Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dr. Paul Elam - The Plague of Modern Masculinity

In the older post, Dr. Paul Elam argues that much of what is wrong with males - why we are struggling for identity, meaning, and a place in the culture - is that we are trying to embody an outmoded definition of masculinity.

I essentially agree with him - with one HUGE qualification: where a man is developmentally - his values, worldview, cognitive stage, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence (among many other lines) - determine whether or not the "John Wayne" identity, or the "bad boy," or the "SNAG" (sensitive new age guy), and so on, are appropriate identities for him.

If none of those feel right any longer (or never did), the man is likely ready to begin deconstructing existing identity "formats" and creating a newer, more mature and integrated masculine identity. This is the project I have undertaken in the past few weeks - and will continue in the coming months - developing a model for how men can do this for themselves.

Anyway, here is the article from Dr. Elam.

The Plague of Modern Masculinity

by Dr. Paul on March 9, 2010

Authors note: Dr. Paul is on sabbatical. I decided to offer this one up. It is an overhaul of an earlier work, and is most likely still a transitional piece. So comments, especially from those with and eye for lapses in consistency, are most welcome.

Scores of our young men today are stranded at an impasse on the road to realizing manhood. They are bogged down in the confusion of a generation lost to treacherous forces they never saw, for reasons they were never able to comprehend. They are struggling and starving; unable to feed their souls in a world that finds them increasingly unnecessary and burdensome.

They have come of age in a time of coerced impotence, their nascent masculinity gutted and stripped long before having the opportunity to shape their character and their destiny. In that they are suffering from the loss of things never held, from things missing but never known. They are, quite literally, a lost generation of the walking wounded, wandering blindly from a battlefield on which they never knew they stood.

In that light, the path they are on is not really the road to manhood, but simply a retreat from the effacing malice woven into the very fabric of their developmental lives. And it takes them not to safe ground, but directly into a dismal culture of shallowness and self indulgence; a realm of options without obligations; of self gratification without self awareness or self discipline. It is the death march of the western male, destined for a withering end ensured by intellectual, psychological and moral atrophy.

This aimless, narcissistic existence is a forced escape from lives shrouded in shame; from manhood being reduced to an evolutionary joke in the eyes of a culture that holds it in contempt, even as the elders deny it is happening. With the wholesale whitewashing by society and abandonment by the fathers more or less complete, the newly (de)engineered young man is all but defenseless against this downward spiral into terminal insignificance.

It’s happening all around us. One only need look at current events to see that the world of men is quite literally circling he drain; disappearing from the stable foundations of education and employment. They are targeted with disinformation about crime and domestic violence, and about deviant sexual proclivities with women and children. These are no longer just the ruminations of twisted ideologues. The demagoguery now emanates directly from the government, backed by men with gavels, and men with guns. The judicial apparatus has been reshaped, not to pursue justice, but to incarcerate men at every opportunity, even to enable and encourage false accusations to accomplish that goal. This isn’t just about male bashing any more. It is about male subjugation. And it is not being executed by feminists or women, but by men.

We might proffer that the solution is a redirection to days past, when we imagine that men made masters of sacred codes; when they possessed strength and purpose and would stand against this growing tragedy and defeat it. We would be wrong. We can only find that Thomas C. Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again. And what’s more, you really don’t want to. It was, in a sense, home that got us here. And that is a truth we must face, no matter how natural or compelling the tendency to point to any other “outside” force and satisfy our frustrations with the simplistic convenience of an easily identified enemy.

As always, our true enemy is in the mirror. The only thing that will save us is to face up to that and act accordingly.

In the fitful and often strange world of the men’s movement, we attempt to answer this social malady; to create a haven, if only an intellectual one, for the refugees of this godforsaken gender war. It is a mission often hobbled by our own hands, yet the work goes on, limping toward solutions. We strive, I think, as men who have taken the red pill and seen through the Matrix, to formulate an appropriate response, and in our own way to push some sanity and balance back into the collective consciousness; to force it past the architects of institutional misandry, both male and female. But even as we exert pressure, we don’t have a firm grasp on what it is we are fighting.

We have not ascertained, nor have we even really thoroughly tried to, what role traditional manhood plays in the problem. Unfortunately, what we have too often done is practice the obstinate politics of wounded children who insist that they have no role in whatever befalls their lives. We have, at times, angrily and energetically reacted to misandry, but have balked with equal vigor at seriously examining how we fostered and enabled it with masculine codes of conduct. Consequently, all of our efforts rooted in this approach have failed, and miserably so. We have made some progress, and will no doubt eventually mature into a more effective movement, but not before we embrace more than the hostility we feel for perceived enemies.

Our most functional response thus far is to check out and go our own way, but I contend that an exit is not a destination, but just a needed removal from the line of fire; a chance to collectively regroup and rethink. Remember that the young men festering at those crossroads have, in their own way, checked out, too. It isn’t looking too good on them.

And it forces us, sooner or later, to swallow a pill that some will find bitter. And to face a reality that some will find unconscionable.

The feminists were right. Masculinity has, as it relates to modern realities, corrupt, oppressive and destructive elements that need to change.

And yes, I mean that literally. And no, I’m not kidding.

In fact, the entire thrust of my argument is that the monstrous social degeneration we are now witnessing, more than anything else, is the result of outmoded and horribly misguided masculinity.

