The Uniquely American Identity Crisis

The Melting Pot has boiled over, and it’s all your fault.

There’s this notion that affects individualistic societies far worse than collectivist ones. The notion is that every individual has within them the ability to rise up well beyond themselves and change history. That with a little bit of elbow grease, some hustle and determination, any old asshole can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become more than a cog in the machine. No lottery to it.

It’s a bullshit notion, and a dangerous one. The notion has mostly continued in America, seemingly along racial lines, as folks who are predominately white say that “no one deserves a handout (except me)” and all our troubles would go away if you just stopped having troubles. Where have we heard that before?

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Now, it seems fairly apparent to me that this notion resides mostly in the hearts and minds of White America because everybody else had all of American history to find out the hard way. Remember, most people might have the right to vote now, but 231 years ago that right was held exclusively by white, male landowners. Every other miserable motherfucker had to fight for it.

For those what never took a Western Civ class, that’s a feature, not a bug. I’m not going to take us down a road about reparations, or equality, or freedom. Those have been reported, archived and deconstructed already, with people lining up along their favored philosopher or religion or meme. I’m not going to waste your (my) time like that. Just read the linked articles and get back to me. Or don’t, I’m not your mom.

I am going to go into this divisive problem that is hitting American society from multiple fronts now, and it has to do with culture and identity. It is driven by economics.

Young, white American males, having been raised to view themselves as inheritors of the earth, have now got to come to grips with the fact that they have to face the same problems that women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community and other “minority” demographic groups have known for years:

The world does not fucking care.

Now, white fragility might be kicking in just by virtue of Mean Old Publius having written the word “white” a few times now. But the problem is that in any society previously dominated by one specific demographic group, when that demographic group starts to experience a problem it becomes news.

Even when it was news to everyone else for generations.

So, although economic insecurity has plagued our country from its origins, it had been relegated “off-grid,” away from the focus of main stream light simply by virtue that main stream means “main demographic,” and in America, that has always equaled White. Economic redlining had been a problem for people of color, never really for whites. Drugs had been a problem for people of color (and those damn hippies), never really for whites. Welfare abuse had been strictly the domain of people of color; why, white folks would never!

Now, those three problems that had existed as monumental challenges for huge swaths of America begin to get greater focus in 2017-2018, because it’s starting to hit white communities, hard. While I won’t go into drugs and their problems here, someday I might. I will absolutely confront how the supposed leader of the free world, creator of fortunes and bootstraps, has a major problem with welfare (for individuals).

Today, we focus on “economic insecurity,” as the Trump-era apologists have called it.

Me, I call it No More Goddamn Jobs, with a touch of Figure Yourself Out Now!

Unfortunately, and entirely on purpose, the rise of the Information Age in America was going to be a bumpy ride. For a culture and society that thrives on convenience and the necessity of having as many options as it takes to truly make something “personal” there became a system that had created too many options.

As with Mean World Syndrome, Overchoice sets in deeply, and without the individual’s knowledge or consent. Real quickly, Overchoice is the problem that affects a person who is confronted by too many options. Plenty of study has gone into this by sociologists and psychologists of all stripes. Essentially, a person enters into a state of mental paralysis when faced with too many choices, and instead of picking one, chooses none.

This can be fine if you’re overweight and can’t decide which of the 100 flavors of ice cream to buy. But it can be debilitating to someone aiming to figure out who they are as an individual, what their interests lie, and what they’re going to do with the rest of their miserable motherfuckin’ lives.

Overchoice, in early economic terms, arrives when young people (high school students) are forced into the lose-lose scenario of picking one course of study, or one business practice, for the rest of their lives. More often than not it results in student swirl, or the phenomena that occurs when a student changes majors once or twice during college. But, economically, it’s happening more and more in the form of industries becoming increasingly automated.

Combined with a rapidly-automated economy where there used to be JustEnoughChoice for (white) workers to not worry too much about where the pay was coming from, it becomes debilitating, devastating, catastrophic and ugly.

Just as high school students are poor judges of what economic opportunity will await them six years after choosing a college path as an emotional high school junior, industries are evaporating now faster than adults can retrain for them. It’s been happening since the creation of the wheel, but the creation of the motherboard has sped things up a bit.

While steady job growth should amount to roughly 250,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy per month, we’ve been falling short. To make matters worse, even when that number comes close, there’s much-needed context that is purposefully not provided. The context: Those 177,000 jobs added last month were mostly retail, hospitality and low-income service. That happens because franchise businesses try to  keep up with sprawl and migration patterns, so new jobs are created where others may not have been recently, but they exist first as McJobs.

Meaning, 177,000 jobs (mostly low-skilled) when what we really need is consistent growth of 250,000 good careers starting every month.

Think about that for a minute. Really dig deep into the concept. Do it. The jobs that are here are worth shit compared to the promises that have been made to the generations that are coming into them. But, a person must maintain their space as a cog in the machine, lest they be called “shiftless.”

I heard that, on the streets.

When confronted with this combination, apathy is the natural immediate response. But apathy isn’t a natural long-term remedy, especially for highly-emotional, super-social creatures such as human beings. So, other emotions and actions take over.

Anger. Uncertainty. Resentment. Loss of Empathy. Willful Ignorance. Distrust. Doubt. Fear.

And, in a society that has taught every last snowflake that they’re a rugged individualist, those emotions and actions will nearly always be expressed outwardly, at others.

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“We” are always nobles, saints, my gramma. “They” are always barbarians, savages, your mom.

Everyone else is always the problem, of course, because how could you be bad?

“Women shouldn’t have been in the workplace!” “Affirmative action caused me to lose my career opportunity!” “My company laid me off because they could pay foreigners peanuts!” “Illegals took our jobs!”

You heard those sentences shouted out prominently in your head space, because each and every one of you fuckers reading this has heard your worst acquaintance, family member or colleague say the shit.

As this perfect storm came together, the search for authenticity and quest for meaning pushed people down paths that were well known to predators. Instead of openly allowing themselves to be seen embracing despair, white folks who had never known real struggles of their American brothers and sisters tried to find meaning, and each other, online. In doing so, they found a home on the fringe.

There’s a reason why the Neo-Confederates and Nazis have seen a resurgence in America: they were snatching young, dissatisfied men from the mainstream for years.

When Overchoice of Media and Culture overwhelmed their senses; when our system demanded that all 16-year olds figure out what they want to do for the rest of their life before escaping the hormonal clutches of puberty, we’re creating problems for ourselves. Young men, told from early ages not to display emotion, are necessarily weaker for it than young women. With no perceived roads to go on that haven’t been positively joined by “others” through the spirit of inclusion, not only did young, dissatisfied men perceive themselves as being pushed further to the fringes, they began to enjoy it. And, with concealed emotions rearing to be displayed, entered into the clutches of the first people that listened. Or at least that’s how it was perceived.

Reddit, 4Chan and the like certainly didn’t help. Anonymity available through social media exacerbated the process. Confirmation bias allowed individuals to self-select out of information streams that conflicted with “sincerely held beliefs.” Add in bots of unusual reach and suspect origin, and a thoroughly corporatized business model behind Twitter and Facebook, and you have the necessary means for revolt.

That revolt looks as revolting as you can imagine. Personally, I never really thought I’d see people who self-identified as “proud Americans” carrying the battle flags of two of the country’s most dangerous historical enemies, yet Charlottesville proved that idea to be naive.

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Pictured: Snowflakes.

For the record, anyone who carries those flags is, to me, no different than someone carrying the flags of Colonial England, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, or terrorist Al-Queda or ISIS. But I repeat myself.

Pictured above are young men who wrongly felt that the Melting Pot of the United States of America has left them behind, and who were lashing out, wrongly, at everyone they perceived to be at fault. What happened was, the machine they were previously cogs in got upgraded, and their cog status was automated away in the grand American corporate tradition that seeks profits at every turn.

So, they did what young men who have access to more institutional power do when they don’t understand how much power they have: they bring guns and violent intent into the public eye, and get away with it.

The fact that they’re the only group in modern history who could do that and not be locked up isn’t even an afterthought to them, because there’s no reflection built into their individual selves. Overchoice didn’t provide them with any time to develop it, nor did their development as semi-literate to their own emotions. They don’t understand how their basic, passive identity gets them out of self-inflicted jams in 2017-2018 in ways that the minority demographics they’re blaming could never comprehend. The Melting Pot boiled over because they caused it to boil over. Yet, having the ability to cause the proverbial pot to boil over – having enough say and authority and power over their surroundings – is a concept that they cannot accept, since they’ve created a narrative where they’ve had all their power taken away. White fragility is a crazy thing.

Two years ago, had I pitched that as contemporary fiction, every last goddamned publishing house in the U.S. would have laughed me out of their offices. Today, it’s recurring headline.

The lack of any authenticity beyond Nazism, or ethno-nationalism, or white supremacy, or Neo-confederacy, is the lack of individual authenticity itself. For the record, if you line up with Nazis, that makes you a Nazi. So, even if some of those chubby khaki-wearers didn’t want to gas Jews, they still propped up a failed ideology because they themselves had none to offer and were captivated by this extremist ideology because it said “You’re valuable. Feminism/Immigration/Affirmative Action stole that from you. Now carry this tiki torch and steal yours back.”

That’s not a uniquely modern problem, but it becomes one when married to an instantaneous global network that bombards people with nonsense and calls it the only available truth. Without authentic selves to bring them out of the fringes, these young men who had every right to succeed instead got lost because of Overchoice. With too many choices of which subculture to examine or which clique to hang out with or which music subgenre to listen to, there was no time to find out what genuinely appealed to themselves, at their core. They had no chance to become mature adult men.

And again, don’t ever forget that even without those things mentioned above, they were still insulated from most of society’s ills due to the very demographic that they say makes them victims.

When individuals fail to find themselves in an individualistic culture, when young men who for generations would have been on the top half of the national economic ladder by nature of birth alone, when groups of dissatisfied and impressionable males get hit with the same problems that everyone else has been facing for decades, if not centuries, you end up with America, 2018.

Fortunately, this identity crisis – the same problem that faced every single other demographic group in America’s history – has solutions. Unfortunately, these solutions rest in the hearts and minds of the very demographically-different men and women that these white folks have taught themselves to hate. Meaning, all they have to do to solve their own problems is sit down and listen to the people they’ve been blaming those same problems on. But, the very same boiling-hot anger that brought them here will prevent that logical space from being occupied.

Now you see the problem?

2 comments

  1. […] is where Mean World Syndrome comes in, it’s fed the Uniquely American Identity Crisis, and it is a direct contributing factor to Publius Minimus’ Greater Hipster Theory – […]

  2. […] addressed this many times, in many ways, […]

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