A Generation of Lost Men

I came across an interesting Reddit thread today.

Here’s the original link: “Clueless Baby Boomers Grapple Blindly With Young Men’s Rational Pessimism and Detachment in the Hostile, Alienating Society.” (Or something like that).

Of more worth than the article however, was the opportunity to read the pseudonymous responses of thousands of (mostly) young men. For those unfamiliar with Reddit, the community is probably among the most “normal” (i.e, non-loser) out there. It’s often nerdy and proud, as internet communities are wont to be, but it’s not the basement-dwelling, Jolt-Cola-drinking, I’m-just-here-on-a-half-hour-Warcraft-break-because-my-carpal-tunnel-is-flaring, unwashed underbelly of the internet.

As such, the most popular responses give an accurate picture of the mindset of contemporary man-children who have opted out of manning up, features of which include moving out, working a soul-sucking desk job, and getting married. Below, I’ve pasted a selection of the comments from the original Reddit thread. Young men of the 21st century, read and relate:

Just a few decades ago you could walk into most businesses with a high school diploma and get a decent job with benefits paying well enough to support a small family (and a small house). Today… not so much.

Being a young adult male I would say a lot of my lack of motivation to become a “man” so to say is that it’s incredibly hard to find work and because of that in part it’s hard to meet women. No money means no going to the bar, no meeting people through work, not much travelling, not much time spent doing positive activities aside from possibly exercising and playing an instrument, etc. If you’re not in college then it’s even harder. Not having a job / career or SO what exactly are you supposed to be motivated by? We get the most pleasure we can for our money that’s why we buy drugs. We can’t afford alot of the other pleasures of life, and in turn limit our abilities to form relationships. We feel isolated, atleast I do, to some degree and not confident.

It’s interesting that a lot of this commentary seems to revolve around, “Boys aren’t becoming men”. The part that’s lacking seems to be a definition for “man”.

Can anyone think of a solid male role-model? Even just a generic idea of “this is what a good man is”?

I suspect most revolve around full-time work, supporting a family. Argue as you like about whether such a thing should be desirable, but from much of the thread it looks like there’s a significant number for which this outcome is not a great motivator.

The other alternative might be a single, playboy-esque idea of a guy with money and no social attachments. The “lost boys” sound like this but without the money…

Is there another option? It seems like we’ve got 2 extremes; what’s the middle path?

I think their idea of a ‘man’ is the 1950′s style, no more late nights with the boys, get up at 6 am and obsess over things like your lawn and your tobacco pipe.

That sounds just like me. Unemployed for half a year since graduation. I have completely lost any motivation whatsoever.

I know of someone who graduate law school with decent grades, passed the bar, and a year later is working at a California Pizza Kitchen.

I was underemployed for years, after having gone back to school to get a degree in what I really wanted to do. It didn’t pan out, because colleges are quite happy to sell you any line of bullshit for jobs that don’t exist when you come out. Anyway, my advice is get some kind of job that pays something decent.

I actually went back to a job I hated and found that I hated it a bit less after being broke for so long. That lasted a few years. I’m back to hating it, though not quite as strongly as before. Moreover, having experienced marginal employment first hand, I realize that I hate that more so.

Sometimes in life there are no good choices, only ones that suck less than others. You do what you can, get yourself into some kind of position of strength, and then look to see where you can go from there. But, unemployment, my friend, is destructive to one’s character.

Take it from someone who knows, and good luck.

It would be nice if the youth were offered entry level jobs that paid more than their weight in dog shit. Its hard to move out of your parents basement when you’re paying off loans with a KFC salary.

After months of listening to my parents and others who haven’t had to look for a job in the last 10+ years tell me that it’s my fault that I can’t find a job, that they’re out there and I’m just not looking hard enough, I’m so happy to hear someone acknowledge this. I’ve been looking into internships to build up work experience, but that doesn’t help me out with the money situation. This is a huge part of why I’m “postponing adulthood.” Why would I want to get married or have kids knowing damn well a lot of things in my life are still up in the air? Not only is that more stress for me, but it doesn’t seem fair to a potential wife and child.

