“Sigurth spake: ‘Better is heart than a mighty blade for him who shall fiercely fight; The brave man well shall fight and win, though dull his blade may be.’”
Courage is defined as “the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.”
When we have Courage, we are able to face the challenges that are put in front of us without being overcome by fear or being deflected from our chosen course of action. Courage is akin to the Noble Virtue of Perseverance, where one presses on against all odds until the goal is met, the task is finished and/or one has done all they said they would do.
In his book, “The Way of Men”, author Jack Donovan states that Courage is “the animating spirit of masculinity, and it is crucial to any meaningful definition of masculinity… In any gang of men fighting for survival, courage will be esteemed and respected in the living and it will be revered in the dead. Courage is a crucial tactical virtue. One can choose to be courageous, and even in its basest form, courage is a triumph over fear. It’s associated with heart and spirit and passion, but it is also a drive to fight and win…”
Donovan goes on to further define Courage as “the will to risk harm in order to benefit one-self or others. In its most basic amoral form, courage is a willingness or passionate desire to fight or hold ground at any cost (gameness, heart, spirit, thumos). In its most developed form courage is the considered and decisive willingness to ensure the success or survival of a group or another person (courage, virtus, andreia).”
But Courage itself is not words and concepts and definitions- it is honorable action.
The following story I’m going to retell is a true story about three men who swam through Chernobyl’s radioactive waters to stop a nuclear meltdown. It is taken from an article out of Oddee.com entitled, “9 Amazing Stories of Incredibly Brave People”:
“In 1986, a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test destroyed Unit 4 of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant, spewing massive amounts of deadly radioactive material into the environment. The death toll was unknown and rumored to be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand.
While many perished, three clean-up volunteers – Alexi Ananenko, Valeri Bezpoalov and Boris Baronov – willingly met their fate.
During the well-documented disaster, a pool of water used for emergencies in case of a break in the cooling pumps or steam pipes became flooded with a highly radioactive liquid that was in danger of blowing up. These three men suited up in scuba gear and swam into the radioactive waters of the flooded chamber, knowing full well they would die as a result. They opened up a gate valve, which allowed the contaminated water to drain out.
Days after reaching the surface all three men succumbed to radiation poisoning and were buried in lead coffins. If not for the bravery of the ‘Chernobyl Suicide Squad’ a thermal explosion would have taken place resulting in unfathomable disaster.”
While it may be impossible for us to fully place ourselves in those men’s shoes, I invite you all to think to yourselves for a moment and ask yourselves, “Would I take on a task, knowing it would inevitably kill me, in order to save my family and my people?”
I would like to say I would. But in truth, I’ll only know when it happens.
Many spiritual traditions speak of “selfless service”, but how many who adhere are willing to knowingly risk their own lives to save another?
Alexi Ananenko, Valeri Bezpoalov and Boris Baronov, displayed Courage by willfully sacrificing themselves to save the lives of their family and their folk.
It is courage; the willingness to suffer and even give the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of a noble cause; like dying so that your family and friends can live; that is the hallmark of a warrior. In an age where so many people, so many men in particular, seem to think of nothing that is worth saving over their own skin, this sort of courage needs to be held to the highest esteem. This is the sort of courage we as men of European descent, and really just men in general, need to strive for. This is the model of manhood.
So how does one go about building this mindset of Courage and the Will to act upon it? This is where the Warrior archetype of masculinity comes into play.
But first, we need to set our definitions.
In their book, “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine”, authors Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette define what exactly is meant by the word, “archetype”:
“It is our experience that deep within every man are blueprints, what we can also call ‘hard wiring’, for the calm and positive mature masculine. Jungians (that is to say, followers of renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung) refer to theses masculine potentials as archetypes, or ‘primordial images’.
Jung and his successors have found that on the level of the deep unconscious the psyche of every person is grounded in what Jung referred to as the ‘collective unconscious’, made up of instinctual patterns and energy configurations probably inherited genetically throughout the generations of our species. The archetypes provide the very foundations of our behaviors- our thinking, our feeling, and our characteristic human reactions. They are the image makers that artists and poets and religious prophets are so close to.”
In the book, Moore and Gillette outline what Jungians have found to be the four primary archetypes of the masculine psyche as laid out in both the myths and legends of traditional societies, as well as the roles of men within the societies themselves. These four archetypes are the King, the Warrior, the Magician, and the Lover.
