Friday, April 29, 2011

Dual-use technologies

There's a lot of anti-social stuff in mainstream US culture that gets perpetuated because US society isn't organized for the benefit, but rather at the expense, of people. All the ways that people are encouraged to look up or down at each other on the basis of every conceivable criteria are truly a hot mess to behold.

The point I was getting at last week is that professionalization, by elevating individuals to important positions of influence and authority, has to filter some of this junk out if the overarching purpose of capital accumulation is going to be fulfilled. Capital accumulation is too important to have every board meeting conclude with someone screaming, "Fuck you, asshole," as would be customary when the same person negotiates over a parking spot.

Professionalism as an ethos is appealed to constantly in a business-run society, and some of us internalize what is decent about it without any external incentives. When I go to work, there is a point of pride about doing something well, not being a lazy bastard, and not ripping off my employer that can have meaning for me even if I see in employment itself a monumental fraud. As colleagues have expressed it, this is something that is important in how we regard ourselves, and how our work ethic impacts other people who are stuck in the same situation. I've known many lazy bastards whose laziness hurt their co-workers far more than it did the owning classes; they are not inspiring examples of resistance, in my view.

In this sense, professionalism can be seen to have different meanings and applications, including those which arise out of contradictory positions. The worker and the employer can have competing reasons to endorse different parts of the same phenomenon: for the employer, hierarchy and control; for the worker, integrity and cooperation. I think this is probably coming close to the logic of a dialectic; which is to say, we want to understand the meaning of something from the vantage point of what are often opposing perspectives, not fall into the trap of regarding it only from one side, or one side at a time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We've got a utopian situation here

The Jersey Shore has a sort of communal set-up, so let's think of it as a utopian communist experiment. Like any utopian political project, all material considerations are provided for, and conflict resolution usually amounts to one or another participant bellowing, "Bring it on, bitch!," in the way that only the most committed idealist can supply. There are communal living spaces, a communal copulation corner, and, as US custom would have it, the communal Cadillac Escalade. Marx called the earliest human societies "primitive communism," but even they were sophisticated enough not to endorse petroleum-powered entertainment systems, preferring what we would today call "running." Don't plume where you eat is an important lesson for contemporary utopians.

I'd rather live communally with Jenni "Jwoww" than someone like myself. It's not the fake breasts. It's that there's less pretense about other things that I actually care about. It's like if you put two people in a room who both had a lot of pretense about their breasts, there would be this competitive pressure to be all about the breasts. So when it comes to someone like myself, who operates with too much pretense along the lines of what he is about, don't put me in a room with another person like that, because we will see through each other and bicker about foolish things nobody else cares about. The easiest way to identify two pretentious people is when they bicker at length about things nobody else cares about.

It's also good from a dialectical perspective to experience life not as sameness but as difference and contrast. Personally, I don't like to use the word "dialectical" because I'm not sure I understand what it means. But I get the point about having different tendencies come together as a synthesis. In other words, you can listen to someone like Noam Chomsky talk, and that's interesting. On the other hand, if you put Noam Chomsky in the communal hot tub with Ronnie and The Situation, you'd get a lot more information than you ever could by just letting one dude talk. Now that I think of it, this is why the Q&A portion of any Chomsky-type lecture is always the most interesting, at least for me. There are more Situations in the audience than there are in Chomsky's brain.

I guess the whole point of this is to say that if you are one way, don't try to surround yourself with a bunch of people who are the same way, as if more meaningful differences won't surface naturally. It is tempting to believe that how we identify, our pretenses about ourselves, provide us with the information we need to distinguish between allies and adversaries at first glance, just because we look for a "match" in others. No wonder this formula so often fails, when all we are doing is comparing pretenses! What we believe about ourselves and what other people believe about themselves will never reveal anything like that which is discovered through the work of real relationships.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Just sayin'

The prospect of paying $15 for catering at the retirement party of a much-celebrated colleague has inspired an upswell of resistance amongst the rank-and-file in my department. $15 -- and no drinks? Could this be Pennsylvania's Egypt?

It's worth noting that the, ahem, woman who thought to organize the whole thing and pay the up-front costs has since had her motives called into question by the very co-workers she won't go to lunch or dinner with -- no matter how many times they ask! What is she getting out of these so-called catering expenses that couldn't, in point of fact, be put toward an open bar? What volume of slander can be sustained about her in the meantime?

