“We’ll become ISIS”

So says James Howard Kunstler:

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.

He’s right about the dangers of marginalizing and belittling young men. Men have been getting a very raw deal from the mainstream media. We disproportionately suffer from tacit discrimination in the job market, especially in the service sector, where managers are eager to hire women whose sexual attractiveness (and, better yet, flirtatiousness) can be used to woo customers. As a result, many women seem to have no idea of the extent to which their sexuality opens doors that are shut to men of equal qualifications. Mainstream and alt-left media compound this haughty ignorance by complaining about a dubious “wage gap” and asserting that there remains a systemic culture of workplace discrimination against women. Many of these complaints come from professional grievance trolls who have no particular talents other than shitting all over reasonably well-functioning and equitable industry cultures in which they themselves will never have a personal stake. This style of activism is chattering-class wankery in which innocent parties are tied down to receive the ceremonial money shot. According to these activists, the presence of douchebags like Pax Dickinson in tech management makes it absolutely impossible for female software engineers to function in their jobs. In point of fact, the cultural problems at tech firms are only loosely related to sex, since management are a bunch of gaslighting asshats to male subordinates, too, and the women on the engineering teams managed to get through several years of dealing with spergy-ass classmates, and, oh, by the way, coursework in engineering. But we’re to graciously accept tutelage in their emotional frailty from marginally employable, mentally unstable women’s studies majors.

Did I ever mention that I got a D- in bench chem and would have gotten an F had I not woken up from a nap and answered a lecture question that stumped all the chem majors in the class? Or that I enjoyed better living through chemistry, specifically through Paxil, until I got fed up with psychiatrists because they were all Freudian sexual deviants? But I digress.

I majored in geology. I can’t imagine Lindy West did. I’ve forgotten most of the stuff that she never learned in the first place. I also probably picked at least 300 pounds more grapes yesterday than she has picked in her entire life. Snow will fall on Diamond Head before that woman takes up a trade. But really, we should all listen to her about how hard it is to be a fat woman in America today. Drive down any farm road in Intercourse and you’ll probably run into some Dutch broad who’s built like a brick shithouse and can’t imagine why a thick bitch would complain so much instead of having another slice of shoofly pie and then going out and picking some cabbage. Kissin’ wears out; cookin’ don’t. It said so on my grandmother’s Amish calendar towel. But that’s the difference between a chattering class and a working class.

This combination of feminist preening and grievance is on track to make someone reap the whirlwind. The question is who reaps it and how violently. There was a workplace beheading in Oklahoma a few days ago, and the jingoists are on edge because the killer was a Muslim evangelist. He could have caused more bloodshed with a Colt .45 and a steady aim, and Oklahoma being a sweet home of the gun nut, he probably wouldn’t have been that bashful in choosing a weapon. The timid Timmies are also missing the bit about how he worked in a slaughterhouse. This was a pissed off dude who knew how to use a knife on meat. These things unfortunately happen, often to multiple people in a single workplace. Usually it’s a gun attack, since America is not a culture of the knife, but this dude had been fired from a slaughterhouse, not the goddamn Army. And this was another lone wolf attack, one dude who went postal and murdered a coworker in the midst of an apparent personnel dispute, but he was a convert with a bee in his bonnet about Islam, QED: jihad.

Kajieme Powell should have learned some Wahhabi talking points instead of hurling pastries out of a convenience store and walking towards a couple of cops with a bowie knife, shouting, “Kill me!” He could have been a part of something bigger. Instead, his legacy is nothing worse than that of a mentally ill slasher from the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, an FAA contract technician managed to shut down O’Hare and Midway for hours and fubar air traffic in the region for days by setting fire to electrical equipment in a regional control center in Aurora, IL. It turns out that the FAA does not have a backup plan in place in the event that the Aurora center becomes inoperable. Oh. Dude was upset about an impending job transfer to Hawaii, and he tried to kill himself after torching the joint on the way out.

