Friday, May 21, 2010


"Are you sure that's a guy?"

For the last week I've been posting pictures of various cultures, with a then/now theme. The "then" part showed some powerful, masculine portion of that culture (such as Vikings from Sweden), and the "now" part some emasculated, pathetic wretches from modern culture. For example, Japan went from hardcore Samurai and the Shogunates to... this sort of what they call "bidanshi:"

Those are boys... right?

The point of these pictures was to just have a little fun, and I'd have kept going but easy references were getting harder to come up with. Yet behind the fun is a real question: what did happen? Why did these manly cultures of tough, iconic masculinity slouch into such disrepair and emasculated men? A comment by K on my Sweden post helps understand this, I think:
I have heard it said that in general the 3rd generation of wealth is useless. The 1st generation sacrifices and builds the wealth, the 2nd generation grows up while the wealth is being built and knows of the sacrifice. But the 3rd often has little knowledge or appreciation of how the wealth came to be.

So they consider it their birthright and are otherwise weak, decadent, squanderous of what they have, and ignorant of what it took to attain it. Any 'anti-globalist' carrying around a web-enabled cell phone is a perfect example.

This is a theme I've written about before, the disconnect between what it takes to have the civilization people enjoy and demand... and their understanding of the world around them. A recent example of this effect is a survey taken in England which ended up with people listing the I Phone as a more significant and important human effort than space exploration. They only asked 4,000 people and you should know by now how seriously I take polls, but to the knuckleheads who answered this way: how on earth do you think that thing developed?

Other highlights include listing Google as more important than the idea of a roof, and birth control as more significant than a refrigerator. Basic, critical necessities of life like shelter and food are considered less significant than luxuries and things which allow people to maintain a certain lifestyle. Pennicilin was listed behind personal computers and the internet. This is an education and worldview problem, but it is a symptom of what happened, not the cause.

C.S. Lewis called these sort of guys "men without chests." They are men without courage, integrity, or honor, men who lack the basic virtues to lead and protect a civilization and our system of education, entertainment, and popular culture for nearly a century has worked hard to produce just such men. Lewis' book (which I cannot recommend highly enough) by this title is a series of essays on how small things like learning to read things you don't want to and understanding beauty properly all add up to a worldview which builds into civilization and true masculinity (and femininity) without seeming to individually.

K believes that this is cyclical and that one day the strong and true will rise up to save us from the collapse of civilization when the time comes. I'm not so confident. I'm not sure there's enough of the real men left in some areas to rebuild - although a huge influx of Muslims and their culture into Europe might replace some, in a hard, religiously extremist way.

In Europe and Japan, I think the wars of the 20th century obliterated so much of the population that they might be unrecoverable. For decades, the men of Europe were put through a meat grinder, killing tens of millions of them. These were the most courageous men, the men of honor who would face terrible danger and personal cost to protect their people and their families. These were the toughest and most capable men, the men who were leaders and who fought against a rising tide of effeminate relativism and leftist ideology. They were killed by the million.

When the wars were finally over, I believe so few of these real men were left that all of the institutions and leadership were taken over by the other men of Europe. The more effeminate, the leftist, the ones without honor or courage. The kind who mock these virtues, the kind that think doing right is bigoted and that fighting evil is judgmental. They control the schools, the governments, the families, they shape culture and entertainment until we get what I showed in that series of pictures.

In America its more a case of simple comfort and ease combined with a naturalistic philosophy that teaches what is here and now matters most and what makes you happy and comfortable (and social) is the most important thing for mankind to strive for. There is, this ideology teaches, nothing beyond the here and now, nothing we cannot measure and test and know with our senses. If that's all you understand and cling to, then any virtues and anything which does not bring immediate or short term satisfaction and pleasure is shunned and even mocked. Hedonism, not virtue, rules the day, and when you combine that with relentless leftist ideology taught in schools and entertainment for almost a century, you get lost, aimless boy men.

Masculinity is considered bad by the left and most of popular culture. All the things that make up men are called either stupid, wrong, or destructive by these people. So men slouch into their natural state: irresponsible, immature, lazy, and selfish. What happened to us was an abandonment of any force to make us better than we are. We've lost almost every single cultural device which would urge and help us to be more than we are, to reach for greater things, and to be something more significant than a beast who seeks pleasure.

When you combine this with a welfare state which provides everything you might want, only demanding a minimum effort at a job to help everyone pay for it all, humanity loses one of the key elements of what makes us human: the drive to be better than we are. That drive can be very destructive and horrible. It can lead us to enslave each other, wage wars of domination, and set up feudal structures of tyranny. That masculinity, without some tempering force, can end up with terrific evil.

