Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Pampered Janen Ganesh, And How He Can Stop Feeling Guilty

Janen Ganesh is a columnist in the FT. He says a lot of things I agree with (like this article about being childless) But he uses rather more Metropolitan Elite snark than a drunk accounts clerk puts chilli on his Nando’s chicken. You can guess how I feel about that.

In last weekend’s FT he had an article titled Masculinity Crisis? What Crisis?. He suggested that...
[t]here is no uniformity of suffering based on gender…class matters more. Working-class men deserve the rhetoric of crisis, the media coverage, the academic symposia and - if it ever comes - the government help. It is wasted on those of us for whom modernity has been a kind of prolonged anti-crisis…. …[a] crisis is there: in the rust belt, in the suicide statistics, and drug-epidemic epidemiology, in the economic obsolescence of the voters who brought you Brexit and President Donald Trump. It is just that these beleaguered males coexist with perhaps the most pampered cohort of men in history. I should know. When my fortunate lot get together…there are furtive looks around in case someone realises what cushy lives we have and calls time on the whole racket.
Digression: working men do not deserve "the rhetoric of crisis, the media coverage, the academic symposia and - if it ever comes - the government help”. They need jobs that allow them, at the very least, to support a wife and family in a modest life. An economy which writes off a large proportion of its people as economically obsolescent is going to wreck the society around it. Make that has wrecked the society around it.

Back to the crisis of masculinity. So, Mr Ganesh, when the metropolitan women at your dinner parties talk about the “crisis of masculinity”, they do not care about the problems of working-class men in Shotton. They are talking about you, about the lack of men who are willing to accommodate their dualistic sexual strategy, as described by The Widow Sandberg:
When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home.
And the reason you are that crisis is that you have reached the age when they need you to be paying up and settling down, and you have no intention of doing so.

Now let’s move on to his calling his lifestyle "the whole racket”. He thinks his Metropolitan Privilege is a scam, compared to the real lives of men who toil, protect and provide. He calls himself and his chums pampered. Why would he do that?

Pampered could be a virtue display of guilt. There he is, sitting pretty in the centre of the Universe, without a shred of real male values: he toils not, neither does he spin (well, not fabric, anyway), he protects not nor provides, he has no wife and desires not a son or daughter. If he really was with the program, that would not trouble him. But it does.

Pampered could be an attempt to signal status, while ironically acknowledging that the status is not derived from traditional male values. If so, it is not a clear signal. It is saying "Behold my economic and social status" and "Which is not available to you for provisioning and status-hopping". Ineffective mixed message there.

On the off-chance he really means it, I have to wonder. How much do they pay at the FT? How much support did his family provide for his London flat? Does he have a private income? Is he E L James in disguise? One of those or something similar must be true, because he omits the bit where he made a killing in the City. Maybe the political class looks after its own, and Pearson through the FT is making an investment in a possible future Minister. In which case he is right to be a little self-conscious about his lifestyle.

My guess is that he has yet to embrace The Bachelor. He thinks it's about avoiding marriage and children, whereas it isn't. To borrow a phrase: it's about being your own mental point of origin. Bachelors are the people we make of ourselves, through our interactions with the economy, culture and society. We are not the people that other people make of us.

Part of achieving The Bachelor is learning to respect ourselves and our choices, and that, from my experience, is only possible when we respect the skills, personalities and choices of other people. (We can draw the line at criminals, psychopaths, SUV drivers and people who sold PPI, dodgy electricity tariffs, and all the other scams that were, are, and evermore shall be.)

Thinking of the working man as economically obsolescent is not showing respect. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Start there.

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