As usual at times when gutlessness and venality appear as a plague upon the land, there’s a lot of loose talk about "manliness" making the rounds. And as usual, the overwhelming majority of the gabbers haven't got the faintest idea what they're talking about.
Manliness isn't about size or brawn.
Being covered head to toe with hair doesn't signify manliness.
It has nothing to do with braggadocio, belligerence, or truculence.
Being obnoxious about your opinions makes you obnoxious, not manly.
Neither does preferring NASCAR to chess say anything about how manly you are.
Manliness is about the possession of the manly virtues.
Accordingly, I repost the following essay, which first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason in 1997.
We hear a lot of loose talk about "environmental damage" and "endangered species" from the left-loonies and their pet interest groups, but when you look for what's actually disappeared from the American environment, twothings rear up and poke you in the eye:
Get into your time machine, go back fifty years [i.e., to 1950 -- FWP], and walk the streets of any of the great cities of this continent. They were safe. They were almost perfectly clean. People didn't jostle one another, hurl obscene imprecations at one another, deface the sides of buildings with moronic scrawling, or pollute the air with pain-threshold levels of their preferred "music." Men treated women with courtesy, respect, and a certain protective affection. Even the poor, of which, though they were less numerous than they are today, there was no shortage, were clean, self-reliant, self-respecting, and courteous.
The police would sort out those who couldn't meet the prevailing standards and would unceremoniously tell them to "keep moving," in which effort they were overwhelmingly reinforced by the non-uniformed public. If you wanted to surround yourself with degeneracy, you had to find the local Skid Row, the only place where such things were tolerated. It wasn't a big place, and the folks you found there permitted themselves no pride about their condition. No one indulged in nonsense notions about the "dignity" of the homeless, of welfare dependents, of drug addicts, of gang members, or any of today's mascot-groups for the coercive-compassion camp. As a result, government, which fattens on public perceptions of danger and disorder, was relatively small and unintrusive.
Were there some blemishes on this pretty picture? Yes, of course there were. There were still legal barriers against women entering the workforce in many states. There were still entailments on women's right to hold real property in a few places in the south and southwest. A residuum of racism encumbered the black population's efforts to raise its condition -- though in fairness it must be remembered that a popular movement largely composed of white people was already afoot, and just fourteen years later it swept all race-based legal restrictions into the dustbin of history. Government had swollen due to the unconstitutional New Deal and America's involvement in two foreign wars, and those who liked the result were working to swell it still further.
Still, in 1950, America was a place of nearly overpowering civility. In 2000...?
How did we lose it?
Ask a hundred opinion-mongers and you'll get a hundred different answers. Here's mine: We made it unacceptable to be a man, at least in public.
The word "man" in the above is, for a change, not to be interpreted generically. I don't mean "a member of the human species,"or even "a masculine human being." I mean a man, the sort that fathers used to try to raise their sons to be, even if Dad wasn't quite one himself, because he knew it was his duty, and because it was expected of him. In 1950, the chattering classes and their hangers-on were already at work trying to make the manly virtues into vices, and to promote their opposites in their place.
What is a man, and what does a youth need to learn to become one?
Two things qualify a masculine homo sapiens as a man:
- Knowledge of right and wrong, and the willingness to fight for the right;
- Knowledge of his own obligations, and the willingness to meet them.
A man must learn "where the line is": the line that separates behavior that must be tolerated from behavior that must not be. He must be willing -- personally willing -- to fight in defense of the former and against the latter, though it might expose him to risk and cost him injury or death. He must be ready to swallow his distaste and protect the rights even of persons he finds repulsive, if they have harmed no other human being.
A man must learn proportionality and restraint. Biology has optimized the male body for purposive aggression, sudden acceleration and focused violence. These are not things to be deployed in their 200-proof strength against trivial or unworthy targets. A man doesn't kill the bounder who steals his parking space, his business idea, or his wife. Even a punch in the nose is excessive for infractions like these.
A man must learn never to shirk a freely contracted obligation. If you've said you'll do it, you do it. No excuses. Conversely, if you have failed to meet an obligation, you must admit to it and try to do better next time.
A man must learn not to whine about disappointments, reversals, or the ways of women. Especially about the ways of women. They're not men -- thank God -- and we can't fairly hold them to manly standards.
A man must learn reverence in the presence of the numinous. The fact that each of us is a part of an infinitely greater whole manifests itself in innumerable ways. Learning to let it in, to cherish it, and to use it to buttress oneself in times of darkness is critical to attaining the endurance the world expects from a man.
Last and most important, a man must transmit the manly virtues to his male children.
But no one has said it better than the poet the political Left hates worst in all the world:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!