While he works, in the office next to mine, my husband listens to podcasts. This is slightly surreal because it reminds me of Portuguese men doing their work to the continuous murmur of soccer reporting coming from a portable radio near them.
Yesterday he came to me, alarmed. He was listening to Mike Rowe, who had a guest on, who did the numbers beyond the official unemployment rate, the numbers as they used to be done, without the begs and the buts.
Apparently the real unemployment rate, in terms of people simply not working (And not looking for work) among young men — young, able bodied men, 18 to 55 — is eighty percent. [CORRECTION: Cranberry makes a good point that it’s 80% of men not working. I.e. that for every man looking for work, another 4 aren’t. However, it might be worse than they think, because the original rang right to me, and I have acquaintance in the younger age groups. Though honestly, I admit I was including “not working at anything beyond the minimum to barely survive with help” to this count, subconsciously. As well as in “interminable academic training that never ends or provides a job”]
I will bet you the number of women not pre and not menopausal not having children is the same. Yesterday too I saw two recent videocasts of people with their heads on fire about the population crash. Oh, my dear and fluffy Lord. They’re many many moons after the fair. And all of them believe too that the population is as large as the lying statistics say. I would think the population crash is well underway.
Yes, what allows them to do so is — relative — abundance and technological advances. Without enough money/food that these young men (apparently as many as 50% of them receive some form of disability) can live without working, waste away their lives on puerile entertainment, is that we as a society are incredibly wealthy.
The reason these young women can go without children is that same wealth, plus safe and effective contraception and abortion.
But that’s not new, either of those conditions. They both were present in the early twentieth century. Stop looking at me like that. I should know. I grew up in late-19th, early 20th century conditions.
Yes, even in a country with “illegal” abortion, everyone knew who performed them. And they were safe enough that women could have multiple of them and survive. Everyone knew that too. (They were really safe, because if a women died and it could be traced to the provider, the full force of law would fall on them.)
And in a very poor country — again, I remind you that stealing clothes from the line was a thing, because people couldn’t afford underwear. The big thefts were clothes and chickens — there was still enough that a lot of middle class families had the man who never married, never moved out, and just puttered around the house being some form of disabled.
Now, it wasn’t eighty percent. But I’m not sure it couldn’t have been. It would have made the entire society a little poorer, but as poor as we were we were already at the point of abundance I doubt it would be impossible. Since the eighteenth century or so, humans have been living in amazing (historically speaking) abundance.
So, why is it so bad now? Why not before.
Because metaphorically speaking, the world is cracked like an egg. Pieces that should go together have been violently separated, and no, I’m not talking in dirty metaphors, but I could be.
Men and women need each other. And people need something to live for.
Without women, with women gone crazy, with the link between effort and reward broken, unable to trust the women they do find, men have no reason to do anything.
Without family and men and a reliable structure to their lives, being told they’re exploited and downtrodden and that success is what men used to have and do, women have no reason to invest the considerable time and effort — not to mention blood, sweat and tears — into producing the new generation.
It goes deeper than that. Every day in every way our mass-industrial culture tells young men they are not only not needed but terrible. They are historical oppressors. They are also dumb and any woman is smarter, stronger, more agile than any man.
This absurd message comes through every possible means, from commercials to action movies to school lessons. If you have a little boy in school right now, he’s being blamed for everything that’s wrong in the world. And he’s internalizing it.
If you have a girl in school right now, she’s being told success is to be a company executive. Strength consists in insulting men and hitting them.
The shock is not that young men are giving up on life, or that young women are pursuing their happiness everywhere but in marriage and motherhood.
The big surprise is that some couples are still finding each other. That some babies are still born. That some young men are still working, some of them doing immense amounts of skilled work, thanklessly, in a world gone mad. That some women are marrying and having children, and not intending to destroy their partners in the courts.
Yes, I see you. Well done. You’re towering giants of purpose and motivation and doing the right thing, and I see you, and G-d bless you for it.
But the people who’ve climbed the pyramid of success, many of them by horribly crooked means — no, I’m still not convinced it’s even possible to vote our way out of this. The fraud is larger than you imagine and baked in already in most places — are insane. They got to the top by believing all sorts of things that just ain’t so, like humans are a plague on the Earth; men are evil; women are perfect; babies are unneeded.
