I grew up with John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. The media was filled with their students and imitators. It was cool to be tough. Fidel Castro had been forced to extract nuclear missiles from Cuba. America was at the top of the economic and cultural pyramid.
Now things have changed. The economy in the United States and abroad is not the steady, churning juggernaut of capitalism of the late 20th century. People are out of work or underemployed. Families struggle to pay the rent, put food on the table and make ends meet. The philosophy of rugged individualism is not helping the millions lost in the undertow of its inherent apathy.
What can be said and done to change things for the better? Must I toss out my John Wayne and Ronald Reagan movies? I think not. They are lasting role-models in the cosmos of icons. Men like me are challenged to look beyond the conventional idea of manhood. We Americans are fathers, spouses and sons. We are teachers, leaders and the first of a new age of role-models. Wayne and Reagan would want us to move on and interact with the needs of contemporary society. Education and the dispersion of debate and discussion are essential to the security of this democracy. American men are obliged to question the effectiveness of the social and cultural approaches that repelled the militant autocracy of Leninist socialism. The distribution of wealth and love can be raised without losing freedom of speech and the mechanics of the business community.
What is a man? Apart from his physiological attributes what concepts and traditions does he manifest? How do men think? Many men see themselves as representatives of lasting cultural and economic institutions. These include the business community, religious structures and the stern rigidity of laws. At times educational processes and entities have become mere reflections of a Cold War based paranoia. Some schools no longer encourage the next generation of men to be themselves. They focus more on a more destructive arms race, the miracles of science and the cyclical production of corporate automatons. This place in time needs more from us. The gauntlet is thrown on the table for the slow emergence of feeling men. This entails a returned focus on the arts, human relationships and the heritage of philosophy, psychology and sociology that spans millennia.
Take a breath. Look at the surrounding world. Record and meditate on the presence of those in close proximity and those we care for near and far. American men are the guardians and protectors of the people and institutions they hold dear. We are the molders of the clay of society. This is the truth, not just for today but for the unrevealed future.
With guidance the next generation of leaders and teachers can be brought to grasp a greater social consciousness, sense of self and purpose within the miasma of commercial television and the shallow Quasimodos of contemporary news anchors devoid of salient editorials and contemplation.
I miss the debates and roundtables of William F. Buckley. He was dedicated to evoking multiple perspectives and authorities on controversial and pressing American issues. Other investigative journalists, pundits and educators remain, however, and they stand ready to aid in the process of honing the future of the American man.
I believe in modern psychology. I am not a Freudian or Skinnerian. These formative psychologists believed in strong father-figures and spontaneous enforcement of “time-tested” codes. Some Freudian followers have purported that social institutions should, in turn, reflect the significance of the powerful father image. They seem to believe that a man's place is to carry the torch of previously agreed-upon approaches toward education, economics, family life and the marginalization or subjugation of the arts and a contemporary “Big 3”: psychology, sociology and anthropology.
Like Freud and Jung I believe in the importance of dreams, both literal and figurative. These two early psychologists alone differ on their interpretation of the symbols and meaning of dreams. I side with Jung, who conceives of a mandala of the unconscious and manifestations of unfulfilled wishes in a cosmic, mutually beneficial light.
There is a model, based on Greek mythology, of which I am particularly fond. It has been referred to as the Myers-Briggs model or the Keirsey-Bates model. The four basic delineations of human personality are Epimethian, Promethian, Dionysian and Apollonian. To varying degrees and at different times each of us exhibits characteristics of all four delineations. Nearly everyone, however, leans toward one of the four archetypes. What do these delineations represent? Are Greek mythology or Carl Jung perfect? Of course not. They simply observe that there are tendencies in social processing. In other words these are sensation, perception, intuition, thinking, judging and feeling.
Men, on a very general level, lean toward sensation, thinking and judging. And, again, on a very general level, women toward feeling, intuition and perception. I argue that in a contemporary, post-industrial age these hunter/gatherer differences must be narrowed through a conscious, enlightened effort. How can men become more in touch with their feminine side? Love is the answer.
It is hard to express affection and approval to someone near be it verbally or artistically. This is a challenge for the American man. We have been raised to be tough, resilient, scientific and business-oriented. It would be easier if American educational institutions were already heavily focused on the arts, music and a lifelong developmental psychology. Since our nation is lacking in these areas it us up to the individual to take the next step, independent of formal training or a more well-rounded media circuit. From this standpoint, future generations of men can be more systematically encouraged to feel and love.
At this juncture schools from the elementary to the university level are dominated by Epimethian staff. Apollonian, Promethian and Dionysian faculty stand in the margins. This frightens me. Those who formulate the culture and perspectives of upcoming generations are not in touch with many, crucial social philosophies in this post-industrial, information-based economy. These social philosophies include how to express love, the significance and meaning of dreams and changing one's behavior based on the feelings of a larger group rather than serving one's own raw, material, capitalistic interests.
Sometimes it's not easy to think about the feelings of others. I'm more likely to disregard emotional impressions when I have a job that must get done. I find myself wanting to finish the task at hand and smooth things over later.
Defense mechanisms are another barrier to emotional sensitivity. It's easy to say, “My father managed things this way. This approach succeeded in the past, therefore it will succeed today.”
Obviously tradition may not be the best authority when questions of feeling are concerned. We men live in changing times and are required to adjust to the challenges at hand.
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