By various convolutions, I am led to the old, laughable screed by Kim du Toit entitled ”The pussification of the western male” written way back in 2003. I find what he says so ridiculous that I have a hard time believing that this guy is serious.
But, being in the frame of mind that I have been in, namely, because of my current fascination with mythology of all kinds, I find that TPB’s response is particularly apt.
As expounded by Chuck Pahlaniuk through his avatar Tyler Durden, our first image of God is typically based on our fathers. My father is not a good man. He freely admits this, and sometimes expresses regret about this fact, but he is simply human. Shit happens, life goes on. Nonetheless, he is magnitudes of order better than a lot of the sorry pieces of shit that walk the earth who have happened to have the luck to propagate their DNA via the agency of some unsuspecting woman. (Who me, judgemental?) And while he chafes at it, while he sometimes even openly rebels against it, he seems to have always understood what his duties were, as a man, and as a father, and if you push him hard enough, or are patient with him, he tends to always do the right thing, even if he started off by doing the wrong thing first.
Perhaps unintentionally, my father taught me that rules are made to be broken, and only stupid, simpering fools follow the rules to the T. Conformity is the strait-jacket of the moron, and my father is no idiot. He carries this barely suppressed chip on his shoulder that reeks of exceptionalism, and his speech belies the notion that he thinks that he is better than most people, and I suppose it is well earned. Starting out in a rather poor family, he managed to finagle his way into medical school and through some trickery and farce as well as by some old-fashioned sweat and tears, he entered into a profession that was and still is—in his home country—generally limited to the well-to-do, who have the money to bribe the right people and grease the right palms. Despite his social status, he always felt like he was better and smarter than his classmates who had financial backing, and frankly he treated a lot of them with haughty contempt.
My father also unintentionally taught me contempt for the government and for the powers-that-be. When he entered this country, it was at the tail end of the Vietnam War, when the public was well aware that Americans were being sent there to die for no good reason. Because of financial pressure, and because his medical degree was no good in the U.S., he was basically coerced by his half-brother to enlist in the Navy, and he therefore prepared to get shipped out to get shot. Because of his medical training, he ended up being a corpsman. He was eventually attached to the marine base at Camp Pendleton, and by that time, the war had finally truly ended.
But, unlike many of his contemporaries who joined the U.S. armed forces, my dad is no patriot. His anti-establishment leanings are perhaps too fierce, and he claims that when he got discharged from the Navy, he burned his uniform and never looked back.
In any case, my dad is not the macho man that du Toit envisions. What my dad taught me about being a man is that intelligence always wins against force, that you should never employ force when treachery will do the trick, and that doing all the things that men are supposed to do like fighting, carrying guns, drinking, smoking, and fucking are good ways to get you and anyone you care about diseased, maimed, or killed, and frankly, that’s just stupid.
Interestingly, the lessons from my dad maps pretty well with Norse mythology. He basically espouses the ways of Loki, and to a degree, those of Odin. The supposed manly man that du Toit illustrates is more like Thor, whom we all know is basically a muscle-bound dumbass who gets played big time by Loki. And I don’t wanna get played like that. I’d rather be a conniving weasel that no one likes than the big lovable lout that everyone makes fun of behind their back because you can only understand things in black-and-white, good-or-evil, with no intelligence to discern the various shades of gray that permeate the world we live in.
Even more amusing, one of the gods of creation in the Visayan myths is an eagle named Manaul, who through trickery and lies, managed to get the god of the sky and the god of the sea fighting with each other, through which process land was created, all because he wanted to have somewhere to land so that he could rest. Treachery and laziness. I dig it.
Now, mind you, this is not all that I believe in.
My other model for manhood is my uncle, my mom’s brother. Like my dad, he also came from a rather poor family. He is old enough to remember the Japanese occupation during WWII and remembers people getting killed by bayonetting. And being the eldest of the family, he taught me everything that I believe about duty and honor.
See, what I learned from my uncle was that being a man was not about simply amusing yourself and picking fights and being violent for no good reason. Being a man means taking responsibility and taking care people who are weaker than you. Being a man means sacrifice, which is what my uncle embodied. Instead of going to college, he went straight to work, and made money so that my mom and her other siblings could go to school. He was the first to make it to the U.S., and he too joined the U.S. armed forces, although he never fought in any wars. And because he was a person-of-color in the 1950s, he was restricted to only certain positions, but he never made a big deal about that. Because duty always superseded pride, and if you were doing your duty, it didn’t matter if other people looked down at you.
And I’ve taken the lessons about duty and humility to heart, and this is probably what prevents me from being a total bastard like my dad. It is perhaps magnified by an even more dramatic mythological story from my mom’s side of the family, which is about my grand-uncle, who happend to be the eldest in his family as well, and who fought in WWII and who died during the Bataan Death March. My uncle feels that this ultimate sacrifice is part of what gave his family the opportunity to leave the provinces and get an education, because of the significant indemnity that the U.S. government eventually paid for his death. So, taken together, given that I too am the eldest, I found myself living under the shadow of this mythology for a long time.
Now mind you, my dad isn’t as irredeemable as I make him out to be. The man, after all, is a physician, meaning that his duty is to the sick. And, probably because of his own upbringing, he has an affinity to the poor and underserved. Most of his patients are immigrants, and for various reasons, they love him. One of the pharmacists that he knows pretty well once told me that his patients really like the fact that he treats everyone equally, and that he clearly isn’t in this game for the money. So it isn’t like everything I learned from my dad was about being a treacherous bastard.
But neither of these mythologies has much to do with the supposed manhood that du Toit envisions. I mean, what this guy is talking about is about being a kid. Being able to do pretty much what you please, without any of the burden of duty, without any of the inherent limitations of honor. Duty and honor is what holds a civilization together, is what makes this country great. It’s the reason why soldiers were willing to storm the beaches of Normandy which he so blithely cites. Those who died sacrificed themselves for the sake of those who couldn’t protect themselves, and they did it mainly because it was the Right Thing to Do™. Du Toit, on the other hand, just wants to fight, fuck, and be a dumbshit, and the world be damned. And that’s exactly what W’s administration embodies, and is the exact reason why the rest of the world holds us in dire contempt—even our last remaining ally, the British. This kind of recklessness is the exact reason why we owe China billions upon billions of dollars, and is the exact reason why we are stuck in Iraq with no good way of getting out (although I suppose getting out was never really part of the itinerary—can I say, Subic Bay or Clark?) Because no one wants to talk about duty or honor, we get bullshit like W and Al “Torture” Gonzales dodging and ducking behind patsies like Kyle Sampson and Paul McNulty. We get heinous shit like Abu Ghraib, or those bastards who raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl and then killed her and her entire family.
In a nutshell, what du Toit is advocating is anarchy and the destruction of civilization. Myself, I’m a pessimist, and while I hope for the best, I still expect the worst, and I won’t be surprised if the U.S. collapses like the U.S.S.R. did a little less than a decade ago. All empires must come to an end, and we’ve got all the signs and symptoms of a falling empire. If the shit does hit the fan, and we do get the sort of anarchy that du Toit seems to espouse, I wonder if du Toit will be all that happy about.