Men's Response to Shifting Roles after Peak Oil

This is a guest post by Sharon Astyk. Another related post by Sharon that may be of interest is Peak Oil Is Still a Women's Issue and Other Reflections on Sex, Gender and the Long Emergency. She also has some posts at this blog site.

One of the things we’re talking about right now in our “Finding Your Place” class are issues specific to men and women. The women’s issues often seem to focus on material and physical discussions – what can I do about menopause; how do I handle birth control, menstruation and other bodily issues; or about sex and love. When we have these threads about men, they invariably end up focusing on the psychological results that seem particularly acute for many, if not all, men. While all of us have anxieties and many women struggle with these issues, somehow when we get to gender-specific consideration, what comes up for many of the men in the discussion is how difficult it is to deal with shifting roles, and the prevalence of anxiety, depression and over-reliance on drugs and alchohol.

Statistics from cultures undergoing major crises seem to bear out the assumption that often, women adapt better than men to many difficult situations. The decrease in lifespans in the former Soviet Union that accompanied the collapse was in part due to loss of health care, but a lot of it had to do with a rise in the rates of suicide, stress and alcohol abuse. At one point, the division between lifespans for women in Russia and for men was more than a decade. In Studs Terkel’s "Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression" and Jeane Westin’s "Making Do: How Women Survived the 30s", we hear story after story of men who simply couldn’t handle the strain of unemployment and dependent family, along with role destruction, and as a result left, or subsided into alcoholism.

Dmitry Orlov made the following observation in Closing the Collapse Gap:

Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.

If the economy, and your place within it, is really important to you, you will be really hurt when it goes away.

This does not mean that every man facing a transition into a poorer, less energy rich world is doomed to crisis. But I think it is important to talk about – because just as I’ve written many times about the changes that peak oil and climate change and their economic consequences are likely to bring about for women, the ones that come for men are important and real. All men, and all of us who love husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, sons need to be aware of these issues – to be aware of the degree to which watching your world unravel seems to engender different responses. Women who turn to each other, who talk, whose identities may be more complexly built on a mix of personal and professional identities may not grasp how hard this is for the men in our lives to face unemployment and shifts in everything they’ve known. I think this is an important thing to be able to be open about, for both men and women, and also an important thing to be conscious of.

Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about? None of us want to see the rates of suicide rising. None of us want to watch the guys in our life struggling. None of us want them to turn to drugs and drink to dull a sense of loss. Of course, many men won’t. In many cases, it is the women who struggle with these issues. But overwhelmingly history suggests that the psychological trauma of watching your world transformed often strikes men, particularly men of middle age and above, harder than it does women. How do we soften the blow?

Alaska with its high rural unemployment, suicide, drug, alcolhol and sexual abuse rates certainly should have a wealth of information on this subject. The cultural and economic shock was sudden and severe. I haven't seen it broken down by sex but casual observation seems to indicate that women did adapt to the change more quickly though after a generation or two things appear to be evening out some.

Orlov - They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers.

Dmitry Orlov's insight comes from studying Russia, which has a unique relationship to alcohol, driven to ultimate extremes by Stalin desperate to motivate a ruined Army during WII, building on a long but still typical 'aboriginal' addiction to alcohol.
Your analysis such as it is is just commentary and not very well informed at that.
Typical whimsical blog fare.
Most of the women I know that find themselves freed from servitude by financial independence behave as badly or as well as men.

I don't know of the role of alcohol, but three instances of high suicide rates among men come to mind: among farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin, hit by drought, among farmers in India suffering from drought and low crop prices, and formerly among white farmers in South Africa as their "social order" failed.

Farmers are susceptible to suicide because for a lot of them it is all they know. They have egos and there is a rural culture of competition for resources such as land. If they have families there is a constant demand for support, but farmers do not have regular, dependable income for the most part.

Income is at wholesale, highly variable and comes in spurts if it comes at all while expenses never stop and come at retail.

Many times they try to expand production to increase income in a market that does not justify it i.e. prices are not high enough to cover the added expenses. Or the market price of the product falls dramatically and the farmer is left facing debt without adequate income.

This happened to a neighbor that lived about a half mile away back in the 1950's or 60's. He had expanded into cattle and it didn't work out. He hung himself in the cattle shed.

More recently, the son of a wealthy neighbor bought high priced land and expensive new equipment getting himself in over his head. He took his own life when it all went wrong.

These are some of the reasons there is so much pressure to find markets for farm products that are stable and likely to hold up prices. For farmers who do not have off the farm jobs as a back up or whose wife is not working, things can go wrong quickly.

That is why ethanol has been a great benefit for farmers. It has stabilized corn prices at a profitable level. It is a case where Peak Oil has actually reduced stress (and suicide) and increased social order among farmers.

x, here's a sad one that recently came through my email inbox. I didn't know the fellow but a co-worker knew of the farm and said that it was immaculately kept.

Coincidentally, one of the three remaining dairy farms in my small New England town just ceased operations. In our community, in 1955, there were something like 55 dairys operating. Like many other dairy operations, this most recently closed dairy had been milking for several generations. It is an irony for me that so many on this forum speak hopefully of returning to the land to live and yet, here are examples of hard-working people who were driven under.

"Very sad" but not significant in the great scheme of things.
People go out of business all the time some of them throw themselves out of high buildings, others drink themselves to death or hang themselves in barns.
Your personal experience does not make it more real or significant.
The ultimate failure is to kill yourself - for no good reason.
An epicurean in Ancient Rome killed himself because a change in fortunes meant he would no longer be able to enjoy gourmet food.
Very sad and all that but a disappointed son killing himself over a loss of status is nothing new.
Globalisation makes small farms uneconomic, the only rational thing to do is buy up and amalgamate, sell out or get a job and become a hobby farm.
When the oil based farm economy crashes perennial agriculture will be the only option.
As to who will be working or owning the land...

Gee, bell, it sounds like in your world "market forces" are what matter, not people. Good luck with that, especially after TSHTF.


You dismiss someone else's comment as 'typical whimsical blog fare'....'not very well informed at that'. If you bother to look up 'epicurean' you will find they were NOT typically people who 'enjoyed gourmet food' - they tended to live rather modestly, and did not overindulge. You seem rather rude, and also perhaps not so well informed yourself.

Leave my mate bell alone a diamond geezer he is.

An Epicurean who was a gourmet:

The problem is your failure of intellect and so imagination.
Nothing for sure is known about their lifestyle it was a school of philosophy with a wide range of practice.
Who knows what they got up to behind closed doors, much the same as us I imagine.
Unless you are going to claim ascribing to a lifestyle makes any one individual a more virtuous person.
bell is very rude and does not speak with forked tongue.

“I spit upon luxurious pleasures, not for their own sake, but because of the inconveniences that follow them.”

, not for their own sake,

Keep working at it you will get it eventually.
Think lumberjack;¬)

Subsidies and demand for corn based ethanol will disappear as more efficient biomass fuel sources become available that are not derived from food crop sources. With more and more hunger occurring worldwide using food crops for fuel becomes morally harder to sustain, not to mention the efficiency issues. Ethanol is not the fuel of the future and, for farmers is becoming just another volatile commodity in the boom and bust cycle of agriculture.

Subsidies and demand for corn based ethanol will disappear as more efficient biomass fuel sources become available that are not derived from food crop sources. With more and more hunger occurring worldwide using food crops for fuel becomes morally harder to sustain, not to mention the efficiency issues. Ethanol is not the fuel of the future and, for farmers is becoming just another volatile commodity in the boom and bust cycle of agriculture.

Actually I think Sharon is correct, men do seem to be hit harder. In the Native communities that I'm familiar with, the men seem to have more trouble with the changes the European invasions have brought than the women. Both sexes have been hit hard by alcoholism, but the men seem worse. The women don't have an easy time of it, as they have to deal with the changes as well as are more subject to more sexual and physical abuse than the men are. It's not just Russia, I've discussed the matter with a Roumanian friend, and she reported the same high rates of male suicide and alcoholism as the Russians. It's hit her immediate family very hard. She lived in Algeria for many years and reported similar male nihilism there (fundamentalist violence in that case) in response to lack of jobs. There typically are culture pressures frowning on female alcohol consumption which may give some protection. Females jobs in the household remain in a collapsing economy, in fact usually become more time and effort consuming. I asked my friend why don't the men help their wives or mothers with the increased housework (carry wood and water, chop wood, help with laundry, grind grain, garden etc), but she says the men always refused to do "women's work". I suspect a willingness to adapt and do more work in the non-money household-based economy ie women's work will be a life-saver for out of work or unemployable men.

I think you 'got' it, paleobotanist.

""The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men.""

I guess unsuccessful middle-aged men might be immune. Us poor folk have very little invested in the 'system' and, if it all goes kerflooey, a very little investment becomes worthless. No big loss. Meanwhile, there's wood to chop, gardens to plant, and dirt to remove from the domicile. It seems likely that the women are not so much affected since there were few wealthy and/or powerful women in such countries.

As for up-and-coming men`s roles in society, I was struck by the way that "Avatar" had Jake Sully go through a Na`vi manhood intitiation rite. If you think about it, the plot really didn`t require this, it was thrown in as a kind of primer on how traditional societies manage this kind of thing. Jake spoke about how he became faster and stronger. When have we heard anyone in the movies talk about getting into good shape before? Yet peak oil models predict that people will indeed get into better shape without cars...

Funnily enough, his teacher was often the Na`vi woman whom he ended up marrying.....

It has all been said before, how sports ritualizes the hunting/warrior element that seems to remain a part of male thinking eons after people did away with spears and shields. Some men seem to be strangely drawn to the military. Women, with child care as primary role, don`t seem to have been called upon to adapt so deeply to new circumstances.

Actually, I feel kind of sorry for men; "be hunter!", no more animals left.....ok....."be a farmer!"...hmmm, no, no more arable land......ok......"be a businessman!".....hmm, no, no more oil....

Men are kind of wondering, "what do I do??"
Women don`t have the burden of competition so much (another throwback to hunting/warrior era?) so we don`t feel a blow to the ego about having a job that just pays the rent.

If, as seems likely, most do not have enough to eat post PO, most will not be more fit. Most will quite rapidly go from overweight and unfit to far underweight and unfit. And we all know what the next stage will be.

Perhaps in general men have farther to go than women to realize that poorly compensated work still has value.

They (post-Soviet men) did not all or even mostly commit suicide.

Death from heart disease saw a rapid and large rise for men in the ex-USSR.
There was also a rise, though much smaller, in this category of death for women.
See charts numbered 5 & 6 in this lecture below.
(The lecture actually focuses on Japan but provides comparative international statistics.
The chart for men was posted via Gail in March last year in my Guest Post, Part One on trends in World agriculture )
Underlying arterial disease, both incidence and extent, rises with age but women are better protected until menopause and lag more than a decade behind men in the incidence of prompt events such as heart-attack and angina. Arteries are gradually primed, typically over decades, with progressively more unstable lesions at key positions, especially in heart arteries, and these lesions can catastrophically de-stabilize, either spontaneously or as a result of insults such as smoking. The situation is complex, [emphasis!] but an 'at-risk' population already primed for catastrophe will see dramatically more (or on the other hand dramatically fewer) morbid events following unfavorable (or favorable) changes in blood: bleeding time, inflammatory factors etc and concomitant effects on arteries. For instance, following the ban on smoking in public enclosed spaces, we in UK saw a significant drop in cardiac deaths in the first year, even with a fairly small decrease in exposure to smoke. This was rapid change in a prompt cause of events, rather than a change in the numbers of 'at-risk' individuals with their slowly 'maturing' underlying arterial disease.

look after your men's arteries, keep his weight from ballooning and ban him from smoking in the house :)
(MI at 49, with young children. Still here at 69. Twenty years ago today I was sitting in hospital and thinking very very hard. )

Bell, I wonder why you think that alcoholism is a specific Russian problem. In fact alcohol abuse is a huge problem in most parts of the world - including regions like Latin America, Africa or East Asia. And even if there is no liquor available there are many other "drugs" available to distract from (and later enhance) one's problems.

