Humanities

I’ve been very distracted by humanities lately and I am even contemplating making a career in it, which would have been farthest from my mind in high school or college. In high school, I struggled greatly with English class when in the novels I was forced to read, I couldn’t understand what was going on half of the time, due to misunderstanding of definitions of words or lack of requisite familiarity with the cultural context. There is also that I only started learning English at age 6, without being exposed to it much at home, which means I don’t know the English names of certain household items. Literature made little sense to me, but history I rather liked, though I disliked the American rendition of history.

I started reading Chinese online in high school. It was very difficult for me at that time, but gradually I was able to make sense of things. For language at school, I took Spanish and I was horrendous at it. I’ve forgotten most of it by now, but I could easily relearn it with my much enhanced level of verbal maturity. I’m not very motivated to learn Spanish anymore because there isn’t very much high culture in it (pardon my snobbery).

I hardly took humanities courses in college, but I did take a few that were required. I remember vividly how in the writing class I took most of the students couldn’t write coherently at all. I did starting in my third year of college develop an interest in Chinese poetry. I remember spending quite a while to memorize 蜀道难, without understanding what it was really saying as it was full of type of Chinese language literary that I had no exposure to at that time. I started reading Baidu Baike without feeling like it was too overwhelming.

In high school and even in college, it never occurred to me to take humanities seriously. There are no jobs in that. And students who major in it, at least not in the very top schools, are pretty fucking dumb. Additionally, I always considered language my weak point. In high school, I remember calculus being super easy for me while English class being almost torture. I had to really force myself to write those literary analyses and memorize the details of what happened in the each chapter of Dubliners by James Joyce so that I could actually ace the quizzes. Honestly, how do you fucking expect high school students to really understand what’s going on in that.

Early in my fourth year of undergraduate, I started learning Russian out of a desire to understand the lyrics of some beautiful Russian songs. Also, the grammar of the language, being highly inflectional, was quite fascinating. Also, the Soviet Union, which shaped the course of 20th century history so substantially, was viewed by me as an entity to be understood to a reasonable level.

I know American education really emphasizes liberal education where in undergraduate you study very generally. It is in contrast to many other systems, where students focus mostly on their major in college. In China, the education system of which was influenced by the Soviet Union in the 50s, has very specific majors, where say you major and engineering and by the time you graduate you are already sort of an expert in a very narrow part of engineering, such as automobile engines. So because of that, I didn’t actually learn a ton of math or computer science despite majoring in them, although it also had to do with my having been quite dysfunctional back then.

On humanities, I’ve also seen people who major in them as rather spoiled. “English literature” was cited by a Chinese immigrant engineer I worked with as something for rich people who don’t have to worry about making a living. Yes, there are actually parents who pay for their kids’ tuition at a non-state school which is like $50k / year now for them to study a useless subject with no employment prospects, and I’ve even seen cases of parents paying them for continual study. To be fair, just being able to study is already privilege. After all, most people in this world not by choice are engaged in menial labor that is often also dangerous and bad for health. It’s especially egregious when these useless humanities students (many of whom aren’t even any good at humanities or language) also support very unprogressive and even vile politics. There are probably many of those at many of America’s Ivies (I’ve been told that at Yale the major for kids who party too much to graduate is American Studies). On that other hand, there are obvious advantages of entitlement, which I won’t go into.

I grew up in very ordinary middle class American neighborhoods, surrounded by very ordinary people. I wasn’t like the other kids at all, though the environment made me fit in artificially. That there are parents who spend over $50k / year on enrichment for their (often idiot) children was so foreign to me at that time. I believed firmly in, by virtue of upbringing, meritocracy, and the gradual realization of the world’s so not being that way was rather disillusioning. Why play it fair when you don’t have to? Instead of feeling of disgust at such, I have evolved to view it as very normal and inherent to human nature.

As for humanities, I haven’t been reading novels in their entirety, which I don’t really have the patience for, but I have learned countless words in Chinese, English, and Russian, which I have a much better memory for now. The humanities culture in China, a rich civilization and culture of millennia, which I have indirect access to via my internet connection, has deeply impressed me. I read classic poetry in it and imagine how anybody could have possibly written this. It is evident that I am still quite a ways away from the big brains in anything, and it is possible that I am simply not naturally talented enough. I will say though that most kids in my current generation, especially in America, are as dumb and ignorant as rocks. Is this due to genetic deterioration or due to the degenerate culture that pervades my generation? I feel like much is the inability of many to recognize that latter and the mental courage to counter it at the expense of some degree of social isolation. We are in an era of civilizational decline, and when I say this, I echo the private exchanges among many highly gifted and aesthetically discerning people who must hide to some degree in the suffocating atmosphere of this country, especially in the corporate world.

