There are signs, tiny green shoots of new life, emerging among the glacial awakening of many men to our own long-hidden, and even longer-denied depression. Farmers, on the Canadian prairies, for example, after suffering deep and prolonged anxiety, and after causing their spouses considerable fear and angst, have begun to acknowledge their truth: farming, including climate vicissitudes, market forces and unpredictable prices, government trade agreements and tariffs, and the cultural perception that farmers, many of whom follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, are strong, sturdy, silent, resilient and dependable food producers.
Is it partly because of:...
· small yet significant projects like Bell’s “Let’s talk!” initiative midwinter in Canada,
· the success of the Kids Help Line,
· the news reports of suicides among Canadian men,
· the start-up of the Canadian Association for Equality,
· the rising incidence of reporting of online teen bullying and resulting suicides among victims,
· the general malaise among North American adults about global warming and climate change
· the “gig-economy” in which there are fewer and fewer long-term permanent careers and a string of independent contracts among new workers
· the displacement of millions of industrial workers
· the gutting of the labour movement by the combined forces and intentions of both governments and corporations
that many men and women are seeking supportive psychological counsel. For men, however, there is a sign of hope in that finally, real and authentic need is not and cannot be considered unmanly. On the other hand, it is still quite obvious that men in the workplace, tend to bury our emotional and psychic pains, until they are no longer able to be contained.
Last evening CBC’s The National, aired a piece about famers on the Canadian prairies, one suffering so deeply from anxiety and depression that was breaking out in sweats. After cooling him on the floor of their home, his wife rented a hall in Edmonton and invited farmers to come and talk about their problems. Expecting and hoping perhaps for a dozen or so to show up, she was taken aback when the hall that accommodated 400 was filled to overflowing, with men sitting in the aisles. When she asked for a show of hands from those who knew of someone who had taken their own life, nearly all hands were raised, bringing the host to tears. Following the evening discussion, a man who had been shedding tears for the whole time, spoke to the host, “Thank you!” he said. Puzzled, the host asked, “Why?” to which he replied, “For saving my life!”
As evidence of change in the lives of at least one of the farmers who had previously been struggling, one commented that, in addition to meds to help, he had found other ways to deal with those times “when his thoughts go sideways!”
For men to begin to talk about our psychic and emotional pain is a beginning. For other men, including government leaders like trump to eviscerate the security net at the expense of a monstrous percentage increase in the production of nuclear weapons, as his budget sent to Congress this week proposes, along with a substantial cut to the Environmental Protection Agency when the survival of the planet is threatened by rising temperatures, rising sea levels, rising droughts and wild fires, and growing evidence of increased frequency and severity of pandemics works directly counter to the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health of men and women in all corners of the round planet we call home.
Are there two different masculinities at war, in an undeclared epic and potentially terminal conflict? Or rather are the two opposing “sides” of all men (and women) everywhere at war in a public show of both profound fear, and exaggerated bravado? Bernie Sanders proposes a significant shift of public dollars from nuclear weapons to collaborative projects to save the planet, while the establishment of the Democratic Party pours contempt on his person, his ideas and his ‘revolution.’ The deep and obvious divide among Democrats, flows like honey over the trump cult that lines up in the rain up to a full twenty-four hours prior to one of his rallies in Manchester New Hampshire, while he pokes his finger in the eye of the opponents, ridiculing, laughing and heaping contempt on their obvious division, not to mention their incompetence over the Iowa caucus results.
One read of the tea-leaves south of the 49th is that the intellectual, sensible, mature, caring and nurturing (including surviving) motif (Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, et al) is at war with the macho, risk-taking, bullying, racist, sexist, homophobic and nationalistic face of a different motif. It is not incidental that men are the primary voices on both sides of the political divide. Men, by our historic nature, have found ways to wage whatever kind of war seemed available. And if there were not already a military conflict, or a domestic face-to-face combat over a woman, or a tribal invasion in a time of scarcity, men, it would seem, would turn our imaginations to some games to demonstrate our avowed “prowess,” our “majesty” and our “invincibility”.
