Complaints and who to address them

In a world centered around success, be it in classes or in career, it’s perfectly okay to complain about the obstacles you find there. In everyday lunch conversations you can hear people complaining about their work/coursework being not where they want it, as well as lack of sleep and stress that comes from it. It’s also okay to complain about weather, rudeness of strangers and high prices/low quality of consumer goods. But is somehow not okay to complain about one’s personal life in a casual conversation. To find a way to channel the latter complaints, one need to either contact a therapist, or invite a good friend out for a meal. Then if that person values you for some other reason, he may patiently sit through your complaints. Notice: if other complaints can be voiced when they arise, for personal complaints you need to schedule a time, possibly a few days later in the week, and rely on resources that are not always available (not everybody has friends who would listen to them, and even among those not every friend is approachable to talk about personal issues).

Writing them in a blog is a good way to alleviate this delay. Other issue is that some complaints are person-specific, and only make sense to those who know the person in question. For that case, finding a person in the same circle and starting a conversation with them may be a good choice. Complaining directly to the person who causes you personal troubles is likely a bad choice, as well as being public about it on social media.

(Headline photo: in a Chinese company, there’s a special day when employees are allowed to wear masks so that they don’t have to force the smile on their faces)


Three questions to tell if someone is a douchebag

From dating website, people create shaming walls for profiles that are way off. This one is for profiles of guys who call themselves nice but aren’t: former

(for those who want more intense shaming go to, you will never be the same again)

The ultimate proof that someone is a douchebag is his answer to three questions: Is homosexuality a sin? Would you strongly prefer to date someone of your racial background? And last but not least: do you think women have the obligation to have their legs shaven?

Apparently that one is a deal breaker. If you need to prove someone’s a douchebag just that is enough. Luckily I haven’t answered it – I may have gotten myself on those shaming walls. First of all, the question does not have the tone of “importance”. It’s not phrased like “do you think police should catch women with unshaven legs and fine them”! So it’s easy to not read much into it..

Second of all, how are men even supposed to answer this question? It’s not like we ever saw a woman with unshaved legs. And we never thought about this question either. My first thought was “I have no idea”. It’s hard for me to imagine a man arguing about this with someone. If one tries to imagine women’s legs looking the way men’s legs look – ugh, that’s actually quite disturbing on many levels.

I’d like to conclude this faint stand-up routine with the description of a picture I was drawing for an army’s wallpaper. There, a new recruit is dreaming about tropical island, martini and a tanned lady in bikini, just to wake up to the sight of a hairy male butt of his barrack neighbor. This is how he knows this is the very bottom of life.

Hero’s Journey and Computer Games

We learned from Campbell that hero story encodes a natural mechanism for change and rebirth, that is part of us as human beings. Do people really use this mechanism nowadays? When I look back on my life, I think I should’ve used it more. Let me give an example that hopefully anyone who spends too much time with a computer can relate to:

We expect to solve our problems incrementally. If you want more friends, you add them one by one on facebook. If you want to lose weight you go to the gym. If you want to level up in a computer game, you slay monsters one by one until you get stronger. It is amusing how Nietzsche’s quote “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” began to mean something so trivial for computer age kids. It was intended to mean “you should go on a hero’s journey and almost die to return stronger”. But all we see is a straight line with little coins of positive reinforcements scattered around – that is so not a hero’s journey!

We expect to solve our problems by going in a straight line from where we are now to the solution. And it comes as a surprise when somebody around us manages to solve the same problems better by going in a circle: making a mess out of his own life and then emerging successful. We certainly don’t expect that to happen to us. So when we get stuck on our straight line, when there’s no coins of positive reinforcement, and instead we feel bad and life seems unfair – we give up. We don’t accept calls for adventure because it seems to us they are distracting us from the straight line of our lives.

I conclude with a set of examples, as promised. Do you recall a story of your friend who:

1) Met his love by getting awfully drunk?

2) Improved his grades after coming back from the army?

3) Was too shy to dance so someone has to drag him in?

