Santa Monica, California, USA
Hello Stephen. Re:
"The "abuses" of masculinity aside, for a moment, I think what has been lost is the unquestionable sense of duty and responsibility toward women family or community."
I think there is a lot to clarify here. First, both your post and John's thread seem clearly cultural specific, namely our culture, and there is nothing wrong with that since it the nature of the thread and inquiry. It might be uselful to hold in the back of our minds, though, that there are many cultures where the practices mentioned not only persist, but persist to extremes. These are not necessarily cultural norms which one might choose to blindly accept...
In terms of an "unquestionable sense of duty," the thing which may have moderated is the "unquestioning" part.
The realties of service during WWII seems to have become romanticized over time. First, there was NOT a general consensus that the US should be involved in WWII at all. Along with yahoos such as Father Coughlin, the America Firster's, The German American Bund, industrialsts such as Henry Ford, and cultural icons such as Charles Lindberg, even President Roosevelt vowed to keep America out of the war. Things changed. Postwar, there WAS a general, though not nationwide consensus, that WWII was a "just" war, and it was one's duty to serve in benefit of the nation. However, that sense of duty initially needed a quite a bit of prompting. Without demeaning anyone's valor or individual heroism, there was a DRAFT in effect to massively rebuild the size of our army.
Most draftees chose to answer the call to duty, though there was, as always, a small subset of protestors who chose alternative modes of service, jail, or chose non-participation on moral grounds.
Not much changed for soldiers during the Korean or Vietnam campaigns. During the Vietnam era, before the standard draft and lottery style draft ended, the overwhelming majority of Army draftees stepped forward when called and served with honor. What did change was that a more general percentage of the population was against the Vietnam war from the beginning, remained against it during the war, remained highly dubious after the war.
(I'm skipping past a point not yet mentioned, that during ALL our conflicts, women, whom I belive have never been drafted, answered the call of duty by direct service, by sacrificing their husbands and sons, and by assuming workplace roles traditionally held by men --from running the family farm to riveting away like countless Rosies. Topic for another thread, perhaps.)
(Also, I'm talking about service in the Army. Except for a brief period when there were draftees for the Marines, those serving in the Marines, Navy, and Air Force were volunteers. Perhaps, like today's all volunteer military, they felt a stronger call to duty than others. I don't know.)
My experience in Vietnam was that a whole lot of us were questioning our senses of duty, but doing our duty anyway. We grumbled. I'm pretty sure my Dad and his fellow soldiers in WWII also grumbled, as per Willie and Joe, but they did it too.
Today, we have an all volunteer military. This may be working because we have a much smaller military, and becasue the military has lowered its standards for accepting volunteers. Regardless, our history suggests that an "unquestioning sense of duty to...community" remains very questionable proposition during the 20th century, and not much has changed or been lost.
I think its always best to question everything. Then, we can act, and most of will still "answer the call," even if it is against our better judgement or self interest. It's the doing one's duty part of duty that seems important, not the "unquestioning" part.
On a more parochial level, firemen, for example, still enter burning buildings, not, I sense, because it is just their "job," but because of a profound sense of duty toward community. And, to the best of my knowledge, wolunteer fire departments are not facing a shortage of volunteers. Stuff like that.
As to the loss of a sense of duty and responsibility towards women and children, I agree with you, though conditionally. I have problems with the notion of "duty" in this context, because it seems to be wrapped up in cultural notions, but something seems changed with regard to "responsibility." I don't think the two terms are interchangeable.
Yes, the ideal of a traditional nuclear family is under seige, and it ain't philosophical. (It cracks me up though that "gay marriage" is percieved as a threat to the nuclear family or the institution of marriage. Despite irrational fears of the "otherwise inclined" acquiring the same legal status as the more "commonly inclined, it seems that a stable, nuclear family is what gay couples want.) They are acting responsibly, others are not.
Threats to the traditional family seem to come from a diminished sense of responsibility, and this is a change. The number of children of unmarried parents appears to be increasing at a rate disproportionate to the growth of the general population, and this is cross cultural within the context of the US.
