Our Own Little Worlds

Sometimes I read something shockingly close to something I’ve thought about writing for months, turning it over in my mind, thinking up new arguments, gathering data points, but never writing it, because it seems like so much work.

This is such a piece. It’s written by a conservative, for a conservative audience, which is how I’d do it, were I capable of writing anything about conservatism without letting some rage and bile slip in. So there are some laugh lines, such as “Conservatives have a natural antipathy towards propping up things that don’t work.” I can’t breathe.

One big problem that the piece addresses is that men, specifically low-education, low-skill men, are adrift. Under and unemployed, but also less happy than better-educated men as primary caregivers. If they can get that job, they also have a much harder time getting married.

I’m fascinated by these men, and how outdated gender role determinism fucks them.

But I realized, thanks to a Twitter retort to the piece, that I don’t know shit about them. @markyzaguirre remarked to the contention that “many men find it difficult to adapt to modern office culture” “Yeah, air conditioning and comfy chairs are rough.” And, I mean, right?

I think the author means young men don’t realize they’ll need education and internships to get those office jobs, or feel that these things are out of reach for them. So it’s less that they don’t want the jobs and more that they can’t get them.

But I don’t know. Literally the last time I spent any real time around anyone, male or female, without a degree, white collar work, or both, was high school. At least in Alabama I had friends with professional jobs but not degrees. In dc, I run into about as many grad degreed motherfuckers as Dunkin Donuts stores.

It was hard super strange to go from plain but smart to cute but dumb.

The problems with this kind of class stratification are obvious. But it’s something we don’t really ever think about. And I think it helps explain why truly stupid ideas proliferate among the less educated. I mean, besides having less and lesser-quality information to compare new information to, I think one reason more-educated people fail when speaking to and about lesser-educated people is their clear and utter ignorance of their audience.

I mean even I, snotty and ungrateful as I am, bristle when my well-meaning but ignorant friends mock Southerners. There’s this sense of, why? Why would you beat your kids, not pay for them to go to college, get fat, etc.

It’s never a question of understanding and empathizing with an essentially alien culture. It’s more a distant and disdainful examination of some pathetic cautionary tale.

And I get it. Of course peaceful parenting, less superstition, more education and rationality and empiricism and egalitarianism are better. I left the south, after all.

But I have to remember that I left because I couldn’t make it work for me. If I could have, how much easier would it have been to concede to my culture, with its “traditional marriage,” homemaking, church, gender roles. These were all an ill-fitting garment for me. As all cultures have turned out to be for me. I’m a weirdo, and I need to be where those are well-tolerated.

But for some, those things worked. Some people were super happy in their mindless jobs, ferrying their kids to church and soccer practice, fat as fuck and fucking happy as clams. I didn’t understand them then, and I don’t get it now. But I’ve seen it. I know it’s a thing.

That’s all part of the challenge for a first-class thinker, to keep in mind that people who are different from you aren’t people you’re bumping up against on the regular. They’re living lives you can scarcely imagine. Making choices which are incomprehensible to you. And it’s your job, first, to try to understand them before making any prescriptions. It’s hard work. We all want to skip it. But it’s something humility requires.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t write the piece. Who am I to tell low-education men what’s best for them? I don’t even know any.

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