4) Passed an exam week without sleep on energetic drinks?

5) Got around bureaucratic rules by being nice and pitiful?

6) Stood up to bullies, got beaten, but was never bullied again?

Note that the above is hard for a certain group of people: those “who spend too much time with the computer” for some reason. My claim is that socially awkward people (including myself) are less prepared to set out on a hero’s journey than average. One of the reasons being that e.g. computer games give us the wrong idea of how to achieve success. There are some indie computer games with a genuine hero’s journey though, and less transactional interaction with the world. In fact, even popular titles like Final Fantasy tended to have enough character development for 10 hero’s stories! Maybe it’s just that I never completed a sufficient portion of the game to see the hero’s story unfold, like in Morrowind for example.

Anyways, the fact is that it takes too long (and sometimes forever) to see the end of hero’s journey (“master of both worlds”) in most of western computer games, as well as >70% of TV shows and anime that have >20 episodes . So the hero’s journeys that we perceive lose their completeness, and we indeed forget what they should be.

Looking for ballroom partner

I’m looking for a partner to dance International Ballroom, to prepare for competitions by attending cheap classes at Caltech, Pasadena. Classes start mid-August 2015 and transition into the intermediate level October 2015. I have been attending for a year on and off, and last half a year regularly. I plan to dance all 10 dances, Latin and Standard.

Jenia Mozgunov

Male, 27


Who tells us what’s beautiful

I was trying to describe fashion in my epic longpost about consumer society. But fashion is a dynamic phenomenon, and for starters one needs to understand the static part of it: the beauty industry. Static beauty standards are set through the same teen counterculture, role models (actors, celebrities), crowd effect (everybody/TV is doing it). Spending money to conform to those standards feels good: you become closer to your Hollywood-planted dream, and every new purchase excites you because of the novelty effect. Pampering yourself, narcissism, becomes a habit. There’s a lot of reinforcements, positive if you do it and negative if you don’t (doubts visit you, and you lose confidence). For instance, someone in your surrounding will have seemingly better life than you, and as you feel envy, you seek superficial reasons for that: their appearance.

So there is a certain push towards narcissism in society, partly by “conspiracy” of the external factors, partly as a self-push because you perceive no other roads to successful social life. Society also prepares a lot of triggers of negative feelings for those who don’t follow that road. But is there really a conspiracy? From the point of view of movie producers, beautiful actors bring more money – one can say it’s a positive feedback loop that’s not hidden but instead quite obvious. So we are pushed into unrealistic body expectations not by evil scheming capitalists, but largely by ourselves. Capitalists are just part of the loop. Individual decisions of any part of the loop, including us, slowly change the standard. Let’s all go to movies with actors with unusual looks, and wear clothes that don’t look new! All hail LWA2 for including a likable overweight anime girl – is it the first time in the Japanese industry? Anyways, I don’t aim to describe influencing the system, that’d be too ambitious of a goal. Instead, as promised, I provide a description of a static system, and what’s the optimal/moral way to behave within it.

The minimal behavioral model for a person investing in looks is: only follow the narcissistic path if it is interesting, fun, brings positive emotions and useful and otherwise a worthy waste of your time. And for some people it indeed is. But chances are, the beauty standards imprinted in your head are not going to bring you much fun. They are not tailor-made for you. Instead they are such that optimize the amount of money that goes into someone’s pocket. The way they do that is by making the standard such that your reflection in the mirror is way off. And sadly, that standard is in other people’s heads as well. So, the way this situation is resolved in progressive US is by encouraging you to forget the standard, stop projecting what other people think, and live in a bliss. And eventually someone will get used to how you look and find it beautiful. So it seems that US has a wonderful solution for everyone! Why did I think that this culture does harm to anybody? It offers a way out right along the beauty standard. I have two accusations:

  1. Exactly the same logic can be applied to smoking. There is always a way out. Problem is, it’s addictive. Following the beauty standard is addictive too.
  2. Globalization, lead by US, destroys local standards of beauty. Chances are, in your community you’d be considered beautiful, but not by Hollywood standards.