In the following passage, Moore and Gillette describe the man who is accessing the Warrior archetype in its fullness:
“A man accessing the Warrior archetype has a “positive mental attitude”, as they say in sales training. This means that he has an unconquerable spirit, that he has great courage that he is fearless, that he takes responsibility for his actions, and that he has self-discipline. Discipline means that he has the rigor to develop control and mastery over his mind and body, and that he has the capacity to withstand pain, both psychological and physical. He is willing to suffer to achieve what he wants to achieve. ‘No pain, no gain’, we say.”
In day-to-day life, we are accessing our Warrior when we are focused and “getting shit done”. We access the Warrior when we are holding ourselves and our brothers accountable.
My experiences with Martial Arts in particular, helped to facilitate a development and understanding of the Warrior archetype within myself. I highly recommend anyone getting at least some experience practicing a form of Martial Arts, if for nothing more than the mental training that will inevitably happen when training in such a manner.
A wonderful example of how the Warrior archetype can apply to the spiritual quest is shown in Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan series. The various exercises described in the book that are aimed at challenging the perception, firming the integrity, letting go of old beliefs and mastering the mind and emotions, are definitely worth looking into.
When we are truly in our Warrior, we are in control of our emotions- most importantly the emotions related to fear. When we have this control, we are able to move beyond desperate attempts to “save our own ass”, and demonstrate acts of courage for the sake of a greater good.
In the Norse myth of Tyr and Fenris, Odin and the gods deceive the murderous wolf-monster, Fenris. In order to neutralize the threat, he posed to the world, the gods agreed to bind Fenris with magic chains. Odin baited the wolf with his pride, saying that he could not break the chains, while swearing they did not use any magic on them (which they did). Fenris let the gods put the chains on him, under the condition that one of them had to put their hand in his mouth as “collateral” in case they were deceiving him (which they were). Tyr, most courageous of the gods, volunteered to be the one who put their hand in the monster’s mouth. And sure enough, once the wolf found he could not break the chains due to magic, Fenris bit the god’s hand off and swallowed it.
In this story, we have a sacrifice not of life, but of limb. Of course, Tyr would go on to die with most of the other gods at Ragnarok. Tyr knew what was going to happen from the moment he made the decision to sacrifice himself for the greater good of his kin; his tribe of Aesir gods. Tyr knew that the danger Fenris posed to the gods as well as pretty much everyone else, was a far higher price than his hand. Tyr knew the sacrifice was worth it.
In the Norse-Germanic tradition, victory was not nearly as important as dying “a good death”- the most noble of which was to die in battle and be taken to Valhalla– Odin’s hall of elite warriors who fought, feasted and made merry until the time of Ragnarok.
We are in a pivotal moment right now. It is a time when the Divine Masculine Principle of the Sun god is rising in the consciousness of our folk and all of humanity- and He came not to bring peace, but a sword.
True masculinity, especially aggressive and fearless Warrior Masculinity, has always been the greatest threat to any established order or any outside group seeking dominance over a tribe. This is why such focus is placed on controlling men- making sure that men “behave” and “fall-in-line” in a subservient fashion. This is why there is such a demonization of men like Trump and movements like the Alt-Right and other Nationalist/anti-Globalist movements for being “hyper-masculine”, “bullying”, “predators”. This is why children in school are being taught about the evils of “White Patriarchy” and “White Masculinity” and an increasingly young age.
In “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover”, Moore and Gillette stated:
“We live in a time when people are generally uncomfortable with the Warrior form of masculine energy… This is the age in the West of the ‘soft masculine’ and it is a time in which radical feminists raise loud and hostile voices against the Warrior energy. In liberal churches, committees are removing such ‘warlike” hymns as ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ from the hymnals.”
Moore and Gillette went on to state in criticism of feminism and modern liberalism’s attempt to re-design a less-aggressive, less-threatening man:
“We can’t just take a vote and vote the Warrior out. Like all archetypes, it lives on despite of our conscious attitudes for it. And like all repressed archetypes, it goes underground eventually to resurface in the form of emotional and physical violence.”
The “Old Order” appears to be in the process of decay. They desperately struggle to keep their desperate to keep their dead dream alive by constantly attempting to “vote the Warrior out”- and when that works, marginalize, slander, demonize and attack him. But this strategy will not work because it is attempting to suppress Nature. Nature will not be denied. The Warrior WILL NOT be denied.
