Friday, 2 November 2012

On Being A Man

There's no issue about what it is to be a woman. There never has been. There's three stages of being female: girl, woman and old. Girls are below the age of consent or haven't had their menses. Old women are post-menopausal. Woman is any menstruating female over the age of consent. There's no requirement about moral and personal qualities, employment, relationships, responsibility, education or anything else.

Which is the exact reverse of what being a man is about. Sure, you need to be over some fairly arbitrary age - fourteen if you're Jewish, eighteen most everywhere else - but simply having a working set of testes doesn't get the job done. Being a man seems to be about a whole heap of moral and personal qualities.

However, being a man isn't about those moral and personal qualities. Those are invented by wives, daughters, mothers, employers, tailors, training sergeants, fathers-in-law, priests, family members, anyone who needs you to do something for them and will stoop at nothing - shaming, alienating affections, insincere flattery, glossy advertisements - to persuade you to do it. That's where all this "a man has a family" or "a man doesn't play X-Box", or "a man has a raincoat" or "a man gives up his seat for a lady" and other nonsense comes from. Flush it all down the toilet. Any time you feel like objecting "but a man does / doesn't...", figure out in whose interests it is to have you believe that, then forget it. There's being a Man (the structure of your approach to your self and the world) and there's being a 'Man' (somebody's idea of an upright citizen and all-round exemplary behaviour). I'm talking about the structural stuff. All the rest is someone trying to sell you something.

And that is the clue. However we define what it is to be a man, it can't set us up for guilt trips and manipulation. I'm with the MGTOW guys when they say that the answer to what a man is cannot depend on a woman, and would add that it can't depend on the economy either. Men aren't what women say they are, and they aren't what an employer says is desirable either. You can be unemployed and a man (surviving some adult unemployment is part of the seasoning). You can be a player, a ghost or guy who gets laid now and again, and be a man. You can be married or not, have children or not, wealthy or not, creative or not, chop wood or not, leave a legacy or not, lay tile or not, fix engines or not, cut code or not, wear trainers to work or not. Hell, on the occasional day, you can even snivel. Just occasionally. 

Being a man is a role, and a huge part of that role is being autonomous: we do stuff because it helps us achieve our objectives: because that's what it takes to get money, or support, or co-operation, or laid, or whatever else. There's a bunch of stuff we won't do because those are our boundaries. Where those boundaries and objectives are, how low we will stoop, speaks to our moral character. Not to whether we are men. 

We are about the work. Not pleasure, happiness, fulfilment, intimacy, closeness and all that other stuff. Those are feelings, that come and go like all emotions. Not power, wealth, success, fame and beautiful lovers. Those are lottery prizes, and can be won by robber barons, criminals, corrupt officials and greedy corporate executives. Reputation and recognition, yes, but only from other men. Sure we can can chase women, laze on a beach, watch movies, climb mountains, enjoy a Michelin-starred meal, take a funfair ride, get drunk, play with our children, gaze at the view, breath the air, ride a horse, tend the plants, play poker, feed the rabbits and all that other good stuff - but these are diversions, times when we let the spring relax before we wind it up again. That's part of what life is about, but it's not the purpose. Our purpose is to use our marketable talents, however so modest, to benefit ourselves and others. Which brings us to the next point. 

We acquire and develop skills, usually in the manipulation of materials or information, or in the command and influence of people. It's how we earn our living, and as it takes a few years to acquire those skills to any employable degree, it's part of how we identify themselves. As a consequence, we can seem less adaptable than women, but that's because most women choose jobs that require generic, lower-level skills (accounting, HR, project management), rather than anything technology- or industry-specific. Committing to specific skills is a higher risk than bumping along on generic ones, which is why in the end we are paid more.

While we're on the "command and influence of people" thing, this does not mean "people skills". Command and influence is earned by acquiring a reputation for competence at the task - and the exercise of command by non-competents is deeply resented. In practice, "people skills" are either basic politeness between colleagues (which can be lacking in big companies) and often hokey Dale Carnegie tricks for establishing some kind of rapport and co-operation with slightly awkward people - though those would be on the advanced course.

We have a clear, practical, view of the world. We understand that any part of the world is as it is because someone designed it that way, even if they gave the design precious little thought. We understand that someone is responsible when a patient dies on a trolley in a hospital corridor, or when the food is under-cooked. We do not live in a magic world, partly because we understand enough science and technology to know otherwise. A magic-dweller says "Isn't that amazing, aren't they wonderful?", we think "That was amazing. How long did they train?" Yeah, I do mean engineers, medics, mathematicians, programmers, mechanics, designers, musicians, artists and other craft-types only. Lawyers and MBA's, not so much. If they get a hands-on technical hobby, they may yet make it.

We are straightforward. We don't do mind-reading and we don't expect to have our mind read. (The fabled female capacity for mind-reading is just that - a fable.) We might play games to get laid, but that's because those games are the price the girl is charging. We sort out our problems face-to-face and in direct language. We understand that friends and policemen are entitled to the truth should they ask: our enemies get whatever lies it benefits us to tell them, and everyone else gets polite nonsense.

Mostly we don't do stuff for free: we get paid or you owe us a favour. Minor kindnesses and taking an injured person to hospital are exceptions. Being the Designated Driver, the guy who sits twiddling his thumbs waiting for closing time while everyone else gets loaded and has a great time, is not a minor favour. If you take that on and the others don't recompense you in some way, you're being played, even if by yourself. Designated Drivers get Designated Lays or they don't do the job. Seriously. (There are times we have to put in "investment energy", as when establishing a reputation at work or in our profession, or when joining communities and chasing women, but that's a finite effort that should be understood before we start, and for which the rewards cannot be arbitrarily withheld. A lot of younger workers don't get the 'investment' bit and a lot of employers and women don't get the 'not arbitrarily withheld' bit.)

We have self-respect. We stay in shape, eat well, dress with restrained style, avoid junk food and culture, and cultivate a sense for the Real Thing. We do not, however, fuss over the finer points of Saville Row tailoring or organic mangos. The point is to avoid being crass and absorbing junk, not to be Beau Brummel. 

How about marriage and children? We covered that. Neither are compulsory. You can figure out how compatible marriage, children and personal autonomy are. If paying child-support and picking up the kids at the weekend is one of your life goals, you have a forty per cent chance of achieving it through marriage.

What about self-defence? Sure, if we live in a world where we can expect to have your physical safety threatened. I don't. If you want to learn to box, grapple or fight because it makes you feel more confident and gets the hormones going, be my guest.

Now get this. We are not saints, and neither are we sinners. We are not 'flawed' because the idea of 'a flawed' relies on the idea of 'a perfect' and there is no 'ideal' man. There are guys who get being a man right sometimes, and wrong sometimes, and then there are guys who miss the point pretty much entirely. We are not here to strive to achieve someone else's ideas of perfection, and we are not here as a host resource for parasites to live their lives. We're here on business and some R&R at the weekends. 

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