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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rebels without a future

There's something magnificent -- at least in his own mind -- about a young guy who doesn't bow to authority, who doesn't obey the rules, and who's a rebel. They can sometimes be charismatic guys who attract women, at least when young. Or they can be the AntiFa types, who don't. (Either way, there's often a strong element of narcissism in their personalities.)

But when you see these guys when they're old, there's usually something a little pathetic about them. Unless they're extraordinarily entrepreneurial, their basic attitude of not wanting to be a grind and hit the books, or knuckle under, or kiss ass, or work in a cubicle, or work for the Man, often leaves them stranded.

If you're Bill Gates, you can drop out of Harvard and thrive. And if you're Mick Jagger, you can drop out of the London School of Economics and still make a lot of money. But stories like theirs are rare.

In most cases, being too cool for school -- or a regular job -- doesn't pay off.

And the rebels usually end up knuckling under anyway, at a lousier job, for an even dumber boss.

And as the testosterone gradually ebbs, so does the exuberance. And once their physicality is gone, they end up poor and bitter.

The cliche here is the high school quarterback, who never quite experienced anything quite so glorious again. But it's not just him; it's all the guys whose youthful self-image wouldn't allow for more pedestrian, practical pursuits.

The kind of pursuits which lead to stability later on.

There's often some substance abuse in the mix. Young guys who like get gloriously drunk, and who are gloriously daring with illicit drugs often let themselves become addicted. Then, eventually, if they manage to survive and get sober, they end up working as drug counselors or the like. Or they just hang on, doing..... something.

I once mentioned how a Schadenfreude Magazine would do well; to date no one has started one. But there are a plethora of cautionary tales about athletes and others who peaked early.

Nerds don't always end up on top. But too cool young guys almost never do.


Shaun F said...

John - This post reminded me of a person I went to High School with in a city in Canada. He wanted to move to LA and become a Rock Star. I'm sure you're familiar with the big fish in little pond mentality. I do believe he attempted this. What actually ended up happening was he became a cop who slept with a female informant, among other things. He got punted from the local force and his marriage ended. He had to live off the good will of his mom for some time who is a well known advocate in this country. Where does a person like that find work (I think he does carpentry now), or how do they re-establish (or for that matter establish credibility) with their children or former friends? Not that the person was of good character to begin with.

As you noted, one has to make concessions in life to find gainful employment.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
I think we all knew people like that. They're not necessarily bad people, they just have a self image a little bit at odds with reality. Nothing wrong with wanting to become a rock star, or an actor, or any number of glamorous things, but it's always good to have a backup plan. I wouldn't hold it against that guy that he slept with a female informer, 60% of married people stray at some point; some spouse are forgiving, others less so. Maybe with him there was a pattern of cutting all sorts of other corners, I don't know.

The pattern I was trying to describe was of people who think they're too good/cool to do pedestrian things. At least this guy had gainful employment for a while as a police officer, even if that didn't work out for him.

Shaun F said...

John - Ah Check.

I should have provided more substantiation. I think this will help. What I was trying to illustrate was that this guy couldn't actually just buckle down and do a job without screwing up cause he thought too highly of himself. So that was the context of being too cool to do pedestrian things. Think Dirty Harry - Magnum Force. There was a lot of media around this case, so I did intentionally skirt over the details. However, the guy didn't obey the rules(as well as sleeping with an informant) and thought himself to be in a position of immunity because of the position of authority he held. So yes there was a pattern of cutting corners in a professional capacity that was made public. He was found guilty on 7 counts ranging from neglect of duty to breach of confidence. The preamble concerning his going to LA to be a rock star was meant to illustrate his character. Hopefully that provides a bit more clarity.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
Yes, absolutely, thank you. It all boils down to narcissism, I guess. And it makes sense that he would have been up on seven counts.

Anonymous said...

I am one of those guys.

The pathetic part comes in, when you are old AND VAIN and you have to tell other people why you are cool.

As long as you keep your mouth shut, about your SECRET CAREER and other pretensions, you're just another old dude, kind to animals, tips the waitress, minds his own business.

Although I guess I am taking for granted moving a lot, not keeping friends, and lying about the past. WHICH I LIKED TO DO ANYWAYS.

If someone stayed in the home town and was a known person, then, it would be hard to live down your FAILURE TO BE THE GREAT WHITE RAPPER FROM EAST TENNESSEE, or something.

But that's the joy of the big world, just start walking...

====Fake Baba

Anonymous said...

I had something of a rebel mentality from ages 15-22 as we all tend to. Then I realized that knee-jerk rejection of authority is just as foolish as mindless conformity. Nowadays I take the middle path: some of our social customs and beliefs are rooted in absolute truths about reality and morality (the closest we
can get to knowing these at any rate) or a natural adaptation to the environment our culture evolved in, and are worth obeserving. All beyond these however, are arbitrary and I don't particularly regret treating them as such .

John Craig said...

Fake Baba and Anon --
As long as we're all in confessional mode, I have a little of this guy in me, too. I could draw two pictures of my life: one, that I was a relative success; and two, that I failed to achieve my goals at everything I ever did. And both would be true.

