The Psychology of Social Status and Class | Rob Henderson | EP 429

The Psychology of Social Status and Class | Rob Henderson | EP 429

Tour info 2024 (00:00:00)

  • Jordan Peterson announces his 2024 tour, starting in February and running through June.
  • The tour will visit 51 cities in the US.
  • More information and ticketing details are available on Jordan Peterson's website.
  • The tour will focus on ideas from his upcoming book, "We Who Wrestle with God," to be released in November 2024.

Coming up (00:00:39)

  • Having two parents at home is a strong predictor of going to college and obtaining a bachelor's degree.
  • College may not be the right path for everyone, especially those who come from unstable family environments or lack good role models.

Intro (00:01:07)

  • Dr. Rob Henderson is a novelist, public intellectual, psychologist, and author of the book "Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class."
  • Rob discusses his experience growing up in the foster care system in California and his transformation as he moved from a fragmented childhood to the military, Yale, and Cambridge.
  • Rob introduces the concept of "luxury beliefs," which refers to the elite classes' adoption of harmful ideas that disproportionately affect dispossessed people, especially those who are economically disadvantaged.
  • Rob's book, "Troubled," focuses on his early experiences and his developing ideas on family fragmentation and the role of elites in perpetuating it.

Life since publishing “Troubled,” canceled by bookstores (00:03:19)

  • Rob Henderson's book, published on February 20th, 2023, emphasizes personal responsibility, taking control of one's life, and criticizes certain aspects of elite universities and luxury beliefs.
  • Despite its positive reception, Henderson faced challenges in organizing a standard book tour due to bookstores' reluctance to promote and display his book, particularly in Canada.
  • The book's message, which focuses on the deterioration of the family and its impact on children, may be perceived as unfashionable or controversial by some in the bookstore industry.
  • Some bookstores may have intentionally hidden or covered up Jordan B. Peterson's endorsement on the book, suggesting a possible connection between the book's message and the challenges faced in promoting it.

An outline of Rob’s memoir (00:10:54)

  • Rob Henderson's memoir chronicles his journey from poverty and abuse in Los Angeles to higher education.
  • He spent five years in the overburdened Los Angeles County foster care system, living in seven different homes and facing uncertainty, instability, and the fear of being moved.
  • Henderson was adopted by a working-class family in Northern California, where he witnessed the breakdown of families and the struggles of individuals in the blue-collar town.
  • The author's adoptive parents' divorce led to financial difficulties and personal drama, impacting their own life and the community.

Realizing what he didn’t want to become (00:16:56)

  • The author came from a relatively stable family background, despite some instabilities.
  • He enlisted in the military, which provided him with a structured environment and helped him find mentors and a pathway to higher education.
  • He realized that the path he was on in high school was not the right one and observed that some of his older male co-workers, despite their cool image, had a lifestyle that he did not want for himself.

Joining the military (00:19:16)

  • The author, Rob Henderson, had poor academic performance in high school with a 2.2 GPA.
  • He lacked options for university due to his low grades.
  • A male high school teacher, who initially tried to motivate him academically, eventually started building a rapport with him by talking about shared interests.
  • The teacher showed Rob a picture of himself in an Air Force uniform and suggested the military as a potential path for him.
  • Rob was influenced by other male figures in his life, such as his brother's father who had also been in the Air Force.
  • Rob enlisted in the military at 17, becoming the youngest person in his unit.
  • Joining the military removed him from negative influences and provided him with structure and boundaries that he lacked during his upbringing.
  • The military helped channel his aggressive and impulsive energy towards productive pursuits.

Criminality among men, the importance of role models (00:22:44)

  • The standard hypothesis for criminologists is that incarceration segregates badly socialized men until they mature.
  • Criminality among men peaks at 19 and then drops off after 26.
  • Prisons house repeat offenders until they mature, not rehabilitate them.
  • Growing up in a chaotic environment without structure hinders cortical maturation and integration of motivational drives.
  • Maturity involves integrating motivational and emotional drives, expanding the time frame for gratification, and considering the long-term consequences of actions.
  • A child that's neurologically intact needs one good role model to derive a mode of being that leads to maturity.
  • Fragmented families often lack role models, which can be catastrophic for a young person's development.

