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Friday, September 27, 2019

#3 Men...the agents of and the path to cultural metanoia

So….after looking at the history of “male” design, framing and authorship of many of the “west’s” cultural underpinnings, let’s turn our eyes to the concept of “fixing” as one of the predictable, necessary and yet potentially entrapping modalities, and even identifying traits of  masculinity.

Work, of whatever kind, dimension, application, or venue has been at the forefront of the known civilization from the beginning. How else would people protect themselves from the elements, feed themselves from the adjacent flora and fauna, fend off enemy attacks, fend off sickness and even death and feed the thrust of their curiosity if not by rubbing sticks together, for example, to make fire. Both men and women have persistently been engaged in acts both to create and to repair.

To fix, to repair, to mend, to solder, to re-connect, to plug, to replace, to remove, to accuse, to defend, to edit, to exhort, to demand, to motivate, to energize, to placate, to serve….all “action” verbs invoked whenever a “need” is identified, perceived, diagnosed and exposed. Similar and parallel framing pertains to the words/acts “to built,” “to design,” “to create,” “to construct”….in most instances again to fix a larger gap in human aspiration.

And the premise for all “fixings” is that something/someone is wrong, broken, leaking, sinister, evil, life-threatening, inappropriate, loose, removed, offended…There is also the underlying perception and belief that by “fixing” the “fixer” will be considered “heroic” no matter how loud and large will be the championing chorus. All acts of fixing follow some kind of “problem” and preclude the notion of “prevention” of the problem.

Fixing/building acts are visible, audible, discernible immediately to both the fixer and the one for whom the problem is “righted”. There is almost no time lapse between the “fix” and the affirmation of the act, so there is no need for delayed gratification, reward or recognition. The “problem” is also visible, discernible to the senses, and usually requires and elicits corroborating witness testimony, agreement, and perhaps even consent. Skills too, many of a highly sophisticated, complex and dependent on laws of such profound and complex matters as human anatomy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and even the issues of ethics and morality in the provision of the solutions. Schools, colleges, universities and raw life experience too participate in the dissemination, training and development of proficiency in the performance of the skills needed for the “fix.”

Immediate gratification, even relatively after large numbers of workers take a protracted time to finish, follows “hands-on” interventions based on clearly understood templates and hours of supervised rehearsal of the skills needed. A sense of personal satisfaction of “fixing” something/one in need underpins the efficacy, ethics, psychology and the human relationship of the “fix”. This cultural attention to the details of the extrinsic world, the world of the senses, the world of things, the world of rewards and failures in a social context is a prominent feature of western culture. And both men and women participate in its challenges and rewards.

Whether or not these acts constitute the whole of one’s existence, however, seems  to illustrate a difference between the perceptions, attitudes and the relationships of men and women.  It says here that men, traditionally and stereotypically find comfort and engagement in their garages, the workshops, their labs, with their respective and usually mastered tools, instruments, devices and the skillful deployment of those devices. It is even reasonable to assert that men have led the process to design, build, manufacture, distribute and then sell whatever they make, as an effort to solve a problem. Less thought and consideration, too often, about the perceptions, needs, attitudes and tendencies of women have undergirded the processes from beginning to end. Along the way, of course (at least to our contemporary sensibilities) have been built in specific, measureable and even required production quotas, and the concomitant rewards.

A vast complicated and deeply rooted system of building, trading, deploying various tools, including the tools of war, pillage and ambitious expansion of domain. And, it says here, this system has directly mimicked and rewarded the masculine traits who generated it. Would there have been fewer and less lethal instruments of war, had women been in charge of the defense of the community? One can only guess, without absolute certainty.

Would there have been more artists, poets, musicians and care givers had women been designing their various communities? Again, one can only guess.
Would the needs, perceptions, dimensions and comfort of women have been more integral to the design and build and manufacture/distribution of things had women been at the centre of these processes? Undoubtedly. There seems to be a gushing cataract of forces determined to right this oversight today.

Nevertheless, it is still relevant to note that the cultural guideposts of and for men, to act instantly and often impulsively and also competitively, to fix, to design, to construct in both the literal physical and the more abstract notions of how to govern, how to protect, how to frame need and response were, are and will continue to be “immediate,” “tough,” “punitive,” “judgemental” and “vindictive” as compared with what research and common knowledge now knows and accepts would be more premised on a much more useful, effective and humane remediative, investigative, and restrained response to human offense. The pattern deployed in the making of tools transferred to the matter of making rules, enforcing them, and prosecuting the offenders, for example, has been reduced to the simplistic and short-sighted “removal” of the offender, as if safety and security were as easily and readily attained through muscular, testosterone-induced attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of the men in charge of the civil culture.