Most of my friends are in STEM, in fields like math or software engineering, so the types within my milieu constitute a rather lopsided group. I have little contact with any in the world of humanities and social science in America and I am curious as to what kind of people they are. Well, Steve Hsu says many of them are high V lower M types, confused, in the likes of Stephen Gould. My temporary loss of interest in mathy material is worrisome. Am I degenerating into those I looked down on as saying nothing of substance. (In case you haven’t noticed, I am saying absolutely nothing of substance right now, but perhaps it needs to be said for social and political reasons, as part of an cultural/ideological war in some sense?) Perhaps this is an artifact towards my intelligence shifting more towards the verbal end of things? Could it possibly be that now with some more years of organic cognitive maturation I am now metamorphosing towards the reverse direction of lopsidedness?

When I talk with people in the software profession, it is apparent that they are types for whom learning natural language is unintuitive, despite programming being a very languagy pursuit, with many programmers conspicuously bad at math, as the work is of a very qualitative nature. There had been to me many parallels to writing in software engineering to my blind intuition but such is clearly not the case empirically.

There are many people, especially certain parents, who will say that once you’re an age, you can’t just study and that you have to go out and earn money and do something that’s directly useful to others, that makes some tangible contribution to society. That can be writing software or building houses or scrubbing toilets. But it can’t be hiding in academia, especially in a subject like pure math or comparative literature. There are all these stereotypes of about those in pursuit of or already in possession of Permanent Head Damage as kids who don’t want to grow up many of whom also lack common sense or have no practical skills, who manage to put spoons and forks flat on the dishwasher. There are also stereotypes in virtually all societies that those people only know books and are often too uppity to engage in forms of labor regarded as more menial.

I thought that maybe I could go into history or political science or language. Maybe I could even make a career in that. It’s not impossible. Or maybe even go into the legal profession?

I’m at a loss on where to take my life as software, which I’m not bad at, does seem not to marry my personality. Most software engineers will see me as too weird for say learning Russian on my own. Now am I one of those dysfunctional weirdos who can only survive in academia, which we already know has no jobs? Also, at this point, I am mostly a consumer, rather than a producer, of knowledge, a state of intellectual incapacity that will hopefully alter itself. There have been times when I could not help but see myself as good for nothing, though surely my standards on that are quite high. Hopefully, I can find something in which I can truly excel and even make a name for myself. Let’s see if that happens.

Languages

I find myself increasingly into languages and the humanities, more exclusively verbally loaded things. This is in contrast with my high school self, who was quite weak with that. I recall struggling greatly with English class. I dreaded reading novels and writing those BS literary analyses of them because there were so many places where I’d be completely at sea, and plus, I wasn’t very good with writing or communication in any way. Also, I lacked common sense and general knowledge, indispensable for literature. From that I could only conclude that I’m very naturally bad at literature and at verbal things.

I also remember being having really low self-esteem in third grade because I couldn’t read Harry Potter, which many of the other kids seemed to have with ease and with great enjoyment. I only started learning English at almost 6.5 years of age, so I guess I do have some excuse for sucking at these things. Also, there was also this slang I didn’t know even in middle school, which the other kids taunted me for. I was also overly literal minded and couldn’t get jokes or idioms. Maybe because I was borderline autistic? Who knows.

Anyhow, with some more years of age all this has mostly disappeared. I still wouldn’t consider myself super high V, like +4 sigma at this. If I were, I wouldn’t have to look up so many Russian words despite having studied it (entirely independently, with some long hiatuses) since fall of 2013! That I did by accident on my desire to understand the lyrics of Катюша (Katyusha), which is such a beautiful song. From this, I was brought into the beauty of Soviet music, which I listen to regularly to this day. Those composers were such high aesthetic discernment! I can’t think of any national music that is better than Soviet music!

