Of course, there have been many shortages of men before. Usually after wars there are shortages of men since men do most of the fighting. Even in the one and only truly ‘total war’ of World War II, far more men were killed than women. Eg: the Germans lost over 5 million men and the Soviet Union an estimate of upto 10 million.
(If just some of the anecdotes I’ve heard are true, British and American soldiers in the ruins of Berlin in 1945 could have almost any German woman they wanted, especially if they had chocolate, cigarettes, nylons, etc, to give away.)
However, a significant shortage in peace time is unusual. Paradoxically statistics show that more male babies are born in Latvia than girls. However, a high early male mortality rate means there are 8% more women than men in the country. Among the under-30s, there are almost 9,000 more men than women. However, this is inverted between the ages of 30-39 so that there are almost 3,000 more women than men. This equates to men being 3 x as likely to die between the ages of 30 and 39. Overall women live 11 years longer than men, the highest disparity of life expectancy between the sexes in the EU.
Sociologist Baiba Bela explains the high male mortality rate: “Car driving, alcoholism and accidents in the workplace are mainly riskier for men than for women.” Statistics show that many Latvian men are also heavy smokers – so add that to the list of high risk behaviours.
This ‘express-self-now-and-to-hell-with-the-consequences’ nihilistic behaviour is clearly the output of the RED vMEME. The nihilistic element of these behaviours also illustrate what Sigmund Freud (1920) meant by Thanatos, the death instinct of the Id (peak RED) driving the individual to self-destruction. The gender difference in the numbers of people engaging in such risky behaviour can be explained by high levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, which Hans J Eysenck attributed as the key factor in producing a Psychoticist temperament in many males. RED motivation and Psychoticism together make for a highly dangerous combination in males, leading to frequent behaviours dangerous both to themselves and others.
It would appear a substantial number of Latvian men have a RED/Psychoticist ‘lock’ or centre of gravity.
How did Latvian men get into this state?
Psychoanalyst Ansis Stabingis attributes high rates of Depression and suicide amongst Latvia men to the country’s rapid transition from Communism to Capitalism 20 years ago which suddenly put massive pressures on men to succeed financially. “There are demands about how [men] should live. And if they cannot meet those standards, they… fall into Depression…. And then they start to use some alcohol or some gambling because they cannot solve that problem.”
Capitalism and consumerism are driven by the ORANGE vMEME’s drive to create a better future for itself. As Zygmunt Bauman (1988) has noted, consumerism tends to divide people into those he calls the ‘seduced’ – those who have taken in the memes that life is about having designer goods and a luxury lifestyle and have the means to buy into it – and the ‘repressed’ – those who have taken in the same memes but do not have the means to buy into it.
When the world-wide economic crisis broke in 2008, unemployment in Latvia was pushed up by around 20%. Male suicide levels, already amongst the highest in the EU, rose correspondingly by 16%. Many of those who taken in consumerist memes and were only too willing to be seduced into the Western luxury life style now found they were actually slipping into the lifestyle of the repressed – wanting but no longer with the means to buy.
In Integrated SocioPsychology terms, the RED vMEME is motivated to establish self-esteem and esteem from others. When RED is confronted with failure – loss of job, drastic reduction in income, failure to achieve the lifestyle standards of the seduced – then RED simply cannot be shamed. It must either find someone else to blame for its misfortune or it will start to break the selfplex (an individual’s sense of self) down and/or become self-destructive (Freud’s death instinct). With a loss of self-esteem, RED is much more likely to engage in risky behaviour dangerous to itself. After all, if I’m no longer worth much, who cares if I risk everything for the little pleasure I might be able to get?
Latvia, like the other Baltic states and Russia, has long had a hard drinking culture. As software engineer Agris Rieksts told the BBC: “It is kind of perceived that it is manly, that the more alcohol you can handle, the more of a man you are. Everybody understands that it is kind of absurd. But it is still there.”
So there was a readymade alcohol culture for the newly repressed and depressed to drown their miseries in.
The undesirable male mate
In such circumstances, you might think that Latvian men between 30 and 39 could have their pick from so many available women. And the fact that Latvia has the highest rate of single mothers in the EU might well indicate that the men have indeed been ‘busy’. However, the fact that Latvia has the highest rate of single mothers in the EU can also be meta-stated to tell another story: that the Latvian women want babies but they don’t want serious ongoing relationships with the available men.
As Dace Ruskane. editor of women’s magazine Lilit, says: “The smartest girls are alone. The really beautiful girls are alone – if they are smart.”
There is an increasing stereotype of the Latvian male as a depressed drunk with little or no ambition. In his non-work time he either hangs out at sports bars or slobs out in front of the TV. Ruskane comments: “He just sits in front of the TV and knows he can get a woman. And if she doesn’t suit him, he will get another. Smart women simply don’t want to have such men as their partners.” That, according to one woman who spoke to the BBC, is “why all my friends have gone abroad and found boyfriends there.”
The lack of male desire to better oneself is, according to Baiba Bela, encapsulated in the single statistic that there are 50% more women enrolled at the University of Latvia than men.
The existence of the ‘undesirable male mate’, while perhaps of particular concern to the men-starved women of Latvia, is by no means a Latvian-only phenomenon. 2 years ago then-Shadow Secretary for Innovation, Universities & Skills David Willetts drew attention in the UK to young women preferring to raise their children as single mothers rather than be partnered long-term with a man who had no means of support and no apparent prospects. Willetts was much influenced by the American sociologist William Julius Wilson (1987) who almost certainly was the first to identify the ‘unmarriageable male’, amongst the black underclass in inner city Chicago. (See ‘NEETS – are the Tories on the Right Path?’)
Wilson’s view is that the restructuring of the American economy (and the Western European economies) towards more knowledge-based industries (with much traditional heavy industry going to low wage economies, first Eastern Europe and then Asia) has led an underclass to develop of unskilled and unemployed American males (both black and white). The economic prospects of these males are so grim that effectively they are unmarriageable.
Norman Dennis & George Erdos (1992) confirmed the presence of the unmarriageable male in the UK, describing him as weakly socialised and lacking a sense of responsibility to be a functioning adult in the community, taking on the roles of husband and father.
Though their route to this state is a little different – Latvia was one of those Eastern European nations which most benefitted from being a low wage economy in the 1990s and early 2000s – Latvian men are now similarly undesirable as economic propositions…and drunk and depressed into the bargain!
Whither the Latvian man?
It will be interesting to find out just what kind of impact the BBC News article has on the collective psyche of Latvia. Certainly the article has been picked up a smattering of international news outlets, including the Herald de Paris, and several blogs; but, in the week of the Chilean miners, more Israeli rumblings about a possible strike on Iran and many in the Western world obsessing with just how savagely George Osborne is going to shred Britain’s public sector next week, it never did have much chance of making major news.
Since RED won’t be shamed, it’s more than likely that many Latvian males will simply shrug off the article – if they even register it! – with the selfplex defence mechanism of denial and reach for the next drink. It’s not hard to understand why so many Latvian women do turn to international dating agencies and web sites, with a few sadly ending up in the hands of the pornographers and human traffickers.
As for the Latvian Government and its policymakers…welcome to the late 20th/early 21st Century phenomenon of the undesirable male mate. He’s becoming a significant social problem throughout much of the Western world; but, in a country where there is a relative scarcity of men, he has the potential to become that much more a problem.
There again, as the Western countries struggle to reshape their economies in the wake of the global financial crisis and the unskilled and semi-skilled work continues to drift East, will the unmarriageable male, with his self-destructive behaviours, grow in numbers until he is a major problem throughout the Western world?