to slam the door as many times as they want, and Dan needed to accommodate that.

Dan’s situation next door is about grown-ups that aren't grown up, and it is very hard for John personally because he is a ”burn it all down!” type of person where if he had experienced that he would go to the mattresses, he would go into a war mode and he would be thinking: ”Let's cut the power to their business!” or ”Let's make it very hard for them to be outside because I am going to hook up some speaker that puts out a high pitched but low volume sound that makes it incredibly unpleasant to be out in front of the office!” John is a ”Go to war!” person when he has been insulted because people like that he doesn’t want to compromise with.

Of course the people that have the easiest time in life are the ones that don't go to war with their neighbors and it is much easier for John to listen to Dan’s story and know what to do than it would be for him to know what to do if he were in Dan’s shoes. Dan said: ”We record over here and we need it to be quiet!”, but what he meant is: ”Every day, throughout the week, for a period of a few hours, we are recording. The rest of the time it is an office, and although your kids are super irritating, they are just rude and you are rude.

Professionally there are a few hours every single day and we know what those hours are, they are not random, and during that time we are recording and it needs to be quiet! The whole the whole reason we are here is to do this and we are going to hook up a red light and we got your phone number and we are going to turn that red light on and when the red light is on we need silence and when the red light goes off, you can be noisy again!” Dan actually had one of those in a prior office, more for fun. It sounds like a respectful way to do it. They are not requiring complete and total silence, these people have been in there for a year or so, it is only now that there are kids coming.

Dan actually had a next door neighbor and they had their dog tied up in the back yard 24/7 and it barked all the time. Dan would sometimes get fed up and ask them and the person who was there a lot during the day was the mother in law. When he asked for the first time he said: ”Could you please bring the dog in? It is barking!” His boy was probably six months old trying to nap during the day and it kept waking him up. She looked at him and she said: ”Dogs bark and cats meow!” and shut the door.

If Dan has a child, a dog, a cat, a pet, or whatever, it is his responsibility to make sure that it doesn't inconvenience other people. The rule is: ”Nothing that I do should inconvenience other people!” If for some reason he does't realize that he is doing something that is inconveniencing someone else, it is their obligation to tell him: ”I don't know if you knew this, sir, but this thing that you are doing is creating an inconvenience for me!” in which case Dan will say: ”Let's resolve that!” Maybe it means he doesn't do the thing now, maybe it means he will do it another time, maybe it means he can't ever do it.

For example if you live in an apartment building you can't turn your stereo speakers up as loud as you want, but just loud enough so that your neighbors can't hear it, and if you don't like that, you shouldn't be living in an apartment building. That is all you can afford? Then you deal with that by not playing the music loud. There are these awesome things called headphones. You put those on! You wanted to have a party? Did you have to have it there? It is the only place you can have it? Then it is your obligation to get an okay from all of your neighbors that could hear it. Maybe that means you invite them to the party. Maybe it means you get their permission. Whatever it is, that is your obligation because you are now inconveniencing them. You don't want to be inconvenienced wither and your neighbors will find a way to inconvenience you and you won't like it, so instead: Don't inconvenience people, and it is their obligation to let you know if you are doing that. A lot of the time you don't know.

Dan had a different neighbor with a small little dog, you never heard it, nothing like that, except sometimes she would go out and when the weather was nicer she would put the dog out in the back patio area in her yard and she would go and be gone for a couple of hours. The whole time that she was gone the dog would howl, it was miserable being outside for whatever reason. It felt abandoned and felt rejected. It had never done this when it was in the house, or at least they couldn't hear it if it did, but it did it consistently and all the neighbors knew about it.

After the third or fourth time Dan wrote her and said: ”I wanted to let you know that when you go out in the evenings and leave your dog outside it howls and all of your neighbors can hear it. I figured you didn't know that, but I am letting you know” She actually didn't know it was doing that and as soon as she found out she felt bad for the dog that it was miserable for three hours while she was gone. How would she know? Her dog doesn't howl when she is home, so how would she know what it was doing?

When Dan got his first house when he was first working professionally in the 1990s his next door neighbors had a dog and they would put it in its crate during the day and they didn't know this, but they noticed the dog was having some other problems, so they set up a little nanny cam situation and they found out that the dog the whole time they were gone was just in the crate howling, it was miserable, but they didn't know that because it never did that while they were home. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt that maybe they don't know, but once you have informed them, it then becomes their responsibility, whether it is their dog or their kids or whatever it is.

