[You should know my feelings on the Ancient Greeks by now. I needn’t say more.]
The other night, I picked my wife and her friend up from the town square of the small college town where we are headquartered. They had gone out for a girls’ night which had ended at a bar whose location was somewhat of a mystery to me. Not that it was a huge expedition to find them. “The Square” is just that, the string of bars, restaurants, and shops that line the one square-block on which you’ll find city hall. What blew my mind about this particular experience of circling the square was the ridiculousness of the people walking around. I got to a green light but before I could get through it, a stampede of 10+ people trampled across the street in front of me without warning. I waited for them to pass and then prepared to make my right turn. Something caught my eye in the area where the stampede had originated, and when I glanced over, there were a couple of young adult males who began fighting right there on the corner.
I am not a fighter. That’s not to say that I’m against fighting to protect oneself. There is a really awesome article on the Art of Manliness blog entitled the The 3 P’s of Manhood, which reviews men’s responsibility to Protect, Procreate, and Provide. You can read the rest at your leisure, but I would like to emphasize the fact that across the cultural board, it has traditionally been the man’s job to protect the family unit. I pride myself on being a protector, not just a fighter. I have put and continue to put a lot of effort into ensuring that the Family Glass is well-prepared to deflect as many threats as possible. Bear Grylls mentions protection first in his “Priorities of Survival Pocket Guide,” listed ahead of even rescue, water and food. Protection is a big part of my survivalist mentality and is something that is very important to my family as a group.
But I don’t fight other guys on the street corner at 2:30 in the morning. Because to me that typically won’t constitute a substantial threat to my well-being. Let me clarify. I can guarantee that the fight that I saw was nothing more than some bickering and puffed-up chests that escalated into fisticuffs. I get it, some guy calls you an M-er F-er or the “P word” or something (I’ve got a huge problem with anyone using any part of the female anatomy as a derogatory term). I get it. But there are ways to prevent that kind of thing from happening at all.
I used to work at a children’s residential psychiatric facility for two years. The unit I worked on (all-male sexual misconduct unit, more on that later maybe) focused on identified triggers and preventing relapse and victimization of any kind, although a good portion of the program can be applied to any negative behavior. One of the relapse prevention techniques was a three-pronged approach that I will rename as Avoid-Ignore-Leave. That’s not what they called it there, but for privacy-ish reasons, that (or A-I-L) is how I will refer to it here. The point of A-I-L was to identify high-risk scenarios and deal with them by either avoiding them altogether, ignoring them and coping if you can’t avoid them, or leaving the area if need be. For example, in an addiction scenario you would either avoid hanging out with the people you used to do drugs with, cope with abstaining while others do drugs around you, or leave when someone brings the drugs out. Applying it to the bar fight scenario, you either avoid bars filled with belligerent college-age males, you can ignore them when they start trouble, or you can leave when you see that the situation is escalating. Piece of cake.
There are threats out there, be sure of that. But you need to be able analyze those threats and deal with them in the most effective way possible. Because “defending” your ego can be painful. This all sounds kind of pacifist and whatnot, but like I said earlier, I’m not saying you should never fight. It just seems kind of unnecessary to do so on a street corner when you could just as easily call it a night.
I did some thinking on this and I believe that incidents like these are a symptom of a bigger cultural disease. I’ve seen different versions of the “wtf happened?” meme online with pictures of men from the 1940’s compared to overly-coiffed, fake-tanned Jersey Shore types and the answer seems pretty straightforward. It’s society’s fault. I won’t say “our” fault because I don’t consider myself or my readers (hopefully) to be part of the population that subscribes to mainstream, throwaway culture that is so unfortunately the norm today. TV shows are shite. The vast majority of popular music is mindless and lacks substance. Technology becomes obsolete almost immediately. So few things have any sort of staying power these days and it’s really unsettling. I think this mentality has seeped into other aspects of our lives. Divorce rates are disturbingly high because it’s “easier” to throw it away than it is to fix it. Manhood has become just as disposable. Society in general does not have a very high bar for entertainers, relationships, or individuals. I think we should collectively snub the offal that we are perpetually bombarded with and demand more from ourselves and those around us.
[For more on the problematic perspectives of our disposable, consumerist society, reference The Scavengers’ Manifesto, which I discuss here]
Putting all of this together, one might reach the conclusion (as I did long ago) that it is time for America to undergo some cultural rehabilitation.
This might seem a little extreme given what I’ve been talking about so far, but I think we should start by re-adopting an Isolationist approach to international relations so that we can focus our attention on bettering ourselves as a nation and improving our culture. I’ll explain my plan in a later post but I will give a small history lesson. Before World War I, the United States had been relatively uninvolved in foreign affairs. According to the U.S. Department of State, George Washington, in his Farewell Address, advised the United States to stay out of European politics. It wasn’t until World War I was well under way that Woodrow Wilson began to convince the American public that it would be in our best interest to intervene in the War. This has created a situation in which we are constantly injecting ourselves into other peoples’ business. We are stretched thin and wearing ourselves out. Our literacy rates our low, our national debt is high. Our children are either overweight or starving. It’s time for some self-improvement and Isolation allows America the time to work on America.
The correlation between America and the kid on the corner is that it is important to take a step back and prioritize. Be the best you you can be on the inside and it will permeate into the other areas of your life. We can be a better America. And we can be better men.
All the best,
P.S. – My quest for an appropriate quote stirred up this gem from Oscar Wilde: “An excellent man: he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him.” I don’t have any enemies, but I don’t have a whole lot of friends either. Interesting.