122: Resident Contrarian - Tech Loneliness and Religion
In this episode, we're joined by Resident Contrarian to discuss being poor in America, the state of Christianity, social conservatism, and a whole lot more.
Resident blogs at: https://www.residentcontrarian.com/
William Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse in the past towards a better, more definite vision of the future. I'm your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com.
Will Jarvis 0:41
Well, RC How are you doing? Man?
Resident Contrarian 0:43
I'm doing pretty good. I'm I'm like fresh off of work. So you know, trying to get you know, gear shifted into this mode.
Will Jarvis 0:52
Good deal. Yeah, I really, really hit Yeah, right. With intellectual stuff. Right? We're coming off a lot of work. Damn. Sure. RC Do you mind giving us a brief bio and some of the big ideas you're interested in?
Resident Contrarian 1:03
Yeah, absolutely. So like, I'm like a mid 30s sort of guy, married, have some kids. I'm, I tend to think of myself, I think like a lot of people as like a normal person, like everybody thinks their space is normal. But I'm pretty like, there's like I'm, I'm a fairly traditionalist religious person, I'm, you know, I got married relatively young, I came from what I consider to be a fairly normal nuclear family. And one of the things that came out of that is like, my, my dad was a business person. And he sort of assumed that all of us would end up being business people. So when I hit my early 20s, and got married and was and suddenly realized I couldn't run businesses, that I didn't have the skill set or the personality to do it, I then realized I didn't have any skills. And we spent, I think,
I mean, I bring this up partially because it's one of the things I'm kind of known for, we spent probably a decade like flat broke, like beyond flat broke, like just, you know, barely scraping by every single month, that being a troublesome thing. And again, no skills and not really a great way to get them. I know a lot of people are able to like, transition into coding. And you know, I don't want to paint myself as like, the dumbest person on earth, but I couldn't. And then
relatively recently, I'm in the past, it's about a year and a half. Now, I was sitting around and I was depressed. And I was in that situation where you, you just need to change something, whatever it is. And, and I went to my wife, and I said, I need you to make me a logo for a blog. Because if you make me a logo for a blog, I will be guilty about you making it and it'll force me to write at least a couple articles. And that might be enough to sort of shake me out of like, sort of the rot, I meant, I hope. And I wrote a couple articles like two or three, and then just started to get really lucky on shares. And people were reading it. And eventually, I was like, looking through my readership and realizing what kind of people were reading it, that they were generally people who are doing pretty okay in life. And I wrote an article essentially about what it's like to be poor. You know, and not to make anybody guilty, but just to give them a look inside the bubble of a different income level. And that went fairly big. To the point where, you know, now now I'm a little better known, like, just well enough known for people to occasionally let me go on podcasts. And, and it got me into different kinds of work. And we're doing a little bit better now. But But to the extent that people asked me sort of my story in relation to writing, it's like, I got poor enough that it was interesting enough for people to then read what I wrote. And that sort of that some of you were asking what I write about, that's a fair amount of it is like, here's what it's like, if you're really like not not the poorest possible, but if you're well below the kind of like the, you know, sort of our I heard somewhere I think that the, if you're better than the bottom 30% In the US, then your life is better than anywhere else in the world. But underneath that third year, it gets really tough. So I write a little bit about like, what it's like in that sort of like bottom third or the bottom third of that bottom third.
Will Jarvis 4:42
That's great. That's great. Well, you know, resident I really liked your work. I found it super interesting and compelling when I first stumbled across your substack. And I just wanted to it just seemed to be something interesting, I found is that some of the best writers that have exists that are artists in general, they definitely have to have some like struggle they went through or something to have like some interesting perspective. And if they don't, it's almost like it can be oftentimes flat. It's just something I've seen, which I found is interesting. But you also do bring up an interesting point, because you know, I do lump you into like, the rationalist blogosphere, we've had a lot of these people on, we have a lot of people like, on the podcasts that are related to that we've had a couple of billionaires, and we've had a couple people, not as many people like you, which is really interesting. And you bring a very good perspective to, I think the conversation, which is, which is very cool.
Resident Contrarian 5:37
Well, and it's interesting to talking to those guys, because it's not like they don't have a guy with a billion dollars has problems. Like and sometimes those problems are like directly tied to the billion dollars. Like you look at those. You look at people like I mean, the stock example is Elon Musk, he is always working, that is what his life is, yes. If you have, if you look at guys who run successful startups, if you look at like CEOs, like they're running 60 hour, weeks, 70 hour, weeks, sometimes more. And, and it's there, there are trade offs, I think the thing that came out of me being out of me being poor, that was good is that me and the wife and the kids got really close through that. And the kinds of jobs you have, when you're that broke usually aren't the kind that go, Okay, you're working 50 hours this week, you're working 60 hours, this week, they exist, and I've had those jobs, but for the most part, I had time to spend with them. And I had I built up, you know, when you don't have when you don't have a lot of resources, you build up relationships. So we were able to build up a lot of really good friendships, I am socially very rich and more than I deserve. And I've always been socially rich, because that was what I had to lean on through those times. And that was the good thing that I got developed. And sometimes I'll see people you know, one of one of the things I've been writing about a bit recently is like, I've been seeing a lot of people like in the you know, they went to the Bay Area, they went to college, then they went to the Bay Area, and then they worked real hard for like five or 10 years. And then they stop and they're 30 or 35. And they look around and they don't have anybody. Like they isolated themselves from their, from the homes they came from. And they you know, sometimes people will actually contact me and be like, not not exactly how do I make friends but sort of like, Hey, I just realized that I've been neglecting this part of my life, how do I make it better?
