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CNN at one point in time when Bourdain had a show on, they were doing some very interesting things. They were trying to do shows, not just the news. Right. So they had no, no reservations was the best one of them where they just told Anthony Bourdain, just be you and just do what you did. Do your best version of your show. And they really just get out of the way. And it was fucking.


Yeah, yeah. So they got out of his way, they let him be best of himself.


They figured out how to do know. Kamal Bell had a really good show too. Is that show still on? I don't think so. What was that show called? I'm sorry, I forget the name of these shows, but W Kamal Bell was really good at being like calm. He's shades of America, United States of America. Really good at being calm, like talking to like KKK people. And he's black and he's a comic, but he's just like a very nice guy. He's a very nice guy, like a genuinely nice guy in real life. And so when he's doing a show, even when he's confronted by the most ignorant racists, he can have conversations with them and then they're like, well, you're not like the others.


Well, that's the best kind of journalism. You can properly immerse yourself in those worlds. Yeah.


And CNN did that for a know. They had that other show. Was it radical with that one gentleman who, Ranza Aslan? Is that his name? That was another good show. They did some interesting stuff. They did like quite a few interesting shows where they were just shows. It wasn't what it is now, which is this bizarre version of news. TikTok just grabbing you with everything that's going to terrify you every day. And there's so much to terrify you about today.


Yeah, they seem to have lost the art of storytelling.


Yeah, it's very unfortunate. So, ladies and gentlemen, we started this podcast after a long conversation about Anthony Bourdain, but I felt like we were already rolling, so let's just roll into it. I really enjoyed you on trigonometry and that's why I wanted to talk to you here, because it's just, I think your book is the status game.


That's right. Yep.


And I think what's really interesting about what you're talking about, mechanisms that make people understand behavior patterns in a way instead of just accepting them, because I think a lot of people fall into accepting behavior patterns. But what you're showing is like these status games that human beings play. They're sort of wired into our being. If we don't recognize them, they can get hijacked by far right movements or far left movements, or a lot of different things can happen that can really screw your life up if you get hijacked by these just normal mechanisms of human thinking.


That's right. So I think the general thesis is that the humans want two things. They want connection into groups, and then once they're in the group, they want status. It's not enough to feel like, we're a Christian. We have to be a good Christian. And that means following certain rules, and that's what brains just want to do. Brains don't really care about what's true. Brains are always asking this question, who do I have to be and what do I have to believe in order to earn connection and status? And we're all vulnerable to this stuff. And that's how people end up believing fucking crazy things, because the brain is just believing what it has to believe.


I've seen it with people that get what you call audience capture, where absolutely their audience. They get some love. If you're doing it politically, you only do it once. It's a dangerous move. It's like changing genders. Like, you can't go male to female and they're back to male again. It's fucking too complicated. You got one shot. If you start out a liberal, you're a lifelong liberal, and then at 36, all of a sudden you become, like the most hardcore right wing Republican. That seems like, well, what did you believe before? And what happened? Did you take mushrooms? Did you fall in your head? Did something happen where you just radically change your ideology? Or did you get captured by the idea of being accepted with much more vigor by the other side? That's one thing that they really do enjoy when someone bails on the other side. And then again, you can only do it once, but you get really embraced.


That's right. And the more you're embraced, the more you believe. There's this concept that I write about. I call it active belief. There are loads of beliefs that we have, like how long is the Mississippi Ripper? What is coffee? We don't argue about these beliefs, but there are certain categories of belief that possess us, and these are the beliefs that we form our identity around, and they're the beliefs that we plug our status into. So if you're a Christian, it's like, I believe Jesus died and then three days later got. And as I said, these beliefs are kind of dangerous because they take us over. It's not enough just to believe them passively. You have to act them out with your life. And so these are the beliefs that drive things like the satanic panic, cult movements, communism, Nazism. These are beliefs that sort of possess people and take them over. It's like a parasite. They're kind of scary things. But as you know, we're all vulnerable to these kind of active beliefs.


I'm fascinated by cult documentaries. And I was talking to my friend Tod. We were talking about wow country. And we both said the same thing.




In the beginning it looked awesome. In the beginning they were having so much fun. And I think of myself at 21, and I had no real confidence in my view of the world. I was 21. I was a young dummy. I did not know what was correct and what was incorrect. I had a general sense. My family was very left wing. My parents were hippies in San Francisco. So I had sort of an ideology attached to that. But I had no idea how anything in the world worked and if I ran into the wrong yoga teacher.


But that's how humans know with this tribal animal. And nobody has any idea how the world works until they plug into a group. And the group has its stories that it tells about how the world works. Every group has its model of what a hero is and this set of beliefs a hero has. And once we've plugged into that group, we orient ourselves towards becoming that person. And cults are interesting because cults are like all human groups are kind of cults, but looser. Every human group is a status game in the sense that it's a group of people who believe the same things. And there's sort of rules for being part of that group. And the better you become at following those rules and becoming its ideal of self, the higher you rise up that status game, the only difference between cult and a religion and a business and a political group is just that it's much tighter. So the rules are much stricter. Like there's a zillion rules, like I've written before about what they call what was the cult that they castrated themselves.


Yeah, heaven's gate.


Heaven's gate, that's right. Yeah. And they had rules even about how much toothpaste you were allowed to put on your toothbrush. They had a rule about exactly how scrambled eggs were to be cooked. And the rule was dry but not burnt. So there was a rule about how much water you put in your bathtub.


Was he castrated as well?


No, he wasn't, surprisingly enough.




Yeah. They were called tea and dough. There he is. Tea.


Just imagine you are so low in your life that you think that's the guy that has all the answers.


Marshall effort. Yeah.


Is that a tribal thing? This is what I've always assumed, that that's just some holdover from when we were a part of groups of 150 people that needed a leader. And generally that leader would be some old warlord. He's probably, like, 35 back then, but had gone through a lot and was a strong leader, was someone that you admired as a leader. And maybe in these tribal times, that's baked into our dna. And when someone comes along and speaks confidently, I am never confident. I'm never confident. If you're so confident about all these thoughts and about what life is about and where we're going and what awaits us, and if you follow these rules, God, that's so confident. I'm not that confident. So I could get sucked in. Yeah, any human could get sucked in. But is that what it's from? Is it from tribal times?


Yes and no. So one of the really surprising things about tribes, the tribes in which we evolved, is that the idea of the big man is a bit of a myth. So they were kind of leaderless. Like, leaders would bubble up by consensus when, say, we wanted to solve a particular problem to do with hunting, then the best hunters would be deferred to. And what do you think?


At some point in time, they became leaders. I mean, they've been leaders for so long.


When we settled down, when was that?


Like agriculture?


Yeah, that was about 11,000 years ago.


Don't you think that's enough to bake it into our DNA?


I don't know. I think what is in our DNA is that idea of a stories. We're storytelling animals. We think in stories, every tribe has its particular story about the world. And so we're very good at channeling those stories. And as I said, every story has its design of what is a hero, and we try and become that kind of hero. So that's that holdover from the tribal day. But more fundamentally, again, it's that brain question of, who do I have to be? What do I have to do? Tell me what I have to do in order to achieve connection and status. And that's what occult does, and that's what a charismatic leader does. It tells you, this is what you've got to do. These are the rules. This is who you have to become. And that's really seductive to us subconsciously, because those two things of connection and status are so incredibly important to us.


Yeah. Is it something you think should be taught, like, very early on? It seems like this is information we should get to kids as young as we can so they can recognize these patterns that people fall into.


Absolutely. I've always thought that there should be a lesson in school about what is a human, what is the basic operating system manual for a human. And these are the mistakes that humans make, because, as I said, one of the sort of big ideas is that we're not particularly interested in the truth. The truth doesn't matter to human brains. What matters is what do I have to believe in order for people to like me and respect me?


Well, that's why religions, like even radical religions are so intoxicating. Like, you have to be all in. You're part of a very special group and you all love each other like brothers and sisters because you're part of this group. And you can come up with some radical ideas and get people to subscribe to that. Especially if you attach things like death for people who leave. Yeah, you're operating in some red line territory. That's a wild group.


And the religions and the cults always do that thing of offering amazing rewards.


But of course, in the future, bro, heaven, best spot ever. And the version of heaven differs between how bad the place where you live sucks. Yeah.


I think there's like eight and a half billion people in the world. And the amount of, I think it's like 500 million atheists. So that just shows you how many, just how wired we are to believe basically any old shit we're told to believe, as long as we feel like it's going to get a status and secure connection into a supportive group.


I remember during the suicide bomber days when that was something that was in the news all the time. They talked about 72 virgins and that these gentlemen thought that they were going to get 72 virgins in heaven. That is so cultural.




If you offered 72 virgins to a christian, they'd be like, what the fuck are you talking about? I'm not fucking any virgins, you crazy psycho. How old are they? What are you saying? I'm not a pedophile, dude. I just like women.




You know what I'm saying?


Yeah. I'm not sure how. I mean, I don't know if that 72 versions thing is true.


I think they could be like 21 year old versions that have been saved for this moment by the great one. But I think that term is not real. I think the term 72 versions is like saying how many times have you lost your phone? A fucking million. It's like that kind of. It's an exaggeration.


But I think the real promise there, though, I mean, the 72 virgins is. Yeah, but I think the real promise for suicide bombers is, again, its status. It's like if you sacrifice your life on behalf of the group's mission, you're a hero. You're like a God. So that's the promise. And again, I think it's a really good example of how human beings value status over their lives. I mean, that's how much we value status. We're the only animal that kills ourself, which is just a weird thing in itself. An animal would voluntarily end its own life. And very often the reason that people kill themselves is because it's a sudden drop in status, or they feel completely isolated and alone. They're lacking in those essential kind of psychological resources to such an extent that they end their own lives. And that's how much we value these things. And suicide bombers are another manifestation of that. If you're going to consider me a hero, and if Mohammed is going to consider me a hero, strap me. How much. That's how crazy we become about these social rewards.


God, that is such an insane belief. It's so insane. And when the most evil thing is when you hear about them talking kids into doing it.




A young child. What is the youngest suicide bomber they've ever used?


I don't know.


Just the idea that you can buy into it so much that you're willing to let your children go do that. Yeah, but it's wild.


It's evil if you think it's this kind of calculating, kind of mathematical algorithm of advantage. But they sincerely believe it. They really believe it's true.




Before I was an author, as a journalist, I've been meeting kind of crazy people, including nazis, as part of my journalistic career. And that's one of the things that always strikes me, is that they really believe it. So it's not even in the sense that they're doing anything calculating by talking their children to being suicide bombers. They think they're doing something heroic. They think they're doing something amazing. As did the Nazis. As did the communists.


Yeah, as did the KKK. They can fall into belief structures, and they don't necessarily have to make sense, but if they find enough supportive people around them that also believe that, then it becomes part of their tribe identity, and it can be really stupid. We're fucking way more vulnerable than we would like to believe. That's one of the things that I was saying, like, when I watched those cult documentaries, part of me is like, thank God I didn't run into those people. Thank God they would have got me.


And when they look at the psychology of people that are vulnerable to falling into cults, it's very often people that have struggled to fit into the status games of ordinary life. So the family hasn't worked, the job hasn't worked. Exactly. Hobbies haven't worked, so they've got no identity, they've got no tribe. So they're really vulnerable to these cults, which, because what cults offer is absolute certainty. If you cook your scrambled eggs this way, if you only put two inches of water in your bath, the ufos will come down and they're going to take you to the level above. That's what they were offering to you, though, the level above.


Human wear the nikes. Remember, you have to wear the purple nikes. That's right.


And there's this crazy memoir of one of the guys who was in this group. He didn't cut his own balls off. He left before the ball cutting, but he was jealous. He wanted to have his balls cut. And there was only one person that could have it done in the beginning, and they flipped a coin. And he was really annoyed that he lost the coin flip.


Oh, my God.


But what was interesting about his memoir was he said that people talk about brainwashing in cults, and people talk about how we were forced to follow these rules, but we wanted to follow the rules. Like, not following the rules would be like being a NASA astronaut and just not caring about how the space shuttle not. They don't consider themselves brainwashed. They consider themselves, whether just in a status game, like any other status game, it's just a very, very strict one.


Right. Well, that's why one of the fascinating things about some cults is that they use very bizarre language and that they all agree to it. They have specific terms that they say doesn't. Scientologists, they'll call people, they have like an abbreviation for someone who's like a hostile person. What is it that they do? Because I remember someone explaining to me, someone who left the church was explaining to me how if someone would be hostile, you have like a very specific way you describe them and that they all do it in the group. And it's like suppressive persons that. Suppressive persons? Yes. You're a suppressive person or potential trouble sources. Dude, I ordered dianetics in like, 1994. I had just moved to LA and I thought it was a self help book. I was like, all right, yeah. Fucking look at, your brain's going to explode. You're going to get your shit together. Look at all these people that are succeeding on Dianetics 26 or whatever I was. So I ordered this book, and they've never stopped sending me things. I mean, they fucking never stopped sending me things.


Was there ever a point when you thought, hang on a minute, this is right?


No. Once I realized it was Scientology, I was like, oh, dianetics is Scientology. I was like, okay. But then part of me was like, damn. A lot of these Scientologists are doing really well in Hollywood. Maybe that's a good cult to join. Maybe if they just let me be me, because it seems like that was part of it. There was a big allure of how many successful people were following that religion. I mean, some of the most successful actors. Tom Cruise is one of the most successful actors of all time, and he's literally the poster boy for that.


Yeah, that's right. Somebody was saying to me the other day that they thought that actors were particularly susceptible to Scientology because they've got this weird. They don't really have an identity actors, they were always sort of slipping into everybody at different people's identities. I thought that was interesting, especially if you're really. Yeah, yeah.


You probably lose who the fuck you are. Who am I? Am I rocky?


Am I the mission impossible guy? Well, when they're walking around, everybody treats them that way. I'm sure they treat Stallone like he's rocky.


You got to give respect to Tom Cruise, though, because Tom Cruise is, like, 60 years old, and he still does his own stunts, including jumping a motorcycle off a cliff.




That's how much he believes in this stuff.


But that's why these groups are kind of functional as well. It's like I kind of have a weird kind of sympathy. I grew up in a very strict catholic household with very strict catholic parents, and I hated it. I was very rebellious as a teenager, and I guess in my. Was very atheist and hated religion. But then I kind of did a lot of this research. And once you accept that what humans need to be healthy psychologically and physically is connection and status, you see that that's actually what religion provides people. That's what religion provides my parents.




