Reactions to Personal Cheems Mindset
Or: sharing the cheems discourse
You’re reading my newsletter, Normielisation, on progress, politics and society, written from a British perspective. You can subscribe here:
Earlier this week I published a piece on personal cheems mindset, a sequel to last year’s cheems mindset post. To recap, while cheems mindset is:
“the reflexive belief that barriers to policy outcomes are natural laws that we should not waste our time considering how to overcome.”
Personal cheems Mindset is:
“the reflexive decision for an individual to choose inaction over action, in particular finding reasons not to do things which have either high expected value, or a huge upside with very little downside risk.”
There was some interesting reaction to the piece, so I thought I’d share some of it here in my very first reaction post.
Tom Bennett made the excellent point that perhaps cheems mindset is a reason for humanity’s success as a species. It’s a compelling argument, and I’ll leave his full comment below:
“I suspect that at a social level cheems mindset is actually part of why we have been so successful as a species; risk aversion, slow, incremental developments, especially in an environment where we were in constant competition for resources. But because of natural variation in risk appetites, environmental opportunities etc, individuals slowly discover innovations like fire, or blue cheese with apple pie, and share them with others who don't have to bear the risk of the innovation because it's already been taken.”
Sam Freedman suggested that cheems mindset might have some crossover with imposter syndrome. I think there’s definitely something to that.
David Chivers suggested that one explanation for cheems mindset could be omission bias- “our tendency to judge harmful actions as worse than harmful inaction”. I love his description of this as “Big Hamlet energy".
AKMB suggested that further work on cheems mindset might lead to the development of a “cheems-cheems mindset”- where you end up worrying so much about being cheems you become cheems. Meta.
My pal Michael Story suggested that one of most effective ways of combatting cheems mindset is by outsourcing identifying it to other people. Perhaps I should start a service charging a flat rate as a cheems identifier?
John Oxley shared this meme which is simultaneously very cruel and accurate
George McGowan shared this meme, which also serves as setting out the new mission of this newsletter
This post won’t be my final word on this phenomenon. I hope to build out the cheems mindset expanded universe further over the coming months.
I already have some ideas for other versions of cheems mindset, but please do comment below, tweet or email me with your suggestions for other forms of cheems mindset.
Finally, if you liked this or previous posts, please do not hesitate to share them.
This is perhaps unfair, but almost everyone who is instinctively anti-cheems is pretty fortunate in life — they have good families, they have access to assets and financial security, they are intelligent and talented and well-connected (maybe even physically attractive) and so on.
You say here (https://twitter.com/J_D_89/status/1504045155933999113) that cheems is divorced from a calibrated consideration of risk. I say that is, in fact, rational in most cases. Most people don't actually have the time or the brainpower to do a CBA on individual actions and will fall back on a heuristic. If you don't have all the blessings laid out above, your heuristic will be "trying something new usually leads to failure", because trying new things has usually led to failure in the past.
This is even true of political cheems. Political cheems is popular in Britain because almost every attempt at innovation in Britain has been an expensive failure (see Blunders Of Our Governments for many examples). Cheems is best understood as a rational heuristic developed as a defence mechanism to a hostile ecosystem where the innate qualities of the sufferer — whether individual or corporate — are inadequate to expansion of control of that ecosystem.