Wait, addictive how? Are local standards of beauty real? To support my accusations, I need to investigate in more detail how we learn what’s beautiful.

Beauty training.

Society leaves impact on kids by encouraging girls for their cuteness, so for young women looks become an easy way to get attention. Boys are largely away from realizing that, their mind is trained to perceive strength, and choices of colors/design of, say, notebooks and pens are made in terms of what’s practical. Or what delivers the message of strength. Girls are more likely to have colorful pens and preserve nice handwriting till high school, as they are more likely to be encouraged for that. All these are very regressive views on education, the modern view is that if these biases are removed, they won’t appear naturally. Anyway, the reality is that the external encouragement is quite strong and quite biased, that is the world we’re living in and that’s what forms our biased beauty standards.

There are natural (genetic, encoded) mechanisms in place as well:

  • we typically prefer safe surroundings and are likely to find them beautiful, although danger is hypnotizing and beautiful in another way
  • the choice of colors is partly genetic – in particular most of the people choose blue as their favorite color. There is also a natural distinction between warm and cold colors
  • we all instinctively seek a healthy partner, thus signs of health are perceived attractive whereas signs of weakness, sickness – not. It was overruled  once by social norm in the medieval, but it is very much in place nowadays.
  • body part recognition is also an instinct – even if it’s not there in an infant, it is the main neural development that happens, and it is kind of preprogrammed to happen. Also, there was a fun experiment that found the recognition time to be fastest for men recognizing female body parts. There must be a biological mechanism in place for that. Also how we learn to determine gender.
  • a very general principles in our perception: novelty is gratified by pleasure hormones. Also, symmetry is a natural (preprogrammed) easy check whether the partner is healthy or not. Check if left/right is symmetric, if it is, probably your partner is in good health.

So we see that the concept of beauty was originally useful for the evolution: it helped to find a healthy partner, and also added an extra dimension to our memory of people – it is easier to remember how people look if we are emotionally impressed by their beauty. However, as society became more complicated, extra layers of structure have been added to the concept of beauty. Extra beauty standards can be circumstance-dependent, not inherent. They can be borrowed:

  • From within: a way to define who you are is by deciding what you find beautiful. So a teenager’s need for self-establishment pushes them to seek original answers to this question.
  • from role model, from parental figure.
  • by crowd effect, conforming to what others find beautiful.
  • when encountering something unfamiliar, like a race you never seen before, you first form a collective judgement about their beauty. Only after staying with those people for a while you start noticing individual differences
  • noticing new details changes your perception of beauty of the same object. Like since you stare at yourself in the mirror every day, you see your face completely differently than others, notice tiny imperfections. But another way also works – if you feel strongly for a person, you will eventually notice that person’s beauty no matter what was your first impression.
  • scarcity is essential for a feature to be considered very beautiful. It must be hard to get or even forbidden.

Finally, our personal meter of beauty is related to the language available to us to describe what we see. It is a well known joke about number of names of colors that guys and girls know. Let’s generalize this idea and look at the points that a guy and a girl are likely to mention when asked to describe how someone looked:

Guys describing guys: muscles, t-shirt if it had a good joke.

Girls describing guys: eyes, smile, voice, height, clothes, shoes.

Guys describing girls: face, breast, hips, sometimes hair. (guys don’t have a very high resolution, they typically just see the body as consisting of 2 or 3 parts)

Girls describing girls: height, clothes, shoes + nails, eyebrows, eyelashes, skin etc.

