The word “happenstance” is used to describe things that coincide by chance. This week has brought two instances, the first when I wrote The Late Great Manly Man and the second when mentioning the possible reinstatement of canceled insurance policies under Obamacare.
As it happens Rich Tucker wrote about the campaign to eliminate manly men on the very same day. In an article titled Embracing the Difference, Tucker reviewed Hanna Rosin’s claim that the days of men are numbered, as summarized in her article The End of Men.
What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? … Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you. It can be found, most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance. …
Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.
The other coincidence came today, when the White House announced another delay — don’t say “suspension” — of yet another Obamacare provision. The Washington Post writes: “For the second time in a year, the Obama administration is giving certain employers extra time before they must offer health insurance to almost all their full-time workers.”
As word of the delays spread Monday, many across the ideological spectrum viewed them as an effort by the White House to defuse another health-care controversy before the fall midterm elections. The new postponements won over part, but not all, of the business community. And they caught consumer advocates, usually reliable White House allies, by surprise, particularly because administration officials had already announced in July that the employer requirements would be postponed from this year until 2015.
Anyone who has followed the travails of Obamacare knew something like this was in the works. I wrote just yesterday that “eventually the exemptions become the rule and Potemkinism becomes general. Industry analyst Robert Lazewski notes that Washington is now mulling the possibility of reinstating all the policies that Obamacare canceled for at least 3 more years. The health program is so great they are thinking of exempting everyone from it for a time. It will be Potemkin all the way down.”
But as Tolkien observed so many decades ago, happenstance may just be another term for events ripening. Things come together, though we realize it only after the fact. And we say it just so happened.
When you think of the Battle of Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valor of Durin’s Folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from the victory here to ruin and ash. But that has been adverted — because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring in Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.
Guessing that Obamacare would get another exemption was easy, and I’ll explain why in a bit. But before I do, Rosin’s thesis deserves some attention. One should point out that the “macho man” whose demise she predicts is not the manly man in the sense Homer understood.
Men were defined in Homer, not by their muscles, but by their place in culture. Describing the Shield of AchillesHomer outlines the defenses of civilization. He places the heavens in the outermost sphere and within them fields and vineyards and bountiful cattle; and cities where law and weddings abide defended by men with “refulgent arms” who guard against the hosts which would pillage and despoil the circle enclosed.