All posts filed under: Life Advice

My Advice to the Young

Quite often, I am asked for my opinion. You might think that the topic would be politics, or history, or perhaps business, but usually, it is not. Rather, I am asked how a young man should approach his life, in these days of confusion, of uncertain future, of corrosive liquid modernity. In response, I piecemeal a relatively short answer, tailored to the questioner. After numerous such quick exchanges, I decided to think more deeply on the question, seeking principles of general applicability. So here is my advice to the young, by whom I mean men and women between eighteen and thirty-five, about how to approach their futures.

On Manual Work for Men

Those who rule us seek to stamp out masculinity. Over the pastseveral decades their attacks have been wildly successful, as a glance around you will show. True, in some families, boys are still raised to be men. But when they leave home, the never-ending attacks of the feminizers pick off many, because in every area of mainstream American life, masculine behavior is anathemized and punished. Only those willing to pay heavy personal costs can defy this never-ending coercion. Some men resist, and some even reverse the indoctrination, discovering and adopting masculinity on their own—although without broader social support and traditions, such self-taught men run the risk of caricaturing masculinity. What we need is a mechanism for any man, at any age, to begin centering and cultivating real, well-rounded, durable masculinity. Fortunately, such a mechanism is readily available and teachable—taking up tool-based manual work.

The Children of Men (P. D. James)

A constant complaint of today’s Right is that our civilization has been ruined politically and spiritually by decades of Left dominance. But we pay less mind to the physical destruction of our bodies taking place at the same time. The damage is inarguable: witness the gross obesity, the precipitous drops in male testosterone and sperm count, and the huge reductions in women giving birth. The causes are many, if hard to pin down, including distorted foods, widespread use of persistent plastics and endocrine disruptors, and the disaster of chemical birth control. The Children of Men, written by the late P. D. James in 1991, is a good springboard for analyzing this physical devastation, and thinking about what can be done.

Freedom (Sebastian Junger)

This slim book, a companion of sorts to Sebastian Junger’s earlier book Tribe, is about philosophy derived from life. Junger has made a career out of undergoing risks and hardships, then distilling his experience to insight based in reality. It doesn’t really work here, though; Freedom is too unfocused. It’s quite interesting in spots, but rambles and jumps around, even more than Junger’s earlier offerings. If you’re going to get anything substantial out of this book, you’ll have to do the heavy lifting yourself.

The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (Jean-Martin Fortier)

My barn has a split personality. On one side, you may not be surprised to learn, dusty in the gloom, carefully organized and stacked, are defensive implements of war, slumbering until the day of judgment. On the other side are implements of agriculture, for I also aspire, in the now, to be a peaceful gentleman farmer. That is, not a profit-making farmer, or even a farmer who sells anything, but someone who enjoys being outdoors and learning how to grow plants and husband animals (and bees). As I expand from simple garden plots to acre-plus growing, I turned to this book to expand my knowledge. I got what I was looking for, and I also was inspired to think about two closely-related topics: modern farming practices and fat people.

The Feminine Mystique (Betty Friedan)

In their eternal quest to remake reality, a perennial target of the Left is the family: man, woman, and children, the bedrock of all human societies. The family, by its existence and by what it brings forth, mocks the Left project, and so the Left has tried to destroy it for 250 years. But only in the twentieth century did this effort gain real traction, when our elites became converts to the fantasy that sex roles as they existed were artefacts of oppression, not organic reality. What followed was mass indoctrination in falsehoods about men and women, in which this infamous book played a key role. If you see a sad wine aunt (they are all sad), and you see them everywhere, you see a small part of the resulting social wreckage.

The Soul of an Entrepreneur: Work and Life Beyond the Startup Myth (David Sax)

The “why” of entrepreneurship varies by entrepreneur. My core “why” is money. I want, and have always wanted, money, for what money can do. Whether that is avarice, or wisdom, or both, we can discuss another day. No surprise, in the 1980s song by The Nails, “88 Lines About 44 Women,” one of the couplets has always resonated with me: “Kathleen’s point of view was this / Take whatever you can grab.” Along similar lines, when asked what the mission statement of my company is, I like to respond, entirely accurately and completely, “To put sweet cash in the pocket of Charles.” I am consistent, at least.

Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road (Matthew B. Crawford)

Philosopher Matthew Crawford’s third book is ostensibly a book about driving, but as with all Crawford’s works, that is merely the jumping-off point. Crawford expands our minds by exploring a range of related ideas, usually through concretizing abstractions, tying them to work done by real people in the real world. Why We Drive uses this structure, as did his first two books, Shop Class as Soulcraft and The World Beyond Your Head. Such writing is not for everyone; the payoff can take some time to arrive. But it’s worth the modest effort required, and offers insights into critical modern problems, most of all the pernicious vice of safetyism.

Against Masks

The great social argument of this instant is whether everyone should now, because of the Wuhan Plague, be required to wear face masks, and if so, under what circumstances. Today, therefore, I will offer a complete analysis of mask wearing, something I have seen nowhere else. True, I normally disdain writing about transitory matters, which this likely is, but the Plague and the varied reactions to it in the policy realm say much that reflects light onto broader and more permanent topics, and this is particularly true of masks, arguments about which condense matters of greater import.

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (Matthew B. Crawford)

Attacks on digital technology for destroying our capacity for attention are a dime a dozen. Despite its title, Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head is not such an attack. It is far more ambitious. Somewhat to my surprise, it is a direct assault on the Enlightenment for ruining the habits of mind and practice that lead to human flourishing. Crawford says modern man is subject to delusions, birthed by the Enlightenment, that diffuse our perception of the world in a fog of unreality. He therefore sets himself up in as the paladin of reality, a champion badly needed by our times, offering a return to the solidity of the real, through excellence as developed in skilled practices.