How environment impacts academic success (00:26:34)

  • Schools are not effective in helping young children plan for their future.
  • A program called "future authoring" helps young men plan for their future and reduces their likelihood of dropping out of college by 50%.
  • Stable home life and adult oversight improve academic performance.
  • Without guidance or mentorship, children are more likely to make unwise decisions that can negatively impact their academic success.

Responding to momentary incentives versus planning for the long-term (00:30:04)

  • Psychologists often ask the wrong questions, such as why people take drugs, instead of why they don't take drugs all the time.
  • The mystery is not why people take drugs, but why they would do something difficult like take a chemistry course.
  • Grades can vary with environmental stability and the attractiveness of the vision for the future.
  • People may not think far into the future when making decisions, but good parenting and mentors can help them reach a point where they can reflect and consider their futures.
  • Inflation in the United States is still a significant economic concern.
  • The US has a $34 trillion debt and continues to print money, which increases prices.
  • Birch Gold Group can help people diversify their savings into gold, which can act as a hedge against inflation.
  • Listeners can text Jordan to 989898 to get a free info kit on gold and speak with a precious metal specialist.

The impact of scheduled chores and genuine responsibility (00:33:48)

  • In a stable environment, rituals can create a well-run and stable household.
  • Genuine responsibilities lead to positive outcomes and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Conservatives often struggle to communicate with young people because they present obligations as moral imperatives rather than genuine responsibilities with tangible value.
  • Responsibility can be transformed into an incentive reward by associating it with a genuine goal.
  • Goals have real-world consequences, such as suffering.
  • The proper framing of a task can awaken people to a higher order way of apprehending their environment.

Learning to read at age 7 (00:39:41)

  • Rob Henderson didn't learn to read until he was seven years old.
  • He was embarrassed by his inability to read aloud in class.
  • A teacher told him that he needed to learn to read if he wanted to be a scientist.
  • He borrowed kindergarten-level books from his teacher and slowly worked his way through them.
  • After a lot of effort, he finally started to understand what he was reading.
  • He believes that computerized tutors could teach every child to automatize letter and word recognition.
  • Reading is burdensome until you can read for meaning.
  • Once you can read for meaning, it becomes instantly rewarding.
  • Reading is essential for success in life.
  • The education system is failing children by not teaching them to read properly.

Instability and disorder: “The first response was to medicalize it” (00:44:34)

  • Rob Henderson's desire to avoid embarrassment, keep up with peers, and emulate successful individuals motivated him to learn to read.
  • Despite his reading difficulties, Henderson's IQ test results indicated normal intelligence, but his verbal score was low.
  • Henderson emphasizes the importance of a stable and predictable environment in nurturing good qualities, in addition to curiosity and academic aptitude.
  • Reading became a source of comfort for Henderson, and he found inspiration in biographies and memoirs of individuals who overcame challenges.
  • Stories can provide inspiration and guidance, and people naturally gravitate towards stories that resonate with their circumstances.

The military offers steep consequences, but also steep rewards (00:49:36)

  • The military provides clear rules and consequences, which can help build faith in planning.
  • Rewards and punishments are immediate and swift, creating a structured environment.
  • Failing a drug test can result in court-martial and military prison, while similar actions in the outside world may not have immediate consequences.
  • Rob was promoted early due to his performance, but this also led to negative consequences as he was able to make self-defeating decisions due to the freedom that came with his new rank.

