The Psychological Buck Stops Here


Say what you want about Donald Trump. He never gets upset when people make fun of his hair. Trump doesn’t start a support group for people with comb overs. He doesn’t try to empower others who have comb overs. He doesn’t send out a press release every time a comic makes an offensive hair joke. Trump understands the jokes aren’t about his hair—they’re about him being rich and powerful. If his hair looked normal, people would just pick on something else. Trump accepts the criticism, which only gives him more attention so he may even relish it.

Even if Trump could create an empowerment group for comb overs, he knows it wouldn’t change anything. It would only create a bubble of lip service. It would give people with comb overs psychological training wheels. The result of the group would be, at best, the Gen Y dénouement: the feeling of doing something without having done anything. At worst, the group would handicap the people it claims to empower.

For some people, feeling handicapped is a good thing, so society is chock full of these do-nothing, busybody groups. GLAAD blocks gays off from reality by making people afraid to make a gay joke. The NAACP treats blacks like they are abused animals who cannot fend for themselves. NOW shrieks that women are equals, though their shrieking reminds women they’re not.

These empowerment groups bounce off of each other, sending strongly worded statements when somebody was offended, reminding people of any ill-will brought against their people, and constantly reminding members of the struggle ahead that makes them great. The struggle is assumed. The sacrifice is deification. Happiness is always just around the corner.

In this context, “empowerment” means the subjugation of the individual for the sake of consolation. It’s like when you go to the bar and remark to the guy next to you, “It sure is rough out there, huh?” You’re looking for someone to stew in your self-pity with you. If you view life as mostly pointless, this must feel good. If we’re all ships lost at sea, you might as well float around together.

One of the last groups of people free from these aimless armadas is grown men. They’re men who are responsible for themselves and the lives of others. They’re men who, no matter their faults, want to go to work and feel responsible for every room they’re in. They don’t identify themselves by anything besides what they do, and the decisions they make. They don’t join empowerment groups because they don’t feel like they need empowerment. The thought hasn’t even crossed their mind. “How would joining an empowerment group let me do my job better or make me a better person?” one of these men might ask.

But slowly and surely, grown men are joining the culture of “I deserve to whine about that.” One of the most popular men’s movement sites, the apologetically named Good Men Project, consoles men in the difficulties of being a man, as if being a man was a yolk thrust upon penis-havers by society. As if responsibilities are shackles and not freedoms. One Good Men article discusses how a man should behave around a female rape victim. Because, you know, as men we’re all guilty of rape. Another whines that infertile men are just as valuable as everyone else. And another urges men to talk about their emotions even though society tells them it’s bad. The implicit message is: manhood is something to cope with, not celebrate.

A more devastating example of a yearn for men empowerment is a recent article in Taki’s Magazine, the only other publication I would consider awarding the qualifier “chauvinistic.” The author claims, by channeling the words of a hilarious but depressive comedian, that dads don’t get no respect. After all, in a rudderless society, respect would be something that you can only get from others. Follow this line of reasoning and anyone could be at fault, even Nicki Minaj, as the author contends. The author then cites Homer Simpson’s stupidity as a result of the disrespect shown towards men. Has Maya Angelou been doing consulting work for beta males? Are fathers now caged birds? Any girl who matters would read this and become a lesbian, which makes me wonder if any guy will ever get laid again. In the mind of a victim, this could be a good thing, because it will be one more reason to start an empowerment group.

When you assume status in society, people make fun of you. That’s how it goes. When you take on responsibility and leadership, you have to accept that other people will try to take you down a few pegs and do whatever they can to get under your skin. It’s the natural dynamic of the pecking order, not just in humans, but all animals. You accept criticism and naysayers as part of the fun, not as a badge of honor you wear around to cover the chip on your shoulder.

As a man, it’s important to see the bigger picture, because if you don’t, no one else will. The psychological buck stops with you. To engage in the criticism, to fabricate a burden, and to treat everybody’s opinion as if it mattered, is to lose the privilege of being a man. And if Donald Trump, a guy in the birther movement, has figured this out, then so can you.