This is why guys have to be on point about feminism, if they want to be on point about anything.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Status update

Pretty good extended holiday weekend. Believed myself to have great revolutionary potential in nearly every encounter, but was thwarted by a familial preference for sporting events and the sensation of not feeling awkward. The good news is that Petite Sirah is like a revolution in the mouth -- at one point I think I experienced communism in the corner. Also: Saw first episode ever of Dancing with the Stars. Jimminy Christmas, man. The revolution needs a whole new party planner. This concludes my weekend report from the front lines of hearts and minds.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The professional

Professionalization, we have noted, is a kind of socialization in which powers and privileges are received in exchange for meeting a given profession's standards and norms. How we judge this process depends on how we feel about the ultimate ends that such professions serve. Lawyers, for example, make their own contribution toward what is both "good" and "bad" about society; in evaluating the legal profession as a whole, one can draw certain conclusions about its social impact. But the standards by which any profession comports itself evolve out of the goals it pursues under particular circumstances. Every profession wants to succeed, and this implies an economic motive. Under conditions of advanced inequality, we can expect a profession's goals, and the underlying socialization it promotes, to be oriented accordingly.

The goals of the professions, in other words, are informed by the broadest goals of the society. The broad economic goal of capitalism is economic growth, or what Marx calls capital accumulation. The professions are shaped by this -- and any of you who are professionals can speak to this more eloquently than I. Whatever the nominal, socially-accepted goal of your profession might be, it competes with money considerations all the time. This happens so regularly that well-meaning professionals are disheartened to think that their career is more obligated to profit than to people.

Anytime socialization becomes subordinated to a specific goal, the "right" and "wrong" that people learn is an ethics only as it relates to achieving that particular goal. If you are a doctor, it's "wrong" to spend an hour with a patient, even if you want to advise them better, because it's "right" by institutional requirements to do seven more evaluations in the same amount of time. Being a doctor, in this case, means withholding patient care in order to maximize economic efficiency -- the broad goal of the for-profit health industry.

The purpose of professionalization within the context of US society, then, is to produce a culture within the professions which serves their broad goals as informed by that society. This culture may have components that we would endorse in any context, and that might be lacking in the general socialization of the population at large. Let's consider here the relationship between feminism and US professional culture.

There is a very good reason why major US corporations have come to implement certain feminist initiatives as policy within their ranks. That this has anything to do with a consistent advocacy for the interests of women is laid bare by their refusal to consider other important requests all the time. But in the face of legal action or needless disruption within the workplace, many firms have come to embrace "zero tolerance" sexual harassment policies which women broadly endorse. And this in turn informs the professional culture of corporations.

But lawsuits and workplace disruption which arise in response to hostile behavior are placed by for-profit institutions in the same category as other feminist goals, like equal pay or paid maternity leave: they are expenses to be avoided. In the case of sexual harassment, the interests of women and the interest of corporations coincide insofar as women have made it too costly for employers to ignore their demands. A corporation may institute sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity trainings as a result, but this is because it speaks the language of profits, not feminism.

Nevertheless, this "feminism by decree" contributes to the liberal contours of professional culture in the US in a way that the general population, not similarly socialized, frequently lacks. Even if a don't-gape-at-your-coworker's-breasts-because-you-might-lose-your-job approach has its limits, US professionalism is credited as having accomplished something within its domain that US culture in general has yet to achieve. The point to remember here is why it has done this -- not merely that it has -- so that we might anticipate the boundaries of its benevolence.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I am Pauly D

When it comes to "just being themselves," the cast of the Jersey Shore appeal to this above all. Part of this relates to the show's overall concept, which amounts to the merchandising of "lower class" ethnic personalities; specifically, those whose self-regard is "out of line" with their social standing. But the cast are plausibly genuine in many ways, and I think any good reality television producer would want it this way. Edited spontaneity from their stars is just an easier prospect than elaborate coaching or other forms of micromanagement. Naturally, we have already taken into account the unnatural environment in which the cast are expected to live, and considerable, if unseen, interference run by the crew in order to achieve broad outcomes.

