Blah, blah, blah, crisis, blah.
Like a good Marxist, I look to the material causes for our cultural features.
Like a good Christian, I ask whether these lead us closer to or further away from God.
Homosexuality and feminism are possible only because we do hunt and gather or live off subsistence agriculture, as homo-sapiens have for hundreds of thousands of years. We live in a much more artificial setting - a fragile one, mind you. We live in a world where brawny men can't simply do whatever they want to do. That's both good and bad.
But getting rid of Vikings does not make us godly. There are other equally pernicious threats to human virtue in the 'civilized' setting of modernity. If you don't believe me consider that now there is greater wealth disparity than there has ever been in human history. I'll just offer that one observation. I could come up with many others. (Genocide, maybe?) And if you tried-and-true capitalist ideologues (not many of you left, but unfortunately way too many socialists) respond to the wealth disparity thing by saying that capitalism still offers the greatest overall wealth - a point I grant - I still must insist that billionaires are against the will of God, especially when people are dying of preventable diseases, engaging in prostitution to feed themselves, etc.
Now we can be fat, blind, crippled, and lazy and yet not starve to death as we would in pre-modern times. Black people in Baltimore would simply die off if they simply refused to work as they do now. There are no lazy Africans, btw. And Aboriginals sitting around on the reservation getting drunk and fat, living off social assistance - that is not anything like how their ancestors lived. Had they, they would not make it through one year.
Those are some of the problems characteristic of urban black people and North American aboriginals. A problem that is characteristic of urban white people is homosexuality. It is a disease of decadence. It does not affect the Third World.
No, we can't really turn back the clock economically to return us to the more Christian-friendly times of subsistence agriculture. I know some Catholics who are attempting to do this, although preserving those parts of modernity they like, most especially their trendy Macs. (How come all, read all, Catholics who raise chickens, knit, abstain from any synthetic textiles and foods have Macs? Are Macs wholegrain, or even ancient grain?) Sure, they save three cents per dozen eggs they grow themselves, but don't seem to have a problem with the extra $700 they spend to buy a Mac rather than a PC.
We can't turn back the clock. I mean, God might, with that longed-for asteroid, solar storm, pandemic, rise of the machines, what have you. Why do Catholics secretly yearn for an event like this? I know I do.
Our decisions have no sway on the progress of the industrial revolution. So forget about that. But perhaps we should think hard about how our incorporation into modernity has harmed our spiritual lives. That's really the only point of relevance.
How do I mean? Consider laziness. What is laziness? When you think of a lazy person, you imagine the TV and a couch, no doubt. Consider someone like me. I read and write for hours a day. I am not Mme. Pompadour on her bed, but neither am I one of the peasants upon whose hard work Pompadour's cushy life was based.
The laziness that we think about has an inescapably modern character, doesn't it? Workaholism affects many of us in North American culture, because we have permitted ourselves to be treated by the system this way. This is not healthy or godly. On the other hand, obesity is endemic too. Some people are doing more than their share of the work, but they are not necessarily doing so for any good reason: ambition and luxury are not good motives. Some people are eating more than their share of the food. Do you see the link here between the obese and workaholics?
People like me incorporate something of both of these excesses. I weigh too much, because I eat too much. On the other hand, I am driven by ungodly desires to accomplish 'great things,' just like the day-trader is, although we operate in two very different realms.
There are people who work very hard because they have to. Loggers, construction workers, restaurant workers, are just a few that come to mind for me. These people are not wealthy and boy do they work a full week's work! On the other hand, people who work for the government, people who enjoy the full fruits of a strong union. Consider those who are in the military. You know, the military has health protocols. You can't be a fat soldier, and yet, have you seen those who work in offices in Ottawa? The rules are relaxed in their cases, and, yes, there are fat soldiers, at least in Ottawa there are.
But this is not a post about obesity, but about the sins we let in all too easily because of our culture. Something that hits a little closer to home and wrinkled a few feathers when I talked about it a few posts ago (with the subtle suggestion that I was a hypocrite!)
Do we take our religious formation seriously enough? In this age of leisure and readily available reading material, do we read enough good stuff? I know I do. But do I get my kids to? (That's where the hypocrite suggestion comes from.) No, I don't. Mea culpa. May God give me help here. We need to use for good the time we have. The medieval peasant could not read, but he gave much of his free time to attending mass, learning his prayers and teaching them to his children - in the time he had.
Hey, but wasn't this a post about gender?
Indeed it was/is.
This all began as I sadly looked at a picture of Bruce Jenner. Now, I have never watched that show, but I can well imagine that it exemplifies many of the things I have been saying. Why a sixty-year-old man (the father of how many?) would suddenly feel the need to say he is a woman is rather intuitive. This non-entity by-stander of his attractive daughters' shenanigans (mostly shopping, I think) could not stand to be irrelevant any longer. He might have chosen the metro-sexual route of Kanye West, but he's no longer good looking enough for that. So he is doing what many troubled men are doing today: becoming a woman. Like minorities and homosexuals, women can play the role of victims in our culture; men, on the other hand, have absolutely no philosophical value. There is nothing about whiteness and maleness that is valued by Hollywood. A white man only has values when he denies his whiteness and maleness: like by suddenly seeing the goodness of homosexuality, or by emasculating himself in some other way, like by being a goofy stay-at-home dad who tries to change a baby and the baby pees on him. Tee hee! So funny!
Our culture knows only a negation type of philosophy. We can't tell you what things should be, but we can tell you what they shouldn't be. Men shouldn't be assertive, shouldn't be sexist, racist, elitist, but what he should be is anybody's guess. He should be tolerant, but what he is supposed to care about in the first place such as to make tolerating something that is outside of his worldview heroic is anybody's guess. How can you be tolerant when you don't believe in anything in the first place? How can you tolerate homosexuality when you don't believe that marriage is a heterosexual thing? How can you tolerate things that don't challenge your value system because you don't have a value system to begin with?
So how can we reject the negative influences our contemporary culture has on our idea of masculinity? I cannot exhaustively treat of it here (or perhaps anywhere else) but here are a few thoughts:
1) Men should cultivate their physical, moral and psychological strength and independence. Correctly or incorrectly interpret this as you will. A good model? How about the Rules of St. Benedict and St. Basil?
2) Men should not encourage these weaknesses in other men, by accepting homosexuality, for instance. Homosexuality is a psychological disorder like many others, such as agoraphobia. We need to be encouraged to push ourselves a little bit.
3) Try and get yourself into a healthier setting. For instance, David Beresford said that men should work at home. That is one ideal to strive for. Don't stay at the office late; don't work on Saturdays. Take up a sport that will diversify the kinds of things you do: hunting puts you in nature for great long walks, for instance; weightlifting puts your body through things that you will never go through in the office.
4) Do things with other Christian men, NOT WOMEN! If you are married, you already spend a lot of time with a woman. You need to learn about masculinity by actually being around with other men. I have said it many times: do not let women (only) tell you how to be a man. A woman has a right to tell you how not to be obnoxious (another negation, what not to be), for instance, but not how to be a man.
5) Never apologize for being a man and not a woman. You have testosterone: it is not a pleasant thing. Go out and break something. And then rebuild it with your bare hands.
6) Pray for guidance to cultivate masculine virtues.
What an impoverished society we have that would allow a man to sink so low as to believe he is a woman. Poor Bruce Jenner.