Will Jarvis 7:40
It's a, it's, it's striking that you mentioned right, because it is this weird conundrum where you can you can graduate from college and go work in big tech, you can effectively retire at 30, which, you know, I have several friends that have done it. You know, they effectively retire at 30. But you do look around and you're like, oh, like, you know, there were very little social bonds. It's not a conducive place to kind of meet people and build community, although some people do, but it is it's not quite conducive. I'm curious. Because we were talking before we hopped on the call about religion, and you know, you mentioned your wife and your family, and how you stuck together through this. I think this is a really important thing like s, you know, America has kind of, you know, Charles Murray had his book coming apart about how, you know, social institutions have kind of worn out, especially in white America since the 1960s. And how important do you think marriage has been to your being able to get through this kind of trying period, and how important has religion and community been?
Resident Contrarian 8:42
I will and marriage is a funny part of that. Because with marriage came everything I needed to get through it like I have, I have this woman who is far better than me, like your other people won't see this. But you're looking at me on camera. And there's nothing amazing happening on my side of the screen. And but I have a you know, I had this person who decided at some point to love me. And whenever, I mean, she just she never broke like I broke like a lot of the poverty stuff. Like really, there were times where I was like, I'm barely getting through here. And she dragged me through. So and you know it I can't find a good way to say how important that was. And then having the kids and having something that was valuable to build. Like, you know what, one of the big things about kids and is that it's something that if you put your time into it, you will get rewarded for it. It's independent of income. It's independent in a lot of ways of like any kind of skill or even personal quality because the main thing they need is like time and devotion and dedication. And if you have those things and put them in, they pay you back for it. So those things really got me through an awful lot of the room. really, really tough times, but at the same time, and I say this with a smile on my face, because I'm glad I did that, if I had been a single guy through that time, I wouldn't have been like rich, but it would have been a different kind of burden. There was also a lot more weight when I was like, there, there were, I mean, probably every month for a real tough period of five or six years, every single month, I didn't know if I was gonna pay rent, I didn't know if I was gonna make rent. And if you're a single guy, and you're laying on the couch thinking about that, it's like, it wouldn't be great. But you could sleep in your car, in the shower at the wire wherever people shower, when when they're sleeping in their car. Or I could have, you know, found somebody's couch or something like that. But when you've got like other humans, who rely on you to an extent, who aren't like big, like bad looking dudes who, you know, are going to be relatively safe out there, because who would you know, nothing, nothing to mess with? It. It's sort of that thing where it made the burdens heavier, too. So so it was a trade off? I would absolutely take the wife and family life again and again. And again. I don't know how. But but it did make it tougher, if that makes sense. Yeah, makes sense. It made my responsibilities heavier.
Will Jarvis 11:23
Gotcha, gotcha. I, I'm curious. Just generally, what we'd like, you know, most people in the rationalist community, especially the people in tech, find most surprising about kind of the lived experience of being less well off in America.
Resident Contrarian 11:38
I think that a lot of it is I was just on a thread on one of the Scott Alexander adjacent forums. And actually one of my internet friends runs it and would probably want it somewhat plied. He's He's very post hungry. Most of the time. It's nice. It's data secrets, locks. It's like the Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It's the forum for Scott Alexander. So yes, so please, people go. But he, I, there was somebody who was like, Oh, well, you know, they get all this aid. So their foods paid for. And their their rent and housing is paid for. And it's kind of true, like, at some point, like, for instance, I was on government medical care, the whole family was and so something that some people pay 500 1000 $1,500 a month for, or, you know, was something that I had for free, but it's also not usable. Like it's like you one time I broke my finger, I stuck it into a car belt and broke my finger in half. And it was a month before before it really got treated. Because I missed the part where you could go to the ER for it. I didn't think it was as bad as it was. And then like it was a month before I really saw a doctor for it because government medical care is hard to use, you can get vouchers for for housing, but it is the worst housing you could possibly imagine like no landlord who has anything you'd want to live in participates in that housing. So like at the bottom at the end, that's if you can get it which often you can't it takes a lot of time and effort to get in on those programs. So at the bottom levels, it's like things that I was talking to some people where it's like, oh, when they turned off the water, that that that ended up being like the the big controversial thing, because I actually had people email me and say, you know, it's illegal for them to turn off the water. I'm like, no, they like, they can turn it off. If you don't pay for it. They don't provide the service. Yeah. And they said, Well, what happens you turn on the tap, and the water doesn't come out. And I'm like, yeah, like that's, but it but it's not, it's not like they're coming from a place of ignorance. It's like the stuff at if you get over a certain income level, and and I'm there now and I'm really thankful for it, you get over a certain income level, and the money for the bills just comes out. And the rest of it is like you may not have as much extra money as you want. You may not be going on trips to Europe every week. But like those little things like having to think about, like Will, Will we have enough meals to get to the end of the week? Or will the water stay on? Or will they turn off the electricity? And if they turn off the electricity? How will I look for a job if I'm out? If I'm out of work? I can't pay the electricity. They'll turn off the electricity at least they'll turn off the internet. How do I look for a job without the internet like those little things? And they're not little things but like those, those things where things turn off or you really don't have the minimum you need to function. I think those things are missed for people who have always done above a certain amount like the you know, most people don't know how to flush their toilet. If the water is turned off on the house, most people just don't know which one of their neighbors will let them use their home. That's
Unknown Speaker 15:01
right. Absolutely. So,
Resident Contrarian 15:03
and I, I hope that's sort of what you're looking for. Because there's, there's other things. But I think mostly it's just I think that most people who have money, think of being poor as a miniature version of being rich.
Will Jarvis 15:18
Gotcha, gotcha. And that's not quite the case. Yes,
Resident Contrarian 15:20
it is a kind of shift like, it's like even stuff like renting a car. You know, you, if you've been poor for a long time, you probably don't have a credit card that is big enough to put a whole rental car on it. And you find out real quickly that it's a whole different process once they figure out that you're that kind of poor.
