Men, power, abuse, single mom families and the enduring poverty of Charlotte County


What is it with men abusing women? Is this something all men do? Or is it just men with too much power? Or men who are somehow twisted or broken? And what about the women around them?

I can’t answer those questions, but the problem must start early. Some kids pick the legs off grasshoppers, while other kids are horrified. Somewhere, not so deep in the male psyche, is the every-boy’s memory of being bested by a girl. Even now I can remember it: the two or three smart girls who could read and spell better than anyone in the class. The girls who could outsmart you in an argument every time, and make you feel small and a little bit stupid.

Later, in junior high, these little girls transformed women long before boys dared to think about actually becoming men. And if a boy did work up the nerve to ask one out, he feared her power to reject and humiliate him. These girl-women seemed to be crushingly powerful.

The male currency in play, of course, is pride. There is either something in the male DNA, or imbued in males by our culture, that fuels competition and the drive to win. For many men, women become the prize. In the case of some men, it’s not just one but multiple women. This prize-seeking mentality equally applies to acquiring power, possessions and wealth—and easily leads to conflating women with possessions.

It’s an old pattern, and many women play into it. We’re all in this passion play. Even before the mid-1970s, non-college educated North American males were losing their production-line jobs to overseas workers. From Flint to Dayton to Camden and all across the central Midwest Rust Belt white and black men ended up permanently unemployed.

The same thing is now happening to non-college educated older men in high-tech neighbourhoods. In places like San Jose and Austin, men over the age of 55 are unemployable. High-tech and AI favour the young and well-educated.

Men who lose their jobs lose face, pride—and their families. The rising mortality rate among low-income earning white males is just one symptom. Loss of purpose and dignity leads to emotional instability, which leads to all kinds of other unpleasant effects like substance abuse, domestic violence, risk taking, crime and imprisonment—including divorce. Today, there are more single parent families than at any other time in history.
British single mom, Stephanie Littlewood, beaten by boyfriend

Which brings me to the point. Single parent families, mostly headed by women, are the most financially impoverished. In the US more than 70 percent of all black children are born to an unmarried woman. The children of unmarried mothers—of any race—are far more likely to have lower levels of education, more family instability and higher levels of poverty—all of which becomes multi-generational.

In Canada, 90 percent of single parent families living in poverty are headed by women. A recent report from the Human Development Council on child poverty, taken from the Canadian long form census, tells us that there are 28,000 single parents in New Brunswick, and half of the children born those single parents are living in poverty. Child poverty rates are higher in certain neighbourhoods. In Saint John—Irving’s back yard—child poverty rates are 30 percent, compared to nearby Quispamsis with a rate of 8 percent. It’s probably no surprise that poverty rates are higher closer to industrial operations, and Saint John has one of the highest poverty rates in the Atlantic provinces.

But it’s even worse where we live. Charlotte County has the highest percentage of single parent families (41.3 percent) living in poverty in a study of 57 Canadian communities, according to an infographic put out by Vineeth Sekharan, a student at York University. That makes nearby Saint John look like a success story. Worse yet, a quarter of all children in Charlotte County are living in poverty.

Unemployment, under-employment and low wages have plagued the county for a half a dozen decades. Immigrants now take the low-paying work local men are unwilling to accept. If one wonders how, on two separate occasions, babies could be murdered at birth and burned, one might study the effects of the long-decaying economy in this area.

Low status men lack power. Like women, they’re the victims of an increasingly brutal economic system through which the lion’s share of profits and power flow up to a an increasingly smaller group of powerful, wealthy men—and women. The system itself has become the perfect psychopath, deforming and corrupting every one of us.

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