Because I’m not a genius, unlike Pushkin or Lenin, I feel like I actually have to do deliberate practice; I can’t just learn by osmosis, even with internet dictionaries and Google translate. Sure, one can say I never had formal training, but I don’t think formal training makes much difference. The genuinely gifted tend to be able to learn things on their own without feeling like they’re trying. And needless to say, no matter what instruction you are given, it’s still up to you to form the mental processes required for mastery.

The best way to do deliberate practice is to perform some translations, at my current level. I’ll do one here, on this writing of Lenin on anti-Semitism. From doing this, I can hopefully remember all the words that I don’t know permanently. To be less uncreative, I’ll do it in a very analytical way, you’ll see what I mean.

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Антисемитизмом называется распространение вражды к евреям. Anti-Semitism is on called enlarged spread of enmity towards Jews. Когда проклятая царская монархия доживала свое последнее время, она старалась натравить темных рабочих и крестьян на евреев. What time сursed Tsarist monarchy to lived its through track time, she tried on incite dark workers and peasants on Jews. Царская полиция в союзе с помещиками и капиталистами устраивала еврейские погромы. Tsarist police in union with through place and capitalists with concrete purpose build Jewish through thunder. Ненависть измученных нуждой рабочих и крестьян помещики и капиталисты старались направить на евреев. Not on see from wear out by need workers and peasants landlords and capitalists tried on drive on Jews. И в других странах приходится видеть нередко, что капиталисты разжигают вражду к евреям, чтобы засорить глаза рабочего, чтобы отвлечь их взоры от настоящего врага трудящихся – от капитала. And in other countries motion inwards go see without sparsity, that capitalists enlarged burn enmity towards Jews, what conditionally cover waste eyes of workers, what conditionally away attract them in dawn away on standing enemy of working people – from capital. Вражда к евреям держится прочно только там, где кабала помещиков и капиталистов создала беспросветную темноту рабочих и крестьян. Enmity towards Jews holds firmly only there, where bondage of landlords and capitalists with built without having light darkness of workers and peasants. Только совсем темные, совсем забитые люди могут верить лжи и клевете, распространяемой против евреев. Only with all dark, with all with beaten people can believe lies and libel, enlarged spread against Jews. Это – остатки старого крепостного времени, когда попы заставляли сжигать еретиков на кострах, когда существовало рабство крестьян, когда народ был задавлен и безгласен. These – of stay of old serf time, what time priests with to make burn heretics on stake, what time existed slavery of peasants, what time on humanity were on weighed and without voice. Эта старая крепостническая темнота проходит. Народ становится зрячим. This old feudal darkness through go. People become able to see.

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I stopped after the first paragraph. There are few more. I won’t continue on like this because it’s a bit too tedious and not the best use of my time. This exercise did help much educationally for me.

What Lenin described is basically a common tactic used by colonialists (and current day corporate executives), namely directing their enemy against a harmless, easy to target group, to distract them, in this specific case with Jews as the scapegoat. Compared to divide and conquer, where British colonialists incite X Indian to kill Y Indian, after which British colonialists kill X Indian, this is actually rather mild. I wonder what pieces Lenin wrote on the divide and conquer tactic.

In light of divide and conquer, the communists lost the Cold War after many great triumphs because they fought too much against themselves. The Sino-Soviet split weakened the socialist camp tremendously. By the 80s, the USSR was more behind, and America through soft, ideological means successfully brought about its implosion. The same almost happened with China with the 89 protests, but China did not do what the USSR stupidly did.

There’s also what Michael O Church loves to say, that in Silicon Valley, the executive scumbags love to fuel tensions between the working class and intellectual class. To those throwing rocks at Google shuttles, it’s like dude, you’re attacking the wrong people! This also brings to mind the classic tactic of enticing one’s enemy group with wealth and benefits to bring them to your side. The American elite did that during the Cold War to its working classes and they won with that, and after the pressure on them (from an external power) was over, they believed they could get away with depriving medical care and creating a higher education bubble and did just that. My friend loves to say that we won’t have a revolution because it’s much easier now for rich people to give poor people a little more to get them to shut up. People aren’t starving anymore.

I’ve read writing about how psychopathy, or the willingness and ability to take advantage of others, propels people to the top. Psychopathy I’m sure also runs in families. Now the question is how much longer will the world be ruled by psychopaths who suck people’s blood. I can’t imagine that changing in the next century. Humans are too awful and defective. However, maybe once we discover the genes for psychopathy, we can do something about that. 😉