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Monday, September 10, 2012

David Brooks, "Why Men Fail": Genetics and Culture?

Thank God, I can finally explain to my wife that I'm not to blame for my dismal set of communication skills - it's all about genetics and culture - which have yielded only five Facebook friends, four of whom are family members and one of whom is deceased.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Why Men Fail" (, David Brooks tells us that men are dropping out of the labor force and explains why:

"To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks."

Brooks goes on to cite a new book, "The End of Men," by Hanna Rosin, which posits, in David's words, that men "are waiting around for the jobs that left and are never coming back" and "still adhere to the masculinity rules, which limit their vision and their movement."

I don't entirely agree with this gender based argument. Rather, all of American society is being forced to adapt to a new set of economic norms: employment in manufacturing, which in the past offered a haven to many American men, is disappearing from the landscape, owing to overseas outsourcing and robotics. In its stead, more service jobs are becoming available, yet perhaps many, without regard to gender or flexibility, have yet to recognize and acknowledge this sea change.

An example of such a shift, on a smaller scale, closer to home? My wife grew up on a kibbutz, an Israeli agricultural collective. It had always been assumed by kibbutz children that the collective would offer them jobs in agriculture from cradle to grave, and a high percentage of kibbutz children - both male and female - never finished high school. Regrettably for them, the kibbutz was also forced to adapt to modern economics, demanding industry grounded on high tech and a more skilled work force, leaving many of those who had ignored their education unprepared to cope. Then, too, several of these collectives were effectively forced to file for bankruptcy.

In the US, maybe women are indeed better able to cope with this shift from manufacturing to service type jobs, owing to historic expectations where they are best positioned to make headway and climb the ladder, but ultimately everyone, including genetically and culturally deprived men, will need to adapt to a new set of economic circumstances.

Meanwhile, I suppose we should all be grateful that Brooks provided us with this much needed respite from the hardwired inanity and lies being disseminated in 2012 by Republicans and Democrats, both men and women.

[For the sake of transparency and good order, I should inform you that since publication of this blog entry, I was "defriended" by one of my Facebook friends - I won't say by whom, given that I'm already in enough trouble with her - taking my total down to four.]


  1. Oh, Jeff, the new set of circumstances isn't that new - we already had barbaric capitalism which I'd like to remind both of you ended up not so nice.
    Neither Brooks nor you somehow notice that for the most ruthless the new circumstances are new only to a small degree - their "salaries" are higher now than they were a decade ago and will go higher until ..... yes until "THIS" will come and it won't be nice.
    There must, must, must be civilized labor law - everything else is charming babbling on the way to abyss.
    Adjusting to slavery is only good in the eyes of the University of Chicago alumni, totally removed from any history, including the own May 1 (what's that?) history.

  2. University of Chicago alumni, including Saul Alinsky?

  3. Correction.
    In the last sentence I meant "including THEIR own ...
    Saul Alinsky belonged to a totally different generation - yes, it matters.