Friday 10 April 2020

Men To Boys.

Being A Dick: Ignoring the restrictions of Level-4 is a way of signalling one's membership of the vast idiot fraternity of “You can’t tell me what to do!” More than that, however, it is a way of working out the fear of the Covid-19 virus that these men feel, but cannot acknowledge, except by getting right up in its face and daring it to do its worst – no matter what harm that might bring to other people.

WHY ARE THERE so many blokes out there behaving like idiots? (“Idiots” is the Prime Minister’s descriptor, most New Zealanders would, less charitably, call them “dicks”.) It’s not all blokes – not by any means – but such problems as the authorities have so far encountered during the Covid-19 Lockdown skew heavily towards the male of the species. If women can see the logic of collectivism and solidarity in combatting Covid-19, why can’t a truly irritating minority of dickish men?

Obviously, all this dickishness reflects something seriously amiss with New Zealand’s sons. At the very moment when New Zealand women are wowing the world with their smarts, their grit and their empathy (cheers Jacinda!) far too many New Zealand men have retreated into the stripped-down stronghold of sporting prowess and barred the gates behind them.

The television promotions for the various sporting codes – especially Rugby Union and Rugby League – feature a terrifying sequence of images glorifying brutal bodily contact, exaggerated aggressiveness, and exultation bordering on complete loss-of-control. What we see is what’s left of the human male when everything dignified, intelligent, creative and compassionate has been edited out of the masculine narrative.

These promos are made all the more frightful by the knowledge that they wouldn’t look that way if the punters wanted to see something else. Clearly, smearing the screen with testosterone is the best way of getting the boys to tune-in. It’s possible, of course, that the clips are assembled for the pleasure of the sporting codes’ female devotees. At least that would make a sort of – equally troubling! – sense. In the end, however, these gloriously kinetic visual packages are all about reaffirming and celebrating a particular kind of masculinity. They present the human male as a dangerous, uncompromising and predatory bundle of muscle.

The retrograde character of this brutish version of masculinity is disturbing. For centuries, English speakers have honoured males with the title “gentlemen”. Implicit in the term’s general use is an expectation that all males should at least aspire to the qualities of their social superiors. The goal was to cultivate the self-control, easy affability, intellectual discipline, moral courage, rhetorical skill and, most importantly, the ability to interact easily and pleasingly with women, that traditionally defined a “well-mannered” member of the ruling class. The ultimate social goal was to bring about a levelling upwards: something along the lines of “we are all aristocrats now”.

It is one of the many oddities of modern history that it was to these civilised and humane ideals that so many of the women who assailed the domains of male exclusivity aspired. Even odder, is the fact that in so many cases they succeeded: demonstrating throughout their careers the attributes and values that were hitherto regarded as the proof and preserve of a  “gentleman”. Tragically, as women rose up to claim so many of the things that were supposed to define a man, a worryingly large number of men began abandoning them as accomplishments no self-respecting male would boast of possessing.

Increasingly, a strong intellect, articulateness, creative ability, the willingness to listen attentively and to demonstrate empathy came to be regarded by these “anti-gentlemen” as not only evidence of effeminacy, but also of something much worse – homosexuality. The simple possession of any of these powers was proof positive of, to use the modern parlance, “gayness”. Bad enough to be called a “girl”, but to be branded “gay” meant instant excommunication from the world of “real men”.

But, what behavioural repertoire is left to such males if intelligence, expressiveness, creativity and empathy are ruled out of contention? The answer, sadly, is belligerence, taciturnity, pragmatism and toughness. Sentences are reduced to slogans; slogans to single words: Muppet, wanker, arsehole, cunt. Gentlemanly efforts to converse with these linguistically-challenged anti-gentlemen are all-too-often interpreted as condescension, or, even more dangerously, as attempts to make fun of and/or belittle them. Their responses can be savage. To be showered with one word insults (usually in Anglo-Saxon) is to get off lightly. Physical violence bubbles ominously just below the surface of these cross-purposeful encounters.

To elicit the most aggressive response, however, nothing more is required than to give the anti-gentleman a direct order. Nothing riles him more than being told what to do. And, if the person telling him what to do happens to be a woman? Oh-boy – watch out!

Paradoxically, the more reasonable the request, the more unreasonable the anti-gentleman’s response is likely to be. Reasonableness belongs to the world of education and erudition – the world they have rejected on account of it being populated by wankers, women and gays. Accordingly, defying reasonableness is more than a one-fingered salute to these wankers’ effete world: it is an act of veneration; an offering to their dickish masculine god.