Will we have to redefine "middle aged" soon because of changing life expectancy? I am 24, and I often wonder whether I will even make it to 50. I assume we are talking middle aged as being 40, but I am pretty pessimistic about reaching 80.

I am sure you will make it to 50, but the shocker will be how fast it all went. As for a decline in economic standards, perhaps an overall decline will create a focus based on values more worthy than the shallow chase for dollars.

How thick does your steak need to be?

Having gone through many periods of peaks and valleys, rich times and poor, a word for those whose golden path is not so assured...suck it up. There are no guarantees other than we come in naked and go out naked.

Depends on the oil production/human population growth models you choose to think are correct. William Stanton estimated about 200 years for a peak-to-sustainable human population of about 1 billion. Dennis Meadows estimates about 100 years for the same die-off period. David Murphy seems to imply less than 40 years for the die-off based upon a steep net oil-energy production decline. If Murphy is correct, your chances of making it to 50 are problematic, and 80 would be very long odds. If Meadows or Stanton are correct, you have better prospects for longevity.

"60 is the new 40"...

It's a pretty broad question, but my best response would be that, on the personal level, I relish a challenge. If anything the world makes the most sense when it requires your effort, and when there is work to do laid out for you. I drank and smoked and wasn't in the greatest shape before, and never thought it made much difference, but working on health and good habits has been a part of a deep re-envisioning of the world that awareness of changing energy issues has caused.

On the other hand, and trying to put it mildly, my wife is more of a cup-half-empty person, somewhat dedicated to being unhappy and temperamental. The last 5 years or so haven't been kind to our marriage, and the path of least resistance for me has been to expect nothing, and make the best of it. There have been definite objective changes in the economy of our region, corresponding to what would be expected given the transitional period we are in, and I think that the difference in our responses has thrown some hard light on otherwise unimportant irreconcilable differences...perhaps she considers it my job to provide for a world up to her expectations, and my explanations of a changing world small excuse for failure.

your very personal comment reminded me a Huxley quote. "Happiness is a hard master,--particularly others people's happiness." Many men find themselves harnessed to this beast. Perhaps this explains partly what Sharon is talking about. Been there done that!

Everything reminds you of a Huxley quote.

daxr, I know we've crossed swords a few times here, but I just wanted to let you know that I heard that comment loud and clear, and I know and appreciate the spot you're in there. Hang tough, the future's gonna be rough on most/all of us, and that includes our partners. And, for God's sake, do the damn dishes once and awhile and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the attitude adjustment!

do the damn dishes once and awhile and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the attitude adjustment

...if only it were that easy, but that's not the problem. We both work, but I do all the shopping and cooking and dishes and cleaning (and get ribbed about it at work plenty!). I think my theory years ago was that I could demonstrate that it was all easy enough and could be done cheerfully, kind of like Huckleberry Finn got out of painting the fence. Needless to say, it didn't quite work out that way :-o

on edit: ...or for something useful to say which goes back to Sharon's article: its not easy dealing with a partner with depression. I think I do pretty well, and I don't dwell on it much, At my job I basically figure out problems and fix machines, which is pretty easy and rewarding compared to trying to figure out or fix a person.

Ah, you sound like a logical person trying to adjust a woman! Hummm, that may be the best example of doomed effort I can think of. Of course, there is always the "nuclear option", which for couples is to separate. That is usually what one does when the situation appears completely hopeless. Since you are already doing a lot of domestic stuff, try not trying so hard. I'm not suggesting you stop all work, but maybe put some stuff off and go to the lake, beach, etc., preferably together. I'm thinking of the Kevin Spacey character in "American Beauty", but I sincerely hope it works and your outcome is different than in that strange but interesting and entertaining movie.

BTW, I think we're still on topic, which is this challenging men-women relationships in difficult times getting moron difficult, as if we needed the extra headache.

Your post makes me just heartsick, daxr, because it could easily have been written by my longtime partner (is that you, Dan?) about me. The idea of you cheerfully doing housework Huck Finnishly to show how awful it isn't sounds painfully familiar. For a lot of our relationship, my partner would have said, "The path of least resistance for me has been to expect nothing, and make the best of it." That is, until he lost his job.

I've been getting effective treatment for depression, and now he is the one who is dangerously depressed. I can't say I'm always as gentle with him as I want to be, but I feel overall that I'm an excellent person for him to have in his life right now, because I thoroughly understand what he's going through. Maybe our relationship has been and will always be a sham, or maybe we didn't realize how well-suited we were for each other until we really needed each other.

I guess I'm not sure what my point is, except to say that maybe your other half is aware of her perceived shortcomings, and feels crappy about it too. Certainly whatever wealth and comfort you've had to offer hasn't made her happy. Not to get all Pollyanna, but maybe there's a side of her that would be revealed by a little adversity. (Also, if this is you, Dan, I think you're being a little unfair!)

"Surviving just to suffer is pointless." Sharon, it appears you watched the lectures i posted last week. I will post them again. please watch sessions 24-25-26. I will assume of course you have watched the first 23 lectures. You have addressed what Camue called the ultimate philosophical question.

'When life fails to satisfy.. there's always the Garden.'

thanks rube for the link on death last week.
my internet connection kicks out too much but the part i got of lecture 22[3x due to connection problem] was well worth the time. very good recommendation . the part i got fit well with the focus of my comment below re feelings. i'll have to try my wife's computer next week.

Psychological adjustment will certainly be a serious issue during the inevitable decline of our modern civilization. However, I do not believe that behavior during the thirties has significant application in 2012.

I am old enough to remember when men and women roles in our culture were separate and distinct. The man was the ‘bread winner’ and the woman was the ‘home maker’. Good manners required that the man stand, if seated, when a woman approached and certainly offer her a place to sit. He held the door for her and tipped his hat to her. The culture required that the ‘real man’ provide for and protect the woman.

Men dominated the work force. In high school, women took typing, business (clerical tasks), and home economics. They were the teachers, nurses, and secretaries (typist and file clerks), if they worked outside the home. When I went to work for a major aerospace company in 1959, that company of over 100,000 employees had two women in supervisory positions.

If you got her pregnant, the community demanded that you marry her and take responsibility for her and the child’s welfare.

In summary those responsibilities demanded by the culture placed a heavy psychological load on the man to provide for and protect his woman and child.

Today, deference to a woman is frequently to offend the woman. Today, are almost as many women in the work force as men. Today, very powerful statutes give women an advantage over men in the work force. Today, judging by the number of single mothers, many men assume that a pregnancy is her responsibility and he is free to move on to the next event. Today, the culture has freed the man of those psychological burdens that he so recently carried.

The mother with one or more children, no husband, no job, and no government support system is the one who is in greatest peril.

I remember those years too, and I do not think it was that cut-and-dried. Far from the community "demanding" the father marry and support a woman that he impregnated, many, many women went to "homes" where they gave children up for adoption.

And, remember, further back than the 20th century, the divisions of labor were less evident, particularly among the poor and the working class. Women plowed fields. Women kept stores. Women were sent out to work as servants.

Good manners among the upper classes I guess, did demand that a man stand up, but if the tradeoff was to accept vastly inferior wages for the same work, well, I have to ask, "why?" Nor would I object if a dead tired working man did not get out of his chair when I approached. Compassion and empathy are what is important, not some artificial codes.

I remember the era of the "old boys network," when jobs were given out on the basis of one old boy calling another and saying, "I have a good boy here, you should take him." Workplace rules now dictate that jobs need to be posted. I don't think men are suffering too much, they saturate the upper levels of every organization!

I do NOT remember the era (but my mother does) when a woman who was working was expected to "get a room" with a widow or some such, rather than live on her own.

I remember reading "The Double Helix," about the discovery of DNA, where the authors, Watson and Crick, viciously mocked the woman scientist on their team (they apologized in the 1968 edition).

I think in this upcoming era, men and women will not have to maintain such artificial divisions of labor, and we will all be thankful that we are there to help each other, and not hold our noses and say that "I don't do this kind of work."

I think in this upcoming era, men and women will not have to maintain such artificial divisions of labor, and we will all be thankful that we are there to help each other, and not hold our noses and say that "I don't do this kind of work."

pellice, that hasn't been our experience. When we (my wife and I) both lived in what I would call a suburban, small-town setting, we shared many more tasks -- laundry, grocery shopping, house-cleaning. Now, we live on a few acres in the country and we have found ourselves gradually divvying up the work into "man job/woman job." I've been a bit uncomfortable with this at times, but my wife freely admits that she doesn't have the strength or know-how to handle many of the outdoor chores.

I think what is important is that you both feel that your partner is working with you to keep up with the chore load. That you may have divided those chores up into "man jobs" and "woman jobs" is less important.

Several people have commented that women's roles have changed over the years. To the extent this is true, and to the extent that physical labor becomes more highly valued, women may see their status go down. So changing roles may affect women too, this time around.

I do think there is something to what Sharon says about generally women being able to deal with the situation better. I think most of us women have had to deal with multiple roles, over the years. To the extent that one role gets de-emphasized, another becomes more important. We have important things we can do--they are just changing important things. And we have to go with the flow--whatever it might be.

I think that a lot of women discovered that if they had children, they really couldn't aim for the highest-status job at the office. There are only 24 hours in the day. They would lose their sanity, and neglect their families. So they had to make some choices, and ended up in positions that were a step or two below what their childless female peers could attain to, or that men could attain to. But that was OK--because other priorities required time as well.

Women are pretty well screwed in our present Price System, it is documented that they are paid less and now their lack of purchasing power and unemployment only grows, as is the case for men also. Economically women are second class citizens that depend a lot on contract society making a way for them. Men are fined in property and 'money' if they screw up the contract. Sometimes that works the other way round now also.
Because we live in a barbaric class and caste system... there will not be a nice HollyWood ending to the present social system.
Technocrats pointed out long ago that something was rotten in 'Denmark' in the society we live in which is guided by antique principles of religious and political nonsense. Women essay writers understood that it was not the politicians that made things better... it was energy conversion and robotics Technocracy technate women essay writers

Maybe these ideas will catch on again Technocracy and thermodynamics
This is what liberated women in the first place... and men from drudgery. It could also liberate society from the stupid pattern of the last 5,000 years of using what is now a dysfunctional social system which has little to no regard for the resource base and sustainability.

I'm not so sure things ever really changed all that much for poor women. Both of my grandmothers worked like men, one in the cotton mills and the other in the fields. They worked like men but weren't paid like men. In the south relatively "rich" rural women worked too, they just worked their own family land or business instead of someone else's

My mother's generation was the only generation that embraced the stay-at-home-wife/working man model. And even for women of Mom's generation, poor women that weren't lucky in marriage worked.

After 25 years of working with men and women in several different therapeutic environments, some observations. Yes, some men do turn to alcohol/drugs. Some men have affairs. Some men work harder and come up with other options to make a living. Some men get depressed and kill themselves. Some men simply walk away. Some men become religious fanatics. Some men turn to older men as mentors. Some men develop supportive friendships. By the way, many men have the ability to share their lives with other men. The variations are endless.

HOWEVER!! Some women turn to alcohol/drugs. Some women have affairs. Some women simply walk away. Some women work harder and come up with other options. Some women turn into endless nags of "why don't you do something". Some women get depressed and kill themselves. Some women become religious fanatics. Some women turn to older women as mentors. By the way, many, many women do not have the idealized social network or the capacity to "share" as is so often touted. Some women develop supportive friendships. The variations are endless.

