Don’t Assume I’m Broken

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.
Thomas Merton
Aristotle gave us a vast fountain of knowledge and wisdom. But within all those profound ideas, he had one concept which I can’t agree at all on. He, like so many men in Ancient Greece, viewed women as “defective by nature” and as incomplete or imperfect men. Women were viewed as having little control over their emotions, having a quick temper, void of shame or self-respect, and more prone to lying. His ideas were assimilated by many as society evolved as a way to justify not offering women the same opportunities as men.

Believe it or not, now we know better.

I want to take a moment to applaud the current trend of supporting the efforts of girls, one that promotes the notion that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. They are taught to do this, not only for themselves, but as something that all other women can be proud of. We see how this empowerment, not only comes from moms, but from dads, who have become an integral part of these girls’ development. These men realize that their role as a father is that of raising a girl worthy of the spotlight that will shine on her. We see these girls growing up into strong women of character who prove that gender doesn’t hold anyone back, that girl power is powerful, and being a woman is something to be proud of…

And then we tell the boys and men that they are “defective by nature” and that men are basically the rough draft that was later polished into women. Men are viewed as having little control over their emotions, having a quick temper, void of shame or self-respect, and more prone to lying.

Sounds oddly familiar.

Have you ever stopped and thought about how we treat men, boys, and masculinity? You see it in the father who forces sports on his son, as he tries to live vicariously some kind of athletic glory, yet is angered by his child’s lack of interest. You see it in the mother who is constantly disciplining her son because he won’t follow strict instructions. You see it in the teacher who has to constantly punish a student because he refuses to sit down and be quiet in the classroom. You see it in the wife who constantly complains about her husband’s actions, or lack of.

At a grander scale you see it in comments like boys will be boys, because being a boy means that irresponsible behavior is to be expected because of their gender. We see it in the assumption that young men can’t control their sexual urges whenever we complain that a young lady’s clothing is a distraction. We see it in the assumption that every man needs a woman (be it a mother, a girlfriend, or a wife) to fix his life. We have become a society of people shaming men on everything they can’t do as we take any and every opportunity to let these men know everything they are doing wrong.

As a reaction to this attitude against manhood, instead of proving them wrong, some men have chosen to actually embody everything that society views wrong with men. They create a vicious cycle of men who behave badly because they are told that men behave badly.

So what has society’s warriors done as a reaction? They blame masculinity and the “man box” as being the toxic aspect that hurts men. There is a dangerous toxicity in the constant pissing contest, the almost universal idea that violence and confrontation will solve anything, the emotional distance as emotions are viewed as a sign of weakness, and the notion of an ever present unquenchable sexual desire. So the SJW have chosen fight these faults by condemning ALL things masculine and placing the absolute burden of fault on men, as apparently dealing with the specific negative elements is not as easy as a generalized condemnation of masculinity or realizing how we set men up to fail from the beginning as we view masculinity only from a negative lens.

What we end up is with half of society shaming men because they don’t measure up to the ideals of what a manly man is, and the other half shaming men because it’s the only way to keep them from falling into the trap of manly men. Did you notice how it’s all basically setting up men for a no win situation, where no matter what they do, they will fail in someone’s eyes? Then we wonder why boys and men have little aspirations and ambitions, or why so many become self-destructive.

Maybe it’s time that we look at what we are doing successfully with girls and do the same with the boys. Girls are outperforming boys in almost every field, and we already know that gender has nothing to do with it. It has to do with how we have chosen to empower women.

So what should we do? Stop treating men (and boys) as starting out as failures that need fixing! Instead of telling them how to live, give them proper examples by how you live. Let them learn by seeing. SHARE with them why you love something, and let them make up their mind. If they don’t like it, let them share with you what they love. Give them the space they need to fail or succeed on their own merit, instead of assuming they will fail if you don’t tell them how to do it.

Provide young men with men worthy of looking up too; heroes and role models they can emulate. Provide them with the support for them to fly on their own. Offer them the opportunity to be more, give them hope to be more. When we stop viewing someone as a problem to be fixed, they stop viewing themselves as a problem that needs fixing.


How’s Your Hero Training Going?