In the west, the Judeo-Christian heritage was what restrained that tendency. It taught virtues such as love, patience, and wisdom in addition to fortitude, courage, and honor. The Christian worldview - the real, proper one taught by scripture - is an incredibly positive influence on civilization as history undeniably, inescapably teaches. By abandoning that influence and that philosophical basis for culture, the west is rapidly decaying and crumbling. All the things that make up what we enjoy and understand are dissolving in the hands of people who do not understand or appreciate them or what it took to get there.

The only way to save this is for us to recover real masculinity, so men can lead the way again through sacrifice, personal effort, honor, and all the true virtues of life. Without a Christian worldview, democracy cannot survive, nor can western civilization. We'll have masculinity again, when things get so bad that becomes the only way to survive, but it won't be the kind we want. The Vikings were undeniably manly and tough... but they were brutal, awful, and uncivilized as well.

Virtue is a good start, but it quite frankly isn't enough. Because mere virtue isn't enough of a reason on its own. Virtues are incredibly positive while practiced, but they do not offer any motivation to continue when things are tough - and make no mistake, a life of virtue is tough. We have to recover faith or we will never have more than a Potemkin culture, a facade that falls with the slightest pressure. The 1960s counter cultural revolution showed what happens when you try to build a civilization on virtue without a backing worldview. The next generation asks "why?" and the older one cannot answer.

Here's the rundown of the previous "what happened to us" pictures:


eric said...

While I don't think a Christian worldview is necessary in order for a democracy to survive, I do agree that there has to be a basic set of moral virtues, and that Christianity has traditionally been the institution that instilled those virtues in the young, and that as we have turned away from Christianity in this country we have not built up any other institution to do that job (partially because nobody can agree on what that institution should be, and partially because Americans are inherently critical of the value of institutions).

I don't see Christianity as the last best hope for democracy, but I do think family and community are necessary, and we seem to be turning away from those concepts with reckless abandon.

As for men, my thoughts on this subject have been evolving, and I think ultimately we (and this includes me) are going to have to give up leaning on cultural associations with manhood that rely on anything much other than behavior. We are losing the battle by being so caught up in what men wear, how they look, how their hair is cut, what kind of movies and hobbies they have, that we overlook how they act. There was a great article in the Art Of Manliness last week where the author made the point that manhood, properly measured, is not the opposite of womanhood, but the opposite of boyhood. I think we have to recognize that fact on a wider level before we can make progress reinstilling the virtues of manhood in our society (and it is not always an easy thing for me to do). At the end of the day, a 20-year-old male who wears guyliner, shaves his chest, gets pedicures, works as a hair stylist, and enjoys crocheting is more manly than his hunting, fishing, manual-laboring compatriot if he meets more qualifications for being a grown-up (i.e., takes care of his family, has a chivalrous attitude, is resillient in the face of adversity, shows integrity in his decision making, is self-reliant, etc...)

It's an important distinction, and one that does not enter the conversation enough (although to your credit, you often point it out).

What really concerns me is that the epicenter of the modern 'male movement' seems to be focused around ideas that are antithetical to this viewpoint, i.e., on men acting like boys forever and doing so with their heads held high. 'Game' sites (not video games, but pick-up theory) like Roissy and The Spearhead are focused on identifying maleness almost exclusively as the opposite of femaleness, and as such are more conerned with effecting change that makes it more of a man's world, as opposed to an adult's world. You get the feeling that their ultimate male utopia looks an awful lot like a neverending 80's college frat house party, and for a lot of disenfranchised men that is an attractive worldview. I don't know what the proper counter to this is, but I like what they are doing over at The Art Of Manliness (speakng of which, here is that artcile: )

Christopher Taylor said...

Yeah I liked that article a lot too, and I agree with a point he made (and Anna Venger made in a comment a while back) that many of the virtues of masculinity are shared by femininity - just expressed differently.

An adult male and an adult female are different so its not simply a question of maturity, but a boy and a man are also different, and that is the problem. Neotony is the term used to describe perpetual adolescence, and the culture we live in strongly pushes this as the norm, not an aberration.

However, I would argue that the Judeo-Christian worldview created democracy and that lacking this background inevitably leads to a corrosion of freedom. No other worldview suffices to support and defend liberty.

Ride Fast said...

"Sandals to sandals in three generations" summarizes this decline nicely, I think.