These incidents are true to form. Americans are all about going Lone Ranger on whatever is pissing them off. This could change, though: either positively, towards something like the labor unions regrowing a pair, or negatively, towards some kind of gangsterism. And that’s more or less what ISIS is: a criminal gang. It’s strongly analogous to the Mexican drug cartels, taking advantage of weak states in order to unleash a reign of psychopathic terror on the public and scare the shit out of its opponents.

Already the United States has seen a resurgence in subversive activity by non-state actors. We’re extremely lucky as Americans that these homegrown non-state actors are quite mellow by international standards. At Cliven Bundy’s “ranch” in Nevada (really an illegal cattle squat), they merely threatened to shoot federal agents who had come on official business to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal land in accordance with fully lawful orders. Another movement of non-state militiamen recently crashed the Border Patrol’s operations along the Rio Grande, ostensibly with the intent to interdict refugees (whom they miscategorized as illegal immigrants for political purposes). At first, I was very worried that one of these militiamen would shoot the wrong refugee kid and provoke stateside reprisals from some head-in-a-bag cartel, but they seem to have obeyed Border Patrol orders not to shoot or apprehend migrants, and their activities seem to have turned into foolish but innocuous Lone Star live-action role play.

I can’t help but imagine the public and official reaction to some fuckhead orchestrating a Bundy-style armed insurrection in Canada. Maybe I’m wrong about this (if so, feel free to chime in), but I can’t imagine there being any significant public opposition to bringing the full weight of Canadian law enforcement down on such a bellicose rabble. I can conceive of significant public support for a squatter’s movement waged in the name of Quebec separatism or some Indian tribe, but in such a case the inflammatory power of the federal government would be largely neutralized by the care it’s taken to devolve power (or at least the semblance of power) to the provincial and tribal governments in question. The Bundy standoff isn’t really about any infringement of local rights by the central government, although Bundy and his partisans like to disingenuously assert that it is. It’s really just a leaseholder resorting to armed insurrection against his lessor because he’s angry about administrative and judicial rulings issued against him for violating the terms of his lease. It’s totally lawless. I’m unaware of any faction within the Conservative Party that would support a cattleman for flagrantly violating the terms of a government land lease and then having armed goons threaten to shoot wildlife officers, or who would object to deploying every available Mountie, park ranger, and provincial cop to forcibly evict him and his private militia from their illegal encampment.

From everything I’ve read about Canada’s right wing, a Canadian Bundy insurrection would be universally regarded as completely insane and indecent. In the United States, the Conservative Party’s equivalent doesn’t have the political will to expel the supporters of the Bundy insurrection from its coalition. Maybe I’m wrong about right-wing politics in Canada, but I know I’m right about the right wing in my own country on this matter: it’s deranged, immoral and craven to the bone, and more subversive than the US Communist Party ever was.

Ever since General Lee’s serving of humble pie at Appomattox there has been a significant political faction in the United States that wants to refight the Civil War in some fashion. This faction didn’t care for federal power the first time around, when it was increasingly brought to bear on slaveholders, or the second time around, when it was used to severely destabilize (and in places destroy for good) the totalitarian alliance between the state and white civil society that had maintained Jim Crow for nearly a century. Elements of this faction enjoy trying to extort damn Yankee political sympathy for their reactionary cause by reminding Northerners that they wouldn’t have an army without the South (go tell Abe Lincoln, who offered Lee the command of the Union Army). This is an exceptionally vile faction, one whose overarching political goal since Bacon’s Rebellion has been to keep the poor cracker pissed off at the poor nigger; the sand nigger, although not much of a black man himself, will do in a pinch. For more than three centuries these asshats have been waving the bloody shirt, and for the most part it’s been a resounding success. Thank God it sometimes fails.

These are Cliven Bundy’s people. Never forget his absurd remarks about the Negro leading a poorer life on public assistance than he led in slavery. This is a man who believes in a black counterpart to Whitey, and would apparently like to have the black man doing badly underpaid, and perhaps not entirely consensual, ranch labor for fine high honkies like Cliven Bundy instead of being shiftless and uppity in the Las Vegas ghetto.

