Monday, July 18, 2011
I’ve read two books in the last ten days that seem to complement each other; or rather, provide two windows on a still-developing story.
Jefferson Cowie’s book is “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class”. It’s thickly informative and sheds a sobering light on a vital aspect of that wobbling decade.
The Dems – having been forced to it by MLK and LBJ – had broken the New Deal electoral alliance of Northern working-class and Southern Jim Crow. The hope had been that somehow they could graft the working-class onto the new black electoral demographic that would no doubt emerge from the marvelous Civil Rights movement under MLK that reached its apotheosis in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But things didn’t work out that way. King’s unitive and nonviolent, deeply spiritual approach to civil rights had been rooted in the Southern black culture that was still densely ‘traditional’, strongly familial and communal, and thoroughly religious. On that powerfully resilient matrix King had based his call to all Americans to help fulfill a moral and spiritual responsibility.
(I’d have to add here that MLK’s approach – based in religious and philosophical ground evoking and involving the intangible but most powerful ideals and presuming the existence and public relevance of a Beyond – was able to achieve so much, and in a unitive way that enhanced the common weal of the entire country. Whereas, the following decades saw the official embrace of secularism, primarily – I would say – as a way to neutralize public objections to various bits of the Feminist Agenda (see below) and that approach has not done well for the polity at all.)
But by 1966 King had been sidelined by events both within and beyond the civil-rights movement. There was no such rich and complex cultural and societal matrix in the black urban enclaves and ghettos of the Northeast; there the ‘civil rights’ movement was now being rent by those blacks who saw it as a specifically ‘black’ movement; King’s approach was attacked by some blacks who sought separatism, others who sought (or at least spoke) ‘revolution’; King himself was embroiled with a President who expected a) that King could ‘keep his people in line’ after so much had been accomplished (at so much political cost) and also b) that in return for LBJ’s help with civil-rights, King would support not only the Great Society but the war in Vietnam.
Worse, what had seemed in the early 1960s as a call to simply erase the formal obstructions to black participation erected by Jim Crow, had by the mid-1960s morphed into an ‘affirmative action’ approach whereby the government would actively discriminate in favor of blacks (in order to compensate for centuries of their being discriminated against). Conceptually, government-discrimination had a queasy feel to it, like a freshly-painted bridge that seemed yet to wobble when you placed any weight on it.
Cowie’s excellent point, backed up by research and quotations, is that from the get-go in the later-1960s competent black labor and political leaders realized – and told Hubert Humphrey, who agreed with them – that the only way affirmative-action programs in employment would work properly and constructively for the nation would be in a situation of full employment. Otherwise, the program would be (rightly) perceived as merely a black man taking a white man’s job and with government collusion.
Therefore, in order to prevent the lethal situation where affirmative-action was deployed in a Zero-Sum situation (a limited number of jobs that could only be divvied up by an either-or, white or black calculus), the Dems had to provide Full Employment. Bayard Rustin had said in 1974 that it would be an impossible situation to try to “overcome the inherent divisiveness of affirmative action in an age of scarcity”. Cleveland Robinson of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists had told Humphrey candidly that “The key to affirmative action is full employment. Otherwise you will have blacks and whites fighting for the same jobs”.
And this situation would create the risk of a politically fatal backlash as white blue-collar workers sought not to oppress blacks but rather simply to protect their own jobs in trying economic times.*
Worse, of course, was that affirmative action began to take root, as did the civil rights movement itself in both its first (MLK) and second (revolutionary Black Power) stages, precisely as the glowing era of American world industrial and economic hegemony had reached its zenith and begun to decline: the European nations and Japan recovered their own productivity and new nations started to emulate capitalist and Western economic systems. And so, precisely as both thoughtful black and white leaders realized that affirmative-action would require full employment so that there were jobs for both black and white working class, the number of working class industrial jobs – the ‘classical’ or ‘traditional’ jobs Americans had come to take for granted – were starting a decline that would only increase precipitously in the decades to come.
The national political elites were not able to pull off what Cowie calls the “1970s’ alchemy of turning the leaden and divisive politics of race into the golden unity of class”. It was impossible to run a replay of the New Deal when there was no deep and wide pool of industrial labor jobs to go around. Nor did emerging race-politics entrepreneurs and advocates want to see ‘race’ reduced as a catalyzing element, no matter how fractiously polarizing an effect that element would also have on the nation.
Cowie notes that throughout the early and mid-1970s American workers found themselves in an increasingly torturous bind: their jobs were suddenly starting to wobble precariously and disappear; hence their livelihood and their ability to support and provide for their families was beginning to dissolve.
Simultaneously, American workers found themselves the butt of jokes from a nascent American sub-culture (blending the youth movement, the emerging feminist sensibility, and the developing ‘elites’ who considered any white working-class opposition to affirmative-action to be nothing more than selfish and regressive racism) that considered them obsolete, uncouth and oppressive dinosaurs. Oddly, here, Cowie considers the TV show “All in the Family” – the family presided over by Archie Bunker – to be a symbol of working-class backlash, when actually Norman Lear – surely a man of the Left – devised the show to be a ‘new, modern, liberal’ critique of everything that Archie believed in and stood for. But I think it would be well worth the time to look at some of those old AITF episodes and see what has worn better: Archie’s worldview (and his job) or the groovy and hip stuff that replaced it after the necessary ‘creative destruction’ of the past few decades.