They're connected into community, and they feel important. They feel they're good Catholics because my dad conducts the choir and this, that, and the other. And so that's invaluable. That's what humans need to survive. And in the current world, in the huge populations in which we live, it's very hard to feel securely connected. You said a moment ago the tribes in which we evolved were very small, like 30 to 50 people. So it was quite easy to feel securely connected. It was quite easy in that environment to feel important, like, valued by other people. I mean, probably it was not rare in the tribe to feel invaluable, like you're needed, because everybody was needed. There wasn't many people around to find the tubers and catch the rabbits or whatever. But in this day and age, in these huge groups in which we belong to, it's much harder to feel relative status because you're competing with millions of people, especially online. And I think that's a source of a huge amount of misery in the modern world. A stress. I call it identity anxiety. Identity stress. We feel really unsatisfied with the amount of connection and status that we have because we exited these fucking massive international tribes.


Now, I think there's another factor, and the other factor is, I think, because of the nature of commuting and public transportation and of going to work all day and then being under someone else's control most of the day and then commuting home, I think we're conversation starved.




I think the way human beings figure out what's the best way to behave and what's the nicest way that we can all get along, what makes the most sense is when we talk the most and most of the day, you can't really talk most of the day. You can't sit down for a couple of hours like this and just say, why do we behave this way? Why is there this weird pattern that is so strong, it's such a tightly cut groove that cutting your balls off and wearing purple sneakers becomes appealing. It could fit right in there. It seems to me there's like a pathway for this. Yeah.


That's how humans communicate, is we sit down and we tell stories to each other.


And if we don't get to talk.


Yeah, absolutely.


We're very lucky. We get to talk. Yeah, but most people don't get to talk like this. Yeah, they don't have the time.


Absolutely. Yeah. And that's to our huge cost. Yes. Because where do we get the stories from? We get them from social media. We get them from the news, which is increasingly politicized and hysterical. And so the outrage goes up.


If you're a used car salesman and you talk to people, you're bullshitting people all day long. When do you ever turn the bullshit off? Do you know how to anymore? You probably become a used car salesman forever.


Yeah, well, that's what we do. That's a perfect example of how the status games work, is that used car salesman is a status game, and it has its particular model of self, which the brain identifies and turns us into, by the way.


I should just say there's a lot of very cool used car sales.


I don't want to pick.


It's just a joke. It's a term. But you do know there's a difference between salespeople that are just real friendly folks and then super sailing guys and those super sailing guys. I'm like, how does that guy turn that off? Like, that's such a bullshit way to talk.


Yeah. John Paul Sartre wrote about this. He called it bad faith. And he was sitting in a cafe in Paris at one time, and he was watching the waiter, and he realized that the waiter was just behaving like a waiter, like a classic parisian waiter. He's going, look at his movement, and he's just really annoying. John Falsace, he's acting in bad faith. He's doing the dance of the waiter. That's not really who he is, right. He's just being the waiter. And he said, there's the dance of the auctioneer. There's the dance of the used car salesman. And that's kind of what we do.


The dance of the strip club DJ.


And the dance of the member of.


The cult dance of the lead singer of a rock and roll band.


That's what the brain does, though. It identifies. Okay, what group am I in? What does a hero look like?




I've got to turn myself into this person.


Yeah. That was a giant thing in standup, to the point where the punchline in Atlanta, Georgia, had a back green room and people would write on the walls, and someone wrote in big letters, quit trying to be hicks. When Jamie tore the place down. He's not this Jamie. Jamie that owns the club tore the place down. He swore he saved that for me. I want that little piece of memorabilia.




Because there were so many people that saw Hicks and were like, God, he's so profound. I want to be profound, but you don't have shit to say. You don't even read. I know.


Do we talk about Dennis Leary in this?


There's no need to. Okay, yeah. There's no need to. Yeah.




I've said enough about that.




But, yeah, there's just a lot of that. There's a lot of posturing. That's not really how you feel, but you see how this is appealing and you see that there's a pattern that seems to be successful and then you just mimic that pattern. Mock that pattern.


Yeah. And that's why it's so incredible when someone comes along and does something in that space that's new but still works. That's, for me, the definition of a genius, that anybody can experiment, but most experiments go wrong. But if you experiment with the form of stand up or whatever, if everyone's doing hicks and you come up with something new and it works, that's incredible.


It's just people are so easily influenced. And when someone is really stunningly good, like there's a David tell problem, okay, the davatel problem is David tell so good that when you work with him all the time, you start delivering your punchlines like him, but they're not as good as his punchlines. And you fucking sound like not even. They're not like plagiarists. They're just easily influenced. People that are starting, they're not good yet. You know what I mean? But they get susceptible to patterns.


Yeah. I don't even know if I would say that was easily influenced. I think it's just normal. That's how brains work. They mimic, they copy.


When guys work together all the time, I see. They start making the same sort of similar hand movements on stage. They start doing the same kind of things.


Well, it's the same with writing. If you read a book that you really love, the next day you'll turn your computer on and you'll be writing in that like a bit. In a slightly shit version of that style.


Well, that's what.


It's really annoying that he did.


Didn't he write the great Gatsby over and over and over again just to get a sense of the rhythm of the words? When he was learning how to write, I believe he did that.


I think he also did the book of revelations, didn't. Yeah, yeah. Which I thought was amazing because you can really sense that in his writing, this kind of apocalyptic madness. I'm sure I read that. A similar thing about. I don't know if he rewrote the revelations or whether he used to read it over and over again, but I'm sure I remember reading that about Hunter Thompson.


I believe that for sure. Typed out the great Gatsby and farewell to arms, word for word. A method for learning how to write. Like the masters. Wow. That's someone dedicated.


That's commitment.


That's dedicated to it. He's another guy. It's like, man, if you just drank half as much, you'd probably still be.




I would have loved to have met him.


He did amazing on this. Yeah.


At the end, though, man. Fuck. I remember he did an episode of Conan O'Brien and you couldn't understand a word he was. It was so. It's so sad. It's like when you watch an old boxer and they can't talk anymore. It's kind of a similar feeling because in the early days, like, when he was running for sheriff of picking county in Colorado and mean, he was on fire. He was amazing. He was like, at the height of his verbal skill, he was young and vibrant. And then to see him at the end where he could barely. You couldn't understand what he was saying. It was like everything was a slur. It was all like this weird. He had a bunch of health problems, hip replacements before he killed himself, but not much before.


Yeah. And the suicide, tragically, almost becomes predictable in a way, because, again, it's that he had this status. He was this incredible brain, and he knows that he's down here now, and that's intolerable for somebody like that to live with. That's the tragedy of that.


Yeah. You got to manage the biology, kids.




You got to manage your biology.


Yeah. And you've got to manage the decline. I think when you've got as high as status wise as he has, it's that level of genius, and then you've hit that decline. It's a dangerous place to be.


It's also. It has to be just tied to the alcohol because the mind is still the same mind. Like when 911 happened, he still wrote a brilliant piece about 911. Did you ever see that?




Johnny Depp narrated it in the movie, and it was fucking great. He narrated a couple, these hunter to pieces in the movie, and one of them was like, how the 60s. See if you can find that, Jamie. When Johnny Depp does this, Hunter S. Thompson, he narrates this story about the wave pulling back. It's the wave of culture, and it's so eloquently, brilliantly written, and it's about the hope that he had in the 1960s and how the 1970s came and it all pulled back.




It's a brilliant piece. It's brilliant. And this is it. Strange memories on this nerve. Not beautiful.




And so accurate.




And when we think about the way our world changed four years ago, it's kind of similar in a way. Like the whole, like, what the fuck happened four years later? You're like, what the fuck happened?




And I think with us, though, there's hope that we'll eventually get to some place of normalcy and some semblance of peace. But what happened in the 1960s is fucking bananas. They basically turned this counterculture hippie love movement into Charles Manson and the Manson family and fucking CIA was dosing people with LSD. And they were doing anything they can to stop the anti war movement. Anything they can to stop these hippies and made everything illegal. They made marijuana. Well, marijuana is already illegal, but all the schedule one substances, that's all the sweeping part of the 1970 psychedelic act that was all about the civil rights movement. It was all about just arresting people for any kind of protests, any anti government, anti war. Let's find these hippies. Everything's illegal. Fuck you. Go to jail. And they put water on it. They just put the fire out.


Wow. I didn't know that they put the.


Fire out on this psychedelic counterculture. That was the 1960s, and we paid for it artistically.


If you look at the 1980s as a fucking disaster.


What happened to the 1980s? It's like these people, all they have was cocaine. They're just doing cocaine and alcohol, and the movies are out of control.


Yeah, I mean, the 1980s, the other thing that changed was, of course, was the economy in the 1980s. And that was the. For me, that's the big thing that changed. The economies of the west fell to bits in the 1970s. Like before the 1970s, the gas crisis.


Yeah, I think we forget about that. That ruined american automobiles.


Yeah. And then so Thatcher and Reagan came up with this neoliberalism idea of increasing competition everywhere, getting rid of the big state, selling off, privatizing all the national industries, going to war with the unions. When I was doing my research for my book selfie, because I was interested to know, if you change the rules of the status game, do we change as a culture, as a bunch of people? And it really does seem like that. Like if you think about who were in the 1960s versus who were in the 1980s, you go from fuck the man to greed is good. And I found this really quite sinister interview from 1981 with Margaret Thatcher, where they're interviewing her about what are your big plans? And she said she was going on about, in the last 30 years, everything have been about the collectivism and getting together and how they're going to get rid of all that and increase competition. And she said this thing, she said the method is economic, but the object is to change the soul, which is a really, like megalomaniac James Bond villain thing. To say, but she did do that. They did do that.


Change the soul.


Yeah. By changing the rules of who we have to be in order to achieve success, they changed who we were. Like, we became as a people. Gordon Gecko, material girl. Madonna, Whitney Houston. The greatest love of all is loving yourself. We became this big, as you say, we went from pot to cocaine. There was a really interesting study that found in 1983, they were looking at changes in birth names. And for generations and generations, babies have been called things like Alfred and John and Barbara, like all the traditional names. But in 1983, suddenly we started naming our kids weird names because we wanted our kids to stand out and be a star. And when you look at the changes in values between, like, the, suddenly money becomes a dominant value, celebrity becomes a dominant value, being good looking becomes a much more dominant value. There was a study about 20 years ago, they asked two and a half thousand british under tens, what is the best thing in the world? And these under tens, number one was being a celebrity. Number two was being good looking. Number three was being rich. That's who we've become.


And the big change is the economy. Like, we've become these kind of neoliberal, profit obsessed, celebrity obsessed.


What's number four?


Individualists. I don't know what number four.


I want to know why. Yeah, I think because they're young, though, right? When you're young, that's what seems like.


Everybody wants, but not in the. When they did a similar study in the. Was 1965. It was less than half of people thought being rich was an important thing in your life. And now it's way over 75%.


That's interesting.




I wonder how many of those people wanted to be famous before the invention of social media and reality shows. Well, yeah, I wonder if there was less of an aspiration.


There was. Yeah. So all of that celebrity stuff comes out of the. What defines the 80s is these big economic changes. In order to survive in the. Had to be, like a radical individualist. You had to be a get up and go profit motive, self sustaining individualist, like a competitive individual. Because before that, we had the big state, we had big Social Security cushions, we had public housing, and they got rid of all of that.


I feel like there's a comfortable medium in there we're missing out on. Don't be competitive to the point where you're a fucking psychopath. You're saying greed is good, don't be that guy. But also don't be lazy and rely on the state to take care of you either.


Well, yeah, I'm not sure if it was Tony Blair, but certainly I think it was Tony Blair that talked about the idea of neoliberalism with cushions, which I love that idea because it's true that it kind of worked. It was brutal in the. Most of us are much wealthier now than we were in the 80s. Like, it's kind of worked, but it's also created much more separation between the top and the bottom, much more inequality. So the rich are much richer now, and the poor are much poorer than they were in the middle of the 20th century. So it's created a lot more unfairness as well. So you do need those cushions, I think.


Well, it also becomes an insurmountable position, too, when we say the rich get richer, the poor aren't getting any richer. So that's a part of the problem. It's like there's no escape from severe poverty. No, very few people escape. And when you're in severe poverty, especially if you're in another country, when people look at this caravan of people coming in through South America, through Mexico, I would do it, too, 100%. I'm not a terrorist. I would hope that I wouldn't be a terrorist in a different life, but 100%, if I was living in a place that sucked with dirt floors and I found I could walk to America, absolutely. I can get a job there. Let's go.




You would do it 100%. It's natural. Seems like a normal thing that people want to have a better life. I think that we've just got to figure out why we have these parts of the world, why we have these communities that are just never getting better and help them. It just seems super simple. You want the world to be a safer place. Take all these places that suck and give them economic security, give them education and health care, set up school systems that are really good. You're going to change the whole atmosphere. You're going to change everything. Provide job opportunities, set up places where we should make. How about, here's a law. Here's a law that should make. You can't sell anything made by people who make less than would be legal here. Wouldn't that be an amazing law if we passed that? If we just said, listen, we all know this is bullshit, okay? We all know that if you're buying an iPhone, there's a lot going on that you wouldn't like to see. Yeah, there's a lot going on, from the mining of the cobalt to the people in the factories.


I don't want to see that.


I want the shiny titanium thing. It's so pretty. You move it around your hand, like, wow, that's amazing. That's what you want. You don't want to know how the sausage is made. But if you really want to, I mean, if you really want to try to fix everything everywhere, say, I'm not buying anything from anybody who doesn't get paid what you're supposed to get paid here.


Yeah, but you got to account for, the economies are different in different parts of the world, aren't they?


Okay, then let's balance it out for the economies of those.


I think that. I think that's a good rule.


Do they do that, though? They might, actually. I mean, what is the economy? If you're in Mexico, what are you allowed to pay people in Mexico? And how much does it cost? Like, let's say, let's pick a place. Juarez. That's kind of a border. You. If you ever own a factory in Juarez, how much do you have to.


Pay those that don't? The economists have that Big Mac test where they look at how much a Big Mac costs in each territory, and from that, they can work out the relative strength of each economy. So the test would be, you'd have to be able to buy x amount of big macs per day with your daily wage.


We just have this real weird desire to never stop making more. Like, real weird desire to maximize profit, expand, expand, make it big. Nobody ever has a company and goes, we're good. Just like, leave it like this.