This same faction, or a closely related variant of it, is behind the police rioting in Ferguson. An unaccountable warrior class using violent repression against dissidents, racial and class disparities, tax farming, a functionally disenfranchised electorate, an aggressively criminalized citizenry: it’s a slightly different beat, but it’s the same goddamn song. Anyone feel like writing a history of the Second Battle of Canfield Drive? It’s coming soon to a livestream near you. Or, God willing, not. Just remember that Lincoln had no trouble choosing between God’s favor and Kentucky’s.

Jim Kunstler is absolutely right that the United States needs a model of manhood that isn’t based on violence. I spend enough time in rough parts of Sacramento to know this in my heart. The wealthy who abet downmarket violence and violent ideation through militaristic, dog-eat-dog policy and coarse popular culture are able to shield themselves from its ill effects, but if I want to spend any significant amount of time in urban California, I’m stuck in neighborhoods that verge on slums. If I’m lucky, my next-door neighbor doesn’t try to start brawls on the light rail system. No amount of luck can spare me the flatbiller dipshits. These are my fellow Californians. Bizarrely, they’re Jerry Brown’s constituents. Most of the flatbillers I’ve encountered have been decent enough, but Kunstler is right about their style of dress suggesting a crisis of American manhood. So does the hostile swagger that so many of them adopt.

I happen to be familiar with Kunstler’s home region around Saratoga Springs. My maternal grandmother lived in Glens Falls and had a summer cabin thirty-odd miles to the north, in a rural neighborhood where my parents now live. I’ve been vacationing in the area since I was an infant. It’s a troubled region. The Adirondacks have always been economically marginal, with little arable land and large pockets of rural squalor. Those who can’t make a living to their satisfaction catering to the summer people often find welfare fraud and arson-based insurance fraud more to their liking. The old factory towns along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain–Schuylerville, Hudson Falls, Fort Edward, Ticonderoga, Port Henry–had a good run of broad prosperity in the midcentury but have been in bad and usually worsening shape for my entire lifetime. Hudson Falls is a particularly sad case, with General Electric long ago having gotten out of Dodge but not taken its decades’ worth of electrical capacitor waste with it, leaving behind as its legacy a trashed river bottom that can adversely affect water quality for dozens upon dozens of miles downstream. The farming economies in parts of Upstate New York and New England, including the Upper Hudson watershed, have never fully recovered from the beating that they took when the Erie Canal opened up grain markets in the Midwest.

Some of these places have been getting fucked since the 1830’s. But that’s a bit of a copout. The longue duree of Adirondack culture is frankly one that a respectable person doesn’t want in the first place. Like many montagnards, Adirondackers are heavy on ne’er-do-wells. It literally goes with the territory. Most of the land is too steep and rocky to be of much use to herdsmen, let alone to farmers, and the growing season is short and cool. Honestly, it’s a shit bit of country that was settled by psychotic loners and more than a few highwaymen. It’s like the Red-Green Show but with more brawling. The locals like to get drunk at piney roadhouses and have spectacular car crashes on the way home, but who can blame them? The summer people don’t really understand what a boring place it is because they get to leave, usually for hometowns where they winter days aren’t so short. There are a few weeks of sugaring in the spring, a few of hunting here and there, and as much fishing as you can damn well stand, in case you really want to eat trout, but “ice fishing” is mostly a euphemism for getting drunk in a little hut on the lake, and maybe in the lake, instead of getting drunk in the den, where it’s probably warm enough to avoid hypothermia. Seriously, my parents knew a guy who got drunk and drowned in the lake, and it wasn’t one of the three times that he drove his truck into the lake, either. There’s probably no point in trying to figure out whether the Adirondacks are useless because they’re populated by shiftless highlanders or populated by shiftless highlanders because they’re useless, although I’ve always figured it’s the latter.

