Let me warn you, dear reader, at the outset. The language contained this article is terse, profane, and displays my own conflict at the state of being a man. My heart knows that truth is often hard, harsh, negative, and even corrosive to sensitivity of any sort. If such boldness offends you, then read no further! My genuine intent is not to shock but to openly share and explore a growing realization of my inner Warrior’s assessment/rant about the sorry state of Young Soul version of masculinity.
A man from my men’s group discussing the harder sides of modern masculinity stirred some interesting thoughts and feelings in me. The question which arose was an extension of his assertion that mixed martial arts (MMA) or going to so-called titty bar may activate the “macho” in any man? But for me the underneath question that arose was this: “what kind of test or conflict could I actually survive?” I was always one of those “soft” guys. I didn’t do well at football and I cried when a guy caught me under the jaw (no helmet) and knocked me silly. I hated that part of me for a long time. There have been some moments of bravery and aggression I remember, but they are vague.
MMA to me is something I can watch as are other violent movies but another part in me thinks “this is exactly the kind of shit that has to stop in the human race!” We have no predators save each other. Look at how well that is worked for us so far. What we call progress continues to rape the Earth as we shit in our nest. Nonetheless, as I see the world becoming more militant, and the elements of society with power doing (and getting away with) ever increasing methods of enforcing the status quo, whether that be hiring of guard dogs like police, lawyers, or worse mercenaries (private security), I realize that coming to terms with the potential for violence might be eminent.
My inner warrior knows I can kill. That’s right, I know that about me. But doing so would be in such extreme circumstances of fear of losing someone I love (like me, for instance) and hatred stirred by those who’d want to deprive me; I suspect, that whatever else that I consider my soul would be lost. A shadow warrior? A shadow lover?
Toughening myself as to stand before another man and intimidate him out of the need or stomach to fight seems like one way to force a stand-off. Yet, I defeat myself much of the time in advance of that. I avoid exercise, genuine anger, or getting in shape or generally disciplining myself. I hate my inner coward. But he has won the day all too often. And no, I’m not going to be so foolish or full of brashness to say “fuck him, this is never going to happen again.” But I do want to put him in his place and let whatever pain and fear he holds be acknowledged and dissolved so it does not possess me. I most of all, don’t want my mind coming up with new and more inventive rationalizations to justify my denial, either.
When I see hero movies, I can feel my muscles tighten for the punch at the bad guy or find myself vigilant like a predator waiting to pounce on the enemy contender. As bullets fly cutting the villains to pieces, my inner Rambo comes storming to the surface. My heart pounds as I see injustice but then I remember I am sitting in a theatre and what I am viewing is a story, not reality. But in my reality, it does not happen that way enough for me. Turning the “other check” can morph into “turn tail and run” or walk away stifling the urges with the thoughts “this is none of my concern.” God I loath that part in me and everyone else I see it in. Desiring the courage to “do” what needs to be done, I suspect might come from the modeling seen in movies but moreso, the impulse and the method, when I have the balls, arises from what I know I must do. The greatest scar that I have within me is that of not trusting myself, belittling myself as my father did, and having little confidence that I will survive, let alone be victorious. Loser, seems to be a limp Magician shadow in me that has stayed in limbo and not quite moved out of the bog of my own self recrimination and fear. I still have much to learn and heal but sometime soon I must just say fuck it! There is no going any further on this. My friend and I had spoken of that state of mind recently as well. In other words, coming to terms with, “this is the best it is going to get, so accept it or resign to it but you’ll have to live with it.” Whichever one it is, is a choice I must make; or stay in the bog until I do.
Soon, over the next ten years of so, I suspect, social conditions for those at the economic bottom who suffer the greatest injustice will force my hand and many others in America and other developed countries as it has during the Arab Spring. Shooting guns seems a precursor and a necessary skill to be learned, even if one will, hopefully, not have to use it. This thought hurts me to the core of my being and fires a hatred for our collective human stupidity and brings my shadow warrior out. (Watching this, I can see the process of how Hitler’s are created.)
I remember when I was a kid and read the unofficial motto attributed to the Green Baret (I do not have confirmation of this) “kill ‘em all and let God sort it out.” I do not wish this attitude to grow in me or to happen in our society. I vote and read. But is using my mind enough when reason seems to be taking a back seat to dogma, fanaticism, hatred, and fear? I don’t know that answer but it increasingly seems evident that it will not be. So, getting tough and getting hard seem to be the only choice.
I’ve read about the non-violence movement in America and in India against the British looking for examples of how it works. This is my conclusion: only a society with some kind of compassion or sense of moral decency or at least a concern about appearances to the rest of the world, cares enough not to slaughter the non-violent. History’s and worldly condemnation seems to limit the ability of such oppressors and they eventually fold…of their own choosing! But a Hitler or Ghadafi, or Stalin, would simply eradicate such movements because they ONLY care about power!