That's because status is relative, right? So you're always insecure about your status. Is this imaginary resource. It only exists in our minds and in the minds of other people. You can't keep it. You can't put it in a box. So you're constantly having to make sure that it's still there. It's still there. You're constantly measuring your state. Like Apple are measuring their status versus Google and Samsung or whoever. So there's that constant chippiness. So you're always trying to ratchet up. There was this really hilarious study they did where they got a bunch of multiple millionaires and billionaires, and they asked them, how much more money would you need to be perfectly happy? And uniformly, they said, between two and three times more money. And it's like, you're not going to be perfectly happy. You delusional. But that's the human brain. So we think, well, when I've achieved this thing, I'll be perfectly happy. But of course, we were happy for about 10 seconds. Then we want the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. And actually, it's exhausting, but it's also how we built civilization. It's also an incredible, amazing thing that we're restless, we're never satisfied.


We want better and better and better and better. Like, it drives us forward.


Well, I was going to say about the mcdonald's thing, it's also a function of being a part of a public company. You have an obligation, your shareholders, to make more money. Like the whole idea, let's make more money. We have to make more money. Let's make more money. Hey, I'm looking at the money, and it's not more. I like more money.


That's a slight problem with it, because you can measure your status in all kinds of different ways. There's infinite ways you can measure your status and money being just one of them. But that's part of the problem with the public companies, is that money becomes the only important. And it's not just money. It's short term profit. Like, every quarter has to go up and go up and go up and.


Go up and go.


So that's a sort of damaged incentive in a way.


How much different would the world be if we made that illegal? I'm not saying we should. I'm not saying we should, but how much different would the world be where all. All corporations have to be private? Yeah, all of them. You just have to be a company. You can't just sell your stuff to people like, whatever you are. What piece of this and whatever you want to call it. Stocks, call it whatever you want. You're selling chunks of your company, right? No, you have to own it. You want to be in business, you got to own your own company because.


Yeah. There are two ways that you can measure the status of your company. I guess two main ways. One is how much money it makes. The other is the quality of the product.




And what you see in today's world, of course, is that stock price. Yeah. So quality tends to go down and down and down. You got shrinkflation. So it's not just the quality, it's what you're getting for your money goes down and down. So it's kind of like fake. It gives you the illusion of growth in the company. We're making more money. Yeah, because you're putting less berries in the yogurt. That's why it's not a positive productive growth. It's a growth that comes from cutting all the good stuff out.


Also, you would eliminate all the Gordon geckos because that's not a business anymore.




You can't just sell stock anymore. Doesn't exist. You can't do that anymore. Own something, bitch. Own a company. Make a product. Stop. It's a fascinating thought. And again, I'm not a supporter of this, nor do I know anything about economics, but I would imagine that that would be better if the companies had to be owned. Like, you have to own the fucking company.


Yeah, but then everyone's pensions would be fucked because basically people's pensions are all in stocks, aren't they? I think we're in this now for good.


Also. This dirty thing where you can't buy stock if you know things.




Like, if I knew that some shit was about to pop off and I bought a bunch of stock, it must.


Be so tempting, like, if you know for a fact that tomorrow this stock is going to be up here.


Oh, yeah. It's tempted the shit out of me.


I don't know whether I'd be able to not.


You have to not. Yeah. I'm not that motivated by money that I would do that, but it's just a natural desire people have for.


Yeah, because we attach whatever we've attached our status to we want.


Yeah. We're playing a number game, and it.


Doesn'T matter how famous and rich we.


Become, it never ends.


It never ends.


Bottomless pit. It's a game you can never win. And I think it's designed to make human beings create aliens. That's what I think. This is my design. I think this whole, like, competing with the Joneses, keeping up with the Joneses, what is it? It always fuels technology at the end of the day, because that's the thing you buy, like, every year, people buy phones and laptops. If you're really balling, you buy a new laptop every couple of years, and you're constantly looking for new processors, new innovation. Is it ar, how big is the battery? What's the battery life? And it's constantly going in this general direction of ever complex technology that interfaces with human beings and now with AI, and it's going to be an artificial life form. And whether it's ten years from now or 20 years from now, or it's already happening in a fucking lab in Ohio. Yes, it might already be happening right now, where they have an artificial life form, and that's going to be the new dominant life form on earth. It'll be far smarter. Hopefully, we'll coexist with it.


And it comes from the tribe? Well, it comes from before we were human. We've been competing for status since before we were humans. Since we're animals. Well, we still are animals, but since before we were human animals. And in the tribes in which we evolved, the more status that you earned, the more food you got. The better food you got, the safer your sleeping sites, the greater your access to your choice of mates. So, basically, the more status that you get in your group, everything gets better.


And wouldn't that motivate you to make the most complex thing a human being has ever made?


100% an artificial will.




And it's not about the money or the bling or the.


No, it's what we do.


I want to be better than you, and I want to be the best inventor of artificial life form there is in the world. Better than that dude and that person. And that's what motivates people. That's what pushes people to create amazing things.


And we have this distorted idea of what is, like, a fiercely competitive person. When we think of fiercely competitive people, we only, for whatever reason, consider basketball players, football players, baseball players, fighters, athletes, race car drivers. We consider fiercely competitive people the people that are engaged in sports and activities every day. But, no, there's fiercely competitive people that are involved in business and government and all sorts of other things. And they're fucking psycho about this game that they're playing. Whatever it is, whether it's stocks and bonds or selling pharmaceutical drugs, they're fucking psycho competitive about that.


And that psychoness is the status. I need the status. There was a great story that I found for the status game about Steve Jobs and the true origin story of the iPhone. I don't know if you've heard this, the true origin story of the iPhone, which is that Steve Jobs, his wife, used to hold these barbecues in wherever they lived, Silicon Valley. And one time he was at this barbecue, and the husband of one of her friends worked for Microsoft. And he's, like, rubbing Steve Jobs face, and it's saying, oh, we've invented the future of computing. You're done. It's this pad thing with a stylus. And apparently he really annoyed the fuck out of Steve Jobs. So Monday morning, Jobs comes into Apple furious, swearing and going, right, we're going to prove this prick wrong. It's not stylus, it's a finger. You use the finger. And from that barbecue came his rage, and from the rage came the iPhone. And that story was told by Steve Forstall, who was intimately involved with all this stuff. And he said it was not good for Microsoft, that that guy went to that barbecue that day. He's absolutely right.


But that status, it was personal for Steve Jobs. It was Microsoft telling Apple that they were fucked and that they'd solved computing.


That's a perfect example. Psycho competitive dude.




Who would have probably won bike races running Apple.


Yeah. Back in the day, like, 20,000 years ago, he'd have been the best warrior.


In the tribe, for sure.


And that's the kind of upside of aggression, in a way. It creates things. It creates value in the world.


It certainly has created a lot of great things. Right. It certainly has created a lot of amazing inventions that enhance our lives. But it's also. It's moving in this nonstop direction. It always seems to me like we're a bunch of fucking buffalo being herded off a. Does anybody know where this cliff is? But we just keep going with this mean, with all the international chaos that's going in the world, the conflicts, the wars, the Ukraine thing and the Israel Hamas thing, it's like, fuck, man, how much longer? I mean, that's a status thing, ultimately. Ultimately. I mean, when you can get groups of people to go after other groups of people and be convinced that those people that you don't even fucking know are your problem. The fact that that game is still being played in 2024, but it would.


Never stop being played, because we're storytelling animals and we tell stories about status. I think one of the sort of key things that. The things that I kind of realized when I was doing the book was that the conscious experience of life is a story, but the subconscious reality is this game. The brain's constantly playing a game for status, and we've got all this insane subconscious technology that we use for measuring our status versus other people that we're completely unaware of. Like, there's one about the tone of voice during conversation. They call it the paraverbal frequency band, and you can't hear it consciously, but it's a way of organizing status hierarchies when we meet people and the person whose top sets the tone and everybody else matches to meet the tone. And these psychologists studied a bunch of Larry King interviews a bit like this one, and they stripped out the para verbal frequency band, and they could work out who he felt superior to versus who he felt inferior to. So he felt inferior to. I think it was Liz Taylor and superior to Dan Quail. And there were particular interviews which were very irascible and didn't go very well, and they weren't getting along.


And one of them was Dan Quail, and they found that they were just not matching. So there's all this stuff going on beneath the hood of consciousness, which is constantly organizing us into kind of status games. And it's that that causes the hierarchies of life. That's the reason why communism can never work, because they're trying to wipe out the effects of status in society. But you can't wipe out the effects of status in society because it's in our brains. You go into an elevator with three other people, and you've already figured out within seconds who's the highest status, where you sit in the pecking order, who's got the nice luggage, who's getting out of the suites floor at the top. We can't help but do. That's that constant work of the subconscious brain figuring out where we sit in the status hierarchy creates human life.


Yeah, that's why Fidel Castro lived in a fucking communism. That's how it works. One guy and a bunch of fucking people with guns tell you what the fuck you're going to do?


Yeah, that's it.


It's the only way it works.


You treat it like a God. The whole idea of communism, they wanted to create a kingdom of equality, they called it. It's like, come on.


But the funny thing is, when you talk to people about this and you just point out these just logical patterns of human behavior, it doesn't work. You can't just have equality of outcome. It doesn't exist. No, they will always just point to that. It just hasn't been done right yet.


Come on. But isn't that amazing?


Isn't that amazing that despite of the many, how many thousands of people are in jail? Is it millions? How many millions of people are in jail? Despite all that, despite all the crime and poverty and chaos, that somehow or another you're just going to bring this all together. If you just do it this way and everybody just divides the money up, who gets to tell people they got to give their money up? People with guns.


You take people's status away. Years ago, I went to Poland to do some reporting on, like at the time, the big story in the UK was all these polish people coming to the UK to do all this. So I remember that, yeah, where's all the polish people come from? So I went to Poland to find out where all the polish people had come from, and we went to this old steelworks, this old sort of Stalin era steelworks. And the polish journalist who was my fixer said, oh, I just mentioned casually how the Poles are such hard workers. And she was like, we're not hard workers, we're lazy. I can't believe that you brits think we're hard workers. And she said, we've got this post soviet mindset. So I said, well, what do you mean, the post soviet mindset? And she said, well, when everyone's getting paid anyway, you're not motivated to do any work. So in a steelworks like this, nobody would do any work. And if somebody came in all enthusiastic and ambitious, they'd be bullied to fuck until they calmed down and stopped doing work. That was how it worked. And there was a phrase like, you can turn up for work or you can not turn up for work, you're still going to get paid.


So removing that stuff from human society removes something that we need, which is individual status. If you don't reward individual status, you don't motivate people to contribute to work. And that's partly why communism collapsed, because it's incompatible with human nature. Like, capitalism is the only system that we've got that is compatible with human nature. It rewards the status instinct.


Yeah, it's really fascinating when you break it down that way, because it kind of makes it undeniable. Yeah, it seems this pattern just constantly happens over and over and over again. But there's always people that they play to the most charitable and the kindest people in the world, and they phrase things in a way that if you oppose this idea that somehow or another you're cruel or that you're greedy or evil, that there's something negative about you being competitive. And it's essentially, I think of the roots of it as kind of a cop out of people that have been beaten in life.




There's this thing that certain people do when things aren't going well. They want to tank anything that's going well.


That's right. And I think there's a big misunderstanding about what that competitive instinct, what that status instinct is. And I found it with talking about the book. A lot of people just really don't like it. This idea that I'm arguing that status is a human need, that everybody has it, they go, I'm not interested in status. You are.


You're definitely interested in the benefits of it. Do you like iPhones?


Yeah, exactly. They're tapping on their iPhone, this shit idea. It's crazy, right? But all that status is technically, is the reward that we get for being of value to the tribe. Right. So back in the days that we evolved, there are three essential ways of earning status for human beings, aside from boring things like looks and height and whatever. There's dominance games. So this is the animalistic. You can force somebody to attend to you in status, either physically or with social violence of the kind you see on social media. There's virtue games. So people compete to have a reputation of being very virtuous, so courageous, somebody who knows the rules, follows the rules, believes the sacred beliefs. So a religion is a virtue game. The royal family, weirdly, is a virtue game, because it's about being deference and knowing the rules. And then there's success games, I call them, which is about competence, about being a great hunter, a great honeyfinder, a great sorcerer. And that's what defines the west. That's what made the west what it is, is that we started playing. For millennia, we were mostly playing virtue games. It was caste kingdom, Game of Thrones kind of land.


And then starting with the industrial revolution, we started playing success games. So we started mostly, like, much more rewarding competence. And so that competitive instinct is channeled into figuring out how to solve problems, how to create wealth. And it's right that we reward that. We've evolved to reward people who offer value to the human family. That status, it's not a negative thing in that sense. It's massively positive. And weirdly, capitalism is an economic system that does the same thing. It works with how status games work. It works with how we've evolved to operate in human tribes.


That's why I love how you talk about this, because you change the term in a lot of people's eyes as well, that listen to you, because status, for a lot of people is kind of a pejorative.


Yeah, it is.


It's like a dick.


I think you want that status.


Yeah, you're just an asshole. But it's just a natural human pattern that, if we can recognize, we can also mitigate some of the problems that come with it.


Yeah, that's why I like talking about communism, because communism was the biggest experiment we've ever had in eradicating status. So Marx and Engels, their big idea was that status comes from private property, from private ownership. So you could have a house, and it's a perfectly functional house, and you're happy with it, but then somebody builds a big palace next door, suddenly you feel shit. So they, like communism, could be stunned up in one sentence, which is the abolition of private property. It would get rid of that. We'd get rid of people being interested in status. Everybody works together, but it just didn't work. Like, there were some anthropologists, sociologists, that went to the Soviet Union in the. They found ten distinct social classes in the Soviet Union. All they did was they took the existing status game hierarchy, with the wealthy at the top and the workers at the bottom, and they flipped it. So the workers were at the top and the wealthy were. The wealthy and former wealthy really were at the bottom. And those former wealthy, the bourgeoisie, the children of the bourgeoisie, were absolutely discriminated against, openly and horrifically. If you weren't tortured and killed, you were held back in every sense.


And that's the thing about utopians. Utopians often talk about, we're going to get rid of the hierarchy, but they don't want to get rid of the hierarchy. They just want a new hierarchy with you at the top every single time.


Yeah, that's what got Bret Weinstein in trouble when he was teaching at Evergreen University. Do you remember this story?


I do, yeah.


It was the same situation, Brett, they had like, I think it was like a day of appreciation for people of color, where people of color could stay home. They still get paid and go, wow, I wish Mike was here. He's very know, whatever it was. And they decided one year to switch it and make it so that white people can't come. You cannot come, which is a very different sentiment than you can stay home if you like, and you still get paid, but you can come. Yeah, but if you want to stay home, you just get paid. And everybody just chose to stay home. It's nice, right? And thank you for appreciating me. That's not a negative, right? If you have the money to do it and it doesn't fucking stop everything in its tracks.