My point is lets get off the women do better and men do worse kick. The concept that men are .... and women are .... is mythology. How each reacts depends on values, how the couple interacts, how much each blames the other, individual cultures, how the community at large copes, each individual's concept of male/female roles, the relationship prior to the "trauma", etc, etc. In my own family, it's the men who are the nurturers of the family, not the women.

Often the problems lie in the eyes of the beholder. I learned, long ago, that our opinions about the world, often, tell more about us than the way the world really is. We tend to see the world in a way that fits our preconceived ideas of the world, how the world should be and how people should cope with it. For example, someone who becomes a religious fanatic is, often, seen (by outsiders especially if they have a predisposition in that direction) as turning to the church for comfort/support. Inside the family, it may well be a nightmare. I've seen far, far too many men and women who lived with secrets their entire lives. Just as there isn't a standard situation, there isn't a standard answer. Offer a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, a conversation, options, etc and be prepared to be told to butt out if that should happen. And remember, if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, you are in as much doo doo as the person you're trying to help. Sometimes just admitting that is enough to break the ice. Many times, I've seen situations in which the "helper's" home life was a disaster while they are out "saving" others.

I'm inclined to agree that stereotyping male and female psychologies is the wrong way to go about things. A similar answer goes for the stereotypical views of the psychologies of different races. The answer, and its well supported by research at least in the question of race, is that individual characteristics are always greater than racial or gender-determined characteristics, if such things exist at all.

What a novel concept. We are all unique and individual, yet we all have a lot in common, so its easy to generalize!

Best post about men and women I have ever read. But maybe its just the Pinot kickin in...

Thank you very much zeke for such a clear explanation.

You are absolutely correct in what you say. My brother recently went over the deep edge into fundamentalist christianity, big time. What drove him there? His wife had an affair and he took the blame because he worked too hard and spent too much time away from home earning a good living so she could stay home and not work.

I get so tired of this attempt to categorize men as one way and women the other. I've seen every type of human behavior expressed in both genders, and just about equally in both (not a scientific observation though).


Zeke, I guess I'm a little skeptical of the "don't make generalities" argument for things for which there is a genuine statistical and material different. We already know that men commit suicide more than women do. We know that in some collapsed societies, the differences in lifespan - from disease, drugs and suicide rose to astonishing proportions. Will those things necessarily happen here? No, but I don't think there's no point about speaking of them in terms of gender.

I hear this often in terms of rape. Yes, it is true that men are raped, and that shouldn't be erased or trivialized. But women live in the world of rape in a different way than men do - women are raped so much more often that I think it is important to talk about this as a women's issue, while simultaneously acknowledging it isn't only a women's issue.


True enough, but it comes down to what you are trying to explain.

You can compare and contrast characteristics of populations, and hopefully generate useful ideas or policies from that, but in the course of normal life you will never actually meet a population, all you'll ever come across are individuals with their own characteristics. The best tool for understanding individuals, then, is not to know the statistical tendencies of their demographic group, but to have a good set of eyes and ears.

I guess I'm a little skeptical of the "don't make generalities" argument for things for which there is a genuine statistical and material different. We already know that men commit suicide more than women do.

This is true, Sharon, but it is also true that the categories "men" and "women" involve quite a bit of diversity. I think with this particular issue, MonkeyMind got it right - those who are most invested in the system are those who are most at risk. Women are less likely to be invested in the system. Among professional women who are also mothers, identity, work and creativity are generally highly invested both in families and professional lives. As Gail points out, they often work part-time when their children are little and turn down or don't seek out some promotions.

As Gail put it:

I think that a lot of women discovered that if they had children, they really couldn't aim for the highest-status job at the office. There are only 24 hours in the day. They would lose their sanity, and neglect their families. So they had to make some choices, and ended up in positions that were a step or two below what their childless female peers could attain to, or that men could attain to. But that was OK--because other priorities required time as well.

Although many men still tend to be more highly invested in their careers than women, there are significant differences among men by race/ethnicity and social class. It seems reasonable to assume that it will be easier for men who always had to make do and find creative ways to survive.

For example, I have a friend in his late sixties who I call my post peak McGyver. This man has only a high school diploma and is retired from the school district where he did maintenance work. He doesn’t know much about peak oil or is not all that interested.

What he does know is how to survive. He grew up on a farm here in Wisconsin, hunts, fishes (I trade eggs for fish in winter- he loves to ice fish), built his own small home that was long ago paid for, and can make anything out of trash. For example, I’ve seen him make attractive fire pits out of washing machine drums, build a sun room onto his cabin up north with windows discarded from the school where he worked, build a gazebo using an old corn crib roof. In sum, he is resourceful and knows how to survive. This type of man will not be committing suicide when the collapse comes.

My father is a 73 year old Mexican American with just a high school diploma, who worked construction all his life. Trust me, he, too, is another type who knows how to survive.

Then there are the men, like your husband, who have invested a lot of time, energy, and creativity in their family lives. Unlike the past, and contemporary cultures that are more traditional, men who have adapted their career ambitions (I believe you’ve written elsewhere that he gave up pursuing tenure track positions to invest in your family and homesteading? And shares, about equally, the childcare with you?) This type of man also is less invested in the system and more likely to transition successfully.

Not trying to trivialize the pain and difficulties some men will face; just pointing out that there are lots of differences among men. Looking at the issue as “men vs women” may not answer the question satisfactorily.



"Why hello there, Mr Darwin.
We have missed you.
Where have you been?
Asleep on the job?
I think not."

We have been through a time of plenty.
Women have been spoiled for choice of mate, but have not had the material passed through a fine sieve. Therefore they have not had timely and accurate feedback about their choice of breeding partner.

For the last 100 years the choice has been all about status.
Who do the other girls think is sexy?
"I must breed with the sexiest male, so that my sons will also be sexy."
There are about to be other pressures brought to bear on the gene pool.

Lots of suicides?
Why, nothing more than evolution in the raw.
Men are expendable.
On with the show.

Lots of suicides?
Why, nothing more than evolution in the raw.
Men are expendable.
On with the show

a world without men ?- ( wonder how long before some of those virginally conceived female embryos somehow got themselves a chemical bath and became males ?- )

Men are expendable.
I'm stating the obvious and facing the truth.
Men go down the coal mines and into war.
Women die in childbirth.
It is not about what is "fair", but what works.

yeah Authur. we don't need near as many of us. just enough for diversifying the gene pool; not many as we don't do the carrying/birthing.

big construction jobs go ahead & build in financially for an 'accidental death' or 2. it is cheaper than all those cumbersome safety procedures that take extra time/$.

For the last 100 years the choice has been all about status.

Sure you didn't leave out a couple of zeros there?

For the past 1000000 years ...

The guys with all the bear claws get all the girls.

It's funny since we will be celebrating our 50th anniversry this year that none of this applies to us. We have always been egalitarian. We each do what needs to be done. The only place gender comes in is that my wife is tired of 35 years in the boondocks because life is harder than in a more civilized part of the world. Part of our success mght come from deciding not to have kids.

FWIW, I do most of the "women's" work including canning and house cleaning while my wife earns bucks doing Ag surveys. It's not a problem.


feelings - that is the deal.

men have lots of wiring to not identify, or focus on feelings; & cultural[nurture] training too. a recipe for trouble in times of change; especially major changes.

and do we talk to others about these feelings... how can we if in denial about their very existence... & if we aren't so blocked we will likely find it difficult to find men to share with.

we are problem solvers. unsolvable problem...' a predicament'... well hmmm...????

oh. i can just be; and need to feel; & express my feelings. a lot of us didn't get what we need to do this; so we gotta start from scratch; even 'unwire/rewire' ourselves.

primary wiring for men is to be warriors/protector--- this is first priority. makes sense for us to know how to at least put feelings on hold,... etc. it is a short few steps to fullblown denial/blocking.

edit to add;
one of the most helpful books to me in 70's

More than anything we have an attitude problem, both men and women.

The enormous prosperity made possible by industrialization has distorted our perception of what constitutes having a good life. We have so much to be thankful for: the average person here has more than enough food to eat, whereas 300 years ago hunger and malnutrition were the norm. We work 33 hours per week on average, whereas until late 1800’s we worked 60. We have comfortable houses with conveniences that were unobtainable 100 years ago (electric lights, automatic heating and air conditioning, running water, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, televisions, computers, stereos, a closet full of clothes). And we have automobiles that can take us wherever we want to go. Most of us can expect to live a long and healthy life, not 32 years like the Frenchman of 1700, and 2/3rds of our children do not die before their 16th birthday as in London of 1651.

The world is changing and we expect our condition to improve. The mistake we are making is not recognizing the change that is taking place. What is happening is that wealth is being redistributed from the developed countries to the emerging economies. So we are finding that we can’t have everything we want, but most of have everything we need.

What we can all do to "find our place" is to think more about how we can help each other in the post oil world. We can all apply our special abilities to assist with the transition. I am for example, building sustainable and energy efficient houses, on my own and with Habitat for Humanity. Others I know are working with state and local governments on peak oil issues. It's much more rewarding to be working on a solution than to wait around until things fall apart. If more of us got actively involved we wouldn't have to worry about a collapse.

+1 on the attitude problem. In my weekend reading, I came to the conclusion that we in the US (and the western world and weathy everywhere) just don't realize we live in the penultimate civilization and period of history.... so far, and for now. We bitch about the high cost of energy when we can travel 50 or a 100 miles in an hour or two, for an hour or three of wages. Yet I can exchange letters/chat in real time globally for free or talk live on VOIP for pennies. Managing expectations is hard, especially when the most successful for a generation or two have succeeded by promising more for less/free. The change is a hard sell, first have to change the melody to focus on what's been missing.

Thanks for helping build a Habitat house. Best thing a President ever did since give their final State of the Union.
I wonder when it became to be known as State of the Union? Had to be after the Civil War, whem we became The United States instead of These United Staes.

The Rolling Stones were just waiting on a friend, I'm just waiting on a paradigm change...

we live in the penultimate civilization and period of history

I have to agree. Generally when my kids complain about how their friends all have wii's and PS3's and we don't, or that there's only five flavors of yogurt in the fridge, or why can't we have something besides chicken or beef or pork for dinner, I usually just laugh now at the boneheaded americanness of it. I've probably explained the whole thing about how "we live in one of the very richest countries, in the richest era ever in human history" a hundred times, and that we have a small mountain more than most people have ever had, but the kids seem determined to acquire their expectations more from their peers than their parents.

Men and women are different. I like the difference. My wife and I have been married forty two years. We have been extremely poor. There were times we slept on the floor with our four children next to a fuel oil heater to stay warm. We struggled to pay our bills. My wife was a home maker and worked very hard. I worked for the telephone company and I worked very hard. Most of all we loved each other. When hard times came I knew I could trust her with anything. I believe she felt the same way about me. The only time I thought I couldn’t handle life was when our youngest son was killed in a car accident at twenty. I cried everyday for months. I became so depressed and I took an antidepressant for a year. That is the only time in my life I seriously thought of suicide. My wife was in terrible pain also. That was fifteen years ago and just writing about it hurts. What got us through was the same thing that pulled us through every difficulty. We love each other. She is my best friend and I hope I am hers. Did she handle stress better than me. I don’t know. It made both of us old.

Strength to you and your family,Hotrod.

i would submit that a lot of men become invested in the idea of collapse because they assume that many of the bewildering aspects of changed gender status over the past generation are artifacts of an artificial affluence.
'catabolic collapse' would allow for the proper return to status of male practical resourcefulness over women's ability to adapt in complex social environments.
i would caution men to not get their hopes up too soon. the genie is out of the bottle and women, having tasted real autonomy and agency on a mass scale, will not this time be tractable Rosie the Riveters and return to the household economy so men can take their jobs.
just as well, really.
unemployment is a serious looming problem but structurally it will affect blue collar worse than pink collar.
them's the breaks.
revive the CCC maybe?