The deterioration of working class families (00:54:07)

  • In 1960, 95% of children in the US were raised by both birth parents, regardless of social class.
  • By 2005, this number had dropped to 85% for the upper class and 30% for the working class.
  • This decline in intact families has had a devastating impact on working-class communities, leading to increased delinquency, drug addiction, and crime.
  • The deterioration of family structure has hit poor black families first, then poor white families, and now even lower-middle-class families.
  • The upper segment of society, the top 20%, is almost completely shielded from this decline and has no exposure to what is happening in the rest of society.

“Luxury Beliefs” and manic Marxism (00:58:46)

  • The author observed a warped elitist culture in universities, where students felt entitled to all the privileges of being privileged and underprivileged simultaneously.
  • The author proposes a variant of the luxury beliefs idea, suggesting that people hold beliefs not only for explanation but also for unearned moral virtue.
  • The oppressor-oppressed narrative provides a comprehensive explanation for social, political, and economic interactions and offers a one-move solution to being moral by identifying with the oppressed.
  • This narrative is particularly attractive to those with low verbal intelligence and is prevalent in disciplines with lower IQ students and teachers in universities.
  • Luxury beliefs often provide a moral justification for persecuting a target group, such as anti-Semitism, by identifying them as oppressors.

The positive feedback loop of weaponized marginalization (01:07:15)

  • Weaponized marginalization involves implementing ideas into policies or culture and moving on to the next thing, potentially avoiding the consequences of one's beliefs.
  • Oppressors may claim the mantle of virtue to compensate for their privilege and guilt.
  • At elite universities, some individuals exploit commonalities with historically mistreated groups strategically for personal gain, such as gaining an edge in competitive institutions.
  • Psychopathology can be seen as a positive feedback loop gone mad.
  • When an ideology privileges marginalization, claiming marginalization becomes a means to gain privilege.
  • This is especially prevalent in highly competitive environments, where individuals compete for marginalization without bearing its costs.
  • There may be more nefarious motivations, such as reproductive strategies, underlying this behavior.

The only form of victimization that elite students won’t disclose (01:10:58)

  • A study conducted at elite universities revealed that students were willing to disclose marginalized identities such as sexuality, ethnicity, and orientation.
  • However, students were reluctant to discuss low socioeconomic status and being very poor.
  • This reluctance to discuss class can be seen as a rebellion against Marxism, as the focus on multiple axes of oppression has supplanted economic oppression.
  • Being poor is still difficult in modern Western society, despite increased tolerance and acceptance of other marginalized identities.
  • Students at elite universities tend to conceal their wealth or poverty, as they want to conform to the myth of everyone being middle class.

People will actively identify with a new sexuality, but run from their sexual history (01:13:46)

  • People are more willing to identify with a sexual orientation than their actual sexual history.
  • People who identify with a sexual orientation often disavow the actions associated with that label.
  • Early promiscuity is a reliable predictor of later criminality.
  • Hedonistic narcissists don't want to be held responsible for their deviant and exploitative behavior, so they make being called out on that a moral failing of the person accusing them.

The rise of dark tetrad traits and their correlation with a victim mentality (01:17:39)

  • Dark Triad traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) correlate with victim signaling.
  • People high in Dark Triad traits are manipulative and aware that pretending to be a victim can be advantageous.
  • Society wants to sympathize with victims but also needs to be aware of Dark Triad types who exploit this.

Reputation matters deeply to most people, don’t let yours be exploited (01:22:22)

  • Reputation is extremely valuable and can be gamed.
  • Young women are more likely to fall for people with dark tetrad traits because they mimic confidence and competence.
  • People care deeply about social esteem and how they are viewed by others.
  • A study found that reputation was the second priority for people, next to physical safety.
  • People would rather lose an arm or a leg than be known as a pedophile or a Nazi.
  • Dark triad types are aware of people's concerns about reputation and target them accordingly.
  • Younger adults score higher on dark triad traits than older adults.
  • Many young adults who hold positions of power and influence have clinical levels of psychopathy and narcissism.