Though there have always been births outside of wedlock, fewer and fewer of these events ultimately lead to marriage in our society.
In certain other societies, such events lead to, say, ostracism, or death by stoning, or honor killings by family, not necessarily grand or foolproof alternatives.
We seem to have have evolved in are humane approach toward the progeny of such events. We no longer call such children "a derogatory non PG word that sounds similar to asteric" as a matter of stigmatizing course, and courts have repudiated notions of illegitimacy -- that is, a person without legal standing. Courts also, through such actions as requiring parental child-support, attempt to reinforce the nature of "responsibility," even it is somewhat after the fact.
It's a tricky issue. Our government and religious institutions, despite many attempts, cannot control biology or write into legislation either a universal sense of "morality" nor a sense of responsibility.
So who is responsible for the the degredation of widely held mores and support of family? Is there a culprit? I don't know. I know there are many and changing whipping boys, currently among them, all the old demons plus the media and a diminished respect in some sectors for religious proscriptions.
Is it irresponsible children? Sure. The biological urge to mate occurs with physiological development, i.e. puberty. The notion of responsibility occurs later, or sometimes never at all. Responsibility is learned, not innate. I'll posit that it is most frequently "learned" by experiencing consequences of irresponsible behavior.
"Responsibility" is "taught" by parent's, religious, and legal institutions in various ways, with sometimes modest or to no effect.
As parent's, we attempt to teach responsibility through cautionary tales (very innefective,) stories of facing consequences based on personal irresponsibility (probably more effective) and, most effectively, by acting "responsibly," as in "setting a good example."
Does any of this parenting work? Well, more often than not it does. Not every teenage boy knocks up his girlfriend, steals cars, turns to drugs, or whatever. Equally, not every teenage girl gets knocked up, turns to drugs, pilfers listick from WalMart or whatever. Parenting has something to do with this. However, as a parent, and as other parent's might agree, our kids are likely to go off and do something stupid anyway. It's the particular nature of kids. A true understanding of responsibility doesn't seem to kick in until actions result in consequences. Consequences can range from the trivial, such as "grounding" to life altering events such as death, imprisonment, or unplanned parenthood.
Are parents, then, "responsible" for the actions and outcomes of their children? Well, YEAH!, but not entirely and always. As Bob has pointed out elsewhere and might agree, some children and some adults just NEVER get it. Faulty wiring which can lead to sociopathic or self destructive behavior and an inability to recognize irresponsibility reflects a biological brain warp. As parent's, we don't get to chose the wiring in our kid's brains. As parent's, we can, and for the most part do, encourage our children to act responsibly. Most times it works, sometimes not, and sometimes it CAN'T -- none of which relieves us of our "duty" to try. Parent's don't get to give up. Some do -- the irresponsible ones.
Many religious institutions attempt to inculcate a sense of responsibility through the mechanism of fear or a carrot-and-stick approach. To put it briefly, not necessarily my long suit, the approach ranges from "do this and you go to Hell,the fear part, or do THIS and you do to Heaven, the carrot-and stick part. Does it work? Well, apparently sometimes it does, particularly for those whose bent is to be "unquestioning." The sheep, as it were. Do either of the approachs fail more often than not, well, look at recorded history, or the actions of members of one's own religious community. Probably a mediocre track record at best all around. Absent the experience of epiphany, enlightenment, or whatever one chooses to call a moment of transformation, which has nothing to do with institutionalized religion per se, though they can inform the spiritual ethos, the teachings of a given religion seem to have very limited effect in "teaching" responsibility.
So, is the Church of whatever persuasion "responsible" if only through ineffectiveness, for the breakdown of family?
Of course not. To the extent that the Church in its many manifestations provides solace during life -- living being a rather difficult proposition at best -- religious belief seems a useful thing. To the extent that the Church encourages fear and unquestioned obedience, it's not such a useful thing.