Of course, once we dig more than a nanometer deep into the subject we find that objectivity and reason veer us onto an entirely different philosophical trajectory than the pathologically twisted and apoplectic mindset of feminist ideologues.

To chart our course, we will do two things that feminists never did. First, we will look at the subject without a politically driven agenda for unjustified revenge, or a mandate to dominate the other half of the population. And two, we will proceed with the sincere goal of benefit for everyone, not just an elite group.

The only sensible place to start is with a more grounded understanding of masculinity itself, something that can’t be done in a 3,500 word essay, but can, with even marginally appropriate treatment, arrive at far better conclusions than the last forty years of women’s and gender studies.
Read the whole article, since I think it's worth reading the argument he uses to get to his final point. But I do want to present his conclusion.

Acknowledging the alpha, beta, and omega males (or types), he proposes the Zeta male as the new Man on the block, the one that transcends the other three. I like this idea.

The zeta male.

This classification of a male is new because this is a male that until recent times was never needed, and indeed was never there. He is emergent and unpolished and struggling to find his legs, but is doing so thanks to the fertile, safe ground, provided by, of all things, other emerging zetas on the internet. He has no allegiance to tradition or nostalgia for the past, and in fact is charged with plotting a new course. He cannot be shamed into control or intimidated into silence or seduced into capitulation. He doesn’t fit in the classic hierarchy, and would gladly bring it down in the name of his cause. When someone says he needs to act like a real man, he smiles and says, “No, thank you.”

He doesn’t seek power, but justice. And he has one overarching feature largely absent in the world around him.

He cares about those lost young men who were ambushed coming out of the womb. And he will strive to make himself an example, living proof that there are other roads to take than the ones that lead to self hatred and self destruction.


Stan said...

Having read the entertainingly lunatic article and even more hatemongering lunatic commentary, I'm laughing at the pathos of progressive men's movement dudes gravely linking to the Spearhead, where pathetic authoritarian homophobic Asperger's-syndrome losers go to release their entitlement-rage and screech about feminism and gender traitors, plotting their revenge on women while Jack Donovan tries to figure out how to suck their dicks.

Jesus. What a vast swamp of gender fail.

You do your credibility absolutely no favors by endorsing this crap.

WH said...

Thanks for the honest comment, Stan, much appreciated.

I haven't read Elam's other posts, and haven't even read the blog, but this post makes some very valid points.

I DO NOT endorse hating on women or feminism, although it IS fair to say that feminism been terribly misguided on occasion in how it relates to men and masculinity.

There are two quotes in this post I disagree with:

To chart our course, we will do two things that feminists never did. First, we will look at the subject without a politically driven agenda for unjustified revenge, or a mandate to dominate the other half of the population. And two, we will proceed with the sincere goal of benefit for everyone, not just an elite group.

And . . .

Women, who have bemoaned a lack of power for ages, and in fact still do, found out four decades ago that all they had to do to gain almost complete control was step up and demand it be handed over, playing the sex card as they did so. And it was handed over, by the most powerful men in the world, who in the presence of these women became like butlers offering cocktails on a serving tray.

Both of these quotes are partial truths at best. At worst, they are just another form of misogyny.

From my perspective, women started asking men to act like grown-ups instead of little boys with too much power. Some men basically said "Eff that" and continued as usual. Some men immediately tried to be more like women, abandoning their masculinity in the process (think sensitive new age guys, SNAGs).

And some guys have been trying to figure out how to grow up and be more mature healthy men. Until recently that has been a very small minority, but that is changing.

Hating on feminism will not change anything (and I agree, he does that sometimes) - but ignoring its negative impact on gender studies also misses the point.

If you look at gender studies in universities or in books, it's mostly about women and how they have tried to find equality in a culture that has denied them equality for most of human history. That's great, but that is women's studies not gender studies.

In local bookstores, there are whole sections of women's studies books, and one or two shelves of men's studies, and a lot of those books are dumbass guides to getting laid more often (good luck with that, dude).

Besides all that, and despite Elam's poor reasoning, he makes some valid points about men needing to become more whole mature human beings. That's a good thing in my mind.


Anonymous said...

I think you need to read through the site and comments thoroughly before you link there again. It proudly endorses a pretty virulent, bottomfeeding sort of misogyny. I was admittedly having fun with my polemic up there, but I'd say it's clinically accurate.

Paul Elam said...

Some corrections to your discussion here. I am not a doctor. Dr. Paul is a pseudonym for a tongue-in-cheek column I write for The Spearhead. Thus the opening line "Dr. Paul is on sabbatical," to tip my readers to read me in a different voice.

And that is the only form of correction I could really venture in to here. The OP at least got the spirit of the piece, and attempted to be objective, which was appreciated.

The comments here are as thoughtless, inane and openly juvenile as the worst of what you can find at The Spearhead, which does have many comments I disagree with.

So much for comments. Peanut galleries are usually populated with assholes and others from the ranks of the mentally unemployed.

About the only other thing I would add is that it strikes me as intellectual cowardice to take the position that disagreement with or general opposition to feminism, or indeed the examination of the darker side of the female psyche is somehow misogynistic.

That's a cop out position, designed to dismiss an argument without defending your POV, or adequately demonstrating flaws in what you disagree with.

I have read through some of the work here and know you can do better.