Domesticated means to be stuck in an infantile state.
They are all domesticated, Men and Women.
My guess is that the ones that will survive are the non-domesticated ones. These are found at the top and the bottom of the social ladder.

The "collapse" when it comes, will be uneven, and will tend to affect certain regions more heavily than others - (just watching the collapse of Detroit should give some indication of that). I don't think that the technology will go away all of a sudden, and I suspect that there will be places overall where there's no real "collapse" at all. What will likely happen is that we'll see the end of the super-states and a collapse of political boundaries to more regional areas of autonomy as these become more significant players to people within those regions than the super-state is. A lot of the command and control corporate structures will disappear (are disappearing), as they become less relevant. A lot of the conspicuous consumption will also disappear, as outsized salaries fade and companies fail, as the economy shifts away from a growing population to what's increasingly becoming a stable or slightly shrinking one (immigration aside).

My kids will have to be more tech savvy than I am, because the tech will continue - it's the leading edge of any new innovations in the economy. However, the number of building contractors, mortgage originators, middle managers, retail workers and so forth will have to drop, both because the resources to create these goods will be on the decline and because the population demographics pretty much dictate it. Perhaps we will see more farmers needed, though I suspect that you can saturate that number pretty quickly. More engineers will be needed, which implies more teachers teaching better. More nurses will be needed (and somewhat more doctors). More craftspeople working more locally to produce clothing, create goods manually that may have once been created by a robotic factory in China. More real cooks, fewer fast food worker-bees. Significantly, a lot of these jobs are in areas traditionally held by women, that tend to be done better by women, and that as a consequence point to women being in positions of much greater authority overall.

One of the things I thing few people appreciate is that while information and biotech will likely continue to advance, we may actually see the re-emergence of a manufacturing base out of all of this, not for export but for local use. This is one of the reasons I don't necessarily despair with the idea of peak oil - we've used oil to replace a lot of the jobs that otherwise would be done by human labor ... as that oil and related resources become more scarce, the need for human labor will only increase again. Just don't expect the jobs to be in middle or senior management, in the FIRE sector, or marketing ...

kurk i don't think we get bau for an extended period to redevelop manufacturing; too much debt & finances needed just to buy oil. & we should have been doing this with the bailout $.

when we lose superstates[the US?] we get anarchy at least at here & there- for a while. to many people will be a serious problem.

when oil gets cut except for military, elites, & if we're smart AG; we might get some 'nationalized' manufacturing.

then eventually[& i'm not sure we'll be as smart as above] when the trucks stop rolling most of the time it'll be collapse almost everywhere in the US; then we'll see the unevenness real dramatically.

i doubt high tech lasting long then except in enclaves/green zones... beyond a decade or so at best.

I'm making several assumptions here in the model.

First, when push comes to shove, we will retain our information grid above our transportation grid. A decade ago I'd have argued the opposite, but I think it's become too embedded now in our society for us to easily give it up. Thus, I think that the grid will remain, albeit likely not as easily accessible by as many.

Second, the oil spigot is not going to dry up all at once, but rather will become unreliable, and it is this unreliability that will force us to use alternative means - coal liquification, deployment of renewables, a shift to LNG for transportation and so forth. BAU goes on so long as there's no obvious threat to the system, but once that threat does emerge, most societies react by reorganizing their needs and priorities. Right now, the threat is not obvious to most people.

Third, anarchy is not a stable state, by definition. I see the breakup of the US and possibly Canada occurring largely for fiscal rather than energy reasons - mismanagement of the economy, rising conflicts between different regions due to resource distribution, the rise of extremists in position of power. Energy plays a role, certainly, but I think ultimately the catalyst will be a loss of faith in the US government and its ability to guarantee the surety of its money. Note also that anarchy usually happens with the failure of leadership, and is normally a very transient state - people need stability in order to function, which means typically that leadership vacuums don't last for long. So yes, there probably will be anarchy at some point, but when the anarchy ends, the organizational boundaries will be redrawn to reflect new realities.

Re the military, I see two scenarios developing. The first will be a military coup. Typically, when a country begins to slide into an economic death spiral, the military may very well attempt a coup. It's very likely in fact that buried deep within the Pentagon there are plans worked out to do precisely that. If that does happen, then its very likely that the US will in turn be divided up into administration regions, which will act as de facto "countries", at least for the duration of the emergency. The problem with coups is that once power is gained, it is far harder to relinquish it. However, should it happen, then market issues will go by the wayside - resources will be allocated according to a very traditional CnC structure, and "investments" will be made in order to secure each region.

The second scenario is the bankrupting of the military. Global military presence will be withdrawn (are being withdrawn) as the means to keep forward bases open diminishes. If the withdrawal is rapid enough, then its likely that some of these enclaves may effectively become de facto governmental centers and the nuclei for new states. Soldiers, getting longer assignments with less compensation, don't re-enlist, and the size of the military continues to drop. Equipment becomes obsolete, and ultimately unmaintainable. In this scenario, you have the potential for regional commanders to effectively throw in with the locals, especially in those areas far removed from the center of power. That's why I see the West Coast being more likely to secede than I do Texas; a breakaway California Republic can protect itself better than Texas could from retaliation. If California went, then likely so would Oregon and Washington, Nevada, Arizona and possibly New Mexico.

Trucks are already becoming too uneconomical to run for long distance hauls - probably close to 60% of all trucking companies have folded in the last decade from 2000. Others are shifting to hybrid forms - combinations of electrical and diesel based power. Diesel has the advantage of being an easier to catalyze oil product, and as such doesn't require quite the same infrastructure investment as gasoline; it's also easier to produce biotically. In practice what this means is that the trucks won't stop, but the cost of transporting goods any significant distance will rise dramatically. This will force localization and, ironically, the reintroduction of localized manufacturing, as the costs of imported goods will become prohibitive.

Urban centers are perhaps more vulnerable in some respects but are more protected in others. New York needs a phenomenal amount of food and energy each day just to keep existing, but at the same time it's position as a major port will insure that it can survive. LA, on the other hand, is simply becoming an extension of Mexico City, albeit one with a Pacific-facing port - it will survive, but will likely break up into a lot of smaller cities or towns in the process. The cities most in trouble are likely the mid-sized ones, especially in more inhospitable regions. Scottsdale, AZ may be able to supply its power needs, but water will be the primary constraint acting on it, and water is also becoming scarce. Denver, dependent upon its position as an air and long-haul trucking hub, is very vulnerable, as is Las Vegas (which, dependent upon strong economies, water, oil, and the lack of more local alternatives, is extremely vulnerable). I expect that within fifty years all three will be ghost towns. St. Louis might survive, but Kansas City probably won't. On the other hand, places like Seattle and San Franciso almost certainly will - they have access to energy, water, are port cities, have high tech and well educated work forces, and were major centers even before the rise of the oil economy.

With large enough functional distances between regions, the ties that bind them to Washington DC will listen to the point where local cultural identity completely supercedes broader national identity.

We've talked a lot here about how important it is to have a strong network of friends, and that is important - but it does have a downside, especially for men. Having that bunch of close friends usually comes with a fairly high degree of peer pressure to conform, not just externally, but even in terms of attitudes, values, and ways of thinking.

The thing is, though, that if you are not going to make a big mental investment in the BAU and the things that are valued by it (and that we are talking about here) - the all-importance value of career and success in it, and in the acquisition of money and the status symbols that display it - then you are going to have to become a non-conformist, and to deliberately reject and detach yourself as much as you can from BAU attitudes. In other words, you are going to have to immunize yourself against "affluenza".

Unfortunately, being a non-conformist doesn't work very well for outgoing, gregarious people who want to make lots of friends. Loners and introverts do non-conformity much, much better.

In a way, this is similar to the same dilemma confronting every species. Do they cluster together in a narrow niche, seeking safety in numbers? That is the safe bet - unless (until, actually) the environment changes and that safe niche goes away. Then everyone goes extinct. Or, do they spread out, each going his own way, and each individual seeking out what works best. That is a high risk strategy for the individuals, and many of them don't make it. However, some do, and some go on to find new, open niches that they can exploit. One species can become several, and increase the chances of long-term survival.

The thing is, the one thing you can absolutely count upon is that the world is constantly changing. Striking out on your own is risky business. However, clustering together with the herd might be a sure ticket to oblivion, given the changes that we know are coming.

parts of what u say fit for me WNC; but i'm having some trouble thinking of the examples u mean to fit the biological strategy of 'not clustering', & the clustering that will not be adaptive.

i know u choose to be in a small town, & that seems to be clustering/community.

orlov seems to think a similar mode where semi-nomadic/nomadic is the dominate feature not forming larger- maybe than ones small family/group- community commitments.

nice analogies to think/evaluate with.

My father is experiencing this over the last year. His position has lost the former relevancy that gave him the opportunity to make a living. He is suffering. It affects the whole family because it changes the energy in the home.

rj, I saw my father go through this and it was devastating to him and ultimately, to our family. This is not new -- people have been finding themselves "outmoded" at least since the advent of the industrial revolution -- but it is certainly happening with increasing frequency. If I can offer some advice, be sure to spend time with your father and remind him that he is important to you and the rest of the family in ways that have nothing to do with his job title or his paycheck.

Yes, and maybe remind him that he's not personally responsible for what are obviously system-wide failures.

I live in the land of suicide! Japan has over 30,000 suicides a year (for the past 12 years, even as the population began to drop 4 years ago). Only 9,000 of those suicides are women. The men who commit suicide often do so between January and March when the financial statements for their companies are issued---failure is just too embarrassing to face, so they just jump in front of a train or hang themselves with a necktie....

The economic bubble burst here in 1990 but the much higher suicide rate didn`t start until 1998; of course the suicide rate has always been high here, the land of honorable suicide....

I do notice how men are fixated on success. But I think women are often fixated on finding a "successful" man. I have one friend, age 41, who became a medical technician so that she could meet young eligible doctors. In fact, she did marry one. But her strategy would be considered, now, "so 1990s!" Many women wouldn`t want to go that route seems like a sell-out now.

Now, sometimes, in magazines, you can see young couples (in their 20s and 30s) featured who have escaped big city life and its competitive demands and have opened a cafe or bakery in a rural area.

There is also supposedly now afoot a new kind of man, in his 20s, a man who doesn`t eat meat or like to compete, a quiet person who does not aspire to marry or ever buy a car. These men are dreamy, almost zen! They have been kind of ridiculed in the media.....but also there is admiration for this kind of materialistic denial. Maybe this kind of person won`t go the suicide route.

I`m 44 so I live more with the "objets" and projects of the passing oil age. My husband (also in his 40s) definitely sees "success" as a job; maybe if he were in his 20s he would be more of a zen type of guy and we could live in the country. One good thing about him: he hates cars as much as I do!

Yet I have tried to educate him about PO and this has partly worked. He sees the economic devastation here: the abandoned buildings, the thousands of homeless....and he knows why it is happening. But humans are not really meant to focus on the long term. We can`t think more than a year or two in advance, maybe that was our big fault also. We just wait and hope that we won`t be next. I think the more you understand about PO (and help men to understand) the better it is.....failure is then not "his" fault, it becomes a geology problem, an energy problem, a physics problem.

Thank you, Sharon Astyk, for this article.

I am glad Sharon is bringing up the topic how men face calamity. She strikes me as a wise woman. And I agree that most men will likely take it hard when structural unemployment and poverty hit families that previously had it good. Until it is really obvious that the troubles are deeply serious, there will be lots of blame and guilt between the sexes, and love will be hard to find in many kitchens.