It may be that my parents and I overestimate the concentration of these losers because my maternal grandmother was rich white trash and they were her kind. I can, however, say that I don’t recall seeing anything of the sort among the Pennsylvania Dutch, while I recall seeing plenty of it among the postindustrial crackers and barrio pobrecitos in the county seats. Or at least something like it; what lakes there are on the periphery of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country rarely freeze hard enough for a North Country drunk’s polar bear plunge honeypot.

It isn’t just the Adirondacks, of course. Some version of Adirondack nihilism tends to set in wherever the locals aren’t engaged in meaningful trades. San Diego County, for example, is pathetic in this regard, another case of a hard land being populated by a gnarly-ass lot of hardscrabble fucking crackers. It’s a similar situation in Northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt Counties, although, to their credit, the Mendohumbies seem to be less into offroading than San Diegans. I’m not talking about the ones who make a killing growing that funky grass in the National Forest, by the way; I’m talking about the ones who are too marginal to get jobs as trim goddesses and end up living on food stamps and disability pensions in mildewed singlewides guarded by junkyard dogs. You may not want to look too closely at the countryside as you drive by on 101.

It isn’t worth the effort to harp on the dignity and moral edification of work, especially since people who sincerely believe in these things don’t usually make so much fucking noise about them, but it’s worth noting that work tends to engage those doing it with something resembling the real world. It engages those doing it with real people and real things rather than porn stars, professional athletes, actors, and video game avatars. Life in the hologram gets pretty bleak; I’ve been there, after a fashion, and I’m not sure that I care to properly report back. Unemployment sucks people into the hologram, enticing them to bathe more fully in its luxuriance. Combine these positive reinforcements with the negative ones arising from the intense stigma attached to unemployment, which discourages many unemployed people from talking about their circumstances candidly and seeking out peers who are in a similar spot, and behold: the abyss gazes back. Those who hold down jobs usually have to interact with real bosses, colleagues, customers, or subordinates (although there’s no telling what kind of appalling atomization can be wreaked by the computerization of jobs in the deep end of Spergsylvania), but the unemployed have no such routine social interactions in their work lives because, don’tcha know, they don’t have work lives. Very often this extends to their social lives as well. Everything goes into the toilet.

But television and the internet abide. Again, into the toilet, but the problem here isn’t evil media. The problem is weakening self-discipline in the face of low-effort entertainment and a stunning variety of choices (cable) or an unfathomable network of rabbit holes (the internet). For that matter, holing up in a library can be enough to entrench a man in madness, especially if the library is at the University of Hawaii and the man is Mark David Chapman. In case anyone’s too dense to notice (Murica represent), a major root cause of poor self-discipline for the unemployed is a lack of normal interactions with other people. The people who would otherwise provide them with the routine feedback needed to get their asses moving fade into the woodwork.

If you’ve been unemployed long term, you know this, probably painfully so. Alternately, if your solution is that the unemployed go full Daniel Boone and get their lives in order without peer input, I remind you that most of the mountain men were legit psychotic. Seriously, the motherfuckers were clinical head cases who talked to birds and shit. No man is an island, and those men who try to be islands are bathed by some mighty strange seas.

What the internet offers is the prospect of infinite knowledge with the certainty of most finite discernment. For those who have a life, this is a moot threat, since friends, relatives, colleagues, or neighbors will reliably summon them away from the digital abyss before they stand the remotest chance of being swallowed whole. For those who don’t have a life, it’s a Jonah and the whale adventure with that little smurf twit from Reddit. As Groucho Marx would say, inside of the whale it is very dark. There’s all this stuff one can learn, but there’s no human community in which to ground one’s learning. It’s all information and no context. The results get to be as ridiculous as the most deranged Protestant tradition of DIY biblical exegesis.

What I have in mind here is the PUA/MRA death swamp, although it’s about equally applicable to all-men-are-dogs feminism. I focus more on the PUA/MRA asshattery mainly because it’s entertaining enough to still keep my attention from time to time. The invective on these sites is so shrill, paranoid, and broad-brush that it’s hard to imagine how anyone living in the real world could believe such crazy bullshit. It’s endless vitriol about the inherent, unshakable self-dealing or perfidy or oppression or I’m butthurt and need the waaaahmbulance call whine-one-one of whichever sex the hive mind has decided to scapegoat.

