Is libertarianism the undercurrent of the MHRM?

Editor’s note: This article is also available in Spanish.

Politics, most especially in the United States, has become so incredibly polarized that there is a tendency to instantly identify anyone and everyone as either “leftist” or “right-wing,” “wingnut” versus “moonbat.” When politically-oriented publications take a look at the Men’s Human Rights Movement, they tend either to be bewildered and out of their depth, or to try to pin a label on us that won’t stick.

Full disclosure before I say more: I at one time considered myself a diehard liberal Democrat (of the U.S. variety). I got older and I became a libertarian. I got older and became a Republican (again, of the U.S. variety). Then I got older still and threw it all away, and now refuse to self-identify as anything but a classical liberal and a pragmatist, which is where I’ve been for more than 10 years and will likely be for the rest of my life. I think Ayn Rand was as nutty as Karl Marx, and I think Von Mises and Keynes both had valid points of view. Sorry, ideologues, you don’t have to like it, I am who I am, so if you need to split the world into binary “you’re either this or you’re that,” then fine, assign me your favorite label and just walk away.

Now, for those of you who can think independently:

It’s been noted on more than one occasion that there seem to be an awful lot of libertarians in the Men’s Human Rights Movement and that noted men’s advocates like Karen Straughan and Paul Elam have been asked to speak at various libertarian events. Some have even asked whether or not some variety of conservatism and/or libertarianism is a requirement to be in the Men’s Human Rights Movement.

Part of the answer lies in this: Straughan and Elam have made it clear that they would happily speak to Greens, socialists, traditional conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, or anyone else: the libertarians are just the only ones with the courage to ask. At the moment.

Some so-called MRAs, believe it or not, have answered with a firm “Yes, you must be libertarian (or conservative)” and will not tolerate a fellow MRA who does not toe that political line. It’s hard not to notice, however, that every so-called MRA who takes that stance has rendered themselves almost irrelevant to the mainstream of a growing movement, their audiences static or even shrinking as the rest of us continue to grow while requiring no ideological purity tests, no adherence to left or right, no adherence to any political party.

Yet still, it’s hard not to notice that there are a lot of libertarians running around, even here on A Voice for Men. It’s hard to say if they’re a majority, but they’re probably a disproportionate share of the audience. The question then naturally comes to the suspicious mind: Is the MHRM a stalking horse for libertarianism?

My own answer is a firm “no.” I believe that libertarians are attracted to the Men’s Human Rights Movement because they tend to see evil in government faster than others—it’s sort of embedded in their philosophy—and it’s hard not to notice when you really look at things and see that most government programs these days are geared primarily toward either helping women or that nebulous blob called “women and children,” with, of course, boy children no longer being part of the “women and children” blob once they hit puberty. (Indeed, even while prepubescent, boy-children still often receive distinctly less favorable treatment by many government programs these days.)

When my leftist friends talk to me about the anti-government sentiment often found in MHRM circles, I always ask them this:

When a great mass of people experience a state that does little or nothing that helps them in a way they can see, and experiences only indifference when it’s not outright punishment from that state, what do you think their reaction is eventually going to be? If government is doing a terrible job on helping boys and men, and is frequently hurting them—and it is—why the hell wouldn’t people conscious of these issues start developing a distinct aversion to the state?

What is it that you think is going on in Ferguson, Missouri, right now? If your answer is “race war” or “the n*****s are just acting like thugs again,” please turn around and go find another website to read. The real answer is, it’s people who feel they have no stake whatsoever in the system, and that the state can’t be trusted to do anything but ignore them at best or shoot them dead at worst.

They do not trust the government. Why? Because they have been given no good reason to trust it and a list of reasons a mile long not to trust it.

Liberal whinging about racism isn’t going to fix it either. It really won’t. One more lecture about racism will just cause every beat cop to sit stone-faced, hearing nothing he hasn’t heard before, but not really change anything because what those cops mostly face is a citizenry that doesn’t like or trust them. Race isn’t the ultimate issue; the issue is that those cops’ jobs aren’t centered around helping the people they’re supposed to serve. That’s not ultimately their fault, it’s the design of the system itself.

I am certain there are angry Sharptonesque Black people, and dumbass self-righteous White liberals, reading this now who are guffawing and saying of course it’s all about race. But sorry, punks, I’ve been around: I’ve been in predominately Black cities with predominately Black cops, Black city council, Black mayor, Black police chief, Black in every direction you looked with lily-white Dean the only Casper in sight, and seen Black cops treat Black kids exactly the same way the White cops in places like Ferguson do. It just rarely makes the national news because they can’t pin a racial angle on it.

If you live in Detroit Michigan, or Compton California, or Inkster Michigan, or Dayton Ohio, or New Orleans Louisiana, you may well be a Black 19-year-old kid who gets his ass whupped by a gang of angry Black cops, run up on phony charges by a Black prosecutor, defended by a Black public defender who doesn’t give a crap about you, thrown into prison by a Black judge, and watched over by Black guards while they sodomize your Black ass in the showers.

If you think it’s all about race, think again: it’s about a system that offers no hope and no security to people, and most especially doesn’t give a damn about young men, who are fully expected to fend for themselves no matter what obstacles in life they face and what lack of real opportunities they have.

They get the message loud and clear: “If you care about us at all, the only thing you care about us is how to hurt us or at least make us disappear.”

And in one way or another, that increasingly is the feeling of a growing number of men of all races and ethnicities.

Indeed, my prediction is that the minute struggling men figure out that race is not the main barrier the system has put in place against them, that it’s their sex, the world will change pretty damned quick.

