The decline of manliness is not a new observation. We have discouraged men from acting like men for decades now.
From the popular Art of Manliness blog, “Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood in the Modern Age?”: [emphasis mine]
Here in the West we live in the most resource-rich period in all human history. Even the poverty of today is far less harsh than the poverty of a century ago. The strength of the government’s safety net is debated, but its very existence is a distinctly modern phenomena. Food is so plentiful we have an obesity problem. There hasn’t been a world war in three-quarters of a century. There is very little danger; a man can go his entire life without ever getting into a fistfight. The job of defending the perimeter has been outsourced to a tiny fraction of the population. Not only does most labor not require any physical strength, we have to remind ourselves to even stand up sometimes — to take a break from sitting in front a screen around the clock. Given this positively luxurious environment, it should come as no surprise that an emphasis on manhood is currently very weak. Society doesn’t need most men to perform dirty, strenuous, dangerous jobs for which their propensity for risk-taking and their physical strength make them uniquely suited.Men are so seemingly unnecessary that we even have the luxury of denigrating them – of speculating whether we might have reached “the end of men.”
Well, now that the little danger, and the three-quarters of a century without a world war is questionable, or should be, did we defame manliness when we did not think we needed it, only to find it rare, now that we obviously do?
Two links to consider in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the Democratic debate scheduled for tonight. First, Mona Charen writing at National Review after the French train terrorist attack attempt earlier this year.
When I was raising three boys, I received a few looks askance for permitting them to use play guns and to imagine themselves as soldiers. Some of the more sensitive parents in our area disapproved of the Power Rangers, a cartoonish show featuring teenaged superheroes battling goofy villains. These parents sincerely believed that we must suppress all violent tendencies in our children, especially our sons, to make a gentler world.
Our boys relished the Power Rangers, with our blessing. I believed then and still do that violent urges cannot be completely quashed, but they can be channeled into virtuous expression. There is all the difference in the world between using violence aggressively and using it defensively. As Bill Buckley used to say: One man pushes an old lady into the path of a truck. Another man pushes her out of the path of the truck. Are we to say there’s no difference between them because they both push old ladies around? There’s one more thing to be said of the heroes on the train. They were men…
In Aurora, Colorado in 2012, when a crazed gunman opened fire on a crowded movie theater, no fewer than three young men covered their girlfriends with their own bodies and lost their lives in the process. That, and not the loutish behavior of some frat boys, is true “traditional masculinity” — or better, manliness. Men have been defamed and devalued in our society for decades. Their high spirits are punished in schools. Their natural protectiveness has been scorned as sexism.
We have discouraged boys from becoming men. And now we will likely berate them for not defending us from terrorism today.
Second, Camille Paglia, who has played the role of Cassandra for 20 years on this issue, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal on this issue in 2013. This is also the article from which I pulled the title. The statement is Paglia’s.
But no subject gets her going more than when I ask if she really sees a connection between society’s attempts to paper over the biological distinction between men and women and the collapse of Western civilization.
She starts by pointing to the diminished status of military service. “The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster,” she says. “These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality.”
And quite the illusion it is, no?