Why psychopaths constantly need new victims (01:25:20)

  • Historically, psychopaths were itinerant because their reputation would get around quickly in a closed community.
  • Humans have an evolved module for remembering cheaters.
  • Psychopaths camouflage themselves as new people to find new victims.
  • Virtualization enables psychopaths because reputation tracking is more difficult online.

Consequence-free dating, predatory sexuality, Cabaret, Pinocchio (01:26:40)

  • Online dating platforms allow individuals with dark Triad or tetrad traits to engage in multiple non-overlapping relationships without reputational consequences.
  • This consequence-free dating fosters psychopathic tendencies as individuals indulge in immediate gratification without practical or reputational responsibilities.
  • The movie Cabaret portrays a young woman with cluster B traits engaging in hedonistic behavior at a cabaret, highlighting the link between artistic talent and fluidity of identity.
  • The movie also presents a parallel between the hedonistic lifestyle and the rise of the Nazis, suggesting a connection between unbridled hedonism and the emergence of tyranny.
  • The movie Pinocchio similarly depicts the consequences of hedonism, as delinquent boys who indulge in Pleasure Island are transformed into mindless donkeys.
  • Classic stories often emphasize the correlation between hedonism and tyranny, suggesting that excessive focus on immediate gratification leads to a demand for authoritarian figures to maintain order.

Why people support or oppose populism (01:31:20)

  • People who support populism are not interested in status themselves, but prefer a strong leader to implement their preferences.
  • People who oppose populism have a strong desire for status and want to be influential leaders themselves.
  • Populist supporters can be divided into two groups: those concerned with disorder and those who want to abdicate responsibility to a centralized authority.
  • Wealthy people who oppose populism do so because it is competition for their psychopathic power-seeking.
  • There is no psychological research on the relationship between impulsive hedonism and admiration for authoritarian beliefs.

The tendency for those who rally on behalf of the poor to sacrifice them (01:34:55)

  • The left, particularly the elitists, are willing to sacrifice the poor for their hypothetical ideals.
  • The policies implemented by the left often demolish the poor in the service of their utopian and self-aggrandizing beliefs.
  • Elite individuals, especially those with high status and attractiveness, can claim compassion without experiencing any personal consequences.
  • The price of such claims is paid by the truly poor.
  • As chaos increases, the bottom people are knocked off, leading to a cascade effect.
  • Fatherlessness emerged first in the black community and then spread to the Hispanic community and eventually to the Caucasian population.
  • The endpoint appears to be fewer and fewer people in stable relationships.
  • Those in stable relationships pay no price for expanding their tolerance to include all forms of behavior that undermine stability.
  • They dismiss concerns about stability as arbitrary moral judgments and claim that all families are equal.

Education is not a substitute for a stable family (01:37:54)

  • Family stability, particularly having two parents at home, is a stronger predictor of educational success than education alone.
  • A stable family environment can prevent negative outcomes such as incarceration, especially for children in foster care.
  • Rob Henderson argues that we should focus on preventing children from living in dysfunctional and deprived circumstances rather than solely focusing on increasing their educational opportunities.
  • The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship considers the nuclear family to be the minimum ideal for sustaining society, and fragmenting below this structure can have serious negative consequences.

The dark difference between wealth and status (01:43:54)

  • Wealth is desired for comparative status, not just comfort and opportunity.
  • Psychopathic wealthy individuals benefit from keeping the masses chaotic and preventing them from achieving the same status.
  • Status is derived from possessing something that others do not have, distinct from wealth.
  • Psychopathic individuals prioritize relative status elevation, even at the expense of others' well-being.
  • The slogan "Eat the Rich" reflects the resentment of those just below the top towards the competent and successful.
  • Psychopaths thrive in societies that promote oppressor-oppressed dichotomies, leading to disastrous consequences such as the Soviet Union, Maoist China, and the Cambodian genocide.
  • The Cambodian genocide exemplified the rapid implementation of communism, resulting in the deaths of a third of the country's population.
  • There is a lack of education about the horrors of communist societies.

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