Will Jarvis 15:42
Right? Absolutely, absolutely. Well, and I think this is it's important to talk about because just in context, my wife's a social worker, and you know, all the time, I hear stories about people, you know, who are like, you know, very cop, very competent, they're doing well in life, and then they get a traumatic brain injury. And then like, suddenly, they are stuck in these situations. Like, it's one of the things that can happen to anyone. And I don't think people quite realize, like how close we all are at any given point in time. And all kinds of things can happen to people, but it's just, I think that's an important thing to note. I'm curious, how was it coming out of, you're doing a lot better now? I've got an excellent substack I really appreciate it. The writing you've done there. I've really enjoyed it. I know a lot of people other people have to, but what was the process like coming out of like, this, this malaise and, and, and the struggle and and how are you successful in doing that?
Resident Contrarian 16:37
Well, um, so So as I previously said, I wrote that article, and it went, the poor article. And these aren't huge numbers by a lot of people standards. But I think right now it's sitting at about 80,000 100,000, hits, something like that. Yeah. And that was mostly in the tech community, like the place where it went the biggest was Hacker News. So a lot of people saw that article. And right after it came out, I started getting emails and calls from people who said, Hey, you, you can write pretty well, which was nice, nice to hear. But also, then they were saying, and we might need somebody to do that for our company, like there is a need for writing. And I think the job I ended up taking, it isn't fully writing. But I think what happened is they were confident enough that they could find enough writing stuff and enough other miscellaneous tasks that a reasonably bright person could get on and like sort of run, run it as a project, that they were confident hiring me. And that was at a level that was already higher than any amount of money I had ever made. And there were, and it went a little up from there. So we got to the point where we were making what for us is a lot of money. And, but then you sort of figure out on the flip side, what the people who you've already always considered wretched talking about when they say things like, Oh, the money spends just as fast, you still run out of money, they're still problems, because what happened is, you know, we got that money, and we had always wanted to buy a house, always wanted to have a house. And we and we had a really good opportunity to get into house and we got the house and the bills went up in that way. And then just everything got more expensive in the last couple of years. And I do not want to give the impression that we're doing anywhere near as poorly as we were doing before, but I did get to the end of one month, and when Oh, I've spent all the money I have this month. Like all the money I made this month I spent. And and it's it's interesting, because at the bottom level of income, there's a point where you can't really spend any less than survive, but you can spend as much money as you want their industry set up to take as much money as you are prepared to give them. Right so absolutely. So some things you know, you don't realize, and I I've told somebody else who's sort of been going through a similar process. He's he's doing better. I said, what you'll find this for a while, like, you probably have never replaced your mattress. And you've probably right now you probably have things around the house that are broken and have needed replacing and you've just been making do and that'll suck up all the income for a while. But that said, the amount of stress that just comes from living has been so much reduced, like such an amazingly lower level of stress, just knowing that like the basics are covered. And being in the bracket where it's like okay, now I need to not waste the rest of the money. It's still concerned, but it's so much less of a concern and even just like health wise, it's been a big difference. That's great.
Will Jarvis 19:57
That's cool. That's really cool. So Can you talk about your talk? You got a good job now? But can you talk about some jobs that perhaps were not as good and like, shitty jobs in America? What they're like and what people must understand about them?
Resident Contrarian 20:11
Yeah, absolutely. There's, there's a thing I say to some, there's a thing I say to people where there's an income level, if you're below it, people know you don't know how lawyers work. And and if you're below that income level, like people will do all sorts of nasty stuff to you, particularly landlords, but a lot of different places like they know, you really don't have the ability to challenge them. Like even if you have the legal right, you don't know how to exercise. And, and the same thing, sort of true of like the worst level of jobs, like they know that, especially if they're paying just a little bit above average, they know they have you. Like, a good example of that is insurance adjuster jobs are a job you can get into often with very little experience, you can get into it with almost no education, some of them are a little bit different. But generally you can't. And if you get into that kind of job, there'll be like, Okay, you're working Saturdays, like what we command you to, and you're like, you get in, you get in and you realize it's a 55 hour week job, not all the overtime that's necessarily paid. And they'll they'll give you a workload that is greater than any human could do. So you have just a list of people who are mad at you, and they'll acknowledge, you can't get through this amount of work, just do your best on it. And so you have the super high stress job that like nobody have any real talent or marketable skill would do. But they also know that they're paying you a couple $1,000 more a year than you could otherwise get, and that you're stuck. And you're stuck for surprisingly little money. Like sometimes it was the difference between like, say $35,000, and like $37,000. And it's like, they could shoot me, they could shoot me and I have to have that extra couple $1,000 Because it's the difference between a major car repair. And, and not being able to repair that car and like, just sort of laying down and dying. And there was i i, one of the jobs I worked at, there was a guy who actually had a heart attack. The stress got to him and he was a little bit older than us, but not much. And he had a minor heart attack, and came to work the next day, like he had a minor heart attack, he in the morning went to the hospital, they got it under control. And he signed himself out because he was afraid he'd get fired. And I don't know if that was actually the workplace his fault in this case, but he had that worry regardless. And he came back to work the day after having a heart attack. And I was like, Oh man, I can't, it was one of the first things that made me realize I had to leave that particular job, find something, anything different, because, you know, it's like, if I get stuck in here, it's only a matter of time until I'm him. And I also would come back the next day after a heart attack. And they also one thing to remember too, about those jobs is that like, for instance, if you're a really high end programmer, you go in and they probably came to you and convinced you to go work for them. Right and, and the whole job is set up with that sort of mindset. So the the quality of the perks is amazing. And the amount of time off you can get is significant and and the way people treat you the respect of which they treat you and the way all the rules are set up around you is designed with this idea that like this is a guy we paid $100,000 to recruit, we pay him hundreds of 1000s of dollars a year to work there. And, and often he and if he leaves, we can't replace him very easily. Like we may lose out at some of these companies on a really high level engineer, they might lose out on millions of dollars of progress. In the six months or a year it takes to replace that guy, CIO and all that plays into how they're treated to the extent where even if you're not that guy but you work at that company in a way where you're adjacent enough to that guy to be considered core team and sort of a real employee. A lot of things are pattern like you get the same they don't have a separate insurance policy for you to sign up to so you get to use his cool one. And they don't put together a different time off policy so you can sort of leech off of his but at the bottom level where they can just replace one warm body with another warm body like anybody can answer found. And and then a lot of people can can say turn a wrench or make a sales call or or when you're at that replaceable level like off It's a thing where you say, Hey, I, I'm, I have the flu, I can't come in and they said, No, you're coming in, we can replace you tomorrow. And they really can. And it changes the sort of tone of how you're treated.
