An excerpt from Jack Donovan's, "The Way of Men," from Good Men Project website, July 2, 2012
To truly understand "The Way of Men," we must look for where the masculinity of the gangster overlaps with the masculinity of the chivalrous knight, where modern ideas overlap with ancient ones. We must look at the phenomenon of masculinity amorally and as dispassionately as we can. We must find what Man knows for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe. The “religion” of Man is not a moral code, though a man may follow his own code to his death. A man struggles to maintain his honor—his reputation as a man—because some part of him is struggling to earn and maintain a position of value, his status and his sense of belonging within the primal gang. Men want to be good men because good men are well regarded, but being a good man isn’t the same as being good at being a man.
Men want to be good men because good men are well regarded, but being a good man isn’t the same as being good at being a man.
There is a difference between being a good man and being good at being a man.
Being a good man has to do with ideas about morality, ethics, religion, and behaving productively within a given civilizational structure. Being a good man may or may not have anything at all to do with the natural role of men in a survival scenario. It is possible to be a good man without being particularly good at being a man. This is an area where men who were good at being men have sought counsel from priests, philosophers, shamans, writers, and historians. The productive synergy between these kinds of men is sadly lost when men of words and ideas pit themselves against men of action, or vice versa. Men of ideas and men of action have much to learn from each other, and the truly great are men of both action and abstraction.
Being good at being a man is about being willing and able to fulfill the natural role of men in a survival scenario. Being good at being a man is about showing other men that you are the kind of guy they’d want on their team if the shit hits the fan. Being good at being a man isn’t a quest for moral perfection, it’s about fighting to survive. Good men admire or respect bad men when they demonstrate strength, courage, mastery or a commitment to the men of their own renegade tribes. A concern with being good at being a man is what good guys and bad guys have in common.
Being good at being a man is about showing other men that you are the kind of guy they’d want on their team if the shit hits the fan. Being good at being a man isn’t a quest for moral perfection, it’s about fighting to survive.
And men, traditionally and stereotypically, have gone silent "when the shit hits the fan" in an individual man's life. They are much more likely to "step up to the plate" when the "shit" is about a whole community, and a massive energy is required to face whatever flies from the fan.
You see, when the shit hits the fan in an individual man's life, most of his fellow "men" are quite willing to think, "he made his bed, now he has to lie in it"...as if somehow he conspired to make the shit hit the fan, and now, it is his responsibility to get himself out of the mess he created. Unless, of course, there is some code of conduct, among lodges, or fraternities, or secret societies or brotherhoods, or even sports teams, regardless of the age and level of the skill involved. Growing up, I never heard a man speak about wanting to help another struggling man. A man's private life was his private domain, into which no man dared to stride. So if the shit was hitting the fan, any man who knew about it backed away as far as possible, with the occasional exception.
And the exception, the man who called to ask, "Would you like me to come and have a coffee with you?" or some other equally legitimate question, left a deep, positive and enduring memory of friendship, affection and "brotherhood" that stood out in comparison to the silence, withdrawal and evaporating of the rest of the men in his life.
I know a little more than I sometimes think I would like to know about "shit hitting the fan" in one's life.
As a confirmed rebel, first in the fundamentalist, evangelical church which was my family's church home, I rebelled against the bigotry that was being spewed from the pulpit, only to have the clergy seek and effect his revenge a decade later. As a confirmed rebel, I protested the kind of treatment the church decided I deserved, when I took a private office in a town, for retreat purposes, without asking for permission, and offended the substitute clergy, who took his complaint to the bishop, who withdrew his written commitment to ordain, and reversed his decision only after my faculty advisor pled my case before the bishop, without my knowledge.
As a rebel, I threatened to publish my graduate thesis in theology, only to have a different bishop stab his monstrous thumb into my chest and shout, "You will not publish that thesis; I am being a bishop, and my report on that event is in the archives of the diocese and you will not publish that thesis on the subject! Is that perfectly clear?"
As a rebel, I undertook an interim assignment in an urban parish, where there was considerable conflict, and offered to write a history of the parish, partly as an act of ministry, and partly as a project to generate a graduate degree, only to have the then bishop rule the project unthinkable.
As a rebel, I asked for an honorarium in a parish in which there was a $500,000 trust fund, in order to pay for gas to travel the fifty miles from my home to the parish, only to have the supervising clergy hold a kangaroo court, upon hearing from the parishioners, after her return from a four-week absence, that "He is a leader and you are not a leader!" which information literally finished me as honorary in that parish.
As a rebel, I undertook to rescue a woman from an alcoholic husband, refer her to a neighbouring clergy for counselling, and help her to enrol in a professional degree program, only to have her "betray" both me and her compliance in the relationship, in an act of revenge with which the bishop complied, in order to force my resignation.
I do know a little about the shit hitting the fan, and not finding men, particularly, willing or able to support even the most meagre attempt at recovery. Out of none of these situations has there been a single call of support, inquiry or apology or mere engagement from a single person in responsibility, whose complicity in the sequence of events merits at least an acknowledgement, and perhaps an apology. While my mother was abusing both my sister and me, physically and emotionally, even my father was silent and gagged as a potential agent of support for either of his children, so frightened of his spouse was he.
I know literally dozens of men whom I would never select to be on my team "when the shit hits the fan" and barely one or two, whose names they know, on whom I can count.
It is men who have abandoned other men, in my view, and until that fact becomes an integral part of the discussion about being good at being a man, the abdication of mere compassion, preferring to train the strong, individualist, as a solo flier, without offering support, or strength, or even confrontative counsel will continue.
And men will continue to believe, as I do, that men don't give a "shit" about the pain of other men, unless both men belong to some self-help group like AA. It is to enter one's own vulnerability that men have to come to accept, as part of the maturing process of our gender, thereby making it both possible and welcome to enter into the pain of another, without shame, embarrassment, or fear of being too much like a woman.
And that will happen only if and when men accept the truth that both genders have, as part of their unconscious, elements of the opposite gender, from which we can all draw, as part of our process of becoming individuated or integrated. For my part, I will always choose to be good at being a man over options that lead to being considered a "good man" in the strict and narrow sense of those words. I missed the classes in "painting by number" as an exercise in "how to live"...one's life. Whether the instructor was ill, or I simply skipped those classes, I'm not sure! (lol!)
Recipes for being a good man will never replace the wisdom, courage and risk-taking that accompany decisions about attaining masculinity, or being good at being a man. And, there is not an institution or an organization that is not in need of being "shaken" to its foundations, so that it never fossilizes into the complacency of conventionality, and that can and must occur within the bounds of "peace, order and good government," without shedding any blood.