Nancy Sherer comments...


You don't know what you got ‘til it's gone. For able-bodied, young, white men in America, these words sound trite because men everywhere, but in America most of all, have power that they think belongs to anyone, man or woman, who chooses to take initiative, show gumption, work hard or work smart.

As men age, the power usually erodes gradually like the graying of hair, a few here, a few there, until the head is so white that reality can't be ignored anymore. The waitress isn't quite as submissive and eager to please. The bank teller seems slightly less attentive. The salesmen are more arrogant and patronizing. The respect that young, healthy men think is as natural and abundant as oxygen diminishes as they grow older and more vulnerable. Men don't realize that this treatment is just a taste of how old men, women, handicapped men and minorities are treated every day.

In the area where I live, the deregulation of energy caused an economic crisis that resulted in business closures affecting a large group of men, who until now, were used to looking at the world through the filter of white middle class male. Men accustomed to respect and security as a matter of fact suddenly found themselves unemployed and unemployable. Unexpected victims of the system of power they so firmly believed in, they don't know where to direct their anger and confusion.

All across America, men accustomed to being in power are being laid off. This is nothing new to the work force, but to each individual man, it is a humiliating, personal trauma. What is new, is that the many men who are losing their jobs now are at the pinnacle of their power. After years of being promoted, competent and secure in the identities defined by their job titles, they developed a solid belief in their superiority.

They believe that their success is based solely on their performance rather than on any privilege, good fortune and circumstances. When the less expensive labor of young men, women, and minorities displaced the seniority and experience, the men blamed themselves instead of the system that is inherently unfair. The lucky ones are laid off en masse so they have compatriots to ease the shame, but even so, this is just the first of many humbling experiences that comes with loss of power.

If and when these men realize that their humiliation is not their fault, that the culture of power is flawed -- that Ayn Rand was wrong -- then perhaps they could help make some fundamental changes in our culture. They all have the right to vote and they have the experience to organize. They just need the insight that comes from questioning their preconceptions and prejudices about freedom and justice.

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Nancy Sherer

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