The time for men of European descent to have courage and tap into their Warrior is seemingly now or never. Europa is literally being raped while her children in the Occident slowly wither and decay into living ghosts of their ancestors. But this does not mean directions can’t change. We just need to have the courage to take right action, even if we are demonized, attacked and even killed for doing so.
To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
In taking Courageous action, we win no matter what the outcome on paper reads.
In John chapter 15 verse 13, Krist Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
There is honor in sacrifice of one’s self for those you love. Now am I saying go martyr yourself for the world or develop a “Social Justice Warrior” sense of moral self-righteousness? No. What I am saying is that there are things more precious than our own asses. Be it family, friends, tribe or nation; there should be something that we know in our hearts we would die for. And when the time comes that those things need defending, we are right there willing to be a human shield if need be- figuratively and/or literally.
We live in an Age where action is the order of the day. And no meaningful action can happen until we get our Warrior on-line and grow ourselves a set. Men of European descent as well as men from all races and ethnicities, need to rediscover what it means to have True courage and be a Warrior, if we are going to re-assume our roles as protectors of our family, tribe, and folk, as well as bring honor to our ancestors, and claim our spiritual destiny.
It is the time for Courage now. It’s time for the Warrior to step into the arena.
“Everyone deserves to feel whole. And each of us can do our part in expanding what it means to be a man for ourselves and the boys in our lives.”
Ending quote from “The Mask You Live In”
Photo copyright Jennifer Newsom and The Representation Project
I recently sat down and watched the documentary “The Mask You Live In”- a film that was written and directed by filmmaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom (who also happens to be the wife of the Lieutenant Governor of California). Newsom is also the creator of the film “Miss Representation”, which examines how the media have supposedly contributed to the under-representation of women in positions of power. Her latest film “The Mask You Live In”, is billed as being about “the struggle men and boys have while negotiating American society’s narrow definition of masculinity”.
I had heard about the film for a little while and knew it had mixed reviews, with the guys over at The ManKind Project giving it a “thumbs up”, while the guys over at The Pressure Project gave it a “thumbs down”. As these are both groups that I have a great deal of respect for, I decided to check out the movie for myself.
“The way boys are brought up makes them hide all of their natural, vulnerable, and empathic feelings behind a mask of masculinity.”
The film opens with former NFL player and football coach, Joe Ehrmann reflecting on a memory of him being five years old and his father bringing him into the basement to teach him how to fight, telling him he could not cry and he had to “be a man”. He then tells how he spent the rest of his life attempting to prove to his father that he was just that.
NFL Logo Copyright the National Football League
One of the primary focuses of the film has to do with how boys are taught from very early on that they need to disconnect from our emotions and that any emotion other than anger is not “manly”. We are given the stories and narratives of a handful of young men who speak about how they were taught as children what they needed to do to “fit in” with various male peer groups throughout their years in elementary school, and then high school. One of the characters, a former athlete-turned-thespian named Ian, describes this process:
“School was a training ground for me to learn how to perform masculinity; to perform to be one of the guys.”
The idea of feeling the need to “perform”; to put on some kind of act, in order to be accepted by one male peer group or another is something that strongly resonated with my schooling experience. Whether it was joining a sports team when I was not at all athletic or into sports; bullying certain kids who were “lower” on the school social hierarchy; smoking weed and hanging out with guys I didn’t really trust; or distancing myself from friends who were not part of the “cool crowd”- I did all kinds of things and compromised my integrity in many ways for the sole purpose of being “accepted” by one group of guys or another.
Likewise, as was reflected in the film narrative, I learned that men never cry or show emotion or empathy. At first it was described as something that girls and “sissies” did, and later, it was something that was “gay”- all of which were things that as a boy, you did not want to be labelled as.
This is also echoed in the film as it speaks on bullying of children who are “different”. This too resonated with me, as being someone who was more on the “creative” and “sensitive” side (as well as the chubby side due to being allowed to eat poorly and be lazy), I often found myself the target of moderate bullying. However, my remedy for this was often to try to “get in” with the bullies by being one myself.