Sounds great. Yeah, sounds great. Sounds like a nice liberal hippie thing to do. But the other one doesn't. The other one scares me because that's racist. You're saying white people can't be here. Why not?


Yeah, what did I do?


Yeah, I didn't do anything. You're saying that white people shouldn't be allowed to be in a place where they work because you decide. Because you decide they have to stay home. Look, there's better ways of going about, it's a bad idea. The idea behind appreciating people is great, but the idea about discriminating people in any way is bad. If you're saying white people have to stay home, that's bad.


But that also characterizes. I'm not saying that the kind of woke thing is the same as communism, but it has echoes of it, and it's the same flipping of the hierarchy. So when I was doing my research into communism. There was this phrase that came up. So the former bourgeoisie, wealthy business people, and the children of them were called former people. It's a dismissive. You were former people.




And that's how, when you think about how especially men, especially white men, especially straight white men, are treated at the moment.


Talk. Preach, brother.


They're made to feel like former people. There's a whole generation of guys who are being raised in a culture where they're being made to feel. You've had your turn. Sit down, shut up. The future is not for you. The future is for people who don't look like you and think like you. And so that former people really resonated with me. It's like, you straight white men, you're former people. You're yesterday's people. You're not the future. You're not tomorrow.


I was watching a comment on Twitter where this man and this woman were going at it, and the man said something that was factually correct. And the woman said, if you think that I'm going to take information from a straight white man, that was their comeback. That was their comeback. I'm not taking that information coming from a straight white man. The last thing we need right now is straight white man speaking.


Well, I've had.


Don't speak, just listen. It's time to listen. That's my favorite. Just please be quiet and listen. Like, hey, sometimes that's good advice. And sometimes you're just telling people you want to talk.


Yeah. It's so ignorant. And I had a similar experience once. I used to teach a storytelling course at the Guardian newspaper, science of storytelling. And so it's like how to use psychology and neuroscience to make yourself a better storyteller. So I'm talking about studies and this study and that study. And then during a break, this woman came up to me and she worked for a major academic, like one of the biggest academic journals. And she said to me, there's a problem with. I've got a problem with what you've been talking about. And it's that most of these studies are by straight white men. And I was like, okay, and what's the point? And she was saying, well, you can't really trust them because they've got their own. They're all evil. Their perception of the world is wrong. I felt actually a bit intimidated by that because I'm standing in the Guardian with this woman telling me that, effectively, I guess I've been racist somehow, or sexist somehow. So I just said to her, I'm not going to have this conversation with you. Okay. And she kind of went away. But it was the fact that she worked for a major scientific publication.


She was telling me that because the work was done by straight white men, it could not be trusted. That's Mississippi level. Like Mississippi 1932 level. Racism. It was absolutely a baffling kind of moment. And she was a smart person. She was clearly a smart person. But again, that's the human brain. It believes what it has to believe in order to make itself feel important and valued.


I've got an amazing example of that that I just sent Jamie. I want you to see this headline. Please make sure this headline is real first, because I have been duped before, but someone sent me this on the instagram. And if it is true, praise the baby Jesus, because it's as good as the babylon be. It's so good. It seems like satire. It's so good.


Oh, I think I know what it is.


Oh, hope, please. Is it real? I got to check.


Is it the seat show?


No, he's trying to type with Carl. Carl's little buddy, 17. It's from 2017. Yeah, but it's real, right? I mean, I'm seeing other people talk about it, actually. Okay, so just posted that. Let's see the article. Look at this. Straight black men are the white people of black people. That's South park level. That's South park level. That is amazing.




It feels counterintuitive to suggest that straight black men as a whole possess any sort of privilege. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.


This is the great irony of these.




You know, these kind of woke people talk about privilege. There was a study that was done in the UK a few years ago. It was the more in common report. It's the biggest ever psychological study of Britain's social psychology. Over 10,000 respondents. And they were looking at kind of these belief sets. And they found there were seven distinct belief groups in the country. One of those belief groups, they called them progressive activists. And these are people for whom the fight for social justice at the heart of their identity. They believe that how you get on in life is about not about your talent and your hard work, but about your race and gender. So we know who they're talking about. And so what was interesting about these people was it just astonished me. First is that they are the richest of all the seven groups. So they had more people earning over 50,000 pounds per year as a family. Secondly, that they were the most highly educated of all the seven groups. So these people that are constantly going on about privileged, if they're the most privileged people in Britain, they're amongst the most privileged people in the world.


So that was the first thing. The second thing, which I thought was amazing, was that they were six times more likely to make political comments on what was then called Twitter. And they make more social media contributions than all of the rest of the groups combined.


Doesn't it make sense, though? Completely, yeah, they don't have any financial stress. Right. They probably feel real guilty, and if they're white, they feel super guilty, and then they're young and you get status from being progressive and an activist, and you don't have to be competitive in the workplace. You're out here throwing paint on the michelangelo.


Yes, absolutely. Also, the numbers. So in the UK, they make up 13% of the population. In the US, they make up 8% of the population. So on social media, because they dominate social media, they feel like sometimes the majority of the country, but their beliefs are actually really marginal. I think it was you gov asked people, who do you think should be the next governor of the bank of England, a man or a woman? This is the kind of story that drives our media into paroxysms. If it's a. They hide another white man, they get the shivers. And this poll found that 5% of people thought it should be a woman, 3% of people thought it should be a man. Everybody else pretty much didn't give a shit.


That's great.


That's the reality.


Good progress.


Yeah, most people think it doesn't matter.


That seems indicative of the general population that I come across.


Exactly. But because these people, these 13% or 8% in the US, are so highly educated and so wealthy, they dominate the media, they dominate the gatekeeping positions in publishing companies and tv companies. So they really have the kind of commanding voice in our culture very often. But they're a tiny minority of who we are.


But it really does behave like a religion in a lot of ways. It really, you know, Mark Andreessen broke it down very eloquently where he's explaining that it has all of the things that occult has. It has the indoctrination, it has the excommunication where you're shamed and kicked out of the group, the disconnect from the group members. It's got all those things to it. And that's a big part of it, is worried about being shamed and cast out of the group, which is terrifying for people. So they're willing to say and believe things that aren't that logical, just if they can stay in the group?


Yeah, absolutely.


It's natural.


We believe what we have to believe in order to earn status in our groups, and that's true for these people, as is true for anyone else. And I agree with the cult thing, but I would just add that all human groups have cult elements. They have special languages, they have rules, hierarchies, rewards, and punishments. It's just that cults are the tightest possible form of human group.


I learned that when I started doing martial arts, because one of the things that was really interesting about the martial arts world is it's very cult like, especially when I did it in, like, the early 80s. When I started, they were the masters. You bowed to them. You bow when you enter the. I was so committed to this that I had this girlfriend when I was in high school, and I had the keys to the gym because I would work out there, like, anytime I wanted, and I taught classes there and stuff, and she wanted to have sex, and I couldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. She was so hot, I wouldn't do it. I was like, I can't do it here. This can't happen here at, like, 17. I was so horny. It's so stupid. But I was like, we can't do it here.


Yeah, that's the power of the status.


It was like, now I'd be like, where you want to do it? But back then, that was a religious place for me. I didn't think about it that way at the time. I just knew what the rules were, and I was not violating those rules in any way. There's no way. But there was a lot of weird stuff where some of the masters would date, some of the married women. It got real weird. Got real weird. Yeah, got real culty.


I don't doubt it.


It's very culty because you adore this person who is commanding the group and getting everybody to march to the bark of his voice and everyone's doing, and he just commands all this attention and respect. The gym I went to was a very good place where it was very little of that shenanigans going on, but there was a bunch of them where it was a big thing where you hear that about yoga places, too. Like, the yoga guru guy starts banging people's wives. It's just like, there was a place that I bought out here that was owned by a cult. I bought a place for my comedy club, and I didn't wind up completing the deal. I got out of it because there were some problems with the property. And then I bought the place that I bought on 6th street. But before it, I bought this place called the one World Theater. And the one world theater was created by this guy. His name was Jaime Gomez, and he was a gay porn star and a hypnotist. He started a cult in West Hollywood. There's a documentary about it called Holy Hell. And then they moved out to Austin, and he had his followers build him this theater so that he could dance in front of them.


And that was the place that I.


Bought so he could dance in front of.


Dance in front of them. He put on performances and danced in front of them. Just the followers, this. And he had a gang of them, man. He had a gang of them in LA, in West Hollywood. And then when the cult awareness network started going after people, he took off. He thought they were onto him because the parents are like, where's my fucking kid? So then he moves to Austin and builds this one world theater. So my friend Ron White tells me about the theater because I tell him I'm looking for a comedy club location. He goes, you should get that theater. It's amazing. So Ron White's my hero. So I'm like, all right, I'll get that theater. And as, like, in the middle of the purchasing it, my friend Adam calls me and goes, did you watch the documentary on that cult? I was like, oh, no. How bad is he? Oh, dude, it's bad. You got to watch it. It's crazy. And it's these people that just get sucked into believing that this guy can give them enlightenment and connect them to.


God by touching their head, that status.


Yeah. And the thing is, man, even after this guy got exposed and he was hypnotizing the men and having sex with them, it was crazy shit, right? But even after he got exposed, the people that went through the experience of having this guy touch their head when it was called the knowing, it was built up for days and weeks, and some people were denied the knowing. They could never get it. And other people, today is your day. And they couldn't believe it. And they would sit there on their knees, and this guy would touch their head, and they would be in ecstasy, and it looked real, and they talked about it even after. They're like, this guy's a fraud. He's crazy.


He was this, he was that.


He was a manipulative and a liar. But that moment, I felt like I was connected to God. Yeah, he did something to me, and I felt the world change forever.


God, that mind is a powerful thing.


Crazy how it works.


So what stopped you buying that theater then?


There was a problem with the property.


It wasn't because.


No, there was just some issues, and we couldn't negotiate it. And I was like. And then I was like, you know what? It'd probably be better to be in the city. City, like, where people walk. Just make it more convenient for folks, too, because people are used to going to 6th street. And then I found that place, and I got the places there. But that would have been a real problem because a lot of people think I'm already running a cult. That would have been a real problem how he bought a cult building. But also, for. To me, the real problem was, I don't necessarily know if I believe in energy, but not energy. I believe in energy, but I mean, that energy gets left in a. Like, my stepdad went to Gettysburg, and he said, you can feel the sadness. And he's not like a spiritual fucking Ouija board type dude. He's a very rational architect. And he's like, you feel the sadness. He goes, it's like you feel it. You feel how many people died here?


Yeah, I get that feeling when I'm in Berlin. Like Berlin. People go on about how great Berlin is, but I always get this immense sense of heaviness when I've spent some time in Berlin.


Do you think that's because you know, or do you think it's in the air?


I don't know. Because I'm not expecting to feel that way.




I don't mean who. Certainly, it's striking when you walk around Berlin, you still see all the sort of shrapnel marks in the sides of buildings are still there. That's quite confronting.


That's why I was thinking, I don't necessarily know if I want that building. Yeah, because that building was built by people who got juked by a con man.




He fucking shenanigans them into building him a theater.


And even if there's 0.01% chance a.


Lot of shit happened, I mean, one of the guys left and he sent this mass email. This guy's been abusing me for fucking years. The whole thing is nuts. Like, they flew the guy to Hawaii and he started a new cult out there.




It's in the documentary. They go visit him in Hawaii. But it's just so fascinating how people just fall into these patterns. It's just a natural thing that we have to be aware of.




I think that's why it's so important the way you say it. And the way you talk about these things and the way you lay it out, it makes it so much more palatable to a lot of people. They look at it and go, oh, these are all just patterns that people play.


Yeah, we believe what we have to believe in order to. I think one of the things in history that this status research has really made me understand is the rise of the Nazis. That growing up in the UK, there's always this question, how could it have happened? How could this technologically advance sophisticated country descend into nazism? And once you understand the role the status plays, it becomes completely. For me, it's crystal clear. Like, before the first world war, Germany was just absolutely killing it. They were the most successful country in continental Europe. They were like, had massive, like the apple and Google of the BASF, Siemens, huge companies. They were producing a third of the world's potatoes. Quality of life had rocketed in the early part of the 19th century, and then the first world war happened, and they just assumed, we're going to kill it because we're amazing. And of course they didn't kill it, they lost. And so that's humiliating in itself, and humiliation being the loss of status. And then there was the Treaty of Versailles, which was savage. They had to give up load of land, they had to give up their military, they had to pay the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars in reparations.


When all that triggered hyperinflation, their economy collapsed. We took their industrial heartlands off them. So it was humiliation. And upon humiliation, then Hitler comes along. And so this is the thing that we were never taught about Hitler in schools, which is probably still a bit. I don't know, it's going to trigger people, but it's the truth. Hitler was an incredibly successful leader of Germany for the time when he was in charge. The first thing, which was a surprise to me, was that when you see those black and white films of Hitler spitting and shouting and ranting, you assume that he's talking about the Jews all the time.


Have you seen how they've translated into English now with AI?


They're going through it. Yeah. In Hitler's Voice. Yeah, I haven't seen that.


I saw that going on Twitter. Yeah. It's fascinating because of AI, one of the things that they can do now, like that they can do even with podcasts. So this podcast, when Spotify runs its AI through it, they'll be able to translate you into perfect Spanish in your voice.




And they have this technology now. I know they could do it in German. Spanish and I think French and of course, English and back and forth. So they could do that with Hitler for correctness.


Whether you believe that I have been diligent, that's amazing that I have advocated.


For you in these years, that I have been decent. I have spent my time in service of my people. Now cast your vote.


If yes, then wow.


Stand up for me as I have stood up for you.


See, he's talking about heuristic helps.


That sounds so much scarier.


Yeah, it does. The I voice hasn't really got the attitude my work does he plastic it.


Fucking accent, boy. There's something about German. When you hear him yelling, you're like, instinctively, I think it's burned into us.


Yeah. During the 30s, he wasn't ranting about the Jews because everybody was anti semitic in that period in history. But the middle classes, they didn't want to see the Jews being attacked and killed. It didn't play well. So he suppressed all of that stuff and all that ranting. Most of it he's talking about, I'm going to restore Germany's status. I'm going to create this Third Reich, this thousand year kingdom. And that's what convinced people to support him. And some of the statistics are quite extraordinary. When the nazi party came in, a third of the population were unemployed. And by 1939, they had full employment. Between 1932 and 1939, GDP went up 81%. So he was doing the thing of restoring Germany status. And when you see that footage of people going completely mad, that's when he's reversing the humiliations of Versailles. So he took back the industrial heartland by force. And nobody stood in his way. They went mad. He took Austria. Nobody stood in his way. So it was all about the restoration of status. That explains the rise of Hitler. And they did. There was some mad stuff in the research, like women would get swastika tattoos.


