Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Spirit of America: From Self-Reliance to Self-Storage

“Today, we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that reality means little because much of that wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.”—Bernie Sanders

Fullscreen capture 2015-08-021I went to a self-storage facility with my father-in-law today, in Emerson’s home state of Massachusetts (“The Spirit of America”). With all four kids out of the house, my wife’s parents are downsizing; and, as a consequence, they don’t have nearly enough space for all of their stuff, despite the fact that they’ve had a number of yard sales, and they’ve insisted that their kids come and collect all that stuff they’ve been storing, more or less indefinitely, chez mom and dad. For my wife, this involved the repatriation of a number of nostalgia-soaked artifacts from the Before John Era (c. 5 B.J.), such as a collection of beautiful letters from her first love.

I’m no stranger to self-storage facilities. I worked for a moving company every summer for years back in the day, and we moved stuff into or out of self-storage facilities from time to time. But things have changed. Big time. The self-storage industry has grown exponentially in the last two decades. Used to be that the only people who used self-storage facilities were people who were going through major transitions of some kind: e.g., people who were downsizing now that the kids were all grown up (like my in-laws), people who were moving overseas for work, people who were storing their recently deceased mother’s stuff, etc. But that’s no longer the case. People my age, people in the middle of this divine comedy, are renting out storage space, and lots of it. Why? Because they don’t have room for all of their stuff. Where’s most of this stuff made? Not in America.

Now I forgot to mention an important detail: as we were pulling up to the self-storage facility, my father-in-law mentioned that the building was once a factory, a factory that he and his wife (my mother-in-law) worked at in the 1970s. The factory was owned and operated by Tucker Manufacturing. They did injection molding and they paid very well. What’s more, they were super busy: the factory was open 24-hours/day. That’s three 8-hour shifts per day. These were good jobs. With great benefits. Plenty of vacation time. And these were American jobs. Good American jobs. And they’re gone. Where? Probably to places like China. Those factories send cheap stuff back to the States, where consumers buy it at Walmart. They’ve apparently bought so much of this cheap crap that they can’t even fit it all into their houses. The insanity of this situation is maddening. Emerson must be turning over in his grave! When did the United States go from being a country filled with proud workers who make stuff to a country filled with indebted out-of-work consumers who store stuff?

I just finished reading Stephen Ambrose’s Eisenhower: Soldier and President (1991), a biography I’ve been meaning to read for years. Hard to believe that Ike was a two-term Republican president. Today’s GOP wouldn’t touch a man like him with a ten-foot pole. By today’s GOP standards, he’s a flaming socialist. The kingmakers and puppetmasters of the Democratic Party would, in all likelihood, extend him an equally chilly reception. On virtually every single issue, Eisenhower’s position is significantly to the left of Hillary Clinton and more or less indistinguishable from that of Bernie Sanders. If this isn’t definitive proof of climate change, I don’t know what is.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

p.s. If you’re colorblind, there’s really no way to tell the difference between a Bernie Sanders clip and a Frank Capra clip on YouTube.

When Social Psychologists Cry Wolf

“The boy leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come.”—Aesop, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

11q101-005Sure, she was young and cute. But that’s not why I gave her the money for the payphone. Regardless, she put up her hand like a crossing guard when I tried to hand her the quarters. Said she didn’t need the money. Said she was just doing a study: a study of people’s willingness to give money to strangers. Her thesis—soon to be published, no doubt, in The Journal of Incredibly Obvious Results—is that the race, class, and gender of the person being asked (and the person doing the asking) are important. “For instance,” she said—with all of the sanctimonious seriousness of an annoying nine-year-old boy who’s memorized the names of the dinosaurs—“men like you are far more likely to give money to an attractive well-dressed young women than to a guy with a mohawk who looks like a junkie and smells bad.” “Um, yeah,” I replied—visibly pissed off at this point—“because I figure he wants the money for heroin. I thought you actually needed the money for the phone. Regardless, does it occur to you that I might be less likely to give money to anyone in the future?” She looked perplexed. Vaguely hurt. “Um, no, why?” “Because I’m gonna think it’s just another stupid study.”