What that might mean is: You talk to your kids and say: ”When we are at the office, you can't shout, you can't run, you can walk quietly, you can use your headphones and play your games and stuff, and if you can't do that, then we are going to have to do X and you are not going to like X as much as you like coming with Dad to the office!” You can do that in a way that there is no yelling, no disciplining, you are not even really telling them: ”No!”, but you are teaching them about being responsible.

That is what Dan doesn't understand about. These people are contemporaries to Dan and John, these people are their age, their generation, and yet they have a completely different framework for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, and Dan doesn’t get that. It seemed like when Dan was growing up all his friends and their parents had the same general attitude toward child rearing. It wasn't always good and of course the kid you would feel bad for would come to school and the parent hit him or something, that was just a thing that happened.

The idea of Dan’s parents saying something and he saying: ”No!” is unthinkable and he was never hit as a child, but there was respect there. ”They said not to do it, so I can't do it!” and that is how Dan’s kids are. If he says: ”Don't do that!”, then they won't do it, even if there is no one watching, not through fear, but he talks to them and treats them like small adults, and they know he respects them, so when he asks them or tells them to do something, they will do it, and they operate understanding those rules and constraints that he has given them even when he is not there because they understand that he is their teacher and he is teaching them how to get by in the world.

Dan’s goal is to teach them the things that they need to know to be successful people as best as he can. If Dan had his kids here and they were running up and down, and he can't even put himself in that situation because he would never do that, and the person next door knocked on his door and said: ”The stuff you are doing over here is inconveniencing me!” he would be humiliated and mortified and he would feel horrible and he would say: ”I am so sorry! You are right! I didn't even realize it, I should have thought about it, it won't happen again!” That is the only thing that they can say. That is the only acceptable words for them to say.

The idea that he would tell them: ”Well, my kids have to virtual school and they had to come here today, so you are going to have to accommodate it!” - ”What? Are you nuts? I don't have to accommodate anything, actually, because this is not a thing that people who have offices and pay for them sign up for!” John counters that now you are weighing what your possible options are, and there aren't many. What it sounds like she is saying is: ”For you to be a good citizen, you need to accommodate this!”, but what she is really saying is: ”You don't have a choice because I am not going to do anything about it. So fuck you!”

By the way, they did leave eventually, and the dad returned by himself and he just by himself in there is loud and bumping around. These are children of people who themselves are just noisy and unaware of what they are doing and the own sounds that they make. Now Dan has to be a tattletale to the landlord who is going to say something to them and further humiliate them. See how petty it is? The landlord likes Dan and they love having them in there, so they will go talk to them and it says so on their lease.

But Dan doesn’t like to be a tattletale, but John thinks it is not that. The woman has put Dan in a situation where she has said: ”There is nothing you can do about it!” and the fact that she has framed it as a citizenship question is a technique of a manipulator. She has phrased it in such a way that she is going to win the argument, not because her argument has any merit. In a lot of situations, talking about a next door neighbor or somebody that lives three doors down, and there is no homeowner's association, and the only recourse you have is either to get all the neighbors together or call the cops, none of those are good, but Dan has a landlord who is on his side and there are terms in the lease that say: ”Don't disturb other people!” and at least he can enforce that lease.

That is not tattling, he tried, he went and talked to them three times, he got three increasingly bullshit answers from them, so he should go to the landlord and say: ”You got to enforce this disturbance clause!” and she is going to make the same case: ”The kids are out of school, have sympathy for us!” and you can also talk directly to the kids until you get one of those parents who say: ”Don't speak to my children!”

The rules that you observe in a restaurant are different from the rules that you observe in the privacy of your own bathroom at home. There are things you would do in your bathroom that you wouldn't do in a restaurant. All of this is that Dan immediately takes a knee, gets down in your child's face and uses it as a teaching opportunity. You are not going to say: ”Children, silence!” and put them in their silence box, but you are going to say: ”Hey, we have got neighbors and they are also conducting business, we are using a shared space, and in a shared space situation you need to moderate your voices!”, and that is how your kids grow up to be adults that don't bother other people.