The legal system attempts to encourage responsibility through punishment, often through draconian consequences. But it is all after the fact. In the extreme, it is difficult for me to imagine that either an enraged or calculating murder, Ponzi schemer, or purveyor of spurious male enhancement products ever thinks through the conseguences of of their actions in terms of "I shouldn't do this because I might go to jail or worse." They are irresponsible people in the moment. And laws don't stop crime.
Was it Dickens who wrote "The law is an ass?" Can't remember. At the same time, the law does seem to make an ass of itself at times when it attempts to legislate morality -- consensual sex outside marriage and adultery were once crimes. Pot smoking and teenage sex is still criminal in most states. The manufacture, sale, and use of contraceptives was illegal for much of our history. So, at one point, was getting righteously buzzed on Canadian Club at home.
And there is a highly vocal minority (I hope) who would like to reinstitue prohibitions of all of the above. Didn't work then, won't work now.
Do we need law and consequences? Of course. Society benetits from irresponsible people at extremes being removed from the general populace -- a "time out" or time for reflection for some who can benefit, and a closed door for sociopaths who can't. Are all laws of equal import? Nah. That's why they change over time. Is law effective as a deterrent to percieved moral offenses? Nope. Just look at the size of our prison population-- the largest in the world. Silly laws are ignored. Which dosen't doesn't mean breaking whatever silly laws are on the books at the moment won't involve consequences.
As parents, do any of us belive that one of our children deserves 20 years in a Texas prison for smoking a joint? It's still happening. Do our 19 year olds deserve 5 years in prison for having consensual sex with a 16 year old? Still happens. Right? Maybe not. Irresponsible? Yup. Worth 5 years in jail? Nah.
So yes, the more egregious lunacies in our laws have a deleterious effect on our families. Who is responsible? We are, by either actively supporting or passively accepting nonsense law. Most laws are based on cross-societal consensus, don't kill, for example. Some laws are based on sheer predjudice of the sitting courts. Kids can sniff out the differences. Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency for them to think that if some things stink, all things stink. Discernment is also part of growing up, and it isn't a given.
Ultimately, I think we can only do the best we can, and act, not just hope, for a just society and truthful, informed communication with our children and fellows. It's sort of like being responsible.
I apologize for ragging on. My occasional posts tend to be either curt or prolix. This is one of the prolix ones.
All of which brings me to "Manhood in America," the theme of this thread.
The assult on "manliness," a conflagration of unfounded assumptions of what is "so," has been going on in one form or another ever since Eve reportedly said, "Aww, c'mon, eat the apple," as in "wake up, dummy!" This is probably because men tend to be jerks, and historically make a lot of wretchedly poor decisions. We may not be able to biologically avoid a sense of entitlement to dominance over woman, but perhaps we can outgrow it. Life goes on. And on.
The thought of "attacking manliness" is nothing new. Aristophanes did a great take on it in Lysitrata.
I don't know that we can come to consensus on what constitutes "manliness." Perhaps because the commonly held definitions change over time. Men are thought to be warriors, and in this society we have only begun to accept the notion that women can serve in combat roles. This has not been the universal case. During WWII Russia accepted women as combat soldiers, specifically training many as snipers, one on one combatants. They were good at it too. Did this emasculate the Russian man? I don't know. Haven't read anything about that. Evidence may be out there, but I don't have it. The Israeli Army recruits women for combat roles. Is there evidence that Israel has become de-manly-ized or lost purpose? I don't see it, but then, I don't live there.
I think it may be so that men and women are neurologically different, a facet of biology. But I contend that this "difference" is an asset, not a detriment, to society. They haven't had much luck in keeping men's baser instincts in check historically, and, like men, some of them have been downright mean and evil. Meanness and evilness are not exclusively a male attribute.
If the post and the references it supplies are talking about something else which I can't catch the drift of yet, I apologize for being off point. I think the post asks a fundamental question about the nature of "manliness" and I don't have enough information to go there. It brings to mind the Greek concept of arete', though I haven't worked that one through, either.
Perhaps there is comfort in the thought that not traditionally "manly" men don't yet rule. They just quibble.