They would do the Hitler salute at point of.




Yeah. There was a butcher that was making swastika sausages. People would even name their female children after Hitler. People with tuberculosis would stare for hours at pictures of Hitler because they thought they would make them better. So again, that's another example of that status. That's how mad people go for status. It was taken away from them. And he didn't just promise to restore it for a while. He did restore it. So that's why they loved him. It wasn't to do with really anything else.


When do you think meth came into the picture? Because somewhere along the line, the Hitler story is not complete unless you realize Hitler was a meth head.


Yeah. And weren't his army on amphetamines?


Everybody was on amphetamines. That's how they talk to kamikaze into doing.




Yeah. That's not a natural pattern of behavior for grown men.




Flying planes in the boats. You got to be fucking jacked.


Let's go, bitch.


You just want to take everybody out. But Hitler was a full on meth head. And there's video of him at the Olympics in 1936, just straight up tweaking. Have you ever seen that video?


Yeah, I have. Yeah.


It's nuts. And if you see that video, he's not just doing that once. I'm going to go to the Olympics. My first time trying meth. That was a meth ed.


That's it.




That was.


While other drugs are banned or discouraged, methamphetamine was touted as a miracle product when it first appeared on the market in the late 1930s. I bet it was a miracle. Indeed. The little pill was the perfect nazi drug. Germany awake, the Nazis had commanded, energized, energizing and confidence boosting. Methamphetamine played into the Third Reich's obsession with physical and mental superiority. Superiority in sharp contrast to drugs such as heroin or alcohol, methamphetamines were not about escapist pleasure. Rather, they were taken for hyper alertness and vigilance. Aryans, who were the embodiment of human perfection and nazi ideology, could now even aspire to be superhuman. And such superhumans could be turned into super soldiers.


That's it. Superhuman. So it's the same as. Same as the cult that was promising. We're going to take you to a level above human. It's always the promise of these mad people that we're going to give you so much status that we're going to essentially become superhuman. It's what the communists thought as well, that the average human, their intelligence would become so much that everybody would be a genius. That's what they really believed that communism would lead to. Like the promise of these lunatics is always insane amounts of status and religions, too. That's what heaven is, isn't it? Heaven is.


And it's also hope to people who have none that if you go along with this, and there's much more people that have none than have some and have a lot. Those people are the problem. Let's go get them. There's a reason why I'm so sad. Yeah, but you don't understand. That's just a trap. It's just a giant trap.




But it's so wild that most people don't address it that way. They just get even really brilliant people I know just get locked into these ideologically captured echo chambers.


And when there's a story that our status has been unfairly squashed and it's these people's fault, that's when it's dangerous. And, of course, you had that with the Nazis. They blame the Jews for everything. But you also get that in this day and age, men get blamed for a lot in this day and age. Wife would get blamed for a lot in this day and age. And that's why it gets a bit. I'm not saying it's anywhere near as dangerous as that, of course, but it's the same psychological kind of patterns repeating again and again and again. We've been unfairly deprived of status, and it's their fault. And that's really dangerous, those kinds of stories.


It is, but I feel like it's just an overcorrection. And I feel like the wave washes this way and the wave washes that way. And if you look at the wave of what black people that have faced in this country, by every definition, it's far worse.


Absolutely. Of course.


Far worse than anything that white privileged.


People are experiencing today, obviously. Yeah.


It's also a clear indication that an imbalance which was always there still exists in so many of these places where people have the most despair and people have done nothing to fix it. And those places that a lot of them that have the most despair, it's directly connected to slavery. You could follow it to that poverty. That's where it came from. It's generations later, but they never recovered. And you don't do anything about it. Yeah. In the face of. They just last night, in the middle of the night, passed some new Ukraine bill. Like, in the middle of the night. I didn't know that they passed some bill. It's like, how much is it, Jamie? 95 billion. 95 billion.




Plenty of money.




That's a lot of money.




Imagine what they could have done with the money that they've already pumped into Ukraine, just in the inner cities of this country. Imagine. Imagine if there was. We said, there's a war on crime and poverty and despair. This is our new war. Instead of a war on drugs, instead of a war on foreign countries, questionable origins of how this conflict started. What about a war on the things that suck about America?


Yeah. That's what happened in America in the 1920s. There was the New Deal, the Social Security act, the GI bill. They pumped loads of money into fixing America after the Great Depression, and it worked. There was a whole era in America. They called it the great compression because it was a compression between the gap between the rich and the poor. And that was the era in which an ordinary american person without a college degree could have a house and a car and a vacation every year and a wife at home raising their children.


That's how it can work without socialism. Everybody rise up. Not fucking take all the money away from the successful people. You could rise up too. But we have to figure out a way to fix these problems that have existed forever in this country that get no.




At a certain .1 of my favorite stories of this year was when Ji Jinping came to San Francisco. Because when San Francisco has this horrible homeless problem, it's really bad where they have tents everywhere. But when he came, they cleaned everything. They took everybody away. They don't know whether nobody said nothing. They put up fences so they couldn't put the tents there anymore. They put up fences in front of these buildings where they would camp out. They just took them all away. And then when Xi Jinping came through, it was all beautiful.


It's amazing, isn't it?


It literally sounds like what we would say China would do.




We were going to make fun of a foreign country that we were in dispute with. We would say, yeah. When we sent our leaders there, you know what they did? They fucking got rid of all the protesters. Everybody was protesting. They killed the protesters. They took all the homeless people away, all the bums and the street urchins. Yeah, that's what totalitarianism looks like. That's what they did in San Francisco.


Yeah, that's hilarious.


But the people that live there are so in that cult. They're so in that leftist cult that they're never going to go, hey, this is not working. Doesn't matter how many fucking needles you have to jump over, how much human shits in the street, they'll keep voting the same way.


Yeah. Because they have to believe what they have to believe in order for their peers to give them the.


Your thoughts on this. The way you describe it is the only way that makes sense. It must be a status game that you can't get out of otherwise they would have gotten out of it.




It's counterintuitive to success and the evolution of the community. It's counterintuitive to it.


I mean, one of my favorite ones is the satanic panic was an insane status game and thing that began in the early eighty s and essentially what you're doing is you're saying to a bunch of therapists and family counselors that you can be like an incredible hero because America is full of these satanists running kindergartens and they're secretly abusing your children, and we need to go and hunt them. So because that belief gives them status, they all decide to believe it. And the same with the police. The police think they were on the.


Hunt for the memories into children's heads and had those children come back and change their stories.


That's right. And some of the stories that came out that were believed, it was like children were saying they had their eyelids stapled shut. There was one kid that said that she got flushed down a toilet into a secret underground abuse chamber. Somebody said that was it. It began with this book, Pastas. Michelle remembers.


Michelle remembers the discredited 1980s book written by canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder, one that began it all.


She said that she had devil horns and a tail surgically attached.


And he married her.


Did he?


Yeah, an eventual wife. I bet she was hot. The crazy ones like that. I bet she was fun. That's what happened. He bought into it. He's like, yeah, baby.


He said, at first I thought she was making out, but then I thought it was true. And according to her story, there was an 81 day satanic ritual where Jesus and the archangel Gabriel turned up and conveniently removed all the scars of her abuse. There was nothing left.


Oh, that's convenient. Yeah, I bet she was hot.


But the amazing thing about the satanic panic was that I think it was like, there was 190 arrests, 83 people went to prison.


Oh, my God.


One person went to prison solely on the basis of the testimony of a three year old child.


Oh, my God.


This one couple that owned a daycare spent 22 years in prison. And there was never, obviously never physical, any physical evidence. There was no tigers or sharks or scars in the eyelids whether step with them shut. But people were offered status for believing this bullshit, so they believed it. And therapists, police officers, lawyers, judges, Oprah was big on it. Aldo Rivera was big on it. Journalists were big on it. Everybody believed, even though there was no evidence. Like one of the great guiding slogans of the satanic planet people was believe children, which has amazing echoes, doesn't it, of stuff that goes on today. That's what they said. So you had to believe the children. And they had this statistic that only two in every thousand children make this stuff up. So you have to believe them. So they'd even have badges. Believe children they had the believe children organization bothered about dungeons.


What? Can you show me a photo of the woman?




I want to see if she's hot. I bet she was. And I bet it goes back to what you're talking about too, though, because I think status in his relationship with his woman allowed him to believe some nonsense.


And also the three compliant dollar advance he got for his.


So much for my theory. Damn it. I hate when I'm wrong.


She might have been just fun, but.


He was ugly too, though. For him, that's probably as good as he gets, right? You got to judge it on a curve. Is this her? That's older, bro. No one looks great when they get old.


That's not fair.


That's not fair, you son of a bitch.


But these are older pictures. See, she's a young woman.


Here, these pictures. What is the one when she's a young woman? The one up there in the corner. Is that when they first arrested her?




These are from the 80. Let me put it on the screen. These are from, like, the. Whatever this started, but whatever I was just looking at, like this. NPR brought up says QAnon revives the satanic panic. But who is this woman? Maybe that's her now. I don't know. The problem is some people are crazy and they will make up stories. And then there's people that are just trapped in these witch hunts. Like the McCarthyism of the 50s. Everyone was a communist.




I mean, Oppenheimer got roped into that shit. There's so many people that were being accused of being communist. You went to one meeting like, what's this all about?


Well, that's it. And people call those moral panics, but I don't think they are moral panics. They're status gold rush. So the status on offer finding Satanists was massive. The government pumped tens of millions of dollars into these organizations. They became famous. There was one person who interviewed children who got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their kids. So when they're saying, I got flushed down a toilet, I got forced to kill baby tigers, it's clearly stuff that four year olds are inventing. But it was taken to be serious. And people went to prison for years on the basis of this testimony. That's another thing that changed my thinking, this idea of moral panics. I think often moral panics are actually just these status frenzies, status kind of gold rush movements where there's so much status and offer for believing this nonsense that people helplessly. Because that's how we're wired start to believe it.


Boy, social media doesn't do us any favors with that, does it?




The ability to just tweet out something the moment something hits the news or whatever, and your hot take on it. How many fucking people have lost their careers because of a hot take?


Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's the thing I was talking about those different kinds of status. Virtue status, success status. Virtue status is the easiest status to get. Success is hard. You've got to become competent. You've got to become good at something. Virtue is easy, especially on social media. That's why it sort of becomes addictive. People just make themselves feel good, get these little hits of feel good, but.


It'S also indicative of who you are, because no one who's really competent at something is engaging in that all day long. That thing is usually by people that don't feel like they're getting the attention they deserve, and then they'll go after whatever the fuck it is that elevate them. Whatever it is, whatever. Cause there is this du jour.




You get to either yell at people or yell with people.


Yeah. And I think for me it's interesting, I don't know whether this is true or not, but one of my sort of pet theories is that the rise of all this social justice activism online happens after the financial crisis. So in 2008, it begins with the Occupy movement, and you can sort of draw a straight line through occupy to what's going on today. And I think there's a sense amongst millennials and Gen Z's, partly a real truth sense, that the success games that we were playing in the early two thousand s are over now. The game is fixed for millennials and Gen Z's life is harder in lots of real ways. They can't get on the property ladder. They got massive student debt, they're underemployed. So what do you do if you can't play the success games that we, Gen X has played in the 90s? Well, you play virtue games instead. So we have to get our status from somewhere. So if success is hard, we're going to do more virtue. I think that's at least part of the explanation for what's happened since the financial crisis was the story that we were left with was that these people were unpunished, that the game is fixed, it's dangerous, it's not working anymore.


So there's a lot of anger comes out of that.


Yeah. It's just so unfortunate how easy it is to engage in this behavior and how few guidelines there are other than your work and some other people have talked about it. But it's like the way you're saying it and the way you're saying it in your book and the way you said it on trigonometry, it allows people to have a look at the wiring under the board. Like, oh, this is what the problem is. And I would hope that people that are engaged in that realize what a psychological capture that shit is. It's so weird for you because I've had friends that have had real problems with engaging with people on Twitter. They'll post a hot take and then someone will post back and they'll be like, walking down the street and they can't even walk five steps before they're checking. They want to check their likes, check their thing, and see who's responding and then respond to the person who's responding and fuck you, and fuck this. And everybody's trying to zing on everybody. And it's not good. It's not good in any way, shape or form. It never turns out well. There's never one of those.


You go, I feel good about that.


That was really good. I definitely won that one.


Not just that, but I feel like we got some good accomplished. No, most of those are not that. Most of those are hostile, weird, unnatural ways of communicating. You're just communicating through text with strangers. It's like so unnatural.


And it is. I mean, that's what, that's what social media is. They've taken the status games of life and put them in your phone in the. Was all this from Wired magazine and people, all this digital utopianism. They thought that when we were all online, it was going to create this hierarchy free utopia. But of course, that's not what happens when you connect billions of people together. They play status games. That's what they do. And those three games of dominance, virtue and success, that's social media. We're pushing each other around. We're virtue signaling, and we're showing off about our success. That's what we're doing. And that's why social media is so addictive, because every time you make a contribution to social media, you're like pulling the wheel of that slot machine and give me, status goes up or it goes down. And that's why they're doing this, because it's compulsive. Because if we're gambling with a resource that is incredibly important to us.


Yeah. And you can do so in a way that never existed before. Like, if you're some guy shredded and you just do fucking curls on Instagram all day, you'll get a lot of people to pay attention to you.




Workouts with your shirt off, you'll get a lot of followers. If you're a woman in her underwear rolling around on sheets and stuff, you get a lot of followers for doing not much else.


And that's the sort of the halting thing when I realized that actually, status is a resource that we need. If we don't get enough status, we get mentally ill, and we get physically ill, too. So being low status is bad for us physically. And a lot of people have more status in their phones than they do in their actual real life. They're going to their ordinary job in their ordinary town, but on this platform, they're really someone. They've got a bunch of followers. That shows you why social media is so powerful. It's like it's been globally successful in every culture. Social media is caught on because it's offering something that humans fundamentally value enormously and need to survive, which is status. It's a new way of harvesting this incredibly valuable resource that we value more than gold.


When you say that people get physically ill from it, what happens to people when they don't get status physically?


