Do you want to understand why middle-aged conservative white men are freaking out about all the social changes in this country? Do you want to know what’s causing them to lose their shit and lash out at anyone or anything who threatens them?
I can tell you why.
Immigration, marriage equality, People of Color, and women stepping into positions of power and prominence. Women getting their own superhero movies. Black people getting their own superhero movies. Sixteen-year-old Swedish girls lecturing the United Nations on climate change.
This stuff is freaking middle-aged conservative white men out. And whenever they speak up, they’re constantly — constantly — putting their feet in it and saying some of the stupidest stuff.
And I can tell you why.
It’s these changes that are drawing them to Donald Trump and the alt-right. They’re promising that things won’t change. Heck, we’ll even take them back to the way things were. You know, back then, when [insert non-middle-aged-conservative-white-male-person here] didn’t make such a fuss.
As an almost-middle-aged, decidedly not conservative, white dude, I know exactly what their problem is, and I can help you understand it.
Now, to be clear, this is NOT an apology, explanation, plea for empathy, or anything like that. You don’t have to do shit. You don’t even have to understand things from their point of view.
I’m not a white dude apologist. I’m not the #AllDudesMatter guy. I’m not the White Guy Whisperer. I’m not going to tell you why they’re right and you’re wrong, or you’re right and they’re wrong. This is not an all-come-together-and-sing-Kumbaya piece.
This is just to give you a basic understanding of what drives middle-aged conservative white men to react the way they have been. So when you say, “What the hell is their problem?” you’ll finally know the answer.
It Comes Down to Two Emotions
Let’s talk marketing for just a minute, and take a look at why people buy things.
All of us as consumers, regardless of sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, et cetera have two reasons why we buy anything.
Fear and greed.
We are all afraid and we are all greedy.
We have greed for more. More status, more stuff, more money, more food, more sex.
And we’re afraid of losing the stuff we do have.
This is why we buy things.
We buy some things out of greed. We get clothes and shoes with designer labels, cars that look cool, phones that have the latest features because we want more.
We buy other things out of fear. We take steps to defend our house: strong locks, security systems, and even firearms. We’re afraid of losing what we have.
We want more stuff, and we don’t want to lose it.
Don’t believe me? Read some magazine ads, watch some TV commercials, or listen to radio ads. Ask yourself, “is the advertiser appealing to me through fear or greed?”
Nearly every advertisement you watch, hear, or read will appeal to one of those two emotions.
What Do Greed and Fear Have to Do with Middle-Aged Conservative White Men?
These two emotions don’t just drive our purchases, they are what drive most of our decisions. Which means they drive middle-aged conservative white men’s decisions.
They’re greedy for their status: They hold positions of leadership and prestige. They have representation on TV: they see themselves. They are important in their own lives.
They’re afraid of losing all that, and they’re greedy for more.
When they see a woman in a superhero movie, they don’t think, “Oh no, a woman is finally equal.” They think, “What if the pendulum swings the other way? I could lose everything!”
When they see Black people protesting police brutality, they don’t think, “Oh no, Black people are tired of being treated poorly.” They think, “What if the pendulum swings the other way? I could be brutalized, too.”
And then they try to express that feeling, and it just comes out sounding, well, dumb. Or at least tone-deaf.
They don’t realize that social equality is not a zero-sum game and that they’re not going to lose just because someone else wins.
They only see the world as “If you win, then I lose,” and they’re afraid.
They’re greedy for the power, status, and importance they had and they're afraid they’re about to lose that.
So What Does That Mean for NON-Middle-Aged Conservative White Men?
If you’re not a MACWM, you don’t have to do a thing. You don’t have to meet them halfway, you don’t have to curtail your activism, you don’t have to take their feelings into account.
You don’t have to protect the snowflakes.
In fact, you shouldn’t do anything about it. Let them squirm. Let them flail. Let them worry.
The world is changing, whether they like it or not, and no amount of complaining about political correctness or whining about perceived slights is going to keep things the way they are.
They’re going to have to accept the fact that things will not go back to the way they were. Because if they don’t, they’ll be pushed aside for good, and then they’ll have nothing.
Which is what they’re truly afraid of.