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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.

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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   (43)
All Comments   (43)
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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 is not an easy road. The air starts acting up. The seas start acting up. Trees uprooted. Fire starts acting up. asteroids start acting funny. What can the strong willed man do ? "fall over us rocks and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb"
I think the cleansing of the priests as role models , the masses have hope to find a way out
Revelation 7
"After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God."
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
Instead of seeing the cup half full with man I prefer to see it as half empty as Saint Paul say in Romans
Then man can ask: "What must i do to be saved?

Romans 4
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”[b]
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”[c]
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
footnote
"According to Bavinck (Reformed Dogmatics: Abridged in One Volume, 442-3), vicarious satisfaction means that Christ gives to God all that He demands from us, which we are incapable of giving: “The demand posed by God to fallen humanity was twofold: one, that humans would keep the law perfectly, and two, that they would redress the violation of it by punishment. The benefits Christ obtained for us are twofold: to bear our punishment and to obtain for us the righteousness and life Adam had to secure by his obedience. . . . It was the single work that Christ accomplished, but one so rich, so valuable in the eyes of God, that the righteousness of God was completely satisfied by it, all the demands of the law were fully met by it, and the whole of (our) eternal salvation was secured by it.”
Peter J. Leithart
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
That old man was wrong. I lived then, too, and there were many such men, and they were honored and respected. There were rules in society, taboos. Certain things were done or not done. Reputation was very important.

That old man should reflect and consider the choice of friends he made. I think that is the problem. Those who say it wasn't better are making excuses for the poor company they kept.

Howsoever, you are right, Mr. Klavan. It's not that men always upheld the values. It's that there were values.
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
Men have slowly traded in their traditional 'manhood" since WWII with millions more going to college, womens lib movement entering millions more women into the competitive workplaces and the "easiest" routes of income and wealth.

When men began leaving the farms and other traditional forms of generational hard labor jobs for college, the big cities and 'brainpower' jobs offering an easier route to wealth, manhood changed and hasn't stopped since.

The womens lib movement also change the attitudes of women who began looking to the man and familyhood based upon the mans potential socio-economic status of title and wealth opportunities rather than the former hard labor qualities.

Everything has been downhill for a majority of men since! God bless those men who have maintained the 'traditional' manhood values!
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
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