The Problem with Sex Work is Work

I just happened across this article from almost a year ago. It fits into my worldview that the fundamental issue with prostitution and other forms of so-called ‘sex work’ is the concept of work itself. As humans in a Capitalist (or even Socialist) system, we are conscripted into employment.

Rousseau or Locke may have called this a social contract, but I never signed it, and still I am forced to accept the terms and conditions.

I’ve been quite busy working to survive, so I don’t have time to comment, save to say that I agree with the major concepts, as I have written previously here, here, here, and here.

In God We Trust

This slogan crossed my path, and I stopped to think: Perhaps a bit cynical, but is a country’s foundation…or their currency, at least…is built upon vapour, what does that say about the country and its citizens?

Sure, Rome of the Ancients had a myth-based origin story. They had their wolf, and we’ve got some hoary bearded Birkenstock-wearing gentleman sporting a toga, but does it matter that it’s all pretend?

Humans thrive on stories, but what happens when most people understand that the emperor’s wearing no clothes…not even that toga?

Sure, Nietzsche posed the same question. God is dead, right? And then what? Would this social fabric just disintegrate into dust, no longer supporting the thread-bare culture into the bin?

Entropy, right?

Can a society even exist with out some common mythos? What would happen to a society based on some other glue? Is there such an adhesive?

I can imagine a society centred on money or science, but these still rely on some underlying faith and a different metanarrative.

Is a common mythos necessary for society, or is this just reflective of some paucity of imagination?

Unfettered Capitalism

I created a post yesterday, which has taken off at LinkedIn:

Unfettered Capitalism is a major contributor to homelessness. Universal Basic Income may provide relief but does not ‘fix’ homelessness. Whilst mental illness is a contributing factor to many homeless, as is drugs addiction, requirements for employment and housing is a marked barrier to recovery: proof of income, adequate credit, and rental history requirements hobble the fortuitous homeless. Misguided policy around mental illness and addiction drive in the last nails. Foucault may have also had a thing or two to say about the prevailing headwinds.

Bry Willis – LinkedIn

Typically, I segment my social commentary as such:

  • WordPress: Philosophical & Sociopolitical
  • Facebook: Personal & Political
  • LinkedIn: Professional
  • Twitter: Who knows
  • Pinterest: Random
  • Tumblr: Music
  • YouTube (1): Philosophical
  • YouTube (2): Music
  • Link Tree: All Links:

And given, I’ve been a professional economist, occasionally, I post economics content on LinkedIn, though not often.

I received a lot of positive support and feedback, but there are the diehard apologists chiming in to defend this system. A defensive reaction to a polite antagonist was:

Wearing my economist and consultant chapeau, specificity is my key contention. My comment is that this is a complex problem, and humans have a poor track record at solving complex problems. Part of the problem in dealing with complexity is one of understanding boundaries; the other problem is identifying the right dimensions. In my original comment, I point out that, fundamentally, medical science does not understand pain or pain management, and government unnecessarily views these people through a moral lens, and so their solutions are misguided. In this particular use case, poverty and homelessness are a result.

This is not the right forum to debate this, but, categorically, drugs policies in the US, at least in the Kensington area in Philadelphia, are likely the prime contributors to the problem of homelessness.

It’s been a long day, so I’ll reserve commentary for some other day.

Humanism is Speciesism

Why is racism wrong but speciesism OK? Primarily, other species have no voice, and to have no voice is to have no say. This advert got my attention.

Joaquin Phoenix Advert

Humanism is part and parcel of specious Enlightenment tripe, where ‘coincidentally‘ humans put themselves at the forefront. Copernicus removed Earth from the centre — though to be fair, even Christians had elevated gender-non-specific-Man above other animals — , but Humanism makes it more poignant that it’s Man at centre not God. Gods be damned. In fact, it’s often an afterthought that humans are animals at all, despite only the slightest veneer of consciousness and, more to the point, language to separate us from them.

Otherness has proven itself to be an evolutionary survival aspects, one that has brought me tho a point where I can write this, so one can call it natural, another term fraught with connotational baggage. To be able to differentiate and discriminate appear to be valuable attributes, but how much is enough, and how much is too much.

Buddhism teaches that we are all one with the cosmos, that any distinction is an illusion. Buddhist Enlightenment — not to be confused with Western Enlightenment — is to understand this, to not be bound to the illusion.

But, if racism is wrong, why is speciesism OK? Humans do give some animals some rights, and some places give different animals different rights, whilst other give animals categorically more and fewer rights. Some places ascribe divinity upon animals, elevating them above humans.

Racism seems to be more wrong because humans are more genetically homogeneous — at least phenotypically. Other mammals and herptiles don’t look so much like us. In observation, when they do, we have an additional layer of empathy, so chimps and canines with expressive eyes gain sympathy not afforded crustaceans and pinnipeds.

