In Case I Die: Weak Times/Hard Men

Hey buddy,

As you grow I think you’re going to have a lot of people at your disposal who can help you with vetting information and learning how to think. As much as you’re going to be assaulted with bad ideas offered by people with bad intentions there’s no lack of intelligent people around to poke holes in the garbage. All the same, there’s a lot of shit to wade through that might sound like folksy wisdom at first. And so I wanted to say something about cycles and patterns and being stuck, using this stupid thing as my foil: 

Nothing says ‘good times’ like working on an assembly line. Weird how many strong men died to get to that point, and how few weak men had to die to create an empty building.

There are a lot of iterations of this meme, all of them sharing the quote. Some of them are really obvious in their implication and intent: 

It seems to me that the people in the fourth image are having a way better time than the people in the second image. They’re definitely wearing more comfortable clothes. Also, none of the people featured in the first image are alive in 2022, while it’s totally plausible that the guys in the third image are.

… And some of them are clearly ironic: 

Chimpanzees are much stronger than macaques, and those hats are indeed a very good time.

… And some of them are probably jokes, but they’re jokes for an audience that I’m not a part of so I don’t get them: 

I don’t get it.

There are very lazy ones where there’s only a single image: 

The Proud Boys are the worst people making the worst memes for the worst reasons in the worst shirts, and the only people who will post an anti-swastika graphic under the handle ‘AdolfZyklon88’.

And there are those that are even lazier with no image at all: 

‘Live, Laugh, Love’ home decor for people who shoot their neighbor’s children with paintball guns.

Apparently the quote is pulled from a post-Apocalyptic science fiction book that I’m not going to read, because the quote is, by the author’s account, sincere. It’s not presented as bad advice or stupid reasoning, but as actual wisdom, and I imagine you’re not surprised when I state that it is bad advice and stupid reasoning and contains a very dark sentiment. 

The first glaringly stupid thing about it is that roughly 50% of human beings are women, and apparently they don’t do much of anything to influence what kind of times the species is living in. Maybe the author thinks that women are just weak or strong no matter what the times are like, but based on the omission I think it’s safe to assume that they’re kind of just around, enjoying the good times and suffering through the bad. 

A quote like this needs an image because of all the definitional problems (which makes instances of it without a picture make even less sense). We could assume that the authorial intent is that good times tell us what strong men are like retroactively, or that we could figure out who the weak men are based upon their being raised in good times, but at some point along the way someone is going to have to deposit their values into the cycle and make it clear what ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘weak’, ‘strong’ and ‘make’ mean. 

But that’s all abstract and it’s pretty easy to understand what people mean when they post it unironically. The people they like are already strong, the people they don’t like are already weak, the good times are definitely not ‘now’ and ‘making’ is a synonym for ‘getting rid of the weak/strong people’.  None of it follows in sequence… It’s all happening at the same time, and weakness tells us what strength is, because once you figure out who is weak you can  just look for the people attacking them and you’ll know who’s strong. 

So, it’s a stupid thing that stupid people say and it makes them feel good and smart and strong because it tells them that they were right all along. 

I’ve been trying to make some statements about imagination in the last few entries, and this stupid fucking meme touches on imagination’s limits. Seeing the world through this lens is bleak and horrible because no one will ever be happy, nothing will ever be right, and there will just be an endless cycle of war and misery that will be settled by righteous murderers who will create a great society that will immediately produce… Who? Children who are sissies who will fuck it all up until things fall apart and they finally get murdered by their own stronger, manlier children? 

If that’s how things go then we should just fire all the nukes right this minute and get it over with. 

So, this is a cycle that is being described. It’s not one that actually exists, but even in its total lack of validity that’s what it offers. 

There are definitely cycles going on all around us, cycles within cycles within cycles. The earth rotates on its axis, revolving around the sun while the moon pulls the tides gently toward itself.  Organisms are born, live, reproduce (or not) and die. These are certainly cycles. 

When you ride a bike your legs push the crank arms, the crank arms move the front chainring and the front chainring moves the chain and the chain moves the cassette and the cassette moves the wheel and you are propelled through space and across time. 

There’s a beautiful thing about that bike-cycle: You go somewhere. No matter where you go on your bike those circles keep spinning, but you don’t stay in the same place, and you’re going to contact other cycles as you travel. They’re open loop systems, while strong men making good times that make weak men that make hard times is a closed loop that justifies itself independent of anything else under the sun. If you find yourself caught in something like that get the fuck out

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