It's seems that men killing others for show is now part of our "normal. As of today, this is true even in Canada! Many men are behaving very badly. Many of my women friends are in despair. Men who don't act out feel helpless and guilty.
On the surface it looks as if men are just scum. On the surface, it looks as if men are innately misogynistic and violent. If so, then we are surely lost. For then there is no way out.
But I think that there is hope. Hope even on black days like today. For there has to be a deep cause for this. The behaviour has to be a symptom of a deep malaise. What might this be?
I think that the cause might be identity. Men's identity is very fragile for it seems to depend on how men fit not onto the family but into the external world. Let's look at some clues.
We know that loss of identity is the single most powerful negative force that acts upon men.
When I was at a big Canadian bank, we loked at mortality after retirement. Most of the senior men were dead by 70. They could not live with being "retired". They had no public status left.
Men are sky people. They take their status from the world outside of the family.
This chart for instance shows what happened to male mortality in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. How did they die? Drink, drugs, suicide and violence. All signs of despair.
Why did this happen? An answer is that no matter how lowly, all men in the Soviet Union felt part of an Empire. Each man shared this public status. But after 1989, they were pawns in a failed state that had no prestige. The women carried on carrying on and coping. Female identity is held mainly in the setting of the family and increases throughout a woman's life no matter what goes on in the external world. But the frail male identity had been linked to that of the State. So, when the state failed, so did they. And what did they do? They took to drink, drugs and violence.
No longer able to work or to behave, they were exiled from the family too.
I asked a distinguished Ukrainian woman scientist, who had raised her children on her own and had her career what value did men have in her life. "They are very good at moving furniture, Robert." With no work and no empire, men had lost their place. No one needed them. Not even at home.
This is being lost!
This is also much more dangerous than a deranged shooter. For loss of identity en mass can lead to the worst aspects of humanity.
This is what happened after Germany was humiliated after losing WWI. The 1920's were a decade of pain and acting out. But after a decade of being lost, a saviour arose who understood their shame and their pain.
Hitler's promise was to restore the identity of the German people. For 10 years all he talked about was how they had been betrayed and how he was going to restore them to their rightful place.
The people clung to him and his message like drowning people to a life raft.
Hitler intuitively felt the deep shame of German men. He found a scapegoat. And he offered Germany an Empire again. The anger and confusions of the 20's was expressed in the collective seeking of the revenge on the scapegoat and on the world in the 1930's and 40's.
In 1940, Germans felt that they were all winners. It is also a reason why they fought so hard right until the end. They were fighting for much more than their lives and their country. They were fighting for their identity. They could not bear to lose again.
Identity was also why they could be so savage and cruel. For those that they persecuted were the "other". Only they counted as being real people. It's an identity issue that is misread as evil. I say misread for is we merely label this as evil, we fail to understand that we too can do this, if we are pushed into a big enough identity crisis. We are no saints.
Nothing is more dangerous than a man or a group that is on a messianic mission to restore the tribe's honour and place. No people can be so cruel.
Such a loss of identity need not be national. It can be regional.
One of the mysteries of health in the UK is Glasgow. It is called the "Glasgow Effect". Glasgow stands alone in dysfunction and poor health in the UK. But there is a mystery too. For this is not just about deprivation or poverty. There is another factor in play here.
Research led by David Walsh of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health in 2010 concluded that the deprivation profiles of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester are almost identical, but premature deaths in Glasgow are over 30 per cent higher, and all deaths around 15 per cent higher, across almost the entire population.
The city's mortality rates are the highest in the UK and among the highest in Europe. With a population of 1.2 million in greater Glasgow, life expectancy at birth is 71.6 years for men, nearly seven years below the national average of 78.2 years, and 78 years for women, over four years below the national average of 82.3. According to the World Health Organization in 2008, the life expectancy for men in the Calton area of Glasgow was 54 years; a local doctor attributed this to alcohol and drug abuse, and a violent gang culture.
Notice the link to the fall of the Soviet Union? All the same acting out behaviours. Why is this?
I think that the answer is loss of identity and status in a people, the Scots, for whom this is espcially important.
Glasgow was the centre of the ship building industry in Britain. Ship building was a highly skilled and physically demanding job. The hundreds of thousands of men who had this role may have been working class but they stood at the pinnacle of what it was then to be respected as a working class man. They also worked in teams for decades and even generations. There was massive pride in rising in status in the team from fresh faced apprentice to grizzled lead hand. It was an immensely tribal life that fitted the tribal heritage of the Scots. The other great job for Glasgow men was the army. Once again, generations served in the same regiments. Once again, this was very tribal where your reputation in the regiment resonated in your family and in your community. As it does still with the Gurkha's.
Who is doing the shooting? Who is beating and killing their wives? Who abuse women routinely? Who tends to be violent? Who fall into addiction?
Men who feel that they have no place. Men who have lost their identity. These are dangerous people. People who have historically been used by calculating politicians as we have seen with Hitler or in the Balkans. As we see in the US and now in the EU.
It can be no surprise that parties such as UKIP did so well recently. Those who laugh at the UKIP voters are the stupid ones. They are the ones who laughed at Hitler and who thought that they could control him and his party.
There is a fault line opening up in modern society where the elite sneer at the fears of people who feel that they have lost themselves.
It's too facile to label a shooter "Evil" or the Tea Party "stupid". To do so misses the point. This is the expression of a loss of identity, and nothing is so debilitating or dangerous.
So what to do? I think we can profitably explore what men need and I think we can look at the mismatch in society today that fails men.
Some women may laugh at this idea. They may feel that no attention should be paid to men who have had it their way forever. But my assurance is this. If identity is the deep cause for how badly men behave today, then what is at stake here is the chance to bring men and women back together in harmony. What other chance is there but more tragedy and rage and fear?
I take nothing away from the pain that women have born. But my bet is that it is men who are lost that cause most of this pain. When the men can be healed, so will everyone.
We are all in this together.
So over the next few days I plan to write about male identity and the modern mismatch.
- Part II How do boys become men
- The family
I may think of other areas but let's start here.
Here is also an interlude about Initiation and what we may have lost.