Note that guys tend to pick at things that you typically can’t buy – or in case of muscles, you at least don’t have to buy – can work out at home. Whereas girls tend to focus their description on active side: something that you did to look beautiful. And action for girl beauty means paying money. Of course the list above is generalizing beyond reason, and is what is considered sexist. In reality, even with all the society’s influence, you can still find a girl who doesn’t care about shoes. Although a woman giving a commencement at my school this summer did mention buying shoes as part of who she is, with a joking tone. My point with that oversimplified and sexist list, as well as other material in this section, was to give an overview of how complex is what I call “beauty standard in our heads”. This complexity is part of the reason why it is addictive, why it is hard to forget about it. Also, we observed many surrounding-dependent mechanisms, and even the natural mechanisms read off beauty from our parents etc. So it makes sense to talk about local beauty standard, which is probably a better thing than global one, because you are more likely to be beautiful by the standard designed to your ethnic group.

New meaning of “subculture”

This is a concise translation of the ideas from this public resource describing changes in society that took place in Russia in the last 30 years. Their goal is very ambitious, and they take a tree-way approach to any topic: include interviews with 10 relevant people, summary of related social science and the reporter’s opinion. In particular, on the topic of subcultures, they quote a lot of western research, so I thought it’s a nice overview to keep in mind for any country. If I need to sum up in one sentence: the core properties of a subculture are different from its depiction in media, in particular, the media views are outdated.

More below:
Continue reading “New meaning of “subculture””

Diversity wars

(Image is from one of the Archer themed t-shirts)

Way back in the 90’s there was a computer game Gender wars, which featured a satire on the society, an alternative history where the relationship between genders went all wrong, men and women assembled into respective armies and the conflict escalated to a full-blown war (while still being funny as gender stereotypes perpetrate  the line of command):


Surprisingly, something this was a metaphor of becomes a reality, very specific to the modern-day US. I’m talking not even about the famous scandals causing the whirlwind of internet rage, trolling and death treats. I’m talking about things that sometimes happen outside the web, and I have been a witness to.

First happened on my flight to US, as a warm welcome reminding me what kind of country I’m going to. A middle-age white male with a respectable belly, but otherwise well dressed and well groomed was having problems with his seatbelt. A black female flight attendant helped him by taking his seatbelt and connecting it. The man was very upset by it because she didn’t ask for his permission before touching him. There was a brief verbal exchange in which both wanted to call the captain somehow, but otherwise I didn’t quite hear. After some time, the flight attendant returned with the message from the captain: the man was to leave the flight. He calmly packed his bags and left. And then the fight among the rest of the passengers unfolded. A young and naive white and nerdy teenager tried to protect the man’s side, a middle-aged woman who’d put her legs on the wall took up the role of a prosecutor. The following arguments has been used: “I am a movie director – I have a very good eyes – I saw what happened!”, “For a man, groin is a very sensitive area”

The second story happened during one of the comedy shows on Anime Expo. The performances were judged by 3 judges, 2 male and 1 female. Each expressed criticism and suggestions to improve for a comic. A female judge’s speech was interrupted by a shout from the audience. She being a comic herself, went to stage, asked the man who interrupted her to stand up, and “destroyed” him. In particular she made fun of the “Danger Zone” Archer t-shirt he was wearing. Also she pointed out that instead of such courageous feats in public, he should just join the rest of his kind on the internet. He tried to interject later in the show, but was only referred to as “You shut up, you were destroyed just now, we don’t care about you.”

Finally, Google is an American company, so they take issues of harassment very seriously. If something happens, no public fights occur. Instead, a special commission handles the report/complaint, and one day on the meeting it is announced that “N does not work with us anymore”. He is then escorted with security from the building, and cannot enter for 3 days. Then he can collect his belongings. Such reports/complaints can be filed not only by the victim, but also by a third person. It is typically easy to guess who filed the complaint, and my Russian friend would avoid talking to that person in the future, just out of survival instinct. In fact, my Russian friend would avoid making close friends among the coworkers altogether.

Time management on a convention

For many of the “fringe interests”, there are conventions to make people feel they are not alone. Anime Expo have gathered 80 thousand people last year. Comic Con is coming up. Back in Russia we had LARP conventions, and the ones that are biggest around the world are probably computer game conventions. There is also DefCon in Las Vegas.

