TO BE A MAN

To Be A Man
cover photo courtesy of Library of Congress

You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom.
All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being
– Malcolm X

 

TO BE A MAN
by Kendall F. Person

What does it take to be a lion? An episode of National Geographic or Animal Planet on life in the Serengeti will answer that question in graphic, violent, well filmed documentaries. Male lions are born into privilege. Their majestic appearance is a hindrance to the ambush style of the hunt. Their beautiful manes make being inconspicuous nearly impossible and their hulking physique make them much too slow to catch most prey. They spend nearly 18 hours a day in slumber and after the females return with the spoils, the male lions are always the first to eat. Known to take on a pack of hyenas – solo – their most ferocious competitor and slaughter them all, they face little resistance when they bound through the brush.

But lions, their downfall or their strength, are not satisfied with one bride, but rather conquer entire prides, in winner take all battles, that sometimes lead to death. Lions engage in a gladiator sport. Upon takeover, a coalition will commit genocide, murdering every last cub, of the dethroned king’s’ bloodline. What does it take to be a lion? It takes unflappable nerve. Overwhelming power, brute force and an insatiable desire to spread their seed far and wide. As difficult as a male lion’s life must be, it does not compare to the complexity or challenges faced by the human species.

US Troops
courtesy of the Library of Congress

Former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by most accounts was a leader on the rise. After assuming the presidency of Tunisia in 1987 in a bloodless cod’etat, he would win a staggering 90% of the vote in his successful bid for reelection. He would build his brand under the global spotlight, presiding over a robust economy and seemingly stable nation. But human rights violations soon begin to surface, buffeted by a moratorium of freedom of the press. But the budding wealth of the north African and middle eastern state, was not trickling downward, where rising unemployment of young men in both the rural and urban core, had created a level of discontent among the downtrodden, that was not merely simmering, but combustible.

On December 17, 2010, a 26-year-old man named Mohamed Bouazizi had reached his boiling point, and in a halo of flames, would leave his mark upon the Arab world. The sole provider of a large family, he would put in long hours, arriving home exhausted, selling vegetables from a cart. As the man of his house, he had dreams of buying a vehicle, which would enable him to grow his business and proudly support his family. The subject of ongoing harassment and extortion, Mohamed Bouazizi would labor on, paying ransoms disguised as fines, and continued to hold his head up high. But on the morning of the 17th, the first domino would fall.  A municipal officer would confiscate his cart, his only income for the family he was supporting, then refuse to give it back, even after he offered to pay the fine. Instead, he was slapped and  spit upon and was ambushed by a verbal assault on the name of his deceased father.

Humiliated and with the loss of his property, he would seek help from the state, walking to provincial headquarters to complain and to retrieve his means. But they refused to see him. Leaving one of their own men, shattered, angry and confused. So Mohamed Bouazizi, now stripped of his dignity and forgotten in life, would make sure that his people, would remember him in death. On the steps of a government building, in the light of day, a man named Mohamed Bouazizi would douse his body in gasoline and set himself ablaze.

Unbeknownst to him, he would sacrifice his life for others, as his death was the catalyst for Arab Spring.

 

Referenced Mediums
Bouazizi: The Man Who Set Himself and Tunisia on Fire, Time Magazine
Mohamed Bouazizi, Wikipedia

110 comments

  1. You don’t have to be a man to be a man. Women can be men, too, and often, they are – for example when their husbands fail to take responsibility and lack “masculine” character traits like courage, mental strength, and determination. Female lions are better “men” than male lions, in this respect. The males are sleeping and hanging around the whole day, while the females catch the prey to feed the family. But still the males don’t hesitate to use their power to be the first to eat and to produce as much offspring as possible 😒 That’s not very masculine…

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  2. I thank you for having found my blog and for following. I find your ideas brilliant and yours an example to follow. I love your idea: “The Neighborhood is an all-inclusive place. Voices are welcome from all people, on all topics at all times.”

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  3. It was educating going through most of the previous comments and i wish i had something to contribute. Thank you Kendall for the follow. It’s motivating seeing people like you follow us new bloggers.

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  4. Interesting post. As a mother of a son now in his early 20s, I’m fascinated by discussions on manhood and masculinity. As an Australian, those same discussions frustrate me enormously as it is a cultural condition here to straight-jacket men into confining roles. Men are human and so need to understand, accept and empower their whole, true self, not just their physical and financial selves but their relational, emotional, psychological, intellectual and spiritual selves.

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  5. When I read this, my heart broke for the man who chose that drastic method to vent his frustration. Someone immediately condemned him for abandoning his family. I have to agree that we must always consider out familial obligations no matter how hard the road ahead might be, but I can understand also, from my own life experience, feeling so very useless that there is no reason to continue, at least no logical reason.

    As a chronically ill person, circumstance has taken away much of my earning ability, and the social stigma of not only being a “taker” by receiving disability (so sick from my illness that I never had to appeal – I was accepted immediately) and living on opiods to cope with pain which is considered comparable to stage IV cancer, coupled with the the personal struggle with how who I am, internally matches to the cold, hard reality – all of these things often leave me with a serious struggle with self-identity. When you are no longer a mom who teaches her sons proper weight training form, how to ride dirt bikes or throw a perfect spiral, when you can no longer work full-time while still maintaining an organized, clean house and keep the laundry kept up, self-worth takes a terrible hit. Though intellectually I know that when my father told me that he had developed dominant hereditary spinocerebellar ataxia, and that he would become increasingly dependent the rest of his life my first instinct was, “I don’t care how sick you get, I love YOU and NOT what you do,” it makes it no easier when a flare makes me unable to walk across my house without nausea and sweating and the day is spent with additional medication curled in the fetal position around a heating pad.

