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March 17, 2012

Missing the Point on Charles Murray

In the WSJ, Charles Murray corrects some recent commentary on his much discussed book, "Coming Apart":

If changes in the labor market don't explain the development of the new lower class, what does? My own explanation is no secret. In my 1984 book "Losing Ground," I put the blame on our growing welfare state and the perverse incentives that it created. I also have argued that the increasing economic independence of women, who flooded into the labor market in the 1970s and 1980s, played an important role.

Simplifying somewhat, here's my reading of the relevant causes: Whether because of support from the state or earned income, women became much better able to support a child without a husband over the period of 1960 to 2010. As women needed men less, the social status that working-class men enjoyed if they supported families began to disappear. The sexual revolution exacerbated the situation, making it easy for men to get sex without bothering to get married. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that male fecklessness bloomed, especially in the working class.

I barely mentioned these causes in describing our new class divide because they don't make much of a difference any more. They have long since been overtaken by transformations in cultural norms. That is why the prolonged tight job market from 1995 to 2007 didn't stop working-class males from dropping out of the labor force, and it is why welfare reform in 1996 has failed to increase marriage rates among working-class females. No reform from the left or right that could be passed by today's Congress would turn these problems around.

The prerequisite for any eventual policy solution consists of a simple cultural change: It must once again be taken for granted that a male in the prime of life who isn't even looking for work is behaving badly. There can be exceptions for those who are genuinely unable to work or are house husbands. But reasonably healthy working-age males who aren't working or even looking for work, who live off their girlfriends, families or the state, must once again be openly regarded by their fellow citizens as lazy, irresponsible and unmanly. Whatever their social class, they are, for want of a better word, bums.

To bring about this cultural change, we must change the language that we use whenever the topic of feckless men comes up. Don't call them "demoralized." Call them whatever derogatory word you prefer. Equally important: Start treating the men who aren't feckless with respect. Recognize that the guy who works on your lawn every week is morally superior in this regard to your neighbor's college-educated son who won't take a "demeaning" job. Be willing to say so.

This shouldn't be such a hard thing to do. Most of us already believe that one of life's central moral obligations is to be a productive adult. The cultural shift that I advocate doesn't demand that we change our minds about anything; we just need to drop our nonjudgmentalism.

The Blog Princess has been writing for years about boys and men dropping out of society and falling behind, and Murray's point (though rendered unrecognizable in much of the commentary from the right) is fully consistent with her understanding of the problem. From a post written two years ago:

Some conservatives and men's rights activists will tell you that the widespread defection of men from the meritocracy is "understandable" because life in an age where men must compete with women is "unfair".

It's too "hard". These are generally the same folks who will tell you that men are stronger than women. And smarter. And harder working. Having raised two sons and lived with a Marine for over three decades, I can tell you that men are not motivated by having excuses made for them, nor by the emasculating bigotry of low expectations.

They are motivated by challenge. And risk. And by older men who will not brook shiftless behavior.

And by women who won't tolerate it either: mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters. We don't need to berate or belittle our sons, but we do need to encourage them to act like men. What we don't need is conservatives who extol traditional masculine virtues but undermine any attempt to encourage responsibility and accountability.

...Anyone who has ever attended a graduation ceremony at Parris Island knows that men thrive on overcoming obstacles - that they need to believe in something greater than themselves. Our sons need the goad of high expectations, not the treacherous lure of inflated self esteem and self serving excuses.

The question is, do we love them enough to do what is right? Blaming feminism doesn't solve anyone's problems. The world has always been a competitive and unfair place, and men have always risen to the challenge. The truth is that it is far easier to survive and prosper now than it was for our parents and grandparents.

I very much fear it is our own softness that is the problem. The question is, will we accept what we see in the mirror and try to change? Will we take responsibility for our own part in this fiasco before it's too late?

I've returned to this theme over and over again because I believe it is vital to get our society back on the right (pun fully intended) track.

Several months ago I pre-ordered a book I suspect will be just as widely discussed as Murray's "Coming Apart". Or at least I hope it will:

Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim—that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.

What Haidt calls "groupishness" is critical to building flourishing societies. I believe it explains why the Left will excuse away gross irresponsibility in women while blaming men for everything wrong in the world.

And I believe it explains why you will almost never see right leaning pundits hold men responsible for their own actions in favor of the perverse suggestion that men can't succeed unless women either bribe the men in their lives or patronize them by playing dumb.

Both positions are morally reprehensible. And neither position befits a free society.

Posted by Cassandra at March 17, 2012 10:25 AM

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...you will almost never see right leaning pundits hold men responsible for their own actions...

I think you need to bracket this concept more carefully if it is to be useful. There are many cases in which right-leaning men generally are willing to hold other men responsible for their actions: if a guy robs a bank and gets shot, right-leaning men are the first ones to say, "Well, of course he did. That's what you get when you rob a bank."

Likewise if a guy goes to Yemen and joins al Qaeda, and is later blown up by a laser-guided bomb, it's men on the right who tend to say, "Yeah, well, what did he expect?"

Likewise, right-leaning men don't tend to favor welfare-style aid for young men who aren't employed. Nor do right-leaning men favor (say) expanding the Violence Against Women Act to provide similar protections for men in abusive relationships; they expect the men to get out on their own.

So the category you're talking about isn't "other men" but men of a particular type in particular circumstances; and clarifying just what that type and what those circumstances are may be helpful in identifying the real problem.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 11:20 AM

So the category you're talking about isn't "other men" but men of a particular type in particular circumstances; and clarifying just what that type and what those circumstances are may be helpful in identifying the real problem.

I accept your point - it's valid.

But I also think it's valid to observe that we are not talking about any of those other circumstances here. Specifically, we are talking about the second half of the sentence that you left out:

... the perverse suggestion that men can't succeed unless women either bribe the men in their lives or patronize them by playing dumb.

There's a huge difference between holding men accountable when they commit violent crimes and holding them accountable for their own success in life (or the lack thereof). The first harms others, the second harms mostly themselves and others only indirectly.

The suggestion I have been talking about from the right is that women who do educate themselves or choose to work are indirectly responsible for men who refuse to do either (and moreover, that these women should throttle back on their own goals so that men will be able to succeed or marriage will thrive - which is odd since the one place marriage IS thriving seems to be with educated women :p).

I thought it was pretty clear that I wasn't talking about terrorism or criminal activity here (and I thought it was pretty clear from the context exactly what I was talking about.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2012 12:25 PM

I'm not trying to be difficult, Cass; I just want to clarify the issue because I haven't quite decided what I think about it myself. I agree with you insofar as I've observed behavior of the sort you describe, but I'm not sure I understand exactly what the category is either.

Exactly which men are being excused, and just when, may give us a clue as to just why.

Here's another thought I've had recently from our discussions that strikes me as possibly relevant: do you remember the talk about the Princess video with the archery contest? I went and looked up the question of competitive archery, to see what the rules are, because it occurred to me that men and women really could compete on roughly even ground in archery. The bow is a method of compensating for the differential in upper-body strength, at least to a degree: a weaker bow will lose accuracy at longer distances, but at moderate distances within the range of the weaker bow, there should be little difference. Thus you could measure the strength of each competitor, and issue them a bow of a given pull that largely eliminated the difference.

As it turns out, though, that isn't what is done at all. Instead, men and women shoot in separate categories; each shoot at four different ranges, but the men are asked to shoot farther.

To some degree this could be because "the real question" in archery is who can shoot accurately at a great distance; but I wonder if there isn't a sense in which it is structured that way just to avoid putting men and women in direct competition.

