Working Dogs

I read this link from Insty with open-jawed astonishment yesterday because while I was out earlier in the day, I’d already started to put together a similar essay on the topic.

Maria D. Fitzpatrick of Cornell University and Timothy J. Moore of the University of Melbourne said they analyzed the mortality rates in the U.S. and noticed that many older Americans – but disproportionally men who retire at 62 – are affected by sudden increased rates of death.
“A lot happens in our early 60s. Some change jobs, scale back working hours or retire. Our health-care coverage may shift. We may have fewer financial resources, or we may begin collecting Social Security,” Fitzpatrick told The Wall Street Journal. “About one-third of Americans immediately claim Social Security at 62. Ten percent of men retire in the month they turn 62.”
The numbers, according to the study, show that there is a two percent increase in male mortality at age 62 in the country. “Over the 34 years we studied, there were an additional 400 to 800 deaths per year beyond what we expected, or an additional 13,000 to 27,000 excess male deaths within 12 months of turning 62,” the professor said.
The researcher blames the increased mortality on the retirement as retirees tend to withdraw from life and no longer see the point in engaging.

Quite honestly, I think I have a better take on this than the study. Here’s why.

I took an older guy somewhere during my early-morning Uber shift, and we got to chatting about retirement. He was in his early sixties and was thinking about retirement in the next couple of years or so — he’d reached all the retirement “qualifications” in terms of his age, length of service, and so on — and when I asked him what he was going to do after retirement, he said quite simply, “I don’t know.” He had no outside interests other than his work, he said, and had no hobbies or anything to keep him occupied when he would quit working.

This set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, because I’d confronted the very same thoughts when I planned on retiring back in 2016 on reaching age 62 (which seems to be the “killer” age discovered by the researchers).

Worse than that, I either know men personally or have heard of many instances of men who have died soon — very soon — after retiring early. (When men retire at a later age, they paradoxically seem to live longer, as the study shows.) Sometimes, men die within six months of getting their gold watch, after many decades of working with little or even no time off for illness. Where I differ from the study is that I think I know the real reason why this happens.

We’re working dogs.

As long as men have work to do, we do fine. We have a purpose in life, we get up in the mornings with a day’s work ahead of ourselves, and this gives us a reason to live. It’s all tied up, I believe, in our inherent nature as providers and all that goes with it. When that activity stops earlier than expected — at 62, most of us have at least fifteen or even twenty more years to live — subconsciously we still feel that we are capable of working, providing and in short contributing to ourselves and others.

But when that ends, it’s as though a switch is turned off somewhere and our brains simply say, “Oh well, that’s it,” and we die. It may be that illness has been kept at bay through our industry and now given an empty playing field, so to speak, it takes over; or it may be that we do things that are more dangerous (the study mentions driving more as one activity), or perhaps we working dogs just feel useless and our existence, pointless.

It’s one of the reasons why I started blogging (i.e. writing) again after Connie passed away; all those years of caring for her had given me something to do, a purpose in life and now, faced with a life impossibly empty, I could well see why some cussed old fart would just say, “Ah, fuck it.” And die. Believe me, the thought of letting go crossed my mind often.

But this isn’t about me. This is about all men — and a couple of close friends withal — who are contemplating retirement, but without having any kind of backup work to do after they retire. And I’ll bet there are more than a few of my Readers who are looking down the barrel of this very gun, if not now, but soon. (My reader demographics skew towards cantankerous old farts because I am one, and we tend to seek each other out.)

And let me tell you, I fear for these men’s lives. We can’t handle boredom — not those men who have heretofore led active, fulfilling lives working.

Some men try to hold on, become consultants in their erstwhile fields, and either fail (because the market isn’t as great or as receptive as they thought), or they discover that consulting means selling yourself on a daily basis — and can’t bear the job because failure, in almost all cases, means (to them) that they are worthless. So instead of leaving the workplace as successes, they have to quit ignominiously as failures.

Even in our old age, we need a purpose in life, something that gets us out of the house and outside our own heads (the latter being a dark and unpleasant place, trust me on this) and something that will occupy our hands and minds. We are men: we are supposed to work.

And this is why, I believe, that men who retire at an older age are less likely to croak soon after retirement than the younger ones; their minds and bodies have finally said, “Enough!” — and they can let go, be inactive and just play with their grandchildren. But the younger ones are at risk, and they die, tragically in numbers disproportionate to the expectancy.