Okay, Social Psychology: that was Strike One. But what happened today on the Mountain constitutes Strike Two and Strike Three! So I’m walking on the Mountain this morning when I hear a person crying for help. It takes me about ten minutes to locate the source of the voice in the woods. When I do, I discover that it’s three nerdy looking graduate students in khakis with a laptop and a speaker. Yes, you guessed it: they were doing another study: a social psychological study on who responds to the calls of a stranger in distress in the woods. Once again, homage was to be paid to the Holy Trinity of 21st-century academic life: race, class, and gender. Once again, their results were, no doubt, soon to be published in The Journal of Incredibly Obvious Results. And once again, I said: “Does it occur to you that I might be less likely to respond to the calls of a stranger in distress in the future?” They looked perplexed. Vaguely hurt. “Um, no, why?”—said the dweeb holding the laptop. I wonder if social psychologists realize what damage they do to the social fabric with these kinds of studies. What makes civil society possible is—in large part—social trust. And social trust is eroded by studies such as this.

Questioning the findings of social psychology was, for a long time, sort of like trying to find out why Homeland Security put grandma’s name on the No-Fly List. Since many of their landmark studies were done during the Wild West days of social psychology, before standards of research ethics were established and enforced, the studies couldn’t be replicated. We had to accept what they said more or less on faith. But since they were saying things that many left-leaning academics wanted to believe anyway (e.g., that human behavior is all, more or less, a function of environment and social roles), most of us were willing to do this. It now seems that our faith was misplaced. Many of social psychology’s greatest hits have been discredited. Many of its rock stars have fallen from grace. Some have even suggested that the entire discipline is fraudulent. Regardless, maybe it’s time to revisit the much-maligned dispositional approach. Maybe it’s time to start talking about virtue and character again.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

It Gets Us Out of the House

472775_10151424690692683_2090565344_o“It gets me out of the house.” That’s what my friend’s grandmother said when they teased her about her obsession with Bingo Night. The woman’s dedication was undeniably. The proof was all up there on her fridge calendar, like some diabolical Master Plan. Every bingo night in the city. Cataloged and accounted for. Complete with directions and estimated travel times.

May 15th @ 7:30 p.m. (basement of St. George’s)

There’s strength in numbers but peace in solitude. Hence the paradox of social life Freud ably described in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930): we need the strength in numbers that comes with social life, but, at one and the same time, social life makes demands upon us that often make us miserable.

A species composed of rugged individualists who really didn’t need each other would have gone extinct long ago. We’re not particularly strong or fast. Like bees and ants, our strength is derived from our amazing ability to work together. But why bother when people can be so annoying? Because we need them. This leads me to suspect that evolution selected for human neediness. Among other things, this explains the voracious nature of human sexuality.

Unlike tigers, bears, and salamanders, who only have sex during the mating season, we have sex all year round. What’s more, we have a great deal of sex that’s clearly not going to result in pregnancy (e.g., gay sex, straight sex after menopause, etc.). This suggests to me that sex’s primary purpose has long since transcended procreation.

Sex renders us needy and draws us to others; it makes us far less self-contained than we might otherwise be. In other words, sex gets us out of the house.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

It Ain’t Me, Babe. I Ain’t the Angryphone You’re Lookin’ For

“It ain’t me, babe. No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for.”—Bob Dylan, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)

387520_10150429772502683_1050318433_n-002I’ve been approached on numerous occasions by English-rights activists who’ve been moved by my poetry. They seem to think I might like to join their cause. These situations always leave me feeling profoundly torn. Every writer wants to be read. And every writer wants to move readers. So naturally I’m delighted. But I’m also saddened. Because I have no real interest in joining their cause. I love it here in Quebec. I don’t feel oppressed. And I have absolutely no intention of leaving.

When I tell them this, ever-so-gently, an awkward silence ensues, followed by a painful distancing. It’s like the very ground beneath our feet has split open along some sort of ancient fault line. I can feel a deep chasm spreading out between us. From the other side of the abyss comes a sad, plaintive voice: “But, but, John, I thought you were one of us.”

“I was that day. Sorry, man.”