My observation is that both sexes get a fair share of biologically driven insanity that is amplified by culture and religion. Women must suffer beauty/fertility, or the lack of it. Men must suffer success/potency, or the lack of it. I think that if you are a mature and thoughtful person, you can't help but have compassion for the opposite sex. The trick nature has played on us is both delightful and hellish. And affluence has amplified the pressures on both women and men.

However, I do think things will be better for succeeding generations, as localized economies eventually give men meaningful, though likely physically harder, work that will help support families and communities.

I wanted to add--- because I don`t think the importance of "Avatar" can be underscored enough--- that this movie sees the modern role of a man as a kind of partially paralyzed figure (that is why Jake Sully is paralyzed from the waist down). Because of machines, I guess, some part of male identity has been hidden, even from men themselves, and in general men have focused on working with the brain (desk jobs, running machines) and not their bodies (running, hunting, etc.). So "Avatar" sees that as a lack....a problem. Which gets solved when Jake gets a new identity, but he does not get a new name. In his new persona he is a warrior and a hunter. Well, I`m not sure that post peak we`ll see a lot of Na`vi-like warriors and hunters, but, hey, it is possible that people will get into shape, will hunt animals for food, will fight with their neighbors over resources, will band together in tribes based on religion or ethnicity or family, will focus on studying their immediate surroundings for resources and useful items.

Maybe some people will like this better. But maybe just as many people will not, will want a desk job, will want a car, will hate walking anywhere and will not wish to hunt. So I`m not sure that "Avatar" is right. But who knows??

None of the information in the guest article by S. Astyk surprises me. I remember getting along great with my buddies as a kid, then suddenly around 15-16 we all got on each other's nerves, and they started doing serious character assasinations on each other. So, we stopped hanging out together and got girlfriends. Since then I've always preferred to talk to women, like my wonderful wife. With guys it seems like they are always seeking information in the conversation to find a chink in your armor, something to make them feel superior. Of course on the message boards it's different because its not in person and frankly refreshing being able to exchange information without the usual competitive atmosphere.

The difference between the genders I think is women are generally secure in who they are, and when the chips are down they have other girlfriends they can share their feelings with and they know their not alone, and won't be judged. Whereas most guys are continually trying to establish superiority. And so I'm sure when the chips are down, that sense of superiority is shattered and the results are in many instances devastating.

Now, I'm obviously not talking about all guys. Occasionally I'll meet someone who is genuinely nice and doesn't need to be better than and the conversations are similar to those with women, i.e. about a variety of topics, but that's rare.


There's no question that there's a link between economic conditions and suicide, high alcoholism rates and violent murders, though overall it cuts across all spectra. Whether gender plays into it as a little harder to ascertain, though I suspect that it may. Overall, women tend towards developing networks of friends and colleagues that they regularly communicate with (Facebook's popularity is driven heavily by women, largely because of this tendency to network). This means that in general women tend to be somewhat more attuned to their friends' financial health as well as their physical health.

Men, on the other hand, tend to internalize their concerns, minimize their emotional communication, and are typically more secretive about their financial dealings. This means that when thing go bad, quite often there is no one to put things into perspective for men. Moreover, I think that this society actively encourages this behavior - discussing salary at work is very frequently a taboo (because from an employer standpoint it has the potential to force salary equalization across the board), credit problems can keep you from getting work, and at the same time, especially among men, you have to give the appearance of being successful in order to succeed, even if the cost of doing so beggars you.

When you get laid off, especially for those in management, you experience either a gradual or sudden loss in your ability to keep up this pretense. While there has been some equalization in salaries in the last few years, men still out-earn women by about 30% if both are in the work force (on average), which means that when a man loses his regular salary, first, the family loses the larger proportion of their income, and second, the man is forced into a relationship where he's dependent upon his wife until such time as he gets re-employed; the shift in power as a consequence can be distressing to that man.

In an economy like we're in right now, there's also a slow grinding down of self-worth, along with the rising fear that perhaps you'll never get employed again with the level of authority that you had. Again, I think that for people in management, this can be especially distressing, because in many cases, they may very well be right. For all too many men as well, their work life was their social life - their friends were their co-workers, many of whom may, for any number of reasons, stop associating with that person. Their social network collapses, and so they don't have anyone to communicate with and eventually sink into self-internalization and depression, often assisted with mild social drinking or drug use that then becomes more of a problem as it's used to numb the self-doubt.

Women, on the other hand, usually tend to develope relationships outside of work, are often much more likely to communicate regularly with parents or siblings, and as often as not tend to move into and out of the work force depending upon other factors (having kids, caring for an ailing parent, changing primary relationships and so forth. This means first of all that they have a more tangible support network, and that most of their identity is not tied up into their career and position. Suicidal ideation for men almost invariably comes about due to an abnegation of self, for women, it's far more likely to be due to the failure of a relationship. That doesn't mean that this is true in all cases, of course - a woman can be driven to suicide by being too far in debt, but its a lot less common.

I also think that some of this is changing as the nature of work changes. If you're in IT or research, for instance, jobs are transient things - most software developers go into a relationship with a new employer by being very wary, and take failure as being simply the price that's paid for experimentation in a rapidly changing field. Of course, that also tends to bring with it a much more realistic view about work as being simply a means of getting paid, and the social networks that they develop correspondingly are as often as not distributed and usually not immediately tied to one's work colleagues. In that regard, they become used to change as an operant condition in their life, and are much less likely to be devastated by the loss of employment. (Indeed, as a writer and programmer, I tend to look at such periods as being the opportunity for me to develop projects on my own agenda, rather than developing for others).

My expectation is that there's going to be a significant spike of suicides and premature deaths (due to alcohol, drugs, or often just indifference) among the Baby Boomers over the next fifteen years, especially among men. This is a generation that has been sold the notion that by the time you're sixty five you should be a successful CEO earning several million dollars a year, yet many will find that themselves unemployed, often with almost no savings left after the market collapsed, within months of when they would have received their pensions. Without the driving need to provide for a family beyond themselves, with their social networks truncated because most of them were work related, with their technical skills often far inferior to those of people thirty years their junior, and with a sudden lack of income to be able to do all the things they were anticipating being able to do in retirement, what do they have left? Being forced to work far below their previous levels just to be able to support their too expensive houses? Some will find alternatives, but I suspect that many will just lose the will to go on.

BTW, there was one comment in this thread about the poor. In some respects, starting poor can be liberating. You don't pick up a lot of possessions, you don't invest a lot of your self-worth in your job, and overall you tend to look for support outside of your immediate circle of work associates. You also have a lot more mobility in that regard, and you can usually find some kind of work to keep you going, even if it isn't very glamorous. Most people who end up committing suicide due to being poor do so after starting from a much higher point in the socio-economic sphere, especially since again it is ultimately the loss of being engaged in a social network, compounded with a loss of self-worth (shame?), that ultimately brings about that suicide.

It struck me that penetration in peoples minds may need a new twist.
I am no particular connoisseur of poetry, but Lennon Mcarthy's "Yesterday" may seem fitting to adjust a little:

Yesterday, Peak Oil version:

Yesterday all our troubles seemed so far away
All the trends were pointing to the Sky
Naïve we were then, yesterday
Suddenly, all our plans now need an overhaul
Need adapting to the other rules…
Oh yesterday came suddenly

|: Why we hadn’t been told I don't know, they wouldn't say
I heard no alarm
Now I long for yesterday
Yesterday, food was easy even in a town
Now I need a place to grow my own
Oh I loved it yesterday
I believed in yesterday :|

The original is e.g. here:
I am sure others have even better suggestions :-)

I like your song modification!

"Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about?"

I did my apprenticship as a bricklayer and was fairly successful as such when still living in London. After moving to Maastricht I initialy didnt have to work but when I eventualy started to look could'nt find anything serious in construction. In fact getting any work was difficult.

I applied for about 15 jobs before landing part time cleaning work which I'm still doing. Its not too bad and allows me to study at the same time.

One of my colleges is called Tade. He is about 50 years old I guess and lived 8 years in Atlanta and 3 years in London where he had his own financial services company. When the credit crisis hit financial services was hit fast and hard, Tade couldnt roll over his debt to pay his staff and the company went belly up.

He moved back to Maastricht and now lives in student accomodation whilst working part time cleaning. Hes not bitter about whats happened and has a very relaxed attitude to his current position in life. He is typicaly someone who should have suffered mentaly from this crisis but instead is quite happy.

I think the notion of fixed gender roles contributes to a general lack of communication between partners (spouses).

That's probably the main reason people are unhappy. They are so lost in the expectations (perceived status) of the role they have laid out for themselves, or each other, they can't discuss it with their partner, and have an abject fear of failure in the eyes of the other.

If you never have to get together and discuss the tasks of the week across the dinner table, and jointly figure out a strategy for getting them done, you've missed an opportunity to communicate.

Thinking about the man always having the "honey do" list leads to dissatisfaction if the list never gets addressed. If the woman is automatically required to churn out three meals a day, if she's not the most accomplished cook, there may be uncomfortable silence at the dinner table.

In primitive societies, greater physical strength and the ability to form a heirarchy supported the hunter. Status was derived from the kill, although only 20% of the group's food was derived this way. It's hardly equitable to assign 80% of the status to 20% of the productivity.

I think we focus too much on the concept of "status". If you remove "status-related" activities from the equation, and simply divide the tasks up between the partners, it is more equitable, there is more respect between partners, and better communication. A healthier partnership would lead to less incidence of depression and suicide.

I was talking to a developer the other day who said he showed his wife how to install roof shingles. She went along quite happily and finished a roof installation. If your mind doesn't have a block against these things, there is no reason one couldn't learn to do almost anything.

Frankly, when I look at the physiques of some Olympic women, I have no doubt they are equally able to run down a deer with a spear. Since we have rifles today, that's largely moot, anyway.

Just about the only thing I can see would necessarily be a woman's job is birthing a child and breast-feeding it, since that requires certain physical apparatus.

In a lower-energy world, there are going to be plenty of tasks to keep both genders pretty busy.

My household is extremely egalitarian. We both do just about everything, and divisions of labor are often by preference, if they exist. My husband scrubs floors, because he cares whether the floors are clean. I clean the bathroom because I like the bathroom to be clean. I do anything involving roof repairs, since he is afraid of heights and I'm not. He does anything that involves crawling under a vehicle since I'm well endowed and don't fit well ;-).

That said, however, I think you understate the material realities, which fair or not, do shape roles for men and women. For example, I make a lot less money than my husband. Some of that is because of my present career choice (farmer, writer ;-)), but even before, when we were both on academic tracks, he made more than I did, and there were more faculty jobs for him than me (we don't make a lot of money, and especially at first, a little difference was very big). Our original plan was for him to follow my career, but that was a lot harder to pull off.

Moreover, pregnancy and breastfeeding do come with some material realities. Exclusive nursing requires a lot of proximity - or high energy, high technology equipment (fridges, breast pumps). If we are imagining a lower energy society, and less wealth (ie, less able to afford formula) we're going to see women tied to their children. Worldwide, most low-consuming societies can't forgo breastmilk and practice extended nursing, both for birth control and the health of the child. That means the average world age of weaning is 4. Even in families with 1 kid, this means that sometime before middle age, the woman has to take an extended period out of the professional market for at least one or two years.

Historically speaking, reproductive work (ie, traditional women's work) had to meet the requirements of being compatible with the care of young children - easily interrupted, not too dangerous, etc...

Does that mean that no women will be able to be professional, or that we're back to kinder kuche, etc...? No, I don't think so at all. But I do think it doesn't do us any good not to acknowlege the material realities of a lower energy society and how they are most likely to reshape things. I think that by doing so, we are much more likely to be able to structure our society to avoid putting women back to barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.



