Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Zenpriest #64 - Only a Fool Would Have Swallowed It

Just as any magazine has different sections and departments, such as sports, entertainment, hard news, etc., so will The Spearhead look at different aspects of the male experience in the early 21st century westernized world. And, I think most readers of the Spearhead will agree that experience has some issues.

One aspect of the traditional notions of masculinity favors the active over the passive. Men have been identified with doing, and are typically known by what they DO. How many times have you been asked the question, many times as the first opening of conversation, “What do you DO?”

Just for the fun of it, because I love to yank people’s chains by giving unexpected responses, I often reply “I don’t DO anything, I just am.”

There is immense power in not going along with people’s social expectations. I’m not talking about being actively anti-social and doing things which are immoral, unethical, or illegal; but rather to simply not fall into the subtle social manipulation which amounts to following a script: “Well, if I say “A” then that is your prompt to say “B.” “The Social Script”, or just the “The Script”, for short, is a very powerful means of subtly controlling other people’s behavior.

One of my favorite examples of not following the social script in circumstances where doing so is self destructive is a story about the philosopher Alan Watts. At a posh, high-brow, dinner party he was served some potatoes which were still scaldingly hot. He immediately spit them out onto his plate and looked up to a sea of faces aghast at his incredible breech of “table manners.” He laughed in their faces and said “Only a fool would have swallowed it.”

Only a fool would swallow something which is self-destructive, simply because he is under social pressure to do so.

Ferdinand did a recent post about “The Emptiness of Modern Manhood.” Welmer has said that “Over the last few years, it has become increasingly obvious that American men – particularly those of the post-boomer generations – have fallen into a cultural gap.” and “As our society slowly hews down the last pillars of masculinity, ennervating a once vigorous civilization, it is important that some among us continue to stand up and live, speak and think as men.” If this is the picture of manhood, and civilization, that younger men see, it seems fairly obvious that somewhere along the line the guardians of masculinity and manhood have been fools and swallowed something fairly destructive.

As part of the generation who probably dropped the ball more than any other, I am in a position to offer some insights into how and why that occured. However, a post-mortem on classical notions of manhood and masculinity would be nothing more than a pointless intellectual exercise, particularly for men, unless whatever understanding and insight comes from that is taken to the next step and forms the basis for some sort of action.

If there is one symptom of the malaise of modern manhood/masculinity which more than any other points to both the root of the problems and their potential solutions, it is the loss of the ability and desire to take action. Rich Zubaty wrote a book a few years ago entitled “Surviving the Feminization of America.” His message boils down to the concept which has been pushed for the past 40 years – that masculinity and men are bad and femininity and women are good and that all the problems of the world will be solved if only men will become women.

But, the problem is that the average woman who is not among the feminist policy makers is not a lesbian. If she wanted to be with a woman, she could choose to do so. Masculinity is the natural complement to femininity, and to the extent that women retain any sense of their own feminine natures, they prefer masculine men.

When Ferdinand speaks of “The Emptiness of Modern Manhood”, he invokes the imagery of a hollowed out shell. Certain surface trappings of manhood have been held onto by the social deconstructionists in collusion with the Social Conservatives, but they have hollowed out the heart of it, leaving a truly empty feeling shell. Obsessive-compulsive “chivalry” has dictated deference and special treatment for all women which was previously reserved for those women who had earned the right to be called “ladies.” Hint: this right was not earned by swearing like a sailor, dressing in a manner which would embarass anyone with both self-awareness and taste, or excusing boorish and excessive behavior by saying “well, men have been doing it for years.”

So, part of the problem with modern manhood which makes it feel empty to younger men is being required to treat with respect an entire group of people who have not earned it by acting in a respectable manner or by reciprocating that respect – a group of people who seem to feel entitled whatever they want for no other reason than having been born with a vagina. And, in allowing that to come about and continue, the people who allowed it have cheapened the entire concept of “respect” so that it no longer contains any aspects of excellence, or admirable qualities, or achievement. In short, people today demand respect not for anything they do, but simply for being – existing. Well, earthworms exist, but they are not particularly admirable creatures.

But, there is something in the masculine spirit which rebels against this – something deep down which knows that it is fundamentally, completely, perversely wrong; something which knows that anything unearned is nothing but alms. And to accept alms is to be a beggar and is a wound to the spirit.

The masculine spirit knows that something must be done to earn what one receives in order for it feel like an achievement, a reward for excellence, and something which is worthy of respect. The quarterback who scrambles, finds his receiver, connects with his pass, and the receiver who takes it into the end zone both have done something characteristically different than the waterboy sitting on the sidelines. And thus it is just and right that should be rewarded with more respect.

But, in today’s world, the opposite is the case. Those who have achieved nothing demand the same rewards as those who have, and blame their own failures on the successes and excellence of others.

“From each according to ability, to each according to need” is the ideology of a cancer cell. Yet, in much of today’s world people are punished according to their ability and rewarded according to their need. That is what has eaten the heart out of modern manhood – the demand that we respect what is not respectable, give what has not been earned, and feed the tumor before we feed the heart.

Yes, indeed, only a fool would swallow it. But, unfortunately a lot of fools did. And, a lot of younger men have been left with a sense of emptiness.

So, what do we do now? We stop being fools and stop swallowing it. We spit out the nonsense we have been fed back onto the plates where it came from. And, when we get those nasty disapproving looks from people because we have refused to allow them to socially pressure us into harming ourselves – we laugh in their faces.

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