Tag Archives: conservatism

Manly Culture

Even if you haven’t recognized it for what it is, chances are, you’ve seen elements of it. The resurgence of beards, comments on period piece clips like “Why don’t we wear hats anymore?” or “Dang- they knew how to dress back then.” Or perhaps you’ve stumbled across The Art of Manliness or are (like me) a faithful apostle of Ron Swanson.

Now whether you’re aware of it or not, there is a growing culture based around this general perspective of “manliness” that supposedly existed from 5,000 BC to 1974 AD. The resurgence in the popularity of the beard, the wave of internet memes centered around being “classy,” our love affair with period pieces- all of this compounded has created the beginnings of a whole new subculture.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of our favorite TV characters.

Don “F***-You, Liver!” Draper

Jack “Even Ayn Rand Thinks I’m Egotistical” Donaghy

Rick “Bad Decisions” Grimes

Walter “Tied with Draper for Making People Love Fedoras” White

Barney “Legen- wait for it… -DARY!” Stinson

Cullen “I Will Punch You For No Particular Reason” Bohannon

Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror, Westerns- this is a pretty broad range, and we’ve got the same strong, dour antihero type in all of them. Men who remind us of our fathers and grandfathers. Tough as nails bastards who came to this country with only a dollar in their pockets- who took a break from their honest 8 to 8 jobs of hitting metal with other pieces of metal to kill Nazis and look dapper doing it.

So what’s this culture all about? As with any group, we can talk about the superfluous or cosmetic elements- in the case of the “manly” group, handshake etiquette, strait-razor whetting, and driving stick- but to really understand ’em, we’re going to need to look at the underlying values in play here.

Independence:

What do all the men shown above have in common? A degree of independence. They’re DIY guys. Men who aren’t reliant on the help or charity of others- in short, dudes who can take care of themselves in most any situation, from car repair to providing for the family to killing the undead. And on that note…

Initiative:

These are all men who don’t allow themselves to be victims. They’re proactive moment-seizing leaders who don’t wait idly by for someone to step up. Good or bad, they’re leading the way- and speaking of bad…

Stoic:

These are guys who tend to lend credence to the stereotype of the unspeaking, unfeeling male. At best, the strong, silent type- at worse, the uncommunicative lout. One way or another, they don’t let the situation get the better of them. That’d be undignified, and if there’s one thing that they’re about, it’s…

Dignity/Pride:

It’s in the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they expected to be treated. A kind of code that prohibits some things and makes others compulsory. You can’t hold your head high, then what’s the point in having one?

Moral Ambiguity:

These men are all, to varying degrees, antiheroes. Guys with their own agendas and a certain degree of moral ambiguity that keeps you on your toes. There’s a level of egotism, self-centeredness, and disregard for others that makes them pretty good at what they do, but what they do not all that good- certainly they don’t fit the traditional mold of the selfless, self-sacrificial hero.

Wealth:

And while it’s not true for all of them, money tends to be a major element of their stories. A drive to be successful, prosperous, and (again) independent. It’s the age-old dream of being your own boss.

So what does all of this boil down to?

Power.

It’s about power. These guys represent everything we, as a generation, aren’t. Independent, wealthy, self-assured, proud. Does that sound like us? Not at all. We’re the casual dressed, globally conscious masses struggling to make it by, and taking whatever miserable, degrading soulless job we can find. We’re not strong like these glamorized images of our grandparents are (having conveniently erased the racism, bigotry, and misogyny).

But we want to be.

And so begins the perpetual motion machine of life-imitating-art and art-imitating-life. Epic Meal Time, Memes, Period Pieces- the list goes on.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, there are good and bad elements to every culture (some more bad than good, and vice versa), but let’s list out the positives and negatives.

The positives have been wrapped in bacon

Positive:

  • We can stand to toughen up a bit a lot as a generation. We don’t need to be bending horseshoes with our teeth, but some basic survival skills and a thicker skin when it comes to discomfort and hardship would be nice (battery running out on your phone doesn’t count as suffering).
  • In these tough economic times, be able to do basic repairs to your house and car aren’t just good- they’re necessary. Same goes for any of the thrifty elements of the culture.
  • Even if we don’t have it quite yet, demanding a certain level of dignity in our work and our day to day lives isn’t just good for you as an individual- it improves society on the whole.
  • While we probably shouldn’t worship the fedora or declare the suit to be the only appropriate clothing for a man over the age of twelve, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to dress ourselves, or conduct ourselves well in any given situation.