It's the same as. I think it's quite well known that loneliness is bad for us, but loneliness is connection. Statuses are the same. So there was a bunch of really interesting experiments done in the UK in the british civil service, which is a massive organization, hugely stratified. And this guy, Dr. Michael Marma, and his team went in there and they found that your place in the hierarchy predicted your health outcomes. And this wasn't to do with how healthy you were in other respects, or wasn't to do with your know, where they controlled for all of that stuff. Literally, the person one down from the very top had slightly worse health outcomes than the person at the very top, and they were really significant. So for middle aged people, the people at the bottom of the hierarchy had four times the risk of death than the people at the top of the hierarchy. Wow. And then other academics went into the lab and they did an experiment with monkeys, I think baboons. And they gave these monkeys these delicious diets of, like, pizza and ice cream. They basically made them really unhealthy, so filled them with athlosclerotic plaque and tried to work out who got sick and who didn't get sick as a result of their terrible diets.


And it was. It was the monkeys at the bottom of the hierarchy got sick more reliably. Than the people, than the monkeys at the top.


And then the same terrible diet.


Yeah. And crucially, they then somehow changed the hierarchy and the health outcomes changed in lockstep. The monkey that was at the top.


How did they change the hierarchy?


I don't know. They did that because that seems probably don't want to know. It's probably really horrific with monkeys.


How do you pull that off?


Yeah, so it is. It's the status hierarchy and it's for the same reason as loneliness. When the brain registers that we're lacking in the resource of status, it puts us into that stress state of raises inflammation, lowers antiviral response, and we're not designed to be in that state for long periods of time. That's a response that's designed for being chased or attacked. It's supposed to be like this. And so chronic inflammation is really bad for us. It makes us more vulnerable to cancer, Alzheimer's, all kinds of horrific issues. So that's why lacking in status is bad for our physical health. It's the same reasons why loneliness is bad for our physical health, and that.


Has to play a role in what gets diagnosed as depression, then.


Oh, status is massive for depression. A sudden drop in status is a red flag for suicidal ideation when we suddenly drop in status. So anxiety, depression, self harm is all tied to feeling sort of low in status. And in my spare time, I volunteer back in the UK for a crisis hotline. People phone it, particularly when they're suicidal.


Oh, man, what a great thing. If someone's suicidal to get a hold of you. That's a cool conversation. Some people, they'd be droning on and on, like, bro, you're not inspiring. Help me out.


What I found is that the people who are suicidal that call me, there's generally three reasons why people get suicidal, in my experience on the phones. The first one is chronic pain, obviously. Second one is people struggle with recent bereavement. People become suicidal when somebody they love or a pet they love has gone. But by far the most common reason people phone when I've spoken to a suicidal is to do with their identity failure. They're severely lacking in connection or status, usually both. And not only are they lacking, they're stuck. They're trapped. They feel like there's nothing I can do. My life is so fucked. There's no way I can ever meet anybody. There's no way I can ever feel statusful in the world. It's a massive red flag for that's a huge reason why humans choose to end their lives because they feel like I'm severely lacking in connection and status.


This is such an important thing to talk about because this is never discussed. When people talk about depression, all they ever want to tell you is that it's a chemical problem, it's not your fault. That's all they ever want to tell you.




They don't want to tell you that the quality of your life affects the way you feel. And if you're doing what you want to do and you have good friends and you're having fun times and you're a good person, you're nice to people, they're nice back, they like being around you because you're fun, then your life is better.


But that's connection. Status is also really essential.


Yeah, it's a big part of that. And all of that contributes to this thing that we call depression.




And no one wants to say that. They want to say, get on this. Come on, man. We got something for you, buddy.


Yeah, come on. It's crazy because it seems so obvious. It seems so obvious.


It does. But you can't bring it up.




It's almost like it's a foreboding topic. You can't say, well, how much of it is like what you're doing with your life. Does that factor in at all? How much of it is like the kind of friends you're. What kind of relationship?


I mean, one of the things I do because of my knowing about status when I'm on the phone with these people is I always make the point of, at the end of the call, trying to build them up a bit. I tell them, and I mean it sincerely, that the fact that they've phoned in this, what is probably the worst night of their life, is heroic, that they're courageous, that most people don't suffer like you're suffering. And it always goes down well. They always go, oh, my God. Wow. No one's ever said that stuff to me before. It's magic, the effect it has on the phones when you just give people a bit of, I think you're an impressive person. I think you're kind, I think you're smart, or whatever it is that I feel they are on the phones. There was a case recently in the UK. A headteacher killed herself when her school was inspected by the government inspectors and it went down from outstanding to inadequate and she killed herself. And they found her journals from, like, the day before she did that. And she said in the journal, the words inadequate keep flashing before my eyes.


That's horrific. It was a big scandal about. Are these judgments? Can we really reduce a judgment of the quality of the school to one word? But that was an example of somebody. Her problem was that she was really proud of the school she was running. It was an outstanding school. And suddenly it went to inadequate. And the pain of that sudden loss of status was too much for this poor woman to.


Was it an accurate statement or was the school doing poorly for some reason, or was it just a cunty person?


That's the question.


That's the problem with cuntiness, right? We kind of tolerate that kind of communication with people, and we look in and we watch from aside, like, but there's something to that. That is you really are pumping out negativity. It does have an actual effect on human beings. On the other end, as much as you like to pretend it's some sort of a sterile professional act that you're doing, that's it. Yeah, you're pumping out shitty things. I mean, we're doing it for status, right?


When you take someone's status away, like they took her status away, I feel if it is like an act of social violence, like our identity is of massive importance to us. And so when someone takes that away, that's why acts of actual physical violence, why they often happen, is when someone is disrespectful to somebody else. And the act of physical violence doesn't only restore that status back to its sort of set point. It turns that humiliation into a sense of pride. So that's why violence is so tempting. That's why if you have the capacity for violence, it's often used because it can transform that sense of humiliation into a sense of pride. It turns a negative status into a positive status.


The key is to have enough faith that you don't care. Yeah, you have to have enough where you don't mind some little breach of your status. You're like, oh, really? Someone disrespects you, you don't have to prove to them, because you have to understand what game you're playing. Most people don't. The consequences of violence are grave. You do not want to engage in this pattern of behavior that people have locked into their brain. Most of the time, we don't use it. The vast majority of human history, they used it a lot. That, again, is carved into your brain. You must resist in any way.


And most sort of violent acts concentrates in young men who are lower on the socioeconomic scale. So they're people who are more aggressive by nature, physically, because they're built for that. But the socioeconomic stuff, they feel slided. Yeah, but their sense of status is much more fragile because they haven't got some great job, they haven't got a college education, and so they're much more worried about, insecure about their sense of status. So when you take it away from them, it's kind of much more.


That's a real danger of the status game, of telling those people that someone's done this to you and that those people should not be heard from those people. The reason why you're in the situation that you're in, when you're empowering people to hate someone specifically because of the way they look, no matter what you think, the justifications for that, it's the exact same thing in every culture. When that happens, it's just racism.


Yeah, absolutely.


That's all it is. And you're getting trapped into it because of what you're talking about, because it's a status game. And you could dominate someone by calling them out because of their privilege, and you could stop a conversation in its tracks and become completely illogical just by deciding, I'm not listening to a white man.


Yes, that's absolutely right. That's absolutely true.


It's interesting because it's like, it's the oldest trick in the book. It's been around for so long, and we would think that we would learn, but there's something about us where we don't see the exact same thing. If it's not Nazis with swastikers we don't see coming.


Well, I think, again, it's that story setting brain. We're playing a status game, but our conscious experience of life is a story, and it's this fiction, and the story always wants to make us heroic, so we're virtuous. And I think that makes people's hatreds are invisible to them. So you could say to somebody, and I have said to somebody relatively recently, I think you hate men. You've got a problem with men. You're always saying this about men and that about men. It's not very nice. And then she said to me, well, you don't understand the problems I've had in my life with men. I've been abused. I've been this, that, and the other. All of which is true. So that's her brain telling herself a heroic, virtuous story that justifies her hatred of this class of human beings. And that's true for everybody. That's true for people who hate women. That's also true for misogynists. That's true for white people who hate black people. Everybody's hatred is dressed up in a virtuous story. And I think that's right. As soon as you start identifying a class of human being and saying, these people are low status, these people are the source of my problems.


That's when you know that's happening to you. And at some point it happens to all of us. It's human nature. We are xenophobic by design. Our groups, our status games, we are wired to feel they're superior because they're our source of status. So this stuff is incredibly tempting. We've all fallen for this stuff if we're honest in our past. And I think it's just really important just to be on the lookout for it and to be conscious of the fact that our brains are really good at turning our hatreds into a virtue. They're really good at telling us, no, you're right. You're right. These people are the problem. And your animus towards them is actually a good thing. It's heroic.


Boy, what a weird fucking programming that we have.


Yeah. Which. Pure tribalism.


Yeah. It's so bizarre to see how baked in that is. Even with really well intentioned, highly educated people. They just get sucked into it.


Well, especially, you probably know about the studies that show that intelligence is no inoculation to this stuff. So being more intelligent doesn't make you any better at finding reasons why your stories about the world are false. Right, but it does make you better at finding reasons why they're true. So really smart people can give you ten reasons why they're justified in their hatred of this, that and the other, whereas somebody less smart can only give you, like, three or four. So intelligence is no inoculation to this stuff. If anything, it makes it kind of worse. One of my stories that I wrote in one of my books called the Heretics was I was hanging out with this guy, David Irving. Do you know David Irving?




So David Irving was a really well respected historian of the second World War. And he just decided one day that Hitler was actually, in his words, a friend of the Jews, and he had no idea the Holocaust had happened. And it was all done by his subordinates. Yeah, he's been to prison for his anti semitic beliefs, but he was really respected. The reason we know about Dresden, the firebombing of Dresden, was because of his scholarship. I think even in staughter, highest five, he's mentioned positively. And so he's completely excommunicated now from the historical establishment. He believes this stuff so passionately that he was kind of offered the opportunity to withdraw his opinions in an austrian court. It's in his seventy s. This was. And he refused, and he went to prison in his seventy s. And so what I did in my book, the Heretics, it's called the Unpersuadables. In the US, it was about why people believe crazy things and the stories that we tell. And I wanted to hang out with him because he's an incredibly intelligent man who has these fucking mad beliefs about the world. And so what I did was, in order to make money at the time, he was selling these tours of Holocaust sites.


So you could pay two and a half grand and go for a week with him on these tours, and he would give you the real invertic commerce history of what actually happened in these places.


Where was he getting this information from, supposedly?


Well, I mean, he was from the archives. I mean, it was his own scholarship, but he was doing that thing that he was finding his own interpretations of this scholarship.


What did he say about the trenches filled with bodies?


Well, I mean, he went through a period of outright Holocaust denial, which he then kind of repented. And the reason his flirtation with outright Holocaust denial was based on this study. This guy, he took a chip out of the wall of one of the gas chambers and had it analyzed.


And he said, is this a Dr. Death thing?


I don't think so.


There's a documentary on this guy, Dr. Death. He was a guy who made execution equipment in the United States, and he got roped up with this Holocaust denier group, and they sent him to Auschwitz to examine. And he said that it didn't show any of the signs of gas.


No, the one that got Irving was that this person said, well, the amount of toxins in this concrete isn't even enough to kill a cockroach. But what he didn't understand was that cockroaches are really unbelievably good at surviving, and it's much easier to kill a human than a cockroach.


Well, not only that, that stuff subsides into the. We looked at it the other day. Yeah, that stuff subsides into the atmosphere very quickly. Like, if you used it in a room and then opened up the doors, it would go into the atmosphere very.


I mean, to be fair to Irving, because he did admit that he'd made a mistake there, but he's still a deeply, deeply anti semitic man. I mean, when I was talking to.


Him, so he was from the beginning, and then that flavored his Holocaust denial.


Well, it was weird. What I got from him was that he actually was somebody that is very pro british empire. And I think he liked Hitler, like his families. His history goes back to. He's all very embedded in the british empire, and he blamed Hitler. He liked Hitler because Hitler was modeling the Third Reich on the british empire, and we had to kind of relinquish empire to pay for the second world war or something. That was my sense. But more interesting than Irving were the people that. Because the people that were on the tour were actual proper Nazis. Like, they had proper nazi tattoos, like, full on. And I was undercover, so I had to pretend that I was also like them. It was kind of a scary week, but one of the most you get.


To talk to any of them, all.


Of them, I was hanging out with them. I was on holiday with them. Was it a coach with them and going around?


Yeah. What are they like?


They're so weird. So they're all men. I write about this in the book. I hesitate to say it, but I do write about it. They were quite nice. So this is the weird thing. So what happened was I interviewed David Irving on day one, and at the time, I was a guardian journalist. I couldn't hide my disdain for him, and I kind of fucked up. I let it be known through my line of questioning that I felt he was a racist lunatic. So he kind of walked off, and I was kind of panicking because I was thinking, I've not got enough material for my book. I need to interview him again. And I was talking to the Nazis about freaking out. And then the person organizing the tour, I kept hassling and saying, I need to speak to David again. I need to speak to David again. And she said to me, oh, you know, you might not know this, but all the boys have got together. And in your lectures, at the end of the day, they're all asking questions, asking David questions that they think are going to be useful and helpful for your book because they think you've been really badly treated.


I just thought, well, that's so nice. I know, but that's the thing, and that's what I write about in the book. It's like the idea that these are monsters. That's storytelling. They're just blokes who've made a mistake about the world. And what was most interesting about that was that the majority of those men had parents that had fought for the Nazis in the second world War. So there was one guy on the last night of the trip, they were going to have the showing of the, you know, the film downfall, the super. Do you have the film downfall? No, it's a german film. It's incredible. It's a super realistic account of the last seven days of Hitler's life in the Hitler bunker. It's an incredible, incredible film. It's all set in the bunker. And so Irving was going to show downfall and give his alternative take on what was really going on. And one of these guys couldn't watch downfall because his dad was in the bunker with Hitler, and he found it too upsetting. And that was a big light bulb moment for me. So my takeaway from that was that these David Irving aside, these guys had all been brought up by parents who were proper Nazis.


And obviously, Nazis are synonym for evil, and they couldn't cope with the fact that their dads, probably mums perhaps, as well, were evil. So they'd kind of gone on this lifelong mission to convince themselves that the Holocaust was this kind of fabrication and that none of it actually happened. So the stories of their brain kicks in. They couldn't allow themselves to believe this horrific thing about their parents, who they adored and looked up to. And probably their parents had filled their head with some of this stuff, too.