Strange as it may sound to regular readers of the paranoid Montreal Gazette, I’ve only been pissed off about The Language Issue™ three times in the last ten years. My response? I didn’t cry: “That’s it, enough’s enough, I’m moving to Toronto!” Nope, I did what any self-respecting, fiercely patriotic Montrealer would do: I turned my pain into art: I wrote a poem. No joke. I’ve written three poems inspired by The Language Issue™ in the last decade: “From Here”“Wild Black Raspberries”, and “Why I Loved Latin at Twelve”. Each time, when I was done with the poem, I was done with being pissed off.

It ain’t me, babe. I ain’t the angryphone you’re lookin’ for.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

The Police Have it Right

Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane

Gordon Sumner

I’ve increasingly seen a bizarre trend over the past two decades: information access gets easier and easier; the populace’s ignorance grows greater and greater.  Allow me to give you some examples.

English Students

When I started in China there was, for all practical purposes, no Internet for most people.  Smartphones existed (barely) but were far too expensive for most people and, in the part of China I was in, rarer than hen’s teeth.  Even where they existed they didn’t do much good; wireless Internet was too expensive and too slow to be useful, even in the rare cases it was available at all.

My students almost all came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds anyway.  They had barely enough money to live; they certainly didn’t have enough money to buy frivolities.  Some of them could afford fifth-generation copies of audio tapes of badly-received BBC World Service or Voice of America broadcasts for practice.  Maybe.

On top of all this, class sizes were huge.  My smallest class in that school was 43 students.  (My largest was over 150.  That’s 150 students being taught oral English skills…)  There was, in effect, virtually no time available with the one person who could really help them through their difficulties.

Those students had a very narrow data pipe from which to extract information.  Most of them learned to speak English well enough, by the end of their two or three year program, to get a job involving it.  Sure many of them had comical accents or awkward holes in their vocabulary and grammar, but they were functional enough that they could stand on their own feet and continue learning.  I’m still in touch with several students from those days here fifteen years later.  They have mostly flourished quite admirably.  Some of them have, indeed, impressed me with their drive and their success.

My students today have it really well by comparison.  Even the poorest of my students has a smartphone with a data plan.  Literally at their fingertips, only a pocket away, is an entire world of information: online dictionaries, encyclopedias, search engines, Q&A forums, and a further wealth of options I can’t even picture (out of touch as I am).  Further, class sizes have shrunk dramatically in the past fifteen years.  My largest classes now are smaller than my smallest class was back then.  I routinely have “advanced” classes with student counts in single digits!

And yet, they’re dullards.

In the past two years I can literally count on one hand (and have change left over for a bizarre gardening accident to shear off a couple of fingers!) the students who legitimately passed their program able to speak English.

THESE ARE ENGLISH MAJORS!  These are English majors who have more opportunities and more resources for learning English than anybody in history before them in China.  (The last Emperor of China with his private tutor had fewer opportunities and resources to learn English than the poorest of my students today!)  Yet these very same English majors are not learning.  They’re incapable of it.  Their ability to learn has been somehow crippled.

Lest you think this is just me, incidentally, I should point out that China is facing somewhat of a crisis in education: teachers are just quitting mid-career.  Giving up.  All over the country, in all universities, colleges, middle schools, etc. teachers are just walking away from their jobs.  The most common reason given?  They don’t enjoy teaching any longer.  The students are awful.  I hear this from Chinese teachers and from fellow foreign teachers, even those fortunate enough to teach at top-tier universities like Beijing University or that calibre.

Social Media

Seemingly every day now I get a parade of utter bullshit crossing my screen on Facebook or Twitter or other such cesspools of human “interaction”.  For example in the past month alone I’ve had to correct the same bullshit story about how ancient peoples couldn’t perceive the colour blue a few times.  An article of dubious scholarship is the source of this.  It spread from there to the mass media (an institution that has lost what little focus it ever had on “checking facts” and “verifying stories” long ago).  From the mass media it spread, like a wave of untreated mental sewage, across the pipelines of the Internet to splash across my Facebook feed.