I guess my point is why is there higher status associated with "being professional" rather than "child rearing at home" ? Both are necessary activities associated with survival. Yet more status is derived from the activity of going out to procure something (bringing back the kill, or the paycheck) than managing one's immediate environment (looking after the home, the garden and the children).

I view this as a hangover from our hunter-gatherer roots, which we might want to think about changing.

I hope I'm making sense.

PostScript: Women have tried to redress the status imbalance by joining the workforce, which, in our society, helps them elevate their status. Perhaps we should have also considered how to raise the status of reproductive activities.

Springtides, I'm not convinced that it does necessarily extend from our hunter-gatherer roots - in general (and there are substantial exceptions), it seems that women's status was higher in H-G societies than in agricultural ones, with herders coming in the middle.

As for the question of why we have so devalued women's status, I wrote a good portion of my first book _Depletion and Abundance_ about that, actually. What I argue is that the "housewifization" of subsistence labor - which erases the value of traditional women's work and also subsistence work polarizes value in gender roles - and actually reduces women's status (and the status of both men who choose domestic labor and those who do it for reasons of class, necessity, etc...).



Every cave painting I ever saw was of animals, or men with spears, or maybe handprints. We know hunter-gatherers ate all kinds of other things - insects, berries, eggs etc etc, but they are never depicted anywhere.

They must have had some knowledge of plants, yet there is no cave painting I ever heard of that depicts plant life. Not even a tree. One of the first things I recall doing in preschool was spraying paint on different leaves lying on a piece of paper to get the outlines. My question is, if prehistoric people did this with their hands, on cave walls, why not with leaves, or other objects?

It would seem to me that, even from that time, the value of hunting was elevated over that of other pursuits.

Over time, with various religious beliefs, e.g. original sin, and men gaining access to education outside of the home, while women largely did not, these values became further entrenched.

Early neolithic pottery shows depictions of pregnant women, but this was later viewed as "pagan" by various religious groups, and the separation just got worse over time, to the point of the indentured servitude you describe.

, the value of hunting was elevated over that of other pursuits

Hunting means stored energy in the winter when there are not plants to eat. So yes, it was and is important.

"I guess my point is why is there higher status associated with "being professional" rather than "child rearing at home" ? Both are necessary activities associated with survival. Yet more status is derived from the activity of going out to procure something (bringing back the kill, or the paycheck) than managing one's immediate environment (looking after the home, the garden and the children)"
Posted by Spring_Tides

Maybe the higher status that goes along with "bringing back the kill" is because these activities require a good deal of strategy, of planning, of intellectual and creative mental activity. Also, a significant element of risk can be involved. One needs to plot and scheme to outwit a business or political rival, one needs to think at least somewhat long-term to devise a political solution to various issues, etc. In addition this work is generally not done alone as it usually involves discussing and planning with other people.

At the same time, "looking after the home, the garden and the children" activities generally don't require much of this mental process. There are some skills that need to be learned, but once this learning happens, these jobs become chores. I did some of these chores starting about when I was a ten-year old kid at home, Mom taught me how to iron, do the laundry, some simple cooking, etc. As a ten-year old, there was a novelty about it, and the sense of gratification that a kid gets when doing "adult" work, but the point is that my ten-year old brain was perfectly adequate to do the job. But by the time I was 13 or 14, this stuff was just boring.

And maybe this is the reason for the difference. One set of activities is intellectually stimulating and interesting, the other is just BORING.

Antoinetta III

I wonder if your comparison isn`t going too far.
Traditional women`s work can also become interesting---figuring out a new way to preserve some food because an ingredient had to be changed due to some resource constraint--or telling a story (fairy tales, devised to help children mature well, were told orally and I wonder if women didn`t do the majority of the telling and inventing since they were with the kids usually)----or figuring out a new way to produce a textile, or a new technique to grow a herb....

And hunting can become boring also. Tediously waiting hours for an animal to show up in the cold. Or it`s just a routine fishing trip in a canoe, with no surprises and no problems.

I think the 1950s saw woman partly infantilized as they had to stay home and tend their houses. The huge oil energy magnified the differences between the sexes and gave me insuperable powers---the Interstate Highway system, the skyscrapers, the military-industrial complex, "father-knows-best" and all that. Women became dolls and their work (Sharon is absolutely corect) lost value because machines could do it all. Knitting, weaving, canning, story-telling (the TV did it better, longer), cooking (in the form of "convenient" frozen food)---all were removed from the home and from womens` lives.

As oil`s easy availability waned women started to gain power again in the 1960s and basically they had to work again to survive (or help the family to survive) and that is still the case today.

I agree, but I think we've all been infantilized, and at the same time traumatized by technological innovation powered mostly by ff. Working class men in the US saw much of the work that gave them value automated and then off shored. And with high tech and on going globalization, that extended to more and more of the workforce, men and women.

I think it is an interesting point that the economy came to be structured so that what was largely traditionally women's work, in the home and in the community, was invisible to the economy and so was unpriced and unvalued. In a similar way, work of the biological community was unpriced and unvalued (or really valued at less than nothing, since if you destroyed the function of a biological community, whatever its inherent value, you were/are rewarded by the market place if you can extract anything from it that can become a commodity).

I think much of what we call economic growth comes from the stripmining of such human and biological value.

A further similarity would seem to be the lack of value placed on farmers and farming. It is notable that employment stats regularly leave out those employed in farming, supposedly because of its seasonal nature. As farmers were driven off the land, their numbers helped make it look as though there were increases in the numbers employed and probably helped inflate housing prices.

One thing I want to mention, and that I think is simply not given enough importance, is the availability to women of safe and effective birth control. They can live now without having their teens and twenties interrupted regularly with a pregnancy. Birth control will only increase in importance as men and women seek to cope with the severe financial challenges ahead. This is a new development for the world - overpopulation can be addressed by voluntary use of birth control.

Pellice, you write:

Overpopulation can be addressed by voluntary use of birth control

Pellice, the fly in the ointment is that many people prefer procreational to recreational sex. In the long run, the quiverful school will always win.

Read this extract from an essay by Charles Galton Darwin:

If I may be permitted so to put it, by the invention of contraception, the species Homo sapiens has discovered that he can become the new variety "Homo contracipiens," and many take advantage of this to produce a much reduced fraction of the next generation. We have found out how to cheat Nature. However, it would seem likely that in the very long run Nature cannot be cheated, and it is easy to see the revenge it might take. Some people do have a wish for children before they are conceived, though for most of them it has not the strong compulsion of the two instincts. There will be a tendency for such people to have rather more children than the rest, and these children will tend to inherit a similar wish and so again to have larger families than do others. In succeeding generations there will be some who inherit the wish to an enhanced extent, and these will contribute a still greater proportion of the population. Thus, the direct wish for children is likely to become stronger in more and more of the race and in the end it could attain the quality of an instinct as strong as the other two. It may well be that it would take hundreds of generations for the progenitive instinct to develop in this way, but if it should do so, Nature would have taken its revenge, and the variety Homo contracipiens would become extinct and would be replaced by the variety Homo progenetivus.

A few words of wisdom, from a lifetime of lessons learned:

1. Work is important, making an honest living is important. However, one's career isn't everything, and certainly isn't the only thing. One's career is something one does, it isn't what one is. Jobs and careers most likely won't last forever in this economy - and especially in the future economy - anyway. Even in the best of times, the reality is that there is only room for a very few at the top, most fall off the ladder or at least stall on it halfway up. So don't buy into the cultural mythology of "success", most of it is just a misleading pack of lies. Best to cultivate versatility and adaptability, learn how to learn instead of becoming extremely invested in a narrow specialty. Cultivate some detachment from one's career and career success, lower one's expectations, and when the job loss inevitably comes it won't be so much of an emotional body blow. Expect that one will have to change jobs and careers, maybe several times, and be prepared to do so.

2. The 21st century is going to be one long exercise in giving up things. That is what people have to do in a declining economy. You can make it more difficult on yourself, or you can make it easier on yourself. If you accept it as inevitable that this is going to happen, if you expect and anticipate it, and especially if you don't wait until you absolutely have to give up things but become an "early adopter" in frugality and cultivate a lifestyle of giving things up voluntarilly and early, it will go much, much better for you. Cultivating the practice and attitude of willingly giving things up before one absolutely has to is something of a spiritual discipline; one can find practices along these lines commended in several of the world's religion, and for good reason.

3. It is good to have a network of good relationships with other people. However, relationships are only good and helpful if built upon a basis of mutual respect. One should not think oneself as being either better or worse than others, and one should expect that one's relationships with others be on the basis of a mutual sharing of such an attitude, and upon the reciprocity that flows from it. Sadly, many people do not have such an attitude toward themselves and others. Much game playing results from this wrong attitude. Frankly, life is too short and time is too precious to be wasted with such game playing. It is better to just turn one's back (while maintaining civility, of course) on such people. Seek out those few who have an equitable attitude toward themselves and others, and cultivate a strong, loyal friendship with these. Quality in personal friendships matters far more than quantity; far better to have a few good friends than a great many false ones.

4. Think for yourself, and "to thy own self be true". Cultivate an attitude of independence in thought and attitude from the surrounding culture and society. Realize that much of what you are being taught and told is not truthful information for your own good, but falsehoods meant to manipulate you for the good of someone else. Trust only what has been proven to be trustworthy. Seek out truth, and live by it. Learn to be content with being out of step with most of those around you. March to a different drum, because the masses marching to the same drum may be lemmings running over a cliff.

5. Nobody has appointed you to be Savior of the world, don't feel that it is up to you to convince everyone that you are right and they are wrong. People don't want to be saved from the errors of their ways, or from the consequences thereof. It is one thing to be a non-conformist, it is something else to be obvious, in-your-face about it, as if you need to prove something to others. You actually don't need to prove anything to anyone, you just need to get on with living your life. It is true that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. You don't need that. Just live your life, do your thing, go your own way, and do it quietly, unobtrusively, and with civility and respect toward your neighbors.

6. Keep your expectations high when it comes to your own character and conduct, but keep your expectations low when it comes to what you expect to get out of life and how the world is unfolding all around you. Neibuhr's Serenity Prayer - "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference" - is not a cliche, it really does illustrate the pathway to serenity. I would add a postscript to Neibuhr: "Blessed are those with low expectations, for they shall not be disappointed". Sad and funny at the same time, perhaps, but true, so you might as well accept it and adjust your attitudes accordingly.

With all due respect, I don't see why anyone - male or female - who follows these precepts should feel that they have to stupifiy themselves in substance abuse, let alone kill themselves.

Thanks WNG. I have enjoyed your comments and insights. I echo them as well. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share them.

WNC Observer,

pretty good stuff, thanks.

BUT I'm not so sure about this. You write:

However, one's career isn't everything, and certainly isn't the only thing. One's career is something one does, it isn't what one is.

Fine words indeed. But how come it's almost always old guys in our age bracket (60+) who tend to say things like this?

Because if you're a young man, and the main thing on your mind is to maximise your attraction to the female sex, you will want to ensure that your social status is as high as reasonably achievable within the limits imposed by your own genetically and environmentally determined endowments.

So all heterosexual young men are, in some way, 'careerists', because men without ambition are basically life failures, often doomed to a life of sexual frustration and despair. Mother Nature is a nasty bitch and so your words of wisdom will fall on cold ears of most pre-menopausal males (so to speak).

Yuh, now I'm off to the Bada Bing.