Knowing what you know about our desire for status and how that's just impossible to remove from the human mind in human society, do you think that we could have, like, a warning guidebook for human beings the same way the Constitution is sort of a warning guidebook to establish a republic? Like, let's make some real clear checks and balances, and let's make sure that the senators and the congresspeople and all this stuff gets in place and judicial branch, and they planned it out to make sure that one person couldn't just kind of take over and run it. It feels like we should have guidelines specifically that we teach people at an early age to recognize that and call it out when you see it and go, no, I know what you're doing. You're hijacking this for your own good. And we know when people do it, we can't say it, because if they attach themselves to a virtuous cause. What are you criticizing? Blank. What are you, a Nazi, a racist, a transphobe, whatever it is, it's like we should be able to see those outside of the merits of the ideas that we're discussing. Whatever we're discussing, whatever it is, it's some sort of public social issue that everybody's debating.


We should be able to discuss it outside of this status trap where if you yell this everybody goes, yeah, that should be childlike. We should shun people to do that and teach people at a fucking really early age not to do it. And it's hard to learn because there's no precedent. It's not like there's like 100 years of history on how to use the Internet property. Nobody knows they're just doing it because it seems like a thing to do that makes you feel good, gives you a little shitty dopamine spike. And so they just dive in. But if we could explain to people when they're very young, when they're impressionable, these are patterns that human beings fall into. And this is why they do these things that you think they're being mean or they're being bullies. This is why these are all the patterns. And so the kids could get it in their head and maybe they could stop doing it while they're doing it at a young age and learn better patterns. And then as they get older, just sort of like have a much more rational way of interfacing with people.


Yeah, I think so. I think we should be taught this stuff. I mean, one of the things that I took away from this was that you get this idea about fascism and totalitarians. How that happens is that these evil people come marching in and forcing everybody to believe certain things. But when you look at, say, the rise of the Nazis, fascists, totalitarians, they don't go in and force you to do anything. They tell you stories that you want to hear. They flatter you into, that's what the Nazis did. They told the Germans, you're right, they're wrong. We're going to get you what you deserve and we're going to take it out on these people whose fault it is, this fascist government, this horrific episode in our history, it didn't begin with force. It began with telling people stories, stories that they wanted to hear, simplistic stories about status, about, you're wrong, it's their fault. I'm going to give you what, we're going to make Germany great again. And people love that stuff. The other thing that I think that people need to hear at the moment, I suppose, is about you can't take the status away from a group of people and expect no pushback.


So that's why Trump got voted in. Because since the left have stopped caring about the white working class and poverty and started caring much more about minorities and women for lots of very good reasons, obviously. But when you ignore a group and they feel disparaged, and the real working wages for the white working class in America has fallen since the. Since the quality of life has plummeted.


They're going to react.


And it's the same way that I feel that we're treating young men at the moment. You can't raise a generation of young men in an environment where you take all their status away and not expect them to react. So people worry about, oh, my God, Andrew Tate. How are people flocking to these men? That, I don't know anything about Andrew Tate, but say he is a misogynist. How could it be that our young men are flocking to this individual? It's because you're calling them names. You're removing their status. So the left need to understand that you can't disparage and dismiss and insult these entire categories of people. And I speak as a lifelong left wing person. You can't do that and not expect some pushback.


My friend Duncan said that about the pandemic when the people on the left were attacking all the people on the right. He said, dude, this is going to lead to a totalitarian right wing government. He goes, watch what this happens. Watch what happens, because all these people on the left are going crazy. And when I saw the riots and shutting down the streets, he was like, oh, this is going to lead to a totalitarian right wing government because it's going to be the opposite reaction to this.


Yeah, exactly. The harder one hits, the harder the response, and then the harder they hit back. And it ratchets up. But the rhetoric ratchets up, doesn't it? I mean, that's what happens. It is potentially dangerous.


It's potentially very dangerous. And it's not dangerous right here yet right now. But it is. If you're in Gaza, it certainly is. If you're in Ukraine, it certainly is in other parts of the world where they convince people that these people are the bad people and we're the good people, go get them. And then there's the reality of bad people.




What do you do about them? I mean, you can't just ignore the fact that there's terrorists out there. You got to look at all of it. The whole thing is fucking nuts. And if we can recognize patterns and how people fall into patterns, I think we can have less nuts. Just like this has to be established at a young age. Yeah, you got to get it in. It's hard for people once they've become set in their ways, and especially if they're politically active or socially active online and they're really kind of addicted to it. That's really where they get their jollies from. If you just tell them right now, you got to cut that out. Like, what am I going to do for 10 hours a day? That's literally what I do. One of my things that I've always gone back and forth in my head about is universal basic income. One part of me is always like, you know what? If people just had enough money for food and shelter, then they could go do what they want to do. They could chase their dreams and pursue their dreams. The other part of me is like, yeah, but then they're not going to have any incentive to do anything.


They're going to have their food taken care of, they're going to have their shelter taken care of, and they're just going to fucking. There's going to be a certain percentage of people that are never going to get their ass going. We're going to miss wasted potential of people who could have pulled their life together and become something really special by overcoming these bizarre obstacles that lead you to success in any given field. But if all of a sudden you have all your food taken care of and your shelter taken care of and you just want to sit there and you're okay. But there's a certain amount of people that need a little something to get them going. And a lot of really ambitious people came from poverty.




And it's because when they were young, they didn't have shit, and then they figured out that you got to work harder and you got to go after things.


But I think we all have different personalities and people are going to respond to poverty in different ways. And some people have a particular personality where they're wired more for the pursuit of status, where they're going to go, fuck this. Right.


A certain percentage are going to go for it, they're going to use it, and they're going to chase their dreams.


Yeah. So my argument as a lefty is that a lot of that is genetic and can't be helped.




Genetic? Yeah. Ballpark figure, 50% of who we are is genetic. So we all have different personality types. If you're extrovert, that's a good thing in our neoliberal market economy because you're sociable, you're ambitious. If you're low in agreeableness, that's also a good thing in our particular environment because you're competitive. But if you're not those things and if you have a low iq, then you are going to struggle massively to compete in the world today. So my argument is that those people deserve some help. Those people deserve a social safety net, because there's no such thing as a pure meritocracy, because human brains don't roll off the production line at Foxconn. We're all wired differently with different talents. And the fact is, some people have low iq, some people have personalities which are antisocial, which mean that they can't get on in human groups. They lose their temper. And we can try and help those people, but you can't completely rewire those people. Like, it's impossible, for example, to turn an extrovert into an introvert, because a lot of that is genetic. Like, we're born with these semi finished brains. So genes aren't fate, but they do set us in a certain direction.


And most of the rest of that kind of creation of self happens when we're young, in the first 20 years of life, and it's mostly episodes of life over which we have no control. So by the time we're in our 20s, early 20s, we're kind of who we are, there's not much that's going to change us in a dramatic sense, apart from serious trauma. I think that's why that idea of neoliberalism with cushions. I think there are categories of people that are always going to need our help through no fault of their own, because they're just not equipped biologically to deal with this hyper competitive world that we're all born into these days.


What percentage of people that do have the potential to break out of that won't because of a social assistance net that's a little bit too comfortable? Well, is there a percentage that we're going to lose?


I don't know, but I think what we need to have is. I think that's why education is so important, because a good school system will find those incredible talented people. Like my father was from a family of bricklayers going back generations, and he had a scholarship to Oxford University. A great school system discovers those people and motivates them and tells them, you could have incredible stuff if you just do a bit of work. You've got an excellent mind and an excellent personality. And I think that's the job of the school system, is to find those people and give them the very best education they can possibly have. And again, that's a welfare kind of social safety net. Slightly bigger tax thing.


That certainly is. But the idea of just straight money and housing. Oh, right, yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Yeah, straight money and housing is a different kind of social safety net. And I think that there's a real good argument for what you're saying, that some people are just. They just don't have the tools. But then there's also a good argument that some people have never been given the opportunity to excel in a thing that they're interested in, because they never really found a thing they're interested in. It's just getting. There's some people that will led very unspectacular lives, and then they found this one thing, and they got really good at that one thing and became a superstar at it. And they'll tell you, I was 28 years old. I was just kind of fucking around one day with my friends, and then I really got into it, and then I started. And the next thing, like, this guy's like a famous person in the field or whatever it is that happens. That does happen, but it probably happens less if you have everything taken care of. So there's a bunch of things going on.


There's people that are kind of hopeless, unfortunately. And maybe that is a genetic thing. Maybe at least some of them. It is a genetic thing. But then there's also people that are uninterested and maybe uninspired, and maybe they just. Maybe it's not as simple as them going to school. It's maybe like seeing someone around you that lives life in a way that you admire. Someone who's like, I want to be like that guy, or, I want to be like her. What is that? And how do you get that to people? Because that's a big factor. That's a giant factor in who you become as an adult human being. Like, who are you exposed to as a child?


Absolutely. Yeah. So there's a really great academic, he may even be on this, I don't know, called Joseph Henrik, who's done lots of work in how we operate in groups, and he's done this research that shows that those people that we kind of glom onto, especially when we're young, but we never stop doing it. There are various cues in our environment that we subconsciously seek out to mimic people. One of them is similarity. So we identify people who are a bit like us. So men are more likely to glom onto men, women, that kind of thing. And then there's other various cues. There's, like, skill cues. So if we see somebody who's really competent at something, we'll start to mimic them and copy them. They're success cues. So the symbols of success, so the fast car or in the tribal context, the necklace of teeth, and then the other one is prestige cues. So if we see lots of other people attending to one person, we'll also attend to them. And then the psychologists call this the Paris Hilton effect, where the more people look at somebody, the more people look at them. And it just goes into this runaway thing.


And you get some Doug Paris Hilton, who's got no, apparently, skill for anything, who becomes globally famous. So the brain's always looking for these people to sort of identify and then copy. And the logic is that these people are high status. They've worked out how to earn status in the game that we're playing. And so by copying them, we, too, will learn and rise in status. So I guess that's just a long winded winded way of saying that role models are really important. And I think that's why we see the government always worries about issues of, like, street gangs in socioeconomic, in poor places, jihadist groups in those places. And the reason we have street gangs and jihadist groups isn't because boys will be boys, and they're naughty, they're criminals, they're monsters. It's because they need status. And so if you're a young man growing up in a horrible estate in south London and you're 14 years old and you want status, and you've got a choice, I'm going to work in the supermarket stuck in shelves, or I'm going to become a drug dealer and drive a Ferrari, what are you going to choose?


So that's what society needs to figure out. It's kind of what you were saying is that we need to give young people, especially in lower socioeconomic groups, more opportunities to earn status. I mean, that's one of the things about being middle class is that you get all those opportunities to earn status. You get education. You go to college, you can choose all these careers, but poorer people just don't have those opportunities. And so I think you're right. I think lives are wasted. Human value is wasted because those opportunities just aren't made for young people.


You ever listen to Gangstar?




Gangstar has a song about it called just to get a rep. Oh, really? Yeah, it's all about people doing things just to get a.


There were a guy in the 70s who went to this. It was Nigeria in Africa, and there used to be this run by the royals, so aristocratic rulers, and then these jihadists came in and just got rid of them all. And he was curious, this guy, his name was Bascum, I think. Jerome Bascum. Why is it that Islam is really popular in this place? Because he should be hated because they've swept away everybody's status games, the existing status games they were playing. So he went in and he met two former descendants of the royalty, and one of them was a peanut seller. And he was miserable and he was kind of stooped and depressed and struggled in his marriage and was bitter because he used to be this big man and now he was nothing. And the other guy had gone into the Islamic, the Muslim, the status game of Islam, and he learned the Quran by the age of 16, which is very prestigious. So he was killing it. So he was killing it. So he was proud. He had multiple wives. He was happy, so he wasn't wealthy, but he was happy. So he know that's why Islam was popular in that place.


It's because it was offering a new and functional status game. So when you've got nothing, you find a game to play if you want to be successful in your own mind and in your own health. That's how Islam became so popular and successful there. And that's how religions become popular generally. They offer people who have not much else reliable pastor status.


Yeah. That's why they try to squash them as quick as they can in this country when new ones pop. Yeah. And thus so many of them.


Well, again, that's what happens under communism and Nazism, that one of the first things they do is they get rid of all the other rival status games. Like a big one in the Soviet Union was the christians they would torture and kill was. And it's still in China today. They see religion as a rival status game, and you can't have that in a big totalitarian state.


Yeah. The Uyghur one's a crazy one. Right. Because it's hard to get information about what exactly is going on. What are they making these people do? Yeah. It's such a strange subject in that it's so pivotal, it's so crucial to understanding how human beings behave and what we do, but yet it's so rarely addressed. Instead, they look at all the symptoms, everybody looks at all the side effects, but they're not looking at the actual pattern that people seem to just naturally fall into.


Yeah. I was amazed when I wrote the book that nobody had written it before because it just seems so fundamental. And I think part of the thing is that people are in denial about their own interest in status. I think we've evolved to hide it from ourselves. So people will insist that they're not interested in status, but you are. It's in your wiring. Everybody is like, nobody wants to be called an asshole at all. That's because it's a removal of your status.


Yeah, it's like that thing, the I don't care thing. Of course you care. Everybody cares nonsense.


And you get self help gurus saying you shouldn't care what other people think about you, but it's like you're always going to care. We're designed to care very deeply because other people give us our status. And also, why would you not want to care? Because that's a psychopath.


Exactly. That's the problem.


The other thing they say is that how do we get out of the status game? And it's like the same thing. It's like, why would you want to. Because status is your reward for offering value to other people. So why would you not want to offer value to other people? That's like the definition of a loser. If you stop caring that other people think you're a valuable person, then you really are. Those people that you were talking about that just have no get up and.


Go, then you're the Unabomber.




Yeah. The Unabomber really didn't like people.


No, but he was another one. He was another guy that the roots of the universal is fascinating that he went to. Was it Harvard University? And had those experiments and that was an exercise in humiliation?


Yes. It was the LSD studies and part of what they did when they dose him up with LSD and they would do humiliating things to him and berate him. And they were doing it as an experiment. They were trying to see what they could do to him and how he would react. And the fact they were using LSD while they were doing this is so nuts.


Yeah. They said it was going to experiment, and the first thing to do was he had to write down in great detail all of his secrets, all of his hopes and dreams, like his most personal, important things. And then he was sat in a desk like this with lights shining in his face. And all these people were just mocking him, mocking him, mocking him, tearing him to bits. So absolutely humiliated him. And then what happened?


You know the story of his childhood, too?


I don't know the story of his childhood.


