Jacques from Port Moresby writes:
Uncle Yarv, I’m in a spot. Some bad decisions in my late-teens caused me to mostly miss my twenties. I’m now in my late 30s and just starting to get my shit together. I've got an apartment with a partner of almost 3 years (we’re gay and have no real plans for marriage because, Why?), a podcast that's gaining popularity, a decent job, and even a little side hustle doing light web development. I'm living the dream...for a 25 year old.
I don't know where to go from here, though. Most of my friends are either developmentally arrested Gen Xers and geriatric Millennials like me, or normally-socialized Zoomers. I feel out of place either way. I really feel like I need to accelerate urgently to catch up to my put-together peers, but I also have (not entirely unwarranted) impostor syndrome.
I work in tech and I don’t think I can take it much longer. The company just brought on a “VP of People and Culture”, which means they probably won't be able to take me much longer either. Everyone is already starting to add pronouns to their email signatures. Besides, our clients are all massive cathedral-adjacent companies. So I also have moral qualms. Plus I’m not a temperamental anarch, so I constantly feel the need to push back (so far I’ve resisted).
Also, to make things a little more complicated, I’m involved in the Libertarian Party. A big chunk of my friendgroup comes from the libertarian and Libertarian end of the pool. I like those guys (and, presumably, girls...) a lot, but I’m taking you and a few other “Stay the fuck away from politics” communicators to heart. I think you’re right.
How do I (a) catch up to my peers socially, (b) turn my side hustle into a business so I don’t have to worry about pissing off and/or enabling the current regime, and (c) gracefully exit the political milieu (I have no desire to rule, although I wouldn't mind being well-thought of) and become a good anarch without burning too many bridges with the humans I’ve come to love?
I post this letter because it is representative of a certain kind of correspondence, basically the majority of the email, consisting mostly of people who clearly have their shit together but want to be reassured that they have their shit together. An advice columnist such as myself cannot answer your questions, only help you make sure you are asking yourself the right questions.
I feel like you already grasp the secret, Jacques, which is that the further you can get beyond either libertarianism or cathedralism, the easier it is to tolerate them—the easier it is to sympathize with them, and the harder it is to feel threatened by them.
Sure, put your pronouns in your email! Go to the gay libertarian book club! Sure, these are all false gods. The stronger your faith in your own true god, the easier you will find it to be around the worshipers of false gods. It is very limiting to require that everyone around you worship only true gods.
Your purpose in going to work is not to share your politics with your colleagues; your purpose in going to the book club is not to advance the Non-Aggression Principle. When you find yourself part of some social or professional scene which, you start to realize, in some important way Just Doesn’t Get It, the immature move (certainly my instinctive move) is to ragequit the scene.
Actually it is more a hint to expand your range of scenes. You won’t find a perfect one. Of course, this applies more to your social life and less to your job—although if you can get that side hustle really rocking… but, both socially and professionally, you will often be around people with some kind of politics you feel is stupid.
You naturally want to understand and respect the people around you. But sometimes, you feel, they are in error. You cannot help your judgment of that error; but your reaction to it can take two courses.
You can be angry at error—the way someone in a breakup is angry, not at the partner, but at what they see as the errors of the partner that made the relationship not work. If she broke up with you to be a Scientologist, you might be angry at Scientology.
It’s no fun to be angry. It’s not good for you. If you can’t be angry at the people around you, but you can’t help noticing their systematic errors, you have to find a way to pity them instead. Whether you have to keep being around someone, or just have to frame them in your memory, pity is an easier burden to carry than anger.
What was messed-up about her that made her need to be a Scientologist? And what about Scientology was so attractive to her? Is there a “Scientology: The Good Parts?” Over time your interest shifts from the person to the cult, and from the individual to the general—your pity for her becomes a special case of a general pity for humanity.
After one “circling” post I got a letter from a Scientologist which was very positive, presumably because circling is just Scientology without the Sea Org or the E-Meter. While I am not entirely serious about this, any such session that feels meaningful or important will involve a buildup and release of tension (as one experienced circler said, “it’s really working when you see someone’s vulnerabilities”), which is exactly what the E-Meter—a simple “lie detector”—is designed to measure.
In a way you can think of being “clearpilled” as a kind of political Scientology. Secure in your faith, you have no vulnerabilities left. You have as many pronouns as they want. These pronouns—they do not trigger you. The E-Meter—it does not spike. You have become the anarch. Next week, you will be presenting at the gay libertarian book club.
This is an ideal, of course. Everybody is human and nobody is going to reach this ideal. You might find a better job. You might find a better book club. You might start a better book club…