I don’t have an answer save to say that it’s just convenient and some day we may see a world as portrayed by science fiction where some — mostly bipedal species — live quasi-harmoniously with humans. But even there, humans are always the start, front and centre to provide to moral POV.

Identity Management

Identity is a human construct, but, more specifically, it’s a social construct. If you were abandoned in a place without human contact and with no prospects for contact, your current perception of yourself would wither away. If you are born in this place (and managed to survive and somehow have language to self-articulate), you would have little of what one might term identity. Whether the ability to discriminate yourself from other species and objects may not qualify for identity.

Identity is not a solo sport. One needs at least two to play.

For every identity, i, the relationship must always be

i  ≥  i + 1

Where by ≥ , I mean at least equal to. In fact, for each i, one may be able to argue that one should multiply the number of identities by the number of nodes, which is to say the number of participants in forming the identities. This accounts for developed personae.

i  ≥  n(i + 1)

Today, this was on my mind (as it were) as I was grocery shopping. I identify as an urbanite. I’ve lived in cities and in near suburbs, but I’ve recently moved from a rural setting to a more rural setting.

Sidenote in the middle:

It’s easy to see why the US are so politically fractured. Fundamentally, I do not see the world as do my rural neighbours. I am already predisposed to be an introvert, but this gives my more reason to segregate. These neighbours just view different things as fundamentally important. And the people create a veritable monoculture. I could pretend to fit it. Instead, I remain at the margin and watch.

Thankfully, my profession allows me to work remotely, but I have the opportunity to visit cities when working closely with my clientele. To be even more honest, in my reckoning the US have only 2 cities, New York and Los Angeles. I’ve lived in Chicago, have worked in Houston, and live south of Philadelphia at the moment–the 3rd, 4th, and 5th largest cities in the US, all of which pale in comparison to numbers 1 and 2. And my heart, as it were, resides in LA.

And we’re back…

Where other people are concerned, they have a vision of our identity, and we have our own. And this doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as we somewhat adjust our identity if we wish to be accepted into the group, but we don’t typically lose our self-identity, even if we can’t fully express it.

Some identities are easier to hide than others. If I am a gay female, I can just not discuss the matter or deny it if the situation would otherwise be hostile, but it doesn’t make me less gay. And to the other party, the may see me as a nubile woman.

Fairly obviously, my mum sees me differently to my coworkers or even my spouse, and most people I’ve seen interact with their parents differently than other people. This is about the identity of the persona. This is how a 30- or 40-something can still feel like a child when interacting with a parent but would never demur to, say, a peer.

In isolation, there is no need for identity in this way. If I am a trans-male who in society identifies with wearing clothes traditionally reserved for women of the same culture, there are no other women to model myself after. If I have these clothes available, I’ll wear them. Perhaps I have left my favourite dress behind, and I remember it fondly. This was a part of my former identity.

But would I spend time dressing well and applying cosmetics if the chance of meeting another human was nil to none? Unlikely.

And what if two heterosexual males were to find themselves abandoned with little hope for rescue? Would this be Brokeback Mountain revisited? This is stereotypical prison behaviour. Of course, in this case, this is a temporary identity override, and perhaps not something to ever admit once reinserted into polite company.

So What?

Whilst shopping, I was hypercritical (though quiet) about how I did not feel I fit into the environment. I questioned whether I might be considered to be a misanthrope. Not that I hated these people, but I just did not identify with them. And though I could be civil in short doses, it was not my preference to interact.

Truth be told, there may have been plenty of other people thinking the same thing, but how would one tell? At times, I’ll wear identifying clothing, like a tee-shirt that reads ‘Jesus Saves Sinners… and redeems them for valuable cash and prizes‘. These tend to attract the like-minded people with senses of humour, and the people baited into the headline but offended by the punchline.

So, now I identify this as the end of my post…

Political Path

People can change.

Although I have changed my opinion and perspective over the years, I feel that most people settle into their ways, fixing their positions with an unhealthy dose of confirmation bias. I’d like to think that I could change my position materially from where I am now given the introduction of new evidence, but I don’t think it’s likely. First off: because I am coming from a vantage where I feel I am ‘right’.

Don’t believe everything you think.

— Various

Of course, there is no absolute right, but from the perspective of the times and place and some triangulation, I’ll say ‘relatively right’.


When I left high school in 1979, I considered myself to be generally Conservative — at least as I understood the word to mean and without dimension or nuance. I’m not sure I had a great grasp of the definition.

Upon graduation, I entered the military. I remember in conversation with a mate that I was a Conservative. He laughed, and said I was the least Conservative person he’d ever come across. I was perplexed, but I had to reorient my self-perspective.

