The Crisis of Being a Man: Is It Really That Bad?

Lewis Hine’s photo of a power house mechanic working on a steam pump – Public Domain

The recent speech by Senator Josh Hawley on the topic of the deconstruction of men was a clarion call for a return to a golden age of masculinity that found its strength in its dominance of others, even other men. As a man approaching 50 years of personal evolution kicked off by the cultural revolutions of the ’60s, following a childhood growing up in the white-flight suburbs, experiencing up close and participating in the anti-war, civil rights, women’s liberation, environmental, and gay rights movements, I need to point out the many intentional flaws in his statements and offer a completely different understanding of men’s role in pulling our society out of the species destructive inferno we are intentionally creating.

The Senator speaks about the left, first as though it is a monolithic, well-organized entity, which is absurd not only on its face, but also in the details. Much like the 26 Christian churches in my small town of 5,000 people who each alone have the right answer to the God question, the left of America is tiny, splintered, and distracted by doctrinal battles. Foremost among those disagreements is how much of the center/right can be supported when election time comes along in the famous “better of two evils” conundrum. Hawley states:

“the Left’s ambition to create a world beyond belonging—a world where community and shared culture—our culture—count for little.”

Hawley clearly understands nothing of progressive/liberal impulses. The progressive movement is actually about inclusion, of weaving a vibrant web of culture, of experiencing different food, clothing, music and literature; each experience a different chapter in an evolving diary of a person’s life story; of opening to the world outside one’s own orbit. The ultimate community is multi-faceted. Shared culture, like all sharing is at least a two-way street. Could he be talking about “others” not adopting his culture as the only valid one, requiring them to drop their traditions in favor of his uniquely correct ones?

Then the Senator exposes his real fear:

“I want to talk with you about the Left’s attempt to give us a world beyond men.”

His entire following argument is based on this premise, false for three reasons in this one statement alone.

First, there is no Left giving us anything. There are many individuals looking at their place in a decaying world who want to change the trajectory towards something else more sustainable, but there are millions of different visions of what that means, most of which do not rise above their personal biases to even go far enough to save our Eco-system from our collective self-destructive behavior. The left in America has been coopted to be a marginalized shadow of itself. Momentary movements arise around issues but wane without developing critical mass. The mythos of the individual has been so inculcated in the American psyche as to prevent collective action that can sustain and grow into more than temporary actions.

Second, the world he speaks about is composed of several million species, most of which have been so steamrolled over by his idea of what being a man is, it may not be able to support anyone’s idea of masculinity in the future he is trying so hard to protect. His assumption that the world will continue as it has if he is successful, is at the root of the problem. His world view is greatly responsible for the destruction of traditional sustainable societies as his manly men took power.

Thirdly, the Men he is worried about use a very small percentage of their potential to perceive their place in the universe and he limits them to a historical fiction of what man’s role is, based in part on lousy translations of ancient writings. The manly man that has supposedly been given Dominion over the other genders and species was actually told to shepherd, husband, and sustain those who had less ability to make it on their own. The dominance part was thrown in there by some manly men who had no interest in the hard work of managing, nurturing, and understanding the interdependence of the web of life on this planet. The hope to transform runaway ecological destruction is based on a renewed understanding of the interdependence of all forms of life, and the intentional acts required to limit one’s impact on others, not to dominate them.

He then adds some misdirection:

“As we speak, the Left controls the commanding heights of American society. They have the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate. Their voices predominate in the news media, in Hollywood, arguably sports, and of course, at our universities.”

The US government is actually bought and paid for by corporate America, there are no leftists in government, the policies of the White House have changed very little in substance over the last 50 years and the major news media is center right to far right. A few sports superstars remember their roots but most live in a world their fans can hardly dream of. Universities are a mixed bag with empire supporting aspects to all of them. The War Machine is intentionally spread out in every district and the most liberal of all politicians and institutions bow to it daily. What Left are you talking about Senator? And what do you mean by commanding heights? Does the propaganda machine run by the Military industrial Complex bow to Communists?

Senator Hawley then quotes AOC and uses the art of projection to argue that the truth can’t be correct because she said it:

“.. America is a systemically racist, structurally oppressive, hopelessly patriarchal kind of place. It’s a dystopia, if only Americans would get woke enough to see it. It’s a nation that needs to be taught how unjust it truly is and after that, rebuilt from top to bottom.”

The original sin of our country was pretending we were a democracy, while building a system that gave manly-white-men-with-property the power to disenfranchise the majority of the residents, after pushing out the original inhabitants of the continent. We doubled down by letting corporations be people without responsibility to real people, and control the government for their greed and power, We The People be dammed.

If we had a few more centuries to get it right we could say oops, we’ll work on this, but we don’t, and it all definitely needs to be fixed now. The cool part is we have the words written in our holy religious and secular books to deal with our failings, but if you pretend we just need to go back to something that didn’t work well before, then you are the problem. We need those holy words and ideas to manifest fully, in a rebirth of everything we think we are.

To say we are exceptional, a shining city on a hill, a beacon to everyone else, is to live in a cartoon of propaganda that is embarrassing for its naivete. The Senator is trying to riff of Ronald Reagan, and one only needs to look at his track record to see how his economic, social, and foreign policy plans worked out. Let’s not forget, among a long list of undemocratic and illegal actions, the sideshow of Crack Cocaine being brought into the country to pay for killing Central Americans after Congress used its co-equal powers to say no.

The Senator uses a bunch of his speech supporting a return to American production in support of our working class so hurt by globalization. This is an issue that we can all agree on but just as the previous president campaigned on populist ideas, can we expect the Senator to actually reverse the actions of his corporate friends?

The damage to the working class in the last few decades was in fact accelerated by the center/right Democrats led by Clinton with his triangulation, repeal of Glass-Steagall, and international trade agreements. No leftists were involved. It has been furthered by corporate tax “reform” initiated by the right wing. Are you going to reverse any of that?

The parts of the speech that complain about men’s inability to dominate women anymore are pathetic at best. An entire incel movement has developed on these lines and needs more attention than can be given here. For those of us growing up during the sexual revolution as it rode parallel to other great social change movements, we can all agree that dislocation and confusion were part of our social and professional relationships. Many of us threw away traditional family based paradigms that we learned as kids, only to return to them in later life as biological clocks were ticking. Many women started their own professional firms when they could not break through glass ceilings in traditional companies. The pendulum swings both ways and has yet to settle down. After millennia of behavior and slow evolution, we attempted a quick, big jump in conscious behavior. It had mixed success, but that is not a reason to abandon further attempts at intentional change for a more equitable society.

The fundamental fact is that all relationships are political, that dominance and passivity are scales that we all place ourselves on in any given situation. A liberal/progressive goal is to find balance through agreement, where we reduce the need to be aggressive to achieve our ends, where we negotiate differences in good faith.

The Senator is scratching an itch that needs to be understood. At the root of that itch is a wish to be top dog, to have someone beneath you so you can feel better. The Civil War was a national saga of that behavior. Poor whites, with no economic skin in the game, were the shock troops for the aristocracy, walking barefoot to battle and eating green field corn when supplies were thin, because it made them better in the social pecking order than Nigras, and Lord knows you don’t want to be one of Them.

Let’s not create a sequel.

Instead of you telling us what we think, how about an honest dialogue where we try to understand each other? We may have more interests in common than you know.