    Because of losing so much of what gave me pride and identity, I can understand and empathize with a man who, finding no way to beat the system, decided the only thing he could do was a massive awareness for others/guilt trip for the system by lighting himself on fire in public – one big, “So THERE.”

    Was it right? Well, most of our cultures do not condone or at least feel very uncomfortable with suicide of any type, and even a little alarmed by them, because often others in similar situations end up led to the same conclusion. That being said, I can’t in good conscience say that it was necessarily wrong. If I do so, then my own struggle with who I am and if I have value, and if there will be a time when I no longer contribute enough and wish to end it… becomes hypocrisy.

    The greater question of what is manhood is not necessarily answered in this post, though. I don’t want to seem critical, but if we reduce manhood to what a man produces, we ignore many of the more noble, desirable traits of what a good man should be and I guess even ignore the traits of what a bad man should be. Manhood, in the end, seems to rest on a few hormones and certain physical characteristics – I don’t think, though, that you wanted that kind of simplification.

    When I was single after a very bad marriage, I prayed to God and told him, quite honestly, that I had decided to become a nun, and would be selling all I owned, ending any indebtedness and divding whatever remained between my sons and entering a convent once my youngest son was old enough and established enough to not need home anymore – unless God provided a man with certain characteristics, including believing that he was to provide for his family, believing husbandhood and fatherhood were defined by his willingness to give of himself for those who were weaker than himself, a man who obviously loved me and who would love my dreams as his own.

    Strangely, after this very happy and peaceful surrender, a man just like that came into my life. Sometimes it breaks my heart that before we could get married I got so sick (I still marvel that he kept me any way, but a man with that kind of character would have no choice – to him love is love, his word is his word, and offering to marry is as commiting as the ceremony itself). He got the broken, used-up, worst dregs of who I was, when he is a real man worthy of my very best – the super woman who could work 60 hours a week while still having an immaculate house, teaching and playing with children and cooking nutritious meals.

    “Manhood” can be a very broad spectrum, depending on whether we are defining its most basic concept or whether we are discussing a more philosophical, more sociological (it will change depending on so many personal factors) question of, “What really makes a man?”

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  6. I am not a man, but I guess I’m allowed to tell what being a man means to me.
    Being a man is to be there when your family needs you. Be present, loving, caring and compassionate. That’s all what a man can be at his best in my eyes!
    Thank you for such an inspiring post. Love your writing style 🙂

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  7. Thanks for being my first follower! I really enjoyed this examination of masculinity and what it means to be a man. You should check out http://www.goodmenproject.com/ where they examine the many definitions and changing faces of masculinity and male sexuality and what it means to be a good man.

    My favourite story of there’s recently was on the topic of gender equality in dating- “Chivalry and Equality Went On A Date. Guess Who Paid? –
    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/chivalry-and-equality-went-on-a-date-guess-who-paid/

    Keep up the good blogging! I’ll be blogging a lot on gender inequality in the future so it’s be great to get your views 🙂

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      • Heterosexual propaganda… LOL!

        Quoting from the “procreate” portion of the blog’s academic study on manliness: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/03/the-3-ps-of-manhood-procreate/
        —–
        What About Gay Men?

        Homosexuality is such a hot topic these days that I can imagine the elephant in the room for many folks is how being gay fit into this rubric of manhood.

        Well, the first thing that’s important to realize is that the idea of “being gay” didn’t exist in most cultures until the 20th century. The term “homosexuality” was in fact not coined until 1869, and before that time, the strict dichotomy between “gay” and “straight” did not yet exist. Attraction to, and sexual activity with other men was thought of as something you did, not something you were. It was a behavior, rather than a lifestyle or an identity. (You can read more on this shift and how it affected male friendships here.)

        In some cultures, particularly those influenced by the Judeo-Christian religion, homosexual behaviors were condemned. But in many preindustrial, pre-Christian societies, it was considered acceptable for men to dabble in same-sex relationships. This was especially true of warrior societies like ancient Japan and Sparta, as it was thought that a samurai or hoplite who went to war alongside his lover would be a better soldier – apt to be less lonely on the march and to fight more fiercely in battle.

        In these cultures, engaging in homosexual sex did not impugn a man’s claim to manhood, so long as he “retained the active role in the encounter.” Accepting “the passive, or receptive role in the sex act,” was considered effeminate, an abdication of one’s masculinity, because it meant “he surrendered the male prerogative of control or dominance.” As the Roman Plutarch puts it in his Dialogue on Love, “Those who enjoy playing the passive role we treat as the lowest of the low, and we have not the slightest degree of respect or affection for them.”

        Even though a man could engage in “transient homosexuality” without it affecting his manly reputation, a proclivity for same-sex relations did not exempt him from the charge to procreate with a woman. He was still expected to fulfill the imperative to strengthen his society by producing children. For example, though Spartan warriors could take a male lover while out on campaign, once they returned home, they were expected to sleep with their wives and fulfill their duty of adding new citizens to the state.

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        • Well, I have it on excellent authority that Alexander the Great loved getting penetrated! Not to mention all those ancient Greeks and Romans… and those African tribes where they had all the gay men look after the kids! Talking of which, did you see that wonderfully joyful You Tube vid of a recent Masai gay marriage? A modern parallel with that swimming-in-a-river-in-Egypt mentality (thank you the great Mark Twain) can be found in the black, male subculture known as DL (Down-low to the uninitiated). Feel free to check out my short story called ‘Shifty Shades Of Gay’ on my WordPress which may enlighten those who are not familiar with this hitherto rather ‘swept-under-the-carpet’ phenomenon.

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