Just Let Others Do It
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Masculinity these days appears to be under threat as never before and, maybe out of a fear of repeating the mistakes made by overly dominant patriarchies of the past, men young and old now find themselves unclear about what is expected of them in a modern society.
Millennials in particular seem to be in a real state of confusion over what it actually means to be male as we hurtle through this current century; many others appear to have no idea why it’s even important to achieve clarity around this issue.
No longer clear regarding what they believe about themselves or their place in society, far too many men appear to be washed up on a shore of confusion; beached somewhere between the hard headlands of pointless tradition and the anchorless flotsam of the open seas.
The old was never perfect and there were many negative traits stitched into the fabric of patriarchal institutions – and yet the ‘anything goes’ alternative touted now by many has robbed us of vital traits that once protected society as a whole and ensured a more stable environment for the nurture and sound development of the rising generations.
Yet the onslaught continues.
A quick Google search reveals that whilst there are around 33,400 results for the phrase “Toxic Femininity”, there are around 997,000 results for the phrase “Toxic Masculinity”. These figures indicate that much more is being said these days about how ‘poisonous’ men can be. There is no smoke without fire, that is true, but it’s fair to ask if the scales are really this imbalanced.
Instead of being celebrated, the media has increasingly sought to undermine many very positive masculine qualities. Of course it's perfectly true that any gender trait can become ‘poisonous’ if taken too far but, as any toxicologist will tell you, it’s the *dosage* that makes any substance become a poison rather than the substance itself.
“Are you a man – or just a rather tall boy?”
The ultimate result of this programming has triggered in some men a demeanour of constant apology - as if, deep down, they’re actually embarrassed to be a man.
Under the acid rain of the media supported by numerous academic studies that apparently ‘prove’ that all women are being disadvantaged and all men are by their nature somehow deficient, the lionhearts of many young men have seen their strength greatly eroded.
With this, their sense of personal responsibility has also dissolved and many young men have abandoned the helm of their ship for others to take control - often the exasperated females in their lives who are then forced to step in and rescue the situation.
Whatever age a boy might now be regarded to have become a man, it certainly seems to have risen sharply in the past few decades.
The new slogan in a post-Nike generation might as well read,
“Just let others do it.”
With this the new measure of a young man’s achievement seems to be scored by how much they got away with doing - or not doing - to the present date.
I’m all for the empowerment of women, in fact I’ve conducted workshops that are designed to do just that, but I'm left wondering why the television ads and shows apparently incapable of elevating the amazing virtues of womanhood without presenting the modern man alongside her as weak, slow, slovenly and indecisive. We need to acknowledge:
“The media does not
describe modern life;
it prescribes modern life.”
Far too many men have sought to defer to the women in their lives on matters that they should have ‘owned’. But, from what I’ve heard, many women are not celebrating this shift: they want their guy to carry his own weight, to guard their families, protect their homes, work their territory and earn well, to be clear on what they want, proactively lead and support and act in such a way that she, and others, honour what he stands for.
Whilst there are a few women who might long for the day when they finally have their man trained to act merely as a ‘butler, with benefits’, I hear a considerable number more crying out for a man who can stand up, remain wholly present, make clear decisions, take command and boldly captain their ship to a desirable haven.
Many women I’ve spoken to feel a lot more happy and secure when their man acts like a man, takes responsibility, looks out for her, protects and provides, sets direction and boundaries.
Of course, there are still many men on this planet who are unaware, insensitive and selfish; qualities that need to be removed from each of us – for none of us are immune to at least some measure of these traits. But as we embark on our clean-up operation, we need to be very careful that we are not throwing out the baby with the bath-water; not exorcising the inspiration in our efforts to oust the demons.
The Legend of Oakenthor - Scroll 9
If you've read TEAM ME you'll be familiar with the mythical Legend of Oakenthor that tracks the story of a young prince who is unexpectedly given the throne of his father's kingdom. Wrestling with the demands of his new role, he is aided by five advisers who share with him their unique perspectives and teach him that there are many ways to tackle the challenges that arise.
And arise they do.
The Continuing Story
Mingled in with the teachings of my new book, TEAM GUY, this story continues as another series of 8 scrolls. The focus in this sequel is more upon the King's general, Armadig, who faces some clear challenges and has to learn from others to grow in his abilities and become more effective in his role.
Here, you can read the first of these new scrolls.
The last of the sun’s rays were by now slashing weakly at their foes as the light of day descended towards a remorseless and forbidding sea. Dark, finger-shaped clouds tightened, one by one, around the fading star which appeared for a while to be frantically treading water the colour of newly spilled blood. But it finally and inevitably succumbed. Taking a final gasp of breath, it slumped in defeat behind a cold, unyielding horizon; vanishing from view and from memory.
The commoners in the square barely noticed nature’s glorious finale. The day had been cold enough for them already and now the weakened sun had abandoned the land to freeze. Only the evening’s entertainment distracted them from their stiff and sorry state; but distract them, it did.
For the people’s eyes were presently fixed on a young, muscular fighter who rose from the sawdust and dirt in the make-shift ring before them.