Because another element had seeped into the Democratic Party: the civil-rights liberals who sought to end Jim Crow’s hierarchy of oppression in the South had calved a hefty chunk of heady youth who – in the words of one Fred Dutton, part of RFK’s campaign staff – wanted nothing less than to “destabilize the hierarchies”. Any hierarchies would do, and all of them preferably. Shake the whole country (and culture and society and civilization); shake it up like a glass snowball paperweight and see what groovy and liberating new patterns the falling flakes would create as they settled back down to the bottom.
With Dutton and that type of thinking, Race – as complex and torturous as that reality was going to be to deal with well – ceased to be the primary thread in the emerging New Liberalism in this country: now it was a matter of Shaking Everything Up (reflecting, again, the rather incredibly juvenile assumption that a nation and culture and civilization and economy were merely larger versions of a snowflake paperweight or other toy – but that was the way it was, and it was considered very cutting-edge).
And around the same time, 1970, Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg, in their book “The Real Majority”, were warning that the Democrats should not go running off to pander to whatever trendy new movements were blossoming like kudzu across the landscape, but rather pay close attention to the low-frequency but broad and deep concerns of the Middle. The Very-High and Ultra-High frequency transmissions of the trendy new movements would not bear lasting fruit, even though as long as you had a clear line of sight they were crisper, sharper, clearer. But ‘capturing the imagination’ seemed ever so much more exciting a task than ‘sustaining a tradition’. And who knew what marvelous new patterns the little snowflakes would form as they came back down to the bottom of the national paperweight?
Alas, Youth and Race were too tempting an electoral opportunity for too many pols (women and Gender were still not strongly established as a Movement, although in 1972 the Democrats had declared themselves the Party of Women, a declaration bravely mouthed by George McGovern, a longtime labor supporter who was hoping perhaps to combine his old love and the new political opportunities).
Economically unable to resolve the shrinking-jobs problem, the Dems wound up giving the poor and the new Identities entitlements rather than jobs, and then proceeded to compound the zero-sum problem of affirmative-action by expanding the list of groups that had to be accommodated in the competition for the shrinking number of jobs.
Cowie places the End of working-class political vitality in July, 1978 when the last version of a now thoroughly-gutted Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment bill was passed with so many loopholes that it was utterly symbolic and had no chance of having any worthwhile effect. Augustus Hawkins had been a black California Congressman who had teamed up with Hubert Humphrey in the Senate to try to move the country toward Full Employment so as to prevent the myriad lethal consequences of affirmative-action if it were perceived as merely ‘government favoritism’: racial division and delegitimation of the political class being only two of the larger ones.
Throughout the 1970s the working-class and union-labor watchword had been “revitalization” – a campaign based on the assumption (achingly innocent from the vantage point of 33 years later) that although a little something had gotten out of balance in the American economy (to say nothing of the culture) it would still be successful if it could only be given a couple of good jolts with the CPR paddles.
But the world economic landscape was changing, and it would take a very serious and sustained national (which is not to say merely governmental) effort to adapt while maintaining economic and productive competence.
But the Dems had lost whatever control or chance to affect that process. They didn’t dare admit to the nation that a major milestone in American history had suddenly come upon them. Although Jimmy Carter was trying to do that with his ‘Crisis of Confidence’ speech – inaccurately named his ‘Malaise’ speech – in July of 1979; he wanted to explain just how large historical forces were shifting what Americans had come to take for granted and that Americans needed to restore their self-confidence to meet the challenge. But who wants to hear bad news when you can hear good news?
And his solution, viewed now from 32 years later, and in light of what We now know, was already far short of dealing with the full panoply of causes afflicting the nation: “The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.” Our confidence was not simply being eroded; it was being undermined and assaulted by gimlet-eyed interests of the Left as well as the usual suspects from the wealth-and-war Right. (The speech is not that long and is an excellent entrée to some reflective thinking about what has happened to the country; the text is available here .
Americans – though shocked by the Arabs and OPEC raising gas prices and creating shortages (hardly unpredictable given American military support for Israel), and the floating of the dollar in 1971, and the beef and sugar ‘shortages’ immediately thereafter, and the inflation all around that ignited like a wildfire, and Chrysler (one of the Big Three!) needing a bailout, and the Iranian hostage crisis – were not in 1979 looking to man-up; they were hoping to get away from this frakkulent decade of the 1970s in the infantile but so human hope that by simply passing a milestone chronologically things would get better … and Ronald Reagan, twinkly old master-weaver of spells, would take their eyes off an uncertain future and give them a limitless and undying youthful past, just in time for 1980 and the elections.
Tellingly, Cowie decides that the working-class cultural bookend to the early 1970’s “All in the Family” is 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever”: in a gritty and declining Brooklyn, once the site of working-class strength and the prodigious achievements of World War 2 and America’s industrial heyday, working-class kids now look not for permanent, life-shaping, life-defining, life-limiting (yet life-sustaining) jobs and commitments, but rather for the Saturday night disco dancing, held in all its glitzy cheesy sweaty polyester glory in (of course) an abandoned industrial building. Where his elders had sought to define themselves and their lives by raising and providing families and achieving job competence and job security, Tony Manero has little interest or commitment to his ‘day job’ and seeks instead the fleeting ‘glory’ and ‘celebrity’ (as it would come to be called) of being the best disco strutter on the floor, winning the momentary adulation of his equally life-challenged (and hair-challenged, and shoe-challenged, and style-challenged) peers under the ceaseless, caressing, glittering, transient glow of the big disco bulb revolving on the ceiling.