One thing that organizers do to occupy so many people is to have many events and attractions going on at once. It works as divide and conquer: the crowd is not uniform, some people have more serious pursuits, some have no idea what they came for, some are just having fun on the con. The list of con events is pretty much a slice of life, with all possible interests and ways to spend time represented. What to choose to meet new people? First, I tried to pick activities for the day that are not completely boring for me, in part so that people I meet are those I can relate to. Here are the choices that were available to me on Anime Expo:

  1. Cosplay photohunt. List of cosplay gatherings is not official, and is available here.
  2. Shopping …
  3. Panel discussions on pretty much everything. They even had scientists writing their research paper about anime organized in some sort of symposium.
  4. Karaoke.
  5. Club dancing and bars.
  6. Workshops to learn skills.
  7. Stage dance performances and singers.
  8. Cinemas and music videos.
  9. Celebrity meet’n’greet.
  10. Comedy shows and interactive shows like Dungeon master.
  11. Food court with a maze of food trucks.
  12. Museum of old computer games where you can play any.

You get the idea – once the number of people scales up to tens of thousands, the event naturally starts to imitate a big city, with all the urban infrastructure. One difference is that in a real big city you have to go to work, while here it’s entertainment all day long. Having so much entertainment packed into just a few days makes it easy to find out what is your favorite pastime. However, for me it was more like running around, trying to catch a glance of every single activity, confirm that I’m not missing out on anything. Quite a few points on the list were genuinely interesting for me, but they either ended fast or didn’t keep my attention for long. So if I’m asked – what kind of person I am, what kind of interests should I list on twitter to pick people to follow – is this an acceptable answer? That I don’t care that much about any one thing, I just want to run around and see everything?

I guess not. One should have well defined interests, to select and focus attention in this sea of 80 thousand people. Indeed, even thought I didn’t shriek in excitement when I saw any particular character cosplayed, or didn’t wait in line for 2 hours to see my favorite show/celebrity, I still had some guiding principles to direct my choices. And the lines were never a problem – I was almost always able to get into the events I want just by showing up at the doors 20 minutes after the time it starts (except only the premiere of LWA2 and Cosplay Wrestling (???)).

Of the workshops, I went to the ones about writing fan fiction. Of the panels, I went to any discussing diversity in the geek community,

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.55.35 AM

and also accidentally the one with Touhou shoot’em’up playthrough, which was an incredible feat of dexterity. I went to all comedy shows, avoiding the ones with particularly perverted theme (which were everywhere on Saturday evening). I didn’t go to dating event or to maid cafe, they are overcrowded by default. I went to watch the J-pop and the K-pop dance performances (the latter being bustling with fans, so one can hardly see the stage), then I danced at the club dance night. The latter convinced me that my current outfit is not suited for dancing, so I went on to look for party T-shirts and diode gloves in the shopping area. I was putting off exploration of the artist’s alley till the last day, and walking there is so overwhelming that I ended up not having time/energy to see more than 20% of it. Moral: visit artist alley every day for short periods instead of trying to marathon it. Besides T-shirts, I followed my interest for Art Nouveau – inspired paintings – there were quite a lot of artists borrowing from that style. I also looked out for menacing gothic helmets, but found none. Guess they didn’t get very popular. Surprisingly, I saw t-shirts with Girl Genius comic prints, even though official site doesn’t have any t-shirt in their merchandise.

Food trucks managed to keep my hunger away – the lines for them may look intimidating as they are under the sun, but ironically the trucks with healthy food never had lines in front of them. Ok, so of all these activities, which were the best to get to know other anime fans? There were a lot of really drunk folks on the dance, I could’ve interacted with them if I wanted. My anime club organized a meetup with Japanese cosplayers of the same anime, and that was a very eye-opening evening. There I met quite a lot of extremely Japanese people, and even had a chance to practice my language skills a bit. So the stereotypical ways to meet people: through friends and at the bar  – probably work best. The 21+ lounge had a rock concert every evening, so there was something to do even for those who don’t drink. Besides them I talked to a very cheerful person in line for Dungeon Master –  he even let me borrow his katana for a pic:


Artists are always up for a chat. I addressed some of the cosplayers with “What is your character”, and also “Where did you buy those” – which was very helpful to get directions in the shopping area. As I said, I don’t get overwhelmed by fan feelings no matter what I see, but if I did, shouting the name of the character you recognize is also acceptable.

