In an article last week at American Greatness, Scott Greer offers a rebuttal to Tucker Carlson and others who have been arguing against college. Greer’s analysis is superb. Both objective and intellectually dialogic, Greer is arguing for balance. He is not denying that young men are mercilessly attacked on many college campuses or that college may not be for everyone. But at the same time, he argues that sweeping statements encouraging all young men to immediately get a job out of high school and marry young is probably just as damaging as encouraging everyone to go to college.
As Greer argues, one consequence of pushing all conservative young men to be laborers is that some will not be suited to it. And even if they are well-suited to the work, if the decision to become a laborer is entirely and only based on the rejection of higher education’s leftist ideologies, then are they closing themselves off from opportunities for similarly ideological reasons? What if, as a result of these choices, they are unable to meet women who are suitable matches for them in terms of energy, ambition, and intellectual capacity? And might that not just depress them even more than the oppressive ideologies now dominant at universities?
The situation is frustrating, if not maddening. There is another component to this question, however: the attack on young men, and manhood in general. Carlson’s advice for early marriage, though well-intended and good in the abstract, seems to exist in a vacuum. Although men and manhood are under constant and persistent attack in Western society, it is short sighted only to focus on the development of young men as if a list of step-by-step instructions can solve this. By nature, we are relational beings, and this includes relating to the opposite sex. Masculinity under attack means that femininity is attacked as well. One cannot exist without the other.
Parents like Tucker Carlson are rightfully frustrated, as all parents of young men should be. One wonders what kind of future their sons have in a world that rejects their very essence and ontology.
Young men don’t live on an island, where their only concern is how to preserve their manliness. In fact, it may be that men who are obsessed with the preservation of manhood get caught up in superficial means of achieving this and, thereby, are lacking the very masculinity they seek to preserve.
Such a state of mind moves a person ever inward, where he is driven only by vanity and the mirror image of a man. In other words, such a man is incomplete because he’s only relating to the world through a flawed, aesthetic vision of what a man ought to be. It leads to frustration and extreme forms of ego. (Bronze Age Pervert and other similar iterations of masculinity are perfect examples of manhood gone awry, rooted in the Nietzschean Superman and homoeroticism, which renders a woman useless and an object in the way of his realizing the full potential of his manhood.)
To be a man or a woman certainly means retaining particular masculine and feminine qualities. Sexual differences can be a complex subject but certain biological differences, inevitably, have some bearing on who we are.
More important, however, is to search for what it means to be a good human being. This also leads us, inevitably, to conclude that at the heart of being a full human being is encounter and this means the encounter between male and female, this exchange of beings who are both the same and different, is part of what makes us fully human and complete. We cannot totalize another person of the opposite sex.
A desire to have a wife, or husband, and children is perfectly natural and good. But we must be careful not to see other people functionally. It seems then that the advice to marry young too often leads to a focus on the practicality of existence or to what is best suited to the abstract good of the individual, apart from circumstances, and (above all) the good of the other. Moreover, it does not take into consideration one of the most important aspects of life: love.
Missing from most discussions of masculinity or femininity is an understanding that it is essential that we view ourselves and each other, first and foremost, as human beings with inherent dignity worthy of love. Given that, it is completely understandable that our analysis of manhood and womanhood has been skewed and that people who are trying to assert their true gendered existence are going about it in an awkward way. Man (and woman) is a relational being. We do not develop or reach our full potential alone.
The failure of the feminist or the masculinist (and certainly the transgenderist) is that these outlooks are nothing short of ideologies, and they necessarily cloud and limit our field of vision. Unless we see each other as human beings with interior lives, thoughts, memories, and emotions, and unless we feel and act upon love (and by implication, responsibility), we will be lost in momentary and aesthetic expressions of manhood and womanhood.