I would say that for anybody who is moved to look back to that era – either as a time of their youth or as some ‘historical’ time before time – Cowie’s assessment of its significance is far more valuable and crucial: if Archie Bunker was reduced – as Lear’s ilk no doubt intended – to being a ‘loudmouth brainless bigot’, then Tony Manero provided the warning of what a shallow and non-substantive life awaited everybody in the post-industrial era where – alas – you might feel the quease but must call it Youthy, Trendy, Modern and Goooood.
It was clear to anybody who cared to see it in 1977 that a generation of Tony Maneros (male and female) was not going to be up to many of the indispensable tasks of sustaining a civilization and even sustaining an adult life. And if it could have been imagined that the situation would be allowed to continue as the generation of Maneros (male and female) had its own children … but I don’t think in 1977 most Americans realized to what extent the Beltway was planning to support and enable this change; and indeed also ‘deconstruct’ the prior paradigm and spin the change-to-Manero as ‘progress’ and the very cutting-edge of brilliant modern social and political discovery.
Worse was that as time went on, the working-class ethos had to be spun as ‘old’ and ‘oppressive’. A gritty realism, a respect for limits in wealth and personal consumption, a sense of responsibility to forces and persons beyond oneself – family, neighborhood, community, even a sense – however attenuated – that there is a Beyond to which one will be held accountable, and consequently a residual moral awareness and sense of limits … none of this could be allowed to stand.
In the Reagan ‘80s, ‘greed was good’ and the fantasies of an idealized past that had to replace reality, and of a limitless personal consumption, were ‘patriotic’; meanwhile the Feminist Agenda was seeking to eradicate entire concepts such as ‘moral’, ‘limits’, and even the ‘Beyond’ as well as ‘character’ and ‘maturity’ and ‘tradition’ and ‘common-sense’. Nothing could be allowed to stand in the way of the dual phantasmagoria peddled by the Right and the Left. The Kicking-of-Tire was no longer patriotic or polite or – ominously – Correct. And as a result, we live now in a country where not only the emperor but also many of the parade-watchers have no clothes and yet are convinced they are marvelously attired.
(And while Cowie has done well in selecting “All in the Family” and “Saturday Night Fever” to bookend the working-class in the 1970s, I would add that “Ordinary People” (released 1981) signals the end of the Democrats’ embrace of the working-class: Hollywood’s ‘ordinary people’ are no longer the working-class laborers and farmers of the 1930s or the modestly middle-class of the 1940s and 1950s, but the clearly elite and professional upper-middle class who would merge seamlessly with the typical Republican image in Reagan’s 1980s.)
Curiously but understandably, Cowie – by focusing on the 1970s – is spared the grossly uncomfortable (and professionally risky) task of limning the unhappy consequences of the American Feminist Agenda, which only began to gain substantive traction in the 1980s and then exploded in the 1990s.
And that takes us to the second book: Kay Hymowitz’s “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys”. It originally attracted me because I thought that she was going to be making a courageous case for the negative consequences of the pandering-to-feminism that resulted in the Beltway kicking half the population to the curb and calling it ‘progress’ and ‘liberation’ (unless, as no pols want to do, you admit that ‘liberation’ is also a Zero-Sum game and has been so from the get-go … more on that below).
Well, the book was a surprise.
Basically, she is writing here a variation on a genre I have mentioned before on this site: the feminist victory-lap history. As the generation of feminists who took advantage of things in the 1970s (see above) and actually set out to make ‘feminism’ seem (to the pols at least) the Solution To It All … as that generation ages now they want to ensure their ‘legacy’ – especially among insufficiently respectful younger feminists - and also have something on paper to counter the increasing complaints (and evidence) that their Movement benefitted only a few females and actually created a lethal ambush for most of them (to say nothing of the broader and deeper consequences for the nation and the common weal as a whole).
Hymowitz’s variation is a young-feminist (she calls it “Girl”) future-story: rather than spinning the Past she wants to spin the Future. This is a shrewd rhetorical gambit, and very much mainstream and traditional as propaganda theory and practice goes (or – if you grant her sincerity – delusion).
This is especially the case nowadays when, I think, more and more evidence will be noticed establishing the fact that the whole Exercise of the past 40 years has overall, in consequences both direct and indirect, intended and unintended, been far more costly and damaging than constructive and useful for the country (although, admittedly, the Exercise was not really intended for the good of the country in the first place).
She has googled for any snippet that supports what she wants to say and offers it for evidence. So, for example she cackles contentedly that after the 1972 passage of Title IX, as if through the release of a mighty pent-up river, overnight in this great land fathers were instantly and joyously relieved that they were now allowed to teach their daughters baseball; this cheerible dispatch from the front based on a single article from the early 1990s (that glitzy, shrill decade) from some male-feminist father of only daughters who declared himself overjoyed to be taking somebody, anybody to baseball practice. Title IX, she adds with startling candor, “turned out to be a fantastically successful feat of social engineering”. Yah.
Worse, but predictably, she is trying to establish the presumption that all this ‘success’ can only have been the result of a) the inherent worth and validity of the concepts themselves and b) of the pent-up superhuman gifts of females who were suddenly given a clear runway to take off into the stratosphere of success. That the entire ‘success’ was based on the heavy government thumb imposing itself in myriad ways on the nation, its institutions and its people … nope, not a word. That the entire government effort was possible only because the government had access to lotsa lotsa cash with which to lubricate their path … nope not a word. The sovereign coercive power of the government and behind that the power of the government’s mighty purse … nope, to read her book neither of those two really played much of a role at all.
