"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
In the UK men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women. Every week 84 men commit suicide. Homelessness and sleeping rough is a male thing. There is a generation of lost men attempting to navigate their way in a world that has changed at light-speed.
Given the evidence that young men, in particular, are struggling, you’d think attempts to help them would be welcome. Not so. Those who voice concerns, even from a professional capacity, are immediately attacked.
The Guardian newspaper is leading that charge. Hardly a week goes by without an anti-men article. The language used would attract the 'racist' label if applied to any other group. Much of their venom gets heaped on clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Why? Well, because he uses facts and scientific arguments to destroy unfounded opinions. In their latest attack, Peterson is "the evangelist of white male resentment”.
In reality, Peterson is pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. And he does it in a way that is so articulate and compelling, that the politically-correct crowd cannot deal with it. Lacking any evidence for their beliefs, they fall back on ad hominem attacks. Dogged and weighed with cynicism, they wave away the facts further underlining their lack of credibility.
If these people bothered to engage their brains, then listen to what he says, they’d see the clarity of his propositions. He's no evangelist. Instead, he attempts to understand the challenges men face and help them overcome these.
Whether we’ll admit it or not, young men as a group are getting left behind amid the shifting economic, social, and technological landscape. Everyone knows a young man who is struggling. Either in school or afterwards. Failing to launch, emotional issues, or poor interactions with the opposite sex, they flounder.
I’ve seen it in working-class friends and boys from well-off backgrounds. The alienation felt by young working-class men of all colours is troubling. In a de-industrialised economy, these young men are lost. In the past, they had jobs as welders, miners and in the motor-trade. This work defined them, connecting them to a community through shared hardships. Telemarketing and shelf-stacking jobs don’t measure up the same.
Of course, if these blokes complain, especially the white men, it’s assumed that any demands come out of their privilege. When all there want is decent employment and then left alone. To suggest otherwise is lazy, damaging to the debate.
The smart folks at the Guardian have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. But like everything in the current melee, this paper seems to be choosing a polarising path. Navigating a balanced route is too hard.
Perhaps more data will help swing them. Boys are well behind the girls in education terms. This gap is stark, starts young and is not new. For 11 years old the difference is six percentage points. By the age of 16, that’s grown to nine percentage points in England. Its impact annually is 30,000 fewer boys than girls are becoming apprentices; 60,000 fewer go to university every year. Fewer men are entering nearly all the professions. And here one for the feminists, young men earn less per hour on average than women, in both full-time and part-time roles.
Things are no better in the United States. A recent Congressional Budget Office report revealed one out of six young men are either not working or incarcerated. Add guns to the mix then things get messed up. Mass shootings have tripled since 2011, with the majority carried out by young men. Meanwhile, adolescent male suicide rates have increased by 50 per cent since 1994.
Similar data exists across all cultures. In Hong Kong, the suicide rate for males aged 15-24 is triple that of females. But, these statistics have no traction because there is an empathy gap when it comes the challenges young men face. As a result, boys are opting out.
For many, virtual reality has become a haven, and in some instances more structured and rewarding than reality. Thus we see the emergence of terms such as hikikomori - Japanese for “pulling inward”. Along with the rise of movements such as Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).
Who can blame them for wanting to opt out? The shift into alternative realities disconnects them further. Asking what’s wrong with them or why aren’t they motivated the same way young men used to be, aren't the right questions.
A 20,000-person survey sought to understand what is causing motivational problems in young men. The number one answer chosen was conflicting messages from media, institutions, parents, and peers about acceptable male behaviour.
No wonder. With the rise of “toxic masculinity” classes on college campuses, masculinity is almost a disease. Also, there is a decreasing number of positive male role models showing younger men the path to acceptable manhood.
Jordon Peterson is seeking to understand, then guide these young men. He can do without the sneering, ill-informed diatribe from the Guardian and others.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.