Nothing wrong with dreaming, but the post was really about not taking care of business while doing so.

As far as the rebellion, you're not normal if you don't rebel at least a little. In fact I rebelled both against my parents and, eventually, against the liberal beliefs of the people I went to school with. (Isn't that how we all come to our eventual beliefs?)

Mark Caplan said...

A U of Va professor devoted a book to this topic: A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America by Grace Elizabeth Hale.

By "Outsiders" she meant people on both the right and left who lived a fantasy by posing as outsiders, rogues, rebels, nonconformists, iconoclasts, dangerous romantic heroes. She includes the likes of Elvis, William F. Buckley, the Freedom Riders, Operation Rescue activists, and a motley assortment of Social Justice Warriors. As you pointed out, striking the pose of a rebel can radically improve your sex life, if you don't mind sleeping with similarly minded, self-deluded poseurs.

John Craig said...

Mark --
I don't mind.

Seriously, that's a great thesis. And so true. And it really is the white middle class. The other races don't fall in love with pretension quite the same way. Blacks have plenty of men with a sort of "I m the greatest of all time" level of egotism, but it's not quite the same thing as white pretension, which actually does seem to incorporate a certain "romantic" feeling about oneself. Not so sure I'd include William F. Buckley in that group, but I completely agree with Hale's basic message.

Steven said...

Maybe they are more suited to a different time.

In palaeolithic times when there was no such thing as a middle class profession and their physicality continued to be important throughout their adult lives, they might have enjoyed their youthful alpha social status for a lot longer. Later on, in say the iron age, they might have been renowned warriors. In the middle ages, they might have found success or contentment as farmers or fighters in the feudal system, or as playboys of the aristocracy.

You could see some guys as just ill adapted to modern society.

My more down to earth comment: a lots of guys don't get high school qualifications and then go on to become tradesmen- plumbers, joiners or whatever- and make a good living in a job more suited to their interests and abilities. That should be seen as a legitimate path- academia or a white collar job isn't for everyone, including some guys with high IQs. A lot of those guys make out a lot better than liberal arts or social science graduates who find they have few useful skills or job opportunities when they graduate.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, our physicality undoubtedly counts for more back in the old days, before the last 300 years or so since the technological revolution, and it really counted before 10,000 years or so ago, when agriculture became a way of life.

I also completely agree that being a tradesman is a perfectly honorable profession; but this post wasn't really about IQ, it was about guys with an overly romanticized view of themselves whose self-images don't allow for practicality.

BTW, I wouldn't argue for a second that luck doesn't also play a large role in all of this.

Mark Caplan said...

Here are a couple of quotes from Elizabeth Grace Hale's A Nation of Outsiders (2010):

"What galls SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] people the most is the way white radicals [from up North] seem to have treated SNCC as a kind of psychotherapy, as a way to work out problems of alienation and boredom and personal inadequacy. A season of organizing in Mississippi, despite (or because of) the dangers and discomforts, was often more therapeutic for the white organizer than the blacks being organized."

"[W]hites working in the movement there were 'beatniks, leftovers, white trash, sluts, etc.,' who came south 'looking for excitement and adventure' and the chance to become 'martyrs' and act like 'big wheels.' To prove they were free of prejudice, black activists [said], white workers had sex with African Americans and 'indulg[ed] in all manner of unconventional behavior.' [...] One young black activist said of the white summer project volunteers, [...] they are doing nothing more than satisfying their own needs by being nice to the Negroes. Whites didn't do anything on my project in Greenwood [Mississippi] in the summer of '64 but raise hell and sleep around.'"

John Craig said...

Mark --
Thank you for those quotes. They really ring true. Whites will do anything to prove they're not "racist," and with the SJW's, it's all about them, not the cause. And they're naive if they think blacks are too stupid to see through them. (Isn't that, ultimately, the greatest "racism" of all.) Of course, blacks often see racism when it isn't even there. But still, they do seem to have seen through to the real motivations of these "freedom workers."

The one thing I'd disagree with is her characterization of the whites as including "white trash." That phrase usually has the connotation of lower class whites who, for the most part, act like ghetto blacks: go on welfare, have illegitimate kids, have a high crime rate, and are prone to substance abuse. White trash, as a result, tend not to romanticize poor blacks, and SJW's rarely come from their ranks. In fact, because of their frequent proximity to blacks, they're often at odds with them.

Steven said...

'our physicality undoubtedly counts for more back in the old days'

yeah and I was also thinking about how the whole context of the modern demands for seriousness didn't exist. There were no schools or jobs in the modern sense.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Back in the old days all you needed were your instincts. No one had to tell you you had to be serious about the bear which could kill you. One look and your adrenaline would tell you everything you needed to know.

Anonymous said...

My parents had friends from church whose son was the high school basketball star, a guy who I suspect always imagined that his life would be easy. The guy ended up married two or three times and he didn't have any great career. Unfortunately, he ended up killing himself (using an antique gun that had been some kind of family heirloom). He struggled in adulthood. Very sad ending.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Yes, a lot of people have a hard time living up to youthful athletic glory. Don't now if that was the case with the guy you're describing, but it's tough when you peak early.