Men Are In Trouble

09 October 2011

When I first read the headline I chuckled and thought, "what new way did guys find to get in trouble now?"  Then I read more of the CNN article entitled Why Men Are in Trouble and pondered the serious questions it raised.  Here is the problem outlined in various quotes from the article...

The Problem

For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.

Now, society has rightly celebrated the ascension of one sex. We said, "You go girl," and they went. We celebrate the ascension of women but what will we do about what appears to be the very real decline of the other sex?


Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out-of-wedlock birthrate is more than 40% in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%. Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.

If you don't believe the numbers, just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up. I've heard too many young women asking, "Where are the decent single men?" There is a maturity deficit among men out there, and men are falling behind.


Man's response has been pathetic. Today, 18-to- 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to- 17-year-old boys.[emphasis added]  While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families. Women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways. This has led some to ask: do we even need men?


For boys to become men, they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example and correction.


The Founding Fathers believed, and the evidence still shows, that industriousness, marriage and religion are a very important basis for male empowerment and achievement. We may need to say to a number of our twenty-something men, "Get off the video games five hours a day, get yourself together, get a challenging job and get married." It's time for men to man up.


While the author, William J. Bennet, nails the problem, he does not offer any clear solutions. Let's examine the cause of the problem, define a goal to counter it, and build a plan to get us from here to there.


The Cause

I believe that most men desire to be the kind of man that was notable in the first half of the twentieth century:

  • Charles Lindbergh
  • John Pershing
  • Omar Bradley
  • Winston Churchill
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Douglas MacArthur
  • George Marshall
  • Chester Nimitz
  • Charles De Gaulle
  • Martin Luther King, Jr
  • George Patton
  • John Glenn
  • Buzz Aldrin
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Admiral Richard Byrd


And what list of "manly men" would be complete without John Wayne?

Each of these men exhibited three fundamental attributes: courage, duty, and honor.

Courage: facing danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.

Duty: meeting ones' obligation to moral, legal, or religious requirements (not suggestions but requirements).

Honor: moral character or strength and an adherence to ethical principles.


During the course of the lives of each of these men, they faced danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from their chosen course of action. Their course of action was dictated by their obligation to moral and religious requirements and the backbone of their courage was the moral strength they found in the ethics instilled in them by their faith in G-d.

Since the mid-twentieth century, western culture has systematically been twisting and dismantling each of these concepts.


The History

World War I and World War II destroyed the lives of millions of young men in the Western world.  Although many of them were able to father children, because of the war they were unable to train their sons and daughters in the same patterns of courage, duty, and honor that they had received from their fathers.  This left the responsibility of training to mothers who were increasingly burdened by the concerns of becoming a wage earner in addition to caring for their home and their children.

Mothers generally do not want their children to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain and so entire generations of men were raised with this avoidance embedded in their young minds.  In the homeland, women became the majority of those attending church and so the patterns of teaching and learning were conformed to meet their needs.  Church attendance became a mostly passive activity (with the pastor speaking and the attendees listening) to serve the increasingly burdened wives and mothers.

Schools became increasingly focused on diminishing difficulty, uncertainty, or pain for children.  Rather than teaching boys how to bear those burdens in a manly way, we taught them to avoid such burdens.  Rather than training boys how to manage conflict in various ways with numerous skills instead they were taught to avoid conflict.  Avoidance is not an approach that teaches strength or decisive action.

The lessons of victory and defeat in competitive sports that build character and teach young men that reward comes from effort, endurance, and sheer guts... these lessons were discarded because "little Johnnie might have his feelings hurt so everybody needs to get a trophy."

Depression, inflation, and economic turmoil brought increasing numbers of families to depend upon their governments for their provision.  The concept of duty was steadily dismantled:  You can't honor your debts because of a bad business decision?  Don't worry!  You can just declare bankruptcy and start with a clean slate!  There is no need to be burdened by the consequences of your decisions.

The transportation requirements of two world wars provided technology that enabled people, goods, and ideas to be exchanged more widely and faster than ever.  The concepts of multiculturalism and cultural equality began to spread which slowly eroded our adherence to the Judeo-Christian concepts of duty and honor.  Why would anyone uphold such concepts if other, less stringent approaches are available and are "equally valid"?

Harvard professor of political science, Robert Putnam conducted an extensive study on multiculturalism and found that the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust.

[W]e hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.

All of these and many other factors have contributed to the decline of "men" and, as a consequence, men are indeed in trouble.


The Solution

If Americans and/or Western society truly desire for men to be men again then we have some bitter medicine to take and it is not a quick cure.  We have four generations of men that have become increasingly "unmanly" and it will likely take two or more generations for our country to "man up".

If men have a proper role to fill (and they do!) then that means women have a role to fill as well.  If a man is supposed to wear a certain pair of shoes that means nobody else should be in them.  Part of this change will require women to step out of the shoes they were required to fill when their fathers, husbands, and brothers went off to fight during the world wars.  As they do so, we as men need to esteem and affirm the enormous value they intrinsically have in their roles as daughters, women, wives, and mothers.

We must teach both boys and girls courage, duty, and honor.

  1. Education- we teach our children either at home or in private institutions.  The American public education system has failed and become watered down and almost entirely devoid of lessons in honor and courage.  Our children's education must be grounded in Judeo-Christian ethics, morals, and principles.  Men (and women) cannot "hold the line" if they don't know where the line actually is.We must offer our children different ways of learning.  Sitting in classrooms for 6-7 hours a day is not an effective way for every child to learn.  We must also challenge our children with higher educational standards realizing that some of them will fail.  We must teach them how to cope with such failure and help them to recognize and work within their own limitations.  At the same time we must uphold the areas in which they excel.  Not everybody has the brains to be an astrophysicist or a brain surgeon... and that's okay!

    We must not overly buffer our children from danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain.  I am not advocating that we send them into military combat zones while they are adolescents but we must stop coddling them and wrapping them in Michelin-Man-sized layers of safety and security.

    If we do these things then we can instill both courage and honor in our children.

  2. Mandatory public service- every child must spend a portion of their day serving their community in some fashion.  Once they reach the age of majority, every able person must serve in the military for two years.  No exceptions.  Period.  During this time they will be taught skills that will serve them in the private sector should they choose to leave military service after their two-year requirement.In these required acts of service we can teach our children both duty and honor.
  3. Require honorable behavior- this can be done in numerous ways.  Today it is more difficult to get married than it is to get divorced.  If we change those rules and those laws to encourage men and women to honor their marriages and "raise the bar" then our children will rise to that challenge.G-d has given us many ways to require honorable behavior.  For example the Bible requires: a) Death penalty for murder. b) Death penalty for rape. c) Death penalty for kidnapping. d) Death penalty for incest. e) Death penalty for adultery. f) Death penalty for false prophecy (that will take care of that particular issue!) g) Restitution is required in cases of theft.

There are standards of honorable behavior that G-d has established.

There must be consequences (in some cases severe consequences) for wrong behavior.  Such consequences serve as a lesson and warning for others in our society.  If there are no consequences for our behavior then our behavior will not change.  In upholding high standards (and penalties) for behavior we can teach our children a very tangible form of honor.

If we aren't willing to take such medicine then we cannot reasonably expect to be healed from the diseases that plague our society.

I know this may strike some as extreme but we can't have a polite debate with cancer; we can't take a gentle approach to curing black plague.  We must attack the disease with the desire to eradicate both it and the suffering it causes from the lives of those who are afflicted by it.

If we truly desire for men to be men (and I leave that question open to the reader) then there is a cure.  Are we willing to receive the cure offered by conforming our lives to the standards offered by our Creator and our Great Healer?


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