When he was a baby, he was very ill, and so they brought him to an infirmary and he wasn't allowed to have any contact with his parents for, like, months. So for several months while he was a child. I don't remember exactly how long, but it was horrifically long. He didn't get human touch, which they didn't understand back then. I guess that that's crucial to the development of a human being. Without it, literally, a baby will go mad. And so then when he was older, one of the things his brother talked about, because his brother was the one who read the manifesto and recognized his brother's handwriting, because it wasn't just a manifesto. There's a specific way that he was talking about things and the way his understanding of technology. And it was his brother. His brother had this crazy anti technology philosophy a long fucking time ago. But he was saying that if he made an advance on a girl and the girl rejected him, he would be horrific and angry and write letters and just berate her. It was crazy where he had to go, what the fuck are you doing? So he knew his brother was just broken.


He was always broken. So to take that guy, dose him up with LSD and humiliate him, they made a fucking monster.


Yeah. And who did he attack? Like, the UN and Unabombers universities. It was revenge on the intellectual class who were kind of creating this world he hated. It's like he also wrote about Elliot Rogers, the spree killer. He felt rejected again and again and again by the pretty girls of the world. So his brain told him this horrifically misogynist story that girls, women were responsible for all the evils in the world and decided to go out and kill a bunch of them. That's what the brain does. It tells us these stories that the people who are responsible for my lack of status are evil and they must be destroyed.


It's a horrible pattern. It's a horrible pattern that people get into. And again, not really that commonly discussed.




We only discuss the actions themselves, not the root cause of it. But how do you get a guy like that Elliot Rogers guy? How do you fix that? How do you stop that from happening?


Well, he left behind, I think, it's 80,000 word autobiography called my Twisted Life.


Does somebody publish it?


He put it on the Internet before he did his killing. He killed six people. And it's an incredible read. I'm not joking. Yeah, it's horrific. But he's brutally honest about himself. His life was absolutely miserable. And so what I found was really interesting was that starting in adolescence, he felt where he was bullied relentlessly at school, and he was desperate for a girlfriend. He was just weird around people in general, but he was kind of holding it together because he was obsessed with World of Warcraft. So he would play World of Warcraft obsessively. He got a lot of status in that. He got to the highest level, which apparently is a very rare thing to do. And then what happens is that he's just got these two or three friends that he plays World of Warcraft with at the Internet cafe, and then he finds out one day that they're actually playing without him in secret because they don't want to play with him anymore. And that breaks him. That's the thing that breaks him. So he goes from just being a casual, very unpleasant misogynist to somebody who is mentally ill. He starts talking about.


How is that definitive, though? Because what did they say the reason why they stopped hanging out with him for? He might have been insane already.


Well, he was certainly. He certainly wasn't normal. But in his memoir, he goes from being definitely a weirdo, without a doubt. But then he starts telling a story where actually he's this kind of godlike character that has a special insight in the world. And the special insight is that all the evil in the world is because women choose jocks to procreate with and not superior people like him. So what he's going to do is take over the world and abolish sex, because sex is at the root of all evil, and he's going to allow certain women to procreate under certain conditions, but only for the continuation of the species. He goes from just being a misogynist and an outcast to somebody who's mentally.


Ill. Well, call me cynical, but I don't think people not playing world of warcraft with you can do that. I have a feeling he might have already been out of his fucking mind. Yeah, he was just me.


Well, yes, he was definitely getting that way for me. It was interesting that his only remaining source of status was taken away from him, and it was that day when he has this revelation. So maybe it's a coincidence.


I bet he was already out of his fucking mind.




There's no way that just does it to you.


No, I'm not saying he went from black to white.


He went straw.


He went from being a horrible, awkward misogynist to somebody who was having these fantasies of abolishing sex and that he was a God. That's a kind of difference.


Yeah, it pushed him over the edge.


Yeah, that's what I think.


And there's a lot of people out there that are just on the edge. Yeah.


That's why I think it's healthy to have lots of different status games. I think the healthiest people have multiple sources of status.


Yeah, you were talking about that in the trigonometry podcast. Like, have more than one thing that you're interested in that way all of your emotional self worth is not invested in one particular thing that you do.


Yeah. It's like a hedge.


Really good advice. Yeah, I try to follow that advice.




Yeah, I like to keep. I tell comedians, too, you should have things you're interested in other than comedy. Have something you really love, that's fun to do, something you engage, not just something you watch, but something you do.


That's why I joined this volunteer for this crisis line, because it's like the only thing I do is right if this is taken away from me.


Right. That's interesting. Yeah. But also there's like something really powerful about helping somebody. It's almost selfish, you know what I mean?


It is, though. Definitely.


I mean that in the best possible way. I don't really think it's selfish. I think it's wonderful. But I think it's kind of selfish in that when I do really nice things, it feels good, too.


But again, it's the status game. It's like we are wired to, when we offer earn that kind of virtue based status, we wired to feel good about ourselves. That's healthy, that's normal, it's good. The fact that humans automatically reward each other and ourselves when we give to others is probably the most wonderful thing about our species. It's like an incredible thing that we do. So I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of that people feel good about doing good things. That's how it's ought to be. That's part of the reason why we do good things. We're wired to give back to the tribe.


Yeah. And the only thing that stops more of it is people that are in severe despair, and then they get real selfish because they have to. They're looking out for themselves. That's one of the major problems with not addressing all the horrible spots in a country. It's like you're just going to have more people in despair, less people that engage in this status game in an enjoyable way, in a beneficial way.


Yeah, that's right.


And that's one of those things that crosses both ideological boundaries. And this is where I think we have a real problem, is that so many people just subscribe to whatever one side believes because of this status game and they don't take into consider, like, why am I attached to this idea? What does that have to do with the other ones that I like? Why are they all lumped in together? How come if I believe this, I also have to believe in that? Because that's what it is if you tell me you don't believe in climate change, I can guarantee you how you're going to vote.


Yeah, that's right. Like in the. It's somebody that thinks that there should be more public money spent on busses.


I can guarantee will also be.


But also we're more likely to be on the palestinian side of the Middle Eastern busses. Middle east. Nothing to do with each other.


How do you feel about guns, sir? Do you believe in the second amendment? Because I fucking do. And then I know how you're voting.


That's it. I mean, I've got this kind of idea that not always, once you're past the age of 45 or even 40, if all of your beliefs line up with left or right, then that something's gone wrong with your life, like by the time you're 45, you should be smart enough to have figured out that they've got some stuff right and they've got some stuff right, and you should have decided for yourself which is which. So when I meet somebody that's my age, and they're just giving this sort of list of talking points from left or right, I just think, oh, God, you're 16, you're a 16 year old.


It's weird how some people will argue about something, and then when you just calmly and rationally ask him, why do you believe this? What do you know about the studies that were involved in this? What do you know about the origin of this? You can say it in the most peaceful way and just talk just like that, and they'll get hostile because they don't have that information. They just know that you must be some sort of a bad person if you're not following the narrative. Come on, we all know what's going on. We all know. What do you want Trump to win?


Everybody knows. Everybody knows. It's well known that they get angry with you.


Are you stupid? Are you stupid? You really believe this? I just want to know why you believe it. I didn't say what I believe, but people can't engage like that. Very few people can stand outside their ideas. And one of the things that I always try to tell as many people that listen, one of the things that's benefited me tremendously is when I stop being attached to my ideas. I don't believe in my ideas. I do, in the sense that these are some ideas that I have. And I wonder if this is right. But if it's not right, I'm not attached to it. I can go, oh, I used to think that, but now I know this and that doesn't diminish your worth, but what does diminish your worth is if you fucking cling to that other stupid thing even after you know it's not real. That's just dumb. You're not your ideas. You're just a human being that's interfacing with a fucking shitload of information. And most of it, you're only going to have a peripheral understanding of. Ask most people, how's the sewage system work? No, it's so important you use it every day.


How does it function without electricity? I flush, it, comes back. What the fuck's going on? Most people have zero idea, but it's like a critical part of their day.


That's it. And it says about active beliefs. It's the beliefs that become part of our identity. They're the dangerous ones, right? Because those are the ones that are status generators for us. Our status depends on this idea about biological women or about white versus black, men versus women. And then once you're in that space, you can't trust your own thoughts because your brain isn't thinking what's true. Your brain is thinking, how can I defend this belief? How can I defend this belief? Because this belief is me. I am this belief. This is my status game is based on this belief.


Yeah. And it's a really dangerous trap that everyone can fall into, all of us. That's why cults are so terrifying to me. They're not terrifying to me because I look at these people, oh, they're so stupid. These fucking dummies are going to ruin the world. No, I'm terrified because that could have been me. Yeah, that 100% could. I think it could be anybody. And I think we are naive to think that we're not subject to the same kind of capture that many, many people have gotten into. Whether it's communism or whether it's socialism or whether it's Nazism or one of these crazy fucking cults where people cut their balls off and wear the purple sneakers. You could get sucked into it. Maybe not you. Maybe you are at a certain level of your life where you have enough sophistication and understanding and you're good at reading people and you can recognize bullshit, but maybe you have enough for that, but maybe the next one will get you. Maybe there's one that's a little bit better and it's kind of a church, but it's a rock and roll kind of thing.


A thought experiment that I like is this idea that kind of shows that your irrational beliefs are invisible. To you. So when you think about the people that are close to you, you know, each one of those people, what they're wrong about. Like this person. Don't get them talking about that. No, this person's mad about that. And then the further you go out from your social circles, the more wrong and mad and crazy we will get to. You get to the ball cutting cold than the communists. So that just leaves you in the middle. The island of perfect. Island of absolute rationality. So you go, hang on a minute. That can't be right. So I'm not Jesus. Like, I must be wrong about some stuff.


How can.


But when you go looking for what you're wrong about and you can't cheat by going stuff that you don't care about, what ideas are really important to you? Well, I'm not wrong about that. I'm not wrong about that. I'm not wrong about that. So you can't see it. You feel like, jesus, you feel like I'm the most correct person, literally, in the world. You know, logically, you can't be. But you can't find what you're wrong.


About, especially if you're rationalizing everything that you do and every idea that you have as being the correct idea, which is why it's so dangerous. Your value, your worth, should not be entirely your ideas. That's crazy. This is a terrible strategy because you could be hanging onto a bad idea and then you have to cling onto it and defend it. You can't say, oh, that idea was bad because that's you. You're bad. That's what's stupid about it. It doesn't have to be that way. You can just think of them as ideas. It doesn't mean you. But if you irrationally defend an idea, then it is you.


Yeah, well, as soon as that becomes an active belief, a belief that you're acting out in the world that's causing your behavior, that you're trying to spread to other people and convince other people is true, then you're already on a slippery slope because you're already feeling irrationally about that.


I've seen it happen to brilliant people.




I really have. And it's so weird to watch. It's like you lost them. They got bit by a vampire.


Yeah, I did a lot of writing about that. Remember the skeptics? Remember when they were big?


Yeah, those guys were great.


But it always struck me that they were also irrational about certain things.




And when I was doing my reporting, their big kind of moral panic kind of status frenzy was homeopathy. They're obsessed with homeopathy. And they were like, because homeopathy is just empty pills, and it's ridiculous. And da da da. But I just thought, this is weird because we know the placebo effects works. It's a real thing. So surely homeopathy is just a very elaborate placebo theater. It works as a placebo, so it still works. So I put this to a guy who was a big, famous atheist. He presented a sort of very famous podcast at the time, and I said, what about, it's a placebo effect. So surely it's a valuable thing, homeopathy. And he said, no, that's not right. The data is in on this. We know about this. He said, what we know is the placebo is only psychological, not physiological. So people think they're getting better, but they're not getting better. But it's like, hang on a minute. If the perception of pain has decreased, then the pain has decreased. Like, if the perception of your depression has decreased, then the depression has decreased.


Like Advil doesn't work.


Yeah, exactly. So it's like this guy, who was incredibly smart and incredibly well known in the skeptic community, had managed to convince himself that the placebo effect was this fake thing that didn't really work because it was only psychological, just so to give him permission to sort of shit on homeopathy.


But does the placebo effect work in terms of curing diseases?


No. Things like pain.




I don't. Just pain? Yeah, things like pain and depression. Things that are. It doesn't cure cancer, can't shrink a.


Tumor, but it does work with pain and depression. That's fascinating. Yeah, that's fascinating.


Yeah. I mean, there were well known studies that show that when you buy a brand, I always buy brand name painkillers because it has greater placebo than the cheap supermarket owned brand. And even when you know it's the placebo, it still works more. So that extra few bucks that you're spending on the brand name painkiller.


Well, isn't there just a problem with calling yourself a skeptic? Because why don't just be a thinker? Why are you specifically looking at things and cynical? That seems silly. There's a lot of things that are real. Like, what do you do when you stumble across something that's real? Well, I used to be skeptical, but this turns out to be legit. No, it's like you're just looking at everything, hoping it's not legit, because that's where you get your value. And your status from calling bullshit in.


That book I ended up meeting, you must know, James Randy. He was their big God, and he was a very strange individual. And part of the interview, I challenged him on a lot of the things that he'd claimed in his life, and he ended up admitting to me that he'd lied and been dishonest about his achievements in the past.


Oh, no.




What achievements?


Well, achievements. And also lied a lot about the things he'd said about he had this million dollar challenge. Yes. So his whole thing was like, it's an easy thing to do. If you prove anything that's supernatural, or woo woo he used to call it, you get a million dollars. And the fact that nobody had ever got this a million dollars was his proof that none of this could exist. But there is story after story after story after story of people applying for this million dollar challenge, him backing out at the last minute for spurious reasons and then attacking that person in public. So they happened again and again and again. I think the worst instance of that was this greek again homeopathy person who'd spent something like half a million euros setting up a study in a hospital to test, properly test whether this homeopathy worked. And just on the eve of it happening, he insisted that it all had to start again and a pilot study had to be made and then blamed the other guy for pulling out. So I came to him with basically a binder full of this stuff. And he eventually admitted, I have been dishonest, I have been untrue.


But one of the amazing things about that was that was that I asked him at the end of the interview after he'd admitted, yes, I've lied about this stuff. I said, have you ever changed your mind about anything? And he was in his eighty s at the time. I think he couldn't tell me a single thing that he had ever changed his mind about that seems crazy is not a critical thinker, that's a stubborn asshole.


And on that note, hey man, thank you very much for being here. This is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it, and like I said, I enjoyed your interview on trigonometry, and I recommend everybody go. It's a great podcast. Anyway, so thank you very much, and thank you for the book, and thank you for being able to lay this out in such a, like I said, digestible way.


Thank you, Joe. I really appreciate you having me on. It's been amazing.


I enjoyed it. Thank you. All right, bye, everybody.