Nor does she quake at the prospect of the economic catastrophe looming ahead. It’s merely a “recession” she keeps saying, as in: Despite the current recession women still continue to blahblahblahblahblah and it shall henceforth thus be ever so.
Nor does she even try to imagine that the Feminist Agenda has been somehow complicit in the national catastrophe. At precisely the moment in American and world history when American jobs were dwindling, and when the country was already mired in the toils of the stunningly complex and vital Race-affirmative action-jobs problem that Cowie discusses in his book, American feminism was demanding that the workforce be conceptually doubled – thereby doubling the number of jobs that a declining industrial hegemon had to provide. (The solution the feminist boss-cadres eventually quietly settled for was more jobs for women, but most of them lower-paying; but for the ‘elite’, the invention (and often the funding) of high-paying jobs with lots of glitz and cash and the opportunity to consume and generally be ‘free’ and lead the choice-filled life.)
And then the Agenda went itself one better: as it became clear that industrial jobs were going away, the feminists took to heart Daniel Bell’s 1973 book “The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting” that predicted the end of the era of industrial might and jobs and the coming of a Knowledge and Service economy (although he didn’t venture to forecast what such an economic arrangement might do to the structural underpinnings of democracy or a constitutional republic, nor to calculate whether such an economy could actually sustain itself).
Aha, they cried. With the end of the industrial era (so sweaty, so ‘objective’, so grossly physical and so brutish, so ‘male’) then the country no longer needs the culture (or character or virtues) that – the feminists simplistically claimed – went along with it (as if the Theological and Cardinal Virtues and the concept of Character were invented by the Industrial Revolution and would have to decline with it). They no doubt figured that in a stunning strategic two-fer they could supplant males as the primary wage-earners in the country while also ‘disintegrating the paradigm’ of any ‘traditional’ American culture and society. If the male-friendly ‘industry’ was going, why not the male ‘culture’ as well? Why, indeed, not the whole frakking thing? Let the deconstruction and disintegration begin! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Hymowitz crows long and loud about women being the primary wage-earners (now and, she figures, forever).
Indeed, she admits that she hates to say it, but the “current downturn” and the “Great Recession” has actually been kinda reely reely good for ‘women’: they are now greatly in demand in the new careers of the post-industrial era: teachers, nurses, doctors, non-professional charitable and artistic managers (there are now 18,000 ‘museums’ in the country as opposed to 6,000 in 1976); also lifestyle advisers; diversity administrators, human services bureaucrats, designers, entertainment and marketing executives, video producers, software engineers, human capital managers, compensation consultants, and etcetera. A “plethora of fulfilling jobs”, she burbles, that are “stimulating, adventurous, creative, glamorous”. Jobs in the New Girl Order are now some combination of smorgasbord, bazaar, and mall – nothing but goodies and all you have to do is take your pick.
Oh, and the Federal government, which, she crows, is the nation’s largest employer (and can THAT bode well for a democracy?) and half its workforce has a college degree** A third of the government’s employees are “management, business and financial workers” including “accountants, auditors and analysts”; “another third professionals – scientists, engineers (biological, environmental, nuclear, electrical, industrial, aeronautical), judges, law clerks, computer specialists, and administrators”. And, she adds, “that’s just on the Federal level”. Ominously, she crows about the preponderance of female attorneys specializing in “public interest law”, which is code for getting into the bureaucracy and ensuring that laws support the Agenda.
(Verrrrrrry slyly, however, she by-the-by’s that “the financial domain” is “testosterone infected” – in case you might wonder if all the female success in high-power jobs means that somehow they and their Agenda had a role to play in the nation’s present fiscal catastrophe (or Recession, if you prefer the Kool-Aid). Marvelously, she thus injects the implication that had women already been in charge of the financial domain (making it ‘estrogen-infected’?) there might not have been a fiscal crisis. Although the whole thing started with junk-mortgages, with a major chunk of the initial wave going to the ‘preferred’ minorities, including single-mothers, who wanted the house without the husband; and the Beltway sought to pander to those dreams.)
Again, it seems clear that a vast amount of the Agenda’s success has depended on government cash creating jobs and government influence overriding standards and creating quotas to get preferred groups into those jobs. (This, on top of the notorious grade inflation and ‘softening’ of courses in even the best universities, makes you wonder just how much actual achievement has been involved in feminist ‘success’ in colleges – where, she coos, boys are now lumpishly out of place and girls – who are ‘joiners’ - are having a great time and getting really really high grades. The grade-inflation is in no small part the academia version of the government’s heavy thumb and purse on the scales in pandering service to the Agenda.)
I would say that her insistence on minimizing the seriousness of the current national economic situation is verrry strategic: with the productive economy already gone, and if the currency goes (especially if the dollar loses its privileged and hegemonic position as the world’s reserve currency), then the Feminist Revolution’s entire foundation for success will be swept away. Because clearly, the Agenda has presumed, and the Beltway has bent itself into a treacherous flim-flamming pretzel to provide, the money (or the illusion of it) and the power (or the illusion of it) to continue to enforce and impose the Agenda’s success (or the appearance of it) on the country.
Still, she shrewdly picks her battles: every once in a while she tackles a serious question (but don’t get your hopes up). So she asks forthrightly “If women are so great, why aren’t they running the place?”
