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"There is only one of you. We see you. We got you."
My message to young men
As I mentioned last week, I made a video, The Fall of Men, with Big Think. It’s gone pretty big, with 1.7 million views, over a 100,000 likes, and 12,000 comments in the first two weeks:
Some of the comments that have pleased me most are the ones mostly from women who came to the video skeptically, but came away at least partly persuaded. For example, this:
As a woman, I'll say that the last point is probably the largest issue. It is SO, SO important for children to have close, trusting adult role models of their own gender. It's crucial for young girls to have a strong woman to look up to, and it's imperative that young boys have a strong man to look up to. Someone who can influence them in good ways, and enrich their childhoods.
As a woman i really appreciate the author bringing light to men's issues without turning down women. We won't get any progress if we beat each other down, we need to rise together!
Came here looking for a fight. Left a little smarter!
I really appreciate the time people have taken to comment on the video, and the respectful and positive tone of almost all the interactions in the comments field.
But the comments that really moved me were the ones from the boys and men who had an emotional reaction to the video. For example:
let me tell you i broke down crying watching this. i finally felt like someone understood what’s happening to us, and it’s so damn crazy that most of society is just letting us crash and burn
Thank you so much you made feel like I have meaning
Cried my ass off watching this as an unemployed fatherless man who feels worthless, useless and think about suicide every day.
I'm sitting here crying because I've spent my entire self-conscious life struggling with the negative (and more often than not, accurate) stereotypes associated with men where I self-excluded from my own social and sexual needs from fear of being a "monster". If I bring this up, or talk about the loneliness, or inability to connect, I get told to shut up because somehow the privileges that I received against my will from a society I had no part in building overshadow the harrowing suffering I've dealt with since I was 8.
as a 15 year old boy, this video is describing alot for me. I can confirm that having a lack of a father figure can drastically impact the life of men, as my father is absent most of the time and I live with my grandparents, I have nobody to look up to, nobody for me to use as an example of someone to become, my moved away 4 years ago so I don't even have my mom, both parents are vital. I am struggling in education, I lack proper social etiquette, I lack purpose, I feel lost. and most other male friends I have had in the past feel the same way as I do. I know that when I grow up I want to get a job as a therapist, I want to help people like who I am now because I haven't gotten the help I needed. I could have phrased this comment better but I am tired and only awake due to an energy drink so please do forgive me, if there is anyone here like me and needs a friend, I am here for you.
Bear in mind that this was a video of me, a Brooking scholar with a British accent, describing, with the assistance of charts, a range of economic, social and educational trends. But it brought boys and men to tears. Why? Because it made them feel seen. It made them feel less alone. It made them feel that their problems were not a simple function of their inadequacies.
Honestly, I’m taken aback that empirical work can have such an emotional impact, and I think it shows how much more there is to do. As it happens, I was asked at the end of a podcast a while back, called Where We Go Next, to give a message to young men, especially if they are struggling. The creator turned my answer, which was spontaneous, into a short video for those who like Instagram:
For those who prefer their content old-school, here’s an extract of what I would say to that struggling boy or young man:
The first thing I would say is that you are entirely unique. There is no other you in the world. There never has been and there never will be. And whether you believe that from a religious perspective or not, that you're made in the image of God and that you contain the fragment of divinity within you, or whether you just want to take the secular version of that, which is that no one else has your DNA helix...
There's only one of you.
And you're incredibly precious in our sight. You're incredibly precious to our world, to your family, to your friends. And who and how you're going to be in the world, the kind of gift you're going to be is just hugely important. And the first gift you can give is to be kind to yourself.
Whatever you hear about yourself, however much you screw up, just know that you are incredibly precious. And that you're not judged by your latest exam result or your latest embarrassing failure at romantic overtures or whatever. Just know that.
The most important thing is going to be to figure out how to be under your own steam. How to go your way in a way that is respectful of others. Always look at other people in the eye. Always shake their hand. Always presume the best of somebody else until they prove you otherwise. Presume goodwill. It's mostly a good and a kind world, and you can help it make even more so. Presume that.
Go out to the world with an open face and an open smile, an open heart. And a few times you'll get kicked in the nuts and you'll think, ‘Yeah, okay, that one didn't work out.’ But trust me, most of the time, if you enter the world with that spirit, the world will return you a hundredfold.
And some of that sounds cliched. But I've got this young man in my mind’s eye right now and I'm looking him in the eye and I'm telling him:
We see you. We're with you. We got your back. Go for it.