Negatives:

  • The glorification of the past can, as I jokingly mentioned above, lead to the uglier elements of it being glossed over. We hail our grandfathers as being great men, forgetting how easy it is to make a name for yourself when none of the good or prestigious jobs can be given to equally qualified women or non-white men.
  • The culture really doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for women at all, other than the kitchen. This is not to say that all adherents of the culture see it this way, but when you’re trying to espouse 1950s society, that includes 50s traditional gender roles as well.
  • It can’t be denied that there’s a strong conservative appeal in this culture, as well as hints of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Glorifying wealth and success, especially when coupled with a “do whatever you need to do” mentality, can lead to the twisted perspective that poor people are poor because they are lazy.
  • This culture, despite the intentions of its adherents, does give a home for sexism. The uglier elements of the masculinity movement, those who view women as belonging in the home and nowhere else will doubtlessly find it a lot easier to fly under the radar in a culture that’s utterly dominated by males.

So what’s the final verdict?


“Manly” culture doesn’t appear to be either helpful or harmful- at least, not yet. The underlying issue being power, it’s going to be faced with the task of walking the thin line between empowerment and megalomania. So long as self-control is kept in mind, they oughta be fine.

Be sure to look for next week’s installment: “Science” Culture.

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Fascists, Skinheads, and Nazis (Oh My!)

As you all doubtlessly know, two days ago, a gunman entered a Sikh temple in the little town of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six and injuring four more before being shot dead by police. The killer, one Wade Michael Page, was connected to a number of vicious white-supremacist groups, most notably the “Hammerskins”, a white-supremacist group that focuses on dispersing racist messages and propaganda through music- Page being the founder of one band and a member in another.

Why is this even being brought up here? As strange as it may seem, there’s an argument to be made for the Oak Creek massacre having its origins in culture. Now many of you might be thinking of the Aurora massacre, and no, this isn’t some discussion about our attitudes towards guns, violence in media, or anything of the kind. There’s certainly a good discussion to be had on that subject as well, but it’s not what I’ll be addressing here.

No, what I’m going to be talking about is this:

Fascism.

It’s coming back.

See, the idea that the culture, traditions, and history of specific people group are superior to those of all others and should be promoted and maintained through brute force didn’t die when Hitler blew his bigoted brains all over an underground bunker in Berlin, or when Communist freedom fighters gunned down Mussolini in a picturesque Italian village. It’s been dormant for a long time, but in recent years, it has again shown its ugly face.

Nope- uglier than that…

While there have been plenty of racially motivated murders over the years since Nazism fell (to say nothing of countless lesser hate crimes), what we’re seeing now is a resurgence in full-fledged Fascist ideology- but before we get into that, just a side note.

For many of you, the term “Fascism” probably conjures up images of generic authoritarianism. Obama’s a Fascist. Rush Limbaugh’s a Fascist. That one really strict teacher is a Fascist.

I’ve struggled for a while to come up with a good, succinct definition for what Fascism is all really about, so I’m going to offer this illustration. To a Fascist, his people (often, race) are inherently great and good, and they are inherently great and good because of their traditions, values, and culture, which are all also inherent to them. The greatness of the nation is lost when evil, conniving undesirables start pushing their own cultures, values, and traditions, which are subversive and degenerative to the nation. Therefore, these degenerates who threaten the nation must be stomped out (often quite literally), and the “original” culture/traditions/values must be restored, enforced, and maintained through an all-powerful government, police force, military, etc.

There’s more to it, of course. I could talk about the concepts of autocracy, corporatism, use of ancient Roman symbolism, and the like, but for now, let this all above be the definition we work with.