Will Jarvis 25:15
It sounds like, you know, escaping competition is so important. And they say, because you did it through through the substack. But you have to find some way to escape competition, or that's your kind of doom to like, this, this thing where you know, you know, all the way just get, you know, it all gets competed away. And to like this just like, what's the thing they can barely keep people going at some level?
Resident Contrarian 25:35
Yeah, absolutely. What one of the funniest things about all this too, and I don't know how well this fits in with everything else is you given how bad it is. And sometimes it's really bad and people will really miss really mistreat you in amazing ways. Like, I'll still get on the internet and be like on Reddit, shitty jobs are like whatever sub forum where people, and you'll still be able to see people exaggerating it. Like, there's there, it's, it's fun enough to sort of like, you know, for to complain about your job, that people get on there and exaggerate how bad it is. And you can tell if you've been in that world when they're doing it, because you'll go it is pretty bad. But it isn't really like that. Like your, your 17 year old somewhere who's like never, like, never worked a really bad job, I can tell the difference, because I've been there. But it is. It's, you know, as bad as it is like one of the things that gets you through that is complaining about how bad it is. Which is again, sort of how things ended up working out for me is I got lucky. And it was the most effective complaint about anybody's life that's probably ever existed. Like, I complained about it, and people fixed it.
Will Jarvis 26:50
That's great. That's great. I am Chris, I'm going to talk about you know, relationships, you know, loneliness. You know, how people live in America today? You know, we talked a little bit about this earlier. But what's your sense of how well American social fabric works at this point in time? And do you think it has degraded since like the 50s? And 60s, you know, we've had these great social advances. But has there's been this like, great, you know, atomization? And, you know, just epidemic of loneliness with with that people are experiencing?
Resident Contrarian 27:20
Let let, before I get into that. Let me turn it around on on you a little bit. Because you're more from the journalist world. Correct. Is that fair to say that, like, most of the people you would have known professionally would be sort of in, like, the content? And is that? Is that true of you? Or like what's what's your, what's your specific background? And the kind of people you know, is what I'm asking, like, Who do you consider yourself to be your set?
Will Jarvis 27:47
You know, that's a great question. It's actually a tech. So people in tech primarily, you know, I started the podcast, you know, just for fun to meet people stuck inside of the pandemic. And it kind of spiraled out of control from there. But yeah, definitely, you know, people are tech entrepreneurs, founders, software engineers, etc.
Resident Contrarian 28:04
Well, and I think you've seen that on like, ITT Tech, it's an interesting world, in that A, it tends to be locationally, set around the weirdest places in America, socially, like and when I say weird, I just mean, not outlier places, San Francisco is not a normal place socially. It's not a place where you have the money to have a house that's big enough to raise a family. And it's, and so there are people who maybe even want to, but don't, it is a not absolutely male place, but it's definitely a male skewed place. And then everybody is working, or almost everybody is working pretty hard on their careers. And that's even true of like the remote work workplaces now. So you have all these people who are sort of connected remotely, but even to the extent they're connected, like they are people who are saying, Hey, I'm gonna work real hard for 10 years, and maybe get into my own startup. Hopefully, that's a good exit. And then I'll get out and I'll be retired, I'll be 45. And I'll be retired. And it'll, that's when I'll start living my life. That's when I'll start actually doing the things I want once I've been a success. And it's interesting. And then the second part of that is that, and this is a stereotype but it's one that's more or less true. The people who tend to be like your best programmers, who are who are just drawn to it tend to not necessarily have been like the most popular kids at high school. Like they end on the football team generally. Yeah. And I say that not in the sense that they weren't liked or they didn't have friends, but they they usually aren't the kind of people who make friends really quickly and easily. It's usually a longer process for them. So there's also this baseline where they would usually need more time than most to do it anyway and then they're in an environment that doesn't give that time and doesn't lend itself to those opportunities. So just a lot of people in that world, I mean, even before we get into, like the social construction of America, just in that little microcosm, you just have a lot of people who are super lonely. And they don't know how to fix it, like they don't know where to go to find people or to build those relationships. And then we do get into like, the way America is set up now. Because what I want to tell most of them what my biases say to tell most of them is like, hey, go to a church, they have a group, like go any sort of mid to large sized church has a group for like, people your age and your basic social situation. And they will grab you when you come through the doors, and shove you into that group, like a lot of these churches to like, sort of embed you and get you to stay because that's sort of their work. And, and so you have these big buildings dedicated to like uniting people socially, that only like, half of us are comfortable using it best. You know, and so it's this thing where I'm like, Yeah, you need these structures to go in. And to sort of help you with that. I was talking to one guy who was sort of like, he had just started going back to church. He was a I'm Protestant, he was Catholic guy. And he was saying, Yeah, I just, he's like, I've had a hard time figuring out like, where, because I can tell there's like social circles here. And they're meeting in different ways. They can't figure out how to break into him in this church. I'm like, well go talk to like the priests and tell him where you're at, tell him you're like, mid 30s? You're you're interested in marriage? And how like, what steps should you take? He's like, can you help with that? I'm like, it's sort of his job to help with that. Like, he knows the people in this church, he knows who to hook you up with in terms of like, who needs friends just like you do? Who needs I don't want to make it seem like it's a it is not at all like a like, we'll find your wife and that's a definite guaranteed thing. But they do. You know, they're, they're inherently social organizations in a lot of ways. And they put people there. And I don't think there's anything really in like the atheist, or business spaces that duplicates that, like, where can you go to find like 500 people who like, just generically like, love you? Because you are, you know, because you believe the same things.