Some men just refuse to quit working and work until one day they keel over. Some men do charity work in their retirement, but others (e.g. myself) are just not cut out for that kind of thing. Some men take up hobbies which consume their time — just visit a model railroaders’ show and see the demographics of the stallholders — but I have to tell you that a hobby started late in life is seldom going to hold your attention for too long. Some men dream of adventure, and do stupid stuff like exploring the tropical rainforests — like hobbies, a lot of this stuff is best begun when you’re a young man — and sadly, what men discover is that even though they may have retired “young”, their bodies can’t do what a younger man’s can. More failure.

I don’t have an answer to this. I wish I did, but I just don’t. The sad fact of the matter is that without work, we die. And the younger we are when we quit work, the sooner we die.

I welcome any and all ideas, experiences, anecdotes and advice in Comments. It may all be for nothing; but what you say may save a life, and what you read may save yours. And if what you have to say is too personal, feel free to send me an email — I’ll anonymize the thing, take out all the personal details and post the distilled content later. Have at it… please.

This might be the most important post I’ve ever written.

No Foundation

I don’t know if y’all have read this article (found via Insty, thankee Glenn) entitled “The Primal Scream of Identity Politics“, but really, you should.

The deeper question raised is not the instrumental concern of Lilla and others—how liberalism can retool itself in order to win more elections. Rather, it’s the elemental one: How has the question of “identity” come to be emotional and political ground zero for so many in America, and elsewhere in the Western world?

I found Mary Eberstat’s answer to be truly interesting and, unusually for the Weekly Standard, right on the money.

One of the greatest sins perpetrated by statism and its greatest exponent, Marxism, is the dissolution of the family structure. Let’s be perfectly honest, here: for about as long as mankind has walked upright (and probably even before), the basic family unit (father, mother, offspring) and extended unit (grandparents, uncles and aunts etc.) were always held sacred. “Honor thy father and mother” is one of the basic principles of society, regardless of religion, and of course parental care and concern for one’s children is deeply embedded in our genetic code for very good reasons, among them being the one identified by Eberstat: it is the basic building-block of our individual identity; hence family names like Johnson (son of John) or the Icelandic Gudrunsdottir (daughter of Gudrun). It’s also the principle behind the concept of not bringing shame on the family name (even though the latter has been horribly abused by primitive societies like Islamic ones).

But if your mother has been the neighborhood’s Miss Margarine-Legs and each of your siblings shares your mother but has a different father who is anyway notable for his absence, where’s the honor going to appear? Nowhere, if I may answer the rhetorical question.

And of course, Man is a social animal — hence pejorative terms like “sociopath” or “antisocial” for the outliers who aren’t. The need for “belonging” (and its concomitant identity) is elemental, so if the historical primary identity (a member of a family) is gone, the rootless soul will always feel the need to find another — hence the appeal of criminal gangs in inner-city children of single mothers, to give but one example — and for those who were not pulled into gangs, the growth of cults like eco-centrism and even antifa can provide alternatives, poor organizations though they are. (I haven’t seen any facts on this topic, but I’d wager good money that a representative cross-section of antifa members will have come from broken- or single-parent homes.)

Another of Eberstat’s postulations is the widespread occurrence of mental illness among adolescents and Millennials (and we all know about opioid usage in those groups), and once again, it’s not a facile inference to link the lack of a family unit to that phenomenon.

And always remember: dissolution of the family is a Marxist precept, and we are not Marxists, no matter how much liberal politicians and the media think we are or would like us to be.

So, my Readers who have young children: resist with all your might any efforts to denigrate your parental authority — loudly, if you have to — and at all times, remind your children that family matters above all in the grand scheme of things. Tell your kids never to take sides with their friends against their siblings, insist on respect for you and your spouse from them, and always take their side against anyone or any institution: schools, friends and government (except of course in cases of actual criminality).

This, my friends, is the real “resistance”, and we are doomed if we don’t offer any.

Back To The Past

One of the many sins of Marxism is its demonization of the word “bourgeois“, the French term for the conservative middle class. The bourgeoisie had always been a target of scorn for the nobility, of course, because those worthies always thought (and in many cases were correct in thinking) that bourgeois values, customs and indeed laws didn’t apply to them, the anointed.

But the real problem arose for the bourgeoisie when Marxism became ascendant — because Marxism requires only two classes: the ruling elite and the proletariat working class, because those messy middle-class types refused to sacrifice their conservative values on the altar of the sainted Party.

