Thursday, January 09, 2014

David Zahl at m-bird writes at some length about young men and their anxiety

There's a lot of material in the link above and just a few citations will suffice, I hope, to get you to go read the whole thing.

In unguarded moments, the young men I work with acknowledge their disengagement, and more than that, they articulate a confusion and even ambivalence about what it means to be a man.

The anxiety about the disengagement of young men is a thing discussed in a variety of settings.  Along the way David links to a recent guest piece I did on Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy. David and I probably agree that a way to address the problems of men and women would very likely not reside in defining the entirety of the dynamics between sexes in terms of class warfare.  It's hard to take the wound up rhetoric of feminists or the mens' rights movements all that seriously but that young men seem to lack ambition may itself not explain what men are exactly reacting to.

If young men are disengaged then what would engage them?  Why do they, as some put it, so eagerly embrace video games and porn, both of which can be described as vicarious iterations of conquests that are not real and do not matter?  Well, perhaps we are in a new kind of age of anxiety in which men are, well, perhaps it's too ridiculous to say men are on strike or that they are opting out because there's no incentive for them to succeed, though some elements of that may be true.

Having written at some length on the matter before I'm going to re-suggest that the crisis is one that includes the realization of men in various stages of life that they are disposable.  We live in a post-industrial economy and an information economy.  There's a sense in which your information, the stuff ABOUT you, may be worth more money in this economy than your own flesh and blood, let alone your labor.  In a culture in which the individual and individual choice may be prized as virtually no other in human history the choices of the individual can be simultaneously stultifyingly varied while also being almost inconceivably inconsequential at even a regional, let alone global scale.  Ergo, male disposability.

Men and women do not want to feel disposable even if they may rationally know that it is likely.  Any group or person who assures you that you are not only not alone but that you are not disposable is therefore capable of exercising almost unimaginable influence over you.  Rather than say that this or that movement hands out "kool-aid" that people then drink, which at this point seems too lazy and juvenile and ahistorical to understand what the appeal of a cult might reall be, let's play with the idea that cults move faster to assure potential participants that "you matter" and are better at concealing how fundamentally false this assurance is in contrast to the rest of the world, which largely and often successfully conveys that you are not that important and we won't really miss you that much if you're gone. 

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