There may be an issue, in other words, similar to "white flight" from cities: an acceptance of the new right, coupled with an attempt to rebuild the old structure by re-segregating geographically instead of legislatively. We may be seeing a similar kind of re-segregation of labor by younger men; some may be moving into lower-paid and lower-status jobs, or avoiding the workforce, simply to avoid being put into direct competition with women.

I say that with the sense that there may be something valid at stake here for the men: it may be right for them not to want to view women as competitors to be put down. Noonan's point about "this is how we play in the leagues" is a good one: the men who treat women badly because they want to make the point that entering a competitive space means getting bruised (as it certainly does for men) are doing something I think wrong, but for a reason I can understand. By the same token, the young man who simply refuses to compete is doing something I can understand: he's refusing to enter a game in which he would have to treat women roughly -- and, perhaps more, would have to think of them as the kind of people he could and should treat roughly.

That is to say that there may be a very decent impulse behind this, even if it leads to some bad results.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 12:42 PM

You gave several subjects with which to hold a lot of discussion. I agree about the reasons for the change in the labor market.

My father always said that it's "the losers who always have something/somebody to blame" when things don't go their way. The winners just do it, against whatever obstacles come their way.

Perhaps I should say that the winners keep trying against whatever obstacles come their way.

Don't the Marines say "adapt, overcome"? (At last Clint Eastwood did in Heartbreak Ridge)


A good friend of mine came from overseas in the late 60s with nothing and today has a thriving CPA practice. He tells me of this friend he's had - who a few years ago was fired by a big multi national company after working there for years. He is in his early 60s and has an MBA.

The things that he wanted to do haven't come and he refuses to work in jobs that he considers demeaning - preferring to take unemployment,

Except now the unemployment has run out.

Posted by: Bill Brandt at March 17, 2012 01:07 PM

I say that with the sense that there may be something valid at stake here for the men: it may be right for them not to want to view women as competitors to be put down. Noonan's point about "this is how we play in the leagues" is a good one: the men who treat women badly because they want to make the point that entering a competitive space means getting bruised (as it certainly does for men) are doing something I think wrong, but for a reason I can understand.

I can understand it too, but I don't think it's particularly healthy.

Even when men dominated the workplace, society understood the concept of fair competition and unfair competition. There have been movies and plays about males who bully other males and how destructive this is to the entire system.

We may be seeing a similar kind of re-segregation of labor by younger men; some may be moving into lower-paid and lower-status jobs, or avoiding the workforce, simply to avoid being put into direct competition with women.

I agree that this is probably going on, but even if it is, is the answer to prevent women from working?

I encountered men like this as a young wife who was working because my husband was in college (he worked too) and we lived below the poverty level for a family of 3 - which isn't really poor, by the way but also isn't a secure place you want to stay in.

I was flat out told that I wasn't paid as well as men in my position b/c "men have to support families". Oddly, the other men in my workplace were all single. I had a husband and a child to provide for.

I've often said that liberals and conservatives often agree about the problem but disagree about the correct solution.

In this case, a lot of conservatives seem to feel (and feel is the operative word here) that the "problem" to be solved is that women are allowed to go to school and work... or not. IOW, the problem is that women have freedoms they didn't used to have.

Whereas I think the problems associated with women's liberation and declining male achievement/participation in the work force and civic life are mostly linked to refusing to hold people accountable for their choices.

In Ms. Fluke's case, I don't give a rat's patootie whether she finds it difficult to afford contraception. If that's important to her, she needs to find a school with a health plan that covers it, or simple cut back on some less important expense. Tradeoffs.

And in the case of young men who want freedom without responsibility, the problem is not that life is a zero sum game in which, if women get ahead they are robbing men. The problem is that they have gotten it into their heads that they have no responsibility to support themselves, and conservatives are making excuses for them to do so.

Feminists argued the zero sum thingie and conservatives have always claimed that this isn't how markets work. If they're now seeing that they may be wrong, it would be more honest to admit this than to keep arguing against it when it is expedient and do a 180 when it's not.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2012 01:11 PM

The things that he wanted to do haven't come and he refuses to work in jobs that he considers demeaning - preferring to take unemployment,
Except now the unemployment has run out.

I remember a friend of mine who was raised in the South side of Chicago to immigrant parents who were staunch Democrats.

She told me that it was considered shameful to take government assistance in her working class Dem neighborhood. Families would pass the hat to help neighbors in need and there was no shame in this because anyone could have bad luck.

This system was harder to abuse (not impossible) because you had to look your neighbors in the eye every day knowing that they had gone without to help you. And after a while, if you didn't pull yourself up and make good on the help you'd been given, people lost sympathy and respect for you.

Accountability. That seems to be the missing piece with government aid.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2012 01:16 PM

I'd like to comment a bit more on this:

By the same token, the young man who simply refuses to compete is doing something I can understand: he's refusing to enter a game in which he would have to treat women roughly -- and, perhaps more, would have to think of them as the kind of people he could and should treat roughly.

Except that doesn't describe the rules of the game in most workplaces, Grim.

Most people who treat their co-workers or employees roughly don't get ahead. Some do, but more often it's a self defeating tactic. I have to say I think this is a bit of a straw man argument.

The most competitive division in my company is Sales, and the most successful sales dudes are the ones who have great people skills and work well with others. The least successful are the ones who play cutthroat. No one trusts them and consequently they receive less help and fewer leads.

There's an old saying: what goes around, comes around.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 17, 2012 01:21 PM

I encountered men like this as a young wife who was working because my husband was in college (he worked too) and we lived below the poverty level for a family of 3 - which isn't really poor, by the way but also isn't a secure place you want to stay in.

I understand this position quite well.

In this case, a lot of conservatives seem to feel (and feel is the operative word here) that the "problem" to be solved is that women are allowed to go to school and work... or not. IOW, the problem is that women have freedoms they didn't used to have. Whereas I think the problems associated with women's liberation and declining male achievement/participation in the work force and civic life are mostly linked to refusing to hold people accountable for their choices.

I don't agree with either position.

The solution to this problem, from my perspective, isn't in restricting women; in fact, it may lie in encouraging women. Generally we come to the market either to feed ourselves and our families, or to satisfy some internal need of self-actualization. The market is good at the one and terrible at the other: because you are in it as a commodity, the experience is always ultimately one of selling yourself.

Women who wish to enter a difficult or challenging field in order to self-actualize should be encouraged and supported, in part because it is in achieving success in such a field that you realize how empty success in any market field happens to be. There's nothing there worth having: work and responsibility are means to ends, but if you focus on them, they end up being ends in themselves. As ends in themselves, they are unsatisfying.

Thus women who achieve success in their field generally cut back to focus on other areas. Having become a successful writer, they take up being a mother. Having become a successful lawyer, they cut back to focus on church, or art, or something else that is genuinely meaningful.

Men haven't done this so much because men are told from youth that their self-worth is to be tied to their capacity as a provider. The solution for men is to learn that the market is a necessary evil for them, too. There's no choice but to go to it, but there's no joy to be found in it.

Some of these young men have sorted the second part out, but not the first. You have to get to success before you cut back to pursue higher meaning.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 01:36 PM

Except that doesn't describe the rules of the game in most workplaces, Grim. Most people who treat their co-workers or employees roughly don't get ahead. Some do, but more often it's a self defeating tactic. I have to say I think this is a bit of a straw man argument.

Maybe you're right; I haven't worked in most offices. Every one I've worked in has been marked by at least one player (almost always a woman, actually) who was a horrible person to know or have to deal with; they created an environment marked by a general tension, factionalism, and hatred.

