Friday, May 04, 2007

Soft Living

The war against men, especially as it is waged in the mass media, may have been stimulated by radical feminism, PC indoctrination, and other ideologies of rebellion (academic or otherwise), but could it be that its roots are much older? What is the cause of men being soft?

Linked to the war against masculinity is the war against anger, which is needed along with courage and justice for a man to be psychologically whole. (Dr. Conrad Baars wrote about the negative effects of repressing anger; the deformation of charity into "niceness" is the target of books like No More Christian Nice Guy.)

While Madison Avenue does its best to create artificial desires through advertising and fosters the consumerist mentality, it is not the direct cause of the lack of discipline and reason in men. Moreover, vice and bad habits do not suddenly replace virtue. Once one has attained the age of reason, the soul beings to acquire some habit, either virtue or vice, or continence or incontinence--one does not stay "unformed" for very long. The natural drives that are particular to men will either be shaped and channeled towards God and the good of others, or it will be twisted by disordered self-love.

It is true that fathers and "patriarchy" have been denigrated by feminists. But I suspect the lack of male leadership and fathering preceded the current feminist war on males. With the rise of the suburbs, the disintegration of communities and disappearance of extended families, two important sources of communal wisdom, customs, and moral training. How else does one explain the rise of the experts (from the 50s? onwards) telling parents how to raise their children? The social tumult of the 60s and 70s probably caused young adults to doubt even more the traditional ways.

How many father are the wise guide and teacher, like Mr. Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver? (Not that he represents the ideal, but he is a couple of steps above the fathers of today's sitcoms.) Many fathers no longer show their sons how to be virtuous men, and what is distinctive about their sex and hence function in society. After all, they cannot do so as they themselves are not really manly. How many middle-class males are just compliant wage slaves for corporations who are ignorant of their obligations to family and community, pursuing only self-fulfillment?

There are many good fathers, but it is likely that their numbers are dwarfed by those with much less or no competence. Still, it seems to be the case that there are areas in this country which are more traditional and better off than the metropolitan belts.

More speculation--
With the postwar boom, the loss of productive function of the household affected not only the wife but also the children, though in general, the effects on the children were initially less pronounced. Consumerism affected the wife first; there was still some check against this with respect to the children as their allowance was limited, and they had to "contribute" to the hosuehold by doing chores. (Remnants from a more agrarian way of life? How many real chores do teens have these days?)

As more males became wage slaves, they had fewer vocational skills to pass on to their sons, skills that would be needed in order to support the family. The time fathers who worked outside the home were able to spend with their sons was also limited, because of their absence. Hence there was less time to model masculine activities and the exercise of duties and obligations to the household and the community. (Playing sports is the stereotypical fathers-and-sons activity that we think of, but aren't there more important bonding experiences, those concerened with the ultimate truths?) And yet, the need for a father (or father figure) becomes more pronounced as a boy approaches and undergoes puberty. (The channeling of sexual energy, and the subordination of this to the love of wife and the formation of family and all that is linked to it.) How many men reflect enough on their own lives and have something to pass on to their sons on how to live? How much of this is absorbed from other sources?

Luxury can kill thumos as well as work against temperance. Without honest work and direction to something more noble, males with means have become content satiating their appetites as consumers and adopting counterfeit forms of manliness. This is the male form of adultlescence, being mostly "useless" to themselves and to others. When do the young men of today acquire a stable identity with respect to community and a sense of vocation that will show them what they should be doing with their lives? Perhaps never. With Thomas Storck (CeT) we can accept that reaction of the hippies to their society was somewhat justified--the pursuit of material prosperity proved to be all too empty of meaning and the impact of this on communal bonds and culture was severe. And yet the hippies could not find something to replace it, and their children have suffered.

Industrialization in the 19th century and the weakening of the household and family did not create soft men, because there was no extraneous wealth or leisure for the working classes. The children had to be occupied doing something, and they entered the work force relatively early. And yet, the "problem" that persisted since the rise of the nation-state was this--men of the working classes continued to be citizens of a modern nation-state, and not a truly free citizenry.

The Lady Downstairs asks, "What is manliness?" Dr. Laura, in The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, covers sex differences to an extent and their impact on how spouses interract with one another. Sex differences are also discussed by other authors such as Steven Rhoads in Taking Sex Differences Seriously. Authentic manliness is the possession and exercise of the masculine virtues, the virtues which build upon the abilities specific to men. I will focus on what is salient about being manly and the features that are most relevant to Mr. Kirkwood's article:

(1) Use of his [physical] strength to work for his family and community and to defend them. Which would be true even of those we would not think of having physical strength, those who have rather small frames (the ectomorphs). I have seen many ectomorphs in Hong Kong and China who do manual labor.

In a community with a great division of labor, the need for all healthy males to use physical strength is lessened, but I wonder if this is ideal.

(2) With respect to the community: the use of reason with respect to leadership or authority (in the realm of action)--either in the exercise of leadership or in obedience to it. Hence, the importance of hierarchy for men in order to do what they need to do for the sake of the unit.

One competes for honor and glory not only to prove one's self but also to find one's place in the pecking order. (Competition can check pride as much as it can cause it in the winners. The selection of those who are qualified to lead must be balanced at the same time with a concern to develop the abilities of the rest and to promote civic friendship. Leadership is not enough--men must co-operate in a virtuous manner so that the common good may be attained.)

Even extreme American egalitarianism can only go so far--when there is a danger to the community, differences in authority and rank must be acknowledged.

(3) With regards to the family, the exercise of authority as husband and father. Also, particular to the father is his role in the religious and moral formation of his children.

Legitimate differences in parenting will have to be discussed elsewhere, and it needs to be emphasized that the function of mother and father are not the same.

See also:
The War Against Men by Richard T. Hise (review by Paul Craig Roberts)
The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers (Kelley Ross); bookpage interview
Spreading Misandry

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