We are hearing a lot right now about anti-social, isolated young males resorting to gun violence in numbers disproportionate to any other demographic. America has a genuine crisis on its hands.
Sociologists, in addition to blaming fatherless homes, as Andy Caldwell said this week in the News-Press, also point to an alienation these young men feel from a variety of our once-ubiquitous social and civil institutions.
Membership in local service clubs are on the decline; church attendance where young men can fellowship with other young men is almost nonexistent in many communities throughout the country. There are other examples. Young men increasingly feel alone, cut off, ignored and, in some cases, on the defensive.
It’s worrisome that the only “community” these young males seem to have available to them today are online communities and web sites where extremist views are shared and encouraged, and ultimately fester to the boiling point.
So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, both as a father and as a concerned citizen.
Maybe our young men lack the concept of brotherhood that can reconnect them to civil society. Might the fact that America’s labor unions have been on the decline for over 50 years have something to do with this? After all, many of the types of blue-collar jobs these young men’s fathers, uncles or grandfathers once had have gone away or disappeared.
This irreversible phenomenon is called the gales of creative destruction.
Perhaps, now, because so many unskilled jobs that exist today lack the existence of solidarity (brotherhood) with other young males, has led to a generation of men disconnected from a sense of meaning in what they do and their purpose in this world.
What I am about to say might shock some of you who know me. But it needs to be said.
Instead of being hostile to the idea of “organized labor,” maybe private-sector employers should consider embracing this once very American institution as a social good and even as an economic positive. Indeed, perhaps what we are in desperate need of is a paradigm shift in the relationship between “management” and “labor.”
When business theorists in the late 1850s made a convincing argument for why employers should treat their employees as machine parts, the result was union leaders looking at and treating management and ownership as their enemy. It need not be this way.
I had a recent conversation about this with a union leader. And this sentiment, while not as acute as how I’ve described it here, there’s no question there exists a curiosity as to why management is reflexively opposed to forming a strategic partnership with labor that could lead to a win-win for both employers and employees.
I say the following as an unapologetic advocate for private industry, and a believer that liberal, democratic, entrepreneurial capitalism is our best hope for working families to enjoy the morality of prosperity.
However, in light of the increasing dysfunction that is unfolding around us, maybe it is time private industry rethinks some things.
The positive possibilities that could occur by reintroducing this generation of young males to a brotherhood that organizes around hard work, purposefulness, the intrinsic benefits of male friendship, as well as the indispensable value of mentorship are something that should inspire and motivate us all.
Labor unions provided this for many of our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers. Maybe it’s time we seriously consider resurrecting this once bedrock American institution of civil society to benefit this generation of young men.
And I’m not excluding young women. I recognize that women have been an important part of our nation’s organized labor movement and I hope they will continue to be going forward.
I want to be unambiguously clear about what I am not suggesting. I am not proposing in any manner, shape or form of government mandate unionization on businesses. I would oppose that with every fiber of my being. And I’m also very mindful that this position is not a traditionally “Republican” position.
But I am an American first, I am a conservative second, and I am a Republican a distant third.
What I am proposing is a more ethical economic and social construct that understands we are all on each other’s side and in this fight together.
As Americans, we all have a stake in each other’s success. It cannot be us against them; it must be all of us working together to achieve an unparalleled level of economic prosperity that opens more doors and allows this as well as future generations of men to enter into a brighter future with more hope and opportunity.