Perhaps you've had better luck. I myself would love to avoid working in any similar environment ever again; if I could find a way to support myself and my family without ever setting foot in another office, I'd be glad to do it.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 01:48 PM

I should add that these people I describe are able to create an environment of tension and factionalism precisely because they've gotten promoted to positions of authority. Thus, it does seem to be the way that they get ahead; the decent people I enjoy working with are usually down the ladder a ways.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 01:53 PM

"Maybe you're right; I haven't worked in most offices. Every one I've worked in has been marked by at least one player (almost always a woman, actually) who was a horrible person to know or have to deal with; they created an environment marked by a general tension, factionalism, and hatred."

Vicious, divisive people come in both flavors at the office; seen snakes at all levels, too. Usually a problem where management sees "performance" but doesn't see problems caused by the behavior that generates the "performance". Or how much better things could be if the malefactor quit diverting energy into abrasions.

"Perhaps you've had better luck. I myself would love to avoid working in any similar environment ever again; if I could find a way to support myself and my family without ever setting foot in another office, I'd be glad to do it."

This is probably the answer; a nation where most people work in enterprises of no more than a dozen people, top to bottom; at least then the damage is localized, and you can escape easier to another organization. Tough to get big campaign contributions from small organizations, as well.

Once things get really crappy (hyperinflation, coming to a town near you!) we'll need a lot more entrepreneurs, do-ers, solvers - and a lot fewer "managers". The disruption to get there, though, could be painful....

My wife has an engineering degree also; she chose to work less and raise the kids. We all are better for her sacrifices, and hopefully my kids will improve the world more for having known her. It's what keeps me going sometimes.

Posted by: Jim at March 17, 2012 02:03 PM

I think you're right, Jim. I've worked for some excellent women; I don't mean to generalize the problem as a female one. It just happens to be the case that in all but one of these situations, it was a woman.

One of them was a government employee who had one of those Masters degrees that really exists not to teach but to provide certification for a managerial job. Only problem: those degrees can teach technical skills, but not competence as a manager (which has to do as much with leadership and character). Being deeply incompetent, she was also deeply insecure, and tended to lash out at people.

Another was a beautiful woman who had traded on her beauty with a male corporation owner to obtain a position of authority. Once again, the real issue was competence: she had none, and it made her insecure and prone to manipulation and degradation of those in inferior positions.

Another was a Major, US Army, in charge of a reserve unit. She destroyed it through her self-focus, by treating the entire unit as if it existed to answer her personal wishes and desires for advancement.

Another was a Lieutenant Colonel, who was positioned below a full Colonel (who was, himself, the one exception -- the male version of this kind of player. He simply did not like other people, treated everyone badly all the time except when everyone was looking). Her leadership skills consisted of degrading and humiliating everyone who worked for her, so that they would not dare to speak in her presence for fear of being lashed again. She was promoted to full Colonel while I knew her, and given command of a reserve unit; she was also promoted, in her civilian life, to program manager for a military contracting firm.

So, you know, these people mostly happened to be female. The issues, though, were character, leadership and competence.

Yet they were all promoted, and were all very interested in seeking promotion. It invariably seemed to work out for them.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 02:26 PM

And of course, the other thing is: none of them were happy. The market (military, in some cases, but the 'promotion market') satisfied their desire for advancement, but it didn't fulfill them as people. Every one of them was miserable.

Posted by: Grim at March 17, 2012 02:36 PM

Cass - just saw this and didnt know if you had, although you are pretty much on top of things.

It is a good commercial. And it says a lot about the character of those who go through the training.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Huk6U0X8vUg&feature=player_embedded

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at March 17, 2012 06:51 PM

Kbob:

Yes, I did see it, but thanks for posting the link. It was good, wasn't it?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2012 06:52 AM

Twas inspiring. If I were 17 I might try to be a Marine instead of just hauling them around....lol

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at March 18, 2012 09:21 AM

Grim, to address your points:

1. The solution to this problem, from my perspective, isn't in restricting women; in fact, it may lie in encouraging women. Generally we come to the market either to feed ourselves and our families, or to satisfy some internal need of self-actualization.

Why not both? Because I would argue that this is the reason most men won't even consider temporarily dropping out of the work force to take care of their own children.

They would feel stifled without "challenging" work, and taking care of kids and a home is "women's work", and thus beneath them. But somehow when women feel the same way, (and this is coming from a woman who stayed at home to raise her children) that's a problem?

I would do the same again, given the choice, but there is no denying that I gave something up. Just because you don't value it doesn't mean others don't, or shouldn't. I don't have to work now. We don't need my salary. I work because I enjoy the mental challenge.

The market is good at the one and terrible at the other: because you are in it as a commodity, the experience is always ultimately one of selling yourself.

I disagree. One enters the job market with skills to offer. Employers enter the job market with pay and benefits to offer. Both are free to negotiate for what they value most, and here I would argue that women frequently barter extra pay for autonomy or other intangibles (interesting work, a flexible schedule, etc.). The irony comes when some of us then whine about being paid less than men :p

Men are - of course - more free to do likewise than at any other time in our history because for the first time, they can (if they choose) add another breadwinner to the family when they marry.

My brother is a good example here. He loves his work now. If he were to take a promotion to GS15, he would have to move to less rewarding work. So (at least for now) he has chosen to give up more pay to get more rewarding/interesting work. He can do this because his wife makes the same salary (actually a bit more) than he does. It's a choice that would be more costly if he were the sole breadwinner.

As an aside, I don't think we need to "encourage" women to make choices no one is preventing them from making. They should be adult enough to decide what they want and then go after it. If they don't like where they are, they are free to change their lives.

You seem to view other people's voluntary choices as some sort of externally imposed prison but I don't feel victimized by *having* choices.

2. Women who wish to enter a difficult or challenging field in order to self-actualize should be encouraged and supported, in part because it is in achieving success in such a field that you realize how empty success in any market field happens to be. There's nothing there worth having: work and responsibility are means to ends, but if you focus on them, they end up being ends in themselves. As ends in themselves, they are unsatisfying.

Says who? You? Not everyone feels the same way about work.

Thus women who achieve success in their field generally cut back to focus on other areas. Having become a successful writer, they take up being a mother. Having become a successful lawyer, they cut back to focus on church, or art, or something else that is genuinely meaningful.

I'm sure you know women who do this, but you're essentially arguing by anecdote.

I know a great many women who don't have to work, but do anyway. You seem to want to define other people's success (or the lack thereof) by your arbitrary standards. But your standards only apply to your own life, not theirs. They have no obligation to value the things you value.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2012 09:25 AM

This is probably the answer; a nation where most people work in enterprises of no more than a dozen people, top to bottom; at least then the damage is localized, and you can escape easier to another organization.

I decided years ago never to work for another large company. This decision has costs that I cheerfully accept.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2012 10:10 AM

Since I kind of am the person Cass is railing against here, I'll weigh in. I have a BS in Chem, did 2 years of grad level work, but now drive a truck to make ends meet.

LIke I said, I'm only kind of the guy Cass and Murray are against.

Part of it is that I got up there, workign my tush off, hammering my head against a brick wall of a project and realized that the system wasn't going to be fair. It wasn't going to ask certain segments of my cohort as difficult questions as they would of me and others during Defense. Some simply got kid glove treatment by using crying as a tactic.

No matter how hard I tried I was never going to win. I couldn't get help on my project because others dominated PI's time or had other resources thrown their way----like my Wife, who, by virtue of being a woman had tonnes of resources thrown at her, including stress management classes, extra money for supplies when she had 'omg, I just farkled it' moments, and the like. She earned hers. I didn't.