The individual personalities within the cast are no different than many people I know; in an important sense they are no different than me. Of course, I am also different in many ways -- but not in any sense that I consider important. I don't care if people want to spend their time working out or getting tan; is that better or worse than how I spend my time? If the argument is that these people are petty and self-absorbed and spiteful -- I am all of these things, too! As hard as I try, it's very difficult to find an angle where the "notorious" cast of the Jersey Shore are intrinsically more awful than me or anyone else I know, especially when we accord differences in behavior to divergent experiences, opportunities, and privileges -- i.e. to advantages which US society hardly supplies in an even-handed way!

The cultural attributes of the cast are of course meant to be signifiers of a "lower class" that we should regard as important. We're supposed to be able to sum up the worth of an individual just by looking at how they dress or hearing how they talk. This is deeply ingrained in us, and, from the vantage point of power, its utility stems from the disincentive it provides anytime we feel tempted to meaningfully relate to another human being.

Whatever conflicts transpire between the cast members themselves or between themselves and others, the first thing I take from the whole experience is an awareness that the Jersey Shore is trying very hard to tell me what to think about individuals on the basis that they fall into established social categories that I never found compelling in the first place.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


N.W.A., "Kamurshol":

You have witnessed, you have heard
So we're gonna take time out for a commercial break

Last week commenter biggayslut asked: Is it fair to say you also like Jersey Shore for some of the reasons that its intended audience likes it?

I don't know that I'm not part of the Jersey Shore's intended audience; I'm probably close to whatever age range marketers hope to reach through that show. Do I like it for the same reasons other people do? Why, isn't it just like someone who goes by the handle "biggayslut" to be awake to the possibilities!

In a similar vein, commenter Todd S. hints at a newfound "temptation" to watch the show, which he resists valiantly. Let me just reassure everyone who is concerned about the corrupting tendencies of the Jersey Shore by offering my own foolproof method of inoculating oneself against its dangers.

First, fill an oversized brandy snifter to the brim with your favorite boxed red wine. A snifter is the kind of thing you procure from the "stemware" division of Crate & Barrel. As for boxed wine, Bota Box Shiraz is how I roll at present. Don't worry about the fucking bouquet -- you can smell that later. Just fill'er up.

It goes without saying that anytime my brandy snifter is engaged we are having a bonafide occasion. And do you know what that means in my household? Looking your best! Because, let's face it, looking your best means feeling your best. If you spend a lot of time in capitalistic society, this is important, because capitalism can get you down.

Inside the domicile, a dude of my sensibilities has two options for footwear, depending on the season. One are the L.L. Bean slippers that my mom gives me every year for Christmas. I don't know what animal they are made out of, or what quantity of congealed, dead human labor resides within. Sometimes you're just too busy writing a kick-ass anticapitalism blog to take the time to find out, you dig?

The other option are what I regard as my finest dress shoes: Mexican-made Crocs with the leather sown right into the plastic. If you've ever lived in my urban area and regularly worn Crocs around you quickly find that few other souls do -- which I believe is proof of something.

The last necessary item of apparel I should mention are the Grinch-themed pajama bottoms that my mother-in-law got me too many years ago; she really needs to think about getting me a replacement pair, because now when the cats claw my gonads there just isn't enough material to make it worthwhile. Anyway, the Grinch-theme is what I like to call "ironic," because I'm not actually anything like the Grinch, even if he is kind of lanky. Not that I've ever really sorted out what "ironic" means, though.

Finally, if you're going to watch something like the Jersey Shore, I find I require somebody else to be present in the room. Luckily, I have a partner who will often perform this role, even if she thinks the show is "horrible" and insists I stop writing about it. This is where looking your best comes into play, because if it weren't for that, one's powers of persuasion might be critically impaired. All the more so when your companion will not be taken in by boxed red wine.

As an anarchist, I can't in good conscience tell you what to watch or what to think any more than I should tell you what to wear or what to drink. What's important in your case is what you watch and think and wear and drink for your own reasons. I can't possibly know what those are -- you have to tell me. As I like to say, you really have to start fucking shit up in your own way.

