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May 30, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

Interesting idea. But are you sure that we WEIRDos actually do have the best bullshit? I grew up in non-WEIRD countries, and I remember they also had some real weapons-grarde bullshit there. Could it be that it just looks that way to us because we implicitly assume that the W, the E, the I, the R, and the D aspects would naturally lead us to *not* produce as much BS, and then the fact that BS is in fact abundant in our culture just is more salient than if a non-WEIRD culture produced BS?

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May 31, 2023·edited May 31, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

I'm still thinking things through as I type, so bear with me. These are not fully fleshed out thoughts.

My experience as an American expat living in Thailand for the past six years (plus one year about a decade ago) is that the bullshit here is different, but not less. (Before I go on, I should point out that I live in a fairly small city about 1.5 hours from Chiang Mai. In bigger cities like CM and Bangkok, things are different.)

To answer your specific question, though, yes, I do think there's at least some truth to the idea that WEIRD cultures have more advanced forms of bullshit. Advanced in the "mo' money, mo' problems" sense, if nothing else. (I've brought it up here and elsewhere before, probably too much, but I can't help but see concept creep playing a big part in this).

When I was teaching in Thailand, many of my students looked at our "better stuff" in the the West and wanted in. There's definitely consumer culture here as well. Big time. It's just that, as some of my students told me, we have better and more to choose from there. Other than the basic getting-to-know-you questions, the next most common question I get here is "Why did you come here?" What's often meant, though, is why *would* you come here when you have it all already over there. It's hard to explain the desire to want to get away from all of that to people who desire the opposite.

As far as happiness goes, status is super important here, and a lot of people chase it openly. And many of those who have it flaunt it openly, without attempting to be humble about it at all, at least relative to in the West. Again, I'm still working this out (six years later), but at the moment, I would say that happiness is more of a status symbol than an actual desire a lot of the time. People will fake being happy because it elevates them in the eyes of others and earns them more respect. They don't pretend to want happiness. But they do sometimes pretend to already have it. The darker side of that is there is stigma around being unhappy. Same goes for "damaged" people. (Excuse the phrase, I just don't have a better one handy.) I know people who have damaged people in their lives and keep them largely hidden from others. There's shame in it.

On a loosely related note, when I lived in Cambodia, someone there told me how it was a compliment to be called fat. It meant you must be eating well, which means you must not be poor. (Likewise here, the one McDonald's and Starbucks in town are some of the more expensive places to go. So going to them is itself a kind of status symbol.)

Importantly, I don't speak Thai. (What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. Two languages? Bilingual. One language? American.) So my interactions and experiences are limited and have holes in them. That said, when I'm with other English-speaking Thais and trying to take the conversation deeper (human nature, morality, etc.), as my silly brain is won't to do, I'm often met with some variation of "Don't be serious." Which here mostly means: Don't overthink things. Just be happy. That sort of thing.

Making the world a better place doesn't seem to be a priority (it's not much of one for me anymore either, to be honest with you). The priority is your family and community, and then maybe your country, and I'm not sure I've seen it extend much beyond that.

Thai people, in my experience, care very much what other people think about them. Again, because of status. Losing face is a devastating blow.

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Jun 3, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

The US is has unique BS in that it is very difficult to tell who is rich based on their appearance. Rich people talk and dress the same as poor people. They are equally likely to be fat or skinny or tall or short, and there is a large middle class that all can afford to own single family homes and drive SUVs. There's a conceit that everyone between the 25th-99th percentile is "middle class." Americans are also so powerful that they see power as a sin to be atoned for. That's why status in America is communicated through BS "luxury beliefs" (Rob Henderson), self-actualizing yogababble, naive desires to save the world, LARPing as oppressed victims, and selling happiness via Instagram hashtags and influencer lifestyles. In other countries power, wealth, and status is an open competition and is worn openly, so it is easy to figure out who the rich are. The lack of subtlety requires less self-delusion, though it might not be as good for social cohesion. (Disclosure: I'm American).

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Jun 3, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

Your work has the same vibe as Sapolsky’s stuff. It’s a compliment, lol

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>>To all the anthropologists and world travelers out there, I’m genuinely curious: do non-WEIRD cultures share our most advanced forms of bullshit?

I made up a theory that is kind of the opposite of that question: In the beginning, any bullshit that could keep people together was good enough. Only after immense amounts of cultural evolution, societies where not only bullshit, but also advanced technology kept people together took shape.

https://woodfromeden.substack.com/p/a-theory-of-the-bullshitting-class

For tens of thousands of years, what mattered most was how well people could cooperate. People who could form bigger groups and then bigger armies won and people who could not cooperate that well lost. That means that the most socially cohesive bullshit made societies win. Only much later, those societies that could build ships and make cannons won over those who couldn't. Only then it made sense to make up systems that weren't totally, thoroughly based on bullshit.

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May 31, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

You are really onto something here. America is a really strange place, when compared to other countries where I have traveled extensively. I general, I find that people are more genuinely happy elsewhere despite simpler lifestyles and less ambitious goals. I often find myself subconsciously apologizing for many aspects of American culture, even though I love this country and probably wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. Just being aware of our special type of bullshit is very enlightening to me, because it helps me put into context the things I love and hate about this country and how to make it better where I can. That’s all, sorry for all the bullshit :)

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Related: Anthropologists, who want to learn things about other people, tend to be Anglospheric and German. Some French and other Europeans. Other nations want to know about the WEIRD people, but it is for advantage. The Thai aren't much curious about the Bolivians and the Inuit, and vice versa.

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Bullshit expands to fill the space available. For example 21st c 24/7 'news' sites (BBC CNN etc) contain no more real news than they did when they were just half an hour long. And as for tv 'entertainment'

https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/non-binary-sibling-is-entertaining

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Well , don,t you think individualistic ( America ) countries will have more bullshit as compared to a having collectivistic culture ( Japan ) .Common bullshit for common society 🥅

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America is the richest society in human history . There are some people who are like zillionaire and just below in hierarchy are way below ( academics , journalist , other cultural elite ) , tend to very envious of these people which results in producing ample amount of BS

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