Both are true Carolus & WNC. I stand astride both worlds now, probably leaning more to the older than the younger as I'm coming up on my 49th. I've lived the life of having a good job, good money, good car (sweet actually!), townhouse on the water with boat docked out front, and more women than I knew what to do with. (Had to kick some out now and again - right out of 2-1/2 Men and at the same age as Charlie). There is absolutely no doubt women - in general - are attracted to power and money, in that order.

My child rearing days are behind me. (It's funny, take an extra second or two to look at a women in her early to mid-20's and they will glance away with eyes and body language because you are no longer a suitable contender). Now some women of my demographic are attracted for the next phase of security, which is middle age, minor affluence and eventually getting old. My wife doesn't appreciate that very much...

Then we get to WNC's comments, where my aforementioned Phase II is not successful unless you follow his creed as stated. To append one more pearl of wisdom, "Stop and smell the roses". One will be amazed how successful and complete they will feel in their own life, in their own skin if they appreciate the small things they, and others accomplish every day.

For me it was getting some chord changes down without looking. You see, I figure in the not too distant future people will want me around because I play guitar, not because I'm an electrical engineer. Of the latter they could care less.

Ah, men!


Honestly, thinking this guest post was a bit too "chick" oriented I was going to skip it - and I notice a few of the regulars seem to be on vacation ;-) But, I decided to take a look - now, I think this post IS very relevant to our future (from Sharon's post):

history suggests that the psychological trauma of watching your world transformed often strikes men

I think our mental ability to deal with forthcoming changes is a very important transition factor. WNC makes a lot of suggestions that young folks would be well advised to listen to:

Work is important, making an honest living is important. However, one's career isn't everything, and certainly isn't the only thing. One's career is something one does, it isn't what one is

I can only add a personal antidote to reinforce the wisdom of his comment: Growing up northern Minnesota had its challenges, but my parents did a good job of providing for all the basic in life. Going to the big city at 18 with no money taught me about being poor, hungry, cold, sick, etc. But, getting drafted (which I hated) provided a GI bill that allowed me to have a very nice career as a computer software developer.

For nearly all of my software career I enjoyed lots of ego stroking (not much money, but lots of praise - hmm... should have figured that out!). Anyway, I was good at my job and ultimately rose to a pretty good management position doing the kind of work I really liked - in fact, you might say I was a bit obsessed with my work. This was the problem.

At age 63 the company I worked for hit the skids and I left abruptly. Although I did some consulting, I couldn't find another job without relocating from the area where I build my own passive solar house (which I truly love). So, I retired with sufficient financial security that we can enjoy a nice (financially very modest) life. We bicycle, we advocate cycling, we work in the community for cycling and keep busy and generally enjoy our lives.

So, what is the problem? Well, nearly every night I dream about software development projects that I never got to finish - and the dreams are never pleasant. After 7 years this still goes on. So, back to WNC's comment: "don't buy into the cultural mythology of "success". And, I was a person who actually did have lots of interests outside of work.

I can readily imagine the trauma of this happening at age 40, or losing a house to boot. This would not be a bad dream - it would be a real nightmare. I let my ego get all tied up in my work - in a field that has no more loyalty than a drug dealer. No one needs to shed a tear for me, but it just goes to illustrate how easy it is to let your career dominate your psyche. It shows the need for a much more balanced approach to life. You don't want your old job to still have a mental hold on you well into retirement or well into the process of adapting to what the future will demand.

So, along with WNC, here is another old guy advising as WNC says: "Cultivate some detachment from one's career and career success, lower one's expectations, and when the job loss inevitably comes it won't be so much of an emotional body blow", "Cultivating the practice and attitude of willingly giving things up".

Us old guys do go on......

PS: see the movie Avatar in 3D and think about their lifestyle (Hollywood stuff aside)

I think that the more flexible you are in being able to express who you are will impact how well you handle changing needs in changing environments.

That's perhaps a clumsy way of saying, "blessed are the flexible, for they are less likely to crack under stress". Or something like that.

Both men and women can be very inflexible as to what it means to them individually "to be a man, father, son, husband, friend, lover" or "to be a woman, wife, mother, daughter, wife, friend, lover", and how they must express the feelings attached to those ideas.

And when the usual ways of expressing those needs aren't available, the change is painful in more ways than one. Depending on the role, a person experiences their own loss, the loss of what they can provide to other people in their role, the fear of other people's reactions as being seen as no longer effective in their role, plus the pain of having to try to change to adopt new behaviors.

IMO the more pertinent question is how will men react and respond to the BOTTLENECK.

With this feature post, again we jump forward to discussing in great detail what it might be like in a future world when the odds of that future world ever coming about are slim at best.

I understand that doing this provides a bit of comfort for many but I fail to see how this is any better than outright denial.

This post and all the thoughtful comments would be infinitely more productive if the focus was on how we will respond to the inevitable crisis period and how we might best respond to insure that there will BE a future world worth living in.

If anyone thinks that there is no possibility of a future scenario such as what is depicted in "The Road" you are lying to yourself.

Just the same those of you who believe that "The Road" future is unavoidable are just too scared and lazy to look at the Bottleneck and imagine a better way forward.

Come on guys and gals

Sharon writes:

This does not mean that every man facing a transition into a poorer, less energy rich world is doomed to crisis.

There will of course be winners and losers among the male sex -- or, rather, almost all will be losers but some will lose less than others. But don't forget that in the Darwinian competition for access to women's favours, those men who lose less are in fact 'winners' in relative terms, since both men and women are 'positional' goods from the perspective of the opposite sex. A plain example: if Male A and Male B both have to sell their car because of the economic crisis, but Male A can still afford a motorbike while Male B has to make do with a bicycle, Male A will have gained in attractiveness on the marriage and sex market. His absolute loss is a relative gain.

Let's look at the 'winners'. Men with sheer physical strength will probably rise in status as our economy reverts to alternative energy sources (including muscle): there will be more need for brawn power and less for brain power. Men with a PhD in deconstructivist theory will have to compete with the Nascars who do the heavy lifting. There will be fewer office jobs and more shyte-shovelling.

So it's an ill wind. Expect more suicides among men with borderline academic qualifications whose cognitive skills will be less in demand, fewer among the strong, silent types.

Yuh. These pussy collidge boys are gonna be toppin' themselves like goddam lemmings.


Sounds very jaded Carolus.
Do you have a desire to make a better future in a social activist way? That would mean getting rid of the Price System and the uncreative pathetic culture we now live under for a science based alternative. A technate.
I guess your probably a Libertarian and believe in a Kunstler type of future..?. bleak and seriously uncreative. Fake alternative ideas about handicraft items being traded in the future. Way bleak. He has done a good job though of marketing, by scare tactics, his books.

There are other alternatives Wilton Ivie: Reorganizing A Continent.

Being a cynic in this system means looking beneath the surface. If people take this system of deranged Adam Smith nonsense seriously in the 21st. century... 2010 then buckle up for the ensuing crash test.
Are there any real social critics on this site??, or just recycled Libertarian Kunstleruesqe or throw back concepts to times of low energy conversion, and its attendant way of viewing the world?
Consuming would be a right of citizenship in a technate... a technate is based on energy conversion within a given resource base area, in other words sustainability. This proposal has been around since the early thirties.
Oh yeah... the Peak Oil guy was a main contributor. Anyone here interested in a creative future? Grim responses about simple anthropological things like sex. Huh? Are we discussing a future cave man society here or A.D. 2010?


If 'jaded' means 'tragic realism', then that suits me fine. Whatever future you envision, it certainly won't work if you don't taken account of the fundamentals of human behaviour. Such as men seeking women and vice versa.

Getting rid of the price system, as you propose, would require the imposition of a dictatorship of philosophes so totalitarian they would make Pol Pot seem like Mother Theresa by comparison.

Funny. Brainwashed progressive liberals or Libertarians are all the same... narrow narrow way of looking at the world, and not much creativity.

Went through the 70 comments and it surprised me everyone danced a circle around the fundamental difference and reason for the increase in male despondency and death. It's simple, EGO.

Having worked around all stripes of men from iron workers to executives, it can be safely assumed what drives men, and rewards men is ego supplemented by status. Always has been and always will be. We are, after all, just slightly clever apes.

I find it very rare to come across a man that has made it to the top echelons that doesn't have an oversized ego. Don't get fooled by the types of Orville Reddenbacher, I'll bet he was every bit the overstuffed ego off camera. You don't build up a food product company of that size and exposure without one.

In the light of peak oil and catabolic collapse, I believe we will see "Peak Ego", or an "ego bubble". The anecdotal experiment is quite simple if you live in a large city. Observe all the men and their projected ego as they go about their daily business in occupations that can only exist in a world with abundant, cheap energy. Then imagine all those men when they can't be Executive VP's of HR anymore, or Senior Partner in an accounting firm; and they can't turn a screwdriver or split a block of wood to save their lives. How useless and worthless are they going to feel? That, expendable.

The root cause is easy; men are underpinned by ego and there are a multitude built upon the artifice of cheap energy; women not so much.

The cliche about a man and the size of his stereo and stereo speakers still holds true. (Mine is of a medium size BTW, with high efficiency speakers and current driven amps; so, I go for quality and true sonic performance, not just size ;-)

Most of the people talking about and preparing for peak oil seem to be men. Consumerism is more a female than a male phenomenon. A post peak world will have niches for men who are physically strong and handy in versatile ways.

Most of the people talking about and preparing for peak oil seem to be men.

Because oil and the extractive industry in general are snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

Consumerism is more a female than a male phenomenon.

You're putting it mildly. Here's an excerpt from a fascinating article on the subject:

Scientific investigation has provided sufficient evidence to discredit previously well-intentioned presumptions that men and women are equal because they are the same, and revealed that in fact men and women are profoundly and permanently different. Our studies have culminated in the six gender differences summarised below. We believe these are the most defining of the gender differences and have the greatest implications for marketing to women.

Read on at:

Can't resist another excerpt:

Men survive through self-interest, hierarchy, power and competition. For men, success equals the ability to outplay the competition, because it leads to a higher and less assailable position in the hierarchy of other men. This affords the man more opportunities to mate and to ensure the survival of his genes. The world viewed through masculine eyes is therefore a huge, complex, action-packed stadium in which he has to compete. The competitive context may vary - work, a social group, sexual conquest - but ultimately life is about finding ways to win.

Old hat, I suppose, but always new all the same ...

Carolus Obscurus,

Most of the people talking about and preparing for peak oil seem to be men.
Because oil and the extractive industry in general are snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Consumerism is more a female than a male phenomenon.

Maybe so. I am not very much into gender differences. I do think, however, that Gails question can be related to what happens when people loose their jobs. To men that is harder, since it affects their ego more than it (probably or maybe) does for women. If so, the effects of Peak Oil can be studied by looking at jobless people now, and their/ours behaviour and psyche.

In the case of Peak Oil, several jobs will simply disappear, and other will require more hands. Lawyers may become farmhands, car stylists may become railroad mechanics, etc. The trick is to accept ones fate, since it affects us all. Trying to clinge to the past is the worst of all attitudes, I guess.

"The trick is to accept one's fate since it affects us all".

It may affect us all but some are more affected than others. Civil servants may have to take salary cuts but they won't lose their jobs, for example. There will be no pro rata distribution of pain, unfortunately. And, to add insult to injury, some will actually benefit from the suffering of others.

Accepting one's fate? That sounds like losing twice over. First your job, then your dignity.

Accepting one's fate? That sounds like losing twice over. First your job, then your dignity.

That is not at all what I meant. Losing your dignity is very different from losing your job, and occurs easier if you lie to yourself by pretending things are what they were. When P-O starts affecting us, it most probably changes the paradigm surrounding us (e.g. Kunstler, The world made by hand). It means starting to build another life, based on the new realities. Even civil servants will lose their jobs, states or counties also need tax income in order to pay their employees, and when the income is reduced, they have no choice but to reduce the workforce (California?). But yes, it will strike randomly and even unfair. The distribution of unfairness will be fair, though.