Basically, we've generated a system where those who cynically manipulate the rules win while those of us who honor the spirit and intent get sloberknockered. So, we decide not to play.

But Mom didn't raise a bum. I work, and hard. But I can see why other guys don't. I've worked extra hours, volunteered time without pay, worked hurt, spent my own money to make up for shortages I did not cause, had everyone in the back of the house looking to me for leadership even though I'm gone driving 90% of the time, and do I get even looked at for a promotion much less a raise? Nope. It goes to a politician. Luckily I'm a stubborn fool.;)

Donovan has laughed several times that I could qualify for gov't assistance on a good many things, but instead I work delivering said assistance while taking none myself.

But I'm sure as hell not extending myself out there anymore. Too many fingers on the scale. Too many irrelevant concerns blown up into major rhubric points(like quotas).

Unfortunately we have guys like John Robb saying that to simply quit the game is the smartest ploy, and people have bought into it. I simply decided to be happy and not fight the system anymore.

I do agree that something needs to be done about lazeabouts. BUt simply shaming isn't enough. There's structural problems that need to be addressed too. Shaming coupled with throwing off much of the nonsense, all the fingers on the scale, might work. But it's a polyfactorial problem. Messing with only X1 but not X2...X100 isn't going to be enogh, imo.

Posted by: ry at March 18, 2012 10:38 AM

Cass:

You seem to view other people's voluntary choices as some sort of externally imposed prison but I don't feel victimized by *having* choices.

Says who? You? Not everyone feels the same way about work.

You seem to want to define other people's success (or the lack thereof) by your arbitrary standards. But your standards only apply to your own life, not theirs. They have no obligation to value the things you value.

Weren't you the one who was just forwarding a proposal that we shame people who don't agree to live according to "our" standards? Or is this an attempt to shame me into adopting that standard?

I certainly haven't said anything here about forcing anyone to do anything at all. Nor have I said that people shouldn't be free to make value judgments: rather the opposite.

What I said was that I thought it was wise for people to do enough work to support their needs, and then look for meaning in other places: and while I offered some examples such as church, or family, or art, those are just common places in which people do find meaning.

Maybe some people are lucky enough to get a job that makes them happy and fulfills their soul as well; that's great for them. I know a guy who has the greatest job in the world -- he's a philosophy professor. All he has to do is what he loves to do. I certainly enjoyed being in Iraq: it was very meaningful work for me. It was a genuinely happy time, in spite of the hardships (and I think rather because of than in spite of the dangers); but I also was ready to come home and be with my family at the end of it.

So yes, it can happen that a job is wonderful; but it's not to be expected. In general, if people are willing to pay you large sums of money to do something -- enough to raise a family on, say -- it's because they know you'd rather be doing something else. You'd probably rather be somewhere else than in their office or factory floor; you'd probably rather be with someone else than your co-workers; you'd probably rather be thinking about something else than the work-related problem in front of you.

So why shouldn't you do that something else as much as possible, as long as you meet your responsibilities to yourself and your family? Why not structure your life around the important thing -- whatever it happens to be?

Posted by: Grim at March 18, 2012 11:40 AM

Ry:

Would you please show me where I was "railing against" anyone? Because I'm really confused.

I have no idea what I have said that could possibly be taken as "railing against" anyone - least of all a man who has a paying job and has a college degree.

Nor can I interpret Murray's essay as having anything to do with you. He referred to able bodied men who "aren't even looking for work". That doesn't describe you.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2012 03:18 PM

Grim:

Weren't you the one who was just forwarding a proposal that we shame people who don't agree to live according to "our" standards? Or is this an attempt to shame me into adopting that standard?

No, I don't think I was. I don't think I have said anything that could reasonable be construed as "shaming" you. Nor have I argued that *anyone* should be shamed. In fact, if you will take a moment to read what I did write, you'll see that I said exactly the opposite:

We don't need to berate or belittle our sons, but we do need to encourage them to act like men.

I thought, from our repeated discussions on this topic, that this would be an area we would agree upon. If that is not the case, you have my apology.

It appears that this discussion has become personal.

I certainly haven't said anything here about forcing anyone to do anything at all.

Again, if you read my comment I made no such suggestion.

What I said was that I thought it was wise for people to do enough work to support their needs, and then look for meaning in other places: and while I offered some examples such as church, or family, or art, those are just common places in which people do find meaning.

What you said, Grim, was far stronger than that:

Women who wish to enter a difficult or challenging field in order to self-actualize should be encouraged and supported, in part because it is in achieving success in such a field that you realize how empty success in any market field happens to be. There's nothing there worth having:

What I objected to was your assertion that success in any market field is "empty" and "there's nothing there worth having". These are subjective value statements. They may well be true for you, but to say that women should be encouraged to try so that they'll eventually come around to your way of thinking strikes me as a bit patronizing - and also quite insulting. There may be nothing there *you* value, but they're not working to satisfy your preferences, but for their own reasons.

So why shouldn't you do that something else as much as possible, as long as you meet your responsibilities to yourself and your family? Why not structure your life around the important thing -- whatever it happens to be?

Isn't that what I said here?

One enters the job market with skills to offer. Employers enter the job market with pay and benefits to offer. Both are free to negotiate for what they value most, and here I would argue that women frequently barter extra pay for autonomy or other intangibles (interesting work, a flexible schedule, etc.). The irony comes when some of us then whine about being paid less than men :p
Men are - of course - more free to do likewise than at any other time in our history because for the first time, they can (if they choose) add another breadwinner to the family when they marry.

Put that together with the example about my brother, and I really don't understand how you can suggest I was saying anything other than exactly what I said: that people are free to negotiate for what they value most. If that something is free time or (as in one example I gave) a flexible schedule or lower stress, that's completely consistent with what I wrote.

I don't mind defending things I've actually said, but I see very little point in defending myself against things I not only didn't say, but don't believe.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2012 03:41 PM

Cass:

I may have misread the emphasis you put on the comment encouraging shaming; I apologize if I misunderstood your intention.

What I objected to was your assertion that success in any market field is "empty" and "there's nothing there worth having". These are subjective value statements. They may well be true for you, but to say that women should be encouraged to try so that they'll eventually come around to your way of thinking strikes me as a bit patronizing - and also quite insulting. There may be nothing there *you* value, but they're not working to satisfy your preferences, but for their own reasons.

What I think I was saying was not that women should come around to my way of thinking; but, rather, that women seem to do this better than men on average. I was praising what I think is a positive way of thinking that I often observe in women, but rarely in men. So, rather than advising them to think as I do, I was suggesting that more men should think as they do.

The aspiration you cite for the things you want people to find in work is achievable only for a small percentage of people. You cite a GS-14 who has stimulating work, for example; I cited a professor of philosophy. These positions do exist, but they are very rare. Even where they do exist, each one is supported by a host of positions that do not offer such spiritual benefits -- the janitors and secretaries supporting the professor or the GS-14, for example, are doing honorable work, but it isn't fulfilling or interesting in the same way.

This should cut against the concept that men value work because it is stimulating: I would argue that this is the reason most men won't even consider temporarily dropping out of the work force to take care of their own children. They would feel stifled without "challenging" work[.]

I submit that the reason they don't quit isn't because they wouldn't rather be home with their families, but because they would be nearly unemployable if they had a five year gap in their employment record. It's hard enough for women to overcome that, even backed by the social expectations that favor mothers spending time in this fashion.

