The other week, I came across a long post from a guy in his 20s who got violently upset at work when a girl he had a crush on mentioned her boyfriend. In what followed, he cursed his fate at having to constantly bear witness to other people’s happiness as he suffers the agonies of solitude. He doesn’t quite articulate it like that. He focuses on the emotional toll of having to be around a beautiful woman he can’t have sex with, but it’s deeper than that.
It always is.
Whenever I write about a topic like this, a handful of people always tap me on the shoulder and condescend. They say things like, “There’s more important things to focus on.” I’ve wondered about that.
Here’s my answer:
It all matters.
Toxic train wrecks matter. Bird flu matters. The war in Ukraine matters. Our escalating tensions with China matter. The relentless sky dumps of carbon matter. Economic equality matters.
So do incels.
In fact, I would even say there’s a bit of dystopian despair underlying the growing incel movement. At its core, we’re talking about a huge number of people who feel displaced, not just sexually but economically and socially. They don’t truly understand the forces that have shaped their lives. Many of them get angry at straw men, because the dark money lords who’ve ruined their lives have also done a brilliant job convincing them that it’s the fault of other exploited groups. Take a look at history, and you see the rich and powerful playing the same divide-and-conquer strategy for hundreds of years, pretty much everywhere.
If you’re a billionaire, then it makes perfect sense to take a bunch of angry young men you’ve deprived of healthcare and living wages, then twist their heads around with a bunch of alpha male baloney, and point them in the direction of women who just want the same things they do.
All of these issues intersect.
We can’t have a bunch of men living on a plain of emotional dysfunction so intense that they can’t look at an attractive woman without having a complete emotional breakdown. If they can’t handle that, then they won’t be able to handle severe droughts and famines, either (or the next pandemic). They’re going to become pawns for someone like Jordan Peterson or Andrew Tate.
That’s a problem.
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about the Tates of the world. Since then, I’ve watched entire interviews where he brags about the schemes he hatched to make his first millions. Have you heard this stuff? The guy who claims to be a champion of masculinity made his fortune not by simply exploiting young women, but by exploiting the loneliness of young men around the world. He literally hired women to promise to be their girlfriends, and to milk them for thousands of dollars each. He laughed about it. He called himself a genius.
So it’s pretty clear at this point. The incel movement isn’t just about women. In fact, you could say it’s not about women at all. It’s yet another pyramid scheme where a handful of dudes are trying to create a system that generates wealth and attention, by giving lonely young men a narrative.
The narrative is a load of bullshit. No, women aren’t responsible for the emotional distress of lonely young men.
But the emotions are valid.
A lot of young men out there feel an intense sense of isolation and hopelessness. As we’re seeing, they can’t function anymore. They can’t deal with the kinds of problems we used to shrug at and say, “That’s life.”
A lot of people out there do feel lonely and isolated. They don’t have the bandwidth or the tools to process their emotions. They’re just barely hanging on. It doesn’t take much to tip them overboard.
At its core, the men who call themselves “incels” are dealing with a relatively universal human experience. We’ve all felt worthless at certain points in our lives. We’ve all struggled with relationships. Some of the most beautiful men and women in the world are also the most miserable. If finding a beautiful woman and banging her brains out for years was enough, then we wouldn’t keep reading about all these celebrities who destroy their families and relationships. Some of them have it all, and they wind up alone anyway.
You know what the problem is?
Specifically, it’s the end stages of capitalism. This is what happens when the most powerful country on earth spends five decades promoting consumerism and teaching their citizens that everything and everyone is replaceable and disposable—and that meanwhile everyone can have everything they want if they just “work hard enough.” A lot of people are coming apart now because they’re trying to reconcile that fiction with a reality that’s increasingly telling them it was all a big scheme. They’re disassociating. Look at the messaging that comes from the mainstream media, even now as we brace for another pandemic and a possible war with China. The script hasn’t changed. We’re still being told to work all the time, even when we’re sick. We’re being told to plan for retirement and to care about things like home values. We’re being told that our happiness is the only thing that matters.
So if you want to know what’s going on with incels, that’s it. There’s nothing mysterious about it. They’re the inevitable result. They’re what happens when someone honestly believes all that nonsense.
They go nuts.
Of course you’d have emotional breakdowns every day if you sincerely believed all the platitudes about what it means to attain happiness in this sick twisted world. Even the men who achieve these toxic dreams discover that the life they were chasing was all a mirage, that it means nothing if you haven’t developed an inner sense of self worth. Nobody can explain that to them, so they sort of go crazy. None of that was an accident, by the way. Our entire economy depends on everyone constantly trying to work or cheat their way into new levels of happiness.
It’s the only way to achieve endless growth.
Like I said, it’s all connected.
We’ll continue producing men who objectify women to the point of dysfunction because our larger systems teach us to objectify everyone (including men). We don’t often talk about it, but these guys and their sexual frustrations are just another cash cow. The super billionaires and dark money lords know it, and they don’t care. They’ll sell fake dreams, and they’ll sell fake cures for the problems they created. An entire alpha male industry has grown around men who can’t find happiness. This industry sells them the narrative that somehow their masculinity has been taken from them, and they can only get it back by endorsing a bunch of stereotypes, and of course buying supplements and gadgets.
It’s easy to laugh at a guy who can’t even look at his beautiful coworker without feelings twinges of existential despair.
Hey, it’s valid.
Here’s the death nail:
Humans are pretty much programmed to want things. It’s never going to stop. We’ve got desire baked into our DNA. There’s only one answer to that problem, and it’s simple. We have to be okay with wanting things, and not getting them. We also have to acknowledge that sometimes we only think we want something. In fact, that’s probably most of the time…
Capitalism doesn’t like that. Capitalism is all about feeding desire, growing it, and making money off it. There’s only one way to beat that system, and again it’s simple. We have to remember it’s okay to want things without getting them, and that sometimes we only think we want something, especially when it’s sold to us by people who do nothing but study our desires all day and come up with new ways to manipulate us into consuming.
It’s okay to want a big house and simultaneously realize you’re probably not going to get one, and you don’t need one. And it’s okay to look at a beautiful woman or a beautiful man and realize you’re probably not going to get to sleep with them, and you probably don’t really want to. That tug of desire is just always there, and you have to learn how to manage it. You can’t let corporations and grifters sink their claws into that sensitive part of you.
Otherwise, you wind up here…
Excellent stuff. Entering into what are supposed to be my retirement years against backdrop has me screaming “this isn’t what I signed up for.” But maybe I just didn’t read the fine print.
Spot on. As soon as you mentioned feeling displaced, I mumbled "Marx's alienation" and kept reading. Thanks for getting to the point, which is always the point, which is capitalism has to go if the species is going to survive. That's it, that's the message.