The winners are those who do not give up or clinge to the past, but use whatever skills they have to start anew without giving up. During the 1970 crisis Boeing engineers were stuffing shelves in supermarkets in the Seattle area. You can even do that while maintaining your dignity, since you do what have to do in order to keep the house while waiting for new opportunities (Some of my friends returned to Norway and got jobs here, i.e. responding to the new situation).


Belated thanks for your reply. I feel like a troll after reading your excellent explanation. My apologies for misunderstanding you.

Sorry, double posting.

Thank you Sharon for another provocative posting. My problem is with your assumption that men fare more poorly in a downturn and you offer as evidence several authors with anecdotal evidence. Remember one thing: anecdotal evidence whether from Studs from the 30's or Dimitri from Russia is still an anecdote. It may be true that some men fold their cards and hit the sauce, as do some women. But do men do worse in greater numbers? Perhaps they do and perhaps they don't, but assuming they do on the basis of some anecdotal sources is perhaps presuming too much. Countries differ and men in the 30's or 90's in America may bare faint resemblance to men in Minsk in the 90's.

The drive to make men and women equal in all ways is misguided. The stereotypes that some appear to fear are founded in fact. More men than women die by suicide.

* The gender ratio is 4:1.
* 72% of all suicides are committed by white men. (USA)

Men are more psychologically brittle than women overall, have fewer social/psychological resources to deal with stress. I suspect that some portion of this is due to biological differences and another portion is due to social factors (of course, I state the obvious). Women who have difficulty providing still see themselves as essential to their children. Men who can't provide have traditionally viewed themselves as useless to their children, as disappointments to their spouses and children and are prone to more lethal depressions. Women are more often depressed, but it is much less often lethal. Rob (Licensed Psychologist).

Do any of you ever feel bad when you've made a decision and it turned out to be the wrong one? Even worse if it results in something really untoward happening to those who listened to you? I know I have.
In our society men are mostly responsible for identifying the correct path and they lead their wife and children down it. If the path is a dead end then it calls into question the abilities of the “decider”.
I think it possible that many men may feel bad about what is to come, but that is amplified if a lifetime of wrong or poor decisions are seen to have positioned them and their family wrongly for what lies ahead. The folks who planned well, prepared well, or were just lucky probably don't see the future as bleakly as the non-planner/preparer group. I suppose that ego does come into it, but it may be triggered by what wasn't rather than what may be.

I have been thinking about the kind of cultural changes that lie ahead quite a bit lately. I suspect that the future may well be a re-run of the past. As the centre collapses, so too will many of it's cultural structures. Democracy will probably be an early and obvious casualty alongside many other liberal values that have come into being over the least century or two.

My guess with regards to the role of men is that society will drift back towards a more patriarchal model. If for no other reason than humans have a tendency towards relying on early-learned behaviours in times of stress.

I think this truism probably holds as much at the cultural level as it does at the level of the individual.

"Democracy will probably be an early and obvious casualty"

Don't you mean "Democracy has already become an early...casualty"?

Warren Farrell, in several of his books (Why Men are the Way They Are, The Myth of Male Power, Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say, etc.) suggests that modern women in developed countries have probably been more privileged as a class than men or women (in general) at any time in history. More life options, more awareness and social support for specifically female problems, better health and longevity, etc.

In his book Why Men are in Decline, Lionel Tiger argues that modern women have to some extent managed to have the government provide what historically husbands have. This he terms government "bureaugamy" (women's dependency on the government, or the "government-as-husband"). What women historically relied on husbands to provide, now the state often antes up: child care, welfare, education of children, police protection, criminal prosecution of sexual assault, child support from ex-husbands, etc.
(For my review of his book, see: )

This is likely to due men falling over themselves to be accepted by women by offering to protect them. See Men's Movement Revealed - Sex Culture and a Mission:

Collapse of government, and the services provided by it to women, would likely have a severe impact on women, and it would also likely change their relationship to men. They would be more dependent on a husband to provide these services (as well as more dependent on kin in general).

With respect to their relationship to women, it would be a double edge sword for men. Their "husband" services would be more in demand by women. However, the struggle to provide such services will be more severe.

I would pretty much concur with the above analysis.

That is why being a Slacker is the best survival strategy.
It has worked for me---- The world is just coming around to the reality I have always inhabited.
Humans will have to use their wits and creativity, and sitting in a cubicle will no longer work.

I would like to add two comments.

1) first I'm very surprised to find arguments about Darwinian competition to mate. Many people seem to argue that men are compelled to compete to obtain partners. Which world do Carolus Obscurus, BC_EE & co. live in? Do you think you need a flashy car to mate? That's obviously a fallacy. The janitor of the school, surprise, surprise, he's got children! The loser at University, ... He's got a girlfriend. The fat, annoying poor unemployed mate up the road, he's got 6 children! And guess what? His children will also have children, and no problem finding a partner. Will they be the smartest? maybe not. The most beautiful? Perhaps they won't. But if it's all about having offspring survive, then the argument just doesn't hold in today's world.

A little understanding, charm, ... and effort will afford you a partner and an offspring even without a job. The idea that all males are rationally maximizing the chances of their genes in an uncertain future by finding a women attracted to cars and power sounds a bit ludicrous. Why would that ensure the survival of the offspring anyway? If that was the thought behind men's strategies, they should rather look for strong partners with wide hips who are keen to mate.

For example look at UK statistics on childlessness(PDF). Basically single mothers with no child are about 7% of the population. And they probably do so not for lack of a convincing male. Everyone else is mating =)

All this to say that men's career obsessions are probably rooted somewhere else. Maybe we just enjoy power, peer-recognition, etc ... and we inherited such brains from times when this was relevant.

2) My second comment is that there seems to be an underlying stereotype about the woman we are talking about here.

Those community oriented, gardening, cooking, and motherly resilient women,.... where are they? It seems women are rather watching TV, shopping, getting fit and hanging out.(see statistics here). Also, women are mostly in Service, Management, Technical Jobs, Admin, etc ... and I'm not convinced they know how to make a resilient household anymore.

On a more personal note, most women I know (scientists, journalists, executives, teachers, entrepreneurs, businesswomen, and also housewives) have no remote desire to scale back and would be just as frustrated to loose their careers or status as men. I'm afraid things have changed fast in the first world, and those resilient women are probably from another era (other than a few exceptions). My intuition says that we have both developed a fear to relinquish what we have.

I don't pretend to predict the future so instead I'll point out something interesting about the past which might be germane to the future regarding the roles of men and women.

A few years ago PBS ran a very interesting series called, "1900 House". It was a reality series in which a 2000 era husband and wife were transported back in time to 1900, and together, they had to run a 1900s era household. The most interesting thing was how difficult it was to run a middle class house 110 years ago. It really did take two people working very hard together to make it work. Basically, for a man, if he wanted to have a decent home, he HAD to have a wife working full time at home to create it for him. And for a women, if she wanted to have a decent home, she HAD to have a husband working full time to finance it for her. The alternative for a man was to pretty much live life in a boarding house, or stay in the military, or live in a cave. The alternative for a woman was pretty much to forever stay at home with her parents.

It's amazing to me how spoiled the sexes have become, how selfish and how unsympathetic toward each other. I don't think for one minute that the past one hundred years of prosperity have made us better. All we seem to have found is that the sexes do not need each other. A woman who wants a decent home only needs to get a good education and then go out and get a good job. A man who wants a nice home only needs to swing by IKEA on his way home from work.

I think this has led to more bad things than good.
Just my two cents.

I saw "1900 House" (set in Victorian England), along with the "Frontier Home" (1880's Montana), "Colonial Home" (1600's New England), and "Texas Ranch House" (Texas 1870's) episodes.

In the first three, women were struggling, complaining, and whining as much as men were. Of course, there was no impending sense of real hopelessness or despair, as they knew they would simply return to their way of life after the 8 months of participation. There were significant culture disorientations, however, and those are likely to be realized in some form or other by the general population when an energy-constrained future, with its attendant economic displacement, becomes obvious.

In the Texas Ranch House, the women were predominantly spoiled, not having to do much (and leaving much undone that they should have been doing).

These shows are are microcosms with very small sample sets, however, and do not reliably translate well to all-encompassing statements about

Social change, brought about by the installation of energy-saving devices in the home, the
farm, the factory, is in full swing. Today, our use of electricity is astronomical. Voting had
nothing to do with it. Thomas Davenport, of Brandon, Vt., patented the first electric motor
in 1837. Nicola Tesla developed the electric motor to where it could be used universally.
These men were apolitical. They simply had an idea and they developed it. The commercial
use and exploitation was made by Price System promoters, not for the liberation of anybody
or any class, but because it was profitable. In the process, both men and women have been
``liberated'' from the back-breaking toil that obtained from early history.
The irony, here, is that the vested interests that promote labor-saving gadgets for profit are
mostly the same vested interests that promote the insult of women being treated as
second-class citizens. Their wage scales, as compared to men's, for the same type or work,
attest to that.
Technocracy offers to the women of North America a goal that is really worth fighting for.
Technocracy offers equal incomes for all -- not merely equal pay for equal work. There
would be equal income regardless of the work, be it menial or cerebral. The goal of equal
rights under this Price System is just not big enough. Where do today's feminists want
equality? In business? In politics? Both these endeavors are legal, lawful, confidence games.
A politician operates from one election to the other; a businessman operates on the profit
basis -- if it pays, he will support almost anything. The financial balance sheet is his
criterion. The amendment for equal rights falls far, far short of what this Continent has to
offer through the social design proposed by Technocracy. After six decades of fighting for
equal rights, women are still discriminated against in the job market. Sexual harassment is
one of the recurring complaints of women who have succeeded in invading traditionally
male occupations. Fearful of losing their foothold, after years of schooling and preparation,
women either submit or work in less than ideal conditions.
In a Technocracy, both men and women would be free to give their attention to the job,
without fear of intimidation. If a person were transferred or demoted, the move would not
affect his or her income; it would be guaranteed for life''''''''' from here--> ... Women! by Stella K. Block.

"Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about?"

Yes. Since he was laid off from his job, my partner is crippled by depression. After decades of carefully watching what he drinks because of a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, he now drinks every day, hides it, and lies to me about it. He's so depressed he can't eat or sleep. We are fortunate enough to have health care coverage, but the insurance bureaucracy would be almost impossible for him to navigate in the best of health; weak as he is, it is almost impossible. He wants to be preparing for peak oil, and has wonderful ideas, but can barely get out of bed in the morning. Psychological health is and will be a real issue in grappling with peak oil, and from what I've seen, it will hit men the hardest.

"Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about?"

My older brother committed suicide after being denied tenure at a community college in '06. It is my opinion that the massive investment that was required of him in time, energy, education and finances left him with a self-identity that was identical to his job. He literally could not envision a life separate from that commitment.

Being sidelined by an injury and subsequent health problems myself I can tell you that there is virtually nothing available in terms of social insurance. If your ability to work is marginal for whatever reason you will end up depending on relatives or homeless. This is a well that isn't easy to climb out of. Don't be surprised by a rapid rise in suicide numbers.

"Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about?"

My older brother committed suicide after being denied tenure at a community college in '06. It is my opinion that the massive investment that was required of him in time, energy, education and finances left him with a self-identity that was identical to his job. He literally could not envision a life separate from that commitment.

Being sidelined by an injury and subsequent health problems myself I can tell you that there is virtually nothing available in terms of social insurance. If your ability to work is marginal for whatever reason you will end up depending on relatives or homeless. This is a well that isn't easy to climb out of. Don't be surprised by a rapid rise in suicide numbers.