Stamping their feet on the wooden platforms set up for the contest; they watched the sweat-covered victor as he stood over the body of his opponent and raised his club high over his head to the delighted applause of those all around. The young man was panting for breath and bleeding in not a few places but his eyes shone with the fire of a champion and his cheeks flushed with his well-won success.
He was nowhere near the size of his opponent and he had entered the ring far less protected with leather or steel armour. His only weapon was one wooden pole, accompanied by a small but stout shield of oak but his speed and agility, not to mention his audacious self-belief, had enabled him to land several crippling and decisive blows to the legs of the hulking mass who had repeatedly charged him, finally laying him out with a blow to his crown with the end of his pole.
The dazed beast of a man had to be helped out of the sawdust-filled square; his laboured breath freezing almost audibly as it passed out between his blood-stained teeth.
It was Winter; it had been for over a month now and the nights came fast upon the Kingdom of Archayah with a bite that the townsfolk could only attempt to fend off with fur and fire.
The quelling of the Absalem rebellion in the Spring that year still fuelled much of what passed as tavern talk, all around the realm. No one in living memory had stood up against a King of Archayah as renegade Earl Tyran had done and, whilst the common people had settled back to normality, relieved the uprising was decisively over, there was still a tangible disquiet lingering in the air. There was still more to be done to bring the heart and soul of this kingdom together.
On top of this, attacks from the Marauders had become more frequent of late. They usually waited until the first signs of spring before braving the turbulent waters that separated their home in the Outer Isles from the mainland but something, whether more of hunger or of greed, had spurred them out of their dark dwellings even whilst Winter’s grip remained across the land.
They tended to raid and steal, rather than kill the inhabitants of the coastal reaches. Wiping them out would mean there would be little to steal by way of food and livestock the next season. It was not only livestock they were known to drag away, however, for that would be far more bearable for the coastlanders. These moral-less invaders had recently made a prize of the young, village girls whom they had snatched from their homes and such kidnappings had been happening more often than any previous year.
Silently, though with a growing sense of anger, King Sapler mused over these matters as he stared out of the Northern tower of his castle home. He was well aware that all was not right within the kingdom.
From the thatched, stone dwellings of the towns to the smoky wooden hovels of the fisherfolk around the Lakes, there was an unwelcomed and haunting whispering of fear that festered just beneath the open conversation. It was the kind of unspoken fear a forester might feel as he joked freely with his fellow lumberers around their evening camp fire but whose eyes squinted warily out at an encroaching darkness; towards uncertain sounds and the flicker of eyes from unnamed creatures in the undergrowth.
The common children felt it too. Older brothers frightened their younger siblings with stories of the forest ghouls and dark sprites as a way of masking their own fears. Those who had heard the songs of the bards would relay the tale of the two-headed Vorraghast of bygone days, that had been banished by a valiant king but was rumoured to be alive and well, even after a thousand years, and now plotted its return – and its revenge.
The townspeople found it impossible to separate facts from fiction regarding recent rumours of Earl Tyran’s current whereabouts, yet possibly the most reliable sources indicated that he had actually reached the Outer Isles by ship after abandoning his city. Some relayed that he had met such opposition that he departed the same day - with somewhat fewer men than had landed - and headed off to follow the fastest current westwards.
The first part of this tale would not be surprising because the Marauders of that region had been growing in number over the past few years. That, coupled with their infamous viciousness and impulsiveness, made them a terrible foe to confront and though Tyran would surely have been seeking their cooperation, they likely prized the opportunity for a fight more than the opportunity for the kind of friendship the renegade Earl sought to offer them.
Any trip westwards, however, would have been a perilous undertaking, if that was indeed their path; as no one had ever returned from the Open Seas to tell of what lay beyond. No one.
At the tavern adjoining the town square that evening, a broad figure with an escort of two, armed but admittedly quite relaxed, bodyguards pushed open the door and stood there for a moment, filling the door. His eyes scanned the timber-vaulted room, through veils of smoke and the flickering shadows of candlelight, until they rested on the face of the young man whose exploits in combat at the square had caught his eye.
The youth grew silent and stood up, his jovial demeanour changing for one cool and serious as the King’s General approached, expectantly waiting for the old warrior to state his intent. Armadig had thought he might simply deliver his invitation to the boy with a quiet word in his ear, whilst the noise of drinking crowd roared on around them, but the whole inn had fallen silent and all eyes were now upon the new guests and their chosen target.
The youngster was uncertain what to expect and so it was with some relief that he heard the General request his presence at a weapons trial the following morning at the castle – adding that he’d best not drink too much this night nor reach his bed too late for neither would help him perform his best.
The crowd roared with approval; celebrating their young hero. The boy, however, had appeared to have immediately sobered up, handed his half-emptied tankard to the bald man beside him and got up to leave, much to the chagrin of his fellow carousers and a couple of somewhat under-dressed women who had, in a somewhat less than subtle fashion, been edging their way closer to his muscular form on the bench where he’d sat.
The course of Eribin’s life, for that was the young warrior’s name, was about to take an upwards turn.
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Pad is a trusted adviser to business leaders across the globe. He is Director at Come Alive Success Coaching ltd. and the Author of TEAM ME - How to Play Your Best Game in Life, and TEAM GUY - Forging Men of Soul & Steel.