She answers with the now-familiar dodge that “many experts” think they will. The “experts” of course coming from the massive echo-chamber-cum-peanut-gallery that has been developed over the past few decades: as more and more of the Agenda’s cadres were shoe-horned or quota’d into academic or government positions of some status, they simply provided the (unearned) authority of their position to deliver ‘expert’ opinion as to the marvelousness of the Agenda and the Outrage that it wasn’t yet fully implemented.
So then “many experts believe that the time is coming, not so much because in the future everyone will be gender-blind, but because the knowledge economy workplace requires a more feminine style of leadership”. You’ll notice right off that she doesn’t say Knowledge-and-Service economy; no use letting the vastly more numerous ‘service’ females, helots of the few but glitzy elite females, dim the glow of the Klieg lights.
Specifically, there will be an end to “hierarchical arrangements” and “competitive individualism” and instead there will be a sense of “community and teamwork”. It cannot have escaped everybody’s notice that if you want to inject a number of lesser-performing persons into a demanding workplace, the sly secret of your success will be to insist on ‘teamwork’, so that the remaining original competent employees will be required to now compensate for the lack of performance by the new injectees while simultaneously be denigrated by the new injectees and their advocates as being ‘competitive’ and drones to production schedules.***
“Men have tended to do better in hierarchies, following orders and relying on positional power”, she quotes one gushy Washington D.C. “consultant”, while “women, on the other hand, support and engage workers”. Whatever the frak that means. Workers don’t need Carol Gilligan’s mommy-at-the-breakfast-table; they need to be given the tools and they will get on with their jobs and produce what they are paid to be produce. And isn’t the Agenda precisely seeking to get women into ‘positional power’? And do we really imagine that the Agenda is making a determined bid to control hierarchy in order to abolish hierarchy? That’s what Lenin promised the masses that the Party would do – and look what happened.
In another huge irony, just as racial affirmative-action arrived simultaneously with the decline of secure and well-paying jobs, now gender affirmative-action arrives with its productive-non-production precisely as the country is threatened with the loss of not only economic hegemony but quite possibly economic viability. Except that in the far more deliberately thought-out Feminist Agenda, the whole thing is being spun as ‘progress’ and ‘reform’ and the pathway to a Glorious Future.
Hymowitz, like the Agenda she serves, has mastered the art of raising an objection and then responding by simply spinning the situation as purely positive. In regard to the palpable “Mars/Venus career divide” and its “subtle and vexing implication”, she notes that “a substantial amount of research” (ahem) indicates that it is not simply a matter of females and males preferring different careers, but rather that “they actually think differently about what role work should play in their lives”. (Which if true is a huge red flag, or should be, and perhaps why so many civilizations formed themselves along the contours of that reality.)
Women choose careers for “intrinsic rewards”, which she defines as meaning that “they are less likely to put money, power, and status at the center of their ambitions, and are more inclined to think about other sorts of satisfaction”. Slyly, she doesn’t include “producing something” or “being responsible for something” in there with the other putatively ‘male’ values of money, status and power. With the Feminist Agenda it’s all a game of ‘power’ and ‘appearances’; actual production of real stuff – marketable and economy-sustaining stuff – isn’t a primary concern at all.
She quotes here a 2004 study that lists the female work “goals” as “colleagues, ‘bringing myself to work’, flexibility, collaboration and teamwork, recognition, and giving back to society” – these, the study brays, “trump money and power for women” (whereas ‘mehhhnnn’ are in it for nothing but the money and the power). This is treacherous and cartoonish demonization in the service of an equally treacherous and sleazy effort to spin as positive the profound downsides of a Feminist Agenda-centered workforce.
You ‘bring yourself to work’? You therefore are a member of the team just because you show up? ‘Flexibility’ is important, of course, if you haven’t got the stamina or have that (curiously persistent) primary concern to take care of your kids before doing your job (a legitimate problem that had been rather efficiently solved by having a father to do the work so the mother could do what comes naturally with the kiddos). And was there no respect for colleagues and no collaboration and teamwork in the marshalling of millions of troops to fight and win World War 2? Would the American industrial base have existed at all if it were merely imposed as an act of macho-male government power-display as in Soviet Russia? And were none of those generations of males concerned for making a ‘positive social impact’ and contributing to the larger society? Did the Agenda discover all of this just a few decades ago?****
And even more stunningly, Hymowitz gushes that one of women’s most vital ultra-modern skills is the ability to consume. Yes, dear reader, it is true: women are able to shop much more competently than men (indeed for the younger ones trolling the malls and stores is even a form of fitness workout and “cardio”, as Hymowitz burbles) and in a consumer economy, men simply cannot be trusted to do enough of the necessary ‘work’ well. What will future historians think of this era?
Amazingly, she does acknowledge, in a gush, that “this is the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world” in terms of needing to be entertained and needing “head-patting”. And yet she sees this as a good thing.*****
But as I said the book was a surprise, judging from its title.
She does note, and astutely, the problems boys are having: they have no Life Script, no set of expectations about what they should be or what they could or can do with their lives (and their rather unique masculine energies). They have been robbed of the old fuddy-duddy ‘social duty’ and ‘service’ ethic by which the male was the provider for his family. Though she doesn’t say just how this frakkulent situation was achieved: by the Agenda’s brassy assertion that men are not necessary, nor is marriage nor is family (although the Agenda doesn’t quite like to print that bit in so many words), and by 40 years of intensifying denigration of masculinity; and the whole repellent and treacherously insane gambit enabled by a pandering Beltway that had been presumed to be the eternally cash-fat Imposer and Funder of the Agenda’s dampdreams.
