Old at heart, but I’m only twenty-eight.
–W. Axl Rose, Estranged
Although I live in a college town, in my apartment complex my next-door neighbor is an elderly gentleman. I’m not sure exactly how old he is, but I’m pretty sure he’s too old to live alone.
I know this because tonight was the fourth time in as many months that I’ve had to somehow rescue him after having fallen. The first two times, it was during business hours so I told the apartment complex and they sent somebody by to open the door and pick him up. The third time, it was on a Saturday morning, so when I heard the faint “help” through the door I had to wait around for them to send somebody with a key to open the door. After they opened it, I went in to pick him up. Fortunately, he was really light and with very little effort I was able to lift him onto the bed. Unfortunately, he wasn’t wearing any pants so I saw much more than I would have preferred.
Tonight, the emergency number at the complex said it would take forever for somebody to come so they recommended I call 911. This may be intentional on their part, for I’ve spoken about this with one of the people who work at the complex and they said that they’ve had to pick him up several times that I’ve never heard about. Anyhow, I called and waited. The police came first and broke through a window. The paramedics came shortly thereafter and walked him to his bed. He’s watching movies as I write.
He has a son that visits frequently who seems to be somewhere in his fifties. Last weekend, I overheard them fighting (perhaps the son yelling would be more accurate). I just caught bits and pieces, but the upshot was that the old guy never leaves his bed, never exercises, that every time the son comes to visit he’s just lying in bed either watching a movie or asleep.
I’ve said “hello” to the son several times but never spoke about his father until after the fight. I mentioned the several times he’s fallen, and he said he knew, that the problem is that he never gets any exercise. Of course, this brings up a pretty nasty catch-22. Having exercised more in the past may well have prevented today’s problems, but now that his muscles have atrophied, if he tries to exercise more often he’ll probably just fall more often. I didn’t bring this up because I didn’t feel like it was in my place, and the son says he’s building a cottage for his father right next to his house out in the country, so hopefully that gets finished soon.
But what struck me more immediately (which I also didn’t bring up to the son) is that I knew exactly what the problem was. The father has lost his will to live. Sure, he still wants to breathe and probably doesn’t “want to die” in so many words, but there’s a chasm between what he’d like to get out of life and what he thinks he can actually get. He believes that as crappy as his life might be today, if he exercised (or whatever else) things would be just as crappy. It’s simply not worth the effort.
The reason this made so much sense to me is that far too many men and boys today are already where he is, only we’ve gotten there decades prematurely. Boys check out of school and turn into Ritalin-dependent by their tenth birthday. Men refuse to “man-up” and play video games as much as any middle-schooler did just a couple of decades ago. We don’t “do what we’re supposed to” because we don’t see the point. It’s not worth the effort.
Of all the explanations for this I’ve encountered, Dalrock perhaps describes it best (and I recommend that post above all others if you’re having difficulty explaining to somebody why modern men won’t “man up”). I hope to go into his post in more detail (and I would have tonight if not for the drama), but he uses economic analogies that I think might actually have a chance of getting through to some conservatives.
Regarding economic incentives, I’m not sure which school of economics is which here, but there’s a school that assumes that in markets we’re rational actors. I don’t disagree in that I believe we go along with what we perceive to be in our own self-interest, but sometimes those decisions aren’t precisely “rational”, even if what we choose to do is exactly what we’d do if we thought things through in detail.
Captain Capitalism was some sort of banker, Roosh was an engineer, and each of them at some point made a conscious choice to opt out of the rat-race. Furthermore, each decided to pursue his own genuine desires instead of what everybody thought they should do.
But for every Cappy Cap and Roosh, there are thousands who either drop out of the rat-race or never start it without ever consciously deciding to do so, and of these, very few have the intelligence or strength of character to actively pursue something else in its stead. I suspect very few men outside of the manosphere sit down with a pen and paper and think through the choice not not get married, they just don’t do it. I’m sure that some guys forego college because they’ve analyzed how much debt they’d accrue, but far more simply lose all interest in school by third grade because of their awful teachers.
And a lot probably really want to do exactly what Mark Driscoll wants them to do, but they just can’t find it in themselves to actually do it. They resolve to turn in their homework on time but always lose it. They procrastinate on their college essays until they get something awful done at the last minute. Every day they promise themselves they’ll apply for at least ten jobs, but somehow they just finish the newest Grand Theft Auto instead. They can’t think of a reason not to ask Laura to marry them, but they just never ask.
The disincentives Dalrock describes are rational reasons to “opt out” for lots of us, but for lots of others they’re the background blur that leads us in the same direction. I know this because long before I knew the tangible reasons for forsaking the rat-race, even though I really thought I wanted to get a great job in business, I simply couldn’t. No matter how strongly I resolved to get the job of my
mother’s dreams, every day there would be some reason for me not to do it.
And I know I’m not alone. For lots of us, no amount of guilt or societal pressure will get us to do what we know won’t make us happy. We might not know why we won’t, but we won’t. Period.
Of course there are ways out of this. It’s one thing to opt out of what they want you to do, to reject them. It’s quite another to discover and strive for what you want you to do. How many guys are even aware of the possibilities overseas? The careers they could get that they might actually enjoy? We’ve been trained to obey based on the Prussian industrial model since kindergarten, we don’t have happy fathers to set examples for us, we’re taught nothing about personal finance or how to discipline ourselves to achieve a goal, the options seem to be don’t get a degree and therefore be disqualified from every “prestigious” job or get a degree and
not even work in hopes of paying it off a few decades later.
So the Alphas just get laid a lot and play video games, and the betas just play video games. The guys who do more are often even more miserable and lose all their hard work to some unhappy wife. Is Tyrone any better off than the thugs who get all the women he wants?
Which means that lots of us are old men who’ve lost the will to live. Maybe we’re not bedridden and in danger of falling, but we’re not exactly “youthful” either. We don’t see any point in putting any effort into anything, only we get there at twenty-three instead of in our eighties. Me might go through some of the motions of having fun by heavy-duty partying, but we’ve already given up on ever feeling truly fulfilled. We’ve not only never been taught how to achieve our Mission, we’ve been rigorously trained to do the opposite.
A system based on such Selflessness will only eat itself. We’ll never make it as a nation of only boys and old men.
God managed to get the very best out of Abraham, and He did it because He recognized, acknowledged, and blessed Abraham’s deepest desires. Unless we learn to follow His example, we’ll become a nation of Hamlets instead.