A curious phenomenon takes place in a male-dominated oligarchy like ours: in a nuclear family, when a man loses his job, and the woman becomes the sole support, castration often often begins. She begins with the carping, demeaning remarks, the unkindly cuts and shrugs, the eye-rolling disappointment. He cowers, struggles, shouts, slams doors, slithers into a vortex of feeling worthless and unnecessary. Conversely, when the woman loses HER job, she slides back into dependency, wiping out a generation of progress, and becomes either a Stepford wife, or goes back to school, back to juvenile dependency on the way to becoming a more educated Stepford Wife. Plenty of blame to go around.
Onlookers want to shout “It’s the economy, stupid!” to both of them. Nobody really listens.
Tougher times lie ahead, we’re told. Is that supposed to be a consolation? It’s certainly a moment of reassessment, nationally and on a smaller scale. Families can’t break up easily or economically. We’re all stuck.
The only change that can take place is in our minds. The idea of a “job” is a relatively new phenomenon, historically. In early Europe people’s names often told what they did: Bakers baked, Schumachers made shoes, Clarks kept the office in order. When Napoleon remarked disparagingly that England was a nation of shopkeepers, he was right. They did what was needed.
It produced a different mindset. America borrowed the idea, spread it across the Great Plains and became not only a nation of shopkeepers, but farmers and adventurers as well (due to the vastness of the counterpane on which they could spread their wares.)
The nation’s greatest inspiration for shopkeepers was FDR’s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The only changes that can take place is in our minds, our opinions and ourselves. So let’s get on with it.