Ignoring the restrictions of Level-4 is a way of signalling their membership of the vast idiot fraternity of “You can’t tell me what to do!” More than that, however, it is a way of working out the fear of the Covid-19 virus that they feel, but cannot acknowledge, except by getting right up in its face and daring it to do its worst – no matter what harm that might bring to other people.

Poor bastards. They have stripped themselves of the self-awareness that would allow them to see that puffing-up your chest and telling a micro-organism “You’re not the boss of me!” is the behaviour not of a man, but of a frightened and angry little boy.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 10 April 2020.


Tom Hunter said...

At the very moment when New Zealand women are wowing the world with their smarts, their grit and their empathy (cheers Jacinda!) far too many New Zealand men have retreated into the stripped-down stronghold of sporting prowess and barred the gates behind them.

Have you ever considered that this is also a response to a world that it filled to the brim with anti-male messages? Watched any TV sitcoms in the last twenty years? Without fail the man in the series, usually the husband, is portrayed as a complete idiot constantly pushed around by his smarter, more capable and more aware wife and children, especially the daughters. Simlarly with men in other such roles, and it often extends to drama too.

Admittedly this is not helped inside Labour by the rise of men such as the eternal fumblers Twyford and Parker.

But this narrative has now lasted longer than the belittling way woman were protrayed in comparable TV shows in the 50's and 60's, which has been the subject of countless articles and thought pieces from within and without feminist circles.

And then there's this, from your piece last year on the West Coast protests, The Message From Messenger Park.:

It’s precisely this widening gulf between those with actual experience of things like guns, chainsaws and drilling machines, and those who regulate their use, that accounts for the angry crowd at Greymouth’s Messenger Park. In the rarefied atmosphere where decisions to shut down whole industries are made, hands-on experience is not only rare – it’s despised. What do workers know about anything?

It's all connected. Perhaps what we're seeing with "dickish" men is simply the same old wild nature of young men that all tribes and societies dealt with, usually be getting rid of the excess male population through war. Nowadays the answer seems to be to try and turn them into woman, with all those classic female traits extolled here. Anything else is dangerous, no?

I'll leave you with this piece of poetry (yes, amazingly men once did poetry):

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The situation here is not nearly as bad as it is in the US where many church leaders are demanding the right to congregate and ignore social distancing in the guise of religious freedom, and claiming persecution when they are forced to close. Somehow the state of their spiritual welfare is more important than the physical health of them and their neighbours.
Or for that matter encouraging their congregations to ignore the coronavirus as it doesn't affect "true Christians". I think in one state – possibly Pennsylvania – 25% of the coronavirus infections have been traced back to churches. An even bigger proportion in Korea apparently. The level of ignorance is astounding. And if you go onto the blogs and listen to them, the specious excuses are beyond belief.
At least with the small proportion of eejits we have it is essentially manageable. But those Bible Belt states are going to be hit really hard, but I doubt somehow if it will shake their faith in the fundagelical nut jobs or the Republican Party.

"We don’t wish to learn
But we hate what we don’t understand"
-The Nightmare by The Riverbottom Nightmare Band

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Did I say state? Without an editing function of course it's impossible to tell but obviously if I said Philadelphia – which I remember doing vaguely, I meant city. God help us all, been inside too long. I feel like one of those foreign legionnaires going round propping up dead bodies on the battlements to keep the Tuaregs at bay. Le Cafard! Le Cafard!

Sam said...

Tom Hunter. From the age of 8 yrs old to 10 yrs old my thing used to be throwing stones at things. Anything, that's what I did, loved it. My Great Grandfather had the quarter acre dream, great place, small 3 bedroom house with a big back yard on the outskirts of Hamilton. Grew his own food and kept chickens. He wasn't rich, lived of his war pension from WW2. He had this old 200 liter surplus army diesel tank that I used to chuck rocks at, made a load noise, only saw it filled with diesel once. In the early 2000 when my Great Grandmother died my Great Grandad kind of went a little crazy. After the funeral I noticed the old diesel tank had mesh on one side so I looked inside and found all the chickens in a very skinny state with no sole in them which mad me feel bad. So I asked him why he had moved the chickens and he said because it's bad out here the foxes might get them. Any way stay safe and keep reading them poetry.

greywarbler said...

This is what we have to put up with from anomic males.

Tom Hunter you insult all the young men who are strong and gutsy and can
keep their heads together when you say this: Nowadays the answer seems to be to try and turn them into woman, with all those classic female traits extolled here. Anything else is dangerous, no?

And actually you insult women by suggesting that the nitwit, deadhead Dad types would blend in nicely with females. Muldoon thought that people going to Oz would raise the IQ average on both sides of the Tasman. Men choosing to become 'woman', are actually dropping the average I would think. Woke women are awkwardly teetering when it comes to IQ raising; their support of bewildered men seems odd.

