The Curious Case of The Crying Girl
... and the greater story it tells us.
The discourse around this video clip has really been something! What I’ve found most fascinating is that the dialogue has now become its own meta-story which has nothing to do with the actual story at all. Quite a microcosm of our time, no? I guess it wouldn’t make sense to write a piece about a video clip without first showing it; however, the thoughts I want to share actually have very little to do with this individual at all…
When I first watched that, it landed on me like vinegar. Do I have some pity for what appears to be a nice young lady trying to put herself on the right path whose world she now feels is crashing down? Sure, I guess. And I say that conditionally because those aren’t the initial thoughts that hit my mind. At all. Those were more along the lines of “Holy shit was this girl ill-prepared for the realities of adulthood!”. Because nothing she is going through is anything new to us humans; yes, even many by the age of 23. Does everyone take a job that is a 90min commute each way? No, but some of our forefathers walked an hour or two back and forth… in snow. The key word is “take”. She took the job; no one forced it upon her. So while I do commend her for being willing to take a job with sacrifice, I’m not going to now paint her as a victim for the very choice she made. See, this ultimately is a story about agency. And in my opinion, it’s another piece of writing on the wall about our youth and our society.
I posted once about this very briefly and moved on. I didn’t think to say much more on it because I figured it would largely land on everyone the same and it tells its story so clearly. Boy, was I wrong! Time and time again, even under the comments of my own one-liner tweet, I bumped into a completely different animal here. One of sympathy and pity and victimhood for how much shit this girl had taken online… from broadcasting her own clip. It was an entirely new story. And while I guess I’ll give credence to it since I saw an NBC link about it for heavens sake, as I commented at the beginning here, that story has nothing at all to do with the actual story at hand. That one was about a young-adult who is having a hard time accepting that second descriptor. But suddenly a majority of the discourse online is about those Big Meanies and how they should have gone easier on her. What?!? What is the end-result of reframing that story into the other one there? This goes back to what I said this is really all about: agency. Let’s drill in…
One of my favorite quotes - and my Twitter bio picture - is this one:
It rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and I really don’t understand why. (Well, yeah I do; it has to do with the type of people who typically object to it, but I’ll get to that in a minute). The Cycle has proven itself true time and time again throughout human history. The go-to example is the rise and Fall of Rome. Bread and circuses.
For a culture of warriors does not become that scene of hedonism and debauchery by chance or overnight. It is a slow whittling process; a societal cannibalizing. And it is one that returns to and is explained by my quote above. But it’s even easier to understand when you cast this thinking out to mankind as a whole. When you think back to our origin story and our roots, to how societies have evolved and then how quickly this evolution accelerated in the last century. We were a people of hunters and gatherers for a really long time. These ways are in our DNA like a domesticated dog who digs around in blankets before it lays down, even though it never spent time with dogs who burrow. “Hard Times create Strong Men”. Statement of fact. A lot of people think my quote du jour fetishizes war. I understand the jab, it has some credence, because this dynamic presents most clearly in a culture under war. When your very existence faces threat (the old definition of “genocide”), you suddenly don’t have time to worry about pronouns. And the other edge of The Cycle is also a statement of fact: “Good Times create Weak Men”. Yep, of course they do. Those are the people who have created genocide out of third-person language. Those are the Romans in the famous painting above.