And what they are and what they’re doing is impoverishing society at a fast clip. I think in my lifetime — and I have somewhere, G-d willing — between ten and thirty years left, that’s it, we’re going to be poorer than we were in Portugal when I was little. I fully expect hunger in the rest of the world this winter, famine in the third world. Here we’ll be uncomfortable and pinched, and I’m already seeing people worried about Christmas. But it’s coming for us. Certainly if we can’t beat the tsunami of fraud. As I told one of you recently, the longer the crazy goes on the more things are broken, perhaps irretrievably.
We can’t do anything about that. But we can do something about the people. The men who don’t know how to man. The women who don’t know how to human. The people who are living now as though if they don’t do anything the present will be forever the same.
They look at the trouble — working is trouble, and toil and stress and so is motherhood — and they don’t see the reward.
What they see is an unending train of effort and abuse and nothing to show for it.
Society used to reward men who worked and were good fathers with respect. The same for women who had children and were good mothers. We don’t do that anymore. We treat them like chumps.
And let’s be honest, both paths are a trail of toils and tears. I’m not denying that, to any of you reading this. Yes, if you embark on a job, and decide to do the best you can, you will work a lot and sometimes feel the reward too little. You will wear yourself in it, like a horse in harness, and the reward for work is more work.
If you have children, you will have to deny yourself many times, you will have to protect and teach, and guide them in a world gone mad. And they grow up to be themselves, not what you dream for them. And you’ll always love them, no matter what. A part of your heart will live in them no matter who they are and what they do. And there too, the reward for effort and tears is more effort and tears.
But then there’s that other thing. The thing that is almost impossible to explain because you won’t understand until you’ve been through it. I know that sounds stupid, and I was highly suspicious myself when I heard it, when I was young.
You transform. You grow. You change. The reward for work is more work, and it is a real reward, because as each level of work comes, you’re more ready to face it, and you start meeting it halfway, joyously. You can because you have done. You do because you can. And you grow. You become someone who has this, who can do this, who can face the storm with a calm mind and a song in your heart.
I won’t claim I’m the most neurotic person ever born. There are probably more neurotic ones. Maybe.
But as much of a worry wart as I’m now, I’m nothing to the shivering quivering mess of fears I was when I embarked on this journey. Heck, it was nothing to the timid, conflict avoidant mess I was even ten years ago. Or five.
You grow into the work by doing the work. When I had children I was terrified. I had no idea how I would change and come to face the task with joy, enjoy it even (in the middle of tearing my hair out, and running to catch up) and emerge on the other side as… no, not someone else, but a better me, a stronger me. A me with a purpose.
In the same way when I came out of the political closet and undertook to tell the truth the best I’m able, I didn’t understand how it would change me. But it did. I went from someone who ran posts by her friends — what in retrospect are very innocuous, almost appeasing posts — to have the courage to put them up, to someone who knows it needs to be said, doesn’t ask permission, and shrugs off attacks.
It would never have happened without doing the work, first, when I was unprepared and saw no reward.
Society used to enshrine the right actions in praise and myth. We used to have rites of passage. Not because people changed in the rite, but because the right made the change visible.
We have none of that. We — as a society — revile and jeer those who try.
But humans aren’t built to stand still. We’re not made for comfort and enjoyment. Not uniform comfort and enjoyment.
Man — by which in less stupid times we understood women too without needing to be told — is made to strive.
Without trying things we’re not (quite) ready to do, without making ourselves uncomfortable doing what seems impossible from where we are, we don’t stand still, we decay.
In the times that are coming the men who are captains of their sofa, pilots of their playstation will have nothing with which to meet the challenge. Not even the ability to become reivers, because they’ve never put in even enough work for effective violence and they certainly aren’t in the shape for it (Fifty percent on disability.)
And the women who have chosen careers — or the perception of careers — over children, will see those careers fail, and be tossed into the world with no idea what to do. Most women by training and inclination are communicators, facilitators, human resources people. Even when they’re in other positions. In a world of concrete needs, those abilities are less than useful. Most of them come from the broken families my generation created.They’ll have no tribe, no people, no children, no future.