Not believing this shit isn’t even a matter of believing in the complementarity of men and women; it’s a matter of having any values at all that aren’t total wankery and the ability to recognize others who in some fashion share the same values. By non-masturbatory values, I mean anything to do with recognizing that discernibly productive work is more valuable than being a mountebank or an extortionist or a general mooch or bullshit artist. The fact that this has to be spelled out speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of modern Anglo-American society.

It’s hard to spend five minutes on some of these sites without finding people who are rolling in the deep with Mr. McFeely and King Friday. There’s simply no way that the writers came up with their batshit crazy blanket statements by having real interactions with real people of either sex. There’s no way that being observant and of sound mind caused them to believe that women are inevitably worse than useless in the workplace or that men are broadly superfluous to society, maybe even to reproduction (if men don’t do the job, maybe we should try burls). These screeds don’t appear to just be elaborate troll jobs, either; the writers generally seem to believe their own bullshit.

The PUA/MRA sites are also crawling with guys who are blatantly on the Asperger’s spectrum, with above-average literacy and funds of knowledge but weird blind spots for figures of speech, sarcasm, and the like. The writing styles that these spergs use are either off-the-wall psychotic (Great Books for Men) or wooden, overly earnest, overly literal, and heavily tautological (most articles at Return of Kings). These guys aren’t just socially awkward; they have serious social deficits that keep them from understanding other people. They’re socially subnormal. A similar telltale writing style can be found in the more foolish and derivative ends of feminist writing, often in boorish screeds premised on the existence of systemic rape culture and unilateral male privilege. It’s probably all of a piece with the twisted views on consent that flourish at both extremes: the “no means yes” position of many PUA’s and the beliefs of many radical feminists that nonverbal consent cues simply cannot be trusted and that consent is ipso facto meaningless when given the mildly intoxicated. The interpersonal nuances of sexual intimacy are too much for these people to grok.

It’s a fairly safe bet that many of the people hanging out on these sites are unemployed or badly underemployed in some fashion. The professional circumstances of a number of feminist bloggers are fairly easy to discern, and they don’t look good: their positions appear to be a sorry-ass assortment of sinecures and political minefields overrun by disingenuous cutthroats worthy of Versailles, often for little to no pay (sinecures don’t have to be lucrative; at Dickinson College, from what I’ve heard, they pay shit). Even if these women are already mentally unstable and ethically compromised when they take their snark jobs, it can’t help their mental state or their ethics to work in such toxic, crazymaking environments. At the countervailing misogynistic extreme, Roosh is an admitted dropout from the STEM career track, but I get the feeling that various MRA/PUA peanut galleries are full of men who failed at office political games that decent people (and, for that matter, many indecent people) simply can’t win. What’s so twisted about the MRA/PUA movement in this context is that it focuses so heavily on internal loci of control, dismissing any reference, no matter how reasonable, to external loci of control as the mewling of whiny little bitches. Scaled up, the political implications of this attitude are frightening. As Americans, we live them. They’re the same up-by-the-bootstraps sadism and hubris as ever.

Anyone who pays a lick of attention recognizes to some degree or other how destructive it is to cut people off from tangible, productive work and honest earnings. It’s blatantly destructive to the wealthy, too, even though the wealthy can afford all sorts of expensive treatments and workarounds. But the Anglo-American mainstream is run by an overclass that doesn’t give a shit. It pretends to care deeply about the dignity of work, but its revealed preferences show no love for the virtue of work. What it really loves is fraud, extortion, and intimidation. Maybe the effect will be an American version of ISIS or the Mexican cartels, or maybe it will be a swelling population of Elliot Rodger and One L. Goh copycats in our midst, which would be better but still not good.

Regardless, we’ll damn well end up somewhere ugly if the high bougies keep delegating all their honest labor to Mexicans and shutting out their own countrymen, especially the young men among them. And they should be warned that they can’t be assured of reaping that whirlwind in Spanish.

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