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Klavan On The Culture

Are We Not Men?

February 24th, 2013 - 10:12 am

The other day I had the interesting experience of finding myself in an exchange with friends that virtually reiterated an exchange from one of my novels — but in a sort of mirror image way. In my book The Identity Manan old fellow says to the young hero, “So help me, all it takes for the world to crumble to nothing is for women to lose their virtue and men their honor.” The young man smiles to himself and thinks, “It was the usual old man complaint: the world’s not what it used to be. It’s all going to hell. Back in the day, everything was better. Blah, blah, blah. As if there was ever much honor or virtue in the world.”

Fast forward to about a week ago when my young pal R.J. Moeller wrote an essay for the excellent pop culture site Acculturated. The essay was called “Modern Manliness and the Perpetual State of Low Expectations,” and it lamented the lack of manly virtues in today’s young men. An honest soul-searcher, R.J. even raked himself over the coals for being part of it:

We’ve been lowering expectations on young men for decades. The only reason we’re still calling it progress is because we lost the direction–the vision–of what manhood (and life itself) is really all about. Even the adjectives that the men in their twenties living half a century ago wanted associated with their name and character — sacrificial, honorable, resourceful, diligent — have been replaced with such lackluster descriptors as “progressive,” “open-minded,” or “stylish.”

The problem here is that these are not, broadly speaking, manly things. By this I mean that there are manly things. We just don’t seem to prize them anymore, and this is, in part, because they are not easy to obtain and require hard work to maintain.

I tweeted a link to the article — whereupon I received an email from an older friend. I don’t have permission to name him so I won’t but he’s a very smart writer for an intellectual journal and in his sixties. He said, basically: Hey, you know what? I knew those men in the old days and they weren’t so hot either!

In my novel, it’s the old guy who complains about the falling off of virtue and the young guy rolls his eyes. Here it was the young guy doing the complaining and the old guy rolling his eyes.

I sympathize with both. My older friend (and younger character) are surely right that people have never been paragons in any age. But I think the problem R.J.’s experiencing is that, whereas once men may have failed to live up to their values, today’s society no longer values what is actually valuable in them.

In any case, I think we should all go re-watch High Noon and remind ourselves that if you want to walk like a man, you have to learn to walk alone.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Dear Men,
I have no wish to crash your discussion but wanted to get my two cents in ( that's what women do after all, right? :) ) This seems to be the best forum for this. I just want to say how much I love and appreciate you! Let me count the ways....
1) You build EVERYTHING!
You name it--Men get the credit. Every building, every ship, every airplane, every bridge, every road, every factory, every farm, every school and university --- you invent it, you build it, you move it, you repair it, and then you redesign it and make it better. Wow! Civilization rests on your shoulders. All of you together make up Atlas himself. And you look good doing it too!
2) You men are blessed with sober, good sense. You think more rationally than the other half. Really. Most of the time.
3) You right the wrongs, you protect the weak, you sacrifice your lives for your families and your friends on the battlefield. You throw yourselves on live grenades. There are no words for that kind of sacrifice. And no gift that is worthy enough in payment.
4) You provide for the rest of us. Could we even feed ourselves without you?
5) You think big thoughts. From among you come Plato, Augustine, Luther, Einstein, and all the rest.
6) You can be so tender and kind. Strength with compassion. Power with mercy.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! --From Hamlet
OK, Ok, now everyone is going to dump on me how women can do all of these things too. Yeah, maybe. But this time I'm just praising the men. The real ones. You know who you are. Your leadership is the hope of tomorrow. Please don't give up.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Where would the past four generations learn trifling things like honor, loyalty, patriotism?

in their schooling while listening to Ward Churchill discuss Howard Zinn? In Hollywood, where America is always the villain and leftist traitorism always the protagonist? In the "news", which is pure propaganda and openly loathes the majority of this country?

Role models are hard to come by not made of cheap pleather, plastic and glass. But, when the opposite of honor is glorified, when disloyalty is enthusiastically applauded, when treason is deified...you get what you model. The mistake your 60 year old friend makes is thinking that STRIVING for honor, means achieving perfection. We quit trying forty years ago.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (37)
All Comments   (37)
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We - both men and women - have gone from having character to becoming characters...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
this talk of obsolete males is funny, in a strange way. i'll explain:

everybody compares our civilization to past ones, like ancient rome. look what happened there. they got soft. men became something less. the military machine didn't have the young men to stand up in numbers needed, so they started hiring merc's, and paying off potential invaders. eventually, they crashed and burned. what followed? alpha males seizing power by force of arms, and soon thereafter the word chivalry was born. civilization slowly started back up the sine wave curve, peaked, and then headed back down again. it appears that the downward arc is much shorter than the climb.

