Of Sepulchres and Suicides

Until yesterday, this was one of those essays that looked to be permanently placed in draft-limbo. This is a fate shared by quite a few essays that I have ideas for, but cannot quite figure out how to finish or what angle to take. Despite the fact that I found the subject-matter in this essay very interesting, there simply was no angle that encapsulated what I wanted to communicate. That is, until I heard of the death by suicide of Anthony Bourdain.

I’ve shared a little bit about my youthful culinary interests on twitter, what I didn’t share is that they were largely inspired by Mr. Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly“, to this day one of my favorite books within the genre. The book describes the journey of a young man from chucking clams in Rhode Island to the Rainbow room in Manhattan, drug use, alcohol abuse, and high gastronomy, but more than anything it was about passion. As the years passed by, my interests shifted a little, but I tried to keep up with Anthony’s work whether on the travel channel, the food network or other places. For someone who still has a passion for food, and all that surrounds it, he was the culinary Christopher Hitchens, an irreverent, ghost-pepper in an increasingly bland world of cuisine. However, as his career progressed, it was difficult not to notice the gradual softening of his, the cursing became more rare, as did the drinking, he quit smoking and he had children.

I stopped watching TV some time ago, so it was a few years until he popped up on my radar again, this time coming across my twitter feed in a retweet after my return to the manosphere. Out of curiosity I looked him up, found that he’d gotten divorced sometime earlier and was dating an MMA star. I clicked the tweet and I noticed the unmistakable Beta tells in the pictures, the fact that his girlfriend’s instagram was filled with pictures of her with other men that were 30 years his junior, and I thought to myself “That’s going to blow up in his face, maybe we’ll get the old hard drinking, angry, Anthony Bourdain back. The man who banned Billy Joel from every restaurant kitchen he ever ran“.

Alas, yesterday I saw the news coming across my twitter feed, he was found dead in his hotel, having ended his life in a case that appears related to “girl problems”. I was going to let this go, but then the inevitably “toxic masculinity” arguments came flowing out into the media “oh if only men were more like women, they wouldn’t kill themselves” and I figured, ah that is a perfect frame for that essay in my draft folder.

The big, often glossed over thing about suicide is that women attempt to kill themselves just as much or even more than men, they are just less successful at it [1]. They attempt to kill themselves so that someone will come to them and be like “Oh honey, are you OK, want to talk about it?“. Men are much better and more successful at killing themselves, because they do it because they are done talking. For women a suicide attempt is a comma in the sentence of their life, for men it’s the exclamation point at the end of it. If men were less “masculine” and more like women, we would simply see a drop in successful suicides, with an increase in suicide attempts. Continue reading

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Gendernomics: Of Mirages and Meat Scales

The first book I ever read on investing was a tome entitled “The Intelligent Investor” written by Professor Benjamin Graham. This treatise outlines Graham’s philosophy of “Value Investing“, of which Warren Buffett is the most well-known practitioner. As a young man I struggled a lot with understanding Graham’s idea of investing based on “intrinsic value“, because I couldn’t quite conceptualize what it was in my mind. Was it the value of retained earnings minus debt, the book value of the company, the projected earnings per share in perpetuity discounted by net present value? As I continued to feed my mind a steady diet of finance information, this did not alleviate the confusion, rather it compounded it. However, I still found immense value in Graham’s magnum opus. The one quote that has stuck with me for a long time since reading the book is:

In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.

This is a valuable principle, because we often run into situations where what is popular is what is easy, makes us feel good in the moment and hurts us long term, while what is hard, makes us uncomfortable and brings us growth long-term is unpopular. This is illustrated by a conversation from the Andrew Ross Sorkin movie “Too Big Too Fail” in a conversation between Michele Davis (Cynthia Nixon), Neel Kashkari (Ayad Akhtar) and Hank Paulson (William Hurt)

Neel Kashkari: Poor bastard who bought his dream house? The teaser rate on his mortgage runs out, his payments go up, he defaults.

Henry Paulson: Mortgage-backed securities tank. AIG has to pay off the swaps. All of them. All over the world. At the same time.

Neel Kashkari: AIG can’t pay. AIG goes under. Every bank they insure books massive losses on the same day. And then they all go under. It all comes down.

Michele Davis: [horrified] The *whole* financial system? And what do I say when they ask me why it wasn’t regulated?

Henry Paulson: No one wanted to. We were making too much money.

In the short term, everyone was making too much money, and despite quite a few people being aware that it was going to become a major threat to the financial system, nobody wanted to be the canary in coalmine. They were faced with a choice, where they could side with the voting machine, face no negative consequences and in fact be positively rewarded, which was a much more palatable choice than to side with the weighing machine, face a lot of negative backlash from their colleagues, and potential lose millions. This is not uncommon, as whistle-blowers, “doomsayers”, and the messengers tend to be disliked because they ruin the mood.

A good analogy would be that a high school kid’s parents are out of town, and he decides to have a party. However, as the evening progresses, the party starts to get out of hand, people show up with kegs, before you know it the living room has turned into a mosh pit and people are playing ultimate frisbee with $200 china. If the kid decides to call the cops, or his parents, he is likely to be the person who faces negative consequences, despite the fact that he was not in the moral wrong. Continue reading