I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), Taken
The movies have let us vicariously live out our hero fantasies where we head out and defend our family’s honor, rescue the damsel in distress, or protect our country.  We find ourselves reflected on screen every time the hero, an average guy with above average virtues and skills, takes on overwhelming odds and ends up proving that a good guy with determination can stop the evils of the world. Or at least we want to think we are reflected onscreen. But is that the hero we will have the chance to be? Or will we be given a chance to be another kind of hero?

The reality is that it’s highly improbable that we will be forced to fend off foreign nationals from taking over our favorite coffee shop, stop that overly elaborate plan by criminal masterminds to steal your friend’s purse, or even stop that armed intruder from breaking into your home. I am not saying that you won’t be given that opportunity, but are you doing good? Or are you simply stopping bad?

I am not saying that you shouldn’t stop the bad elements of society, but the amount of effort we take into preparing to handle evil isn’t close to comparable to the amount of effort we take into preparing to dish out good. You will probably have a chance to do those more often than you will to stop evil.

But training to do good? Isn’t doing simply doing good? Yes it is, but some good requires some knowledge.

Do you know what to do in case someone falls and twists their ankle or breaks a bone? Sharing dinner with someone who’s suddenly choking? Someone having a stroke or a heart attack? Could you even identify when it happens? Could you identify when someone is drowning if you saw them? Do you know how to make a tourniquet or give CPR? You would be surprised how those first couple of minutes might completely change a situation.

Let’s be more practical yet, do you know what to do in case you run into someone whose car battery died? Who accidentally locked in their pet or, worse yet, their child, in their car? Even something as simple as change a tire? Do you know how to help parent trying to deal with their child having a meltdown? Do you even know what a meltdown is?

In a world of 911’s and roadside assistance, we have forgotten some of the basic skills needed to survive a chaotic world. With the world’s knowledge in our fingertips, we assume that we will have time to Google up whatever information we need. That’s not always possible, be it because time is off the essence or because your adrenaline is running too high to try to type.

We, as men, also assume that things are as easy as they look in the movies, that we instinctively know how to use a car jack or jumper cables. We assume that our inner action hero will automatically kick in and we will instinctively keep our cool. You would think that by know you knew that “assuming” is never the same as knowing.

Ironically, in a world where women have chosen to challenge the gender stereotypes, plenty of women have actually learned how to jump-start a car or change a tire. Yet it’s this same challenge to gender stereotypes that have lead plenty of men to never learn, ending up in a situation where it’s the lady saving them.

Before you start whining about how you were never taught these things, keep in mind that you have the world at your fingertips. Do you have the nearest hospital’s emergency number in your phone? Do you have the nearest police station? Between “Fail” or Cat Videos, have you taken the time to at least view a basic CPR tutorial? Most community centers actually offer basic first aid and CPR classes, either free or at a very low cost. Most have pamphlets to inform and educate the public about how to help those who need help, especially those whose “issues” aren’t as evident. This not only keeps you from being another inconsiderate asshole, but actually helps them deal with a selfish society that usually ignores them, and so often abuses them. It might be a good idea to read these over instead of reading over the latest reality TV gossip.

You have the opportunity to be a hero every day. You will be placed in situations where what you think is a simple act, will mean the world to the other person. You will be constantly be given the opportunity to prove what kind of a person you are. The reality is that being a good is pretty easy when you are actually ready to do good.


“Where Have All The Good (Women/Men) Gone?”

Girls dream of meeting superman their whole lives, yet walk past Clark Kent every day.
If social comments are to be believed, every single man in existence is a potential predator who has barely any control over his self-destructive bestial nature and every single woman is a soul crushing hell-spawn gold-digger. The results of these attitudes are a culture of men chanting the horrors of marriage and relationships and women shaming men on the horrors of masculinity and guys in general. And it’s easy to believe, as every man has a story about that woman who destroyed them and every woman has a story of a sociopathic guy. Get a bunch of women or men together, bring up the topic, and you will have hours upon hours of pissing contests as each one tries to one-upmanship the other’s horrors.

This conversations, so many times, is followed up with lamentations of “where have all the good women/men gone?”

Why do I bring this up? Because of an image I found online last week. It showed a sequence of pictures of a young man helping out a young woman. And that got me thinking. Almost every guy I know has at one point or another done something like this for a lady. Almost every guy I know has been helped at one point or another by a woman who’s extended their hand to help.

