Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adopting a New Male Paradigm Is Both Possible and Necessary - Pip Cornall

Pip Cornell runs the Sustainable Masculinity blog, one of the better blogs dealing with men's issues. In this article he looks at the issue of a "new" masculinity, one founded on peace and compassion.

I have some thoughts below.

Adopting a new male paradigm is both possible and necessary - Pip Cornall

Most of us despair about the wars and violence we have seen in our lifetime and wonder if the goal of world peace is possible. I believe it is possible and outline some ideas for achieving it in this article.

If we examine the violence gripping the world, we see that it is predominantly men who perpetrate the wars, rapes, homicides and domestic violence occurring throughout the world. To end global violence, we need to view the issue as a male problem. When more men have the courage to do that, the solution will follow. Violence will diminish as the old male paradigm (dominator) is replaced by the new paradigm (partnership) model because this paradigm will address the root causes of male violence.

Historically men needed to hunt and protect their tribal group, but what is most needed today are collaboration skills, non-violent methods of conflict resolution and emotional intelligence. Curiously, modern media still glorifies violence and promotes ‘hyper-masculine’ values with such great effectiveness that the old male myth lives on in the schools, streets and sporting clubs of our nations. Given the awesome power of modern weaponry, men must adopt the path of nonviolence, adopt new male values or destroy the planet.

Futurist Gregg Bradden says, “We have taken the old male paradigm about as far as we can without destroying ourselves.” Scientist Carl Sagen calls us “technological adolescents” and highlights the need to “catch up” and mature into humans who can resolve conflicts peacefully and ensure the future of our species.

The violence can be reduced! It is already happening on an unprecedented scale. Inspired by the women’s equity movement, large numbers of men around the world are changing and redefining masculinity. I’ve seen too many men make these significant changes to believe that it can’t be done on a massive scale.

Historically many great teachers have come amongst us to demonstrate what is possible and have taught us that men can embody the (feminine) qualities of kindness, compassion and equality. Men such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela, inspired by the spiritual teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and others, showed the world the power of nonviolence to correct social ills.
Read the whole post.

I'm going to get all Spiral Dynamics on you here, so hang in there. [I'm using Chris Cowan's web material here, rather than Don Beck's (for no reason other than fairness) - they co-wrote the book and both serve and protect the model as best they can.] Here is a brief summary of the developmental stages:

What people in each world seek out in life . . . (Goals of "Successful" Living)

1 BEIGE (A-N) survival; biogenic needs satisfaction; reproduction; satisfy instinctive urges; genetic memory
2 PURPLE (B-O) placate spirit realm; honor ancestors; protection from harm; family bonds; respect elders; safety for tribe
3 RED (C-P) power/action; asserting self to dominate others and nature; control; sensory pleasure; avoid shame
4 BLUE (D-Q) stability/order; obedience to earn reward later; meaning; purpose; certainty; Truth; the reason to live and die
5 ORANGE (E-R) opportunity/success; competing to achieve; influence; autonomy; mastery of nature; understanding self
6 GREEN (F-S) harmony/love; joining together for mutual growth; awareness; belonging; spirituality and consciousness
7 YELLOW (G-T) independence/self-worth; fitting a sustainable living system; knowing; the big questions; the long view
8 TURQUOISE (H-U) global community without exploitation; understanding of life energies; survival of life on a fragile Earth

OK, now to my argument.

I don't totally disagree with what Cornell is saying here, since a non-violent Green meme stage is likely next for masculinity in our culture. But this should be seen as a necessary stage, not the desired goal.

However, in order for masculinity to really evolve, we need some higher order thinking - people who can express the "feminine" compassion Cornell writes about in his article (which I am not convinced is essentially feminine in the end), and still be able to contain lower stage expressions of unhealthy masculinity, which will generally be violent.

No matter where the leading edge of masculine evolution lies, there will always be those who are lagging far behind and expressing a more primitive and often pathological version of masculinity. Loving these people and treating them (and their cultures) with respect is necessary, but doing so will not contain or control their violence. This is not work for "bleeding heart liberals," like me.