This time, however, it is not enough to debate the finer points of a health care model, nor the finer points of financing post-secondary education, nor the withdrawal of the United States from international commitments, the United Nations, the Paris Climate Accord. And what seems to be emerging is a potential and feared victory of the hard-power advocates, the bullies, the nationalist racists, bigots, homophobes and the cult riding a wave of campaign cash the would sink the combined treasure-chests of the Democratic candidates, save and except Michael Bloomberg.
In politics, especially following Citizens United, cash is nuclear. If the supply is endless, as it appears to be with both trump and Bloomberg, the media conglomerates will laugh all the way to their respective banks. The “creative” writers, designers, and soft-ware artists will explode their resumes. And the public will swim in a tidal wave of new, highly sophisticated, ads filled with special effects, all designed to get a lever pulled, a paper “X’ed” or a “chad” poked.
Where is the antidote, the emotional psychic and spiritual support for the millions who have already drowned in the industrial collapse? Where is the antidote, the political agenda, that credibly and authentically addresses the individual human, family and community costs of deplorable government decisions, made by men and a few compliant women, to deregulate Wall Street, to permit downsizing and out-sourcing millions of jobs, with tax incentives, the militarization of the American culture and its national budget?
Men, in a short-term grab of power, wealth, status, greed and narcissism have contributed mightily to the current political, cultural, educational and psychic desert that is the United States. And trump is clearly the worst of this model of masculinity.
And he has the support of millions of other little, fragile, insignificant “pip-squeeks” who, in their own way have flogged a union job that filled only a half a day, while demanding a full day’s pay and hiding for the other half, and/or have siphoned millions illicitly from programs designed to help and support genuine need and/or have abused their public trust in the roles and public officials…without so much as a sustained public outcry. And this kind of culture has produced an Attorney General who now is in the direct employ of the president (a conflict not only of interest, but also with the Constitution), a judiciary that is filled with Neanderthal robots named and confirmed by the trump plutocracy in the Senate, a gloating 1% in which 3 people own as much of the American economy as do the rest of the 99%.
It is not a question of renewed masculinity that will hold the United States back from fully falling off the cliff of its own hubris, but a joint renewal of both men and women of good will and faith and courage to tell the truth. And it is not the happy-hour truths that need to be told. It is rather the hard, dark, shadow truths that have been haunting those famers on the Canadian prairies, and in the city cores of many American cities, and small towns, where alcohol and illicit drugs medicate much of the still-hidden, proudly camouflaged psychic and emotional pain. And the profound irony is that for many American men, angry, despondent, and seeking a large measure of revenge on the ravages of a global economy, the rise of terrorism, the tidal wave of refugees and migrants that threaten “rich” countries, on both sides of the Atlantic, their ‘saviour’ could not and does not care one wit about them as people.
He is interested only in the way the numbers paint a picture of his political, and thereby electoral value: GDP, GNP, new jobs, interest rates, inflation rates, and stock markets’ steeply rising curves. He dreams of a perpetual presidency in his honour. And, there is considerable evidence that his cult will grant his wildest wishes.
So while there are legitimate arguments about how the Democrats need to come together, to find both their passion and their backbone, to find the candidate of their dreams and the vaults of cash to empower his/her campaign, the question of how masculinity, especially a long-ago devilish and self-sabotaging model of masculinity, one that threatens to do in the very nation on whose bayonets, muskets, profits, missiles, bombs, credit-swaps, and so-called Christian religious zeal have produced the political and the cultural cocktail in which this presidential campaign is being cooked will go un-noticed, un-mentioned, under-valued, and under-reported.
And the world will watch as another highly regarded woman, the choice to succeed Angela Merkel, withdraws from the leadership in Germany, and in Norway a 37-year-old woman takes on the head of government in a nation in which the law requires that at least 40% of all town governments must be female.
It is not only time to remove the Republican Senators from their offices in November, 2020; it is also time to acknowledge that a kind of sexism perpetrated by frightened, insecure, men blinded by their own hubris, is laid out on top of the table of the American political debate, along with the blatant, historic racism, sexism, homophobia and touted superiority of the American race generally.
And while complete removal of men who are standing in the way of millions of men and women who struggle not only with paying their bills, but also with a culture that no longer cares that they even exist is not likely or feasible, nevertheless, men have to awaken to our and our fellow men’s hidden and sabotaging fears, anxieties and the pride that represses them.
Will we? Certainly we are able!