Neatly, she ascribes this loss to Hefner’s ‘Playboy’ magazine – which a decade before Betty Friedan discovered that the American home and marriage was really “Auschwitz” and “Dachau” – had been trying to erode the male’s sense of responsibility anyway; and she then lathers over that bit the 1990’s arrival on these shores of the slick and glossy British ‘lad’ magazine “Maxim” which pushed an in-your-face boyo whackness with more than a hint of metrosexual hyper-concern for looks and grooming (shades of Tony Manero and his fever on Saturday nights!). So it wasn’t as if the Agenda had simply come along and declared war on Males and Masculinity – Hefner and the Brit boyos had already started men down the road of selfish, primping irrelevance.
That the Agenda had consistently played for a continuous denigration of the Masculine – even to the point of deploying ‘scientific’ and ‘philosophical’ insistences that there is nothing substantial to gender difference, and that in truth the human spirit-thingie pre-exists as a sort of blank-slate genderwise, and like an old computer floppy disk is only formatted into a gender assignment once (the odious patriarchal) culture sets to work on it … nothing about that.
(As best I can make it out here, the Correct dogma (for this month, anyway) is: gender differences are purely socially constructed; humans start out as non-gendered spirit-thingies that somehow take up residence in a biologically male-or-female fetus at some point in the gestation process that will not however compromise in any way a woman’s right to declare right up to the moment of birth and solely on her own authority whether the entity inside her is a human-being or a parasite or an inconvenience or whatevvvvverrrr; this human spirit-thingie, genderless in essence but now ‘forced’ to take on the limitations of the alien body into which it has somehow been confined (but not by any Higher Power like a male sky-god), now has its ‘rights’ circumscribed by the oppression of Nature (especially true for females, see below); and therefore it is the responsibility of the Beltway and all world governments – a responsibility failed by all of the world’s major civilizations throughout recorded History – to make this up to the females (the males presumably being as happy as clams and free as birds and really just enjoyin’ life and livin’-large); Evolution works for all the lower species but does not work for humans, and thus nobody can argue on scientific grounds that the evolutionary dynamic would put in place redundant systems to ensure the survival of a species that is born so helplessly early and immature and with so little instinctual capability and thus making the women-mothering connection absolutely necessary from Evolution’s point of view; and nobody can argue from a religious point of view because religion is not acceptable in public discourse about public policy; and – it increasingly appears – democratic public debate about the matter is not acceptable because everybody knows that ‘majoritarian’ dynamics will favor the patriarchy and so either Congress or the Court must impose it as a matter of ‘rights’. While this may seem more the plot of a half-demented sci-fi dystopia novel, I think it is actually the position on which many elites hold esteemed positions in academia, think-tanks and in various little sacred groves and spots scattered throughout the Beltway.)
To the brief extent that she notes this or that book or article about deconstructing the family or the male, it is only to infer – without getting too deeply into it – that it’s all part of the remarkable efflorescence of acute, rich, diverse, transgressive, and so forth, feministical ‘thought’. There are no ‘consequences’, only reely reely great ‘changes’.
But her title had actually mentioned a serious problem: young males are growing up without a Script, without a Trellis upon which to shape and master their powerful energies.
She notes that boys don’t seem sure what they are supposed to be in – get this – the “New Girl Order or NGO”. Not needed as fathers, not needed to produce (marketable) material goods, not even needed as soldiers and defenders (it’s all going to be push-buttons and joy-sticking of drones from a comfy chair now and no ground-combat or sea-combat), they seem unsure of themselves. Who can be surprised? Several generations of males have grown up now with an entire (government-sponsored) Fantasy imposed upon them, telling them that they are not really much more than lumps. And the economy as well as the culture has certainly taken a nose-dive in support of those assertions.
The Slackers – who in the 1990s replaced the wealthy, drug-addled and coddled do-nothings of Brett Easton Ellis’s 1980s party-kids – were canaries in the mine, if anybody suspected that there could be poison gas in the mine or anybody suspected that the country had become a mine to begin with. But it had become a mine, or at least Plato’s Cave (where most of the dwellers mistook shadows cast on the back wall for reality).
And in the New Girl Order it’s clear that there is little place for lumps. “So why man-up?” as Hymowitz acutely puts the problem.
She does recognize it as a problem. Why? Because – wait for it – so many sharp and independent females are now bemoaning the fact that they can’t find decent guys to hook-up with and maybe father their children. You get the idea not only that Hymowitz is not as serious as her subject, but that her subject is really females and not males.
This dearth of hook-up-worthy males, she figures, is not so surprising considering “the huge shifts in the economy” (no explanation of how and why the economy ‘shifted’). And boys “don’t know what is supposed to come next” in their lives. Which can hardly be surprising: raised in fatherless families (or by fathers who themselves were the youthful peers of Tony Manero), facing a culture that (with Beltway collusion) tells them that they are lumps and whose ‘preferences’ ensure that they will have little shot at success, and having in divers ways been made to realize that they live in a world (or at least under a government) that considers them troglodyte and expendable. And no doubt they can sense – however dimly – that not only is the government working against them but also “a media voracious for lifestyle oddities” (which might be a point against her asserted ‘success’ among females, but incoherence is not something she allows to detain her).
No wonder they have no idea what to do with their lives or their energies even as they are in their 20s or even 30s. “Where do boys fit into the Girl-powered world?”
