My son, born in 1982, living in a wealthy neighborhood and attending expensive private schools, nursed a litany of complaints about “the man”. From about the age of 12 or 13 he would go on long riffs about how he was going to be independent and never work for “the man.” This incidentally, and not coincidentally, was offered as an excuse for not applying himself fully in school. I argued with him, asking “Who exactly is this ‘man’ that you don’t want to work for? What exactly is the oppressive system that you want to avoid?” He didn’t have answers to these questions, but the fact that I would even ask them clearly identified me with “the man.” Never clarifying his position, he steadfastly maintained his complaints.
A similar thing happened with my daughters. Again, about the eighth grade, the youngest was coming home from school with a long litany of woes of the things that the patriarchy had done to women. Though I probed, I could never get her to relate these historical wrongs to anything that my daughters had experienced in their lives. In fact, an examination of the men in their extended family revealed a bunch of milquetoasts, men who carried out the will of their women rather faithfully. I have to confess that I was the least pliable of the men, but I put up with much more than I wanted to. At any rate, these points also could not be argued. My daughters made a virtue of ignorance. They had the great disadvantage of not having learned much, which can be expected of teenagers. They also had the disadvantage of having learned that they could get by without listening much, and without showing much respect. They employed those two to the fullest, assuming that my better arguments owed only to my sophistry. Their beliefs in the patriarchy went largely unchallenged, except by me, and remain fervently held and to this day.
There is a twofold result of all this. First, and lamentable, is that the children don’t talk to me. I’m that old fossil white man who just doesn’t understand it. I suppose I could tolerate that if they were otherwise successful. However these attitudes toward life, the belief that somehow they in their hyper-privileged childhood had been beset by slews of evil people and held back did in fact hold them back. Rather than striving to form solid relationships with somebody of the opposite sex, a hard thing even when you set your mind to it, the girls decided that men were evil and they didn’t even want to bother. And they have not bothered much to make their relationships work, and not surprisingly, said relationships are not successful. Even when they later decided that they might want a steady lover or a husband, they simply don’t know how to do it.
By the same refusal to engage a supposedly corrupt system, my son and younger daughter have not learned how to work for “the man.” Or rather, they find themselves working for “the man” in the form of government, at low level positions where they get no respect.
It’s interesting to me that people who say that they will not work for “the man” envision a fat, piggy eyed capitalist who is out to exploit his workers. In no way are they prepared to transfer that concept to the state, the real “man” in today’s society. It appears that they are employed by other bureaucrats who are motivated only by their own advancement, with little care for the common people whose problems they are supposed to solve. My son is employed by the state directly or indirectly as a drug counselor, although he’s quite fond of them himself and has run into problems on this account. I hear that my daughter is going to be working attempting to resettle African immigrants in Scandinavia, another noble liberal cause. I hope she doesn’t get mugged or raped in the process. And she’s getting no respect and no particular money, working for “the man,” who is certainly not the one envisioned by John Gault or Horatio Alger but rather more Joseph Stalin. I doubt it’s in any better form.
I had heard the whole litany of man’s unfairness to man when I was a student. This was 1960-62, in a very liberal college. It was in the songs that we sang: “I am the man the very fat man the waters the workers beer;” “This land is my land, this land is your land.” The pervasive message was that it was capitalists who held the working man down. An objective view of history would say that at that point in time, 1960, the workingman had it better in the United States than he had ever had it in any country at any time in history. The claims of oppression were rather totally misplaced. In fact, was the workers in the Soviet Union who were being held down and had a lack of freedom. It was the same sort of a big lie, playing on the ignorance, altruism and herd instinct of otherwise smart young kids.
My experience with my own education and those of my grown children gives me a profound respect for the power of educators and peers to shape a child. 19th century teachers of Americans in one-room schoolhouses and British public school children advanced Western Civilization to the far corners of the world. The Marxist-schooled teachers of the late 20th Century have led the retreat. I have sought out one of the world’s backwaters where tradition is still respected, and where I can home school my new family as I see fit. There are many ways for it to go wrong, but experience tells me that a crap shoot is far better than the guaranteed loss with the establishment educational system.