Friday, March 22, 2013
The Demise of Masculinity?
People nowadays occasionally talk about the demise of masculinity. While I don't really believe in this (or disbelieve in it), I do have some thoughts to offer (piles of poop that might contain a few pearls on closer inspection).
Males are disproportionately represented at the poles of human experience (e.g. as alpha leaders and omega losers): testosterone is all about taking huge risks, which yield crud at least as often as gold. Males are thus always losing (to each other and females), from prehistoric times until now. We are the expendable gender, the one Nature can play wild games with without killing the species in one generation.
The most problematic things about modern society that I see hurting males can be summed up as "education." The modern educational establishment often crushes humanity--not just masculinity, but masculinity suffers more in proportion as the particular enemy that the modern educational establishment wants to destroy is randomness (luck, gambling, inequality--in a word, masculinity).
What happens when your kid (more likely your little boy) doesn't want to sit quiet for hours doing stupid "work" at a desk? You drug him into submission. What happens when your little kid (more likely your little boy) wants to try jumping off a high rock in the park or play-fight with his friends? You drug him into submission. What happens when your little kid (more likely your little boy) wants to run and shout and throw things? You drug him into submission. What happens when he resents the drugs and the socialization and the submission and cannot find any outlet for the randomness that Nature plants inside him? What happens when your school chains him to the desk, cancels the wrestling program (because it isn't as cool as stupid football), and expects him to kiss other people's butts for reasons that he doesn't understand or respect? What happens when you demand that he believe in transparent fallacies as though they were absolute realities--neglecting to gamble with his own life and turning that responsibility over to somebody else, indefinitely (perhaps forever)?
Well, all kinds of s*** happens. Some boys become derelicts (angry rebels resenting society's denial and suppression of their humanity). Some become doormats (depressed and defeated cubicle-dwellers bowing and scraping and begging their masters to give more treats than beatings). Some learn how to game the system (findng ways to remain masculine by luck and skill). Some become homicidal maniacs (and you hear about them on the news when they storm into a local school or theater spraying bullets). All these options are not new: we see them recurring throughout history (in every society). Modernization is not novel, in this respect: we just do everything our forefathers did on a grander scale (such that we make more dangerous males whose capacity for destruction is greater).
The solution, as I see it, is to find some way of dealing with randomness (masculinity, testosterone) that doesn't involve trying to suppress it utterly (as many social institutions, particularly educational ones, have a tendency to do). If your kid doesn't like the desks, take him somewhere else. Don't make us all play or watch football. Don't send the homicidal maniacs to school by law: give them and their families options outside the current system. Don't be a soccer mom (or dad). If your kid likes fighting, put him in a ring somewhere and let him get beaten up. If he likes dirty work, give him jobs doing it. Don't make him go to school. Don't make him be something he isn't. Don't resent him for failing to be the all-American hero that people want their boys to be. Not everyone is a hero the same way, remember. We have to find a way to let people (mostly males) lose without destroying themselves and society in the process.
In short, we men are losers. We need the freedom to learn and practice losing, so that we can do it well. Society as it exists currently does not provide a safe environment for this. It punishes losing so viciously and reactively that people who fail (mostly boys) tend to fail really catastrophically (more than they would without intervention) and (the crucial point) miss opportunities to learn from failure (which is what people with lots of testosterone are built to do).
Feminism is a red herring here, in my opinion. Of course women are people too, and should be treated with human dignity (i.e. allowed to wear pants, learn trades, run companies, command armies, and take responsibility for their own wagers with Nature). Treating women like human beings in no way disenfranchises men.
The real enemy is not either gender, but the people of both who want to kill randomness (making life regular such that there are no winners or losers, and we "learn" from failure by pretending we can engineer a world in which it doesn't exist). The enemies of masculinity include many men--among them many chauvinists who would scorn to be called feminists. (Myself, I don't mind being labelled a feminist, though I prefer the term humanist, with the stipulation that women are human, too--just as human as men, and just as entitled to human autonomy.)