Opinion » Viewpoint

Testosterone Matters

Chemistry says men and women are different, and you can’t fool Mother Nature.

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Another day, another murder, another march against violence. When will it all end?

When America decides that you cannot have both a peaceful society and cheap goods.

If we cannot reverse the decline of the middle- and working-classes that started more than 30 years ago, then America's violence will continue. If leaders around the world do not — or will not — find a way to create prosperity for their citizens, their countries will experience more violence, as well.  

Violent and unstable individuals have always been with us, but gang affiliations, ethnic nationalism, and religious extremism all come from the same place: hopelessness. And when hopelessness meets testosterone, too often, there will indeed be blood.

Testosterone has to have somewhere to occupy itself, and if there is no secure job with a decent wage, a young man's endocrine system will find something else to do with it. Who thinks that poor people find manufacturing meth preferable to building cars, or that strapping on a suicide vest is more appealing than donning a Moby? Who truly believes that men with jobs and families would rather be criminals, given other choices?

With or without an education, where will a young man go to feel necessary when more and more jobs are being eliminated through technology, while the wealthy and their paid-for politicians scoop up what prosperity remains? 

We must acknowledge that when young men have no healthy outlet for their drives, they will seek fraternity and purpose wherever they find it. Often, the siren call of gang affiliation, racial or ethnic nationalism, or violent jihad are the only sounds alienated young men hear as an alternative to feeling worthless. 

That's why I'm skeptical that our mayor, or any political leader anywhere, can have much impact on poverty and crime in a climate where human beings, particularly young men, are becoming superfluous to society. Improving the lives of young men will also improve the lives of young women.

Regardless of what industry our economic development efforts may bring to Memphis, companies of the future are creating fewer positions for people and more for robots and machines — robots who communicate with and even repair other machines.

If the future means industries will be creating jobs that are done with more technology and less labor, that's what we'll have to deal with. But it's worth considering that the costs of not engaging young males in the labor pool are far greater than whatever money we think we're saving in pursuit of an efficiency that is making human beings optional. 

It is inarguable that such efficiency is a snake eating its tail. Taken to its logical absurdity, it means that one day even the robots will not have enough to do, because there will be too few people who can afford to buy whatever the machines are making.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes is reputed to have said: "Too many individuals ... want the civilization at a discount." We must stop worshiping at the altar of unbridled capitalism, thinking there is no human cost to be paid. 

I have said for years that without men, colonization of far-off lands would never have occurred, because women are entirely too smart to have gotten into tiny wooden boats and sailed over vast, uncharted waters. That's where testosterone kicks in — for better or worse.  

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But sarcasm aside, I know ascribing differences between the sexes to nature more than nurture is likely to meet with accusations of sexism. But there are immutable chemical differences between men and women. Thankfully, our concepts of gender are becoming more fluid, but that doesn't mean we can bend the endocrine system to our societal will. 

So we can continue spending billions on prisons, military intervention in global hotspots, and NSA surveillance to prevent terrorist attacks. But wouldn't creating jobs for alienated and idle young men, both here and abroad, be cheaper in the long run?

In the name of political correctness, we can continue ignoring the fact that men colonize and women civilize. But chemistry says we're different — and you can't fool Mother Nature.

Ruth Ogles Johnson is a frequent contributor to the Flyer.


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