Their parents clearly didn't do that. Their parents either said: ”Sit down and shut up!” or their parents just had another drink or their parents sat there while they sprayed paint all over the living room and said: ”Aren't my kids amazing?” or whatever! There are 1000 ways to be a bad parent and only one way to be a good parent. But their ship has sailed! They are living in their own miserable world because those parents have to live with those kids and those kids have to live with their parents, and those kids are going to grow up to be voters, and you are going to end up meeting one of them somewhere down the line where you hired them to more lawns and they didn't even mow the side yard and it looks like they changed the oil of their lawn mower on your driveway, and those people are going to be: ”Fuck you! Let the buyer beware!” or whatever. They are going to be Biff instead of Marty and you go: ”Ah right, there are shitty people in the world. In fact, the world is full of them, and a lot of them are shitty because they grew up not being taught by people that weren't taught.”

People who don’t take responsibilities for their dogs or their kids (RW203)

The example that springs to John’s mind is people and their dogs. A lot of people, although fewer than John would have expected, understand that dogs are a reflection of their owners and a dog's training is the responsibility of its owner, and ultimately a dog's behavior is the responsibility of its owner. If their dog is being unruly, if their dog is disturbing other people, if their dog is barking all night, that reflects on the owner and is the responsibility of the owner.

Then there are also a lot of people, the majority of people, who believe that dogs are natural people themselves with their own will and their own personalities that human beings shouldn't interfere with. Ownership of dogs is some natural right and ownership of dogs in cities, in apartment buildings, in close proximity to other people, is part of nature, so that the human owner is not responsible for the behavior of the dog, the human owner is not culpable for it, that a human owned dog is part of the natural world, so if a dog is outside your window barking all night, that is not their problem. That is just what dogs do.

John has been in situations where he had that conversation with people and he has said: ”That is just what dogs do? You know what humans do? They kill their neighbor's dog in the middle of the night!”, John has said that once when he was not living next to the person, but was in a place very briefly and knew that he wasn't burning a bridge and was going to have to look at this person every day for 15 years. They went away at that point and John has no idea whether he got any satisfaction out of that moment. It has been a recurring theme for him during his adult life.

Down the block here there was a house for sale for a long time, it finally sold, and after they moved in the first thing they did was build a five foot fence around the whole front yard, which is a sizable front yard, but not a wood fence, but a wire fence you would build to hold in livestock. One day there was a golden retriever out there that was one of these dogs that anything moving on the street, it ran back and forth the length of the fence line, barking like a crazy person, and John only encountered this dog when he goes for walks, but there are 10 neighbors in close enough earshot to this dog that any time the dog was outside it would absolutely change the environment of your home.

In some cases maybe a home you have lived in 20 years is now a different home, a different place to live entirely, because there is a loud, aggressive, and irritating sound happening. The sound of a furiously barking dog is a sound that triggers us, it is not a neutral sound or white noise, but it sounds like an attack, it is meant to sound like an attack. In confronting people about their dogs and realizing that a lot of them take the same tact as that mom right out of the gate. They have done the computation, they have been in this situation before, and they have concluded that they are not doing anything wrong. They are ready to fight and they will fight you at fundamental levels.

A purely libertarian heart would think: ”I get to do what I want, you get to do what you want!”, but the problem is that pure libertarians recognize that you get to do what you want as long as it doesn't interfere with other people’s ability to do what they want, so it is not a pure libertarian heart. There are just those people in the world, a consortium or a quora of people who just don't care about you or anybody else besides themselves, they are absolutely oblivious to anyone else's cares or worries, they are the people that recognize a problem but that is your problem, ”Fuck you!” There is this unholy coalition of people in the world that are inconsiderate.

The father in Dan’s story, although he says: ”Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally!”, he is a different brand of inconsiderate. He has abdicated his responsibility. A lot of people are over their heads with their kids or their dogs. At some very early point they didn’t train their dog because when you got a puppy the puppy is cute and then the puppy likes to play, you let the puppy play, and then the puppy comes around the table and you feed it some scraps and then the puppy puts their paws up on the counter and you give it a little bit of what you are cooking, and then you go out for a walk and the puppy pulls and you run along behind it, and pretty soon you have a full-grown dog that eats off the counter, that is not under voice control, that does what it wants, thinks it is the leader of the pack, and you don't know how you got there.

