Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I regularly read the journal American Affairs, which is a sophisticated populist journal that wisely strays away from sticking to any politician or political movement but is vaguely right-leaning. The journal is available in print or by online subscription. Marco Rubio has been interviewed for it. There was an article in the Winter 2020 issue called “The New Superfluous Men,” which looked at the increasingly sorry and questionable state of young men in western society. It was written by Alex Glender and there were several aspects of it that I wanted to analyze and then comment on:
As the story goes, by eroding traditional norms of monogamy and family life, social and technological developments such as feminism and the birth control pill intensified sexual competition by giving women more freedom to choose their partners without consequences.
According to Pew Research Center, “only 44% of Millennials were married in 2019, compared with 53% of Gen Xers, 61% of Boomers and 81% of Silents at a comparable age.” There’s been a steady decline in marriage, more and more with each coming generation. “Reproductive freedom” has certainly had a lot to do with this and along with that also has been the institutionalization of social isolation.
People live unnaturally in the United States. They don’t know their neighbor, very few of them are part of community groups, and they take in a steady stream of consumer media that gives them nothing but anxiety and animosity toward the people that exist around them. No one seems particularly happy with this scenario, though plenty of people will nonetheless rationalize it and refuse to change it. Glender goes on to cite French writer Michel Houellebecq, who says:
Just unrestrained economic liberalism, and for similar reasons, sexual liberalism produces phenomena of absolute pauperization. Some men make love every day; others five or six times in their life, or never.
While I was living in California, without saying any privacy-violating specifics, I met a man who was a virgin well into middle age. Yes, long past the 40-year mark from the infamous Steve Carrell movie. There were all sorts of reasons for why he ended up in that situation, but certainly, atomization had a lot to do with it. A total abundance of sex means that a man who accumulates it is like a billionaire and a man who never attains it is a pauper. Feminists talk about men, likewise, as if they are homeless people or illegal immigrants who desperately seek something that they have.
“Incels,” or the “involuntarily celibate,” men are not simply a phenomenon in the United States, which really makes one wonder what is going on. They are called “bare branches” in China and “hikikomori” in Japan. Glender theorizes that they are a product of a world that no longer employs slave labor, drafts men into conflicts or goes exploring unknown shores and adds that the ideology they’ve arrived at through the Alt Right movement might vent their rage but hardly helps their efforts:
Understood in this way, the incel’s predicament is a bitterly ironic one. For in addition to the targets of their rage, incels victimize themselves by supporting the very same ideologies that lie at the root of their immiseration. They decry the materialism and shallowness of “gold-digging” women who only care about men’s wealth and social status while in the same breath opposing feminist equality and upholding the gender norms that enshrine men as providers.
It is worth noting here that many feminists talk about gender equity but will easily scream and shout down a man if he is not adhering to old gender norms. They’ll shout at and berate men or anyone for anything that they can get away with, don’t listen to anything men say, and only ever back off if other women who aren’t as deranged tell them to. Glender adds:
They extol marriage while opposing the sorts of economic redistributionist policies that would make it easier for men like them to attain and sustain it. They adopt white supremacist ideologies that demonize black and immigrant men instead of recognizing their common plight. And with their view of history hopelessly distorted by consumer media, they pine for “traditional” eras in which, in all statistical likelihood, they would find themselves serving as cannon fodder in some lord’s army, wasting away from scurvy at sea, or hauling stones under an overseer’s whip. But one need not have any sympathy for incels to recognize that simply admonishing them to “be better” and less entitled is an inadequate response to a confluence of technological and demographic change, and that the conditions that breed them create a more dangerous world for us all.
If the past year has taught us anything, from COVID-19 lockdowns to the storming of congress by Alt-Right zealots, it’s that society and the civilization around us can stop. The normal routine we are used to is only routine because we keep doing it. The incel is only an extreme variant of social isolation. The overworked, overeducated, and over-miserable career woman is also an extreme variant. Neither is normal or happy and the statistics show that while happiness has stayed about the same for men over the years, it has actually gone down for women in the west even as they have made historic gains.
If people marry less, if they know their neighbors less, if they talk less to each other and are involved in the community less, they will have nothing to sustain civilization. Civilization was built by people who did these things. They will have no idea of what is going on with people around them and will thus be unable to see disaster or conflict coming. We will jump right back to the world where men were “cannon fodder in some lord’s army, wasting away from scurvy at sea, or hauling stones under an overseer’s whip.”Published in