There are a lot of loud people in Manhattan, notably the squad of three investment banking summer analysts in business casual sitting behind me at Bryant Park, complaining about the taxes on their $100k+ per year prorated salary.
“Fucking government, man.”
Yes. The fucking government.
I have a problem with loud people. I especially have a problem with loud finance people in an otherwise serene park on a Thursday afternoon. I have a problem with people, in general. It’s probably just a me problem, if I’m being really honest.
I have always associated being loud with an assertion of existence. People who are proud to exist. There is nothing relating loudness and existence, of course; it is not like a bluetooth speaker exists more than I do. But, in terms of measurements of your own existence, I have often felt as if being loud is a measurement of how much you think you deserve to exist. Perhaps that is why I enjoy being around sad people so much. I have, after all, never witnessed a loud, sad person. Especially when I am acquainted with people during their particularly suicidal moments, the trait of being too loud is an observation that never occurs to me.
So why does loudness equate to entitlement to existence? I’m not sure, to be honest. It is one of those things that have bothered me for quite some time, but one of those things that I have not been able to articulate. It goes back to my schooling days, when people would participate in class. This is one of the more irrational irritations of mine, but I would often get annoyed whenever people would consistently raise their hands in class. My logic defaults to a “to each their own” attitude. But, for some reason, I have always had this aversion towards individuals who talked too much. I am annoyed by the fact that some people want to be heard, as if they are saying something that deserves to be heard. And, all I could think is, why does anyone care?
There’s this Lana lyric:
Lately I’ve been thinking that it’s someone else’s job to careLana Del Rey, “Change”
Who am I to sympathize, when no one gave a damn
I never cared much for anything. I do care, of course, but I always feel as if I don’t. It’s a simultaneous indifference and aversion towards the world. Quite irrational of me, to be honest. But, you know those monasteries with vows of silence? I get it. I don’t really want to live in one at this point in my life. Emphasize on this point in my life. But the idea? I get it.
There is a space, and then there is the sound that occupies the space. In a library, it’s pretty self-evident you should not be screaming. At a music festival, however, it is pretty fine if you’re screaming. What is the difference? And so, what dictates how much noise we should produce given our position in relationship to our space and others ?
At a library, no one is screaming. At a music festival, everyone is screaming.
If the paradigm is distributive justice, then we should have equal amounts of ownership over the sound that is produced in the room. Positive liberty is defined by the freedom to act. Negative liberty is defined by the freedom not to be acted on. It would be optimal, of course, to maximize the amount of positive and negative liberty in society, at least, according to Narveson’s social contract. But, realistically, no one acts in accordance to what is socially optimal. If my economics major has taught me anything, it is that people act in their own self interest. Or at least, all “free actors in a market economy” act in their self interest. It is literally the first thing I have learned in the ECON 001: Introduction to Microeconomics.
To flex or not to flex, that is the question.
But, before we can understand what is, we must first understand what ought. The amount of sound in a room, and thus, the amount of sound that is acceptable to create in proportion to the amount of sound that is pre-existing in the room is, of course, dependent on the space that is occupied. The proportionality, I’d imagine, is determined not by the magnitude noise that you create but by the percentage of the noise that you create. In quiet spaces, the noise that you create is significant, but in loud space, the noise that you create is significantly less significant. The relationship between unacceptability and magnitude is logarithmic, with the function flattening out as the amount of noise increases. Thus, it would only be appropriate to operate in percentage change as opposed to absolute change when determining the threshold of acceptability.
Let’s assign a spectrum. In Fisher Fine Arts Library, the tour guides like to mention that people will give you a dirty look if you even drop a pencil. This is, for the most part, true. I have dropped a pencil before, and I have noticed that someone from across the library looked up to look at me. But, then, in the basement of Van Pelt Library, no one really care if you drop a pencil, aside from maybe the couple of people that are next to you. I suppose it would be dependent on the time of day, but if you were to average the amount of fucks given throughout the day, you might get 0.2 fucks with every pencil drop. But then, if you drop your pencil in Craig Library in the Quad at 11 pm on a Monday, no one will give a shit. Literally, Odysseus himself.
I have established that the relationship between the amount of noise that is acceptable to produce and the amount of noise in the environment is logarithmic. The problem, however, is when people conceptualize the amount of acceptable sound to be linearly. This is because, when we listen, we tend to conceptualize the magnitude of sound we heard to be linear (even though it technically is also logarithmic, but we are not able to perceive that). Quiet environments, such as Fisher Fine Arts, is significantly more sensitive to changes in noise than music festivals. The difference between a pencil dropping on a table and a frat pledge yelling “penis” as loud as he could is much more pronounced in Fisher Fine Arts than it is at a music festival. At a loud concert, there could be 15 pledges yelling “penis”, and it still wouldn’t make a difference towards the net sound output. While every subsequent “penis” adds similar magnitudes of additional decibels to the environment, it is just a difference in perception.