Nevertheless, I have shared with you my own patented method of not being corrupted by any individual object of mass consumption. Follow this method precisely and you are sure to remain emancipated from the worst excesses of modern living!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The seductive threat of just being yourself

Much excitement is derived from the Jersey Shore's ghetto-style assault on professional culture in the US. For starters, professionalism is a mandatory form of socialization insofar as anyone hopes to meaningfully "succeed" in US society; it affords the only kind of social status and power made available to the working classes: a respectably elevated position within the social hierarchy; or, power over others.

Many people resent this whether they are professionals or not. From a very young age we are taught what we need to do if we want to have any kind of respectable life, and by and large this entails conforming not to our own standards of right and wrong but to somebody else's. Somebody else, after all, has in their possession what we need to live respectably, and we have to get this through them. We do not learn that we can be respectable by "just being ourselves" in a comprehensive way.

The appeal of the Jersey Shore comes precisely from the notion that the cast members are "just being themselves" in spite of the fact that this often exceeds the scope set by the idealized norms of professionalization. No one in their right mind is supposed to "just be themselves" if this is likely to antagonize a potential employer. US audiences understand this implicitly, owing to the experience of class in their lives: if they behaved like someone on the Jersey Shore, or merely like "themselves," they could lose their social standing altogether. Any population so dependent on external sources of legitimation is subsequently enthralled by apparent examples of individuals who don't give a damn.

Monday, April 18, 2011

That's so ghetto!

As a commodity, the Jersey Shore is controversial because it is seen as promoting a kind of ethnic "ghetto culture." Within US society, ghetto culture stands in contradistinction to professionalization. Professionalization is a form of socialization in which power and privilege are received in exchange for conforming to the established norms of a professional authority. Historically, such possibilities have been closed off to certain groups, like African-Americans, because of racism. The "ghetto" concept has since referred to any enforced alienation from mainstream society; it is now commonly embraced within popular culture as a rejection of society's official terms, ostensibly in response. Hence, ghetto culture.

Ghetto culture's popularity has predictably led, within a capitalist context, to the commercialization and industrial reproduction of its various forms, for the enrichment of the same professional trade groups it claims to oppose. A lot has been said about this, and I'm not going to pursue it further here, since we can expect nothing less from capitalism. The salient point is that ghetto culture, especially when reproduced on an industrial scale, regularly frustrates and undermines the hegemony of professional culture within US society, in important and not infrequently comical ways.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Things come between us

First let's talk about category 3, which refers to the relationship between ourselves and commodities as they are produced under capitalism.

In the United States, capitalism has developed to the point where everyone is a "consumer": everyone is identified as a potential buyer of something which contributes to capital accumulation. Even if you can't afford health insurance, or a cell phone, the government will purchase these for you, so that no one is denied their right to contribute to capital accumulation in these spheres. As Marx writes, the purpose of capitalist production is not producing what people need, but rather the production of surplus-value, or profit, for the owners of productive wealth. Marx located the source of such profit within the industrial process itself, where people are compensated for one part of their working time, while uncompensated for the rest. Because this happens within production, capitalism has every incentive to produce lots of things -- and as many people as possible to buy them -- quite irrespective of the particular needs which are met: Those needs best met will be whichever best meet the need for profit.

Once this becomes the status quo, a big part of how we understand ourselves culturally stems from distinctions arising out of the different commodities we "consume."* We are implicated in consuming some things, like food and other necessities, if we want to live; and even more things the more we want to participate in mainstream social life, since few social experiences are left which don't also serve as a mode of commercial transaction. We are always buying something -- so how we understand each other comes in large part from the meanings attached to the things we buy.

As a commodity, the Jersey Shore imparts its own cultural stamp on the audiences who watch it. That this is so has been made clear to me in the high emotions everyone I know brings to any discussion of it. Even the people who like it are sort of embarrassed by the fact; and the people who don't like it really don't like it, seeing in it something sinister.

Within the predominantly professional circle of my friends and family, this all makes sense, since watching the Jersey Shore does not communicate what they would prefer to communicate about themselves via the things they consume. Watching the Jersey Shore might be the TV equivalent of shopping at Wal-Mart -- it's bad!

