Discover more from Dominion Press
Roadmap to Nowhere: A Response to Christine Emba
Men are lost. Progressives want to keep it that way.
An opinion piece was recently posted on The Washington Post entitled, “Men are lost. Here’s a map out of the wilderness.” The essay itself is interesting because although it doesn’t come within ten miles of an actual definition, it at least sheepishly acknowledges that masculinity might still be a thing. Which is more than I'd hoped to find in a place like this.
Though Emba’s observations will be old news for some, there are still a disturbing number of people who haven't considered them. Remarks such as “Deindustrialization, automation, free trade and peacetime have shifted the labor market dramatically, and not in men’s favor,” or that men increasingly “find themselves lonely, depressed, anxious and directionless,” or that “many young men suffer [. . .] because they have no father figure in their lives,” may come as a shock to those who’ve been conditioned to view men as populous and overpowered.
Emba even goes so far as to acknowledge there is “something valid at the core of [male] constructs,” and that “people need codes for how to be human,” and that “most people don’t actually want a completely androgynous society.”
What becomes clear throughout the essay, however, is that the stated aim of working towards a new paradigm for men isn’t exactly genuine. For Emba, and those she quotes, whatever neo-masculinity might look like, there are certain things it must look like. And also certain things it must not look like. It must affirm the premises and gains of feminism; it must avoid, at all costs, “manly appeal[s] from the right”; should any less-docile masculine traits survive the transition, they must be “harnessed for pro-social aims.”
In this, I was reminded of the politicians who constantly assure us that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to responding to problems. In reality, of course, nearly everything is off the table except a few emaciated “solutions” — all of which share the same basic errors.
For example, we’re expected to share Emba’s abhorrence of “the essentialist view,” which is “that it’s in men’s nature to be brave, stoic and in charge while women remain docile, nurturing and submissive.” This, she claims, would be “dire news for social equality and for the vast numbers of individuals who don’t fit those stereotypes.” And whatever happens — should the stars fall to earth or winged demons emerge from burning vents in the earth’s crust — we must reject outright the “impossible suggestion that [men] reenact the lives their grandfathers led.”
In other words, however we get out of this wilderness, we can’t use this path, or that one, or that path over there. For progressives, no scenario will ever exist in which we might actually have to consider our grandfather’s views or virtues on their own merits. Why would we? He might have been a friendly old geezer, but he didn’t have the WHO, lithium batteries, or the freedom to identify himself as a British Columbia wolf. His was a sad and inferior kind of existence, built on vulgar principles like hard work, self-sacrifice, and the accumulation of practical skills.
Today, we must take progressive’s word for it that we’re on the cusp of something great. Even if what’s floating over the cusp smells suspiciously like a pile of burning diapers.
Towards an Actual Way Out
Alright, enough diplomacy. What we're seeing in all of this is exactly this kind of “chronological snobbery” that will ensure we stay trapped in this bloody forest until it burns down around us.1
And I do mean “us.”
We’re told that women are “no longer [. . .] dependant on marriage” and are “choosing to create families by themselves, with the help of reproductive technology.” But are these actually good things? Did anyone think to ask that question? Is fragmenting the traditional family structure into sterile, isolated units a good thing? Is “liberating” women from home and hearth a good thing? Is it good for men, or women, to be alone? A brief survey of the landscape (and the articles I linked to) suggests otherwise. From where I’m standing, I see an increasingly harried cohort of women attempting to “get ahead” in the world before trying to embark into a life of motherhood in their 40’s. And then discovering that they can’t.
I’m not gloating here — we really do have a tragedy on our hands.
But the way you get out of a tragedy is not by doing the same exact thing over and over again. The way you get out of a tragedy is by first acknowledging the presence of tragedy — which Emba has done — and then by identifying the source of the tragedy — which has not been done.
The real source of the current male tragedy isn’t waning industry, Jordan Peterson, or successful women — it’s our bankrupt worldview. The reason we’re still so lost is that we keep believing stupid things like, “Femininity [and] masculinity are social constructs that we get to define,” and that “Biology isn’t destiny.” You can’t deny true north and still hope to use a compass to find your way. The way out of the wilderness starts with us frankly acknowledging that our current philosophical moment excludes us from writing a grocery list, let alone drawing a map. That questions of ontology are so complex should compel us to search out instructions, not assume we can just figure it all out.2 As limited creatures — as fallen creatures — the idea of giving ourselves to weightier matters of right and wrong without guidance is impossibly presumptuous.
This, by the way, is why I regularly end, or intertwine, these columns with biblical truth. I really can’t stress this enough. I'm not just trying to gild my base opinions in gold leaf. We need to realize that apart from revelation — and submitting to that revelation — we're as lost as any plump German child in one of Grimm’s darker forests.
If there’s anything that can be said of Emba’s essay, it’s that her observations are true: men are indeed lost, and everyone else along with them. If we're ever going to be found, we need something solid to work towards. Not more empty conjecture, impoverished social visions, or cautious non-answers like “A positive vision of masculinity [will] [. . .] recognize distinctiveness but not pathologize it.”
To clarify, my main concern here isn’t just that Emba is lost — though I can certainly hope for her finding. My main concern is that by assuming the role of a guide, Emba (and her tribe) will only work to further lose the already lost men.
Maybe I’ll conclude with a relevant text from Jeremiah. This one’s going out to all the grandfathers:
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” (6:16)
Chronological snobbery was a term coined by twentieth century British author C.S. Lewis. It describes the belief that since civilization has advanced in certain areas, people of earlier periods were less intelligent.
Ontology deals with claims about the nature of being and existence.