But I haven’t yet fully responded to the arguments of Bennett et al. I’ve shown that he can’t answer the question Millennial men have at the forefront of their minds: What’s in it for us?
But, he would like the men of our generation to take on these burdens for reasons that go above and beyond the superficial and hedonistic. They would like us to take up the young man’s burden – careers, marriage, debt-fueled purchases of status symbols, chivalry – for the good of society. We, able young men of the early 21st century, are being asked to sacrifice our freedom and quality of life in the service of the social contract.
I can forgive the Baby Boomers, like Bennett, for expecting this of us. The sacrifice of young men for the good of society has been a prominent feature throughout virtually all of human history. When wars are fought, we fight and die. When dangerous jobs must be done, who better than young men? As much as we’d like to spend our lives cavorting, drinking and womanizing, healthy societies have always had strong norms in place to curtail the destructiveness in every young man’s nature, and redirect his energies to more productive pursuits: War and danger, but also industry, invention, and leadership.
The Millennial Generation – also known as Generation Zero, Generation Nihilism, and as our demographic importance grows, a presumed assortment of new and pejorative monikers – is an aberration. We are unique. Rather than take the torches from the hands of our grizzled ancestors, we are walking off without them. Into the darkness. But also, lighter.
For this choice, we have been called selfish, spoiled, and lazy. In time, we will be called much worse. Brace yourselves, disobedient young men. There will be much talk of duty, responsibility, and debts owed. If you choose to follow your own path, you must necessarily choose not to follow the one that the previous generation laid out for us. Have you started living life for yourself? Great! But the implication is that previously, you were living life for someone else. That person probably isn’t very happy about your new perspective.
So how should you respond, when the powers that be try to ease you into your chains with stern lectures about your duty to society? How about:
“I owe it to society, eh? Would that be the one that routinely trashes masculinity in its pop culture? Is it the society whose family law apparatus, welfare system, and academically-enshrined radical feminists, do their impressive best to wage war on fathers and stable families? The one that has taxed and regulated our once-mighty productive industries into Breshnevan sclerosis, so that it can funnel cash and goodies to the idle criminal underclass?”
At this point, an honest man would be forced to sheepishly admit that, yes, that would be the society we’re talking about.
21st century men have been dropped headfirst into a culture, job market, and legal system – a society – that has zero respect for them. In spite of it all – crippling alimony, false rape and domestic abuse charges, affirmative action even as young women have begun to graduate from college and earn more than us, mass media populated exclusively with Homer Simpsonesque doofuses – we’re expected to sacrifice our personal wants and desires, for the good of society. For that society.
And William Bennett wonders why our response has been underwhelming? Sorry Billy. You and your ilk didn’t give my generation the guidance and leadership you should have, but we know a shitty contract when we see one. We’re lost, for now. But we’re not stupid.