This, sadly, is the same type of energy I see in Wall Street’s financial power brokers. They care little or nothing about the citizen-protestors and have the police to handle the crowds for them without ever having to pay attention, let alone acknowledge the citizens concerns. Anonymity and distance from a problem create a callous disregard for the effect one has upon others. As they condemn “entitlement” these men and women are simply the most “entitled” people we have ever known in any society! Hypocrisy is too mild a term for what they do. They are Darwin’s children par-excelance! Is this the type of manhood I should seek? It seems to be working!? For them at least? The only cheek I wish to turn on these people is my backside facing skyward showing them the mirror I want them to see: that of an asshole looking straight back at them.
So where does that leave me? How much of their tactics and heartlessness and harshness and unreasonable aggressiveness must I adopt to stop the onslaught of this growing malignancy? I think this is the dilemma Jesus realized. I do not believe he was passive. His rampage at the temple with the money changers I think proved that point. It is also the problem of justification. “He did it so we can do it!” My heart is heavy with these thoughts and concerns and the cowardly part of me would rather they “go away!” Wherever “away” is as the environmentalists remind us. Nope, it seems to me that there are just us chickens in this Earthly roost of ours and the pecking order has to change. But that means of course, I have to peck and peck back at others.
When I lived in Hawaii, I worked with a man who had been in prison. He told the story of the advice his father gave him when he went in. His father said “find the biggest, meanest looking dude in the prison and go punch him out.” He told us he followed that advice and though he got the shit beat out of him, after that the other inmates mostly left him alone. Moral of the story? Well, one lesson I drew was this, “if they think you can kill them, they won’t want to find out. Détente! Oh, terrific! Is this what I/we have to look forward too? Maybe so? I hate guns and fighting because each has only one ultimate purpose: to kill or to defeat. It takes hatred within me to get to that point. In which case, I’ve already offered my Self up for sacrifice. But I can shoot straight and a bullet has no conscience.
Here’s a movie selection I’d offer. It’s called Team America: World Police, brought to you by the same guys who do South Park. Particularly, there is one speech the main character gave that has always stuck with me: “I’m a Dick,” he says. “Dicks can be pricks and fuck pussies. But dicks also fuck assholes.” So, I admit that while a lot of pussies have been hurt(including me), I take some solace knowing that on a few occasions, I’ve stuck it hard to some assholes. At least, that is the justification my mind came up with afterwards.
So many good men and now some women too, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have articulated the effect of that war and attitude upon them more outright than any other men of previous wars might have had the social outlet or inner permission to admit. I’ve read dozens of accounts of these people coming back having the idealism of that war and that belief that they could kill under the heading of “moral rightness” or “freedom” or “patriotism” shattered; and they bear the consequences of massive trauma and loss of faith. While in my seat at the movie house my inner hero (child self) might relish the artificially induced surge of adrenaline, I leave that experience untouched and unmarred in any way.
At the other end of the male spectrum, and referencing the “titty bar” stuff; let me say that I have slept with over 50 people. Orgasm was the other kind of juice that surged through me and affirmed my masculinity. And though I never raped or beat a women, I know I betrayed more than a few because I wanted to feel like a man and get some pussy. Now, at 54, I still love sex, but have begun to believe that sexual conquest, in contrast to violent conquest was a way of showing proof of my “manhood. It stood as one hallmark I could reach. Both seem seductive and both can be devastating. It is not the nudity nor sexuality that causes me to feel put-off by those places, but rather the exploitation and comodification of women. Not to say I haven’t watched porn. I’m not that smug nor full of shit. But at least the men and women in many of those things seem to be straight-up about it; meaning willing participants. (No pun intended.)
Advertising and celebrity has become a titillation game so perverse and so much in denial that I sicken at the sight of most billboards. Not because the women aren’t beautiful but because the manipulation of “how sexy are you” is so obvious and yet so utterly disavowed by our culture. We turn each other into objects. My judgments abound. How many good Christians love to see the T & A of cheerleaders at the sidelines at football games? Heck, even high school football games? Or, they have in their 401k’s companies whose ad campaigns expose even little girls, let alone women and buff men, to a type of exploitation for profit that makes none of them seem any better, (to me at least) than prostitutes? If this is where we are going, then we might as well flush any beliefs that “consciousness and free will” are anything more than newer versions of self deception covering animal drives. In which case, what am I, or anyone for that matter doing trying to “heal” or “grow” or get “enlightened”? If I sound cynical, believe it or not, I am not. But I am leery of what it seems I must become to combat it. And as those veterans of foreign wars can attest, many lost the only decent parts about being human. Then some other, found the animal within, and anything after that level of unrestrained violence is OK in their book.
So what the hell do I do with all this energy I’ve built writing this? Well, though I will not be carrying water today, I’m going outside to chop a cord of wood that will be transformed from once being trees into my winter heating fuel. Perhaps the heat I’ll build inside me while swinging my axe can assuage the Berzerker Warrior inside that wants to rip the head off of the bad guys. Whoever they might be.
Anyway, thank you all for taking the time to read this and let me vent my spleen.
AHO* Brothers and Sisters.
*AHO = Authenticity, Honesty, and Openness
by Stephen Cocconi © 2011-2012