Attitudes, values and beliefs all come into play in the composition of our worldview, our story. We individually and/or collectively choose these elements or, more accurately, they usually choose us and it makes an enormous difference which of these two “choices” happens. The more conscious we are of Simple Reality, the more likely we will be in the driver’s seat in the vehicle that is our life. And the gender that is more in touch with his/her True self is more likely to experience greater success in today’s jungle. Will it be Tarzan or will it be Jane?
For example, if the identity determined by P-B in theUnited Statesis too rigid or narrow, the American male can find himself limited in how he feels he can express himself. In the recent recession (2008-2012) Reuben Praeter felt those confining restraints. “A man needs a strong, macho job. He’s not going to be a schoolteacher or a legal secretary or some beauty-shop queen. He’s got to be a man.” Reuben’s identity demanded that he beat his chest and swing on jungle vines and decline any job offers that didn’t include those old-definitions of masculinity. Reuben is having a hard time finding a job and so are his fellow “apes.”
“While millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost over the last decade, jobs in health, education and services have been added in about the same numbers. The job categories projected to grow over the next decade include nursing, home health care and child care. Of the 15 categories projected to grow fastest by 2016—among them sales, teaching, accounting, custodial services and customer service—12 are dominated by women. And they do provide a reliable source of employment and a ladder up to the middle class. It used to be that in working-classAmerica, men earned significantly more than women. Now in that segment of the population, the gap between men and women is shrinking faster than in any other, according to June Carbone, an author of “Red Families v. Blue Families.”
Are we headed toward a middle-class matriarchy? Charles Gettys seems to think it’s possible. “‘I was born in the South, where the men take care of their women. Suddenly, it’s us who are relying on the women. Suddenly, we got the women in control.’ When that structure disappeared, ‘there was no place for us to go,’ Charles says. But more than that, there was no way for them to be. The town so revolved around Russell [the textile manufacturing company] that when the company left, the men were virtually stripped of their identities.”
In the South in particular, the religious aspect of masculine identity plays a key role. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary inLouisville,Kentuckycharacterizes the change in identities as a “revolution.” “‘What Christians should worry about,’ he argues, ‘is the long-term consequences of a new matriarchal world order. Christians committed to a biblical model [story] of marriage must look to this revolution with a deeper level of concern.’”
Is Mohler correct, are we experiencing a revolution in gender identity? Stephanie Coontz reveals in her article “The Myth of Male Decline” that she doesn’t think women are usurping male power but also reveals that American men are having an identity crisis of sorts. “Men are now experiencing a set of limits—externally as well as self-imposed—strikingly similar to the ones Betty Friedan set out to control in 1963, when she identified a “feminine mystique” that constrained women’s self-image and options.” A P-B identity, to put it mildly, “severely constrains” human options.
Today’s Tarzan has a very limiting self image. “Just as the feminine mystique discouraged women in the 1950s and 1960s from improving their education or job prospects, on the assumption that a man would always provide for them, the masculine mystique encourages men to neglect their own self-improvement on the assumption that sooner or later their “manliness” will be rewarded.”
As Reuben Prater revealed earlier in this essay, the American masculine identity can be very limiting when it comes to finding gainful employment and even maintaining self-respect. “Just as the feminine mystique exposed girls to ridicule and harassment if they excelled at “unladylike” activities like math or sports, the masculine mystique leads to bullying and ostracism of boys who engage in “girlie” activities like studying hard and behaving well in school. One result is that men account for only 2 percent of kindergarten and preschool teachers, 3 percent of dental assistants and 9 percent of registered nurses.”
So what is really happening? As we have learned in our study of Simple Reality, the truth is nothing if not illusive. Is Jane climbing up the jungle vines and swinging over to knock Tarzan out of the treetops? The facts say no, although some changes, including the beliefs, attitudes and values we have cited so far indicate that major shifts in the American story continue to be written.
What we know is always happening in P-B is a lot of reaction, afflictive emotions being expressed and people being freaked out by the illusion associated with crazy, that is to say, self-destructive behavior. The following recent book titles are themselves revealing of that reaction: The Richer Sex, yes the author means women, The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, and The End of Men. “Several of the authors of these books posit that we are on the verge of a “new majority of female breadwinners,” where middle-class wives lord over their husbands while demoralized single men take refuge in perpetual adolescence.”
In truth, Tarzan’s position as King of the Jungle is far from being threatened and the most that Jane can hope for is some modest power sharing. Men are still beneficiaries of what sociologist R.W. Connell called a “patriarchal dividend,” a lifelong affirmative-action program for men. What’s the evidence for this? Well, just look around. Men still control the most important industries and corporations including technology and continue to make more money than women working in jobs with similar education and skills. Even more to the point, men are loath to give up political power and as a result, women make up only 17 percent of Congress and only 4 percent of the C.E.O.’s in Fortune’s top 1,000 companies are female.