Photo courtesy of The Representation Project
The film speaks to how there is a dominance hierarchy in these male social circles, which as stated, can lead to bullying, which in turn can cause the one being targeted to feel helpless, and with the stigma towards males expressing emotion and reaching out, causes the boy to internalize everything, leading to depression and in extreme cases, suicide. In American boys, suicide is the third leading cause of death, with boys between 10-14 having three times the suicide rate as girls, which jumps to five times the rate in boys ages 15-19, and then skyrockets to 7 times the suicide rate in young men between 20-24.
Several of the boys and young men interviewed speak of a life of feeling alone and isolated. Some of these young men reached to drinking and drugs as a gateway to bonding and letting down barriers they felt they were forced to keep up at all other times for their own emotional (and sometimes physical) protection. Some even reached out into gang culture as a way to somehow find that “bond” with other men that they so desperately craved.
This desperate craving for male companionship was often due to the physical and/or emotional abandonment by their fathers (something referred to as the “father wound”). This is another “wound” I resonate with, as my father was not overly involved with me for most of my life. My story is not as cut-and-dry as a “deadbeat dad” story, but the effects of not having a present and involved father-figure during my adolescent years certainly effected me negatively nonetheless.
There is indeed a crisis among our boys, and the film points to the portrayal of men and masculinity in culture and the media and the expectations set up around them as the primary culprit. A group of San Quentin prisoners who form a men’s support group of “lifers” are featured in the film, and in one scene the group makes a list of some of characteristics that they grew up believing made a man a man. These traits included showing no emotion, using violence to solve problems, being able to dominate others, being a womanizer, and “never backing down”.
The film then again directs us to Joe Ehrmann who refers to the “lies of masculinity”, which is the notion that masculinity is defined by the following three things:
Athletic and Physical Prowess and Physique
Economic Success and Money
This was another point that I highly resonated with. I remember points during my twenties especially, when I was obsessed with developing my physique, and even more so with sexual conquest, as that more than anything else, defined what was “a man” to me (which was/is total bullshit). Meanwhile, the specter of economic success consistently eluded me, creating feelings of deep insecurity and a sense of personal failure.
The film goes on to talk about the specific “masculine (shadow) archetypes” portrayed in the modern media that glorify dominance and aggression: the strong silent antihero type (who uses violence to get what he wants); the superhero; the thug (typically a “person of color”); and the man-child/frat-boy type (who obsesses over sexual conquest). We are then rightly told about how media influences culture, as media images and themes have been proven to affect people’s behavior.
We are also told how not only film and television, but video games and pornography are shaping the modern male mind. Again, both of these things are true. A statistic given is that 31% of males feel “addicted” to video games. Likewise, the increasing brutality and violence of video games and perpetual exposure to them has been shown to create a desensitization effect. There is a reason why first-person shooters originated as, and continue to be used as training exercises for soldiers.
Similarly, internet pornography is increasingly pandemic among young men, with the seemingly unending supply of novelty and stimulation. Internet pornography has destroyed many young men’s capacity for intimacy, and both porn and video games has helped foster a state of ever-increasing isolation among many. Like video games, use of internet pornography can be extremely habit-forming and virulently addictive in a similar way that gambling or food can be (although the film does not mention this), and has become an epidemic among a generation of increasingly lonely and isolated men.
One of the highlights of the film is the emphasis on the need for male support groups and mentorship. The film shows several examples of young men being involved in various mentoring programs and male support groups, while stressing the need to create a space where bonds can be formed, support can be given, and trust can be established. Forming this sort of container allows men to be authentic and vulnerable and work through challenging emotions in a healthy and empowering way, and as a result, fosters strength, which serves their “tribe”. The “circle of men” is a key component for the creation and maintenance of true tribe and brotherhood, and is something that many, many men, young and old, do not have.
One of the interviewees states, “Our boys are yearning for help; yearning for guidance and mentorship and leadership.”
Photo courtesy of The Representation Project
Without true mentors and brothers, many young men are going out and defining these concepts of masculinity and tribe/brotherhood for themselves- and often with disastrous consequences. There is a deep need for brotherhood and a place for authentic interaction among men that is missing in modern society, and to its credit, “Mask” recognizes this.
The ability to become emotionally literate is something that has been taken from modern men and at a great price. The authentic bonding of the family and the tribe has slowly been eroded by modernity. The great archetypes and symbols that men once worked with and used to define and describe the internal life from a place of power, have all but disappeared from modern consciousness. The great initiations where boys learned to become men have been reduced to mere shells of what they once were, if they even exist at all.
