Monday, February 28, 2011

Barry Soetoro, where are you?

Barry Soetoro, where are you?
we got some work to do now
Barry Soetoro, where are you?
we need some help from you now 
come on Obama, I see you feigning progressive positions
but you're not fooling me, cause I can see, your practice of omission  
you know Wisconsinites are demonstrating
so Obama be ready for your act
don't hold back!
and Obama if you come through
you just might get the presidency back!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Good Men Are Not Needed

An article making the rounds this week is Wall Street Journal's "Where Have the Good Men Gone," (source) a brief adaptation from Kay S. Hymowitz forthcoming book "Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys."  The article is likely widespread on Facebook and other social networking sites because it serves as emotional catharsis for frustrated single women, replete with broad generalizations about contemporary young men in the USA.  Happening to be one myself, I though a reasoned response was only appropriate.

"Read the Wall Street Journal today?  What a hater!"
Basically, Hymowitz continues the increasingly popular observations of women surpassing men in education and income in various sectors of academia and the economy, as with Hanna Rosin's TED Talk on "the rise of women" (source).  Add Robin Marantz Henig's widely-read New York Times article "What Is It About 20-Somethings?" (source) and you basically have the playbook for Hymowitz's latest balking harangue.

In a nutshell, for readers not willing to subject themselves to all of the above: young men are waiting longer to get married, buy a house, and have kids.  Instead, they smoke pot, read Maxim, and play video games.  This bothers women, who want them to "grow up," take down the Star Wars poster, and clean their room.  The single most penetrating quote reads: "they are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home."  Which, you know, implies that women want men to be more paternalistic and protective of them.  Wait, didn't we just have a cultural revolution informing us that women no longer want this?

Let me make a bold suggestion here: the answer to Hymowitz's whiny rhetorical question, "where have all the good men gone?" is: they have been dismissed, emasculated, outsourced, outdated, prohibited, overpopulated, and told their hard work thus far in human history has been appreciated but is no longer necessary.  Modern society is simply not the evolutionary destination of the male animal; the good men are not needed.

All of the provisions for which men were necessary to women up until the 20th Century are no longer so.  Women can provide for themselves, hold their own careers, buy their own homes, and through modern science can even have their own children.  Granted, studies show they may not be able to raise them as effectively by themselves (source), but the mystique of doing so remains strong in popular culture.  So what's a guy to do when he finds himself sitting on the ancillary branch of human history?

my tiger and me: how life should be
I am reminded of the visual candor from Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes."  In one particularly telling strip, Calvin informs his mother that he's not going to school anymore because he's going to be a caveman when he grows up.  This is a profound, insightful, honest statement - the kind that made this comic such a gem of truth for millions.   Because as more research shows, nicely summarized in The Atlantic's "War Against Boys" (source), the modern school system is simply not designed to meet the active, dynamic developmental needs of boys.

Nor is the post-industrial workforce or society from which such adolescent boys enter, for that matter.  While Hymowitz and others are busy chiding men for abandoning their commitment to the development of post-industrial civilization, it may not occur to her that the best days for the male animal are behind him.  Modern life, despite diatribes on patriarchy, is a woman thing.  It has hardly been more effectively stated than by David Fincher, film director Chuck Palahniuk's biting cultural phenomenon on masculinity in the modern age known only as "Fight Club."  In an interview in that September/October's issue of "Inside Out" with Gavin Smith, Fincher conceded the limits of the modern man:
"We're designed to be hunters and we're in a society of shopping. There's nothing to kill anymore, there's nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation, this everyman is created."

PEAK MAN: Perhaps the height of male existence is in the rear view mirror of human history.

The criticism that men seem too interested in videogames, sports, and other hallmarks of adolescence is not without explanation.  After 200,000 years of evolution in which homo sapiens stalked the open savannah and dank forest for food, the fruits of modern labor yield a very different harvest.  While the hunter/gatherer skills honed by early mankind are made functionally irrelevant in the endless strip malls of present-day America,  the social collaboration and communication skills honed by women have nearly endless applications - at home and in the service-driven information economy.  So it's little wonder that so many men prefer to escape into fantasy worlds of virtual conflict and exploration after a day at the office; the era of wielding a spear or broad sword isn't over in the World of Warcraft.

QUICK ASIDE: I have read countless articles critical of the widespread prevalence of pornography.  If anyone can find a similar article critical of the widespread availability of vibrators and dildos, please let me know.

And what of this notion of buying a house, getting married, and having kids, anyway?  Are these truly the yardsticks of adulthood?  A scene from "Fight Club" seems to address this question:

Tyler: My dad never went to college, so it was real important that I go.  
Jack: Sounds familiar. 
Tyler: So I graduate, I call him up long distance, I say "Dad, now what?" He says, "Get a job."
Jack: Same here. 
Tyler: Now I'm 25, make my yearly call again. I say Dad, "Now what?" He says, "I don't know, get married." 
Jack: I can't get married, I'm a 30 year old boy.
Tyler: We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.

Not to be flip, but just maybe with 6.8 billion people on the planet already (source), the continued institutionalization of manufacturing human beings is not the solution.  Nor is the American obsession with home ownership, given that the past decade has shown us just how overvalued real estate has been (source).  For Hymowitz and others who wring their hands and wonder why 20-somethings aren't more like their parents, it could very well be because 20-somethings sense they have inherited a series of socio-ecological mistakes they aren't inclined to repeat.  None of this is to say that smoking pot and playing videogames will address the many challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century, but let us at least stop pretending our forefathers were the models for God; our polluted streams and tragically diminished herds of bison beg to differ.

Beneath the veneer of these critiques on males (and young people generally) abandoning the social goalposts of their predecessors,  the larger story is one of disillusionment with the previous era of human history.  Perhaps this apathetic nihilism is the logical consequence of such profound extraction human civilization makes from the natural world.  No more hunts.  No more hikes.  No more sunrises overlooking the pristine prairie.  The yearnings of the adult male escape into adolescence are largely in the service of being himself, if even for a few hours, after the castration of another nine-to-five workday in a perfectly air-conditioned office on the 8th floor of a nondescript office building downtown.   If contemporary male adulthood resembles the sitcom life of Ward Cleaver, the escapist alternatives presented by modern culture are understandably appealing.

What Hymowitz and others should be asking is, "where has the natural world gone?"

"When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? It is the end of living and the beginning of survival." 
-Chief Seattle (1786-1866)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Wish I had an Octopus - BP Edition

In 2005 Idscape released a fantastic music video. In 2010 BP unleashed that ferocious oil spill. In 2011, these elements somehow came together.

Narc kills Denver man

The "War on Drugs" continues as a former Boys & Girls Club "Youth of the Year" is gunned down by a plain-clothed government goon in Denver. (source)

Undercover narcotics agent kills Denver man (photo: Aurora PD)

Since there isn't a town in the USA where illegal drugs aren't readily available, the "War on Drugs" failed decades ago. It continues only in order to raise government revenues and terrorize the population - some of whom are misguided enough to believe such thuggish oppression is for their own good.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Average men made into criminals

The most heartbreaking robbery I've ever seen.  In an economic downturn, more and more average people are compelled to do reprehensible things to provide for their families as the system breaks down.