When I got out of college a decade ago, my grandfather suggested I go to the shipyard and tell the foreman I was a good worker and would work two days for free. The 1930s must have been a weird place to work with such primitive HR policies.

It would be nice if “the youth” weren’t told “IF YOU DON’T GO TO UNIVERSITY YOU ARE A PATHETIC FAILURE HERE TAKE THIS $100,000 DEBT NOW YOU MEAN SOMETHING”.

Because they are interested in doing what they want, rather than getting married and having children out of peer pressure.

Good luck in shaming them into marriage and parenthood by calling them non-adults.

As a public educator, I can speak from first hand experience regarding the growing number of failing males in the culture of education.

1) School validates a very specific set of skills. The capacity to sit still, and passively absorb as much information as possible, stored only to be later regurgitated on a standardized test. Now, I’m speaking in generalizations here, but girls are physiologically and culturally pushed toward being better at this skill set. Girls are much more calm, mature, and easily “educated” in the traditional sense. The culture of school is ostracizing males at an alarming rate.

2) The system of external rewards imposed by formal education. For the entire duration of a student’s life, the “reward” that they should strive for is a letter or number (“A”, “100%”) that serves as a kind of psychological medal or trophy that needs to be obtained. When males exit the school system (at whatever point), they find that there is no longer a source to provide the proverbial carrot on a stick for them to strive after … except for video games, of course. Anybody who’s played WoW knows how well they have capitalized on this system.

To combat this growing problem, we need to emphasize the value of internal rewards, rather than external ones. This will help foster a mentality of constant striving and challenging that will turn our lazy young boys into men.

3) Being smart does not help you achieve what our society portrays as “alpha” status. While the cited article focuses on permanent “lost boys”, I think the more likely culprits are the males that we consistently display as having “it all”. Athletes, actors, rich businessmen … we glorify people whose skills lie in something other than their mental capacity, and then we call our students “distracted” when they try to emulate them.

This article disturbed me. It seems to claim that there is something wrong with an entire generation of males. What needs serious critique is the cultural and educational paradigm of the preceding generation.

Having done the respectable job/home ownership/marriage/kid thing, in retrospect, I have no fucking idea why I did any of that. It didn’t benefit me in any way, shape or form, and was all taken away (except that I got the kid, so..yeah). Now I’m a nominally employed, middle-aged man with a kid, living in a shitty house. Most of society, particularly any women in my age bracket, would view me as a complete failure — nothing of substance to offer another woman.

This often weighs on me — makes me feel like a worthless human being. Like if I don’t go back to the corporate grind stone, sell my soul to the executives again (and I’ve seen this “sign your right to sue away” line on many applications), get another suburban shiny house, then I must have no value in this world.

Sometimes I want to end it all, because no matter what I do, I’m fucked. Either I’m an impoverished slob for whom society has no use, or I’m an enslaved cog with no choice in the direction my life takes.

Then I come home, and the kid says, “Dad. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or not. You’re raising me, and I’m a good kid. Don’t worry about anything else.”

And then I tarry on.

 

And finally, one comment that any Freedom Twenty-Five Readers not yet on board with some sort of fitness and resistance training program must read:

This will sound weird, but I FINALLY feel like I have become a man lately.

All due to ONE thing.

Lifting weights. It makes you more confident about yourself, releases bad energy, makes you stronger than women, and there are VERY real changes in your testosterone and body chemistry.

You KNOW you are more capable, and people cant say shit about the changes you can FEEL in yourself as you lift. You just know.

I started late, but I will recommend it to EVERY SINGLE MAN.

ESPECIALLY to the typical redditor, who is generally less active and nerdy and feels less “manly” about himself than he could.

Seriously. Do squats. Do deadlifts. Your testosterone and muscles will be undeniable to yourself. You will automatically FEEL like more of a man.

To which I add EAT LIKE A MAN as well. Meat. Vegetables. Fat. Protein.

Readers: Any other comments from that Reddit thread that I should record here for posterity? Thoughts on the experience of being a young man in the western world today? Comments are open, as always.