When I first encountered this story, it seemed *very* distantly plausible.  Too, I saw it thrown around so often that I was wondering if maybe I’d missed something key.  It was interesting.  So I fired up Duckduckgo and went to town on it.  It took me less than five minutes to pretty much definitively prove that the story was pure, unadulterated, bullshit.  Here are a few little countering facts:

  • It’s claimed that the ancient Greeks couldn’t see blue which is why the sea is described as “wine dark” in Homer’s works.  Unfortunately for this theory those “white” statues that are stereotypically “ancient Greek”?  They were nothing of the sort.  They were garishly painted.  One of the pigments used to paint them was azurite.  Would you care to guess what colour azurite is?  (Hint: the sky might contain a clue…)
  • It’s claimed the ancient Chinese couldn’t see blue.  As evidence there is the (actually correct) fact that classical Chinese didn’t have a word for “blue”.  Instead they had 青 (qīng), which covered green and blue.  To understand just how fatuous this is, consider how different sky blue is from azure is from royal blue is from … you get the idea.  Does this mean we can’t tell the difference between the sky and a navy blue suit?  Same thing applies.  青 is a category of colour with many shades.  The fact that in English there are two categories for this is no more “proof” that the Chinese couldn’t tell the difference than is the fact that Chinese has two words for sister (姐姐 and 妹妹) where English has only one.  (Does that imply that English speakers can’t tell their older sisters from their younger?)
    If that’s not sufficient evidence of stupidity, looking at some ancient temples with their painted beams should be another clue.  The beams were painted garishly like the Greek statues.  Including intertwined scrollwork of both blue and green; intertwined, but very distinct.  It’s hard to keep things you can’t tell apart separate, especially when intertwined in complex patterns…
  • Similar claims are advanced for Egyptians despite the fact that the Egyptians practically worshipped lapis lazuli and are documented as having a word for “blue” by 3000BCE at the latest.

When I say it took me five minutes to definitively disprove this ridiculous theory, I meant it.  I found out about the Greek statues in about three minutes, and I already knew about the Chinese temples so I just had to find some accounts of newly-uncovered temples to show that they hadn’t been painted over in modern times.  That was about two minutes’ work.

The problem is that it’s five minutes per thing that crosses my screen, and my screen is a veritable fountain of bullshit these days, a fountain that daily seems intent on spewing its stupidity to new heights.  I fully expect to see misinformation hit escape velocity and go zooming past the ISS someday soon.  I can’t keep up with it any longer.

So why are people who were brought up awash in a sea of available information so prone to not using it?

A Crackpot Theory

Remember when I said that I couldn’t keep up with the effluent spewing across my screen on a daily basis any longer?  That was the clue for me as to what could be behind the ignorance effect.  The very omnipresence of the data, combined with the sheer volume of it, blends into something very toxic.  This is for two reasons:

The laziness factor

When I was growing up without all these tools to find information I was driven (by parents, by teachers, ultimately by myself) to learn how to find information.  Because finding information was hard I had to develop the skills to keep track of sources of it.  I developed good habits in researching and remembering at the very least where to find things I’d encountered.  Good study and research habits are like strong muscles: they require constant exercise  to grow and to be maintained.  If you never use them at all, they atrophy and, ultimately, practically vanish.  People brought up in the “Age of Information” have, ironically, never developed the skills necessary to cope with the information at their fingertips.  They’ve never been taught how to find it or check up on it because they’ve never had to.  They trust that the information will always be there, so they never actually bother to look for it.  Further they trust that someone else has already vetted the information for truthfulness (since so many people have access to it) so there’s no need for them to bother.

I think this is what has happened to my students, for example.  They don’t bother studying, practising, or even looking things up because they “know” that their phone can do it for them.  I’ve had students hand in mechanically-translated (quite comically from plagiarized Chinese sources!) gibberish as their work.  They were utterly gobsmacked when I looked at it for less than five seconds and threw it back at them: “I said write in your own words, not in Baidu Translate’s words.”  They honestly didn’t understand how I could tell that it was machine translated!  They had such faith in their resources they didn’t even bother to check if what was coming from them was coherent, not to mention correct.

This combines in very bad ways with…

The flood factor

The amount of data an average person has pouring into their brain on an average day is actually quite incredible to consider.  If you’re not careful to filter it out it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed by it.  If you’ve never been taught the discipline of acquiring and sifting through information sources you will drown in it.