Humans are creatures of story. Our lifetime is very short compared to what our mind can encompass. Even in the good times, humans need to know how their short life fits in the greater story. “My work will take humans to the stars.” “My children will live on other worlds.” “This church/enterprise/city/state will live after me.”
Those cords have been cut by people who, let’s face it, hate all of humanity. The generations after mine (and mine already to a great extent) are cast adrift in a sea of loneliness, with nothing but their own brains to justify their existence.
No wonder they quit. It’s amazing more don’t commit suicide.
And for those who will say “How come you say that men should have jobs and women should have children? Isn’t that awfully sexist?”
This is the measure of our brokenness and the irreparable harm done to the structure of humanity. Yes, it’s sexist. But nature is sexist. Yes, I realize the work of men is lesser. They don’t get to make and shape the next generation. But that’s because it’s how nature made them. (And no, men can’t get pregnant. Not biological men. And there’s no science that can give you this.) But they can have children, biological and not. They can work, and support and protect and teach their children. In fact, women can’t do it without them, and I don’t mean (just) in the biological sense.
Shakespeare was right, and bawdy. Women grow by men. But men grow by women too. And both grow by creating the future, be it the structures that support children, or the children themselves.
Because you can’t choose to stop. Stopping is to die, to lose strengths, to lose ability and to lose your mind, in the end.
…. so, years ago, when I was working my way through coming out of the political closet, I had a series of dreams where it felt like I was being given orders. I hate woo woo stuff, so it only reaches me when I’m asleep or terribly sick. (Maybe there is a reason in the grand scheme of things for the auto-immune, eh?)
One dream I remember is when I was standing at the edge of a great conflagration, and over and over again, the words were given to me “Snatch brands from the fire.” Then I realized that the things burning were children. Well, teens, and I started pulling them out with my bare hands.
It seemed silly. It is silly. And yet, it makes perfect sense.
Our children are being lost. And by children, I mean extending to the thirties.
Look, the kids, despite everything that’s been done to them, try to figure out their way. I’ve met a lot these last ten years. Young men and women trying to figure out how to get married, how to start a family, how to find someone, how to find work they can do that they can do well, that can grow them.
I’ve also seen our generation kick them in the face, and call them slackers and shiftless, and slobs and selfish.
Yeah, some of them are that. But mostly they’re lost. They haven’t been shown anything worth living for, and they don’t have tried strength to do anything. They don’t even know how to start. And they don’t believe in the rewards, because, let’s face it, the last two generations, mine and the one before, never fully embraced the work and the rewards, never fully admitted there was a good to not being young and crazy anymore.
It’s time — barely time. The hour is late and the storm is howling down towards us — to reach out a hand to the kids. All the kids. Dear Lord, anyone forty and younger who is lost. If you see a glimmer of an attempt at something, extend a hand. Give them tasks they can do. Give them other tasks. Build pathways to sanity and productivity they can see. Give them a hand up and a story, not a kick in the face and insults.
Write and tell stories for them, stories in which they see themselves as part of humanity’s story. Reach out. Reach out with money if that’s what it takes and you can do it. Reach out with story if that’s your — mine — specialty.
Kindle a light in the stormy seas, so they know where to land.
START BUILDING A PATH TO THE FUTURE. OR THE FUTURE WON’T EXIST.
We need a thousand Mike Rowes and we need them right now. And we need the female equivalent too, saying “Go ahead, have that baby.” Saying “I’ll watch your baby and be honorary grandmother to him while you work, because you can’t make it without two jobs.” Saying “Don’t abort that baby. I have a good twenty years left in me. I’ve done that before.”
Because humans are not a liability, they’re an asset. They’re the ultimate asset. Without them, nothing works. There is nothing.
The world is cracked in pieces, and the storm is howling through the cracks. The young are out there, drowning in a sea of lies and confusion that breed apathy and death.
Kindle a light for them. Extend a hand to pull them from the raging waters.
Be not afraid. The task is immense and terrifying, but you grow in the doing it.
Go and do.