If you're going to speak of "men" as a whole, you need to widen your frame beyond the class of people for whom fulfilling work is available. Some men have meaningful jobs. Most don't. Most men work not for stimulation or challenge, but in jobs that provide little enough of either. They work in factories, or on the road, or in low-level positions in offices making power-points about dreary and uninspiring subjects. They do these jobs because they need to work to take care of what matters to them -- chiefly their families.

Work is not a benefit for this majority, but a sacrifice. Honor is sacrifice, and these men and women deserve to be seen as honorable precisely because they are sacrificing -- they are selling their lives, a day at a time. It's a tragedy that their lives have to be spent in this way, a tragedy of which they are the hero.

Posted by: Grim at March 18, 2012 04:35 PM

I must be reading different conservatives. The argument I'm reading is not generally that men shouldn't have to compete with women.

It is, first, if men are to compete with women, it should be on a level playing field, and with affirmative action and many social resources provided for free only for women, it isn't a level playing field. Women have all kinds of support organizations and funding solely for women; any such men's organization is eventually going to be sued to admit women and, even if they win the suit, will be shamed into it.

Second, the entire tide of culture for Gen X and younger has been toward viewing men as useless. We are told repeatedly, both directly by women our age and by mass culture such as movies, TV shows, etc., that women don't need men, that dad is always the dumbest member of the family (including dogs), and that boys have had their turn, now it's time to stand aside to let women have theirs.

Grown men who have a fully formed view of life can shrug this stuff off. However, when taken in by boys, that can become internalized as part of their world view (and I would argue it has been internalized by many). Feminists should understand this because they have made a similar argument: the general culture in days past gave women a view themselves that was unfair and demoralizing. And maybe it still does.

Third, the wave of divorce has certainly played a role in Gen X attitudes. The family isn't stable; it isn't a safe place anymore. If we believe the media, fathers / husbands are bad and abusive. On the other hand, if we believe our fathers (and increasingly our fellow male Gen Xers), the legal deck is heavily stacked against men, so it is foolish to get married in the first place.

It's important to say that none of these beliefs have to be true for the argument to hold. Maybe all the extra support women get is necessary to balance what in past days (and maybe present ones, too) was a male-oriented society that was genuinely unfair to women. Maybe the media hasn't really ridiculed and demeaned men for the last 20 years. Maybe the idea that the legal deck is stacked against men doesn't hold up; it may all be anecdotal evidence from the men who lost in court. What's important is that many men from Gen X on believe these things, and those beliefs destroy any incentive to start families, which in turn is much of the incentive to seek gainful employment and independence.

There's a lot more to this, but I'm interested to read what others think.

Posted by: Tom at March 18, 2012 05:40 PM

Cass: In reading back over the post, your formulation of the conservative position you are criticizing smells faintly of a bale of hay.

Some conservatives and men's rights activists will tell you that the widespread defection of men from the meritocracy is "understandable" because life in an age where men must compete with women is "unfair".

I don't think they are saying it's unfair that men must compete with women, which doesn't seem to make much sense. The point of the commentators I've read is that the deck is stacked against men and, therefore, the competition is unfair: men are set up to fail. Therefore, they continue, some men decide not to emulate Sisyphus.

And I believe it explains why you will almost never see right leaning pundits hold men responsible for their own actions in favor of the perverse suggestion that men can't succeed unless women either bribe the men in their lives or patronize them by playing dumb.

Now I'm very curious who you're reading who says that women should bribe or patronize men. If you have links I'd like to read the right leaning pundits you are talking about.

I'd also like to say that I, too, thought you were all on board for shaming these dropouts. I thought so because the passages of Murray's article you bolded highlighted that suggested remedy, and you immediately followed that with the words:

The Blog Princess has been writing for years about boys and men dropping out of society and falling behind, and Murray's point ... is fully consistent with her understanding of the problem.

You also say, They are motivated by challenge. And risk. And by older men who will not brook shiftless behavior.

And by women who won't tolerate it either: mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters which seems to reinforce your support for shaming such shiftless men.

You do somewhat mitigate this by saying that We don't need to berate or belittle our sons, but that says nothing of other relationships (maybe we should shame other men, just not our sons) and it has slight emphasis compared to your earlier emphasis on Murray's remedy and what appeared to me to be a solid endorsement of it.

I certainly accept, since you explained it in the comments, that you don't believe in Murray's remedy, but your original post does seem to endorse it in my reading.

Posted by: Tom at March 18, 2012 08:28 PM

Gads, my HTML was off.

This part, And by women who won't tolerate it either: mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters

should also have been italicized.

Posted by: Tom at March 18, 2012 08:31 PM

Tom:

I don't have time to give your comments the thorough response they deserve, but let me try to address one or two of your points quickly.

This post is a follow to several others in which I commented on a rather odd string of essays by James Taranto in the WSJ. The common theme is that he begins by citing Murray's thesis of a cultural divide between the haves and the have nots. Which is fine.

He then variously goes on to suggest that working women, feminists, or birth control are somehow responsible for this cultural divide. So naturally I thought it was interesting to see Charles Murray say that he thinks the problem is not that women are doing well, but that society no longer judges men who refuse to even try to find jobs:

The prerequisite for any eventual policy solution consists of a simple cultural change: It must once again be taken for granted that a male in the prime of life who isn't even looking for work is behaving badly. There can be exceptions for those who are genuinely unable to work or are house husbands. But reasonably healthy working-age males who aren't working or even looking for work, who live off their girlfriends, families or the state, must once again be openly regarded by their fellow citizens as lazy, irresponsible and unmanly. Whatever their social class, they are, for want of a better word, bums.

I would have thought that any conservative would agree with the notion that it's wrong for adults not to pull their own weight, whether they're male or female.

The reason I bolded these words, was because they are 180 degrees out from the way they're made to appear in Taranto's essays. That was the central point of this post - hence, the bold text.

As for the suggestions that I want to shame men, I just don't know what to say about that. I don't think anything I can say will be helpful.

I'm going to stop now because to be perfectly honest, I am just stunned at some of the things that have been said today.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 18, 2012 10:03 PM

Cass,

Thank you for your reply. First off, I apologize if anything I wrote, or the tone I wrote it in, was offensive. Clearly I've missed some important context in this discussion, so I'll go back and read the posts you mention. That's what I get for skipping a week at VC!

Again, I want to make it clear that I don't think you want to shame men. My reading of your original post was simply that you were endorsing Murray's solution, and to be clear, Murray's solution IS shaming men who are bums, as well as praising men who aren't.

He makes this clear here (emphasis mine):

But reasonably healthy working-age males who aren't working or even looking for work, who live off their girlfriends, families or the state, must once again be openly regarded by their fellow citizens as lazy, irresponsible and unmanly. Whatever their social class, they are, for want of a better word, bums.

To bring about this cultural change, we must change the language that we use whenever the topic of feckless men comes up. Don't call them "demoralized." Call them whatever derogatory word you prefer. ... Recognize that the guy who works on your lawn every week is morally superior in this regard to your neighbor's college-educated son who won't take a "demeaning" job. Be willing to say so.

That is, part of the solution is to openly use derogatory terms about these bums, which I interpret as shaming them.

However, in the comments you make it clear that you are not endorsing that, which I fully accept. My point wasn't to disagree with you about what you meant, but rather to point out that, the way your original post appeared, it was easy to misunderstand that point.

For the record, I don't know what I think about Murray's solutions. I already do the positive side; I treat anyone (man or woman) who is gainfully employed with more respect and consideration than able-bodied folks who aren't and aren't seriously looking. I haven't decided what I think about using derogatory terms about those who aren't.