Thankfully, there are groups out there that are working to once again provide a place for men to move into a place of authenticity and openness within a tribe of trusted brothers, and a manner for men to once again discover the true depth of masculinity and the male experience. The ManKind Project is one such group that is near and dear to me, but there are many others, and I encourage any man reading to look into them if they have not already.
“Masculinity is not organic, it’s reactive. It’s not something that just develops. It’s a rejection of everything that is feminine.”
One of the first “red flags” for me occurred during the opening credits of the documentary when I saw the list of who it was that created this film about the world of young men and “masculinity” in America:
Writer, Director, and Producer: Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Writer, Producer, and Film Editor: Jessica Congdon
Producer: Jessica Anthony
Associate Producer: Dani Fishman
Executive Producers: Maria Shriver, Abigail Disney, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Sarah E. Johnson, Regina Kulik Scully, Wendy Schmidt
Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? We have a documentary about men and masculinity produced entirely by women. Putting things in perspective here, can we honestly say that in this day and age a film about young women and “femininity” is a venture that could be taken up by an all-male production team and have any sort of real credibility? Furthermore, is it a subject that a group of men should attempt to tackle? Is a man or a group of men really capable of exploring the true depth of the experience of being a woman? Probably not. That being said, how could the reverse situation, which is this film, hope to escape the same fate? It can’t and it doesn’t. Even if these women have sons of their own, they will never experience being their sons (or any of the other men in their lives), and that makes a BIG difference with a project like this.
The perspective of the filmmakers is unavoidable, and for that effect the film itself becomes in large part a critique of men and masculinity in the context of how they relate to women and the feminine- not a real in-depth look at masculinity in and of itself. While there are points where some real light shines through, and the filmmakers may have had the best of intentions, unfortunately this “light” is somewhat dimmed by the persistent and obvious focus of the filmmakers in the belief of the perpetual victim status of women in America.
The film’s focus on women being faultless victims of American men leaves one with the impression that much of the “concern” for men this film professes to have, is in large part based in the filmmakers’ own group self-interest as women, and not out of a genuine concern for the suffering of men in and of itself. The filmmakers seek to see men’s behavior change for the primary purpose of benefiting women (particularly those of a neo-feminist persuasion), not men.
To sum it up, any “concern” the film claims to have for boys and men comes off as largely disingenuous, and in truth just seems to simply be looking for a new solution for the age-old problem of how to make men “behave properly” and “feel correctly” in order to tame and train them to not be “a threat” to whomever is looking to gain power at their expense.
One of the first “experts” interviewed in the film is Dr. Michael Kimmel, who speaks of how the idea of proving strength and masculinity to other males is something that starts in early boyhood. Kimmel laments about how boys having to prove to other boys that they’re “not girls” does not give young boys a way to feel secure in their own masculinity.
Kimmel analyzes feelings of disenfranchisement and anger in men (particularly white men), as feelings of lost entitlement which are resulting in mass murder, mass misogynist violence and the overall setback of the advancement of culture. Kimmel feels action is needed to move men into a more “equalitarian” future.
Other “experts” like Jewish-American educator, advocate, “anti-violence” expert, and producer of the film “Tough Guise”, Dr. Jackson Katz, echo Kimmel’s sentiments on a need for a cultural redefining of masculinity. Dr. Katz is the creator of a gender violence prevention and education program entitled “Mentors in Violence Prevention”.
Katz advocates the bystander approach to gender violence and bullying prevention. Instead of focusing on women as victims and men as perpetrators of harassment, abuse or violence, the bystander approach concentrates on the role of peers in schools, groups, teams, workplaces and other social units.
However, like Dr. Kimmel, Dr. Katz’s male “advocacy” operates under the assumption that the interests and goals of second and third wave feminism are completely congruent with the best interests of western men, which is an incredibly tenuous assumption to say the least. Similarly, Dr. Katz’s overarching stance in much of his work is firmly entrenched in Critical Theory, with its obsessive focus on not “reinforce(ing) the dominant position of white masculinity in the race/gender system.”
