Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Modern Civilization Suffocates Masculinity

While watching Defiance a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the manliness of the two main characters. The Bielski brothers were both amazing men who exuded courage, confidence, resolve, assertiveness and unequivocal psychosocial dominance. They were both alpha males in every sense of the word. Both were leaders of men, resourceful, appropriately violent, and skilled with women. As I was contemplating the many things I admired about them, one aspect of the whole thing really struck me. Adversity. These were both men whose masculinity was best developed in adversity and best revealed by adversity. While facing constant danger of death from the German soldiers, the natural elements of the wilderness and even from dissent within their group of Jewish refugees, they were strengthened, and their strength was clearly manifested for all to see.

As a man who strives to further develop my own masculinity, and embrace everything it means to be a man, my thoughts turned to the sorts of adversity that we face, living in modern civilization. While considering this, I realized that ironically, modern civilization stands opposed to nearly everything masculine. While masculinity thrives in situations of danger, is stengthened by using one's strength, and needs a healthy amount of true challenge, modern civilization seeks to minimize all three of those. While basic civilzation increases people's survival, tames the land, provides sufficient food and makes life managable, modern civilization has gone far beyond the basic requirements, such that we have gone far beyond the point of diminishing returns. Modern civilization seeks to provide perfect protection from the elements, reduce the amount of manual labor needed to almost none, decrease physical danger of all sorts, and provide maximum comfort.

Think for example, about all the changes our world has undergone in the past few centuries. Just a hundred years ago, horses and carriages were still widely used. The automobile had only just started to become a popular consumer item. Owning a car lessens the need for walking, biking, horse riding or even keeping animals. Less physical effort is required to go anywhere. Similarly, while hunting was a staple of American living for years, now modern grocery stores provide us with foods from all over the world, and requires minimal effort--you simply have to put your items in a basket and carry them to the checkout counter. Not only is hunting no longer necessary for food, but there are presently numerous restrictions and laws governing when, where, and what you can hunt--and that's not even considering the weapon licensure laws! Even cooking is no longer a necessity, since we have microwaves and fast food restaurants. While having a yard requires a certain amount of labor just to maintain one's property, urban living almost completely dispense with yards, trees, gardens and lawns. Living in apartment means that you only have to vacuum occasionally, and perhaps clean your bathtub every so often. No serious yardwork is needed. With mass-produced, lightweight furniture, even the heavy lifting that we do requires less effort than a short workout at the gym. Our air-tight windows and doors, along with air conditioners and heaters allow us to nearly completely avoid the elements both when we travel and in our homes. Not only is our life devoid of natural danger and the need for strength in ordinary everyday life, but there is very little of the synthetic sort of danger.

While in times past, a man needed to be ready and able to fight for his country, or protect his home from bestial or human violence, in modern civilization the place for violence is highly segregated and optional. Unless you go and join the armed forces or become a police officer, nearly all violence is either unnecessary or positively forbidden. Just about the most violent things a man can legally do are play tackle football, take a martial arts class, or take up boxing, wrestling or MMA fighting. Though those are all forms of struggle, none of them offer any serious danger. While you might get injured, the odds of losing life or limb are quite remote. It's safe danger. Living in one of the most powerful countries in the world (though that is quickly changing exactly because America is increasingly filled with feminized weaklings) means that there is very little real threat of war breaking out in the continental US. In the ordinary course of events in modern civilization, we really couldn't be much safer. Any real danger that city dwellers face is incidental and exceptional.

Because of this, there is very little room for the masculine soul to grow and find satisfaction. Life for a man is much more enjoyable and challenging when his strength is needed, when life itself requires a certain amount of struggle, and where there is true danger. Since modern civilization seeks to decreases all of these things, as much as possible, by ensuring safety, making tasks easier and more effortless, and freeing us up to sit on plush couches watching our big-screen TVs while sipping beer, it deprives a man of what he really wants and needs. Modern civilization effectively suffocates masculinity. In Defiance, the two lead characters became the strong men that they did because they lived in the midst of adversity and allowed the adversity to strengthen them. Masculinity needs a healthy amount of adversity to develop and thrive. Modern civilization offers no true adversity of any sort. Only where there is dysfunction does any true adversity rise to the surface. I think that such a lack of adversity is actively harmful to men all over our country. These are the times that try men's souls, precisely because these are times that do not try men's souls.


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