I think this explains the ever-spreading piles of bullshit on the Internet.  There’s simply too much stuff crossing our screens every waking moment of the day for us to check it all.  This is particularly true for people whose “research muscles” are atrophied from disuse and whose information base is the unsteady, almost wobbly, pile of untruths and half-truths that is the foundation of the Internet.  Most people lack both the tools and the will to sniff out bullshit and would rather spend their time spreading around something that seems entertaining (and, totally by coincidence, that shows how we’re so much better than those guys over there/back then/whatever!).  There’s no malice in the people spreading it (no matter how aggravating that spread may get).  There’s just ignorance.

Where do we go from here?

Fish

Sorry, Fish, but I have no fucking idea.  For all I know I may be contributing to the situation with this very screed.  This problem is bigger than I can even fully conceive, I suspect, not to mention take a crack at solving (the flood factor).  I’ll leave this for smarter people than I to fix (the laziness factor).

The more I see, the more I hear
The more I find fewer answers
I close my mind, I shout it out
But you know it’s getting harder

Highway to Heaven

Picasa 3 2015-10-02 73341 AM“Do you believe in The Rapture?” That’s what the distressed Baptist mom from Alabama asked me at her daughter’s gay wedding. I remember liking her. Guess that was her awkward attempt at an icebreaker. Or was it a shibboleth? A warm smile spread across my face as I dreamily recalled that magical moment when DeSweetie spotted Jenny on the dance floor in 1722. “Rapture” was playing. “Yes, ma’am. I do.”

Chasing rainbows and driving on a highway to heaven up and down the emerald hills and misty mountains of New England. Oh, Vermont, Vermont, nobody does green quite like you! We’re on our yearly pilgrimage to the sacred sands of Rye Beach, where Anna-Liisa’s ancestors have been sunning themselves for generations. Just as people from Jersey refer to New York as The City, my wife’s people refer to Rye as The Beach. Charms me to no end, this deep connection to space and place; it’s like getting a homemade gift, covered in fingerprints and kisses.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Good Monday

Mixbook  Beautiful Possibilities A Graphic Introduction to the Examined Life by John Faithful Hamer - Google Chrome 2015-09-27 52513 PMIndie: “Daddy, what’s so good about Good Friday? It wasn’t a particularly good day for Jesus. In fact, it was probably the worst day of his life.”

Me: “Yeah, probably was.”

Indie: “So we’re celebrating the death of an innocent man?

Me: “No!”

Indie: “Sure we are. Think about it, we’re celebrating the day that a guy we supposedly love and care about was tortured and killed. That’s cold.”

Me: “But, um, his death made all sorts of new things possible. It was a necessary plot twist in the story of salvation.”

Indie: “If you die on a Monday, and I inherit a whole bunch of money three days later, can I celebrate the day of your death for the rest of my life and call it Good Monday?”

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Why Michael Moore Gets On My Nerves

“When God wants to punish you, He sends a person of bad character who shares all of your opinions.”—Aaron Haspel, Everything (2015)

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)
66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

I saw Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002) with five friends. All of us are big-time supporters of gun-control. So he had us at hello. And yet he managed to lose us. All of us. We walked out of the theater disgusted with Moore. Although the film was manipulative and misleading throughout, the moral nadir of the propaganda piece—the real low point of the film—was when he went to Charlton Heston’s house. We were all furious by the end of that scene. What an abuse of trust, hospitality, decency, and good will. As my buddy put it, as we walked out of the theater: “Wow, Moore almost makes you wanna join the NRA!”

I’ve often suspected that the extreme self-righteousness one often finds amongst documentary filmmakers who specialize in exposés is a kind of psychological defense mechanism. People like Michael Moore need to believe that their cause is perfectly just, and people like Charlton Heston are perfectly evil; it’s the only way to avoid facing up to the fact that what they’re doing is often profoundly unethical. After all, people like Moore get people to trust them so they can publicly humiliate them. It’s hard to make that look good. In fact, on the face of it, it makes them seem about as decent and respectable as the scandal-mongering gossips who write for celebrity mags like The National Enquirer. Of course documentary filmmakers don’t want to see themselves as bloodsucking parasites, and that’s precisely why they need to demonize their opponents. The ends justify the means only if your opponents are devils and your friends are angels. The rationalizations one overhears at certain film festivals are, at bottom, not unlike the rationalizations one overhears at certain pubs frequented by sleazy salesmen: “Suckers deserve to get suckered.”