You weren't raised properly because if you were raised properly you would have had a dog and been taught by a grown-up how you train a dog. It is part of parenthood that you teach your children well, and one of those things is if that kid is ever going to own a dog, it needs to understand that you need to train a dog and that you have to train a dog. In living in the suburbs John sees people walk by all day being dragged behind a dog.

There are families with mom and dad out for a walk, their kid is the one holding the leash and the dog is pulling the kid and mom and dad are just strolling along. You know that what they get out of that dog is a happy friend who is a cuddly pal, but the dog is also a constant problem, but they have recalibrated what they think is a problem, or their lives already were poorly calibrated, so the fact that this dog rules their house or runs their family, they either don't know the difference or they feel like that ship has sailed and it is too late, and they are just trying to patch it together and spackle around it.

The same absolutely true with kids. The methods of having a well-trained dog and having a well-raised kid overlap quite a bit. You cannot let your kid pull you around, you cannot let your kid dominate your life and rule your family. There are several examples of friends with John’s daughter where he watches the two kids grow up side by side, but her friend's parent has a philosophy that you shouldn't ever say no to a kid, but kid doesn't want that, a kid that is never been told ”No!” feels like no one is in charge and is terrified by someone that doesn't say ”No!” you raise a kid that is aggressive and fearful because they don't know what the boundaries are. That is what adults are there to do: Make boundaries!

John’s daughter losing a friend who was not raised properly (RW203)

They just lost a friendship, when John’s daughter, her mother, and one of her old friends and their mother went on a camping trip together, and when John’s family came back they said: ”We will never go with them again!” because the girl is almost 10 years old and if anything goes even slightly not her way she has a temper tantrum. Five year olds have temper tantrums, but 10 year olds shouldn't ruin a camping trip by having multiple temper tantrums over whether or not there is too much ketchup on a hot dog.

You feel sorry for the situation, but John has watched this mother raise this kid and never put boundaries because she wanted to be her kid's best friend or she wanted to be a good mom, not a bad mom who says: ”No!”, not a bad mom that denies her daughter any whim. A lot of pet owners are like that, they want to be the good pet owner, they want the pet to love them, they don't want to give their pet any discipline because the pet won't love them then.

Teaching your daughters not to accept non-consensual touch (RW203)

John had a good friend, and when his daughter was still a toddler at two or three, he was trying to be a good leftist dad and as part of an orthodoxy that he is adjacent to he had a new theory that in order to raise a strong girl child you needed to never physically touch her without her consent, a new orthodoxy designed to raise a generation of strong women that did not feel that nonconsensual touch was okay (see also RW80). This is true of a lot of new orthodoxies, there is nothing that we love more in modern life than a new hot take that is going to explain everything and change the world. It has been true for our whole lives!

It is the idea behind bussing: We are going to eliminate racism by taking kids out of this school and putting them in that school, and then kids are naturally going to love each other and economic problems are going to be solved. The story of the 20th and 21st century is: ”We have a new hot take and we are going to experiment on a generation of kids to see if it is true! It sounds true! Let's do it!” You can see the logic behind it, you can see that some social scientist or somebody at a university or somebody came up with the idea: ”Oh, wait, the reason that we have toxic masculinity is partly that young women are raised to expect nonconsensual touch, and it starts when they are toddlers and their fathers restrain them. Probably it extends to tickle them or all the things.

You can make your own theory about it: What is the line between what is a reasonable thing for a parent to do and what would be vaguely trend over into something that would lay the groundwork for a future situation where your daughter, now a teenager, would be in a situation where someone would touch her non-consensually and she would acquiesce to it because it was all she knew. That is a chain of imaginary ”what if, what if, what if” statements out into the fog, and you are trying to decide: ”Here is a child, somebody that I want to grow up to be a strong woman, somebody that I want to never just go silent when she is being attacked, and so what do I do?”

A lot of the orthodoxies are coming from people working in a very abstract space: ”I had an idea! Nonconsensual touch is an epidemic!” Toxic masculinity is a hot take, a condensation of an idea that someone had, a metaphor for describing conditions on the ground. Once we get that catch phrase and we can attach it to things like the high school football in Ohio, but also superhero movies, and also mansplaining, and pretty soon toxic masculinity becomes a way of describing a field of pyramids stretching to the horizon and it all has to get torn down!

