Friday, August 3, 2018

I started an intellectual discussion about the effectiveness of teaching boundaries in a capitalist society.

This week I was the cause of a discussion on Facebook that quickly turned rather intellectual. The message in the meme is prescient with our present era/times, and I had a lot of fun discussing the topic (and my ideas about it) and then have people with PhD's weigh in on it as they too seemed to find (in particular what I had to say) comment-worthy. So here is what was originally posted and what follows (sometimes with my inner thought on that comment) with names removed:

"My teenage nephew told me he asked a girl out and she turned him down. I said, "You know what to do now, right?" He said, "I know I know keep trying" and I said "NO. LEAVE HER ALONE. She gave you an answer." He was shocked. NO ONE had told him that before. TEACH. YOUR. BOYS."

My comment: Framed in this manner, I wonder if ignoring the word "no" is a systemic problem built into capitalism, and it has just leached into everything else. Capitalism and the whole "if you fail you must not have wanted it enough" mantra that gets repeated by readers of Tony Robbins and through the written works made by various "people influencers" spanning decades. If it is related to systemic capitalism, then I wonder how effective education might be. One voice says, "Take 'NO' for an answer," and 200 million voices shout back, "Keep Trying. Never Give Up!" Anyway, interesting thoughts.

1st Guest: Capitalism is NOT the same as sexual relationships, just in case you weren't aware of that fact.
My thought that never got posted: This person is just posting emotionally and doesn't understand my comment at all....

2nd Guest: No, but Michael Offutt has a point that in a capitalistic society young men are raised not to take "no" for an answer, and that that message can bleed over into sexual relationships. We need to teach young men (and everyone) the difference. And that difference is that women are PEOPLE and not OBJECTS. But there aren't enough people out there who don't realize that.

3rd Guest: (To 1st Guest), I don't think Michael Offutt intended to say that they were. I think he means to say that "don't take no for an answer" bleeds into all parts of our culture, including relationships if you've never been taught not to view them as transactions.
My thought that never got posted: This is exactly what I was trying to express.

My comment: (To 1st Guest), Right, and I understand the difference. But for someone with cognitive processing issues (there are more out there than people realize) the message in this meme (which is a good one) might be difficult to get across. For example, built into the message itself are interesting contradictions. On one hand, it is a message to parents to "try harder" to make sure that a message of "let go" or "give up" is received. And to someone with cognitive processing issues (example might be someone who eats Tide Pods for a challenge) then I think the message could be confusing.

"I'm supposed to try harder at giving up?"
Answer: "Yes, try harder at getting a boy to give up."
"But what if I internalize that message and give up too?"
Answer: "No you must try harder! Giving up is the message we want to convey!"

And so on and so forth, ad nauseum. It seems at once over-simplified and then extremely complex. Anyway, I did not mean to offend.

1st Guest: Michael Offutt, I was pointing out the over-generalization that you used. If a person nowadays doesn't know the difference between "work" and "personal" situations/boundaries... THERE is a failure to parent! A parent's job is to teach where limits and infinity apply, NOT try to be a kid's "over-sized buddy."

My comment: (To 1st Guest), You pose an interesting hypothesis. I'm not sure if I can completely agree that if a person becomes an adult and still doesn't understand the difference between "work" and "boundaries" that it is due to terrible parenting. It has been my experience that people learn and process information differently. Trying to figure out the why and the how can take a lifetime. For example, there's a saying in education that if you know one person with autism, you now know "one kind of autism." Anyway, I do appreciate your input. I love thinking about these things.

4th Guest: Capitalist structures and thinking underlie our entire society, (1st Guest), note your use of the phrase "a parent's job" above. We don't have distinct language to describe our personal and familial relationships so we borrow some words from the bank.

This discussion brings to mind some of David Graeber's ideas from his fascinating book, Debt: The first 5000 years:

"Surely one has to pay one's debts."
The reason it's so powerful is that it's not actually an economic statement: it's a moral statement. After all, isn't paying one's debts what morality is supposed to be all about? Giving people what is due them? Accepting one's responsibilities? Fulfilling one's obligations to others, just as one would expect them to fulfill their obligations to you? What could be a more obvious example of shirking one's responsibilities than reneging on a promise, or refusing to pay a debt?
     It was that very apparent self-evidence, I realized, that made the statement so insidious. This was the kind of line that could make terrible things appear utterly bland and unremarkable.
     If history shows anything, it is that there's no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt--above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it's the victim who's doing something wrong. Mafiosi understand this. So do the commanders of conquering armies. For thousands of years, violent men have been able to tell their victims that those victims owe them something. If nothing else, they "owe them their lives" (a telling phrase) because they haven't been killed.