Now why do I say it’s coming back? Certainly if we disregard the recent massacre and the occasional race-related attack, there doesn’t seem to be any major Fascist threat in the US. The KKK isn’t roaming with impudence in the South. Gangs of Nazis aren’t attacking Jewish stores and businesses. Self-proclaimed defenders of the nation aren’t roaming the boarders trying to-

Oh yeah…

Ok, but it’s not like there’s been any major attack on people for having different skin or heritage or religio-

Ok, fine, but it’s not like any of this bigotry has been legislated or-

…Yeah…

See, that’s how it works. It’s subtle, discreet. The great Sinclair Lewis perhaps said it best:

And this is just America. In Europe, Fascism is even more prevalent and less shameless, simply take a look at France, where the government has instituted laws banning certain forms of Muslim garb, or forcibly expelling the Roma Gypsies.

I recall another guy who took actions to get rid of gypsies…

Over in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that “Multiculturalism has failed”

Kinda forgetting about the last time a German chancellor declared the failure of multiculturalism…

…And in Britain, holocaust-denier Nick Griffin, leader of the white-supremacist British Nationalist Party (BNP) was elected to the European Parliament. That’s about the equivalent of the Grand Wizard of the KKK getting elected to congress.

I’d show you an actual picture of Nick Griffin but **** that guy…

And this is to say nothing of the escalating attacks on immigrants across Europe. Why? Because many Europeans and Americans are buying into the idea that the values, traditions, culture, and beliefs of other people are a direct threat to them. I recall in college on particularly nasty student who asserted that “All immigrants should go home”. Interesting, considering he had an Italian last name. Does he mean that he too will leave America? Of course not. Does he mean the Canadians who attended that school? Not at all. “Immigrants” was simply code for those “undesirable brown people”. But don’t take the words of one bigoted student as evidence of this ugly trend- just look at Congressman Steve King’s attempt to make English the “Official Language” of the US!

Now why on earth would you try to make English the official language of the US? It’s not like the vast majority doesn’t already speak it. And what if we did speak Spanish? How would it make a difference to anyone what we speak… unless English was somehow viewed as “inherent” to America!

There’s really part of the problem. It’s a perspective on society. Back in College, I had a conservative friend whose opposition to gay marriage was that “the traditional family is the building block of society, and changing the family weakens society”. I’m not saying he’s a fascist- not at all, but this view of society as a solid, unchanging thing is what really serves to create so much of the general bigotry and outright fascism that we see today. When society’s well-being is linked to culture, to maintain society is to maintain culture, and while there’s a certain logic there, all too often it’s taken to mean that every aspect of culture, right down to traditional gender roles, religion, and racial demographics, must be controlled. It’s the reason why you see Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, or as the past couple days have shown us, Sikhs, targeted. And don’t for a minute imagine that it’s just Aryans who take up this line of thought. I recently had an encounter with an Asian immigrant who cited that his country was once upon a time a “Christian country”, and that he was concerned at Hindus, Buddhists, and the like building places of worship in his community.

Only where does it end? Suppose you argue that non-Christians should be excluded from a country because their cultures threaten the stability of the nation- what the minority groups? I always want to bring this up when I hear someone make the argument that America is a “Christian Country”- does that include the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses? What about Unitarians? Episcopalians? Catholics? Mennonites?

That’s the crux of the matter. The Fascists- both the self-declared and the self-deluded- would have us believe that we’re all hopelessly divided. That we cannot respectfully disagree with each other. That you can’t speak Mandarin and I can’t speak Arabic and the two of us get along. That multiculturalism is a fantasy. That we can’t have our own practices and perspectives while all agreeing, to some degree, on how to live together. We’re meant to live in constant fear that if we tolerate anyone who doesn’t fit in, there goes our way of life.

So let it go.

This will be harder for some than others…

The title of this blog is the Culture War Reporters, and perhaps what needs to be understood is that the culture war isn’t something that can (or should) be won. There’s always going to be divergence in opinion and in behavior. There’s always going to be new things coming in, and old things struggling to stay on. There’s always going to be good stuff and bad, so at the end of the day, why worry? Don’t buy the idea that culture can be maintained, or that one group has found all the answers. For all the dark content about murders, genocide, and the like, strange a line from Disney’s Ratatouille should fit so appropriately. Defending his lifestyle against the accusation that it’s “against nature”, Remy the rat declares that “Change is nature”.