The boys who shout “penis” at Fisher Fine Arts at 8 pm on a Tuesday? If called out, sometimes, they would apologize. They would act as sincerely as possible. The inflection of their voice would change. It is the tone that you would use when you speak to your mom. It is spoken knowing that your mom would be able to forgive you regardless of what you did in your life. But, strangers are not moms, and strangers are not as forgiving as your mom. But, sometimes, strangers would be more forgiving for some people than others. Some people. Then they would return to speaking loudly as if nothing had happened. They apologize because they know could get away with anything as long as they faked a sincere apology.
It is an attitude that instead of asking before doing, you should do and just apologize later.
Being quiet in a library is a social norm. Libraries are socially constructed places of quiet. It is ontologically evident that libraries are quiet. It is frowned up on if you start screaming in a library. People will get annoyed if you start screaming in a library. People will start to shush you if you start screaming in a library. And, for the most part, the social norms does its wonders in maintaining the quiet of the space. It corrects any ontologically challenge to the metaphysics of the space. If people scream in libraries, then libraries are not libraries anymore. And, as a result, people don’t scream in libraries, and part of the reason people don’t scream is because people are fearful of the social judgement that will be levied upon them if they start screaming in a library, among other reasons.
But, then there is masculinity. The masculinity. I often feel like so much of masculinity is attempting to liberate yourself from the expectations of others. To a certain extent, this is an good quality. It is good to live in accordance to your own values. It is good to not live a life contradictory to your values in the sense that you should assert yourself for what you believe in. But, masculinity, when extrapolated, also extends to challenging norms that go beyond accordance to values. Sometimes, masculinity just exists for itself, when values are not the subject of challenge but the assertion of masculinity in itself is the subject of assertion.
To say that this would be toxic masculinity would be a misnomer, in my opinion, because I think there is very little elements in masculinity that is positive. But, when masculinity exists to assert itself… and when that assertion causes harm unto others… then it becomes quite… how do I phrase it?
Being loud is a masculine quality. You can see it especially in the business world. Men like to introduce themselves on the first day, loudly. Men like to participate in meetings, loudly. Men like to talk about sports and drinking at a community service event while playing hip hop from their phones, loudly. This is the nature of masculinity, and empathy is commonly thought of as a feminine quality. But, if the end goal is pure masculinity, then there could be no room for empathy. If the two exist on a spectrum, which it probably doesn’t, then the existence of one would necessitate the annihilation of the other.
The justification is to challenge social norms. And, it does. Being loud in a library demonstrates an indifference to the opinion of others. It is acting with a disregard to the negative opinions of others. People can shush you all you want, but you don’t care about what they think. By being loud in spaces that are not loud, it is an assertion of the fact that you don’t care about what others think. It is very masculine — not caring about the opinions of others. You are loud because you want to be loud, and there is no amount of disapproval or reproach that you would convince you otherwise. It is the ultimate assertion of masculinity — it is understanding that your actions would cause negative reactions in others, it is perceiving those reactions with an uncaring understanding, and it a willing to act regardless.
The question that arises is, what are the types of people that elevate masculinity to the ultimate ideal? What are the types of people that are able to live with complete disregard to the opinions of others?
The answer is: people who live with privilege, whatever form that takes.
The underlying assumption is that your life takes precedence over other people’s life. Their lives are lesser than you, so you are able to live however you want, irregardless of its effects on the lives of others. It would take a lifetime of cultivation, of believing that your life is truly more valuable than the lives of others. You would believe that you are superior in almost every way, that you are more attractive, that you are smarter, that you work harder. You would also believe that others are uglier than you, stupider than you, lazier than you. It is the belief that your success is the result of your intelligence and efforts and other people’s failures is the result of their incompetence and laziness. And, if you genuinely believed this, how is it not the case that you should be able to live whatever life you want?
The thought might not be explicit in the sense that you will admit that you are more superior than others, but it is implicit through the attitudes of those who have not had the same privileges in life as you. You could walk pass a homeless person and think that they should just get a job. You could read about drug addict and wonder why they don’t just quit. It is a not an idea that is revealed through the utterance of an idea but through the implicit attitudes underlying all of your thoughts. It is a belief that you are able to overcome whatever hardships that you have encountered in your life, but others weren’t able to overcome theirs. It is a genuine that you deserve your successes and others deserve their failures.
But, all it is, is a misinterpretation of Nietzsche’s Übermensch.