For the time management – the main advice is to avoid being overwhelmed by the visual impressions of other people’s costumes and merchandise in the shopping area. Limit your time spend walking through the hallways to 15 minutes, take breaks, even by stepping in a random movie screening room. Take a break in a shopping area for a chat with someone, or to check your phone. Twitter was not very useful during the convention, but maybe I don’t have enough twitter experience to benefit from it. Many people complained about tired feet – make sure you have good shoes, bag on wheels is also a good choice if you are to carry heavy camera around – but make sure to leave it at the hotel/bag cheek-in before the dance. Have plenty of plastic bags to keep food away from other belongings – in my case, a very tasty chicken sauce spilled over my camera and my costume and ruined a bunch of photos:


Inventions that increase your height

(picture courtesy this cosplay interview, RenoBen photography)

Different cultures figured that tall=beautiful (in much the same meaning as healthy, strong, has better chances of survival and will better take care of the children). So different devices to make one look taller were invented:

  • European culture is most familiar with heels. Note that heels on the boots were present for men as well in the medieval. They lift you up a few inches and make it not comfortable to walk – in fact, standing on heels every day may ruin your legs.
  • Japanese culture has their own wooden sandals, that have extra wooden blocks going down, so you stand on them. It’s also kind of uncomfortable, and possible was invented to avoid rain and dirt, not to look taller.
  • Roller skates lift you up by exactly as much as diameter of the wheels. So, biggest wheels are for Tempest (currently discontinued production), they are 110mm.
  • The are models of exoskeleton, aka goat legs, that actually make you almost a meter taller, and each step you make becomes really long. It can be thought about as a more stable version of stilts.

However, in Japanese culture there appeared a very symbolic image of a “mecha girl”. From a technical point of view, it is a highly unrealistic (“imaginary”) exoskeleton that can fly. From an artist’s point of view, and why mecha girls have small but stable following around the world, they represent a contrast between innocence of the heart and power of the industrial age. This image has been used in different media, you can recognize it if there is a huge machine, ship or robot, factory if you wish, but the “soul” of that machine (the central computer) takes the form of a young girl. Most of the famous robot stories, as well as space operas and sci-fi are inspired by the industrial age. It is crazy how many power plants have been build, how huge the factories are inside and how enormous the machines are that operate in those factories. For an artists, this power always have been intimidating, and in the attempt to reconcile it with human intentions and moral, artist creates an image of a very vulnerable, very alive core of the gigantic tech.

So that is why the image is powerful – there are plenty of guys who are into big tech, like fighter jets, ships and robots. Typically those folks also miss out on girl attention, so an image of an attractive girl surrounded by their favorite metal is something they want to keep close to their hearts. Not so many girls cosplay these kind of “male fantasies”, partly also because it is hard. But once you think about it, it can be another way to make yourself taller – if these leg attachments can be made light, and can at will extend 10 or 20 centimeters, they can be a comfortable and fashionable stilts to stand in. It will hardly make it to mainstream fashion, but it’s a good idea for kickstarter. Here’s what inspired me:

I was at a k-pop dance competition, which was overcrowded, and somewhere in one of the last rows of standing people there was a short girl who was such a big fan of k-pop music, that she actually jumped up every second to see the stage that was hidden from her behind the back of others. It was so unfair to her, that everybody else in the crowd were taller than her, so unless she is in the front row, she has no chance of seeing the stage. The mecha stilts would even her chances, and at the same time make her look part of the culture she is cheering for.