One of the fundamental underlying premises of the film is the theory that gender (or at least masculinity) is a purely social construct. This is alliterated by Jewish-American professor Dr. Caroline Heldman, (who was quoted in the beginning of this section) and appears to be “backed up” by science with the opinion of neuroscientist Dr. Lise Eliot, who states that “Throughout most of history there’s been this belief that men and women are fundamentally different creatures… that probably begins with the Bible… Sex is a biological term that refers to what chromosomes you have… Gender is a social construct.”
The notion of gender, and masculinity in particular, as not being “a real thing” is based on the changing specifics of the roles men play and have played from culture to culture, due to differences in economics, religion, resources, technological advancement, climate, historical factors and numerous cultural idiosyncrasies and influences. However, this notion of male social roles becomes a misrepresentation when it is applied as a universal for everything except chromosomes and genitalia. In truth, there are indeed certain “universals” that have always been present in human male populations across cultures and across time such as but not limited to:
Males engaging in more coalitional violence.
Males tending to be more aggressive.
Males being more prone to lethal violence.
Males being more prone to theft.
Males, on average, travelling greater distances over their lifetime
This also parallels with the characteristics of other mammal males where the need to compete for sexual selection is high. These characteristics include:
Males will tend to be larger than females.
Males will tend to die younger for physiological reasons than will females.
Males will tend to engage in more risky activities in the context of acquiring mates than females.
Males will tend to have higher mortality than females as a result of external factors, such as combat, disease, and accidents.
Males will tend to exhibit more general aggression than females.
Males will tend to engage in escalating violent aggression that leads to injury and/or death.
Pre-adult males will tend to engage in more competitive and aggressive play than pre-adult females.
Males will be less discriminating about and more eager to procreate with females than vice-versa.
Many of these are the very characteristics that the film and Critical Theory argue are purely “social constructs” that can somehow be “unlearned”. If this were indeed true, then why do these masculine/male traits appear not only repeat themselves across different cultures and different periods in history, but across different species? Not only that, if these things are so universally distributed, making them truly a property of nature rather than society, would it not be supreme arrogance to believe that somehow it was nature that “got it wrong”, and we’re going to “fix it”?
The idea of gender as a “social construct” is actually fairly recent, and has its origins in the early twentieth century with Neo-Marxist Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School. Critical Theory now saturates the Humanities Departments in most western colleges and universities, and has made its way into the majority of high school and even elementary school curricula in some form or fashion.
The concept of Critical Theory is comprised of two basic components: First, is that society is organized into oppressors and the oppressed, with the “oppressors” typically being straight “cisgender” men, with white men sitting tenuously at the very top of as rulers; while a victim hierarchy structure exists beneath them composed of women, “people of color”, LGBTQ, Jews, Muslims, etc. Second, is the belief that this system must somehow be upended through a “revolutionary” transformation of western culture via academia, media, religion, politics, which will result in the fundamental transformation of western society as a whole.
It should also be understood that this whole notion of victimhood and victim hierarchy as professed by Critical Theory is completely incongruent with self-reliance and accountability, which form the backbone of true self-empowerment, which is what movements that espouse to Critical Theory, like feminism, profess to be about. You cannot claim power over your situation without claiming some responsibility for it. Victims can’t have power, or else they wouldn’t be victims.
We also find sprinkled throughout the film, various references to popular Critical Theory topics like “White Privilege”, “Male Privilege”, as well as the “oppression” of people of color. This is subtly hinted at through the hot-button issue of illegal immigration, with some focus on the story of a young man who laments over his absentee father being deported back to Mexico, causing him to be even less involved in his life than he already was.
As stated earlier, the film also addresses the issues with media stereotypes and the problem of pornography saturating the internet. However, instead of taking a deep look at how pornography can be addictive and truly destructive to men in multiple aspects of their lives, the film instead chooses to focus on the narrative of “rape culture”. In regards to porn, the main problem “Mask” sees is not so much the severe internal damage it causes to men in relationship to themselves, but rather how it supposedly causes them to act towards women in a predatory and even violent fashion. Again, it was the way men interacted with women that was seen as the most important issue.
It was at this point where we see Dr. Jackson Katz declare that “We (as in the United States) have a rape culture. What that means is that individual rapists are crawling out of the swamps… being produced by our culture.”
The fallacies of claiming that there is a “rape culture” originating in the U.S. or any other western country, that is being led by “misogynist white males” are manifold. This narrative is a creation of Critical Theory, Third Wave Feminism, and the media, and is a subject dense enough for an article in and of itself. That being said, I will leave the topic at this point with two words: taharrush and bullshit.