Documentary film has been good to the left for well over half a century—not, I hasten to add, because most documentary filmmakers have been left-leaning, but rather because the genre is itself remarkably well-suited to the transmission of progressive ideas. Unlike slow-paced, text-heavy mediums (e.g., the scholarly book), which privilege a kind of dry intellectualism devoid of heart, or fast-paced, image-heavy mediums (e.g., the TV news), which privilege a sordid sensationalism devoid of intellectual content, the very format of the documentary film facilitates the construction of long arguments, with lots of moving parts; arguments which clarify, and make manifest, the subtle connections between large social processes and the lived reality of people—people just like you.

If you’re looking for the most devastating critique of Michael Moore, you won’t find it on Fox News, or amongst his right-wing detractors; you’ll find it, after a few glasses of wine, at a documentary film festival. Nobody loathes the man more than other progressive filmmakers. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin—the brilliant minds behind award-winning documentaries like Girl Model (2011) and Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005)—are a case in point. They’ve told me, on numerous occasions, that Moore hasn’t just compromised the specific causes he’s championed; he’s undermined the credibility of the entire genre. When you undermine the credibility of something like documentary film—something which has been immensely useful to progressive causes—you’re ultimately undermining the left.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Goldfish (2017)

The Year of the Asshole

Jian Ghomeshi
Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi attends the Opening Night Party for the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival at Maple Leaf Square on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 in Toronto. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

First it was that smiley feminist ally, the Q-ute metrosexual guy on CBC, Jian Ghomeshi; and then it was Barack Obama, the candidate of HOPE; and that Yoda-like Zen master, Joshu Roshi, who wisened up my homeboy Leonard Cohen, my cousin Lindsey, and David, sweet David, da Albuquerque; and now it’s Bill Cosby, Cliff, motherfucking, Huxtable!

What’s next? Seriously, what’s next? Look, I know disillusionment is part of growing up (a part I’ve never been particularly good at), and I know that wanting to be “illusioned” is itself morally suspect in the world of WikiLeaks and Five Eyes, CSIS, ISIS, and Edward Snowden. But, life, for God’s sake, can you at least stagger the bad news, give me a chance to catch my breath, before you punch me in the stomach again?

My friend Ray Taylor said this was going to be remembered as The Year of the Asshole, a year of reckoning wherein a whole lot of assholes get their comeuppance. And that prophecy proves more and more prescient the farther we push into this godforsaken Year of our Lord. Because it’s November, it’s grey, and the party appears to be over.

But perhaps it’s all for the best. Perhaps it’s good to be down here, on my hands and knees, picking up the pieces of broken glass, with all the other sinners.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Gnostic Lullaby

14569626_332573817093970_1553337268_nWe say “de gustibus non est disputandum” (there’s no accounting for taste) when we’re feeling cornered and embarrassed (e.g., when someone discovers your Céline Dion CDs, your kitten calendars, your extensive collection of vintage garden gnomes). We say it when we’re feeling lazy or wish to avoid conflict (e.g., you say “tow-may-tow” and I’ll say “tow-mah-tow”). We say it when we do not wish to defend that which we dimly suspect to be indefensible. Why do we frequently find it hard to give a rational account of our aesthetic judgments? I’m not sure. But I know it applies to our taste in people just as much as our taste in music, calendars, and collectibles.

Just as there are hot people who leave us cold, there are good people who we respect immensely but avoid socially. Love and friendship often march to the beat of unseen drummers. When pressed by a modern-day Socrates, I find it very hard, at times, to justify my seemingly eclectic taste in friends. Most of the time, I really couldn’t tell you why I gravitate toward the one, avoid the other. All I can say with certainty is that it’s got something to do with a highly idiosyncratic estimation of a person’s character.

I can tolerate some pretty major flaws in my friends—flaws that others find insufferable—and yet there’s one relatively minor vice (stinginess) that I find thoroughly repulsive. My estimation of the virtues is equally uneven. I find, time and again, that I am partial to particular virtues, such as courage. Truth be told, I am attracted—irresistibly attracted—to courageous people, even if their views and interests and values differ from my own immensely. All of this leads me to suspect that de gustibus non est disputandum applies to ethics just as much as it applies to aesthetics.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)