And needless to say, the idea of a ruling class and worker / peasantry found (and continues to find) great favor with the so-called intelligentsia (another verbal creation of Marxism), because they have always fondly believed that they would be part of the ruling elite.

It’s not just my antipathy towards Marxism which causes me to rage occasionally about falling societal standards; it’s mostly because of my staunch support of and adherence to middle-class values, without which I believe that society descends rapidly into totalitarianism, anarchy and chaos, in no particular order. So you can imagine how much I welcome scholarly opinion which happens to agree with mine.

Apparently, this op-ed article has got its two authors in trouble with The Usual Suspects (race hustlers, the other-gendered, closet Marxists — you get the idea). But in all seriousness, please explain to me how anyone can disagree with the following statement:

“Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

Not only are these precepts pure common sense; history has proven them to be not only that, but that the lack or rejection thereof produces catastrophic results for any society.

And let me say right now that these principles are not just applicable to White First World societies. As Wax and Alexander note, all societies prosper when they maintain those values; the fact remains that the values originated not just in Western culture over the centuries but, at least in part, in other societies as well.

Also needless to say, those elements in our so-called modern society who are up in arms about the Wax-Alexander article are precisely those who are causing the greatest amount of division within it today.

I say: a pox on all of them. We need to reinstate those bourgeois values and principles in general, and not rely on The Remnant to keep that flickering flame alive in only their children and friends. We need to go back, and discard all the laws and customs which have attempted to overturn bourgeois values — indeed, in some cases these excrescences have already succeeded in doing so.

Note, by the way, that the above principles exist outside the Enlightenment and, for example, our own Constitution, for the simple reason that they predated them. In fact, much of today’s societal woes can be attributed to the malapplication of Constitutional precept into such silliness as “gender fluidity” under the (incorrect) aegis of, say, freedom of speech and thought, or equal protection under the law.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the Constitution is not the wonderful document and institution that it is. But if anything, it has always relied on the good intentions of society — good intentions which have crumbled and disappeared under the weight of Marxism, post-Modernism and all the other cynical and baleful movements which have caused today’s societal ills.

I for one would welcome a return to 1950s values with open arms. I suspect I’m not alone in this sentiment, as deplorable as others may find it.

Prediction Mathematics

Before I go any further into this topic, I want all the other (and more-qualified-than-I) statisticians out there please to hold off on quibbles about minutiae, because this is a fairly simplistic overview, not an academic treatise about the topic. For the record, however, let me remind everybody that I was involved in designing predictive algorithms in my past life as a consultant in the supermarket industry, and my specialty was assessing and assigning the different weighting factors involved in predicting incremental sales created by price- and other kinds of promotions. I didn’t design the algorithms — that was the job of some seriously-brainy boffins from MIT, University of Chicago and Northwestern — but I did advise them on the above, and the results were predictive algorithms that generated forecasts which were generally between 95% and 97% accurate.

What prompted this post was this article, which I urge  you to read before continuing, because otherwise what I’m going to say may not make sense.

Here’s a quick thumbnail sketch as to how all this works — and I’m not going to use the supermarket business because even I fall asleep because of its mind-numbing boredom. Let’s make it more current, more contemporaneous.

Say we want to establish the likelihood of someone becoming a terrorist who wants to blow a bunch of innocent people up in a suicide attack. Note the terms of the discussion carefully, because they are important.

  • “Terrorist” = somebody who wants to terrorize the population at large
  • “Innocent people” = people who are not actively inimical to the terrorist’s philosophy, group or society
  • “Suicide” = someone who knows that he will perish in the attack.

Note that this predictive algorithm is not going to identify Timothy McVeigh, for example, because while some innocent people were killed in his Oklahoma City attack, the bomb he created was specifically targeted at an IRS building as opposed to, say, a Pink Floyd concert. Likewise, McVeigh made careful plans to avoid being killed in the bomb blast, and his attack was probably designed to create fear among government employees. (Yes, of course he was a terrorist, just not the kind we’re trying to predict below.)

So how does one establish an algorithm to foresee (and, one hopes, guard against) a terrorist attack such as described in the brief? One looks at history (without which all predictions are called “guesswork”) and looks at the profiles of all other people who have perpetrated such crimes in the past, and not the distant past either, because time has a way of making predictive algorithms irrelevant as circumstances change. From that, we can deduce the following contemporary factors:

  • religious fanaticism
  • age
  • sex
  • exposure to radical philosophy
  • societal alienation
  • socio-economic status

That’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but it will give you an idea of what’s involved. What this algorithm is supposed to do is drill down through the total population of a defined universe (a country, an area, the entire world) to identify a potential terrorist as defined above. So here we go, and let’s build a set of simple parameters for our algorithm from some of the above factors, starting with the easiest one first.