After addressing “rape culture”, we move to violence culture, where we are told that “gender is the single most important factor” as to why men are the primary perpetrators of “mass shootings” (remember, we were also told that gender is a social construct). Now, moving beyond the sensationalist government and media creations that were the stories of Adam Lanza and James Holmes, there is again more to the story than the perpetuated existence of “violent, dominant hyper-masculinity” that the film would have you believe is the root of all evil.
Regardless of its faults, “The Mask You Live In”, has had enough financial backing and support to be packaged as an “educational film”, with some schools even beginning to include it as part of their curriculum (complete with accompanying text and teaching materials). This material is put out through Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s “Representation Project”- a nonprofit that was launched after the success of “Miss Representation”; whose board members include U.S. Democratic strategist and spokesman for the Golden State Warriors and for the Super Bowl 50 host committee, Nathan Ballard. Interestingly, Ballard is also a former spokesperson for Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom (Jennifer’s husband), and a former spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark.
The Representation Project “inspires individuals and communities to create a world free of limiting stereotypes and social injustices” and “(Use) film as a catalyst for cultural transformation, The Representation Project inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes so that everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, or circumstance, can fulfill their human potential.”
“I think we need to get away from calling weak men ‘women’… I think we need to stop making the woman the opposite end of the spectrum of masculinity… We’re not really saying, ‘He’s not a man, he’s a woman’; we’re saying, ‘He’s not strong, he’s weak’.”
Justin “Master Chim” Garcia
Photo courtesy of The Pressure Project
“The Mask You Live In”, while making some valid points particularly when it comes to the need for men to be able to express emotion in a healthy manner and have support around doing so, falls victim to its belief in a simplistic caricature of masculinity. This caricature of masculinity has in and of itself been largely created by a modernized society that has progressively alienated and displaced what men are in their fullness. Each subsequent generation has moved further and further away from what this is.
The version of masculinity that is portrayed in the film is what should be referred to as “shadow masculinity”. This is an incomplete and imbalanced form of masculinity. Moreover, this is very much an immature form of masculinity- the masculinity of boys who never became men.
Contrary to the beliefs of folks like Dr. Caroline Heldman and other “critical theorists”, masculinity is the very real thing that has created society, not the other way round. The masculine impulse is the progenitor impulse; the drive to create and to build; to extend oneself outwards into the world.
The masculine man is also the traditional protector of the tribe; the one with the tough physical exterior that complements the woman’s tough physical interior. It was always the men the formed the perimeter to protect the interior- the women and the children; from predators and invaders. It was the men that understood they would need to be fit to defend and in many cases, die, in order to protect the ability of the tribe to carry on through the women and children.
In this respect, it is hard-wired into men to seek out and foster strength in other members of “the tribe”, as it is for men to seek to gain the respect and approval of other men in the tribe. Again, these are things that are hard-wired into us, and in a natural environment, they are healthy and play a vital role in the development and maintenance of healthy masculinity. The drive to “toughen” other men up comes from this. However, without proper guidance and initiation from “tribal elders”, this toughening-up process in its immature form can turn into bullying, and becomes destructive rather than productive.
This need for strength and control/discipline also flows over into the area of emotion and the need for men to have emotional strength and control so we aren’t emotionally “leaking” all over the place, putting ourselves and others at risk during times of crisis and real threat when we need to keep our wits about us. Again, due to lack of proper guidance and initiation, we have mistakenly come to equate emotional control with emotional suppression.
The real problem here is that we are far, far away from anything close to a “natural environment”, and this artifice of modernity seems to have severely affected men to a degree that really is not being talked about in this film, or in general. There is a perverse domestication process that is happening in modern society that is breeding a form of psychosis in men (as well as women), as we become increasingly separated from the natural rhythms of life. In some cases, this psychosis is repressed and regressive, and in others, it’s violent and virulent.
To add to this problem, there is a real belief that these natural hard-wired traits in men are something that can just be culturally “reprogrammed” or “overridden”. This theory is a severe fallacy, and has led to much of the sorts of violent outbursts and general hopeless despair that the makers of the film wish to remedy. We can’t just “reprogram” men and think everything will work out. We need to get to the root of the wound, which with the nature of this modern society, can be multiple.