New Definition

I decided that I was a Conservative — a Fiscal Conservative —, but I was a Social Liberal. I’d pretty much been a Social Justice Warrior (SJW), concerned with the underdogs, but it wouldn’t be on my dime — or the prospect I had for future nickels and dimes.

I held this position for years — until I realised that the two positions were untenable. You can’t simultaneously offer full social equality for free, and these were rights we were discussing. Fundamental rights. If money was the friction between a right and its realisation, then it needed to be spent. Fiscal Conservatism be damned!

Politicus Interruptus

Somewhere in the fray, I had dabbled with Libertarianism. Again, I dismissed this as an untenable fantasy. There had never been even close to an instance of this working, and it goes against the grain of all social concepts. It’s built on a dream — somehow anarchy without the anarchy, so anarchy + magic.


At some point, I didn’t like the PR of the Liberal tag, so I opted for Progressive. In the real world, I tend to side pragmatically with Progressives — the Bernie Sanders crowd in the US — , though I understand the illusion of progress and of politics in general.

Searching further to find a political identity, I settle on anarcho-syndicalism, the system I most identify with today, though there are only slightly more examples of this as there are Libertarian instances, a problem being that when some people see a leaderless group, they see it as a vacuum, and history repeats itself, so I’m not sure how sustainable this system could be.

This is now…

I am under no delusion that there is a right way for society to exist. I do believe there are plenty of wrong ways, but there are too many dimensions and complexities to have a single way. After all, how are you optimising the system? Trade-offs exist, and making a choice to maximise X might (and does) mean that Y is no longer maximised. Do you make X = 10 and Y = 8, or do you settle for X = 9 and Y = 9? And there are decidedly more than just X and Y.

There is no real reason to believe that society or even humans should exists, but given consciousness and self-preservation urges, I’ll take that as a given. That’s an inviolable metanarrative element.

Criminal Conservatism

A few years ago, I shared with a colleague that I had noticed that my high school classmates who seemed to be the most non-conformist (or perhaps the most anti-authoritarian), the ones most likely to have abused drugs and alcohol and most likely to criticise the Man, have by and large become extremely conservative on the political spectrum. Most are card-carrying Republicans, and dreaded low-information voters, continuing the trend of low-information acquisition and processing. He said that he had noticed a similar trend.

I still keep in contact with some some old mates who are Conservative Republicans, but who were high-information consumers then and still, so I am not saying that all Conservatives are low-information people.

A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head.

—Benjamin Disraeli (Misattributed)

The past couple of years, in a sort of nod to Bukowski, I’ve been researching or circulating among the underbelly of the United States, the veritable dalit-class comprised of drug dealers and users, pimps, prostitutes, and thieves. And I’ve noticed the same trend. These people might fear or hate the police and the system, and they may not vote or even be high-information seekers, but they seem to have a marked propensity to Conservatism. I admit that this is anecdotal and rife with confirmation bias, but this is my observation.

To broad brush any group into some monolith is always a fools errand and missing dimensional nuance, but the general direction holds. In my observation, these people are very black & white, and they want to see law & order (as much as they want to avoid its glance). They are interested in fairness, and call out being beat, as in being shorted in a drug deal or overpay at the grocery store–the same grocery store from which they just shoplifted.

When they see a news story, ‘That bank robber deserved to get caught’ would not be an unexpected response. Even if they got caught, they might voice that they deserved it. The received sentence might be a different story.

I am not sure why this shift from anti-establishment to hyper establishment happens. I’ve also noticed that even if they dislike the particular people serving government roles, they still feel that the abstract concepts of government, democracy, capitalism, and market systems make sense, if only the particular instance is not great.

One reaction I had is that some of these people feel that the transgressions of their youth might have been avoided only if there were more discipline, and so they support this construct for the benefit of future generations, who, as embodied in Millennials, are soft and lack respect for authority.

I’d recently re-discovered a Bill Moyers interview with moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and there is some relationship. And whilst I could critique some of Haidt’s accepted metanarrative relative to society, his points are valid within the constraints of this narrative.

The video is almost an hour long and was produced in 2012, it is a worthwhile endeavour to watch.

I am wondering if anyone else has seen this trend or who has experienced a contrary trend. Extra points for an explanation or supporting research.

Cover image: Sean Penn, excerpt from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Brett Cavanaugh, SCOTUS and posterboy Conservative hack

Hopeless Hubris

There’s a dangerous arrogance to hopelessness… Total hopelessness assumes that we know everything there is to know.…
When we think we know everything, we preclude opportunity.

James McCarthy

In a recent panel discussion on Climate Change, James McCarthy played Enlightenment standard bearer as he derided the hopeless. Steven Pinker, whom I’ve mentioned in this vein plays to the same tune.

Whether realistic, simply optimistic, or Pollyannas remain to be seen. Future history will be the final arbiter, but I want to touch on the relationship of arrogance to hopelessness.

