Saturday, June 20, 2015

The continued decline of manhood?

Western countries are transitioning away from traditional blue collar industries towards technological based service companies. Modern economies need brains over brawn and women are flourishing in this new environment while men are failing to adapt to both feminism and tech.

This is the warning from The Economist article entitled 'Men Adrift'. Similar warnings are echoed in 'The End of Men' by the Atlantic and 'Why We Need to Reimagine Masculinity' by Newsweek.

On one hand this is nothing new: technological shifts always sent traditional industries spiraling into decline, if not rendering them outright obsolete. Entire countries like Ireland developed from a poor rural agricultural country into an urban technology based economy by completely leapfrogging industrialization. Others such as the former industrial heartlands of American and Europe are struggling as automation and globalization reduces the traditional blue collar work force.

But what is new is the addition of identity politics where men and women, black and white are constantly evaluated against each other as a measurement of their respective success. What is new is traditional jobs are not being replaced by more efficient and better industries, but by near useless technological companies and by consumer products built by near slave labour in deplorable conditions.

As I write this, wrapped up in bed with a laptop propped on my chest, my 70 year old father is dangling off a tree cutting an over-sized branch with a handsaw. He is not a large man but he has broad, strong hands scarred and toughened from a life time of hard work in factories, building sites,  and on his father's farm in a little wind swept fishing village without electricity. He left school early so has little 'book learning' but he knows how to plant crops, repair a roof, replace a window, maintain his car and look after his family. We are now told by articles like The End of Men that this traditional image of masculinity -  a largely self-sufficient man working hard to support his family - is now obsolete and men should model themselves on the feminist neo-liberal image of individuals realizing their potential in a corporate technology driven consumer free market.

But the exact opposite is happening.

Electronic reading has not rendered the humble book store obsolete. Everywhere historical reenactments are flourishing as men and women drape themselves in cloth rags to bruise each other with blunted weapons. Allotments, farms and gardens are blooming again as people rediscover the pleasure of growing their own food. Carpentry, DIY, cooking and craft skills are all becoming fashionable alternatives to flashing screens in the home and workplace. Everywhere people dissatisfied with the corporate world are turning backwards for the simple reason that they enjoy it.

The chattering class still speak of identity politics and alleged misogyny may still boil the blood, but people are living their lives according to traditional virtues. Feminism, not masculinity, therefore needs redefinition away from its self-serving promotion of gender politics and its fantasies of corporate technological utopias hidden beneath the superficial grammar of liberation. People have experienced that world and they don't want it.

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