This friend of John, a beloved friend, someone who wanted only the best for his child, became convinced that this was the way and one time, shortly after adopting this idea, he and his daughter, a toddler, went to the supermarket and they came out into the parking lot and he opened the car door for her and said: ”Okay, hop up in the car!” and she said: ”No!” - ”Sweetie, we got to go!” - ”No, I don't want to!” and then he did the thing: ”I will load the groceries and you get in!” and he loaded the groceries and she wouldn't get in. ”Okay now, sweetie, I am going to count to five!” and he counted to five and she didn't get in.

Anybody who has raised a kid knows this is absolutely normal, this is what a child does, but he couldn't touch her. ”Can I help you into the car?” - ”No!” and he tried a few things and then he reached out, saying: ”I am going to lift you into the car now!” and he put his hands on her and she had been taught to say in a very loud voice: ”Take your hands off me! Bad touch, bad touch!” and so she starts screaming it and he immediately recoils in horror and terror because he knows what this means. Everyone in the supermarket parking lot turns and hears a girl toddler and a man standing next to the door of an open car, that is all they see, and she is saying: ”Unhand me, sir!” as a toddler.

Anyone who has raised kid knows that how many times did you pick up your screaming kid and say: ”You are getting in the car!” and they were like: ”Nooooo!” - ”In the car! Here we go! Buckled up!” and you keep your shit together. The doctrine of this philosophy of raising a girl child in a world that went out over whatever parenting blogs he was reading that was condensed… John saw a meme of it, even, a picture of a beautiful five year old, and it said: ”If you want to raise a strong woman, never ever touch her without her consent!”

That is basically a philosophy of child rearing that is no deeper than a meme. You can't possibly be serious! A father picking up his child and putting her in her car seat in a supermarket parking parking lot is not - and this is the thing that identifies it as this contemporary hotcake culture - is like: Please put the threads together on a giant board on your wall and show me how that is going to make her susceptible to being raped when she is 16 at a drunken football party, but they have taken their ignorance and transformed it into a philosophy of the world.

Everyone is looking for the purest and simplest answer, and they believe that those answers exist and they believe that they can do one simple thing and change the world, it is black and white thinking, we see it all the time. There is either a little girl that is raised as a strong woman who has body autonomy or there is a woman that isn't, and a woman that isn't is going to be one of these women that a liberal mind can't comprehend, which is to say: a woman that votes Republican or a Latina who votes Republican. How is that conceivable?

It must be that they were raised poorly, it must be that their father didn't give them body autonomy and that is what makes inexplicable people, that is what makes these unfathomable situations. These are the stories that come out where you wonder: ”How is that possible? How did it happen? We need to make sure it never happens again!” and the way to do that is: ”Don't paint your child's toenails even though you desperately want to when she is two years old because it is teaching her the wrong thing!” all this stuff that is the opposite of being educated.

There are a lot of people that think that the more educated you get, the more answers you have, when in fact the more educated you get, the fewer answers you have. It is so much harder to have no answers and to be a teacher that teaches students and says at the end: ”So therefore we know that there are no solutions to this, there are no quick solutions, there are maybe no long term solutions to it, but now you know about it. Use your best judgment! Good luck! Godspeed! Every situation is different!” We have a generation now that is highly educated and has been educated to expect that at a certain point there is an answer and they know it and are living according to it.

Dismantling the institutions, but not replacing them with something else (RW203)

We have dismantled a lot of the institutions that we used to charge with either teaching us or keeping us in line. If you were Catholic up until not very long ago, you had a pretty rigid and hierarchical view of the world. You were required to show up for things, you were required to confess your sins, you believed that there was infallibility somewhere further up the chain and all of the people that you socialized with were presumably also Catholic and they also followed those same rules. Not very long ago there were millions and millions of people who were Catholic who saw the world in hierarchical terms and were taught not just by their parents, but by their culture to behave a certain way.

As the 20th century wore on, a lot of the work that we have done was identifying cultures like that and saying with a cultural hot take: ”That kind of hierarchical thinking is what perpetuates abuse, it is what perpetuates inequality, and we are going to dismantle that, we are going to take the church apart, we are going to take its institutions apart!”, obviously in some cases for good reason because the church has committed a multitude of sins, some of them horrific, but we get done with a thing like that, the cultural emancipation from things like the Catholic Church or church in general, the Boy Scouts, the institutions that we used to have that helped our parents by teaching us values that were bigger than just what the the tone of our nuclear family were.