Unfortunately, most of the costumes people make are heavy and unwieldy, and don’t actually lift the person wearing it. So the kickstarter would be for making a sturdy design, that attaches to your legs, is foldable, easy to keep balance, and looks stylish. For now, let me put the mecha cosplays that are already there for inspiration:






A study on consumer society (unfinished)

(picture courtesy to an undergraduate project “What are people really wearing?”)

A society involves a lot of agreements between people, and oftentimes we forget the actual reasons these agreements are in place. Like for instance, why people wear clothes. There’s an interesting conspiracy theory behind it, as presented in an anime Kill la Kill. Yet the common wisdom is that these agreements do not come from a conspiracy theory, instead they are posed as the definition of what society is. I feel that’s not enough to define a society, one needs to introduce an extra level of structure: the processes and phenomenons that are sustained within the society by majority of it’s members. Like fashion: the agreement which clothes to wear itself changes over time, but the mechanism that puts such agreement in place is sustainable. One can say “a positive feedback loop”.

Before I set out to describe fashion and consumerism, as well as their alternatives, it is worth to spell out my goals. I feel strongly against consumer culture. I’ve noticed that my peers seem to live in the world where looks just have to comply with certain standards. Like: you should use a styling gel on your hair every day. If there are hairs sticking up from your head, that’s a reason to worry. Other thing that I’ve noticed is that it’s hard for me to watch hollywood movies. All of the actors and people on screen comply with fashion standards, and some actors are even the tail of the distribution of handsomeness. Even the comedies that are supposed to make fun of the norms, still have a lot of assumptions in place that are immovable. It is hard for me to watch teenage comedies because of how many things they “program” us to do, how much they tell us what our life should be like. It is crazy because comedies are supposed to be light movies to watch. How much do they program other people? Is it just me? Would my life be different if the comedies I watched as a kid didn’t tell me that happy ending = having a girlfriend that looks like a hollywood star?

Those are simple questions with no easy answer. About comedies – yes, it is likely that only I respond to comedies in such a surprising way. But the consumer society in general is, I think, a greatest harm to humanity. The amount of people hurt (though indirectly) by American culture dwarfs the number of people hurt by American bombs. So the goal is to have a clear understanding how to live in a society like that, and how to express clearly my beliefs by my actions. I am not really going to provide a global alternative – that’s too ambitious of a goal. I’m contempt with a local alternative – something a person can do, and explain to friends, and still fit in and have a successful life. Maybe even that solution, once implemented, will add a certain charm to a person. So let’s start with a detailed description of consumer society, with clothes and fashion as example.


A technical reason to wear clothes, which will be a foundation for the society’s customs, is to keep oneself warm, clean, healthy, protected from sunburn. Shoes are to be able to walk far. That’s it.

Next society’s construct is the concept of shame. It’s a very powerful feeling, maybe even evolutionary imprinted into us to make violating rules costly. There’s a lot to say here, but let’s just keep to the point of needing to wear clothes that cover areas related to sex, because sex is shameful. And the need to be dressed appropriately to the occasion, i.e. not stand out from everyone else, because that is shameful as well.

The third step is a concept of beauty. We like to put effort and resources (money) into clothing that looks new, shiny and colorful… that’s basically it for the evolutionary structure of the society.

Now comes in fashion. We like to put even more money into clothes that are trendy/ make us look sexy. One can say that clothes were used as a discriminant between classes of society, so having clothes of a higher group makes us feel better. One can also say that looking like an idol (a role model) is part of imitating the idol and makes us feel better. But I feel like things are even more messed up, so before we describe why fashion works in detail, let’s back off and discuss how we even know what is beautiful.

Beauty training.

We expect it not to be genetically encoded. Instead, the taste is something that you train. In adolescence, the teenagers “discover” their attraction to opposite gender. I assume that the specific details that are deemed most attractive are chosen from the pool of what’s around, but not easily available to look at. Like for boys, rare commercials of bikini swimsuits somehow made a woman in bikini an ideal of attractiveness. But then, there’s a general taste, like if you have to answer what’s your favorite color …