But, Hymowitz assures us, this is actually a good thing: there is now a new phase of life called “pre-adulthood” that comes after childhood but before you “settle down”; and the markers for that “settling down” are purely external: family, steady job, house. (No internal markers because that smacks of ‘subjectivity’ and ‘maturity’, those ‘oppressive’ concepts!) Just what a male of that age is supposed to achieve, since there is no father and no cultural guidance (just as there was none of that in his childhood) … well, the Agenda hasn’t come up with a spin on that yet. Stand by for further Memos from The Girl-light Zone.
At any rate, it cannot be less than a world-class problem: a national culture that is being pushed (by its own government) to minimize the role of the male and, unavoidably, leave the male’s energies untrained and unguided, un-mastered and un-ripened. This cannot be a recipe for cultural or civilizational success, and probably not for national success either.
The Slackers are certainly an embarrassment and a painful waste of vital and powerful energies and potentials, but they are a product (or ‘collateral damage’) of the past 40 years’ “social engineering”. And while the Judd Apatow movies focus on the endearing Slacker, he has far more dangerous siblings, necessary-monsters whose derangement and deformation need not have happened at all. And in between, a vast pool of quietly wrecked young males who will somehow manage to shuffle along through life – although to what purpose and with what core Shape it is impossible to say.
But it’s really not the Girls’ fault, Hymowitz would have you believe; the boys need to “man up” and get a life (although she not only offers no suggestions as to what that life should look like, but has just spent almost 200 pages demonstrating happily how the New Girl Order has reduced such possibilities to almost zero). In other words, the rise of women has indeed turned men into boys but since men have never been much more than that and may not ever be much more than that, it’s on them boys to somehow provide suitably preferable potential candidates for liberated females and Girls (without, of course, crossing the line into Domestic Violence or date-rape or any sex offenses – none of which significant products of the Agenda’s brewing process Hymowitz cares to mention).
In a final and ultimately telling indication of how much sleaze exists (and must exist) beneath all this glitzy burbling, Hymowitz wraps up with what she sees as “two big themes that should emerge from the preceding pages”. First, that “while we have more control over our reproductive destiny, biology continues to organize life, at least for women”. Meaning, she goes on to say, that at 35 the Girl is now faced with a need to have a baby - she prefers the phrase “to reproduce” – or not. You might think that such an admission is a huge opening for the thought that there really is something biologically ineradicable in the female such that the civilizational arrangements of the past millennia of recorded human culture might have some palpable, rational, and unavoidable basis in fact. That’s not where Hymowitz or the Agenda want you to go with this.
Instead, you get “For men, biology in this sense is more lax, more ill defined. It leaves doors open for men that are closed to women”.+ She quickly spins you away from any un-Correct thoughts flowing from that statement by immediately adding that this may be part of “what the novelist Benjamin Kunkel means when he says that ‘men are more unfinished as people’”; how she or Kunkel get from the female biological reproduction imperative to men as more “unfinished” is left hanging, and rather high up in the air.
BUT THEN, trying to add all the useful material she can find without also opening up any un-Correct possibilities of thought, she gives you this: “Single motherhood only adds to the problem by creating its own negative feedback loop, as we’ve seen so tragically (and admittedly for so many sui generis reasons) among African-Americans. Too many young men resist responsible, considered adulthood. Women give up on them and go it alone.”
This goes beyond frakulent to feculent. Single-motherhood creates problems, she acknowledges, but then in a hasty effort to prevent that thought going anywhere (as it so richly and clearly could), she focuses on the black community – BUT THEN immediately adds the unclear and distracting “sui generis”. This Latin phrase means ‘unique’, so you are supposed to believe that single-motherhood (an essential element in the Agenda) has only been a problem in the black community because of its own unique problems, and not in the white community, where it is apparently just a vital part of the New Girl Order and is reputedly doing a great job making them more ‘free’!)
AND THEN she goes on to blame boys (black boys) for not being willing to man-up and be responsible. But there are now generations of black males who have grown up under the Agenda’s 40 years of assaults on masculinity – and even black commentators acknowledge that the ‘black male problem’ may well have its roots in slavery centuries ago. And if any of that be true, then the strategic impositions and assaults of the Agenda (and its Beltway enablers) has further damaged what was already in profound need of repair.
(To say nothing of the generations of black females who have now grown up with a mother but also with the dampdream of the New Girl Order that you need only loudly demand freedom in order to be genuinely free and that since you are free already then you can do anything you want to do and nobody can tell you otherwise.)
But this problem is not unique or ‘sui generis’ to the black community. At this point, white Slackers are now as irresponsible and unable to approach – perhaps even desire – a competent and “considered adulthood”. It was precisely the rhetorical strategy of the Agenda to insist that males and their ways were specifically not capable of achieving any sort of adulthood. But by this point young males may see no reason to mature, and American society and culture now has little will and few institutions that might guide them toward maturity or demonstrate the usefulness and necessity of maturity.
So Hymowitz winds up blaming boys for the damage so predictably and very possibly deliberately caused by the Feminist Agenda (and its Beltway enablers and funders) and by the New Girl Order. This country has deliberately undertaken a massive, unproven and highly dubiously-conceived ‘reform’, for purposes ultimately of political convenience and advantage, against the hesitations, doubts, reservations or objections of many of its people (male and female), and has deranged the public’s ability to distinguish between ‘spin’ and reality and between actuality and illusion, and has then been forced to undermine not only a clear examination of the consequences but (just to make sure) to undermine the public competence to conduct such an examination.
