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Michael "Valentine" Smith is teaching a Meditation workshop in Alamo, CA on May 3-5. The workshop is aimed at rationalist-type folk who know about the benefits of meditation and would like to be meditating more, but all are welcome to join. Val is a curriculum designer at CFAR and has been developing his family's meditation tradition for his whole life.
Note: This is not a CFAR event.
I often seem to run into problems when I use the de facto label for this group. For example, when I say, "I've been hanging out with rationalists lately," I notice that many people immediately go on the defensive. They might ask why you need a group in order to be rational, or they might say that they don't believe that people are inherently rational. Of course, I made none of those claims, I simply indicated that I was hanging out with rationalists.
You might think that "rationalist" is simply a descriptive label, but it carries positive connotations -- and what people tend to hear is "I'm a superior thinker to you," or maybe "I'm a part of this group, which ascribes the label 'rationalist' to itself, to make ourselves seem higher status than we really are."
Why does this matter?
The community doesn't exist in a vacuum; how the community is viewed from the outside matters. As the community grows and as people gain awareness of it, branding becomes important. People talk to each other, and communities gain reputations. Even if you believe that we are a loose collection of individuals, as soon as you assign a name to yourself, that is sufficient to form a group identity.
The people we interact with tend to share similar interests. The population of New York may be in the millions, and yet I run into the same people at different functions without coordination.
The more negative perceptions associated with a group, the more rapidly evaporative cooling of groups will occur.
What to do?
It's far better to talk about good things that you've gained from being in the group. It's better to say what the group does, not what the group is.
But beyond that, it's about time the community picked a better label to use. I have one idea, but I'll hold off on proposing solutions.
When people talk about self-defense, they tend to concentrate on how to physically defend yourself. But the best way to avoid getting hurt is to avoid being attacked in the first place. Here are some suggestions:
- Appear to be alert -- don't listen to music, don't use your phone, and keep moving. If you go so far as to run or jog to your destination, you will be a very unappealing target.
- Stay in well-lit areas at night. In a place with low traffic, it may be better to walk in the middle of the road.
- Appear to be armed. Concealed weapons don't help -- they are only useful once you have already been selected as a target. Visible and obvious weapons such as guns and knives are usually too much trouble to be worth it. Ordinary objects that can be used as weapons, such as baseball bats and hammers may be best, as they act a deterrent without the hassle that traditional weapons bring.
What are some other easy measures that people can take to make themselves less of a likely target?
Clarisse Thorn recently posted a useful article about Ethical Pick-Up Artistry, bringing up a few basic critiques of traditional PUA and suggesting a few alternatives.
Here’s the thing: the current pickup artist subculture has a monopoly on effective advice for how to break down social interactions and talk to women. Not all of it works, but enough of it works that it draws guys in. As a pickup artist instructor once told me, “When I first found the community I was horrified by how sleazy and gross it is, but I had never had a girlfriend and I told myself: dude, if you don’t learn this stuff you’re gonna die alone.”
I’ve theorized that maybe feminists should provide good pickup advice, in an attempt to counterbalance some of the awfulness of the existing community. In the meantime, however, I figure the next best thing to do is to provide a list of less-misogynistic pickup artist instructors and sites, and a few very basic critiques.
A proposal to formalize this Not the same thing, but a discussion on forming a community to practice social artistry in general has been brought up on LW before, but I'm not personally aware of anything coming out of that.