Will Jarvis 32:24
That's right. That's right. Well, RC, I want to mention this, because I think the religion comment is so interesting. And you're also part of the kind of rationalist, Scott Alexander adjacent, you know, crowd, I run, I organized a meetup here in Durham, North Carolina for Scott's blog. And they brought all the meetup organizers out a couple of months ago, to kind of meet up and just meet all the other organizers. And it was great because I got to connect with all these people. Being in North Carolina, it's very different from the west coast. But we spent the weekend in Berkeley. And it was fascinating how the community at least in Berkeley and in Southern California, who Northern California, excuse me, was so quasi religious somewhere why I made this comment of someone they're like, oh, no, we're not quite religious. But you know, one of the meetup organizers had a liturgical calendar, they had holidays, they had these these events, which I just thought was quite interesting how it's kind of filling this this niche, in some sense, it perhaps the atheist church, or perhaps, like ultra, ultra Unitarian or something like that. But it was it was interesting, but it does seem like religion is super important for people's lives. And having that kind of social structure seems to be kind of essential at some level.
Resident Contrarian 33:35
Well, yeah. And it's also sort of interesting in terms of like, because you do see people who like the term a lot of people inside the church will use is that their spiritual? Like they consider themselves to be spiritual people. And they do have that sort of like they're looking for, I think, I think to use an example, I think Scott is really interested in the end like the aesthetic, yes, of at least the religion that he's associated with. And you'll see that in his writing and different ways he approaches it he'll, it'll lock him Yeah, yeah, there's and there's Kabbalah influences through Absolutely. And like all that, and I think he's interested in it didn't want it to be a part of who he is. And there's a lot of people who have like you said something about like an atheist church or like Unitarians. But But one thing that I think holds those back and this will sound disingenuous, because obviously, I'm, I'm a Christian, I want everybody to believe in Jesus. And it's like, that's sort of like the bias that I definitely have. And you should know that I have when you talk to me, but I do want to see those people be happy. It is not good for me for those people to be unhappy. Whether or not they come to my way of looking at things like I would rather they be happy disagreeing with me than unhappy disagreement. And I think one thing that keeps that from happening and keeps those churches from being like those big social structures with like the kind of support and longevity and like different people from different age groups like coming in and helping is that they, they can't be normative groups. They can't, they can't have norms they enforce. And the reason why to an extent is because to take to take, say, say you had a bunch of consequentialist, and they wanted to get together and start a consequentialist church, everybody acknowledged that everybody was like, lightly religious at most, right. And they all got together and they said, Okay, we're going to band together, we're going to build the structure. I've told the story on the blog. But last time I moved house, over a dozen people showed up to help me. And I would show up to help those same dozen people help. But that didn't happen. Just because we went to the same church, it happened because we went to the same church. And at some point, somebody needed help either me or them, and I don't remember which in each case, and we felt obligated to do it because of the religious thing. There's a norm there that you're supposed to help fellow religious. And it's an enforceable norm. Like, if you're consistently crappy about this, eventually, somebody might actually come to you and be like, Hey, why aren't you involved? Like, why don't? Why don't you put any of yourself in into this. And in the same way, they could tell me if I was doing something wrong, like in terms of what our rule set is, it's it's an enforceable norm, because we all believe that there is something true and solid and real and abstract, that, that it matters if we defy it. And if you go to, and so I did that thing, maybe out of obligation for that guy, or he did something out of obligation for me. But then I knew that he had done that for me. And I felt better about him because of that. And the next time he asked me for help, I was paying him back. And once we got about five or six things, five or six cycles into that, we had built trust. And we were friends who relied on each other for different things. And that religious obligation was no longer part of it. It was just something that had come out of that that had built off that. And if you go to a consequentialist, and say, Hey, man, I really don't think you should have done that. He can say, Listen, I'm making a calculation. On on what I think the net good is here. And you may disagree with me on that. But that's it, there's no strict rule set, you can point to to enforce the norm, there's no, there's no guy in the sky watching them who wants him to help out his brother was so he feels guilty and feels compelled. Some of them do it anyway, and it builds up. But the way, the way systems like that work is they sometimes do need a Kickstart to be viable on large scales, they sometimes do need that little extra push where, you know whether or not what I believe is accepted to be real to other people. I do believe it to be real and changes my behavior in a way that makes those relationships easier to have. And I think I think that does make it hard because again, you can't I don't want to say it'll never happen. And I hope it does. I hope somebody finds the piece of social technology that replicates that kickstart that gets these friendships and relationships going in a church and makes it viable, long term, so that they can have some more stuff, because again, I hope they're happy. But I don't think it exists right now. I don't think anybody's really ever found the hack that lets them have a church that doesn't believe in anything.
