Terrific piece. Thanks.

Expand full comment

Whenever I hear one of these Jordan Peterson types wackin' around the topic of manliness its always too shrill and defensive. It reminds me of the preacher men who scream about the dangers of the hard & oiled bodies of gay men (while possessing a bit more first-hand knowledge on the "gay lifestyle" than they care to admit). Look at me! I'm tough and hate weakness!

As a beta-male lefty, I always felt "manliness" boiled down to respect and stoicism. Respect for women, other men, large carnivores, your family, your country and yourself. The stoic part isn't the 1950s faux Western schtick of "the rattlesnake bit me in the testes but I'll shed no tears" but rather a "screw it, I'll keep going attitude." Crying because your kid has a terrible illness - that's ok. Crying because your influencer channel lost subscribers? That's douchey.

Expand full comment

best live version of "Life Without You" is on bootleg "Blues you can use" recorded in Philadelphia in 1987. The performance is what "Live Alive" should have been.

I'd attach a copy but there isn't that option. Maybe email ?

Expand full comment

After that interview you deserve a large dose of Pappy van Winkle! As an aside about one indicator of shrinking masculinity-a 50% drop in sperm count is possibly a boost for the masculinity thing because now guys have to do it twice as often, know what I mean.

Expand full comment

Thanks for sharing, Matt. I think you’re spot on in your assessment of this stupid-ass desire for fame that drives so much of our popular culture today. It’s debasing to all involved. In one corner of the online universe where I occasionally spend time, YouTube golf channels, there’s some kind of manufactured “dust up” at one of the larger channels. ( And, yes, I’m completely aware that the fact I watch golf on TV/YouTube would make you question my basic sanity.) I haven’t dug too deeply into it because I refuse to get sucked into this “influencer” BS designed to drive eyeballs to said channel. It makes me a little crazy because I subscribe to a handful of these channels looking for help with my golf game. Now I’m subjected to this “content” where the basic plot line (I think) is, Young Man with a Dream of Being Internet Famous has been done wrong by another Young Man With a Dream of Being Internet Famous. Sigh. I just want to know when I should lay up on a par 5. So, short story long, I agree with pretty much everything you had to say in this interview.

Expand full comment

Matt, this made my hair hurt. Sorry, buddy, but I’ll stick to you in written form. The phrase “ how many angels dance on the head of a pin” comes to mind, a wee bit pointy headed perhaps?

Expand full comment

The educational privilege is a crucial one. We are at a point today analogous to where we were at the end of the 19th century when the idea of free education through the eighth grade was controversial. Then early in the 20th, public education through high school was, for a while controversial. And as I'm sure we agree, the quality of public high school education is widely disparate even today. And now it is controversial to have public education through a baccalaureate. It shouldn't be. Advanced education brings so many benefits to the individual and to the society at large.

And yes, somebody still has to collect the trash, lay the bricks, wire new homes, fold the sweaters at J Crew. But that is a shrinking job pool, not a growing one. Logistics planners will tell you that truck drivers, though in high demand today, will be superfluous in just a few decades. In 1900, half of all Americans worked on mostly small farms. Today it is on the order of 2%, 10.5% if you count the entire agricultural sector including food processing, forestry, fishing, and so forth. In 1970 fully 25% of Americans worked in manufacturing. Today it is around 8.5%. The world of work has been changing rapidly for the last hundred or so years and the pace of change is, if anything, accelerating.

We talk about America as being unique. We have made huge contributions to science and technology. Some of that is because our industrial base was not a target during the Second World War. American industry fought that war and American industry rebuilt Europe and Japan after the war. That left us with some terrific advantages not the least of which is USD as an international medium of exchange. But the rest of the world has been catching up. I spent a couple of years in China and had the opportunity to work with Chinese scientists and engineers. The older group was competent in an old school sort of way. The new crop coming out of programs in, for instance Harbin, are very, very good, especially the engineers. And there are a lot of them. My point is that the contours of global competition are changing and the US really needs to up its game or a generation from now we're going to be in great danger of being eclipsed.