We know that Jane’s false self would like more power but going head-to-head with Tarzan is fraught. “A 2010 Catalyst survey found that female M.B.A.’s were paid an average of $4,600 less than men in starting salaries and continue to be outpaced by men in rank and salary growth throughout their careers, even of they remain childless.”
There is built-in unfairness in the ages-old paternalism but women do seem to have more flexibility in their narrative-determined identities than men. They are not so picky when opportunities present themselves. If men turn their noses up at low-paying or un-masculine jobs then they may be cutting off their noses to spite their identity, a case of identity rigidity. Remember, the dinosaurs were not able to adjust to climate change. Many of the job titles where chest-beating and yelling were appropriate and which gave men a “King of the Jungle” identity have been replaced by machines, outsourced or have simply faded into history.
Women are also more ready to redefine their identity late in life or whenever necessary to survive. Two-thirds of the students at local community colleges are women. “‘An important long-term issue is that men are not doing as well as women in keeping up with the demands of the global economy,’ says Michael Greenstone, an economist at M.I.T. and director of the Hamilton Project, which has done some of the most significant research on men and unemployment. ‘It’s a first-order mystery for social scientists, why women have more clearly heard the message that the economy has changed and men have such a hard time hearing it or responding.’” Having a hard time “responding”—hmmmmmm—I think Simple Reality has something to say about that.
In the minds of “survivors” is a closed-loop tape that plays a positive “can-do” message. Women are more apt to hit the “play button” on that tape and they also seem to have a better understanding of the relationship between the story they tell themselves and their identity and how that relationship can determine their experience. In Americatoday women seem to have a better intuitive understanding of that “self-talk” narrative. Our economy is undergoing a significant change. The result will determine who ends up wearing the pants in the 21st century family or indeed, the definition of the family itself.
We end with the scary connection between identity and self-destruction, one that most of us prefer to deny. The fear-driven false-self Tarzan identity of the American male puts a premium on competition over cooperation with often tragic consequences—think violence—lots of violence.
Following the eleven year-long wars inIraqandAfghanistan, suicides among American troops and veterans have exceeded combat deaths. In the society as a whole “Firearm homicide is in decline while firearm suicide is on the rise, increasing by 13 percent in just five years, from 2005 to 2010.”
Problems of the type we have highlighted, having their origin in our false-self identities, are not possible to solve within the context of the old paradigm. “Over time, we evolved to not see drunken-driving deaths as a problem only of alcoholism, or only law enforcement, or only of irresponsibility, but as all of the above and more.” Unfortunately the psychiatrist Gregory L. Kirk is unable to see the forest for the trees in his laudable attempt to address gun violence with his analogy to highway violence. Both have the same origin and the same solution. A violent narrative produces a violent identity resulting in violent behavior—violent unconscious behavior. Unconscious and mindless people are unable to pose profound questions let alone give realistic responses to them.
In the closing paragraph to his article entitled “How to reduce gun violence and suicide,” he writes, “Accept the Second Amendment as the wisdom of our forefathers, but realize that the current beautification of it doesn’t extol rugged national individualism.” There he is again, “rugged national individualism,” that ubiquitous Tarzan with his piercing scream echoing above the jungle treetops. We are doubtful if our forefathers in all of their wisdom thought of themselves as creating a nation that would self-destruct if its males were not “masculine” enough.
It was inevitable that Jane’s identity would also come under the influence of P-B and her behavior would become “masculinized.” She too wants to swing through the jungle fighting the forces of darkness—to become powerfully competitive—to more fully express the power and control energy center of her false self. She may not have a hairy chest but she wants to behave as if she did.
“A decorated Guard pilot [Captain Mary Jennings of the California National Guard] heads a federal lawsuit charging that the military’s ban on women in combat positions is outdated.” Focusing on the ultimately irrelevant military policies distracts America and humanity at large from the only relevant question, namely, why are we fighting with each other in the first place. We may assume that humans are naturally warlike or that fear of “the other” forces those of us who would like to live in peace into unwanted violence. The truth is that all of humanity is going to continue living in a state of existential anxiety, prone to defensive violence and reactionary violence, and “pre-emptive” war violence as long as we accept that survival of the fittest is the harsh reality of life on earth and that we are less the creature that reasons than we are a creature “bloody in tooth and claw.”
Have we really made any progress since we were swinging through the trees in a loincloth?
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival