Sunday, March 15, 2009


The dream of the defiant hero, standing alone to face down life's adversities dies hard. The great irony is that many men think they are emulating the Lone Ranger even as they sit home watching him; sifting endlessly through cable channels, beer in one hand, remote in the other. Evidently, in an interdependent world, the sole qualification for claiming self-reliance is not "solving the problem," but never asking for help.

Not surprisingly, male identity is still closely linked to the job. Unlike Depression-era people, we no longer ask "Are you working;" rather we want to know "What do you do?" Your job title or occupation immediately stratifies you in the social bedrock. And when that identity is lost, there is an urgency to replace it with something of stature. When nothing is available, says Dokoupil, "men humiliated by their loss of work often compensate by reasserting their worst hyper-masculine impulses, doubling down on old alpha-male stereotypes." In past recessions, that has meant finding refuge in sports and popular culture, hitting the bottle or the gym, and vilifying women as the cause of the problem. Not much has changed.

Times are tough, but isolating will only make them tougher. If you can't take care of your finances, you have to take care of yourself. IT is insular by nature. Coding can be a solitary pursuit, and developing a relationship with a computer is less demanding and more predictable than the messiness that comes with people. To get through the rough patches, IT professionals may have to make a conscious effort to reach out.

Isolation can indeed be a great temptation for some, ie me, but must be resisted. After all, if you're a member of the City of God, you can't spend your time out in a cave somewhere. Monks living in caves of course have an exception due to the fact that they spend their time praying and are thus in constant contact with the City. Sort of a spiritual telecommuting, in a way.

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