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    The Whole Millennial Generation May Be Alienated - What To Do About It

    As Michael Maiello and Michael Wolraich well know, along with some readers here, I had a very strange episode that I broadcast for all of Dagblog a few years ago. I was having a mental health crisis, compounded by all sorts of factors. I felt like a total freak. I wish I hadn't felt like one and expressed myself like one, as apparently nothing I was feeling was actually that abnormal and is even now a societal phenomenon.

    During that time, I wrote an article with feminist writer Jennifer Reimer, who is no longer with us, called "American Hikokomori." Michael Maiello may remember it. I wrote it after the Sandy Hook Massacre. The term was used in an article for New York magazine this year.

    Since then, a term has become known in popular vernacular - the incel. The term is defined as:

    "members of an online subculture who define themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. Self-identified incels are largely white and are almost exclusively male heterosexuals. The term is a portmanteau of "involuntary celibates." 

    That term is talking pretty specifically about the sort of young men, who with nothing better to do, hang out in websites like 4chan and post egregious and offensive things. It seems to be used more specifically throughout general popular culture, however, to describe men who are at a loss for themselves. That seems to be the extreme case, with the people who marched in Charlottesville another extreme case, the general Alt Right, and then the many men in the millenial age range that most of us know somewhat who wander streets aimlessly, play video games all day, think and say strange things, and are general "flakes" - unable to commit or stick to any idea, task, or identity even for an extended period of time.

    I will throw a wrench in to the analysis. I don't think it is simply a male phenomenon. While recent years gave us Richard Spencer or Stefan Molyneaux, among others, it also gave us AOC - Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. While this beautiful and charismatic woman may not seem alienated, her economic history says otherwise. After graduating from Boston University, AOC worked as a waitress, a job that doesn't require a four year degree. That is economic alienation, not social alienation, but it's alienation nonetheless and it led to her freely dispensing with statements such as, in the US, "if you don't have a job, you are left to die."

    AOC also seems inclined toward teaming up with Ted Cruz on several legislative endeavors. It was only a few years ago that Cruz was leading a government shutdown. Perhaps AOC was able to break through because she thinks outside of the box?

    Alienation looks different among men and women, and men and women of different demographics, because society treats them different and tells them different things. However, the alienation is a general zeitgeist sweeping last 2010s America. We should rethink ways to reinforce community and initiatives that might make people feel a whole lot less lost. That seems to be exactly what some politicians are doing:

    1. The Freedom Dividend - this is what Andrew Yang is basing his campaign on. Each citizen would be granted, as a result of being a citizen of the United States, $1000 each month. Yang posits as an example of success Alaska, a deep red state that pooled from the state's vast oil wealth to fund a basic minimum income. Yang's arguments make a lot of sense - the $1000 would be able to take away from the harsh circumstances of struggling each month in increasingly expensive urban areas, which are increasingly the only place you can earn a living.

    2. Mandatory service - I posted this idea on my Facebook after Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggested this and got a polite response from someone of "fuck this." The military draft was a factor in our society until the Vietnam war. We tried an experiment of individualism, embraced by left (hippies) and right (Reaganites), after that war and now seem dissatisfied with it. Our sensibilities are not for mandatory soldiering now, of course, but I do think mandatory service, in which you are mandated to spend a year upon adulthood of doing something in service to the community would be popular. We could create a system that directs young people toward some kind of service work instead of expecting them to find it themselves when the system is still new to them. It would be a lot better than what we have now - we raised a whole generation with very few expectations and then expected them to figure it out themselves and the result isn't pretty.

    3. Trade Schools - Yang has also posited this idea. Germany is an economic powerhouse and the only industrial economy in Europe. It has trade schools, in which university is not the only path but learning an actual trade is one. I don't really know anyone in my generation who knows how to make stuff. We should teach people to do so. Information technology is updated so fast that much of what's learned in universities becomes obsolete - teaching people to build tangible things would foster a sense of connectedness that is the basis of community.

    Robert Nisbet wrote his classic Quest for Community book in the 1950s, another time of alienated male youth. He described the alienated individual as someone who has effectively tuned out:

    "By alienation I mean the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility. The individual does not feel a part of the social order, he has lost interest in being a part of it."

    I'm not even sure if these are right wing or left wing ideas anymore. We live in a world where Rachel Maddow is saying "God bless you, John Bolton" while Tucker Carlson rails against endless war, but there's a lot of good ideas out there to consider in a largely incomprehensible world. It maybe seems incomprehensible because the old lens we looked through are out of date.


    Very nicely written, Orion, I am very impressed with how well you express the kinds of things you are thinking about in this vein. Makes a lot of analysis I've been reading look very sloppy in comparison.


    Hi Orion - glad you're back, glad someone's writing original content, glad you seemed to navigate your difficulties.

    Now, my disagreements. First, "incel" is a very large category, with obnoxious hate mongers only a small percentage of it. Think "too fat to fuck" as another category (read an Amy Schumer bio, and she's funny/successful/not that fat). Think those having mental or adjustment problems - possibly you a short time ago. Think those just in the wrong environment to meet anyone compatible - say a liberal in the south (as someone older was telling me he'd stopped going to any church activities because it was too dangerous and bigoted - someone mentioned a name in passing and he responded, "who's that?" to which they noted, "A Fox News commentator!!!" and if he hadn't quickly come back with "well I don't watch the news" he would have been ostracized by the whole community). I was watching a foreign documentary yesterday, one of those "follow people for decades" things, and there was a nice very friendly reasonably good-looking, hard-working guy who was basically taking over the family business - but he was still living at home, couldn't find a girlfriend for whatever reason. He finally moved out, found a pretty & talented singer he lived with for a while, didn't work out, but at least he broke the drought. Not everyone manages that, though - may not have the money, the charm, the demeanour, the looks, the confidence, the aggressiveness, the mental stability, the bounceback from abuse, the social ease or access, whatever - male or female. People are hooking up later and later these days - it's a social problem. And generally the last thing we want to do is paint every unsuccessful person as an undesirable, an asshole, rather than try to identify problems to fix.

    Tossing AOC into the incel mix as anything related is really a gimmick. I'm all for Yang's minimum basic income and glad he's pushing it, but economic distress is its own issue, not to be mixed too much with today's sexual patterns except where makes a bit of sense.

    However, as soon as you give each American $12k more a year, there are 300 or 3000 American companies who will figure out how to raise their rent, co-pay, car insurance, grocery bill, daycare, bus pass, phone bill, vacation prices, whatever. It may help, but be prepared for the usual madness.

    Public Service? these are the fuckers pushing ICE to be nastier, to go to war with Iran, to be meaner to immigrants, to cut government services. Give them a free indentured source of labor for their shit plans? Why not just call them "brownshirts" to form street brigades. Yeah, maybe it won't be quite as awful as that, but neither Clinton's president - Trump & the GOP control government. Let's put that nice idea in the bottom drawer for later.

    Trade schools? People with college degrees are already getting updates on digital transformation, project management, full Web stack development, data science, AI, etc. It may help some, but where they'll be competing against India or a technology that's dead or completely shifted in 2 years or simply 1 of too many people applying for the same position - it's not that simple, there's no free lunch. Journalists are working crap piece-meal wages now - no one's giving them a real salary, real benefits. Teachers hardly make money. Web design's oversubscribed. Forget being a travel agent. How do we "pick the winners" for next year's model, when the model's changing faster than you can train for it?


    To address incel obliquely, since at least 2004 there's been a heavy push bytowards Democrats towards LGBT+ rights as well as embracing Hispanics. The former pushing gay marriage possibly killed John Kerry's close challenge to Bush in 2004, though these historical guesses are always iffy. Still, the South of all persuasions is over 37% of the US population and growing, while white non-Hispanics are around 200 million nationwide. Non-gay population is likely about 96%, which might surprise regular readers of Huffpost. Inclusion is great, but shitting on and insulting American majorities and major pluralities when not ignoring them isn't going to buy us back power. And no, they're not all Nazis. But both Avenatti and Rick Wilson this week are bemoaning the lack of effort to reach out, while Biden's shtick is how good it used to be (as if he forgot his White House days just  2 1/2 years ago or the meltdown that was decimating the US when he and Obama were elected and the Tea Party was already manning the ramparts). And yes, I still think Fukuyama had/has some of the most useful insight into how divisions and unity are playing out, including the search for respect, which often trumps people's concerns about money ro promoting their more mundane tangible self-interests. Focusing on a young attractive spunky degreed female as the crux of the struggle for economic justice is laughable - try the unglamorous, the aging, the uneducated, the rust belt wasteland, the disabled (physically and psychologically), the socially clumsy, those who simply don't have the wherewithal to fight over and over the battles of this fast-paced new world. Women took a leap in politics in Nov 2018, but let's see how even that persists, and whether we can also understand and meet the challenges that implies for the other half (or do we just contemptuously utter a "deal with it" requiem? Feels satisfying, but life doesn't usually conform to a witty Clint Eastwood/Schwarzenegger kiss off.)


    PS - those trade school jobs? The openings are for Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks, where we already hear rumblings about how poor conditions and pay are, while cost of living skyrockets. McJobs is a pyramid scheme, straight and simple. Working on the line at GM used to at least buy you a pension and healthcare.


    This is a lot but I would say that a large state already tried basic income and its remained part of their policy for decades - Alaska. Also, private companies are hiking prices regardless of a basic income or not, so you might as well help people out.

    I would say that the various situations of alienation is young people not really knowing what to do with the tools they are placed with. You can only have a lasting marriage when there is a vision between partners of what your future and goals are. The "incel" is largely used in sexual connotations but if you have a degree and then you are placed in the world with very little guidance on how to use it besides work you could have done out of high school, that is alienation.

    Take care!

    The Alaska Fund isn't any where near a basic minimum income. It's an annual payment. Some years it's only a few hundred dollars for the year. . Occasionally it's around 2,000 a year. There are 207 million working age adults in the US. That doesn't include children or those over 64.  That amounts to 207 billion dollars a month, over 2.4 trillion a year. How does he propose to pay for that?

    Maddow didn't say god bless you John Bolton as gratitude. It was sarcasm.

    Is there data for first point? Because that is a big bomb if true.

    You might like this big picture essay, might be thought provoking for you: We’re in an anti-liberal moment. Liberals need better answers guest op-ed by Samuel Moyn​, a professor of law and history at Yale University, @ Washington Post, June 21


    I have another odd suggestion that occurred to me while I was walking. China maintains a hybrid capitalist - communist systems that still implements "five year plans" to apply to its unique form of market economy. What if we revitalized communes? The Amish and other groups have long had a space in American society that did not revolve simply around growth for the sake of growth.

    And excellent article - I shared it on Facebook.

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