First World Problems: The Slow-Motion Sacking of the Modern Library of Alexandria

By: Julian Adorney & Mark Johnson

Picture of the ruined Library of Alexandria. The sacking of the library is a metaphor for the systematic destruction of American institutions that explains why we have first world problems.

What Are First World Problems?

First world problems are essentially problems that we deal with in the United States, in spite of–or, perhaps, because of–the jaw-dropping levels of privilege and wealth and safety that we live in. These problems include:

– A dearth of meaning in your life; you go to work and make good money, but you don’t know what it’s all for

– A lack of connection. Many men in the US are looking for a tribe. Lots of men don’t have close friends, and the facsimile of online interaction just leaves us craving more of the real thing.

– Out of control egoic fear. We don’t struggle with the kinds of life-threatening problems our ancestors did. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not dealing with genuine material danger or imminent starvation. But in spite of our material comforts, our egos still tell us there are threats all around. Immersed in the safest society the world has ever produced, lots of men still find themselves scared and anxious.

– An epidemic of mental illness among young people, especially anxiety and depression. The suicide rate for men age 15-24 has increased by 78 percent from 1990 to 2017.

If you’re suffering from first world problems, it’s not your fault. The milieu of the United States produces these problems, just like the milieu of a third-world country produces justified fears of starvation and danger.

You’re also not alone. Millions of men experience some or all of the above problems.

However, regardless of fault, it is your responsibility to fix these problems in your own life. And it is our responsibility as strong and integrous men to do what we can to help fix them on a societal level.

How Did We Get Here?

A depressed man, symptomatic of first world problems.

To see the root cause of these problems, we have to zoom out. These problems didn’t start 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.

Over the past 50 years, we have systematically torn down the institutions that made the United States the safest and most prosperous and most successful country the world had ever seen. These historic institutions weren’t perfect, but they taught us how to operate in society in productive ways. They taught us how to protect ourselves and our families, and how to connect to something bigger than just our egos.

They taught us how to have productive disagreements, how to find and pursue truth, how to hone and channel our masculinity, and how to love our partners in ways those partners wanted and needed.

Our culture now derides these institutions as “patriarchal” or “white supremacist.”

And to be clear, the 1950s weren’t great for everyone. These historic institutions needed improvement. But we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and we’re suffering the consequences on a society-wide level.

The Scope of the Problem

The scale of this problem is hard to overstate. It’s not a partisan problem; while many of the examples we’ll cite in this series mention the far left, the far right is equally culpable for tearing down American institutions (including the most recent Republican president attempting to stage a coup when he lost an election). Extremists on all sides are using the imperfections of our society as an excuse to tear the whole thing down.

What we’re seeing is a slow-motion version of the Library of Alexandria being sacked by barbarians. An immense treasure trove of knowledge is being destroyed out of ignorance. And just as the sacking of the Library of Alexandria set humanity back by millennia, so the sacking of America is setting the world–and hundreds of millions of Americans–back just as deeply.

If you’re wondering why so many men today feel depressed, anxious, lonely, and lack purpose; why so many struggle to find a partner or to have a good relationship; this is a huge piece of the puzzle. Social institutions aren’t just good at the societal level. They’re essential for individual health and wellbeing. When we tear down these institutions, we end up with a generation adrift.

What Can We Do?

To combat first world problems, one key step is to find a tribe.

In the coming blogs, we’ll evaluate 5 areas in which American institutions have been systematically torn down. These are:

– The American Civic Religion

Free Speech

– Objective Judgment of Healthy vs Unhealthy Lifestyles

– Masculinity

– Healthy Mores Around Love and Sex

Each of these problems affects all of us as men. The good news is that each of these issues can be addressed–and indeed has to be addressed–at the individual level. In each blog, we’ll walk you through how the relevant institution has been degraded, how that degradation hurts men, and what you can do as a healthy and integrous man to heal the damage in your own life.

The most important piece of advice, however, is this: find a tribe of like-minded men. Find a tribe of men who share your values, who quest for (and find) meaning in their lives, who embody healthy masculine energy and treat their partners (and themselves) with respect and love. Find a tribe of men you’d trust to have your back in a firefight, and who will love you and expect you to have theirs in turn.

TEM offers such a tribe. We offer one-on-one men’s coaching as well as men’s groups. If you would like to build a life of purpose and meaning, cultivate real and raw relationships in your life with authentic men, and develop your healthy grounded masculine energy, reach out today.

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