Violence, Men, and a Society That Loves
Violence, Men, and a Society That Loves
“Modern capitalism needs men who co-operate smoothly, and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated. It needs men who feel free and independent, not subject to any authority or principle or conscience—yet willing to be commanded, to do what is expected of them, to fit into the social machine without friction; who can be guided without force, led without leaders, prompted without aim—except the one to make good, to be on the move, to function, to go ahead. What is the outcome? Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature.”Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
Guns and violence seem to be a recurring theme in our nation as of late. And it is painful for me to admit, but there seems to be a common theme with most of the violence that is erupting: men.
We can talk about guns. We can talk about “American values;” indeed, this is something that we should deeply lean into. We can talk about a theological framework of sin and more…but we would miss the point, miss the plot completely, if we didn’t discuss men.
How did we get here?
How and when did we get to the point in our history that men are so intertwined with the word “violence?” The initial reaction from many is indeed “since the beginning.” Whether it displays itself in interpersonal relationships or in the office, violence doesn’t seem to be antithetical to men. At all.
But before I can move forward, I need to speak the name of Jordan Neeley. To breathe it into the air. Jordan, you did not deserve to have your life taken from you in such a vile, cruel, and gratuitously violent manner. And in death, you received more money in a GoFund Me than you had in life.
My heart aches.
Black men deserve the opportunity to grow old and receive care.
Our lives matter.
“I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.”― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
There is another way
Guns in the hands of men have steadily proven to be hazardous to public health. But the violence that men commit isn’t limited to guns. Online trolling has made social media and the broader internet unsafe and scary for a while now. A court found the most recent former President liable for sexual abuse. And even in the midst of all of this, there is an increasing number of books, videos, and talks encouraging men to reclaim their masculinity. To become an Alpha Male. To teach women to stay in their place. Yikes on bikes.
When people say we have a masculinity problem, though, I often wonder who they envision. Current conversations and proposed models of liberation, even at their best, center able-bodied men and tout concepts of power that don’t resonate for all or even most of us. Do people consider disabled men and the way that they are ostracized in society, even by women, as they speak about dismantling the patriarchy?
I know that there is a better way forward. An important component to finding that way is to name the violence that men elevate and participate in. Another part of finding a better way forward is lifting up models of masculinity that are subversive, healing, sacred, and generative.
We need to have better conversations about patriarchy and its ill effects on society. When people say we have a masculinity problem, I often wonder who they envision. Current conversations and proposed models of liberation, even at their best, center able-bodied men and tout concepts of power that don’t resonate for all or even most of us. For example, do people consider disabled men and the way that they are ostracized in society, even by women, as they speak about dismantling the patriarchy?
I hope in a society of love where we learn to embrace the art of loving and communal care. I hope that men in this society can “learn war no more.”
“Take for instance a man driven to incessant work by a sense of deep insecurity and loneliness; or another one driven by ambition, or greed for money. In all these cases the person is the slave of a passion, and his activity is in reality a “passivity” because he is driven; he is the sufferer, not the “actor.” On the other hand a man sitting quiet and contemplating, with no purpose or aim except that of experiencing himself and his oneness with the world, is considered to be “passive”, because he is not “doing” anything. In reality, this attitude of concentrated meditation is the highest activity there is, an activity of the soul, which is possible only under the condition of inner freedom and independence.”Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving