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What would happen if no men showed up for work today?

17 Sep

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about what would happen if no men showed up to work today.  For certain, the trains would stop running.  But before we get into that, I want to tell you a bit about how I came to be – how I came to think the way I do.

famrer

I credit my father, first and foremost.  My father failed in so many ways, but one thing he did perfectly was provide. He could coax food out of the barest patch of earth; he could collect a swarm of wild bees and turn them into gallons and gallons of honey; he could take a bush and make it flower; he could take a cow or a goat or a chicken and make the foolish creature love him.  My childhood was blighted by religious-based violence centered on the concept of breaking a child’s will so they might better accept the will of God, but that is not the reason I am atheist.  If God had been presented to me in a better light, someone who wasn’t keen on beating children unconscious, I still don’t believe I would be one of the faithful.  God makes no rational sense to me.

http://judgybitch.com/2013/06/16/first-i-feared-him-then-i-loathed-him-then-i-forgave-him-and-now-i-take-care-of-him-the-story-of-my-father-and-me/

And if I am one thing, it is rational.

What my father did was instill indelibly in my mind that his role was to provide.  I never thought of that in terms of love.  Only in terms of material goods, which amounted to food and shelter and clothing in our sparse, dirt farm existence, and my Dad was a genius at providing those things.  My mother and I turned the goods of his labor into “value-added” products, to be certain, but we would have had no flour to mill, no butter to churn, no eggs to collect, no firewood to burn, no cookies and cakes and breads and loaves to sell without him.

My most basic understanding of men is that they keep you from starving or freezing to death.

My three brothers played a key role in that they made me appreciate my chores were so much easier.  At no point would I have ever traded churning butter or kneading bread with pitching out stalls or baling hay.

chores

From my brothers I learned that men do the hard, shitty work, and tedious is nothing compared to physically brutal.

My husband’s grandmother played a curiously central role in who I am, too.  The Queen was the sort of woman who showed up for Sunday dinner dressed in elegant suits with her hair perfectly coiffed and pantyhose and heels and lipstick exquisitely applied, and I really, honestly, expected her to hate me with my worn denims and flannel shirts and practical flat shoes and penchant for the saltier forms of the English language.

old woman

But she didn’t.

While Mr. JB and I were still dating, she gave me two pieces of advice that are with me to this day.

Friends of the family were expecting and everyone was all excitement and anticipation, which is utterly lovely.  A discussion about the mother and working and how to get the baby sleeping through the corporate night ensued, and the Queen blessed me with two morsels of wisdom.

compass

On the subject of maternal guilt, she said, “People hardly ever feel guilty about doing the right thing, now do they?  Let guilt be your compass, letting know you are headed in the wrong direction”.

And gazing upon a sturdy tome of Popular Childcare Manual, she said, “Honey, the baby IS the book.  If 50 000 years of evolution isn’t good enough for you, then I don’t know what is.  You do what the baby tells you to do and you can’t go wrong. It’s important to have an open mind about scientific advances, but not so open your brains fall out onto the sidewalk.”

The Queen passed away before our first child was born, and I will never forget the look on her face when we left her in the hospital, after a devastating stroke left her immobile and incommunicative. She was tied to a bed with her hair dishevelled, wearing one of those awful gaping hospital robes, and the look in her eyes was so very clear:

No.  Please no.  Please kill me.  I do not want to live like this.

And I knew then I loved her.  The Queen was gone, although her body was present.  I would have killed her, had the law permitted it.

Obviously, I didn’t.

Dignitas-in-Switzerland-007

It made me realize that even though the Dowager, the Queen’s Daughter and Mr.JB’s mother has been no peach to deal with, I will never let her spend her last years in a home with messy hair and crinkled clothes.  I won’t kill her, obviously, but she will spend her last moments looking like herself, surrounded by the people she loves and no “career” in the world will make her comfort and care irrelevant to me.

love

And obviously, the same goes for Mr. JB’s father, and my own.  They will end their days in the company of those they nurtured into love, no matter how clumsily they effected the emotion.

Mr. JB’s mother and grandmother made me realize that the single most important thing I can contribute to the world is love.  If every family made loving one another a priority, then the bonds of family would become the single most important “wealth” we can pursue.  It used to be that way.  It can be that way again. But families aren’t families without men.

And that is where we have gone off the rails.

The birth of my own son is what brought that home to me forcefully.  Our first child was a fearful, cautious child by nature.  She was born clinging to me and it took more than a year before she stopped freaking out every time the phone rang. Her baby brain took any sudden sound to mean the world was surely coming to an end, and she responded appropriately:  by screaming her head off.

LittleDude is so totally different.  He was born calm and curious and totally open to anything the world had to throw at him.  It took a long time before Pinky would let Grandma hold her for any length of time, but LittleDude was happy as long as there were warm arms around him.

toddler

As a toddler, he would go up to any man in the park, and ask to be picked up when he got tired.

“Daddy, pick me up”.  He called them all “Daddy”.

I used to joke with my husband that I was the “single mom whose kid got no male attention” at the park, because LittleDude just loved men and he showed no fear of them whatsoever. He would happily snuggle up with the homeless guy with the puppy, which forced me to confront some uncomfortable truths.

I would try to coax LittleDude away from these men, who never behaved in any manner that alarmed me, other than simply being men.  Who were they?  I don’t know.  War vets.  Chronic alcoholics. Men whom society had discarded, and the confusion I could see in my son’s face when I would try to pull him away made me examine where I was getting my ideas from.

I’ve never been the hysterical “someone is gonna kidnap my child” sort of person.  That happens so rarely, it’s not a rational belief.  It would make more sense to worry that he might be struck by lightning or swept away by a tornado.  I was afraid of those men because they were men.

And I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking that men are something bad.  I lived through parental alienation and had the poison of feminist inspired man-hate poured into my soul every day, thanks to my mother, and I refused to let her anger and bitterness and venom affect my own life.

So that is how I began.

Commenters have often mentioned that if men didn’t show up for work one day, the entire world would screech to a halt, and today, using data from the US Department of Labor, I want to take a look at just how true that is.  Hearing about “male privilege” is so common in the media, but what is hardly ever mentioned is just how many of our own privileges are a direct result of the work that men do.

Perhaps the reason men have historically had the privileges they do is because they EARN THEM BY MAKING OUR LIFE POSSIBLE?

Just a thought.

And in the same breath, women have historically had the privileges they have because they CREATE LIFE.

Modern, feminist inspired liberal democracy has destroyed women’s role, by and large, with plunging birth rates across the developed world, but they CANNOT destroy men’s traditional work, or we all perish.  What they want is for men to do the work silently.  With no acknowledgement.  For no reward.

chains

There’s a word for that:  slavery.

Let’s see what happens when the slaves revolt, shall we?

All information taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 2013, except where noted.

http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm

First up, the entire power grid is down. 100% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers are men. Now, it’s possible that there are a few women working in these occupations, but however many there are, they do not make up even 1% of the total workforce, so statistically, 100% of the workforce is male.

dark

91% of the nation’s electrical engineers are men, and if they don’t show up for work, there is no one to monitor and manage the nation’s electrical supplies.  Assuming some automation (designed by men, naturally) kicks in for the day, we had all better pray there are no problems.  97.6% of electrical power line installers and maintenance workers are men.

Lights out, ladies and gentlemen.

Don’t bother turning on your taps, either. Or flushing your toilets.  95.5% of water and liquid waste treatment plant and system operators are men.

Think you might be able to get out of town for the one day the men don’t show up?

Think again.

Planes are out.

95.9% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers are men.  If you happen to find a plane with a female pilot, don’t get too excited.  98.4% of aircraft mechanics and service technicians are men.  You can, however, be assured of your comfort as you sit on a pilotless aircraft that has no mechanic for pre-flight clearance, because 77.6% of flight attendants are female.

hot-stewardess

Should you be lucky enough to find a female pilot and a female technician to clear you for take-off, you still have some praying to do.  Statistically, 0% of airtraffic controllers and airfield operations specialists are women.

http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm

Of course, that doesn’t mean there are ZERO ladies working in air traffic control.  There just aren’t enough to constitute even 1% of the workforce.

Trains, of course, are also out.

100% of locomotive engineers and operators are men, as are 100% of the workers who operate railroad brake, signals and switches.  94.4% of railway yardmasters are men, but if you chance upon a female yardmaster, it won’t help you much.  She can’t operate the trains.

You might have better luck with bus drivers, almost half of whom are women.

But the streets are likely to be chaos. And there won’t be anyone on hand to help you navigate that.

police

87.4% of police and sheriff’s patrol officers are men.  96.6% of firefighters are men. 68.8% of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics are men, so if it all goes tits up and you get hurt, there’s a small chance you might make it to a hospital.

I hope you don’t get too badly hurt, though.  65.7% of all surgeons are men.

Maybe you should just work from home? In the dark, mind you.  With no running water.

Uh-oh.  Looks like that might be a problem, too.

For all computer and mathematical occupations combined, 74.4% of the workforce is male.  Computer network architects, who design and implement all our computer based communications systems are 91.9% men.  And 94.2% of radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repair technicians are men.

Looks like that plan is fucked.

Hope it doesn’t get too hot, or too cold the day men don’t show up for work.  Even if you had power, which you don’t, you would be hard-pressed to get anyone in to take a look at your wonky air-conditioner or furnace.

repair

98.4% of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers are men.

Oh well.  Guess you’ll have to mosey on down to the local café, which has no power either, but what’s logic and consequence anyways?  Be careful when you step over all that accumulating garbage!  Remember that most EMTs are men, and they’ve taken the day off.  Don’t want to get hurt now.

garbage

Most garbage collectors are men, too.  93.4%, to be exact.

You’ll need to stop at the bank first, for a little cash injection.

Oops. Don’t bother.

atm

The machine hasn’t been filled with money today. 81.5% of security guards and gaming surveillance officers are men.  It’s unlikely the banks would be functioning anyways, with no men at work.  72.1% of all securities, commodities and financial services sales agents are men.  72.6% of the nation’s CEOs would be taking the day off, along with 70.9% of all the general and operations managers.

Don’t count on getting a weather report today.  Statistically, 0% of the nation’s atmospheric and space scientists are women.

Actually, don’t plan on acquiring pretty much anything today. The workers in the entire production, transportation and material moving occupations are 78.2% men. Not only will no goods be moving on the day men go on strike, they won’t be made, period.  82.4% of all the industrial production managers are men.

miners

Nothing will be built or extracted from the earth in terms of raw materials.  97.5% of that workforce is male.

Nothing will be installed, maintained or repaired.  96.8% of that workforce is male.

If men took a collective day off, we would instantly be without power, without the means to communicate, without protection, without water, without trucks bringing us the food and products we take for granted, because men are the ones who provide all those things.

Where in our culture do we EVER see that acknowledged?  If women took the day off, with the sole exception of NURSES, nothing would happen.  No one would die.  The world would continue to function. The hair salons and primary schools and retail clothing stores would close, and the male management structure would have to find some way to answer their own phones for a day, but essentially, nothing would happen.

You will often hear feminists barking on about male privilege, usually in a well-lit room, comfortably warm, with her iPhone close at hand, buzzing with updates from her latest #mensuck Twitter feed, with zero awareness that every single one of those luxuries is provided by men.

male priv

Male privilege is the idea that men have unearned social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are granted to them solely on the basis of their sex, and which are usually denied to women.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_privilege

Unearned.

UNEARNED?!?

The Department of Labor says otherwise, bitch. It is women who have failed to earn their privileges.  We live in a world powered and created and maintained by men, and yet feminists have created a whole philosophy and ideology that insists women and men are equal.

We are not equal.

We do not need to be equal.

http://judgybitch.com/2013/02/05/the-genius-of-women-or-the-capacity-to-love-others-more-than-you-love-yourself/

We can’t be equal.

090127-M-9995W-095

What we can be is grateful.

And we can pray men never, ever take a day off.

Lots of love,

JB

There never was a patriarchy, and there isn’t one now. In related news, Mr. JB can’t do shit without running it by me first.

14 Apr

Following on the heels of the absolutely terrible article by Lindy West that all the injustice faced by men (past and present) is the result of the “patriarchy” and that only feminism can address these issues, I thought I would spend some time today looking at the idea of “patriarchy” a little more closely.

http://judgybitch.com/2013/03/29/men-stand-up-for-yourselves-and-we-will-hate-you-the-new-feminist-war-cry/

A reader named Sherlock sent me a link to an article, written by a woman named Susan Carol Rogers, called Female Forms of Power and the Myth of Male Dominance: A Model of Female/Male Interaction in Peasant Society. Here is the link:

http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/dcrawford/rogers.pdf

peasants

It’s a fairly long slog, at 29 pages, but I’m going to give you the quick and dirty summary.

Susan starts by noting that anthropology as a discipline makes a couple of sweeping generalizations and assumptions that directly affects how they understand and investigate power and authority. Anthropologists typically assume that the only forms of power that matter are those that are codified and formalized: things like rules and laws and positions in political institutions. There is no room in their observations for informal power. The mayor has power. The mayor’s wife has none.

mayor

This focus on only formal aspects of power and authority makes it seem as if male dominance is virtually universal across human societies. To make matters even more complicated, both men and women behave as if men are dominant, when in reality, the situation is much more nuanced.

Susan writes, “although peasant males monopolize positions of authority and are shown public deference by women, thus superficially appearing to be dominant, they wield relatively little real power” (p.728).

In the peasant societies Susan explores, women control a major portion of the resources and make most of the decisions regarding how those resources are used, in effect, wielding the greater power.

bread

Why would they do that? Why act like men have all the power, when in reality, it’s women who have most of it?

This is the absolute kicker in Susan’s article. She gets this 100% right, if you ask me. She starts by defining a myth as a belief that one can see is factually untrue. Take the idea that black men have bigger penis sizes than any other racial group. It’s a myth that’s been repeated so often, even black MEN, who are most likely to have seen a black penis (their own, for starters) tend to believe it. But it’s not true. It’s part of a racist narrative to define black men as animals, and it has its roots in the history of American slavery.

http://racehist.blogspot.ca/2010/01/oversized-penile-length-in-black-people.html

We’re going to come back to that idea, and talk about how myths can be productive, but also incredibly destructive when society no longer perceives the myth as a myth.

In the groups that Susan is looking at, neither men nor women believe the myth that men are dominant, but both men and women behave as if that is, in fact, true.

Why?

Both groups want to think of themselves as having distinct advantages, values and prestige relative to one another, and they want those attributes to be distributed fairly, and in such a way that neither group feels like they’re getting the shaft. They want to seem like “winners” to one another. Furthermore, both men and women see themselves as mutually dependent upon one another, which, when you come right down to the very basic reality of reproduction is absolutely, unequivocally true.

sperm

Technology, driven by the dominant ideology of female supremacy, is working furiously to eliminate men from the reproductive process, creating embryos that are genetically identical to the mother, by triggering a process called parthenogenesis. I’ve had fun with that one before.

http://judgybitch.com/2013/01/14/the-moment-i-knew-feminism-was-a-crock-of-shit/

The end of genetic diversity. How clever. And how sad is it that most of the specialists working in human fertility are actually male? Working to eradicate themselves.

Dr. Soules

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-79711/We-create-babies-men-claim-scientists.html

Let’s get back to Susan. She observes that men and women in peasant societies understand perfectly that they are dependent upon one another, and seek to create a social structure that makes both men and women feel valued and that they are being treated respectfully and fairly.

What resources do women control?

In peasant societies, the key unit of economic and social production is the nuclear family. Husband, wife, children, and perhaps extended members of the family in the form of grandparents. Jill Dubisch, also trying to evaluate the power that women hold in peasant societies, came up with four criteria to evaluate how evenly power is distributed between husbands and wives:

  1. How respectfully did the spouses treat one another, both privately and publicly?
  2. How often or much did the spouses interfere with one another’s domains?
  3. How were family resources allocated?
  4. How were decisions regarding plans for children made?

Here is an example of how that works: in Greek villages, women control all the family finances, because they take principal responsibility for producing the food/goods that will be sold at the local market. The women make the bread, churn the butter, weave the cloth, collect the eggs, raise the goats, make the cheese, etc. They attend the markets, set the prices, and collect the payment.

market

So far, they are the primary drivers of the family’s prosperity and comfort. A man without a hard-working wife like this is well and truly fucked. This kind of scenario has been in effect since the beginning of written culture.

One of the my favorite passages from the Bible is Proverbs 31, commonly called, the Virtuous Woman. And because I am an atheist, I absolutely want scripture read at my funeral! I also want to be buried in my Star Trek uniform, but that’s another story.

virtuous

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

The heart of her husband safely trusts in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she brings her food from afar.

She rises also while it is yet night, and gives meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms.

She perceives that her merchandise is good: her candle goes not out by night.

She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes fine linen, and sells it; and delivers girdles unto the merchant.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

She looks well to the ways of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but you excel beyond them all.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31: 10-31

http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/homefam/prov31.htm

gates

Let her own works praise her in the gates. So lovely.

Look carefully at what our virtuous woman’s husband is doing. He praises her, basks in how her hard work improves his reputation and he sits with the elders.

Now, the typical feminist response to this is wahhhhhh… look at how hard that poor woman works…wahhhhh… her husband just sits on his ass doing nothing…. wahhhhh… she’s so abused and exploited….

http://www.marxists.org/subject/women/authors/dixon-marlene/super-exploitation.htm

crying

Which ignore two realities completely: first of all, this woman and her family are clearly very affluent. Not everyone is. That’s life. The only thing that matters is that any family that works hard has a CHANCE to be affluent. She may consider a field and decide to plant an olive grove, but you can be damn sure she ain’t out in the fields doing the work herself.

men working

Who does the backbreaking labor in peasant society, or any society for that matter?

Yeah, that would be men. Generally poor men, struggling to get a foot on the ladder and pull their whole family up.

rules

Secondly, the affluent men are not sitting on their asses doing nothing: they are creating the political and social structures that make it possible for their economies to work. They set the terms of economic exchange, they mediate disputes, they enact laws and enforce them.

In other words, they formalize power and authority and create the political context that governs how the whole society works. And when ONLY the formal structures of power are examined, they appear to be completely and utterly dominant.

But they’re not. So Virtuous spends the day managing her male workforce out toiling in the olive grove, she gets the new linen ready for market, she makes sure her maidens and children are taken care of, she packs up a basket for the local poor folks, she does all the work her day requires.

basket

Then Mr. Virtuous comes home, cracks her in the face for backtalk, takes her money, decides he doesn’t like what the kids are up to, complains about her new tapestry and then demands dinner?

angry god

My fucking ass he does.

But that’s what the myth of patriarchy wants us to believe, isn’t it? That men are exploitive and abusive and violent and controlling and they hold all the reins of power and won’t hesitate to use them to harm and confine and limit the lives of women. Their wives, their sisters, their daughters, their mothers.

And in doing so, destroy the whole society.

The only solution to this terrible problem of male abusiveness and exploitation is to take all the public, formal power away from them while still retaining all the control over family resources. That’s feminism in a nutshell. Remove men from power, while still maintaining all of women’s traditional power.

Abortion laws, reproductive rights (for women only), the rise of single motherhood, divorce, custody and division of property laws are all ways to enshrine women’s absolute control over family resources. And all the while, women are exhorted to “lean in”, fight for more power and influence and control of formal power structures.

woman power

More women in corporate board rooms.

More women in government.

More women in the judiciary.

More women at the top of every formal power structure we have.

Traditional peasant societies could see that women produced and controlled most of the actual, finite resources in society, including the labor of less affluent men. And they could see how that might make men feel a bit vulnerable and defensive. Who wants to be treated like a utility? Like oxen, good for labor and then the soup pot?

oxen

So both men and women agreed to allow men to control most of the formal power structures, none of which can exist without the labor of women and poor men. And to make certain that both men and women felt equally valued and appreciated, they created a myth of male dominance, all the while knowing that the true balance of power swayed heavily in favor of women.

Everybody understood that the idea of male dominance was a MYTH. A story designed to engender respect and mutual prosperity. And for thousands of years, it worked perfectly.

In traditional families like my own, that myth is alive and well. Technically, Mr. JB has all the power. The formal power. He earns all the money, and he handles all the bills. He makes all the financial decisions, without input or interference from me. I am completely dependent upon him for survival. And when his Boss calls up and asks if Mr.JB can take on an extra project, the first thing he says is, “I’ll have to check with the boss”.

That would be me.

Because at the end of the day, if I’m not happy, and I don’t feel respected or valued or appreciated, his life is going to be very unpleasant. And it works both ways. Can he take on the extra project? Does he want to? How important is this to him? Will it make him happy? That’s how I make my decision.

hands

That’s how we make decisions together.

Remember the whole myth of the black male penis thing? I’m going to link to a post at The Good Men Project, although I generally don’t like that site. It’s worth a read because the writer talks about the origins of that particular myth and how it has come to harm black men in particular.

billy

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-good-life-average-size-for-a-black-man-penis-size-myths-racism-and-the-patriarchy/

It harms them because the myth is no longer seen as a myth, but as an incontrovertible truth.

And that’s what happened with the myth of male dominance. At some point our culture has forgotten that this is a STORY, with a very commendable purpose: it’s a story that assures mutual respect and admiration. A group of angry women decided that shutting women out of formal power structures was a problem that needed to be fixed.

angry

And you know, fair enough. Okay. Let’s get more women into formal power structures, even though they show little inclination or desire to be there.

BUT, in exchange for that access, women will have to give up access to traditional female power structures.

And that isn’t happening. Women want both male and female powers. Preferably ALL the power. The right to control men by controlling the most precious resource any culture has: children, and the right to hold the reins of formal, institutionalized power that governs all our lives.

leash

That reduces men, and poor men in particular, to mere social utilities, with little value and correspondingly little respect. And that is just what is happening. Men are belittled in the media and their concerns scoffed.

http://jezebel.com/5967923/fuck-you-mras

The rates at which they take their own lives are ignored, or worse, they get blamed for the very real despair of knowing you are nothing but a tool, easily discarded when your usefulness has run its course.

http://judgybitch.com/2013/02/25/of-course-you-can-blame-the-victim-who-else-are-you-going-to-blame/

Feminists continually point to the fact that men continue to dominate formal power structures as evidence for patriarchy. Their suggested redress is to wrest formal power from men and give it to women, while still holding on to their own traditional advantages and informal powers.

We have a word to describe the society that will eventually evolve if such an effort is successful. It’s not patriarchy.

matriarchy

It’s matriarchy.

It’s quite an impressive inversion, isn’t it? When feminists use the word “patriarchy” what they are opposing is respect and the equal attribution of power and control between the sexes. When feminists identify the “patriarchy” as a problem, they are in effect saying that valuing the contributions of men and women equally, and in a way that is designed to make both men and women feel as if they are being treated fairly is a problem.

The reality is that power skews to women. That’s easy to ignore or even outright deny, because that power is informal. The balance is restored when formal power rests in the hands of men. And despite 70 years of shrieking and protesting and gnashing of teeth, formal power DOES reside mostly in the hands of men.

Patriarchy has never existed in the form that feminism insists. And it has never been the problem.

On the contrary. It’s the solution.

Let’s bring back patriarchy. And let our own works praise us in the gates.

praise

Lots of love,

JB

Meaning > Happiness

25 Jan

I want to tell you a story about a brilliant young medical student who studied neurology and psychiatry. He was born in Vienna, Austria 1905 and corresponded with Sigmund Freud when he was just a boy. His name was Viktor Frankl.