But the cultural baggage of universal commodification goes both ways. If you try to read a book like Marx's Capital as a route to understanding between yourself and other working people, inevitably you are pegged as the consumer of a particular kind of commodity. This tells other people everything they need to know about you: namely, that you are either extremely smart for "consuming" philosophy; or that you are a poseur who is working really hard to be seen this way!**

Consequently, people seeing me the way they do are doubly eager to declare their position on something like the Jersey Shore; for example, because their expectation of someone who reads a lot is that I wouldn't be interested in commodities that don't promote this, or which appear to go against it. So let me just reassure everyone that, much like my good friend Marx, I am indeed very interested in commodities of every sort, and much for the same reasons: because my relationships with other people are so profoundly shaped by them, and because for my purposes I have no choice but to engage.

* Network television shows aren't strictly something we buy, but for simplicity's sake I will treat them as though they are; people relate to something like the Jersey Shore as they do any other commodity, by "consuming" or not consuming it depending on their preferences.

** A friend once assured me that while she regarded me as the first type, anyone else she saw reading Capital in public must surely be the second.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happily begin by knowing nothing

Our maps may be used as transparencies to be superimposed on the things we see. This is helpful anytime we are in a situation that we don't know a lot about. For instance, I don't know anything significant about reality television. I rarely see television -- except as it has recently been configured to Netflix through the Wii. Now I see more television, but I don't know anything special about it, nor am I particularly invested in it one way or the other. If you have a strong opinion about it, that's great. I am only regarding it to the extent that I am engaged with it at present -- with a developed understanding of my own commitments, and without any particular technical understanding of, say, reality television in general.

Anyway, right now Netflix lets you watch Season 2 of the Jersey Shore instantly. So that's what I'm considering. As stated earlier, my main concern in general is people trying to tell other people what to do without any good reason for it -- whatever name you want to call that. I credit anarchism in my case, for better or worse, because this is what I take from it on a practical level. Nevertheless, this remains the operative concept which informs my overarching map -- Marxism's narrower focus, on the other hand, is how the capitalist mode of production "tells people what to do" without asking anybody's preference on many important subjects; the Marxist map is concerned with one example of "people trying to tell others what to do" insofar as propertied classes have more power than the dispossessed under capitalism.

When it comes to some people trying to tell others what to do, there are three categories I am concerned with in the case of something like the Jersey Shore:

1) The relationships between cast members and other individuals appearing on the show

2) The relationship between 1) and the production crew

3) The relationship between myself and others as an audience and the Jersey Shore as a commercial product we "consume"

These are the places I am primarily interested in looking at. With a little luck I hope to get started soon!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Socialist social skills

A continuing conversation with Jaded Sixteen of Oi With The Poodles Already.

JRB: One of the groups you've flagged for abusive behavior at your blog are people identifying themselves as Marxist. Part of what ladypoverty has tried to do lately is to read Marx's Capital as a critique of economic authority under capitalism (in other words, it is this sort of critique; we are simply trying to understand it), and this has attracted a certain audience interested in Marx. "Marxism" as a revolutionary doctrine hasn't really been discussed; and the thrust of this blog is anarchist: in principle, it is concerned with all forms of authority. You seem to be encountering some very dogmatic types, and they don't seem interested in authority as it manifests itself in abundant ways. Could you talk about this as you have experienced it; and also, talk about your encounters with others of the radical male left, including those identifying as anarchist?

JS: I don't think these people are particularly dogmatic, they seem pretty open to ideas of over-throwing any form of authority -- I assume this is why they even lurk on my blog -- their problem with me stems from the fact that I 'reject' Marx -- and if some anonymous dude from half way across the world makes such a claim, then it must be entirely true, no? -- and LE GASP think Marx is colonial and thus as postcolonial subjects of the 'ex'-Empire we can't apply Marxism to our policies.

I've pointed out that nowhere have I ever said, "Marx is a colonial douche! Let's all burn Das Kapital now and dance forever around the bonfire"*, rather just suggested that we need other modes of Marxism, namely the routes suggested by Gramsci, Spivak (when talking of postcolonial theory) and maybe Amartaya Sen and Arundhati Roy (when speaking of democracies and economics). And of course, me being a dusty lady factors in this equation too, so basically the e-mails and/or comments that I get are along the lines of, "Shut up you bleedy Indian mouth!! Marx isn't terrible!! You are blinded by hatred and racism!" and I have now concluded that when *these* people read my blog, all they see is this:

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Kill Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Marx Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Now Blah Blah.