Ralph Altar, in an article he posted at American Thinker last year, referenced Chogyam Trungpa's concept of idiot compassion, and quotes integral philosopher Ken Wilber offering his understanding of Trungpa's view:
"Idiot compassion" thinks it is being kind, but it's really being cruel. If you have an alcoholic friend and you know that one more drink might kill him, and yet he begs you for a drink, does real compassion say that you should give it to him? After all, to be kind you should give him what he wants, right? Giving him the drink would therefore show compassion, yes? No. Absolutely not.

"Real compassion includes wisdom and so it makes judgments of care and concern; it says some things are good, and some things are bad, and I will choose to act only on those things that are informed by wisdom and care."
Altar then makes the following observation:
The biographies of the Buddha reveal that in one of his early incarnations, he met a murderer of 1000's of men. Acting correctly and with compassion for all sentient beings, the Buddha's incarnation killed the murderer to prevent additional suffering. That is true compassion!
This is exactly where masculinity is going to have to exercise true compassion rather than the idiot compassion of the Green Meme. An integral masculinity has to be able to act with force when it is needed for the greater good.

Total and complete non-violence, which is an admirable trait and goal, is a form of idiot compassion in the world in which we now live. Yellow Stage (integral) masculinity will understand that the world is chaotic and that we need to take in the big picture, as in the story of the Buddha killing the murderer to prevent more suffering. In order to protect the highest number of lives, we may have to use violence to suppress those who would kill others

It's going to be a long time before anyone reaches a Turquoise Stage masculinity that is not just a state experience, but is actually a stage of growth. But when that happens, we can begin to think about a more fully integral model of masculinity, one that employs true compassion in the most peaceful way possible. Hopefully, by then, the cultural center of gravity (life conditions and human interiority) will be sufficient to support a more global and non-exploitive vision.

But that time is not now. For now, we need to be able to harness the righteous anger of Red Stage power to protect the weakest from being over-run by unhealthy versions of Red Stage aggression - and we may also need to employ Blue Stage law and order to contain and disarm those who threaten others.

A truly integral and mature masculinity understands when and how to use power in the most compassionate ways, even when to do requires violence.


Booster said...

Bill, your comments are thoughtful and applicable, but where I feel a disconnect is in the overall simplification of the "world today". I'm sure you would agree that we find individuals operating at all of the Spiral Dynamic levels that you reference, and each of us can make generalized statements about the level that our respective societies operate at but, I'm not sure how often any two people would agree about what level the world is operating at.

One could argue that the world is actually operating at Turquoise already (Perfection)and it's merely our limited perception of the underlying perfection of reality that leads us to believe otherwise ("Jewel is in the lotus" that sort of thing). And it follows that each individual would merit the world a different level depending on the level that they themselves are operating at in that moment (even the Enlightened have their bad days).

The point I'm trying to make here is that it's worth noting that the dynamics you mentioned are only useful within the context of delivering an idea (which is what you did with it) but shouldn't be confused with an actual Truth beyond that context. The world itself is far too complex (there are in fact 6.6 billion different versions) to be neatly categorized. Doing so, limits our vision of what is possible, (whereas not judging at all creates blindspots).

It's all about having a perspective and leaving room for new ones.

I don't agree with how Cornell summed up practically all the woes of the world as a "masculine problem". By eliminating the any feminine accountability it excludes them from the process to change it. It implies, "men created this, now men must solve it". That's victimization/matyr talk.

A broader perspective would see that all of our actions are the result of a complex network of inter-related relationships. Every rapist had a mother first to teach empathy and love for women. For every dysfunctional man, there is a dysfunctional woman enabling him. For change to happen we must set the blame aside and focus on what we want to see.

This is where the masculine can really help. By listening and absorbing the wisdom of women, we can tap our feelings and really feel the value of love. Then by making choices in our lives to support love/compassion we effect change in ourselves and those around us.

Thanks for your wonderful posts!

WH said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

I agree that I simplified things with my "world today" comment, but in general I was trying to get to the idea that ALL the memes are currently operative, which makes any one way of approaching things, as Cornell advocates) highly misguided.

The world IS highly complex, and requires an approach that is commensurate -- still looking for that approach.