I expect libertarians to have a disproportionately loud voice in the men’s movement because, say whatever else you will about libertarians, when government is doing evil, they see it pretty damn fast. And when people feel downtrodden, a “don’t trust government, government sucks” message is a pretty easy sell.

What this should do for liberals and conservatives, leftists and rightists, is not provide an excuse to dismiss the issues. What it should be doing is causing leftists and rightists to start asking themselves how they can do a better job.

Let’s say you’re an old-school leftist or liberal: I will remind you that the left had its genesis in a group of people they unashamedly called “the working man.” When you make a list on your fingers of everything that liberals and leftists have done for working class men in the last 40 years, how long before you run out of fingers? Personally, all 10 of mine are free because I can’t think of a goddamned thing. Maybe you can think of one or two, and if so feel free to let me know, but if you can name even five things of real substance, I’ll eat my head.

But you conservatives, you think you’re so smugly superior because at least you’ve been critical of feminism? Yeah. Okay. Please make a list for me of what exactly conservatives have done that is a substantive amelioration of the conditions that drive the heavy rates of suicide, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, and educational failure in men and boys. What have you actually done, except berate them to “man up” and otherwise shame them? Great, you’ve told them they can enjoy sports, that it’s cool boys like sports. Well, lots of liberals like sports too; did you have anything else on offer? “Family values?” Oh, that’s nice, family values, you like those, but what are you doing to make a young man want to have a family in the first place?

Maybe Tucker Carlson has the answer. He’s the conservative idiot who told Dr. Helen Smith that it was a man’s job to take a horrible deal in marriage and divorce. Or how about Phyllis Schiafly, a great conservative egalitarian as long as it does not inconvenience anyone with a vagina? Or Tammy Bruce, who openly states women’s job is to civilize men with sex? Or William Bennett, who says boys and young men are failing because they refuse to “man up?” Or Kay Hymowitz, who mocks today’s men as perpetual adolescents?

Hint for conservatives: Saying the word feminazi a few times doesn’t give you any worth to men and boys.

Here’s what I believe:

This is a growing sociopolitical movement that has no allegiance whatsoever to the old labels of the past. Men increasingly need to be looking at not just women but society as a whole and asking, “What’s in it for me?” And if the answer isn’t clear and straightforward, you should expect them to shrug their shoulders and refuse to participate in your grand scheme for society.

If you’re a left-winger and you find yourself dismayed at the condition that men and boys are in, you need to stop attacking conservatives. No, really, you do. Conservatives may drive you batty, but all your other lefty friends are already doing that. What you really need to be doing is turning to your fellow leftists and pointing out where they’re failing boys and men. Because the list of areas where leftists have put men at the back of the bus is overwhelming, and they need quite a bit of consciousness-raising in that area.

But you right-wingers? Saying a few nice things here and there about boys and men and “manliness,” whatever that is, and occasionally bashing feminists, doesn’t get you a free pass. Where are you on challenging conservatives who only have shaming, humiliation, and stern lectures to offer young men? Why are you complicit in a system that’s more likely to throw struggling young men in prison than it is to help mentor them into a better life? What are you doing about alimony reform, child support reform, reforming the family court system, due process violations, and holding female criminals more accountable?

If you’re conservative and interested in men’s issues, you need to stop attacking leftists/liberals and start holding your conservative/rightist pals’ feet to the fire and asking them why they support, or stay silent on, so many things that hurt our boys and men.

Do I think the libertarians have all the answers? No. But I do know this: If the libertarians are the only ones who are bothering to listen to these issues, and at least talk about them without condescension, then you shouldn’t be surprised when a lot of men, young and old, start to think the libertarians are the only ones who have answers. After all, they’re the ones visibly taking this stuff seriously.

Am I a libertarian? As I noted earlier, no. I’m that bane of ideologues everywhere: a pragmatist. So if you’re a leftist and you’re dismayed at what looks like a large amount of anti-leftist sentiment in men’s issues circles, don’t chide the Men’s Human Rights Activists for it—give shit to your fellow leftists for letting it happen.

And if you’re a conservative, don’t sit there with that smug “See, I told you so” smirk on your face. Look at the jackasses on your side of the fence who sit around doing nothing while our boys are slowly destroyed, while married men getting divorced are ground in the dirt, female criminals and abusers are given a free pass, a prison-industrial complex designed to warehouse an overwhelmingly male population grows, and give them lectures about how if we just “got back” to whatever idea of “limited government” you think is best, this would all go away. Instead, start challenging your fellow conservatives for their silence in the face of misandry, for their cowardice in not challenging civil rights-trashing laws, for having no answers for men seeking help except “Suck it up, wimp.” You don’t get to sit on your laurels and say, “Well, we kind of gave crap to the feminists, sometimes” and think that’s enough. It’s not enough by a long shot.

Clean your own house up. Challenge your like-minded political friends to think harder about what they have to offer men and boys besides shame, indifference, or punishment.

Maybe the libertarian contingent will still carry the day, but that’s damn well a certainty if neither left nor right even tries to put offers on the table.

There are a growing number of men on strike, and this bodes well for neither liberals nor conservatives. Those men are on strike because they’re not given any reason to believe in their governments, their communities, their churches, their institutions of learning, even their own families in many cases. They have been given no reason to care about any of it, and in a society that make it abundantly clear it doesn’t care about them, why would they have any other reaction?

“You can all go to hell” is the natural reaction of people who perceive an entire system as viewing them with indifference or outright contempt. Until you do something to address that, you’re an idiot if you don’t expect “screw the government, screw the system, screw society, screw everybody” to be the default attitude of people you do nothing for and make it abundantly clear you care nothing about.

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