Now, am I putting the weight of human history on this poor overly-sensational girl who also seems quite kind, candid, and sincere? No; that’s why I said this piece really has nothing to do with her. But her video clip screams of this story! Because let’s talk about what the clip actually presents in the greater framework I’ve laid out. She is 23 years old now. Ironically, that was the year of greatest change in my own life. I’ve always looked at 23 as a true turning point; or maybe better put, when childhood and the sense of being a juvenile did its final crash down. It was a year of massive change! It was a year of a lot of personal struggle. I grew up that year. I became an adult. Returning to her, she too is now being forced to become an adult. This isn’t an easy process; very little of growing up is. But “forced” becomes another critical word here. Because without knowing a thing about her, I am going to guess she isn’t forced. Meaning, if she can’t hack this job and has (wants) to quit, it won’t mean missed rent, eviction, homelessness, and no food in the belly. I would speculate quite confidently it would mean returning to mom and dad’s house, and I’d have equal confidence they likely come from a nice one. She is a product of “Good Times”. I want to add another lens to this point I’m ultimately trying to drive home here. Why I realize that clip matters so much, and why I was so put off by the commentary I saw. It’s a lens of “Hard Times”…
My great grandfather was a remarkable man! He reminds me of Paul Bunyan. Literally. He laid railroad track as a career, during The Great Depression, and by hand. I only knew him at the very end of his run, and yet I never knew a feeble version of the man. He died with huge hands as strong as an ox, a loud voice, and good posture. He was damn near 100 years old. I used to sit on an old rocking-chair and he would tell me stories. He wasn’t a man of many words, but the few he’d utter spoke volumes. He came from a world where the dynamic of work was driven by the notion of necessity. He laid metal into earth with his own body because that was how he could put food on the table for my grandmother. And even with all of that work, he wasn’t able to supply much food. My grandma on that side was one of the most special people in my life. Through my entire life, from my earliest memories until she sadly died a handful of years back. She was such a great cook! A few of her meals are some of my favorite dishes of all-time. When I got older, and I think because of a convo with my mom, it dawned on me that every one of her amazeballs dishes was the same thing: staples. It was one protein, a vegetable, oil, flour, butter, salt and pepper. That’s all they had. That’s all my family’s Paul Bunyan was able to bring home. And his wife turned it into magic! Why am I rambling about my own family? Let’s return to that girl’s…
The most irritating online banter I saw was the same anti-capitalism rhetoric you’d expect. To them, the clip only displayed the ways of “Crony Capitalism”. This poor girl was a victim of a machine that never gave her a chance. Over and over I heard the wails of how “unfair” and “not right” it was for a girl at 23 to be expected to leave so early in the day, work hard all day, return home so late, and have so little time for herself day after day (some people call it “weekends”). Cue the horns and launch the sympathy parade! But hold on a sec. Let’s pause the music and turn on the lights. No one has forced her to do that every day. She CHOSE to do that every day. No one put a gun to her head and made her apply for that job, much less accept it and sign an offer letter. She wants to have her cake and eat it too. That’s because modern American youth have almost endless cakes to eat. My great grandpa only had one. If she doesn’t want that drive, then she can find another job. Is it difficult to find a job in this climate, especially one in her field? I don’t even know her field, but I’m sure it is. We’re inching our way back towards that necessity engine again. My great grandpa wouldn’t have been crushed by a 90min commute, because he knew that commute brought home chicken and flour. And I suspect he had very few options available for that in The Great Depression. Similarly, if this young lady had no family and no support, if this job she had landed was the only bulwark from homelessness, then I suspect she isn’t so overwhelmed and mentally crushed about that drive and what these long hours mean for her social life. These two competing notions drive each other. What we see in that clip is the end-result of decadence; it’s the Weak Men produced by Good Times. And that isn’t actually an insult to this individual person. She is simply a product of our times. But that too depends on lens; from certain angles, that is a distinction without a difference.
And that’s what drove the intense discourse around this online. There were many, like me, who saw the story I’m sharing above screaming off the screen! And then many others never even got there. They spent the entire time talking about how mean everyone’s reaction was to it. “It” again being a video clip that this person elected to broadcast themselves. Does that story tell something concerning too? I guess so, if it rose to the level of MSM coverage. But that lands us on what is really the most important story of all…
Because what this ended up clearly presenting was The Seam down American society. It lays it on the table once again. A significant segment of our people represent this “bleeding heart”-mold where emotion and sympathy (which allowed for the birth of weaponized empathy) is what leads EVERYTHING! The mind just naturally seeks that wrinkle out of every story and fact-pattern. We had mainstream journos writing articles about how unfair the criticism has been to this projected-emotion online. To me, that is just so ass-backwards. But it’s not really a new story, is it? No, it rings of what? “The Moral vs. The Monsters”. The Good Guys in our society have a heart and understated this girl is doing the best she can, she came up in a uniquely challenging time, and any real and warm-hearted person would understand the perfectly justifiable emotions she is expressing in that clip. (This, of course, inherently casts disagreement as The Bad Guys, The Monsters, something we’re all-too familiar with now). Ok, I don’t necessarily disagree that there is this other human story there. “Other”; because it’s not THE story we came here to talk about. That is the story I was drilling into above. One of a 23 year-old young adult who is so ill-prepared for what that second word means, the idea of having to grind hard M-F and have Friday nights and weekends to kick it and satisfy your old personal (juvenile) life is like the world crashing down upon her. Would it have felt that way to my stoic family member? No. But it also wouldn’t have felt that way to my father. He is a man who also drove over an hour every day to work. He didn’t lay railroad; he practiced law and served in the Army. Driving down to DC and being in places like the Pentagon was an honor to him. It was well-worth the daily grueling commute. So was our family living in a great area with good schools, which is why he CHOSE the commute. He paid it forward, and I benefited dramatically. I never heard my old man complain about his drive once, even though his customary schedule was out by 6’ish and home around 7’ish. And that’s when he was home; he traveled constantly with his bosses or for his commitments to our country.