Even the “fix” of the soul, as envisioned by many church fathers, revolved around a conversion from a natural state of “evil” (All have sinned and come short of the glory of God!... and all are invited to accept the forgiveness offered by the sacrifice of the Cross and Crucifixion) Matters of the life and death of the human soul to be compacted into such a crucible of the masculine mind, conviction and attitude of “amending a fundamental and innate evil (or lack, or absence or failure)….all in the name of the propagation of the faith, to the thousands of innocents from whom ever scripture was withheld until the arrival of the printing press.

A mechanistic Manicheanism, so readily and easily grasped and implemented, as the basis of a much more complex, nuanced and life-giving, fulfilling theology and relationship with God renders itself impotent, oxymoronic and self-defeating. And yet, an ecclesial and civil culture that, feeling required and expected to comply, dominated by the masculine tenets and beliefs, perceptions and attitudes, also grounded on a kind of fear, insecurity and impatience so endemic to the mind and spirit of masculinity fell into line.

A male deity, with exclusively male disciples, based on oral traditions transcribed by fallible and incomplete men, and then subjected to a meat-grinder of literalism, consistent with the literal Manicheanism of the  mechanic, the plumber, the surgeon and the contemporary marketer/advertiser is and has been for centuries at the core of what can legitimately be considered the self-sabotaging faith tenets and dogma on which the west has been impaled for centuries. The literalism, and the impatience, and the dependence on the senses and the cognition based on the empirical universe needing to be fixed were and are essential to provide men with the requisite opportunities for self-satisfaction and gratification, ( as opposed to the much more ambiguous, amorphous, complex, ephemeral, and imaginative soul).

And, preferring to avoid the trap of the binary choice of empiricism v. soul/spirit, it is incumbent upon the male gender to come face to face with our (men)  shared participation and complicity, (certainly not to be regarded as  conspiratorial, contrived and deliberately malicious as so many women today prefer to believe!) in the design, construction and perpetration of a cultural edifice indebted primarily to the male psyche, at the expense of the female psyche, spirit and needs.

Competition, the pursuit of power, and the rewards of winning as compared with the shame of losing, (also of being weak, of failing, of being small, of being effeminate, of being indiscreet, even of being “too intense,” of being artistic, certainly of being LGBTQ) taken together comprise the fossil fuel burning in the furnaces of our male hearts, resulting, not surprisingly in the rampage against those very pumps, as well as the ethos of a culture suffocating under the elephant hoofs of capitalism, competition, transaction, zero-sum games, and the shaming of those who push back against this religious and holy creed. The wave of civil rights cases, both inside the courts and on the front pages (e.g. the cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the murdered black youth shot by law enforcement agents) threatens the very core of the masculine “power base” encapsulated in the “cult” currently genuflecting at the altar of the United States  president.

Built on a papier-mache edifice of immediate, manual, simplistic fixes (of all materials, rules, conventions, beliefs, metaphysics, institutions, establishments, practices and processes of the abuse of power, the distribution of wealth, the dissemination of lethal gases, the spread of anti-bacterial-resistant viruses) this cultural monstrosity is quickly sliding into the ocean of its own designers, builders, creators, disseminators, and propagators. And the history of abused masculinity, from our own denial, avoidance, and attempted and failed faux-infallibility is the cancer threatening to engulf us all.

Note how men, traditionally, stereotypically, and predictably, refuse to acknowledge their own “illness,” “pain,” “discomfort,” and “blocked arteries”…appearing in their doctors’ offices only after the situation/condition has become “emergent”. Similarly, and tragically in a parallel universe, many men, especially men holding the power of wealth, law, even medicine, and certainly theology view the “body” of the earth perceive the current climate crisis as less than emergent. Some heroic and self-deluded leaders believe it is still feasible and necessary to combine the continued production of fossil fuels with the preservation of the planet.

Indeed, it is the model of  the male hero, that well-armoured, traditionally highly espoused, intellectually incurious, power-driven-and-starved, whose voracious appetite for enhancing his own power, and based on a veneer of “success,” “achievements,” “corner offices,” “BMW’s,” and the hollow spectre of a crumbling future of their own making, that has to be sacrificed on the altar of the survival of the planet.

And the flood of depression, denial, avoidance and repression, not to mention the reversion to pain-killing medications will only grow exponentially as the realization of the vacuity of the dream dawns on the psyches of the millions of men, and their families who depend on their “status-and-power-dream” for their own sense of worth and esteem. The women whose dreams have been “siamesed” to their male partners, too, will endure much heartache and loss as the bloom comes off the rose.

One question that surfaces from this scenario is whether or not the “safety-net” of support and recovery will be available and strong enough for the task.

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