Will Jarvis 38:18
Yeah, I'm not quite sure. Yeah, yeah, no one, no one's found the hack. And at some level, I'm really, really not sure when exist, it seems to be like, it's such an essential part of the equation at some level, and prep, but perhaps we just haven't found it, and it does exist.
Resident Contrarian 38:32
Yeah. And I think that, I think that at some point, something does have to break. And what I found in situations like that is people only get unhappy to a certain point. And then they'll start looking around for different things. There was a, an article in The New York Times, just couple days ago, essentially where they were talking about, like, all these, like New York, sort of hipster scenester sort of types, who were starting to go to Catholic churches, not necessarily believing in any of it. But just because they were looking for like, a way to sort of fill up either that social gap or that spiritualism gap. And going through the motions like praying, you know, doing doing the rosary, doing the religious rites and going through it. Either seeing if that would inspire belief, or I've seen if going through the motions would give them some of the same benefits that belief would have given them and people and these are people who if you ask them, if they would do that, two years ago, would have probably told me now, but you can only get so unhappy before you start looking for those big changes. So I think either eventually that technology will be found, or the social structure that has kept them away from the existing technology that does that thing will fall away. Because you that people are going to look around and they're gonna see too many 45 year old men who have never built families but always wanted to and now have no options, they're going to look around and see too many people who have like have have established so much social and ideological difference be diff, I'm sorry distance between them and their families, that they no longer even have that family structure outside of outside of like their marriage and nuclear family that they also don't have. And I see that in a lot of different places where a lot of different people have really bought into like, go here, work hard, get it all done. And also, you also, it's socially awkward if you believe in anything real strongly. And it's just left them with, like, people won't do it, they won't look at a 20 year old guy who looks forward and sees a 45 year old guy who's completely unhappy, even though he has money will not live his life the same way that guy left, he will look for something different. I don't know if that it'll be like traditional religion, or if it'll be like, you know, going and working at a fishery on the coast of Oregon, I don't know what it'll look like, but either it'll get fixed or people will move away from it.
Will Jarvis 41:06
That's good. That's, uh, well, you mentioned something I really liked there. And this is a personal hobby horse of mine, you know, the aversion to like, really believing in something in American culture, or maybe it's just the irony, culture, it's something weird going on. But this is something I deeply despise is kind of making fun of people for being really into anything. Like, I think we should encourage people to have their hobbies or whatever they're interested in. And I have a big aversion to, you know, I don't know, making fun of people or think they're weird for being into stuff, whatever that may be.
Resident Contrarian 41:43
I actually have a question related to you about that. And it's something I've been batting around and trying to figure out in myself. And the phrasing on this question will be weird. It's, I find myself repulsed by effective altruists. Why is that? Because they aren't doing anything wrong. But I can tell right, they, in fact, they're probably doing a lot more good than I am a lot of them in the world. But I look at what they're doing. And like they're, they're like, you know, enthusiasm for it. And something about that turns me so off, and I have no justification for it. Like I don't even know I part of it is that I don't know very many of them. And so I think my mind identified him as sort of an out group. Yes, but But why that, like I have much less animosity for some groups that are very much farther from me than that particular group. And why and they draw that kind of heat from a lot of people. Like if you go on Twitter, everybody hates Yes, yes. And I'm not sure. What do you want? What I'm asking you really? What do you think drives that in your opinion?
Will Jarvis 42:48
Right, right. So full disclosure, resident that this podcast is funded by FTX ri grant and I was at EA global just a month ago, and I'll be at the other one here in another month. But But I do help to hope to convince you just a little bit. i What is it about EA Do you think that you find it's some level off putting I mean, there, I will agree there is something there can be like a cold, you tell it utilitarian consequentialist calculus that goes on, where you can come to like some weird conclusions and things like that. Which what what do you think that? What do you think that is?
Resident Contrarian 43:23
Well, and if I'm getting real serious about it, because before I did not know,
Will Jarvis 43:28
you're all good, man. It's good. It's good. I'm really curious.
Resident Contrarian 43:32
Well, and I want to like for me, I think a big part of it, like I was sort of implying before is just that they're like a very different mindset than me. And I think the the human mind establishes an out group and says, Okay, now we got to fight those guys. But if I had to come up with a really solid criticism for him, and I know that they actually have a competition looking for these is that I find that whenever you go, see an EA talk about something, they're pretty sure they've got it figured out. They're pretty sure that it is whatever it is that they think is settled, is actually settled. And that that's what's going to what's going to push things forward. So if you go ask an EA, like, what is the correct kind of morality? They they were recently I looked at it I was already too old to do it. But they had like there, there was one of the groups had a young writers grant. And it's like, you can talk about like, we are interested in people who talk about morality, so long as it is a offbeat form of utilitarianism. So long as it that then then then you can talk about it and they had decided that like the correct morality was was settled as that and I think that there's a couple different places where you look and go, Okay, so why why was it worth it to spend however many millions of dollars you spent trying to get that guy in Oregon into office? And I think they I think they went well. It's it's settled that At the best use of, of like government money would be to pump it through us and get it out there. And that and that this guy would have been the guy to do that. And I think there was a surety there were. Now the flip side of that is if they're right, on any of those things, there's so many resources and so much energy and a lot of really legitimately smart people working on that, that any place, they're right, they're going to do these mammoth, gigantic things. And I think that's actually already happened in a lot of different ways. They're funding a lot of different interesting people. Not very many people who look ideologically, necessarily like me, which again, makes my outgroup stuff boil. But, but where, where they're right, they will do more than anybody else will do. Because they're taking big chances, and they're doing weird things. And they're, you know, it's like the same thing, Y Combinator came out of they, they looked at risks nobody else would take, and now they have more money than Australia.