And now I don't give a single fuck as to what they write or what they want. It all goes straight to the spam bin and spares me a migraine.

*This is a quote from an e-mail. No, this is not a joke.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Realities, television

A lot is made of the fact that reality television isn't sufficiently real: The circumstances people are put in are contrived to produce particular effects; and how facts are presented is left to the discretion of unseen professionals who manipulate things further. What is true about relations and circumstances as experienced is not honored so much as appearances. But this is why I think of reality television as an excellent metaphor for life in consumer societies, where appearances register a higher value than truth; and where our daily experiences revolve mechanically, often in line with somebody else's script. Reality TV is perhaps the most transparent example of what is done to us all the time -- maybe that's why it bugs us!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Snooki and me

If you go into an experience like watching the Jersey Shore having already mapped out your social commitments, then I think you can't help but approach the people involved in a sympathetic way. This necessarily includes not only the cast and whoever else works on the show, but also the audiences who watch it -- including yourself and whoever else you might watch it with.

For me, the fundamental social concern always comes back to instances where someone is trying to tell someone else what to do. Historically speaking, this is supremely dangerous; and so anarchism has evolved as a politics which places the burden of proof on whomever makes such claims. Sometimes this burden can be met, but since legitimation can only come from whomever is primarily affected, justification must be demonstrated to them. If the burden can't be met, the claim is illegitimate by assumption -- to be ignored, resisted or overcome as need be.

My starting point for the Jersey Shore is Season 2, which for whatever reason is set in Miami. This along with many other details isn't important; for now I'm only interested in what's in front of me.

First and foremost are the people in my life and the circumstances they are in. As one of my closest relations said to me, when she comes home from work the Jersey Shore is just the caliber of programming she wants to see. She is saying something about herself, something about the show, but perhaps most significantly something about her job. If you've ever had a job, you know that it can include large doses of other people trying to tell you what to do. This is important, especially in light of how it impacts the rest of our lives.

Secondly, there is the cast of the Jersey Shore, who like the rest of us would rather do anything more interesting for a living than simply take orders from somebody else. And yet, as we will see, our friends don't exactly escape this fate, even if their work is "more interesting" than what they might have encountered otherwise. It nevertheless carries its own costs. Our Marxist map is helpful for understanding how economic forces push us toward certain options -- like the single-minded pursuit of fame -- when in general we feel like we don't have many. So I want to signal my sympathy toward the cast from the very beginning, for these reasons.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Into the social network

It used to be that people came together around the fire. Now they come together around the television.

Our social commitments often bring us together with people in front of the television. This can be a wonderful thing as long as we keep our social commitments first. It would be a terrible thing if we let a technology alienate us from others on the basis that we need it more than them; or, at the other extreme, insofar as we stand too stridently apart from those who "need" it at all. A commitment to other people implies sometimes going where other people want to take you, if only because you are interested in them, whatever your feelings about the place they are taking you. The most socially committed people will be the ones best prepared to go anywhere, in observance of their commitments.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Things, people, and ideas

Swim in the sea of commodities because this is where you will find the people.

If you can talk to others about things, at the very least you aren't gossiping with them about people. And if your Marxism map is drawn well, for example, it's not hard to connect what is popular about things to a more constructive discussion about what is important to people. In any case, it's always important to move conversation away from what we like or don't like about people or things, toward the relevant relationship between the two. It's at this point that we begin to talk about ideas.

Talking about ideas isn't something that we get a lot of practice at in advanced consumer societies, however. Ideas in themselves become "things" which we regard in our role as consumers. What is normally a process becomes a commodity, or finished product. This idea is "awesome," that one is "stupid." The consumer is always casting an up or down vote, rather than seeing possibilities where perhaps no one else does; or the limitations of something that only works in one context.

If you've ever seen a group of people assembled together to "discuss anarchism," more often than not what you've encountered is a narrow subset of consumers who might as well be "fans" of any other kind of commodity. As long as it is conceived as a "thing," not a process, anarchism is just something else to adorn oneself with and fret about, rather than a map by which to know the world. You will know the former by the pointless acrimony that ensues; the latter by the impulse to always want to learn more, in whatever context.