Also, in trying to present a fair argument from the other side, I tried to keep the tone very hypothetical. However, let's clear some of this up as well.

I fully accept that society was very unfair to women who wanted careers outside the home until very recently, and it may still be.

I think feminists have made some very good points about the way women are treated in the media and public life affecting the way girls internalize their roles in life, and generally in very negative ways. Feminists have made a lot of other good points as well. (I just wish more of them would understand that these criticisms of society cut both ways.)

I certainly think every able-bodied adult should pull his or her own weight in some way (house wife / husband certainly counts).

There's more, but I want to move on to another point. This is getting long, so I will post this and start again.

Posted by: Tom at March 20, 2012 08:51 AM

Gads, HTML again. The quote ends w/ Be willing to say so.

I have to get to work. I'll post again later.

Posted by: Tom at March 20, 2012 09:00 AM

Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.

-Ellis Peters


Posted by: Drive-by Daffodil at March 20, 2012 10:10 AM

I think most people do get considerable satisfaction from their work. It's not necessary for a job to involve very high creativity or a high profile in order for it to be meaningful.

Several years ago I read an interview with a man who'd been laid off when one of the big integrated steel companies, USS or Beth Steel, went into bankruptcy. One of the things he said was "I'm glad I got the opportunity to be a part of it all."

Guy wasn't a plant manager; his work was probably hot, fairly repetitive, and possibly dangerous...but he got a sense of meaning out of it.

Posted by: david foster at March 20, 2012 10:37 AM

Tom, Monsieur Daffodil, David:

Thank you for your comments. I'm not ignoring you - I'm just very busy this week and also more than a bit disheartened. I don't get that way very often, but when I do I've learned it's best not to say much until the mood passes.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2012 11:54 AM

I wasn't born
For diggin' deep holes.
I'm not made
For pavin' long roads.
I ain't cut out to climb high line poles
But...

Posted by: Snarkammando at March 20, 2012 03:39 PM

Unless, of course, all you wanna do is ride around.

Posted by: Snarkammando at March 20, 2012 03:45 PM

:)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2012 03:49 PM

Which mean I get to drive.
heh

Posted by: Snarkammando at March 20, 2012 03:56 PM

..."also more than a bit disheartened... I've learned it's best not to say much until the mood passes."

*removes CAT[pillar] ball cap, holds over heart and wishes fer a wave of restoration to wash over the lady's condition*

Yup, like pappy always said, if ya ain't got nothin' nice to say, hush and go do somethin!

"I wasn't born
For diggin' deep holes.
I'm not made
For pavin' long roads.
I ain't cut out to climb high line poles
But..."

Them moods always sends me out back to gaze at the recyclin' tub and morn the passin' of all them long-necks... Sorta reminds one of one of them universal truths.

Posted by: Larry at March 20, 2012 04:26 PM

The blog princess is sorely missing her nightly glass of Vin Ordinaire.

Thanks for cheering me up, guys. You're the best :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2012 05:08 PM

"...morn the passin' of all them long-necks..."

The only time I do that is when someone has beaten me to the bathroom.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at March 20, 2012 07:46 PM

""...morn the passin' of all them long-necks..."

The only time I do that is when someone has beaten me to the bathroom.
0>;~} "

The lease period is of a short duration, but that bein' beaten to the room, whail, the room of rest down heah in Sunny Visters is as expansive as all out doors...


Hey, I know! Let's have a party!

Posted by: Larry at March 20, 2012 08:53 PM

I'm not ignoring you ...

I didn't think you were; this is the first time I've checked back.

I did find a better model for an apology for next time, however:

"I totally woke up my neighbor in the room across the hall," Rosenblatt said. "He looked like he might hit me, so I tried reasoning with him, but it came out all wrong. Instead, I found myself saying that the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily pose a threat to the tendency of any arbitrary power or 'authority' to dictate oppressive hierarchical social structures or centralize power. Ergo, any attempt to establish hierarchies and centralized power according to arbitrary dichotomies of 'right' and 'wrong' behaviors was therefore not only morally and philosophically, but also politically problematic, and, in fact, oppressive. Man, did that ever not work."

With a little editing ...

Posted by: Tom at March 20, 2012 10:30 PM

..."the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily pose a threat to the tendency of any arbitrary power or 'authority' to dictate oppressive hierarchical social structures or centralize power. Ergo, any attempt to establish hierarchies and centralized power according to arbitrary dichotomies of 'right' and 'wrong' behaviors was therefore not only morally and philosophically, but also politically problematic, and, in fact, oppressive."

Yup... I'll save ya a beer.

Posted by: Larry at March 20, 2012 11:14 PM

"Instead, I found myself saying that the multiplicities and contingencies of human experience necessarily pose a threat to the tendency of any arbitrary power or 'authority' to dictate oppressive hierarchical social structures or centralize power."

Help! Help!! I'm being repressed!!!

Posted by: Sir Thomas of Doubtinghamframington at March 20, 2012 11:31 PM

"Help! Help!! I'm being repressed!!!"
Are not...

Posted by: Mr. Barnard at March 21, 2012 12:02 AM

Tom, that was awesome. You made my morning :)

FWIW, I don't think you owed me an apology, but I always respect a person who offers one anyway. It's true that I was hurt by something you said, but I didn't think that was your intention. In those matters, I try to extend the benefit of the doubt (having been misunderstood many times myself).

So thank you.

On shame, and shaming: I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with shame as a concept. In fact I think that's a big part of what's wrong with today's world - people feel no shame. We can't even say that actions are morally wrong because someone, somewhere might get their feelings hurt. I've seen that any number of times here at VC - I write about some news story and readers decide I'm judging them personally (though how I would have enough knowledge to do so, I'll never know).

Shaming as a tactic, though, rarely if ever succeeds. Having been the only female person in my household, I have come to believe that while shaming is quite effective when used on women (we even voluntarily shame ourselves when no one else is doing it) it is almost always counterproductive against men.

It just doesn't work. Most men/boys who KNOW they have done something wrong (which means they have internalized the principle they transgressed, which is the end state you're trying to produce as a parent) usually double down when someone tries to shame them. This was perhaps the biggest mystery to me as a mother of two boys.

It took me many years of trying to see that good men (and boys) are actually fairly quick to feel shame, but they cover it up so no one else knows.

I don't agree with most of Murray's suggested solutions, and I doubt many of the pundits who cite his book agree with them either. Many smack of big government social engineering, but people seem to cherry pick the parts they like from his work and use these carefully selected tidbits to support whatever point they want to make.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 08:35 AM

I'm late to this but I think two good examples of the kind of attitude Cassandra is writing about on the conservative side were linked to by Instapundit:

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/139264/

The first one makes my skin crawl and all I can say to Instapundit's summary of it as "Noonan doesn't understand Gen X" is that there have always been men who were cads and rakes, terms which - when traced back - refer to men who are not virtuous and immoral. All that's changed with Gen X are their justification for their behavior and their willingness to brag about it in public rather than confining themselves to drunken gatherings of those who behave in a similar fashion.

The second item referenced by Instapundit is just silly. I think there's something to be said for society setting standards for female behavior as well as male but somehow I don't think shaming women for getting fat is the best use of our shaming abilities.

This guy also brings up hypergamy which has apparently become the go-to excuse for male misbehavior. This drives me nuts. First, hypergamy often seems to mean "Life was better for men when a woman's only choices were marry me or starve." Second, the authors of both these articles have more problems than just low earnings (did I mention the skin crawling thing?) And, third, I'm beginning to think that the problem is more likely to be male hypogamy than female hypergamy - which is kind of the first point again.