Will Jarvis 46:00
Yeah, you can take these these high expected value, you know, risks. And if you're correct, you can, you can really get high payoff at times,
Resident Contrarian 46:10
especially if you have some of the smartest people in the world working for you. And I think that's always good. You know, based off the people I've seen be involved in that, like Scott's heavily involved, and Scott is endlessly smarter than me, he's a better writer, he knows more stuff, he is more responsible with data and stuff. And where Scott gets involved in a project, it's a probably the right project to be involved with. And be, you know, it's probably going to do pretty well, because of his involvement in it. Like, not his alone, but like, the amount he contributes to it, they'll be glad they had. But, but But yeah, I think I think all all those nice things to balance the main things I said before, aside, I think where people look at them, as they look at this group who's like, they go, No, this is the direction, these are the real risks, these are the real places that that need help. And this is sort of the shape of it, like it's like it, we aren't going to really think about like adjacency in terms of how we give. It's not it's not really a local mindset, it's a overseas people, you you'll never see impersonal kind of giving, or at least it was at the beginning. And I thought, I think people see those, and they see the confidence behind it. And they maybe recoil from that. That was a lot of words to say, sort of Yeah, thing. But
Will Jarvis 47:32
well, do you think, do you think having been, like in a tough spot living in American America, and then seeing, you know, majority, like a not majority, but a sizable minority of the most competent kind of American elite, you know, college graduates, etc? Taking this kind of like, Universalist approach, as at the forefront? Being like, you know, not a great thing at some level, do you think that's part of it? Perhaps?
Resident Contrarian 48:00
Yeah, I mean, so I think so this is a really thorny bias place for me, because I really don't want to look at anybody in the world who's trying to do good. And tell them, hey, stop doing that. And I think most right, you know, there's going to be occasional people in any movement who are there for ego, or they're there for, like, or something, they give up effort and time and everything, they aren't really there to help anybody. They're there for social reasons, or prestige reasons or whatever, right. But that said, I don't want to look at any of them and tell them that they should, that they're doing wrong by putting their time and effort towards something good for whatever reason they're doing that. And I also acknowledged that, like, for instance, when I was making $35,000 a year and living in the US, I still by just a lot of metrics have a much better life than like somebody making like $1 a year in like, Belize or something. I don't know what the average income is in belief, but But you know, there are places where people have it worse, just right. And so I It wasn't really, I think, ever a thing where I looked at it and thought really I'm the one they should be helping. But there is something about I think, I don't know, it might be it might be partially that they are that elite, because for the most part, he is I think to have the ability to hire who they want. Like when when a major you a organization says hey, we're hiring people for this position. They got a lot of the brightest people and a lot of the people who are like the highest energy and who actually believe in the movement, which is a big thing. And I think seeing I think to an extent looking at them and going okay, here's a kid who went to Penn State did really really really well and now is going to their without it lets you say unless you at least mentally project that they don't have context. For what life is like at the lower rungs, whether that's true or not, it lets you pigeonhole them into sort of a box where you can sort of be like, Oh, they don't know how it is. Exactly. It's just a game for them. But But again, I want to minimize that a little bit. I don't want to, I did not come in here intending to bash real hard on the EAS, except to say that, like I have, the main thing I wanted to say is I haven't got check against them. And I think that it's wrong. And I'm trying to examine why it's, so I don't really want any of this to come off as sincerely like, I don't like the A's or I think they have rights problem. I have minor ill informed complaints. Like it's not good here.
Will Jarvis 50:44
Yeah, absolutely. No, no, no, you know, purchase in in a good faith way, which I which I really appreciate and some nice people about people in the community broadly bed are they are friendly to ideas, generally. But But I will introduce you if you're interested to my friend JD who rents EA for Christians who I think you'd like really enjoy talking to itself about it. Well, a lot of these issues,
Resident Contrarian 51:04
I would love to have a conversation with somebody who's on the EA side and see like sort of how they approach it. Because so are you yourself religious? Or do you come from a Christian? Do you have any, like Christian social background, I guess, is what I'm saying.
Will Jarvis 51:20
Yeah, so I'm a Protestant Christian as well. Okay, cool. Okay, so
Resident Contrarian 51:23
you'll, you'll know what I'm talking about. Sometimes, like if you're like Protestant Christian, and you're like a sort of regular church going guy, there will be somebody who will be like, Hey, I'm getting involved in this new sort of thing. And, and it's cool. And I think that is really what what Jesus wants me to wants me to be doing. And then like, it'll be like a year later, and he'll be like, completely off the rails. Like usually like and so like new interesting things with the kinds that like people who went to like school to get like an arts degree get involved in in Christianity, a lot of the time, they tend to end up getting really weird really fast. So I have this inherent distrust of like, these of like, new exciting ways to express your Christianity, especially when they go through primarily secular pathways. So I'd be interested to talk to him to sort of like have him help me not just be assuming the worst about that. Right. Because it cuz like, again, like, like, we like a Christian is called to be credible. They there. That might be a homeschool word. Charitable or charitable?
Will Jarvis 52:32
You know, I'm not exactly sure. Charitable, charitable, I
Resident Contrarian 52:34
guess. Yeah, probably charitable. There's, there's a million. There's 1000 words that I have read a lot that I do not know how to say. I'm with him. Yeah, integral integral? I don't know. But But yeah. Again, on the subject of that, like it, it would be interesting to see how a Christian approaches that. Especially a thoughtful one.
Will Jarvis 52:56
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think you did enjoy the you really enjoy the conversation? I'll definitely set that up. I, I'm curious. Obviously, we're running up on time a little bit. And before, before we jump, I did want to ask a couple more questions. Just about, you know, what's next for you? And what are the next kind of 10 years look like? And what are you excited about? And what kind of ways in improving the world are you thinking about that can be important.