Maybe I have that experience because I surround myself with the right people… so I decided to post it on our Facebook and Twitter pages. The reaction was pretty much the same. My experience wasn’t exclusive to me. Apparently every woman has had those male acquaintances and every man has had those female acquaintances who proves the stereotypes wrong, why do we keep assuming that all men/women are the same, where the same being the lowest common denominator?

Because we have all become school teachers who are no longer interested in their class.

We have all lived through this, that teacher whose rule is that “all pay for that one person who messed up.” Guilt and punishment is socialized equally among a group because of that one asshole. This works in two ways. It basically serves to turn the group into the teacher’s executioners, as they band together to get even with that one person. It also serves to reinforce the idea that students need to constantly look out and condemn the negative behavior of others. There is no recognition or support from the group for positive behavior. Chastising becomes more important than helping.

It isn’t about promoting, or even recognizing, good actions. It’s about keeping bad action at bay by assuming that everyone is bad. This means that those who are genuinely bad people see nothing wrong with their behavior as they are brethren with the rest under a common stereotype. “We all do this. I am just honest enough to admit it” becomes their moto of life. If anything, this makes it harder to spot them.

On the flip side of the coin, the only good that ends up being recognized is that one exceptional person. The problem is that this one extraordinary person ends up being used as an example to shame the rest. “If he/she can do it, so can all of you” becomes a tool to punish the group. By then, everyone knows that being exceptional becomes a problem.

The funny thing is that good actions keep happening; we are just so cut up looking out for the bad ones that we miss the good. Those doing good have been taught to keep it low key as to avoid ridicule from the group. We are so expectant of someone trying to take advantage of each other that we keep missing the good people right in front of us. And when we do see the good, we are constantly expecting the “perfect” to come right around the corner.

For an instant, stop focusing on those who did you wrong, on those who made you lose faith in friends and relationships. Take a moment and think of ever every person who has been there for you, if only for an instant, even if they failed you later on. Think of how many times you took those actions for granted. Think of all the things you’ve done for others, regardless of whether they deserved it or not. Maybe if we, as a society, started focusing on the positive actions of each other and promoting the good amongst ourselves with the same ease we complain about the current state of affairs, we might end up exposing those who do wrong and promoting those who do right. Who knows, we might even help spread doing right as the right thing to do.


Chivalry: Is it Classist or Elitist?

A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.
Marcus Aurelius
With this post we end this Chivalry centric week which, to my surprise and enjoyment, has had some rather positive reactions. (Note to self, make more themed week posts) For closing, I thought it might be a good thing to touch on a topic that is often related in a negative aspect with chivalry. That is the immediate social relation between chivalry, classism, and elitism.

Let me start by saying the following, they are right… up to a point. Chivalry originated as a code of ethics for members of the Warrior class or the Nobility. Keep in mind how the world worked back then, your life was pretty much determined by the social class you were born into. If you were born to artisan parents, you pretty much were going to be an artisan. If your parents were from the Warrior Class, you were going to be a warrior. You pretty much followed in your father’s footsteps…even if you didn’t want to. It’s not like you had much of a choice. So, if you followed chivalry back then, it was basically because you were born to the Warrior elite or the Nobility and chivalry was pretty much thrusted on you.

As society advanced and it’s rigid black and white class system started to take shades of grey, we see the ideas of chivalry seep into all social classes as a way for men to better themselves. The philosophy of the “lord’s son” was now something that any man could use to mold his life. As travel and education became more and more accessible, some men would no longer let their birth limit what they could achieve, so they expected more from themselves in all aspects of their lives.

Thus we have the ideal of the well rounded man, the superior man, as something any man could aspire. And that created an elitist mentality, a mentality where men chose to become elite. You see, greatness isn’t something that choses you. You CHOSE to be great; you CHOSE to be the kind of man others can look up to. The lonely people who see this kind of elitism as a bad thing are those men who pray to the cult of averageness and condemn excellence.

As for classism? Base and honorless men can be found anywhere, as can Virtuous men; from the executive suite to sleeping in the streets. Financial success doesn’t make you a devil, just as financial challenges make you a saint. Last I checked virtues, character, respect, and determination don’t come with a monetary price tag on them.

You chose the kind of man you are, and expecting more from yourself isn’t a bad thing. My advice to you? As cliché as it might sound; always chose to be better a better man than the man you were yesterday.