McCarthy is right to make the equation, but what’s left unsaid is the hubris on the other side, of the Scientists, who put more faith in possible solutions than is, perhaps, warranted. This, too, is arrogance:

We gotten here from there, so we must be able to continue from here to the next there… along our next journey to progress.

It reminds me of the one about the person falling to their death from a tall building. At the fifth floor, in response to the question, ‘How’s in going?’ says, ‘So far, so good‘.

This is missing the perspective that we could already have situated ourselves into some evolutionary dead end, just awaiting the inevitable ground splat.

I’m not a pessimist. I am merely pointing out the arrogance of both vantages. In fact, I see it as a line curved so as to bend back upon itself.

Hubris Circle

Whilst one said may be correct, it is not through knowledge but through ignorance and emotion they arrive at their position. It’s primarily temperament and opinion. It’s certainly not science, save the blind faith variety.

I don’t really have much to say on the subject at this moment. I just wanted to share my reaction.

The Problem of Rape

Last week, Motherboard published the full email thread in which Stallman wrote that the “most plausible scenario” is that Epstein’s underage victims in his campaign of trafficking were “entirely willing.” Stallman also argued about the definition of “rape” and whether the term applies to the victims.

When someone else in the email thread pointed out that victim Virginia Giuffre, who was 17 when she was forced to have sex with AI pioneer Marvin Minsky, Stallman said “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

Richard Stallman resigned from several positions after these comments were surfaced.

The United States have a communication problem that transcends their petty polar politics, and this issue extends to the West.

The conversation around rape and Julian Assange became an issue based on Sweden’s characterisation of the crime as they see it, but this is different.

As with many jurisdictions, the United States creates age-based legal boundaries. This is expedient, to to sure, but we also know, rape aside, that people mature at different paces–not to mention the concept that the brain is not fully developed (whatever than means) until around age 30.

Age is used to delimit majority for contracts, marriage, sex (consent), alcohol, voting, military service, and so on, but it’s a weak tea proxy.

As a legal/social subject, rape is fairly categorically reviled, but it is hardly cut and dry, especially when one confounds the issue with the concept of statutory rape, which is where the systems strips the concept of consent from the equation, so that at 6,569 days a woman (because this is predominately applied to females over males) has no right to consent but at 6,570 does. This is further exacerbated because different jurisdictions have different ages of consent and loopholes, that are beyond the scope of my commentary and misses the point of communication.

Hot Button

Rape, race, and gender are hot button topics used to curtail and derail legitimate discourse and conversation. Whether Stallman’s comments exceeded the bounds of my argument does not invalidate the argument. Perhaps, he did overstep the bounds of civility, but that’s not my concern here.

To me, the question is, given I feel that the sole purpose of jurisprudence systems is to consolidate power to the status quo, how do we create a fair but ‘knowable’ boundary around things for which we currently rely on age, one where both sides of the consent equation understand the limit ex ante. But given legal systems are not designed for precision but for simplicity and expedience (albeit in a Rube Goldberg sort of way) and given that most people don’t question systems themselves, I don’t expect it change any time soon.

Neither do I expect the broader population not to be distracted by these same hot button topics. Distraction is a standard rhetorical device.

Gay Genes

I’ve been so busy attending to other things, that my blogging here has gone by the wayside. Philosophy is an activity meant for those with spare time.

Besides philosophy, genetics is an interest of mine. An article I was reading, Genetics may explain up to 25% of same-sex behavior, giant analysis reveals, prompted me to react and respond. This article by the Economist came out ,too.

As the article states, there is no one gene, and we can’t even predict ‘gayness’ based on some configuration of genes. That humans’ knowledge of genetics is so nascent is one reason, and over-imagining the impact of genes on behaviours may be a problem. Just because you want to find a relationship doesn’t mean one exists.

My take is that genetics establish a predisposition. Genes may limit your height to 180 cm, but environmental factors may not allow you to reach this limit, and anything short of genetic modification will not allow you to surpass this limit.

I don’t see a reason for sexual orientation to be different. One may have a propensity to same sex attraction, let’s say 70%, but if environmental factors fail to catalyse this predilection, it may never manifest. Even this is too simplistic.

Being ‘gay’ is an identity marker. Just because a person has same-sex relationships does not mean the person identifies as gay. Moreover, one can be ‘virginal’ or celibate and otherwise have had unexpressed same-sex tendencies. More-moreover, ‘gay’ is not about activity; it’s an emotional attraction. A ‘gay’ person might have sex outside of their identity orientation for myriad reasons, for example, access to a partner of the preferred orientation (say, prisoners) or for survival (say, prostitutes).

On balance, I’d argue that this is a quixotic venture into finding the underpinning of a human social construct. Once again, humans obsessed with categorisation, as if finding a category provides special meaning to the thing in it.