Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Crumbling Cornerstone

I’m old. Old people typically associate with other old people. In consequence, over time we can lose touch with developments among younger people. It takes effort to resist the process of temporal separation. (It helps not to move to Florida.)

However, young and old both have the benefits of the Internet. Numerous sites exist almost explicitly to reflect the trends in opinions and behavior among members of particular demographics. If we have the inclination, we can apprise ourselves of changes among our non-contemporaries fairly easily. Of course, as in all such sentences, the most important word in the previous one is if.

One of the trends that fascinates me is the trend, among young and middle-aged Americans, away from interaction with members of the opposite sex.

I wrote the following in a novel:

    Stromberg panned the lecture hall, gathering the eyes of the throng to him. "In the year 2061, for every thousand live births in the United States, there were nearly six hundred abortions."
    The class erupted. Shouts of outrage and cries of dismay rang from one end of the hall to the other. Shocked faces stared at one another as if what they'd just heard could not possibly be true.
    Teresza stood with her mouth agape, straining to disbelieve the sociologist's words. She glanced down at Armand. His face was as pale as her own. He shook his head minutely. She slumped back into her seat and leaned hard against him.
    Stromberg stood with his hands clasped behind him, waiting for the din to subside.
    "Before you ask," he said into the restored quiet, "they weren't medically necessary. They were a form of contraception." A murmur rose and fell quickly. "The structure of that society was far distant from ours. Extended families and clans such as we admire were very few. Even intact nuclear families had become exceptional. Many children never knew their fathers. Many couples consciously averted the possibility of conception their whole lives long. A great many women regarded childbearing and child rearing, not as a fulfillment and an honor to be cherished, but as costs, nuisances, and impediments to commercial achievement, or artistic expression, or social access.
    "My Bakunin colleague would say that the typical family was limiting its total economic exposure by having very few children or none, since the expense of child-rearing in a heavily regulated State exceeds any other expense by a considerable margin. Parents wanted their children to 'have it all,' as the saying went, but with such a large State burden, which not only reduced the family's effective earnings but dramatically increased the price of every good for sale, most couples couldn't square that desire with a family of Hope's typical size.
    "I see things differently. Families are the fundamental building blocks of a stable society. Extended families -- clans -- are the best conceivable environment for the rearing of children, the perpetuation of a commercial forte, and the germination of new families and their ventures. A clan like yours, Miss Albermayer, conserves a brilliant genetic line and a priceless medical specialty at the same time. A clan like yours, Mr. Morelon, makes possible a benign agricultural empire and produces natural leaders one after another while connecting Hope to its most distant origins. And all healthy families, which cherish life and bind their members to one another in unembarrassed love, can find far more to occupy and amuse them than they need."
    Teresza's mind lit with memories of the way the Morelons had enfolded her and made her one of them. No day could have been long enough for all they had to say and do and share with one another.
    "When Earth's regard for families and their most fundamental function deteriorated, her people ceased to enjoy the sorts of ties that had held them together throughout the history of Man. Without families, and especially without children, they groped for other things to fill their time, whether to give them a sense of purpose, or to distract them from the waning of their lives. Some invested themselves in industry or commerce, but without the sense of the family line to be built up and made prominent, those things failed to satisfy. Others immersed themselves in games, toys, fripperies, and increasingly bizarre forms of entertainment, which palled on them even faster. Still others made a fetish out of sex; there was a substantial sex industry on Earth, though it tended to operate in the shadows and was seldom openly discussed. They needed emotion and substance, but all they could contrive was sensation and novelty, and they pumped an ever greater share of their effort and wealth into seeking them. That's my thesis, for what it's worth."

Which Art In Hope is, of course, a science fiction novel. Yet what Professor Arne Stromberg says to his Social Patterns One class in the above snippet is merely an extrapolation from current trends. Indeed, if you were to compare American attitudes toward reproduction, abortion, and family in 1960 to those of today, you would find essentially the same trends, moving in the same direction and accelerating at the same rate.

This is a multicausal phenomenon. Its genesis partakes of forces from politics, law, jurisprudence, economics, medicine, entertainment, sociology, and other sources. The overall trend is toward the elimination of the family, which Professor Stromberg accurately called the indispensable building block of a stable and prosperous society. Some of the causal components are beyond an individual’s power to compensate for...but not all of them.

I spend the occasional half-hour reading entries in the forum of Men Going Their Own Way, a website where men disgusted with women’s attitudes and behavior gather to swap horror stories and advice. The site provides a chilling look at the effects current trends are having on relations between the sexes.

I’ll save you a few mouse clicks by summarizing the picture: Quite a lot of men are coming to resent women categorically and avoid all interactions with them. They have their individual reasons. Some of them are sound beyond all dispute.

Psychologist Dr. Helen Smith once cited a comment made at her blog, by a man who had retreated from involvement with women because of his personal experiences:

I met a woman that I was sure was my soul mate. I was deeply in love and so, I thought, was she. All this changed when I lost my high paying job through downsizing. To my credit, I went to work immediately and had two jobs, but still only made about 80% of my old income. My wife gave me a year and then began sleeping with a man who hadn’t lost his job in my bed while I was at work. She left with him, taking almost all of my savings and anything else she could carry. Her explanation was that she was “an expensive bitch” and she was unhappy because I worked so much. The adultery doesn’t seem to matter to the court and she got essentially everything. Besides the financial losses, I was so devastated by the betrayal that I could barely function for months. She treated me like garbage and I never worked harder at any endeavor in my life.