 

viktor

 

In 1938, Viktor was working in Vienna, establishing suicide prevention centers for adolescents when the Anschluss happened. The Nazis annexed Austria and declared them part of the Reich.

 

anschluss

 

Viktor, who was Jewish, knew the threat the Nazis posed and he applied for a visa to take his wife to the United States, which he was granted, in 1941. He continued to work, and risked his life and career by purposely misdiagnosing mental patients so they would not face extermination. Eventually, he came to understand that he was in very grave danger and that he would soon have to make a decision.

 

His choice was stark: flee to the security of America and continue to build his astonishing career or stay and help those who suffered. If he went to America, he and his wife would be safe, but he would have to leave his elderly parents behind. He would have to abandon them, with all the other Jews, to their fates.

 

liberty

 

Viktor decided to stay. He watched his sister flee to the protection of Australia, but his brother Walter, his parents and his wife all remained together, and were eventually deported to concentration camps. In the camps, Viktor took on task of acclimatizing prisoners to the shock and horror of their new realities. He could not prevent the Nazis from imprisoning the Jews, but he could, and did, do his best to help them survive.

 

Viktor’s wife, his brother and his parents all died. Viktor survived, and he wrote down his experiences in a book originally called Saying Yes to Life in Spite of Everything: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp, but published in 1959 in english as Man’s Search for Meaning.

 

auschwitz

 

The message of the book is this: happiness is a sensation of the moment. You are hungry, you eat. You feel happy. You want something, you get it. You are happy. You desire something, you have your desire. You are happy.

 

Happiness is also fleeting. It lasts only for the moment, and then you must search for a new desire to fulfill. The pursuit of happiness can never be achieved, because happiness will always linger out of grasp. It’s always one desire away.

 

chasing

 

Meaning is what gives life purpose. The sense that you exist as part of something greater and more significant than yourself. Viktor endured unbearable hardships in the camps, and he witnessed unspeakable horrors, but always, he had the sense that he had a purpose. That his life had meaning. He was there to help others endure.

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

 

Happiness is about taking. It’s about having. It’s about your own personal desire and fulfilment. Meaning is about giving. It’s about responding. It’s about other people.

 

Having meaning in your life is what makes the inevitable suffering that life brings bearable. Knowing that you exist as part of something greater than yourself. One of the most meaningful things any person can do is become a parent. Having a child connects you to the past and the present and the future like nothing else. Babies are completely and utterly helpless and require intense care, and the work of guiding a child from infancy through adulthood will not always make parents happy. There is nothing happy about being up at 3 AM with a toddler vomiting on the carpet and the baby crying to be fed. But it doesn’t matter. Happiness is not relevant at moments like that. Those children NEED you. They matter. They are the reason you exist, and in meeting your obligations and responsibilities as a parent, you achieve a sense of fulfillment and meaning that cannot be matched by the mere satisfaction of material desires.

 

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-05-23/living/do.not.want.children_1_happiness-cultural-beliefs-children?_s=PM:LIVING

 

Does having children make you happy? Not really. But happiness isn’t the point.

 

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”

 

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Western cultures have become fixated on the “happiness” part of that equation, and seem to have forgotten that we need a reason to be happy. There is more to life than happiness.

 

A life well lived is a life filled with meaning, and a day spent giving to others. Today is one of those days where I’m not particularly happy about the laundry piled up and waiting and the floors needing mopping and the dust bunnies threatening revolution under the bunkbeds, but I have no doubt that my life has a purpose and that ultimately, the daily act of caring for others is what leads to happiness. My life is motivated not by a desire for physical things, but by love.

 

dust bunnies

 

I say all this, having decided several hours ago, that I am not doing jack-shit in the house today. Fuck the dust bunnies, the laundry and the dishes. Today I’m reading Viktor Frankl and drinking wine. I’m gonna get that “I’m not happy look” when my husband gets home, and all I have to say to that is “I love you, honey. Order pizza for dinner. And remember that happiness isn’t the only thing in life worth pursuing.”

 

wine

 

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. Thomas Merton.

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

 

 

 

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