Here in the United States, we still begin many of our young men’s lives with the very unnatural and unnecessary process of institutionalized male genital mutilation or “circumcision”. There has been a great deal of study done on infant circumcision and infant trauma, and it has been found that the procedure can and will have a deep traumatic impact on the child that will effect a wide range of development issues including, but not limited to his ability to express emotion, empathy and intimacy. There is a saying in the anti-circumcision community that those men who have been cut will “cut” in return. It has been widely concluded that due to the stage of development of the child when the trauma occurs, infant trauma is the hardest to thoroughly move past.
We then move on to the schooling or “education” of boys. The system of government education that we subscribe to is probably one of the most un-natural and perverse systems we can put a child into. A great deal of the film goes into statistics about boys in school such as the fact that boys are more likely to be in special education, be diagnosed with ADHD, flunk or drop out, be suspended, or be expelled. The film puts a great deal of stress put on what can be done to somehow make these boys perform better in school. However, the film lacks either the insight or perhaps the courage to state that just maybe the problem isn’t the boys, but the institution they are being forced to attend. Likewise, the brutal hierarchies that develop in the schooling system are not typically present in home-schoolers or tribal societies.
In addition, the psychotropic medication of boys in particular, which is occurring at increasingly young age, is not even addressed in this film. The natural rambunctiousness and risk-taking nature of boys and young men is seen as a “disease” by modern psychiatric “medicine” and the modern education system. As a result American boys are being medicated with a cocktail of psychoactive chemicals, producing a host of incredibly harmful and dangerous results for themselves and others around them. Once again, not a peep about this from the producers of this film.
As far as the media is concerned, there is no doubt that the Hollywood/Madison Avenue culture has imposed a toxic artifice on us and poisoned our view of the world. However, we would do well to understand that this world of fantasy and its distorted, childish views of masculinity was created in large part to distract and pacify men. It was developed as a way of seducing men to buy into a life where they sell out their true masculine birthrights as sovereign and virile builders of culture and civilization for the pleasures and comforts of modernity and a mediocre existence.
The problem isn’t with any sort of “hyper-masculinity”, or men being aggressive and dominant and competitive- these are fundamental components of masculinity in its wholeness. The problem is that these qualities aren’t the complete picture of masculinity in its wholeness. We need to be able to take on and embody ALL of the masculine archetypes: Warrior, Magician, Lover, and King– and in their wholeness. The problem is that we don’t have a society that understands or facilitates this kind of holistic development in men.
Another problem is also that we are told that we either have the option of embodying this shadow masculinity or embodying the persona of the castrated “masculine feminist”. Personally, I reject both of these. I also find Joe Ehrmann’s statement in the film, “‘Be a man’ is one of the most destructive phrases in this culture” to be destructive in and of itself, and reminds me of my jaded single mother telling me to “Never grow up to be a man” (a phrase other friends who had single mothers heard). We have an epidemic of men who have been raised by women and have been made to feel guilty about being men, causing them to act in a manner that is weak and emotionally castrated. This needs to stop.
Lastly, the big problem here is that the society that has been created here in the western world in the last century, and is continuing to be constructed in the age of globalism and “political correctness”, is not one that is conducive to any sort of healthy masculinity at all whatsoever. It is one that leaves us as neurotic and destructive children seeking out the initiation into true manhood that we never were allowed. And to paraphrase an old African tribal saying, “If we do not initiate the young men, they will burn the village down.”
What we need is a return to tribe. We need to get back to the natural rhythms of ourselves and of nature. We need to return to real brotherhood and purpose. We need strength- not just physical strength, but mental, emotional and spiritual strength. We need real initiation and ritual. We need to understand and work with the archetypes that define us.
Photo courtesy of Wolves of Vinland/Wolves of Cascadia
True masculinity has always been the greatest threat to any established order or any outside group seeking dominance over a tribe. This is why such focus is placed on controlling men- making sure that men “behave” and “fall-in-line” in a subservient fashion. It is this sort of docile, domesticated, and castrated masculinity that we in the SSH wish to wash our hands of. However, these things cannot happen if we are fully invested in the artifice that does little more that suck our life energy and leave us as neurotic shells of what we could be. It’s time we find the strength to discard these illusions and distractions, so we can build something new.