Nick J said...

This week I read articles by Mark Reason and Peter Fitzsimmons on the malaise of modern rugby. Chris comment on the over brutality and glorification of the strongest parallel these gents criticism of professionalism. At amateur level the game was about clubs, community, participation, teamwork and mateship. Sure it had rough edges as McGees Foreskins Lament demonstrated. Look at young men today and ask whether they need this? If so where is it available? I'd suggest it may not need to be rugby, but participation and belonging are still needed and less available.

Tom makes the valuable point that young men have lots of testosterone and enthusiasm. They are not females. Masculinity needs to be celebrated as does femininity, which is where I have difficulty with the woke culture. I'd celebrate gay, trans, whatever too, anything that promotes positive individual and collective behaviour without denigrating another, without playing the victim.

David George said...

I think it would be a mistake to see the spitter as anything other than an outright psychopath, it's not unique to men although it's manifestations are often wrongly described as "toxic masculinity". It's not a common condition except, perhaps, on Twitter where it seems to be the default behaviour.

agreed, the focusing on the brutality is pretty offensive and unnecessary but the need for young men to indulge in controlled aggression through sports is common cross culturally. To understand it better we need to turn to the evolutionary psychologists and biologists. It seems are selected by nature and by women for courage, strength and competence so it is, in large part, a mating ritual. You only have to look at the gorgeous young ladies hanging off the arms of successful sportsmen. They in turn will compete strongly to get him.

There was a Guardian column a few months back, the young wokelet author was admonishing women for continuing to favour tall, strong, successful men. As if millions of years of evolution, of women's sexual selection, could be overturned at the whim of the social constructionists. Sorry but, to put it crudely, little Soyboy McSnowflake is just not going to get the juices flowing.

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora Chris
The state which you support has chosen to use extraordinary powers in ways which may seem proper to itself but the logic of which escapes many ordinary people.
The bans on hunting, tramping, trapping, fishing, swimming and surfing affect people who are not idiots and not necessarily male.
Because the rationale for these prohibitions is weak, people tend to look for an ulterior motive which they often find in the belief that the government holds them in contempt and regards their way of life with disdain.
Your post does nothing to dispel this notion.
I see people fishing for kai moana. I know that those whanau who have no shower or bath at this time of drought will be bathing in the river or the sea, as they normally do. I check my trapline every morning as normal and bring home our own kai whenua.
We all do this with a sense of responsibility and, I suggest, a greater awareness than the colonial state which responded too late and with inadequate measures to the threat of epidemic.
But we do not gratuitously insult the colonial state and we have a respectful relationship with its local representatives.
The state does not have all the answers, and the answers that it does have are not always the right answers.
There are two responses to this crisis running in parallel with each other and to a large degree complementary.
The first is that of the people which is based on reason, candour, common sense, mutual obligation, mutual oversight and manaakitanga.
The second is that of the state which is authoritarian and institutional and relies heavily upon medical and other technologies.
Both models have a role to play, and the sooner that those in Wellington come to understand the limits and weaknesses of their own approach the better we will be able to confront the difficulties before us.

manfred said...

People like this need to taste the violence of the state. It is important to make anti-social elements have fear of the government.

John Hurley said...

Just after seeing that I was listening to The Righteous Mind by Jonathon Haidt. He was saying that psychopaths have no "sociometer" so they don't embarrass and can lie at the drop of a hat. He had no trouble apologising profusely as he feels no shame but will say whatever it takes (he can't deny it) to get the heat off himself?
He has also been in the can for laying compressed air[?] bombs around Christchurch.

David George said...

Part of the traditional (dare I say conservative) solution to/mitigation of the natural aggression in young men is socially enforced (and reinforced) monogamy - marriage. Aggression and antisocial behaviour decline naturally with age so it took some unpicking but recent research bears out what has long been accepted but is currently ignored.

As Tom say's, there is a belief that the problem with boys is that they aren't girls. There is a strong push (from the social constructionist types) to socialise and educate boys in the same way as girls. This foolish (and totally debunked) insistence in the blank state human, the tabula rosa, is a huge mistake socially; it's extension to gender itself a disaster for young men specifically.

The positive masculine; the courageous, competent, strong, honest, forthright and loving protector and provider is fostered through the adoption and acceptance of responsibility and of sacrifice.

My old high school (Northland College, Kaikohe) had the motto "Fortis et Fidelis" - strength/courage and honesty. The contemporary insistence on "cooperation, kindness and compassion" says nothing about any of that.
Where to for a society that doesn't see the value in competition, in competence or in the courage to stand apart from the crowd, one that can see no value in, or even purpose for, manhood itself?