The New Masculism – Political polarization and the rise of Donald Trump
There has been much consternation about the state of current politics, and the media seems quite lost when trying to come up with explanations for the situation we find ourselves in.
I believe that we are seeing the emergence of a new masculism. Men are rediscovering what it means to be a man. The man that has been created by our culture over the past half century is a weak, sniveling caricature of a man that satisfies no one but is above all nonthreatening. Think of the pajama boy from the Obamacare commercials. Historical conditions have led to the emergence of what Clint Eastwood recently called “the pussy generation”, but we now may be seeing the reemergence of a more traditional male archetype embodied in the candidacy of Donald Trump.
Please forgive the consequent oversimplifications as a necessary device for the sake of conciseness. If I paint with a broad brush it is only to get us through one hundred years of history in short order. I have no conceit to try to explain this history, only to examine how historical events have affected the culture in a ‘big-picture’ sense.
It’s a generational thing. Ideas and archetypes swing back and forth through history, not so much as a pendulum but more of a spiral progressing through time. Think of it as the helix of history. The archetypal male has gone through significant changes over the past one hundred years, and likely this is just a continuation of a progression that goes back for millennia.
For convenience and familiarity for the modern reader we will start near the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Certainly these ideas could be traced back further, but I suspect we would see repetitions on a theme. World War I was “the war to end all wars”. The carnage of infantrymen under the new technologies of the machine gun, the tank, and chemical weapons left all who experienced this with a severe distaste for war. In America men came home from war as heroes, and it was a time of celebration. Unfortunately, this era did not last very long. In the United States, but also in Europe, the optimism of the 1920’s gave way to the Great Depression. No need to get bogged down into a lengthy discussion about the possible causes of the Great Depression, but whether you are a Keynesian and think the government should have spent more or a monetarist and think the Federal Reserve should have dropped interest rates and pumped money into the banks, everyone can probably agree that there was a lot of debt, a lot of uncertainty, and a lack of trust and loss of confidence led to the spiraling conditions from recession to depression.
Now we have large-scale unemployment, which is incredibly emasculating. A large number of men have gone from being war heroes to now not being able to provide for their families. This leads to desperation that is manifested in a variety of ways around the world. Stalin solidified totalitarian power in Russia, Hitler rose in Germany on a wave of fascism and nationalism, and Roosevelt gave us the New Deal and the rise of welfare statism. On all fronts governments took over the power vacuum created by the loss of self-reliant families.
Here I would like to point out that I said self-reliant families. While my main point here is to talk about the traditional roles of men, these males have of course been accompanied by females, and they have been described with traditional female roles. One can also trace the progression of these female roles over time, and the interactions of the male and female roles in society are precisely what have led to the current state of politics. Modern feminism likes to ascribe all sorts of misnomers to traditional roles, but one of the biggest myths is that women were submissive in their positions, slaves to their husbands and fathers. While women certainly were oppressed in many aspects of public life that does not necessarily mean that they were subservient or weak. True feminine power is wielded best without the trappings of masculinity, and I would posit that feminine power is in fact weakened by attempts of women to take on masculine roles. The most successful self-reliant families rely on both the women and the men to combine their considerable powers for the betterment of the unit.
While history indeed provides an obscure lens, we should not believe that it represents Alhazen’s camera obscura in which our view of the past is inverted completely. Rather allow me to take some liberties for the sake of argument, given that I am not a historian and have not undertaken a detailed study of the conditions of the average woman one hundred years ago. Let me just assert that throughout history there have been examples of strong women who belie the portrait painted by the modern feminist movement.
So where were we? Back to the thirties with strong women and strong men and suddenly the Great Depression leads to the rise of statism over the individual throughout the United States and Europe and the emasculation of a large percentage of men. During this time a generation of boys is being raised seeing their fathers in this helpless position. The tyrants prey on this powerlessness and use the desperation of the people to create repressive, totalitarian systems that would never be accepted by empowered peoples. This in time leads up to the next World War, WWII, where men again went to die by the millions in battles of opposing political systems. This time large parts of Europe and Asia were destroyed and millions of civilians were slaughtered along the way.
To the victors go the spoils, as they say, and also the opportunity to write history, so of course we accept that the Allied Powers were the good guys. The men again return from the battlefront as heroes, but this time there is a new swagger because not only have they won the war and vanquished their foes, they are no longer helpless. The war is over, and so is the depression. They set about to build a new world and raise a new generation of children, the Baby Boomers.
The Boomer men try to emulate their fathers, but they do not have the wisdom that comes from the hardship of the Great Depression and WWII. Without the knowledge of adversity, the swagger goes overboard and becomes misogyny. Unbridled masculism can have an ugly face. This ultimately leads to the feminist revolution of the 1960s. This also happens to coincide with the civil rights movement and the recognition that blacks have rights, too.
The modern feminist movement has several parts. There are women who want to be treated equally and respected, and there are the man-haters. I can completely sympathize with the first group but have no kind words for the second. The problem for political movements trying to push the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and other such laws is that the man-hater group has tended to dominate the scene. This resulted in a backlash by the misogynistic Boomers and hence the “war of the sexes” of the 1970s.
Into the 1980s we have the beginnings of the postmodern amalgamation – my term for the current state of being post-feminist movement, post-civil rights, post-genderism, and (for some) post-religion – and a new generation is being raised. I happen to be part of this generation which has been designated Generation X. Gen Xers were raised to not see color and to treat women as equals. For the most part Gen Xers have tried to please their parents and be very accepting of others. But the Gen Xers have failed miserably in one major way – with the rise of modern feminism and the confusion that has been generated by the postmodern amalgamation, this generation has forgotten what true masculinity was all about.
Thankfully I believe that the arc of history is beginning to swing in a different direction. Men are starting to wake up to the fact that they will serve no purpose in a post-gender world, but our genetics and lizard brains will not give up so easily – masculinity will reassert itself. The hope is that we have found a better way than our Boomer generation did in claiming this masculinity. It is assertively masculine without being misogynistic. We are rediscovering the ‘real’ men of previous generations. It is a slow process, but a necessary one – our civilization depends on it.