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pass the steroids please…

January 14, 2016

Dostoyevsky infamously noted in The Brothers Karamazov that if there is no God, everything is permitted.

The philosopher Jacques Lacan turned this notion on its head by stating (also infamously) that if there is no God, then everything is prohibited. (Which is mostly only true for politically correct WASPs.)

Of course, neither is true. For both assume that we all walk though life in lockstep.

History has long shown us that God has absolutely nothing to do with what we do, or don’t do. Genocide occurs with, or without God’s approval. Sexual assault statistics do not vary that much between secular and religious societies.

Men do, because men can. Our reptilian natures are only held in check by quality parenting, state sanctioned punishments, and for the few lucky ones – having, what I will call an ethical gene.

A quick perusal of the evening news (any evening) will reveal that in such instances where state sanctioned punishments break down, few of us have had quality parenting, and fewer still have the ethical gene. Rape and pillage is the order of the day as soon as any society breaks down – even if, for nothing more than an evening of New Year’s celebrations, or Stanley Cup merriment.

It has occurred to me that all of us boys are lied-to when we are growing up. We were lied-to in ways that young girls are not.

Sure, just as a young girl is told she is a Princess, I was often led to believe that I could be a Prince.

But the little girl is also told of the monster that often likes to tag along with the prince. She is made to understand that it is a monster that can hurt her. It is a monster she must always be on her guard against. A monster who could show up anywhere, at any time: in the candy store, in the schoolyard, at church, or in the back of a police car, at the movies, in her park. In her very own bedroom.

She has no idea really what her mom and the other grown-up women are endeavouring to tell her when they strive to get her to understand that she has something the MonsterPrince wants.

She doesn’t know what it is that she has; she examines herself in the mirror and can’t see it. But as she grows she will come to appreciate that it must be something terribly important, or precious, for she will be made to understand that the MonsterPrince will often do anything to get it. She will be offered candy and puppies and gifts in order to distract her from what the MonsterPrince really wants.

If she refuses – she should always refuse – she must then be on her guard, for some MonsterPrinces will get quite mean about getting it from her, and some princes may even kill her to have what he wants.

Back in Grade One, my daughter was punched in the stomach one day by a boy for running faster than he. At the time, she thought she knew what it was she had that boys did not. She thought it was because girls were quicker than boys. Another time she thought they were angered because little girls were smarter than little boys. But, by the time she was twelve, she discovered that while she may have been right, she had also been wrong.

For one fine spring day, when she was happily blooming from pre-adolescent girl to teenaged young woman, while on her way back to her middle-school after a lunch with friends at a local pizza joint, she was propositioned by a man as she passed a café sidewalk patio on College Street.

“My, what pretty blond hair you have.”

“My, what a lovely pair of shorts you’re wearing.”

“My, what nice eyes you have.”

“Could he buy her a hot chocolate? Would she take some time to sit with him?”

“Are you serious?” I exclaimed when she told me about it after school.

“I know!” she said. “What a creep!”

It was just too ridiculous to believe! Talk about a Little Red Riding Hood cliché. We shared a laugh – gallows humour – but then concurred that if she ever came across him again, or any other person who talked to her in a similar fashion, she could immediately phone me, and I would come over and kick his ass. Even if I needed a baseball bat to do it! And then we laughed at that too, and agreed she should just call the cops.

I was once on a team of counsellors for a fifteen-year-old girl, brought together after it had been discovered by the police that her father had been pimping her out to feed his heroin addiction, and had in fact been doing so, since she was nine.

When little nine-year-old Sarah (not her real name) had resisted, when she screamed in pain and cried for the man on top of her nine-year-old self to stop, Sarah’s father shot her up with a tiny little dose of heroin as well. After that she was kept in a heroin stupor and could not resist whatever her father and his associates did to her. The police finally got to him when the video he had made of her being gang-raped at twelve surfaced on the Internet.

There are many ways that the MonsterPrince presents itself. From the most banal to the most violent.

As boys we do not know that we may be that MonsterPrince. We are never told that the possibility even exists. Many of us will never be that MonsterPrince, even though we know it always lurks quietly in the dark corners of our soul, buried in the many shadows of our subconscious.

Or, we do not know the prince as a monster. We only know him as Father. Or as uncle. Or meet him disguised as a teacher. Or a priest.

There is, or is not any God involved in any of this.

The sooner men realize this – that it is not about the Kingdom of God, or the absence of God, that makes us do what it is we do – but, that as men we must teach our boys about our monsters; how to identify them; how to support them in wrestling with this monster.
It’s not about God, or no God. It’s about how to harness that wild fury that lurks within us – how to domesticate it, make it obedient, understand that it is as much a death drive as it is a life force – equally negative as it is positive in the history of humanity.

For a brief moment in the ’90’s it was possible for men to find small spaces to explore what it meant to be a man, what it meant to be both nurturer and destroyer, and explore how we were being taught “to be a man” – but, I think that moment has been lost to our darker angels – to cage match fighting, deregulated gun control, the military industrial complex, and economic marginalization (where we battle impotence with violence).

And now, with climate change imminent, when the upper 1/10 of 1% control 80% of the world’s wealth, when globalization is countered with tribalization and nationalism, when young men are increasingly opting out of being productively engaged in society – this space is more important than ever.

This is not about believing in God, or not believing in God.

This is about what does it mean to be a man – and how best will you support this planet, and the people who make up your world?

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 14, 2016 12:49 am

    Very nice Sherwood.

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