what do you think will happen when we crash and burn? you really think being a self-sufficient well rounded male won't come in handy? you really think he won't be there to start over, again? and just who do you think will be in the lead next time?

lesson learned: humanity follows men to the top, then changes/leads them all the way to the bottom, where the whole thing violently crashes and starts over again. if i am right about this, then wouldn't our position on this roller coaster be reflective of how badly we excoriate men today? some say our time here on earth is just one cycle after the next, like the mayans.

btw, rome eventually broke into two different romes at the end, which probably extended the life of some parts of the empire. hmmm. wonder what their colors were, maybe red and blue? ha! i said it was funny, in a strange way.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually what happened was the Dark Ages. You really want to go through 300 years of suck?

BTW, a good deal of the suck was caused by the Eastern Roman Empire trying to take back Italy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>> But I think the problem R.J.’s experiencing is that, whereas once men may have failed to live up to their values, today’s society no longer values what is actually valuable in them.

Yes! Exactly. So while I'm a history buff usually in the "debunk the romantic nostalgia of the glory days" mode, on this one I say "Amen to that!"

And for Christians, they could do with an understanding of how C. S. Lewis grounded the headship of the family by men in the principle of love of neighbor. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/003-marriage-in-counterpoint-and-harmony-11 I was mugged by this reality at one point in my marriage with just this question and had to dig back into memory and recall my own father and how he had such a different perspective and simply had to resolve some disputes about how to raise their son over my mothers objections. Sometimes mom doesn't know best.

Even though we have wonderful examples of manly virtues in many of our soldiers, and others, at the end of the day the whole culture has been feminized. See "The Feminization of American Culture" by Ann Douglass. It's excellent. Typically feminine virtues are exalted, and typically manly ones are frowned upon.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Shane, come back Shane...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Men,
I have no wish to crash your discussion but wanted to get my two cents in ( that's what women do after all, right? :) ) This seems to be the best forum for this. I just want to say how much I love and appreciate you! Let me count the ways....
1) You build EVERYTHING!
You name it--Men get the credit. Every building, every ship, every airplane, every bridge, every road, every factory, every farm, every school and university --- you invent it, you build it, you move it, you repair it, and then you redesign it and make it better. Wow! Civilization rests on your shoulders. All of you together make up Atlas himself. And you look good doing it too!
2) You men are blessed with sober, good sense. You think more rationally than the other half. Really. Most of the time.
3) You right the wrongs, you protect the weak, you sacrifice your lives for your families and your friends on the battlefield. You throw yourselves on live grenades. There are no words for that kind of sacrifice. And no gift that is worthy enough in payment.
4) You provide for the rest of us. Could we even feed ourselves without you?
5) You think big thoughts. From among you come Plato, Augustine, Luther, Einstein, and all the rest.
6) You can be so tender and kind. Strength with compassion. Power with mercy.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! --From Hamlet
OK, Ok, now everyone is going to dump on me how women can do all of these things too. Yeah, maybe. But this time I'm just praising the men. The real ones. You know who you are. Your leadership is the hope of tomorrow. Please don't give up.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The hand that rocks the cradle...
A good man will do all those things, but without the guiding hand of virtuous, kind, chaste mothers who have high expectations and the love, honor and respect of wives of good character, there ARE no men. Women of good character make all those things worth doing.

Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Agreed. ;)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't know. Just watched a video made by soldiers in Afghanistan copying a video made by the Dolphine Cheerleaders. I'm thinking Metro-Sexual on Steroids. Guess my sense of humor has gone south or something because I found nothing about the video funny.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The character of mankind, and of womankind, has not changed since Creation. There have always been the stalwart; there have always been the wastrels, and there have always been every gradation between those bookends. A contemporary emphasis on one or the other does not change the existence of the one or the other, nor of the gradation.

A man does not seek his value in societal approval. He knows such approval or disapproval to be ephemeral. Nothing can be imparted to or detracted from the man by society. A man finds his character only in the cold sober appraisal of himself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rather, watch AFTER MIDNIGHT! I say that because this has become a Democracy, rather than a Republic & GATHERER'S(WOMEN & BLACKS) MAKE-UP OVER 70% OF OUR POPULATION! Just saying....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The sound basis of manhood has always been and will always be human virtues, beginning with the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

Virtues are the only certain basis of happiness in this life and of rebuilding our culture.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You would have made an excellent Greek 2500 years ago, Coast Ranger - the world needs more like them... and you!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I know of nobody who, if asked what adjectives he would wish others to associate with his name, would choose to respond with things like progressive, open-minded, or stylish. Are you joking? And I doubt any young man 50 years ago would say something like sacrificial.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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