Another Week Ends: Marriage Markets, Foxhole Religion, Reconsidering Jobs, Breaking Bad, The Strokes, Psychopathic Day Traders, Innovation Starvation and The Muppetsby David Zahl on Oct 14, 2011 • 1:32 pm 1 Comment
1. The cover story in this month’s issue of The Atlantic is making some waves, “All The Single Ladies,” in which writer Katie Bolick looks into how the recession is effecting the “marriage market.” Something of an unintentional follow-up to yesterday’s piece on Parenthood, Bolick maintains that the explosion of male joblessness and corresponding ascent of females in pretty much all areas of conventional achievement has made it considerably more difficult for young women to find an appropriate spouse. Again, I’m not positive this isn’t simply some fashionable angle right now, but to the extent that this has to do with the exertion of more ‘control’ or ‘authority,’ it should come as no surprise that love is being choked:
Now that we [women] can pursue our own status and security, and are therefore liberated from needing men the way we once did, we are free to like them more, or at least more idiosyncratically, which is how love ought to be, isn’t it?
…Then there are those women who choose to forgo men altogether. Sonia Sotomayor isn’t merely a powerful woman in a black robe—she’s also a stellar example of what it can mean to exercise authority over every single aspect of your personal life. When Gloria Steinem said, in the 1970s, “We’re becoming the men we wanted to marry,” I doubt even she realized the prescience of her words.
Amanda Marcotte on Slate gives some serious if not altogether convincing pushback, arguing that the ‘market’ model is entirely inappropriate when it comes to matters of the heart, that perhaps the “crisis” is revealing an unhelpful sexual paradigm that is scaring both parties off of the whole enterprise, i.e. Competition or Law, self-fulfillment rather than self-giving, etc:
I remain skeptical of the idea that the surge in numbers of single women has anything to do with women’s successes and/or men’s failures. Bolick interviews one genuine expert in her piece, historian Stephanie Coontz, but neglects to mention Coontz’s research showing that educated, successful women are more, not less, likely to be married and stay married. If you stop framing dating as some sort of competition between men and women and instead see it as a collaborative enterprise, another theory for the decline of marriage comes into view.
2. BigThink reports on a new paper published by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that claims, “Religion Only Helps Those With Hard Lives.” At first glance, it sounds like a redundancy to me! Meaning, who would classify their lives as ‘easy’? One is reminded of that unfortunate cliche about the task of preaching being to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” when, in experience/reality, everyone is afflicted. But certainly those that are more in touch with their ‘need,’ either material or spiritual, are more likely to embrace a Gospel which addresses needy people, ht JD:
[The study] analyzed self-reports from hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and found that there is indeed a connection between religious faith and happiness—but only in troubled societies… Foxhole conditions—fear, hunger, want, sickness—do indeed promote faith, write Ed Diener, Louis Tay and David G. Myers. If you’re poor or hungry, if you’re sick or if you feel unsafe at night, you’re more likely to be religious. More interestingly, though, they found that this relationship between circumstances and religion is truly a social phenomenon: In a poor and dangerous nation, even the privileged rich, who aren’t personally menaced, are more religious.
3. A gazillion Steve Jobs-related articles appeared this week, and I’ve had the good sense to reevaluate what I wrote earlier in response to Andy Crouch’s piece in the Wall Street Journal. To boil Jobs down to a techno-utopian prophet, at least primarily, is unfair and maybe even a tad silly. Scott Johnson’s comment is an important one: “Jobs’s legacy isn’t about reversing the Fall of Man, and it isn’t appropriate in this context to inflict the spectre of Pelagius upon people who are captivated by beauty.” Which isn’t to say he didn’t function as a savior figure to some (or that Apple users can be insufferably self-satisfied, or that technology doesn’t deliver what it promises), just that the primary emotional connection Jobs was able to build had more to do with introducing non-technophiles to a sense of wonder and beauty that they thought was unavailable to them. And there’s something truly gracious about that. Plus, the integrity that Bono highlights in his recent Q&A with Rolling Stone is not exactly an everyday trait:
Steve was a very, very tough and tenacious guardian of the Apple brand, but the thing that endeared him to artists was his insistence that things had to be beautiful. He wasn’t going to make ugly things that made profits.
The big lesson for capitalism is that Steve, deep down, did not believe the consumer was right. Deep down, he believed that he was right. And that the consumer would respect a strong aesthetic point of view, even if it wasn’t what they were asking for. He believed that deep down, if he served what was right and what was great, then he would serve the Apple shareholder, and if he chased what they wanted, he would let them down.
4. Man, does Vince Gilligan know how to put together a season finale or what?! What does it say that the best episode of every one of Breaking Bad’s four seasons is the finale? I have no idea, except that it’s very cool. The LA Times even argues that this past Sunday’s Dark Knight-referencing closer would function as a perfect series finale, ht CH. Spoiler alert:
Yes, [Walt's] won. Yes, he never has to worry about Gus coming after him again (though Mike, still convalescing in Mexico, may prove another matter). But in the process, he’s hollowed himself out. By becoming the one who knocks, he’s also distanced himself from his family. He’s no longer able to be honest with his son, and his wife seems slightly terrified of him half of the time. He’s won in the sense that he’s finally become the one he wanted to be, but he’s lost in the sense that to do so he had to sacrifice almost everything that made the mild-mannered Walter of the pilot a good man.
Elsewhere in television, James Parker offers a thoughtful analysis of Modern Family in The Atlantic.
5. In music, Slate named The Strokes Is This It the best album of the past decade and they sort of have a point.
6. An amusing bit of social science reveals that Share Traders Are More Reckless Than Psychopaths, ht MB.
7. The conclusion of author Neal Stephenson’s lament about Innovation Starvation for the World Policy Institute is worth reprinting here, esp in its wise condemnation of the ‘illusion of certainty,’ which some of us might go so far as to call institutionalized ‘faithlessness,’ ht CR:
The illusion of eliminating uncertainty from corporate decision-making is not merely a question of management style or personal preference. …Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation-killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems—climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation—like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.
Or get in touch.