August 06, 2010

On Becoming Manly, Part IV

It might be thought that the aggregate of pages here on BeingManly would provide sufficient answer to the terminal of my self-imposed questions: why become manly? I know for certain that there are some who would argue otherwise, and in any case, the 50,000 or so words thus far amassed can hardly be said to make for a succinct answer to the question. That answer has to be the basis for my work, and for your reading of it. Although we may differ somewhat on the nitty-gritty bits, we nevertheless need to come to a common understanding of why it is that the world needs the particular breed of manliness here discussed, rather than some empty-headed macho nonsense of which the world already has a surfeit.

It is perhaps through the image of what is undesirable that an answer might be attempted. Negative arguments might be objected on the grounds of being insubstantial, but it seems to me that one has to know what is to be rejected in order to define what is desired (the gradual and incremental description of which is the work in progress of this blog).

So, what do we find in the men of the world that would make us desire an upsurge in manliness? Of men in public life we find dishonesty and double dealing at every turn. Politicians, in the incessant fight for the middle ground (wherein they might appear the most pleasing), and in the embracement of celebrity culture, have foregone intellect, historical knowledge, diplomatic experience, and unshakeable values. The voter, who could never be relied upon to understand any of these things, but who might be deemed capable of recognising his betters, is now faced with mere sound bites and empty charisma, sharp suits, glamorous wives, and a paucity of political substance.

The voter is not helped, of course, by the media, which packages the emptiness of debates among powerful men and turns it into grotesque entertainment. The media has a missing moral compass; it has forgotten its social responsibility; it altogether has no integrity. Hardly anybody, it seems, is able to see fit to restore these qualities.

And then there is the voter. How can this generation fail to be influenced by these powerful but vacuous currents? Increasingly, we suit ourselves in every respect, paying no mind to our neighbour, or our fellow man. We do this in a context of squabbling and deceit, in a world that teaches us not to trust; where spilt milk causes tumultuous schisms, but where the violent shiftings of the earth arouse indifference and inaction. Our attention spans are reduced without limit by the whims of advertisers and the media corporations that depend upon them, and life in general drifts towards the soap operatic.

Is this a picture of life up with which we shall put (apologies to Churchill)? Is not the manly – the intelligent, educated, forthright, honest, hard-working, well-mannered, courageous, sober – individual required, now more than ever, to arrest the decline of civilisation into the tawdriness of a glass-house stone-throwing competition? I suspect that the assembled choir will cry out with one voice ‘Yes!’


  1. Doctor, pardon me, but do you believe it was ever otherwise than now? You suggest dreaded events are ahead. Was it ever better?

  2. It is a question of degree. Never before has the general public been so completely glutted with insubstantial information on a global scale. With that in mind I think the answer to the first and last question is yes. I do not mean to suggest anything so tangible as a future dreaded event. The current status quo is dreadful enough.

  3. I have to agree in part with both Gentlemen Commentators before me. The history of pubic complacency seems cyclical to me. I think we're in another "bread and circuses" period. But has it been better? Yeah, probably. Although Dickens sort of put the nail in this discussion ages ago.

    Whether it's been better or worse before, the need is certainly there for a resurgent manly movement. Would that it do some lasting good.




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