Resident Contrarian 53:27
So So I mentioned a little bit about like, one of my like, knee jerk reactions against the EAS being like, in an impersonal distance to like the people you give to, in some ways. And and we've been talking a lot about loneliness, one of the things I'm doing like short term. And it's, it's been interesting so far as I'm trying to make myself as available as I can to anybody who reads my stuff. So So yeah, so and that could take the form of like, a person sending me an email and just saying, Hey, this is going on, and I just needed to tell somebody about it. And that's happened a few times where it's just like, I don't have anybody to talk to about this problem with or, in some cases, like I, I started up a discord. This seems really small scale, but like if people want to pop in there and like, be like, Hey, I have this problem, I want to talk about it. Or I just need, I just want a place to go and talk. I'm available for that for calls, anything like that. So I'm trying to do this sort of, like unlimited access to me think that I don't know how it's gonna go. But I feel like I can't complain about like a world where like, a lot of people are lonely. And a lot of people don't have social connections and to be a social connection. And then to go Yeah, but you can't email me. Like, like, you cannot talk to me. I'm not I'm not going to be that you're going to have to find somebody different. Like I feel like I have to be involved in that. So that's sort of my short term on like helping people I longer longer term on like the blog site like growth is a weird thing. I think, you know, having done this your spiraled I love
Will Jarvis 55:09
I love you I love your experience that it's been an incredibly linear, like incredibly linear for me. I mean, there's been like, you know, I, there's some variation but it's like kind of up into the right at this kind of general general northeasterly direction.
Resident Contrarian 55:22
It was weird for me because I went, like, I got a lot of early initial growth that I did. It was almost like unearned. It was like, I didn't deserve it. It's like I wrote it. I wrote an article about ear wax. It was like the second article I ever wrote for the blog, and like, it was on marginal revolution. And I'm like, Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, like, like, and I knew people at the time who were quitting after getting like two hits per article for like, 10 articles. And it's just hard to stay motivated. If nothing takes off. Yeah. But then it like sort of stagnated for a while, um, just recently, some cool stuff has been happening where like, like, I've been on a few more blog roles. And I've been getting a little more help from like people who really have no reason to help me. They're just being nice. And that growth has been taking off a little bit, but I'm still comparatively small, like in terms of subscribers. I think I'm at just about 2000 right now, which is not a lot. It's it's very much not a lot. And then I've been lucky in terms of some some some of my articles are shareable. So about once a month, I'll do Okay, on like one where it'll get into like the five digits, I've never broken six digits. I've never had that massive of a hit. But it is steadily growing. And it's and it's growing much faster now than it was like six months ago. It really is, like you talked about a linear line. Mine is definitely doing that snowball effect thing where it's, it's awesome, you know, speed. If you've ever seen like the amount of energy it takes to speed something up as it goes towards this exactly. It's sort of like doing that bending back of the line thing now, so it's good. So I'm hoping to get bigger. In terms of like, in terms of like projects to make that bigger. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know anything about marketing. I've just been like pumping out articles and like, hoping they do better. But I do want to I think one thing that I'm interested in doing is and I think you'll agree with this and I think most people should agree with this is most of conservative media right now is not
William Jarvis 57:21
great? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Resident Contrarian 57:24
There's there's a few places that are like sort of gems, but they they tend to be more formal and very much from the old school of like journalism. And I don't find that there's a lot of places that are like sort of new school of thought like new like, I've said before that if I could get all like the Christian men about my age who read to just know I exist, I'd have an audience. But right now there's no pipeline to get to like sort of the calmer more intellectual conservative, there's no pipeline to get to the like the calmer like reading type of Christian very easily the closest there it is. And you'll laugh is the Babylon be like, they're the closest people to of having tapped into it. But I do, I am looking for ways to sort of put together a way for people to find like, like less reactionary, say substack style or like younger, younger writer, younger thinker style writers in that world, because right now, I don't want them to have to go to one of the two terrible websites you're thinking about in your head right now. Exactly. Yeah, like I don't want I don't want that to be the only option if you're like 25 and a conservative dude. Right, right.
Will Jarvis 58:41
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, that and I will say it is very achievable. Like to do that, especially in conservative media. It'd be much more difficult if you're trying to do that in like, more liberal circles. Much more competition. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Cuz,
Resident Contrarian 58:53
yeah, I mean, even like, the places that like I want to, like get down on because they're, like, ideologically opposed to me, like the Atlantic is still good. Like, I don't agree with them on anything anymore. And they, they they definitely skewed further to the left, but it's not like they don't have like, smart people there. You have good writers, they have smart people, and they are not, you know, off the rails. They are not they have not gone insane with the rest of us and a lot of conservative media has.
Will Jarvis 59:25
Yes, yes, it's true. It's true. So it really has,
Resident Contrarian 59:28
yeah, I'm allowed to say that because it's my own people.
Will Jarvis 59:31
Exactly. Absolutely. That's good. Well, resit, thank you so much for coming on today. I've really enjoyed the conversation. Where can people find your substack? Where should we send them?
Resident Contrarian 59:41
So send them to resident contrarian.com Just that easy. And yeah, I mean, it's, I cannot promise that every article will hit for every person. But But I have a I think there is something because the nice thing about Not being focused is if you go down through the archive enough, you will eventually find an article you like. That's great. Well, thanks something interesting. But yeah, that's really the only thing I have to plug right now. I wish I had something bigger.
Will Jarvis 1:00:11
Awesome. Awesome. We'll put a link down in the show notes. Thanks. Thanks so much, man. I really appreciate it.
Resident Contrarian 1:00:15
Thank you very much.
William Jarvis 1:00:19
Thanks for listening. We'll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai