Friday, January 8, 2010

Fixing the US: Part II, Male Identity

Note: This is Part II in an endless series!

There’s a problem with the link between masculinity and violence, right? I’m not alone in seeing this? “In the Nuclear Age, the real enemy is war itself,” says Denzel Washington playing a submarine commander (the movie is Crimson Tide). If we don’t want to fry ourselves to smithereens and give Gaea third degree burns over 25% of her body, maybe it’s time to dismantle the phallic missiles, lose the priapic combat jargon and stop telling men they aren’t worthy of their weaponly shlongs unless they can defeat--aka kill, castrate, demean, bully, or punch out--other men in mortal combat, or maybe just after a few too many Coors at Lucky’s Bar on Friday night.

Heck, maybe we should change the standard of male identity simply because it is the psychological equivalent of a cripple. How many men can carry on a deep empathic conversation? With anyone? Did I read somewhere that six million males suffer from depression, but most of the sufferers don’t even know they’re depressed? Talk about clueless.

The write-up on male depression speaks softly but carries a big stick (Oops, sorry about that hidden reference to penis size, it's so embedded in our culture). It states casually that “Male Depression May Go Undiagnosed.” Four reasons are given, very gently, as if walking on ego-shells.

I’ll state the findings bluntly: (1) Men don’t have the skills to talk about feelings, (2) Men are emotionally straitjacketed by cultural norms of masculinity, (3) Men use drugs, alcohol or other immature means to hide from their deep feelings, (4) When diagnosed or confronted with depression men retreat into total denial.


In other words, men are cowards when it comes to looking inside. What’s so cool about being able to bench-press 200lbs if your EQ (emotional quotient) can’t manage a single tear?

Oh sorry, I forgot. Conans and Rambos aren’t supposed to feel. Aren’t feelings just so annoying? When you’re spraying bullets into a group of Arabs, or breaking the nose of some guy at Lucky’s bar, or just putting your know-it-all wife in her place, the last thing you need is some meddlesome intuition telling you that you’re acting like a rabid ape.

But hey, might makes right, doesn’t it? If you wife out-argues you, again; or if the guy you’re pummeling in Lucky’s didn’t say what you thought he said; or if those Arabs you’re shooting turn out to be unarmed, it really doesn’t matter, because you’re the one with the intimidating biceps and so you set the rules.

Isn’t patriarchy grand?

Might makes right. Let that phrase sink in. It’s the bedrock sacrosanct subconscious Code of the Cock. Political leaders hide it under feverish speeches that praise high ideals, but the bottom-line is that power determines who is a hero and who gets the unenviable slot of “evil enemy of the State.”

This kind of poor excuse for justification needs to change or we’re all doomed. Remember how WWI started with a single shooting in a minor country? How did one shooting become a bloody assembly line of trenches that turned millions of young men into canon fodder? Answer: males rule the world, and males practically worship violence (do I really have to argue for this? Look at all the Van Diesel movies, the hordes of combat video games, the endless gun sales), and males tend to engage in a dangerous little trap for insecure egos called brinksmanship.

Brinksmanship. Look that one up. It is the one-word in-a-nutshell reason why there is going to have a Nuclear War someday soon ...

Unless the norm of male identity changes.

How does this relate to "might makes right" in the male worldview? Competition is the essence of things, and the winner, who is the mightiest, is infinitely better than any loser, especially when it comes to that most important game of all: War.

During war, or in the bar, or at the office, or while playing couch potato, it’s all about hierarchy, competition, stiffening your jaw and the whoop of victory or the beer-drown of defeat. And most important of all: no crying. That’s for girls and when you’re called a girl, it’s an insult.

I think women should start calling each other a “man” as a form of condemnation.

“What are you, a man or something? Validate your feelings!”

We live in a time when low EQ leadership is not a luxury society can afford. If men don’t deal with their emotions, the result is boiling anger, which in turn leads to fights, which explode into war. Then there’s escalation and finally the big BOOM.

Can men change?

My stock line is this: If men can be made to accept women as equals, anything is possible.

And guess what? All of a historical sudden, in the last hundred years or so, women vote, go to college and get jobs that pay okay. They don’t even have to wear corsets!

Well, SOME women. So there’s a wee bit of hope.


Post Script: A good book on male identity is Blood Rites, by Barbara Ehrenreich. From the official synopsis:

In Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich confronts the mystery of the human attraction to violence: What draws our species to war and even makes us see it as a kind of sacred undertaking? Blood Rites takes us on an original journey from the elaborate human sacrifices of the ancient world to the carnage and holocaust of twentieth-century "total war." ... Blood Rites is a monumental work that will transform our understanding of the greatest single threat to human life.


The happiest people in the world live in Costa Rica, a country that has abolished its military.

"I’m not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery," says Nicolas D. Kristof, author of the article, "The Happiest People."

(New York Times, 1/6/10)


  1. ""I’m not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery," says Nicolas D. Kristof, author of the article, "The Happiest People."

    three cheers to that!

  2. Sad how we prioritize killing machines and killing mentality in the United States... How can you be truly happy with that over your head, or right outside your door, or at your local school...