We feel sick
No one cares
We curse you all
We curse ourselves
In hopes we fall.
Last week, I responded to a men’s rights activist who went on quite a tear about how masculinity is in crisis in today’s world. Most of what he said is total nonsense, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. If an idiot talks long enough, he will eventually say something insightful, and something this guy said last week stuck with me. “This attack on men, it’s humiliating! Men feel like failures.” This man feels personally attacked by his own society, and he generalizes from that the idea that all men are under attack. Well, he’s half right. Because women and people of other genders are under attack too. Society in general has instilled in us a very caustic attitude in which we’re made to see each other as enemies.
It’s no secret that life is becoming more stressful for people across all axes of power. This recent study by Drs. Cohen and Janicki-Deverts of Carnegie Mellon yielded some very interesting results. First and foremost, let’s address the idea that society is conducting some kind of attack on men in particular. It’s not.
According to Drs. Cohen and Janicki-Deverts, “Women reported more stress than did men. This result parallels other studies showing that women report more stressful life events (Kessler, McLeod, & Wethington, 1985) and rate their stressful life events as having a more negative impact than do men (see review by Davis, Matthews, & Twamley, 1999).” Which is not to say that men aren’t experiencing stress. One of the more interesting findings in this study is that stress levels are much higher in those people of lower socioeconomic status, and this is true for people of all genders.
This result dovetails nicely with Richard Wilkinson’s findings that countries with the greatest degree of wealth inequality also experience the highest incidence of mental health disorders, crime and drug addiction. (Along with many other social problems.) In short, inequality is bad for us. Very very bad for us.
Conversely, those countries with the lowest levels of wealth inequality also experience the highest rates of literacy, the longest life expectancy and the greatest degree of trust. And contrary to accepted market logic, social safety nets also make people more willing to contribute to society.
Friday night, and I made the best of it.
I passed out before I could invest in it.
Understand, this won’t make sense.
But I don’t value innocence.
So how does this relate to our friend Seth, the MRA and his insistence that men have been made to feel like failures? Well, we can talk about toxic masculinity; the topic is a little done to death at this point, but yes, men have been socialized to suppress their feelings, to scorn and despise anything that might be interpreted as a sign of weakness. “Boys don’t cry” “Men are problem solvers, not empathizers.” “No woman wants to be with a man who can’t provide for her.” That bullshit. It tends to turn us into maladjusted assholes, due in no small part to the fact that a key component learning social cues is the ability to empathize with other people.
But that’s only half of what’s going on here.
Recently, a french economist named Thomas Piketty wrote a book called Capital in the Twenty-first Century in which he details the trends in wealth inequality over the past hundred years. If you’re not willing to read though all 700 pages, you can find a summary of his arguments here.
Piketty believes that escalating inequality is an inevitable consequence of market economics, that any unregulated market will eventually result in a situation where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Now, maybe you disagree. However, regardless of your views on Piketty’s theories, the fact remains that the wealth gap has widened considerably in the last forty to fifty years, and this has been corroborated by any number of sources. Here’s some data from a right-wing publication.
So you have a culture of toxic masculinity in the context of an economy where wealth has consistently trickled up to the highest rungs on the socioeconomic ladder. A culture of toxic masculinity in the context of a society where the middle and lower classes have less and less spending power due to stagnating wages. You have men, like Seth, who are repeatedly told that their only worth is in their ability to win a game of “accumulate the most stuff” with little to no acknowledgment of the fact that the pile of stuff they can potentially accumulate gets smaller and smaller with every passing year. Well, that’s a recipe for a powder keg if ever I’ve seen one. There’s a reason why the countries with the highest levels of inequality also have the highest levels of homicide.
Well, on a personal level, reject the values of toxic masculinity. As a philosophy, that has to go. But we should also consider the systemic issues related to market economics. I’ve written many times that it is within our power to create global abundance and eliminate poverty today. The technology to create enough food, clean water and energy for everyone on this planet already exists. Of course, Seth, our MRA, would oppose such a plan because granting all citizens unconditional access to the necessities of life would turn them all into lazy slobs. Never mind the fact that this has been studied, and it turns out the opposite is true.
In Seth’s mind, forcing people to fend for themselves (in a system of increasing resource scarcity) will force them to become harder, smarter, more ruthless or some such nonsense like that. And thus we’re back to toxic masculinity. It’s all connected. All the social problems we face intersect to form a truly horrifying tapestry. Thus I leave you with the final insight from Gob.
Enemy, fuck the pride.
Come on over to our side.
We’re the same, just afraid.
What’s the difference when we’re all dying?
Want some science-fiction that tackles complex social issues while keeping it lighthearted and fun? Check this out.