There is an important framing here, no? A dichotomy. A reason why my father just a handful of decades ago didn’t succumb to these same emotions. Because he obviously felt them. This is all part of the human process, the human life cycle. It’s not that my dad or his dad or his dad didn’t also want to have more time to hang out and meet girls and grow their own personal thing. But that wasn’t an option provided to them. And like allowing your children to sleep in your bed, if this was never an option provided in the first place, then it never becomes an overwhelming struggle to accept. The chicken and flour have to make the table. That makes the commute not so overwhelming.
And I get that this rhetoric I’m now putting out rubs many the wrong way too. I surely am aware our youth no longer grow up in that world. I surely didn’t myself either. I never faced homeless or starvation if I fell flat in life. The hard work of my forefathers had provided me a really strong hand of cards. I am forever thankful for that. So much so, my top objective in life is making sure I do the same for my own two seeds. Putting in the work and the focus and the dedication and, yes, the sacrifice to pay it forward to them. Yeah, I’d drive two hours every day, if that’s what it took.
“If that’s what it took”. That’s really the story here. It’s what I pushed back on in numerous Twitter feeds that were drowning away the important reality with endless buckets of sympathy. Nothing but sympathy, just over and over and over. Some didn’t understand why I felt she was ill-prepared. I was shocked to even receive that question! The only question is who is to blame, who failed her. You want to cast it up to greater society? That probably carries a little weight. I’d personally think focusing in closer to caretakers makes a lot more sense though. A lot of the life I lead is because of the foundation laid by my mother and father; and they had their mental foundation formed by people who laid railroad. They came from Hard Times and it forever shaped them. Our youth now come from the Easiest Times in human history and that now shapes them too. And when we focus every single ounce of energy and attention to feeling sorry for people, what do we not do? Address the damn underlying problems, at all. There IS an important story here. And it’s not that so many reacted to this girl’s posting and some were mean.
At some point, the American people MUST stop allowing an overly-empowered and overly-influential sect of emotion-driven people from operating like a critical-mass onto us all. This is closely tied to institutional capture, of course. It’s why we have NYU professors and famous journos encouraging boys to cry. Why CNN tells men they don’t do friends right, and we should all be more like Prince Harry. The cruel irony being, this is actually a story of why we don’t want boys to cry. No one forced this new adult to take this job. And if life had been what forced it (necessity), I can promise you she wouldn’t be in this mental-state. Those two things go hand-in-hand. This is an illustration of The Cycle; she is a product of Stage 4. A lack of necessity strips burn. I can testify so confidently to that because I grapple with the same! I came from Good Times too, the Roaring 90s. There is no doubt I don’t possess the innate hunger and drive of even my father, much less his father and grandfather who flew fighter props in WWI and were in Paris the day it was liberated from the Nazis in the second Great War. How could I? I built a BBS at 10 and wore Air Jordans in middle-school. I’ve had to artificially push back against that same natural whittling process my entire life. I’ve never fully succeeded. It’s not a coincidence that procrastination remains my greatest vice. I never asked him, but I doubt my great grandfather procrastinated for shit.
A lack of necessity inherently strips burn and this retards people. THIS is the engine underlying my favorite quote. It’s not a war fetish; it’s an unavoidable reality. Life is not geared around making your individual life easy. It is a sandbox for YOU to craft your own path. And this is an essential part of the human process; it is the fire of life meant to forge us for life. And with forging comes change and, yes, sacrifice. It is not the obligation of everyone else to make that path easier for you, or even show you where it is. This is what agency is all about, and why it’s so counterproductive and self-defeating that we’re working so hard to strip it away from anything and everything. If the only path you can craft for yourself involves a 90min drive each way, then you’re just going to have to set an earlier alarm and get home later, aren’t you? Will it be hard and a huge change from video games and bong hits? Of course! And this challenge side of it is what makes men out of boys; it’s what maturity is all about. It’s why this current movement so screams of arrested development. Because that’s precisely what it is! It’s what we’re seeing because it’s what we’ve done to ourselves. These are the very clothes we have intentionally sewn and everyone called it “progress” like braindead zombies. What even is the alternative to this notion of agency I’m painting over and over again here? You turn in your real mommy who took care of all of your needs and made childhood easy for a Govt Daddy who does the same in adulthood? No! This is directly antithetical to what life in a free country is all about. The American Dream doesn’t mean live in America and everything is a dream. It means we’re all free to pursue our dreams. And part of that freedom means it’s up to you to pursue them. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by driving a culture of dependency; we stunt both the struggling individual (we create them) as well as our society as a whole.
It’s time to talk about the important stories again, even when they hurt feelings. It’s time for reality to lead over emotion and sympathy again. It’s time for 2 + 2 to equal 4 again.