Monday, December 13, 2010

Testing testosterone

A well known anonymous commenter replied to my posting on Patriarchy.
I wonder, can an androphile consistently both enthuse for Western civilization and deem pre-civilized men the real men? ... I somehow think that Machiavelli and Nietzsche try'd to inspire civilization with manliness.
Leaving Mach and Nietzsch aside, I would not say simply that pre-civilized...meaning pre-agricultural and were the real men. Although I can wax nostalgic for various romanticized pasts, it seems clear to me that "real men" are a constant throughout the history of the species. What has changed in the last 10k years is the context in which men have to come-to-be.

Sedentism, with its animal domestication and farming, allowed population growth in a specific locale. Social organization changed, with a lot more specialization and hierarchy, etc. Cities. Kingdoms. Empires. Being a man in a group of 50-100 vs being a man in a city of millions...I certainly would not say that the civilized world is unnatural for us because it is in our nature, apparently, to create it.
There is far less (though not zero) specialization and hierarchy in small groups so that the task of being a man probably has more common ground for all the men concerned. But what about, for example, a farmer in the Inca empire? Or an insurance salesman in 21st century Chicago?

If my theory --not mine alone or first, to be sure-- is in the ballpark, the primary model of a man still requires that he procreate, protect and provide, regardless of where or how he does it. In the broadest and most inclusive sense, to be a man anywhere requires the virtues (which word itself comes from the Latin for man) that allow you to accomplish the triad: power/strength, courage, and skill. In no culture I know of are weakness, cowardice or ineptitude considered manly.

Civilization does present powerful challenges to the original blueprint, of course. And I can enthuse for Western civilization because the hunter-gatherer world is long gone and Western civilization is as good a place as any, better in many respects, to be a man. It is, after all, as the feminists have told us, a male creation, aka, an evil patriarchy. (Unlike other cultures, such as.....mmmm...well....hmmmm.)

One of my occasional mind games is to construct a model of the masculine constellation, to try to name the basic archetypal components for the stars therein. (Therein?!). In no order, some of what I have come up with: father, son, brother. lover. husband. king. shaman. warrior. trader. artisan. trickster. poet. mentor. farmer. laborer. scribe.* hero. There are shadows of these as well. outlaw. slave. charlatan. tyrant. Unfinished.

Because I am a "gay" man in a subculture deeply conflicted about masculinity and because I am a man in the post-feminist West, both places where traditional manhood is attacked, I tend to give the impression that manhood is not only a natural good, but a self-sufficient one. Not quite. Often I am talking about the minimal requirements, not a full-blown portrait.  Example: an adult male can have a lot of strength, courage and skill...procreate, protect and provide..and use those virtues to bad ends, such as being a criminal or a tyrant.

*I note without any masculine pride that scribe appears to be the archetypal clerk, making bureaucracy a uniquely male creation.

I am a binary thinker and I like correspondences, so I have wondered if the archetypal feminine that developed in the hunter-gatherer time could likewise be described triadically and correspondingly.
Certainly the male and female share the first and third roles. She must procreate. And she must have a set of skills; gathering is usually the female contribution to food. Protection? The male's role has to do with violence: dealing with predatory animals and with competing enemy males. Externals. For the woman/mother, the focus is more internal to the tribe and family. Nurture rather than protection.

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