In the process the economy has somehow gone south and generations of males are indeed lost at sea without a life-script or any guidance for mastering and maturing their energies, and with no real sense of possibility for their future.
In the face of such stunning realities, Hymowitz would propose that the whole thing is a glowing and glittering success, except that the boys aren’t ‘manning-up’ to do their part.
Not to sound whiney, but this could be considered a textbook example of ‘blaming the victim’.
Frankly, the result of the past three or four decades of the Agenda’s deconstruction and construction reminds me of nothing so much as Castle Chariot, in T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King”: Morgan LeFay and the Oldest Ones (super-Fairies) used magic to create what appeared to children’s eyes as a castle of marvelous fresh golden butter (ice-cream might be a more modern construction material here; White is writing in 1939 and the setting of his book is England in the Dark Ages). Yummy and fantastic! Except that it is an illusion, put together by some nasty but powerful beings who prefer to consume visitors lured in by the buttery golden glow.
Nicely, as in the original ancient tales, the Fairies can be repelled by iron (so masculine, so productive, so ‘industrial’). In White’s story the heroes save their captured friend by smuggling in iron blades, and as the little group escapes over the drawbridge, the whole thing melts down into nothing, leaving behind the faintly rancid smell of dirty milk and butter long past its sell-by date.
Well, two books well worth the read (and Hymowitz’s small and short book is so simply written that the only thing that might slow you down is your anger at some of the imbecilities and sleaze).
There is a great deal in both of them that will give you deeper and clearer insight into what faces the country now.
How you might think to address the problems is not a bad way to spend a few hours of a long bright summer afternoon. But remember: summer isn’t going to last forever. And there is a winter coming.
*Nor did it help national political and cognitive maturity when ‘advocates’ attempted to tar all white working-class objections to affirmative action as merely ‘racism’. (A gambit eerily similar to the contemporaneous Israeli effort to spin any doubts, reservations, or objections to the doings of the Israeli Realm as ‘anti-Semitic’ and a forerunner of the feminist efforts to spin any doubts, reservations or objections about their demands, their agenda, or the coherence or workability of their ideas as merely ‘patriarchal backlash’.)
**This is a non-surprising surprise. As the water has started to lap even the upper-class decks of the once-great vessel, the government has taken to being employer-of-quick-resort for all those PC-educated children of the Knowledge ‘elites’ who otherwise would have no employment prospects (let alone character and maturity); but it is only postponing the inevitable.
***As I have often said, if you think this has robbed American industry and business of genuine productivity, imagine what it has done to the military where the stakes are even higher: victory or defeat in combat, success of failure in vital military operations, life and death.
****See the preceding Note. And can it be such a surprise that well over a quarter of the troops deployed in Our current military misadventures are on prescription drugs; which are separate from whatever druggy ‘self medication’ is being used over there? For that matter, a significant fraction of university students received psychoactive prescription drugs from university health facilities now, to say nothing of what prescriptions they receive from home.
+So, if you take a count here, the Beltway – in its efforts to pander to the Agenda – has now taken on a war against Biology, ignoring whatever lessons or insights millennia of human History might have to offer, and – more specifically – has enabled a civil war based on gender among its own population, which has involved the deliberate and sustained campaign to ‘disintegrate that paradigm’ upon which American society and culture, and Western and all of the world’s great civilizations have been based.
In the service of making ‘space’ for a politically desirable demographic, the Beltway has underwritten, sustained, and given aid and comfort to an Agenda which – for all the sleaze with which it is spun - requires the deconstruction and disintegration of qualities of mind, heart and soul that it has taken Western civilization centuries to accumulate; now all those intangibles are all but lost, and nothing with which to replace them except a sugar-coated Flattened materialism that cannot but lead to a government-heavy and anti-democratic Leviathan polity presiding over a flaccid and inefficacious population of fantasy-addled unripes. You can get a quick and thought-provoking specific bullet-point list of some of the consequences here , listed in the section of the linked-page entitled “Themes”; the author is British but they are having as much trouble over there as We are over here.
In regard to this list, it has been objected by some that the author (Theodore Dalrymple) “accuses the poor of being immoral”. To which I would respond that over here, certainly, the deconstruction and disintegration of the ‘paradigm’ of Western civilization and culture (by the Feminist Agenda in the effort to make ‘space’ for itself, primarily) is no longer based in the class of the ‘poor’ but rather has infected all classes now, including the erstwhile elites who have gotten a thoroughly modern (and Correct) college/university education.
I am going to propose here that this ‘deconstruction and disintegration of the paradigm of Western Civilization’ constitutes in essence a breathtaking act of arrogant imbecility that surpasses in fundamental significance any events on more immediately palpable levels of human existence, such as the Vietnam War or the current military misadventures, or the effort to sustain a vital Economy with Bubbles – and indeed enabled these frakkulous mistaken policies and misadventures.
In which latter regard, it may be considered the Judgment of some Beyond that a Beltway that had based so much of its ‘success’ on the ‘bubble’ of simply flim-flamming the American public into accepting the illusory worth and success of the Agenda’s lethal demands, didn’t imagine it would have much more trouble keeping a hegemonic position among the world’s nations and sustaining the utterly indispensable economic viability of the American nation … with more illusions and with Bubbles.
In Star-Trek terms, this – I would say – is what happens when a deranged command authority tries to run the ship from the holodeck rather than the bridge.