My comment: (To 4th Guest), So, if I'm understanding Graeber's concepts correctly and apply it to my original hypothesis that a capitalist structure continuously pushes, "Don't take no for an answer," then those participants in a capitalist economy really have no choice (and are ultimately unwilling) but to participate, and they "could" be considered victims if they fail in effectively teaching "You need to take no as a final answer and then move on" this what you are saying?

5th Guest: And it might behoove us to remember that heterosexual marriage is originally conceived of as economic exchange between two men, long before the birth of capitalism. The language of capitalism, of course, helps to cover up the exploitive nature of that relationship, just as commodity fetishism hides the importance of labor in the production of wealth.

My comment: (To 5th Guest), Excellent point. Another thing that comes to mind in thinking of the original meme above and all of the following comments comes from a book I read by Dr. Martha Stout called, The Sociopath Next Door.
     Dr. Stout posits in that book (based on research) that 4% of the population in the U.S. has no conscience, and she draws a clear connection to capitalism. The rate is like .04% in other developed countries that are much higher in socialism. She states that capitalism as a system rewards sociopathic traits, and that sociopathy itself is not restricted to serial killers. It's valuable to CEO's, business people, nurses, politicians, etc. because "power" and "access to power" are the core values.
     To relate this back to the original meme, the writer wants parents to raise children who respect boundaries. But raising a child who respects boundaries may destroy any chance they have to thrive, because the people who don't respect boundaries are continuously rewarded. In other words, the person who is a sociopath goes on to make all the money and to become the boss and overlord of the person that respects boundaries.
     Just to be clear, I'm not saying that all children who are raised to respect boundaries shall be crippled financially and perhaps be doomed to poverty and struggle. But it might be wise for all of us to take a look at what we are seeing in real life and see if courtesy and playing by the rules is rewarded with money and respect (two things that are considered "of value" in our present society). Also, Dr. Stout says that the occurrence of sociopathy is rising with every new generation. This will have an effect on every aspect of life.

5th Guest: (Michael Offutt) Wow.

And that was pretty much the end of the discussion. I wanted more people to weigh in, but no one has commented in days. It gathered quite a few "likes" along the way, and I think I got people to start contemplating the deeper ramifications that this meme sought to deliver from a unique perspective.

I didn't really like the comments from the 1st Guest all that much. I thought that she was not understanding anything I was saying and might have been a person (for example) with cognitive processing issues. The problem with pointing that out though is that the person would never believe it, which is a kind of cognitive bias that results in straw man arguments and futile communication. Essentially, it's why humans have difficulties being on the same page (as populations swell to massive numbers).

My thoughts on the meme are pretty much that its heart seems to be in the right place, but passing this task of teaching boundaries as something that is easy and obvious (and ultimately a sign of good parenting) is completely wrong. Furthermore, it's my opinion that the problem pointed out in the meme is just a symptom of a much bigger problem. In the end I had no definitive answers, only questions about effectiveness and application.  For one, would this thing (if applied by only those who read it) actually make any difference at all in the world because it's application is such an enormous undertaking (if one's goal is to affect a change in an entire society)? And second, if one's goal is to not affect a change in an entire society, then my next question is: "What then is the point? To push the tide back with a broom?"

Please leave your thoughts in the comments :).


  1. I don't think capitalism has anything to do with it. The only society where this wouldn't happen is some kind of matriarchal one like the Amazons.

    1. The issue. It's a sociological issue, not an economic one.

    2. I obviously don't agree. If you even google "how sociology is related to economics" there's numerous articles that talk about the important link between economics and sociology. For example, a lot of social behavior is governed BY economics. Sociologists worldwide recognize that economic and material interests have a strong effect on the workings of society.

    3. Capitalism, communism, feudalism, you'll still have this behavior.

  2. BTW totally unrelated you're welcome 😁

  3. Can we attempt to cure society's ills?

    In the end, I go back to my New Age-y beliefs. Everything is a lesson. We're all at different parts of "soul school". We end up in situations that'll teach us the lessons we need to progress to the next level. It's not up to us to cure society. That this is an issue speaks to how many souls need this lesson at this point in time.

    Capitalism is an issue. It doesn't work, at least, it doesn't give the maximum number of people the best life they can have. It's a rigged system, keeping a large segment of the population poor to benefit the few. And those few are fighting like hell to keep their privilege.

    Capitalism is based on a scarcity mindset. And we've found that many things in it don't actually work. But so many people are invested in it, and they've been taught that it's the only way, that it'll be hard to move to something different.

    So, I again go off topic. Perhaps I should follow you on Facebook and then I can go off topic there, too.