A lot of their listeners may now say: ”We got rid of all those institutions because they were conservative and white supremacist and they perpetuated a bankrupt culture that is patriarchal, racist, and capitalist. We want to take it all apart, we want to tear it all down!” You can look at the Boy Scouts and say: ”There was homophobia in the Boy Scouts that persisted beyond the cultural vanishing point where homophobia in a thing like the Boy Scouts was no longer acceptable and became intentional!” because prior to that vanishing point homophobia that was in the Boy Scouts reflected the homophobia that was in the culture. There wasn't a specific intentional homophobia in the Boy Scouts that was any different than the homophobia in the cops, the army, the church, every institution.

But the culture changed, homophobia in institutions started to be a thing we focused on and started to reform, and at that point for some stupid reason the leadership of the Boy Scouts in that moment decided to stand their ground because they were coming from a perspective where they felt like having a gay Boy Scout leader was going to tarnish their brand, or they didn't understand at that point that they were on the wrong side of history, and for too long they maintained that homophobia and tried to institutionalize it intentionally, not just passively.

The Boy Scouts lost a lot of credibility in that moment! The KGB famously identified the Boy Scouts as a paramilitary organization, and maybe that is only true in the movie Red Dawn, but the Boy Scouts are old-fashioned and now they are called the Scouts and they are open to people of any gender, they have come full circle. There are still Girl Scouts, there are a lot of options if you want to go into scouting, but scouting is not what it was.

When John was a kid in elementary school, not every kid was in scouting, but a lot of them were, and it was just another place outside the home where grown-ups told you how things were and where you were expected to sit quietly while someone taught you how to tie knots. It was something other than just whatever ad hoc rules mom and dad have come up with to keep you quiet long enough to get dinner on the table, which in a lot of cases is just like: ”Here are some games!” We have torn it all down!

John sounds like a Boomer because people younger than him see that as a hot take that the problem in the world, the reason there is still inequality, racism and sexism despite all of our best efforts, is that it resides in these institutions, some of it overtly, most of it covertly, and that the only solution is to take the institutions out, to tear them down, with the premise that all it takes is to tear them down, the premise that human beings are by nature not racist, sexist, or homophobic, but we are only that way because of these institutions and the acculturation that is perpetrated upon us.

If we just eliminate institutions we will naturally replace those institutions with better ones, we haven't really worked that out, we don't have any plan in mind, there is nothing to replace the Scouts with, but we are just going to get rid of the Scouts. We don't use the Scouts anymore, we don't use the church anymore, these aren't tools that we use to help shape people into citizens. It is a common refrain among conservatives that these institutions are actually under attack and being destroyed, but it is not that at all, we just reject them.

But we do it without anything in mind. We have not replaced any of those institutions with better ones, we have just eliminated them from consideration, and with each step we get more and more into a place where we are just trying to create a civilization, each of us individually, alone, checking in with blogs that we agree with, but when was the last time you and your family all went together in your nice clothes to a place where you gathered with other families in their nice clothes and listened to a speaker?

It used to happen once a week at least for most Americans, it is a baseline of having a culture, that once a week you recognize that there is somebody important that is going to talk about something important and we are going to respect that person by putting on our nice clothes, and we are all going to go together because our family is a unit and we are going to go to a big place purpose-built for this, to sit together with other families and listen to someone talk to us about important matters.

We could eliminate religion entirely from it and just every week go to a lecture, but we haven't done that. We took the church out, we took that observance out, and in the liberal paradise we meant to create we did not replace it with a lecture where every week on Wednesday nights every family that is practicing positive liberalism is going to meet at Town Hall and we are going to listen to a different lecturer talk to us about ethics and morals.

Why didn't we do that? We eliminated institutions that used to manage the expectations of citizenship because we felt that they were oppressive or that they perpetuated bad culture, but we did not replace them with positive versions of the same thing, but we just said: ”Now that the bad is gone, the good will rush in!” and what happens is that you took the institution away and what rushed in was a lazy, unfocused, egotistical, self-centered culture of people that are wealthy, but without any class, and Dan and John are living next to them now and are listening to their dogs and kids.


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