You said, "[I] think you are 100% right about the need to be a contributor rather than a taker." I want to note that there are a great many ways to contribute, not all of them smiled upon by the American Enterprise Institute. That said, humans seem to be wired such that what they do, that is to say, how they contribute, is a fundamental component of their sense of self-worth. Which brings us back to the beginning of our conversation.

Expand full comment

BTW Squared: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c_8VUL5jks The holidays put me in a mellow mood.

Expand full comment

BTW. Merry Christmas to you and yours. We certainly all need it.

Expand full comment

Matt, as a helpful sort of guy, I want to help you in your meteor Quest: https://neal.fun/asteroid-launcher/?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email&utm_placement=newsletter. Knock yourself out....

Expand full comment

@M Spencer

I read Williams's essay a couple of months ago. While an interesting article, there is pretty good sociology on why some males are struggling. Much of that has to do with a cultural envelope dissonant with the needs of the evolving 21st century world. We still celebrate and denigrate many of the values that prevailed when a strong back and a willingness to work were enough to assure a good, middle class lifestyle. The football star, the badass gangsta, and on the other side of the coin we denigrate what were once called pointy-headed intellectuals and are now called nerds. If you're raising your kid like that, he's going to be lucky to score a job sweeping floors for one of those nerds.

My grandfather rose to become an executive with an 8th grade education. My father made a good living with a high school education. Today, two of my three children have postgraduate degrees. So yes, our boys and young men need help, but it certainly isn't the kind of help I generally see on offer.

We all need to feel a sense of community and have an opportunity to make a mark on that community. The world is accelerating rapidly. There are people around the world who are happy to do semi-skilled work for a couple of dollars an hour, and we're happy to have them because it means we can buy a 60" flat screen for a few hundred bucks. To make a mark today requires specialized skills that usually come with an excellent education. That excellent education also equips people with the skills to asses and adapt to that ever changing world.

My grandfather was born in 1898. In his span we went from horse carriages on the streets of downtown Cleveland to the first automobiles, Sopwith Camel airplanes, Marconi radios, RCA victor round screen black and white TVs, jet aircraft, open heart surgery, and men walking on the moon. The pace of change has only increased. We do young men no favors by raising them like it was 1958. It isn't the young men's fault, it is ours.

Expand full comment


I love your beautiful tribute to your Dad

as you give us your powerful thoughts

on what counts as a good man in 2022.

Magnificent and true.

Thank you

Expand full comment
Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

Well, Matt, a little pre-holiday, less than all-things-goodness-and-light piece to balance out the brightness and shine of what will surely be an all-things-goodness-and-light Merry Christmas / Happy New Year piece you no doubt have in the offing, right?? OK. I'm good with that. Just as I'm more than good with Bonus Track 1. SRV...now you're talkin' my kind of language, musically speaking, anyway. But you're pretty good at speakin' my kind of language in other ways, too. Like your description of "what counts as a good man in 2022". Which pretty much describes my yardstick for that particular subspecies of the American Male for as long as I can remember wielding a yardstick.

BTW, your father and mine sound rather similar, minus the 3-ring binders and the Good Book. Not that my dad didn't read some pretty good books. Most of them just didn't come with numbered verses, and he didn't preach from them. Rather he learned from them, since his formal education was cut a bit short while still a teenager by a couple of minor inconveniences, like the Great Depression and some little military dust up that followed. He learned how to be competent at the things he did, and the things he wanted to do, and how to fill the voids created by his curiosity. (Anyone who had only a casual acquaintance with him wouldn't have taken him for the type to have books about astronomy on his bookshelf and a pretty nice telescope in his basement.)

But very much like your father, he led, in his case mostly by example. Some folks might say *quiet* example, since he wasn't the loud or boisterous sort. But the message delivered over my time knowing him was nothing if not loud and clear. And I've no doubt that, as a man myself, I'm much the better off for that.

I think a good number - if not all - of the cohort of today's manly men peppering your piece, as well as a whole host of others, are suffering from, among other things, the same basic malady. Culture porn addiction. A la Potter Stewart, I may not be able to define precisely what that is, but I know it when I see it. And it ain't pretty, or even sexy. Actually, it's more than a little boring. And, being addicts, these poor wankers just can't break free of it, constantly pursuing an endless ego orgasm, which turns out to be about as rewarding and fulfilling as a nameless one-night stand. I sometimes wish they'd go a bit more fringe and hardcore and indulge in a bit of autoerotic asphyxiation, thereby lowering the decibel level of all their noise. But I'm guessing the most we can hope for is that some of them will spend more time incommunicado in their testicle tanning booths.

I've known a few good men in my life, and the interesting thing is, the better among them were the quietest and least likely to say *manly* things, unless you were to spend a certain amount of time in a bar with them. Nor did they engage in any overt *manly* acts. They just lived their lives as men without questioning their own manhood or masculinity, or that of anyone else, I might add. Which was pretty much the way my old man did it, come to think of it.

Well, it's a free country. And as long as it stays that way, these guys have a right to indulge themselves as they see fit regarding their masculinity, I reckon. It's just too bad that that turns out to be a sometimes-painful exercise for all the rest of us. Speaking of all the rest of us, here's another little ditty from SRV, Stevie Ray being one of the better things to have ever come out of the Lone Star State. (Now, don't get your back up, all you Texans reading this. I know in spite of the current media narrative that there are some good people in Texas. I met both of you not too long ago.)

If you note Vaughn's remark before starting to work his magic, you'll see why I chose it for "all the rest of us", 'cause one way or another, I think we're all a little in need of a dose of this medicine.


Expand full comment
Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

@KAM You speak of the patriarchy as if it doesn't exist. And you call me clueless? And exactly who is denying anyone recognition for excellence? "[I]n the 119 years since the Nobel Prizes were first given out, only 3% of the science awardees have been women and zero of the 617 science laureates have been Black.(1)" White males seem to do just fine in the Nobels. "White men represent 30% of the population but 62% of officeholders, dominating both chambers of Congress, 42 state legislatures and statewide roles across the nation."(2) And in corporate America, "Overall, 88.8% of CEOs, CFOs, and COOs in the 2022 report are Caucasian, and 88.1% are men."(3) So save your mewling for slack-jawed morons who can't manage to adapt to a changing world. So far White males are doing just fine. And if they, we, can't bear a little scrutiny of our privilege, that says one hell of a lot more negative about us than it does about those pointing it out.

(1) https://www.nature.com/nature-index/news-blog/nobel-prizes-have-a-diversity-problem-even-worse-than-the-scientific-fields-they-honor



Expand full comment

Matt, you made 2022 more bearable in many ways. I still think about many of your "columns" and in particular your ability to speak (write about) larger truths in lots of smaller ways, it is a rare gift. Thank you for all the masterful metaphors, the musical interludes and the deep dives into religious vs secular journeys that I as a reader get to travel. Much appreciated.

Oh and......Stevie Ray Vaughan is in just about anybody's Top 10 and probably a lot of Top 5's.

The night before he died he was in Milwaukee performing with Eric Clapton and Robert Cray (love him). I had flown there to see Bonnie Raitt. She came out on stage and said (paraphrasing) "I want to thank you all for being here, but I was hanging out this afternoon with Clapton, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray, and I gotta be honest, if I were you guys, I would be at their show."

Next morning the airport was fogged in pretty bad but we took off and landed safely home. The radio was playing Stevie Ray and then the tributes started coming in and we realized he had died that morning in a crash leaving Milwaukee in a helicopter crash.

Expand full comment

Stevie Ray Vaughan. Love it, including the sermonette. A life redeemed after hitting bottom. His album entitled "In Step"—word play on the 12-STEP program—is all about emerging from insanity with the help of a loving community. It ends in a wordless serenity prayer, realized in paradise: "Riviera Paradise."


Expand full comment