The claims that it's women who are hypergamous always make me think of my freshman year in college. One of my friends was dating a (let's face it) nerdy kind of guy and would offer to set up dates for his (equally nerdy) friends. The friends would take one look at the girls she was proposing to set them up with and sneer. As my friend said, "These guys have high water pants, they weigh 110 pounds soaking wet, they have the social skills of 5-year-olds, and they have plastic pocket protectors and slide rules clipped to their belts - and they won't date any woman who doesn't look like Sophia Loren."

Posted by: Elise at March 21, 2012 10:06 AM

Elise, I could not agree more. In any broad population (males, females, humans) there are going to be winners and losers, well adapted people and people who are clueless and stubborn. Whining about how hypo- or hypergamy can have bad as well as good results strikes me as so dumb that I don't even know where to start.

Tom asked who I was reading - a lot of the links I have seen like this have been on Instapundit and the two you mention today just made my head explode.

Are there women who are only attracted to guys who are out of their league? Yep, and they're stupid and destined for disappointment.

Are there guys who are only attracted to gals who are out of their league? Yep, and they're stupid and destined for disappointment.

Whatever it is you want, you need to offer equal value to the other person or it ain't gonna end well. Meanwhile, there are plenty of folks who manage to find other decent folks of the opposite sex and spend the rest of their lives trying to understand them :p

Speaking of really dumb links, did you see the one where he linked to an ad for "A Place for Mom" and characterized it as "sexism - where are the places for Dad?"

Un.believable. Isn't that EXACTLY the kind of stuff we mock when feminists get all pissy about masculine pronouns?

*sigh*

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 11:34 AM

Oh no, not the alpha beta stuff again. What about pi? Who doesn't like pi?

In fact, who wouldn't want to be likened to pi?

Posted by: Allen at March 21, 2012 01:43 PM

Oh no, not the alpha beta stuff again.

Oh, it gets better Allen. I have been dying to write about this but I can tell you all are sick to death of the subject.

In a post at his site, one of the authors tells us how women are responsible for ending civilization as we know it. Men, of course, get a pass no matter what they do because their behavior is always defined as "a rational response" to some perceived female transgression.

Because refusing to take any responsibility for your own acts is such a masculine thing to do:

[get ready]

"The logic is impeccable. Consider:

1. IF women are permitted to have sex with whomever they please.

2. AND women show an observable preference to have sex with men who do not exhibit civilization-building or civilization-maintaining behaviors.

3. THEN men will increasingly cease to engage in civilization-building or civilization-maintaining behaviors."

*****************

I'm thinking that these people need to move to Saudi Arabia. They'd be right at home.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 02:11 PM

Meanwhile, there are plenty of folks who manage to find other decent folks of the opposite sex and spend the rest of their lives trying to understand them

And enjoying (almost) every minute of it. Well, okay, most minutes of it. :+)

Posted by: Elise at March 21, 2012 02:58 PM

I read one of those pieces, and pretty much gave up. IMO, it came across more simply.

They are behaving selfishly. Therefore, my selfish behavior is completely understandable.

They just give me the heehaws more than anything. It's like the MGTOW living at home with the parents. Sorry son, I don't call that independence.

Doesn't that seem like what we are seeing more and more of lately? Supposed adults whining and crying how the big bad world has slapped them in the face, and big momma government needs to step in to make it all better. Could you imagine trying to cross a continent in a wagon with some of these people? There would have been a lot of bodies left on the trail I imagine.

Posted by: Allen at March 21, 2012 03:15 PM

Doesn't that seem like what we are seeing more and more of lately? Supposed adults whining and crying how the big bad world has slapped them in the face, and big momma government needs to step in to make it all better.

Yep. And when it comes from conservatives, that just really frosts my cornflakes.

Could you imagine trying to cross a continent in a wagon with some of these people? There would have been a lot of bodies left on the trail I imagine.

I have thought the same thing many a time. My real name (which isn't "Cass") came from a great-great grandmother - not sure of the number of "greats" who, after her husband died, decided to go to California in a Conestoga wagon.

When she got there, she decided she didn't like it and came back :p Now *that's* a tough woman. I often wonder whether I could match her spirit. Probably not :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 03:26 PM

*the hun sticks his antiquated head up long enough to remark:*

The fine gentleman's observations, Posted by: Allen at March 21, 2012 03:15 PM" covered my sentiment regarding the brouhaha, no relation to Mister Brouhaha, quite thoroughly.

*Offers small edit to the following quote.*

"Meanwhile, there are plenty of folks who manage to find other decent folks of the opposite sex and spend the rest of their lives <substitute> trying to understand</substitute> them
learning to appreciate them...

"Could you imagine trying to cross a continent in a wagon with some of these people? There would have been a lot of bodies left on the trail I imagine.

I have thought the same thing many a time. My real name (which isn't "Cass") came from a great-great grandmother - not sure of the number of "greats" who, after her husband died, decided to go to California in a Conestoga wagon.

When she got there, she decided she didn't like it and came back :p Now *that's* a tough woman. I often wonder whether I could match her spirit. Probably not :)"

You'll not find me placing a wager on you not being able to match that spirit.

Now that you've painted that image in betwixt the ears of my pointy skull, I'll offer this little tidbit of film that seems appropriate... somehow. *Ducks, points self to barn, and engages the Grandpa Amos McCoy hobble, then shifts into overdrive*


Posted by: bthun at March 21, 2012 04:31 PM

Oh no, not the alpha beta stuff again. What about pi? Who doesn't like pi?

Mmmm....pi! Can I have strawberry?

Re: the alpha/beta stuff.... *Sssssssssigh* There are days when the internet just depresses the h*ll out of me. (Which is why I was so glad when you started blogging again, Cass -- your place is a bright spot in what sometimes seems like an ocean of ugliness.) If I were single again, and my only choice were one of these horses' derrieres, I'd switch teams. Not even joking. The most strident lesbian I've known (and I've known a couple) looks good next to males who despise women, hold them in contempt, and frankly don't have much better a view of other men either.

After seeing too much of this stuff, sometimes I find myself wondering how I ever even managed to find a good man in the first place. And *that's* when I know I need to step back from the internet and go outside for a while ... :(

Posted by: colagirl at March 21, 2012 04:57 PM

If I were single again, and my only choice were one of these horses' derrieres, I'd switch teams. Not even joking.

OK, that made me laugh out loud :p

I thought your point about these guys having contempt for other men to be very astute - that's what comes across to me, too. They hate women, but they really hate other men too.

It must be a miserable existence being filled up with so much anger. On my bad days, I have found myself rather hoping that being them is its own punishment.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 06:14 PM

Thank you for that, bthun. The RE Lee quote she mentioned is probably this one:

"Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less."

That is inscribed on a farewell gift given The Unit by the Command Sergeant Major. He usually hates farewell gifts, but treasures that one.

If, at the end of my life, I can honestly say that I've done my duty then I will be content. Not proud, but content. What infuriates me about these jackasses is that they are in it for themselves and have no concept of anything higher than their own self interest.

That road leads only one way: down.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 06:20 PM

With regard to both this;

It must be a miserable existence being filled up with so much anger. On my bad days, I have found myself rather hoping that being them is its own punishment.

and this:

If, at the end of my life, I can honestly say that I've done my duty then I will be content. Not proud, but content.

I offer this:


I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was duty.

I acted and behold, duty was joy.