  • Socio-economic status:
    We can eliminate the upper echelons of society from any inspection. Saudi or Swedish princes and billionaire oil oligarchs don’t blow themselves up in Parisian shopping malls, or at least none have so far. Almost exclusively, terrorists have come from middle-class origins and the unemployed- or low-wage scale segments. These are micro-weightings, i.e. applied within the criterion itself. Using a scale of 1-100, we can estimate that upper-class: 0.5; middle-class: 40; low-wage: 50; unemployed: 65. (Note that they don’t have to add up to 100 collectively; we’re establishing a risk factor for each group.)
    The more interesting question is: how important is socio-economic status as a predictive factor compared to, say, religion? Probably not as much; but how much less important? This is a macro-weighting, which is applied across all the identified criteria. For the sake of argument, let’s assign the socio-economic factor a weighting of, say, 35 overall.
  • Societal alienation:
    Immigrant or native-born? Immigrants or, as we used to call them, “strangers in town” or “newcomers” may feel that they’re not part of the new society in which they find themselves — especially if that society is radically different from the one they left. Newcomers also have fewer “roots” in that society, which makes anti-social activity less problematic for their conscience. If the newcomers are also part of an ethnic group which sets themselves apart from the mainstream of their adopted society — a combination of socially, philosophically or physically — this will add to their feelings of alienation. The second determinant, native-born, is probably less important, although if they are members of a “set-apart” group, that micro-weighting needs to be adjusted upwards, and especially if they have constant contact with newcomers. Once again, we can assign micro-weightings of 60 and 45 respectively.
    For the macro-weighting, we can ask how important alienation is, compared to socio-economic status? Probably a lot more, but once again, how much more? — which is the weighting decision. More than socio-economic’s 35? Definitely — more like 60, almost twice as likely.
  • Age:
    Most terrorists are young — under the age of forty. While an age of, say, sixty-five is not a disqualifying criterion, it certainly suggests a far smaller weighting than someone who is in their twenties (which group has supplied the far-greater proportion of terrorists than sexagenarians). We can assign weightings by specific age groups (e.g. 12-16, 17-25, 26-30 and so on), but to keep things simple, we’ll give the under-40s a cumulative micro-weighting of 90, and the over-40s a score of 5.
    As a macro-weighting, age is one of the principle determinants of likely terrorists, and incidentally of most major criminal activity in general (check the distribution curve of ages among prison inmates and known terrorists to verify this statement). Let’s give this group a score of 50 — less than socio-economic status, but not much less.
  • Religious fanaticism:
    Almost all religions engender fanaticism in one way or another, but in recent times (remember the “recent history” issue), Islam has produced by far the greater number, and has caused by far the greatest number of terrorist-inspired incidents, which have killed by far the greatest number of innocent people. (Note that Nazi fanatics killed far more innocent people in the past two hundred-odd years, but in the past two decades have killed almost none — hence the recency determinant.) At the moment, therefore, an adherent of Islam would need to get a far greater micro-weighting than, say, a Nazi, Christian or Buddhist.
    As a macro-weighting (applied against the total population), Islam is probably the single most important determinant — and if one were to apply a weighting factor along that scale of 1-100, one could easily assign a contemporary weighting of 95 or even higher.

Of course, anyone suggesting weightings such as the above is going to be accused of “profiling” by the moral relativists, SJWs, ACLU, SPLC and suchlike Useful Idiots, but I should point out that on that basis, no courts should use the COMPAS system at all.

What should be fairly obvious to anyone is that while the overall algorithm design can be a proprietary affair, the weighting factors within the algorithms need to be subject to the closest scrutiny and debate possible. I should also point out that a lack of such analysis has enabled the scam known as global warming / -cooling / climate change to be accepted by the gullible and ignorant, but we can talk about that another time.

Suffice it to say that the more daylight involved, and most certainly the daylight within the group building and implementing the forecast criteria — statisticians, intelligence services, law enforcement and the judicial system, the more accurate the algorithms will become. Most important, however, is the fact that the predictive algorithms will engender a higher degree of trust in the population.

Let Africa Sink

As my Let Africa Sink essay from 2002(!) is going to feature in my Monday post, I thought I’d take the opportunity to re-publish it below, pretty much un-edited except for a few typos which somehow survived to the present day.  Read more