I played fiddle at a small-town, country dance last night with several other musicians and it was a merry enough time because that kind of self-made music has the power to fortify spirits. About half the dancers were over 40 and the rest were teenage girls. The absence of young men was conspicuous. Toward the end of the evening, it was just girls dancing with girls. A wonderful and fundamental tension was not present in the room.
The young men are out there somewhere in the country towns, but this society increasingly has no use or no place for them, except in the army. There is absolutely no public conversation about the near total devaluation of young men in the economic and social life of the USA, though there is near-hysterical triumphalism about the success of young women in every realm from sports to politics to business, and to go with that an equal amount of valorization for people who develop an ambiguous sexual identity.
There really is no local forum for public discussion in the flyover regions of the USA. The few remaining local newspapers are parodies of what newspapers once were, and the schools maintain a fog of sanctimony that penalizes thinking outside the bright-side box. Television and its step-child, the internet, offer only the worst temptations of hyper-sexual stimulation, artificial violence, and grandiose wealth-and-power fantasies. There aren’t even any taverns where people can gather for casual talk.
Many of the remaining jobs “out there” are jobs that can be done by anyone — certainly the office work, but also the jobs with near-zero meaning, minimal income, and no status in the national chain burger shacks and box stores — and young women are more reliably subject to control than young men jacked on testosterone, corn syrup, and Grand Theft Auto.
Of course, the idea that higher education can lift a population out of this vortex of anomie is a cruel joke, especially now with the college loan racket parasitizing that flickering wish to succeed, turning young people into debt donkeys. The shelf-life of that particular set of lies and swindles will hit its sell-by date soon in a massive debt repudiation — and the nation will come to marvel at the mendacious system it allowed itself to get sucked into. But this still only begs the question of what young men will do in such a deceitful system.
My guess is that they will shift their attention and activity from the mind-slavery of the current Potemkin economy to the very monster we find ourselves fighting overseas: a domestic ISIS-style explosion of wrath wrapped in an extreme ideology of one kind or another replete with savagery and vengeance-seeking. The most dangerous thing that any society can do is invalidate young men. When the explosion of youthful male wrath occurs in the USA, it will come along at exactly the same time as all the other benchmarks of order become unmoored — especially the ones in money and politics — which will shatter the faith of the non-young and the non-male, too. Also, just imagine for a moment the numbers of young men America has trained with military skills the past 20 years. Not all of them will be disabled with PTSD, or mollified with rinky-dink jobs at the Wal-Mart, or lost in the transports of heroin and methedrine.
The authorities will have no way to understand what is happening and we are certain to endure a long season of violence and social chaos as a result. The re-set from that will be an economy and a society that few now yammering in the HuffPo or the Tea Party will recognize. That society emerging from the ashes of the current matrix of rackets will desperately need young men to rebuild, and there will be plenty of opportunity for them — though it won’t feature fast cars, Kanye West downloads, or bottle service.
There are other ways for young men to find a useful and valued place in a society, but these are too far beyond the ken of our current meager narratives.
The new World Made By Hand novel
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