Rabindranath Tagore

Posted by: Elise at March 21, 2012 06:31 PM

They hate women, but they really hate other men too.

Actually, I think they hate themselves, but project it to every one else. After all, their problems couldn't possibly be of their own making, could it?

I rather suspect that being them (and the same applies to their female counterparts) really is its own punishment.

Posted by: Pogue at March 21, 2012 06:46 PM

"Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 06:20 PM
Aye.
*tips hat*

Posted by: bthun at March 21, 2012 07:36 PM

I suspect that there's at least a subculture in this country within which the assumptions and attitudes of the pick-up community hold true - all the people they interact with really are that shallow and unfaithful, and because their entire social circle falls within that subculture, they mistake it for the entire population. Personally, I hope to stay as far away from such people (of both sexes) as possible...

Posted by: Matt at March 21, 2012 08:41 PM

Personally, I hope to stay as far away from such people (of both sexes) as possible

Amen, Matt.

I rather suspect that being them (and the same applies to their female counterparts) really is its own punishment.

They say there's someone for everyone... :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 09:00 PM

That's beautiful, Elise. Very similar to bthun's link, but a different author.

That's what I've found in life. Chasing happiness often involves surrendering what is truly precious in exchange for transitory things of far less worth.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2012 09:06 PM

I suspect that there's at least a subculture in this country within which the assumptions and attitudes of the pick-up community hold true - all the people they interact with really are that shallow and unfaithful, and because their entire social circle falls within that subculture, they mistake it for the entire population. Personally, I hope to stay as far away from such people (of both sexes) as possible...

Something I heard somewhere once that I thought quite profound: "If more than three or four people you know are jerks, then maybe the problem is *you.*" :P And I agree with you -- the best thing to do is just to avoid such people if at all possible.

Posted by: colagirl at March 21, 2012 09:41 PM

Cass, thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt. I assure you the injury was not intentional. I'm glad you liked the Onion bit; I thought you might.

Larry, thanks for the beer; that's a good start. But next I think we'd better break out the bourbon.

All and sundry, I agree that the pick-up community is clueless about the answers, and mostly about the problems. That's a very different group than I was thinking about when I posted above.

I think I'll go back and read Cass's earlier posts before I write anything else here on this topic.

Cheers!

Posted by: Tom at March 22, 2012 12:23 AM

I've always assumed that anyone, male or female, who'd live off of others rather than take a "demeaning" job was a bum. I'll do anything necessary to take care of a loved one who can't work, but for everyone else, it's "root, hog, er die." If you're broke and won't work, well, you probably could stand to lose a few pounds.

As for Grim's early point about successful women who make the choice to do something more meaningful to them, that describes me: I retired the minute I could make it work financially. I always used to marvel at my male partners, some of whom were approaching a plausible retirement age, but most of whom couldn't fathom what they'd do if they retired. That's never been an issue for me, to put it mildly. On the other hand, my father loved his job for its own sake and hated being forced into retirement, even though his retirement income exceeded his normal pay. If he'd had modest independent means, he'd almost have done it for free.

One more point about people at the top of the ladder: I've encountered truly excellent corporate leaders now and then, fine, skilled people. It was a pleasure to know them and work under their direction. I admire the skill of management, particular since I so egregiously lack it. Most people aren't good at it; but then, most people aren't very good subordinates, either.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 22, 2012 10:05 AM

I always used to marvel at my male partners, some of whom were approaching a plausible retirement age, but most of whom couldn't fathom what they'd do if they retired. That's never been an issue for me, to put it mildly. On the other hand, my father loved his job for its own sake and hated being forced into retirement, even though his retirement income exceeded his normal pay. If he'd had modest independent means, he'd almost have done it for free.

I suspect my husband would have agreed with your Dad. When he retired from the Marines I urged him to take an easier job. We didn't need lots of money.

He had complex reasons for continuing to work at a demanding job. One was that he has a powerful need to do something that has meaning to him. Another is that we like to travel and want to be able to afford to see our kids often and they live in different cities.

Another is that he simply enjoys the challenges of working.

I wouldn't say he loves his job, but (much like my father) I suspect he actively needs to work.

My perspective on work has undoubtedly been colored by my own experiences. For the first 20+ years of our marriage, I was a FT wife and mother. It's not that I didn't want to work or finish school - it was that my children came first.

But even then, I found work to do that didn't require me to be away from my boys because I enjoyed the challenge, mental, physical, or otherwise.

I think there's value in work and I also think it's a privilege to be *able* to work. Work is a source of pride, and to the extent that people want to, they should be able to work.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 22, 2012 11:02 AM

Cass, maybe we're speaking past each other. I use the phrase 'rail against' as a stand in for 'complaining loudly', and not 'hate with a deep,abiding, and irrational passion'.

I don't take it personal, not a whole lot.

I just admitt that I'm doing far less than I could or should be, and that is something I saw you and Herr Murray having an issue with at core. With my capabilities I should/could be doing more. But, like a lot of Gen-X/Gen-Y/Millenials I simply have seen the game as rigged by the Man Behind The Curtain--- I agreed with the OWS jerks that things were not correct and many of us were sold a bill of goods with nothing behind it, but never their tactics/targets/solutions---- and won't play more than I have to(which is different than won't play at all, though only by degrees). It simply keeps me saner. But I do feel guilty about it at times.

Some have taken it a step further than I. Welfare Queens? Why not be a welfare king? If the game is rigged why not go meta(which is what John Robb preaches) and play a game seperate from what everyone else is(walk away from your mortgages, if a situation is untenable, simply walk away if the rules are deemed 'unfair')? And you get to enjoy yourself eating cheetos, surfing the net for pr0n, and not leaving the Man Cave for days on end while someone else pays for it all(parents, society. whomever)? What's not to like. It sure beats playing in a game that's rigged.

It makes a kind of sense. It's the problem of having game theory pushed at you very young but not the wisdom to evaluate the options.

I work. Hard. Last WED I fell off the back of a refer trailer and everyone thought I broke my back. Finished the day and am officially deemed 'unhurt but sore' by medical staff. I just wish I made more money doing it, but I'm not willing to play the game hard enough to do so.

Posted by: ry at March 23, 2012 10:17 AM

Ry:

I have been an underachiever all my life, mostly because my priorities weren't other people's priorities and as my Mom likes to say, I'm "inner directed". I don't care whether people are "living up to their potential" (Gad, I hate that phrase).

I only care if they're mooching on others or whining.

re:

like a lot of Gen-X/Gen-Y/Millenials I simply have seen the game as rigged by the Man Behind The Curtain--- I agreed with the OWS jerks that things were not correct and many of us were sold a bill of goods with nothing behind it, but never their tactics/targets/solutions---- and won't play more than I have to(which is different than won't play at all, though only by degrees). It simply keeps me saner. But I do feel guilty about it at times.

I am not terribly sympathetic to this line of reasoning. There have never been any guarantees in life and the playing field has never been level. We are born with more or less intelligence, more or less charm/people skills, more or less beauty or height.

And the rules haven't been fair historically either.

Whether or not a particular rule is fair is something worth debating but when I start hearing the "Life's not fair and so I'm gonna take my ball and go home", I lose patience really fast.

You are not mooching off others, so I don't think I (or Murray, from my take) have any quarrel with that. If we did, you'd be fully justified in telling us to pound sand.

But whining about fairness is just nuts because in a myriad of ways, the world is and will always be unfair. That's not an excuse to give up.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 23, 2012 11:34 AM

Which, I might add, is not what I think you're doing :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 23, 2012 11:52 AM

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