Another comment from Dr. Helen’s blog depicts the cumulative effect such stories are having on other marriageable men:

I’m a single, never married guy. Professional, good job, etc. Have been dating a great lady for almost a year. I thought I was ready to ask her to marry me (she has been hinting for months that she wants to marry). Problem is, at least 7 out of 10 guys I talk to tell me that it is one of the worst mistakes that they ever made. Some tell me not to marry American women, that they are all feminist at heart. One married guy told me that I could get the same effect by selling my house, giving all my money away and having someone castrate me. This is really starting to un-nerve me and the more I learn about the legal bias against men, I’m beginning to back off of marriage. I love my girlfriend, but all of these guys say their girlfriends changed once they married and begin to dominate and control. I am starting to think marriage in America can not be saved.

You can argue:

  • That the above are exceptional cases;
  • That men have “done a lot to deserve it;”
  • That women’s hostility toward men isn’t all that general;
  • That people still do form families despite the “war between the sexes;”

...and some of that would be indisputable. But the larger point is this: The trend is toward an ever wider gulf between the sexes, owing to suspicion of one another’s motives and wariness about one another’s intentions.

If families are the indispensable foundation for social stability and prosperity, what future does a society have in which the sexes are growing ever more wary and suspicious of one another?

As I said a few days ago, fear, like pain, can be useful. It can steer us away from unnecessary risks and make us think carefully about the potential consequences of our intended courses. But what’s useful, even essential to an individual in a specific place in space, time, and circumstance can be deadly to his society.

I have a few female friends. They’re all within a few years of my own age. They, too, are horrified by the trends of which I speak, especially the mushrooming disinclination of younger Americans to marry, form stable families, and have children. They tend to see the primary cause of the gender gulf as the predatory attitude of young American men toward sexual access – to quote a villain in a recent, brilliant novel, the by-no-means-rare conviction among young men that “a woman is a life support system for a pussy.” But in this context there’s surely more than enough odium to go around.

There is no obvious solution. As I said above, what’s merely contextual survival behavior for an individual can be deadly to his society. But it’s worth contemplating whether the trends of which I write here are likely to doom America to extinction. National extinction already appears unavoidable in Japan, Russia, and the nations of Europe, though not necessarily for the same reasons. As P. D. James would tell you, it’s not a pleasant prospect for the last of us to have to face.


lelnet said...

You can also argue that your closet is unlawfully occupied by spies from the planet Zorthroxia, if you feel like's a free country. Other than "people do still form families", none of those supposedly arguable propositions is really supported by the evidence.

As for the predators...well, it's a fundamental principle in economics that what is rewarded will increase, while what is punished will decrease.

Women in general have demonstrated their preference for "alpha" predators over "beta" providers. The natural "alpha" types thus now have more sexual partners than ever before. Some of the natural "betas" are studiously trying to learn how to spend their lives as fake sociopaths. And for most of the rest...well, some choose celibacy, and some have celibacy thrust upon them.

A tiny, remnant few are as lucky as I am. I'm personally aware of the existence of four others, although one of those four isn't really part of my generation.

Anonymous said...

An interesting post, I can only relate with a few anecdotes. I was close to marriage with two women. In both cases, I felt there was something wrong, but I stuck around, because I think of myself as a loyal guy. I should have left both of them early and continued looking for the right one. Both women ended up breaking my heart, and as a result, I swore off relationships for a long time. The last one was perpetually unhappy with my "attitude", mainly related to money worries and an inability to spend freely as I started my own business and waited for checks to arrive.

Spent a great deal of time building my business, buying a home, and establishing a solid life, alone as it turned out. When I got involved again, I found that women seemed to have changed for the worse, and have not dated another woman I would consider "normal" in about ten years. They all seem to be fixated on things that are shallow and fleeting. One even said, and I quote, "I thought it would be more exciting to date an entrepreneur".

Concurrently, I have a buddy who is a first responder. He was married for 17 years, and had been injured on the job. Not terribly debilitating, but he had a lot of residual pain. His wife ended up leaving him, because "she couldn't take it". Then just yesterday, I overheard a conversation between two young women. One had recently broken up with her first responder boyfriend. Her almost-exact words were "I'm too young to have to deal with that", referring specifically to his chosen career, and the work issues that might cause him to seek comfort from her at home.

Two first responders, both single, because their women couldn't take the "excitement" of a guy who had chosen to serve...and another guy single because women couldn't take the "lack of excitement" of a small business owner.

Meanwhile, on any particular night, I could drive down Rush Street in Chicago and find any number of attractive young ladies, dressed in expensive, vomit-stained clothes, staggering between bars, arm-in-arm with their equally drunk lady friends, looking for "excitement". Thankfully for them, first responders and business owners are typically too busy to spend their free time in bars getting drunk. But I digress, what were you saying about the sexes avoiding interaction?

Reg T said...

My younger sister (now 62), was that kind of predator. Her third husband (I haven't had contact since _before_ he finally divorced her) was a prince - hard-working, extremely talented in a number of areas; a former Xerox engineer who left and helped form Adobe with a number of other people.

He worked hard to please her and her two daughters by a prior marriage, but she wasn't interested in anything besides his money. Even though she had the "American Princess' Dream House" - no bedroom and no kitchen (he was a superb cook, as a hobby), she still abused him until he divorced her, intentionally, so that she could strip him of as much of his wealth as possible.

I am fortunate to have a loving help-meet, with me for over twenty years (my second marriage), so I am not simply some misogynistic old man. Nonetheless, I am aware it has become _much_ worse than when I was young. It saddens me to learn it is as bad as Fran describes.