Aug 18, 2022 | Writing
from a friend:
“People who tell themselves that President Trump is just another tired old politician from the past have likely been watching his enemies define him rather than watching his accomplishments. While CNN has obsessed over a witch hunt and a trollop, Trump has gutted regulations, supercharged the economy, announced changes that will protect our veterans and allow terminally ill access to medications. Meanwhile employment AND popularity among blacks have skyrocketed. Also, ISIS who?”
I’m not saying he’s a tired old politician. He’s a carnival barker. I think he’s a kleptocrat overseeing the largest campaign of social web destruction and transfer of wealth to the rich in our history while simultaneously destroying our position as a relevant or respected nation around the globe AND running a populist con-game on a percentage of our population based in xenophobia, nationalism, and racial fear.
Scariest … I don’t know that he’s even aware that this is what he’s doing. He may simply be impulsively trying to continue shoring up a desperate lack of self-worth with grandiosity and attention seeking.
Gutted regulations … on what? I would prefer to have increased regulations for the environment, stronger protection for consumers, curbs to global climate change, increases in renewable energy incentives, curbs to banking and finance, common sense federal gun regulation, protections for minorities and impoverished areas in the USA. Gutting regulations is good if you’re a global corporation looking to avoid accountability and outsource costs and impacts of your actions. For you and me — it’s a downside. It means less protection and less ability to impact the actions of polluters and unethical businesses.
Supercharged the economy … for who? (my answer … corporations and the ultra-rich who benefit from his tax policy and from the stock market)
Low unemployment. This is good for many — no argument there. And this in line with the global recovery (not unique to US, and on trend since 2014). And wages are not growing in line with demand — meaning that average people are working more for less money, while corporations take more profits and wall street booms.
Announced changes to protect veterans … how? (my answer … by creating a culture of suspicion and blame rather than care and accountability and by undermining workers’ unions) And on the other side … protections for active duty and veterans against banks for foreclosure were cut. And medical services to veterans have been cut.
Allow access to medications for the terminally ill (promised cuts to prices have not happened and are not predicted to happen) … while crippling safety nets for millions?
ISIS — I’ll quote a journal article
“The collapse of ISIS has created a terrorist diaspora with the potential to carry out sophisticated attacks in the West and radicalize other Muslims in the Arab world(8).” (http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2018/05/100-percent-defeat-isis-ideology-180508042421376.html)
It was a ‘Mission Accomplished’ photo opp. (‘War is Peace’) As in all cases of trying to ‘destroy’ the enemy … the enemy simply reappears in another way in another place. ISIS has gone underground. The root causes, ideology, and radicalization will never be defeated with weapons, killing, or macho rhetoric.
PS. The same country that made the coffee mug you’re drinking out of this morning and the toothbrush you used is also providing 50% of the weapons used by ISIS. Welcome to the global economy.
Popularity … so what? Popularity bump because of Kanye West has nothing to do with the fact that Trump’s actions and policies are hurting the African American community … and every other middle and low income person in the USA. That means you, too.
Social Darwinism is not how a sane society takes care of itself. And bottom line … there is no ‘America’ without the rest of the world.
Aug 18, 2022 | Writing
Yes. Yes. Yes. We can be all this. We are all this. Kind, gentle, loving, patient, nurturing, artistic, empathetic, dreamers, scared. We can also be all THAT … all that feels opposite to what we see here. All that is hurtful, destructive, ugly, violent, and disconnected from our innate human vulnerability and empathy. And … it should be no surprise to us that both of these possibilities express in the same boy. Sometimes in the same minute. And boys become men. We contain all the collective conditioning of our personal histories, our culture, and every narrative that has found its way into our shadowed beliefs. We can think, feel, and act in ways that are anathema to our most deeply held and cherished values. This is a paradox of masculinity. It plays out every day. No man is exempt.
May it be that we create communities and culture that can contain and protect us from the worst of what we can be. May it be that we create communities and culture that can nourish, support, and celebrate the best of what we may be.
The ManKind Project exists to create spaces for exploration, healing, learning, support, connection, and revelation — the revelation of who we are. Beautiful and ugly. Worthy of love and guilty of perpetration. We continue to learn new lessons about our blind spots, about our transgressions, and about our ability to love and persist, to grow and evolve.
Accountability is one of our core values in the ManKind Project. Along with authenticity, compassion, generosity, integrity, leadership, multicultural awareness, and respect. We strive to live these values in our daily lives. We succeed. And we fail. In fact, without the ways we fail, most of us would never have arrived at this work. Most of us would never have become curious about what else could be possible.
The core of accountability is truth. It is being supported to speak the truth of our congruence and incongruence — without being raised up on a pedestal or condemned to the abyss. It is truth in the face of real impacts that our actions have in the world, regardless of our intentions, promises, or justifications. It is truth that is multi-perspectival and deeply subjective, that changes with time.
Truth is a variable. There are undeniable truths. Data. Facts. They are few. Most of what we call truth is interpretation and negotiation. Interpretation changes. Negotiation is a universal constant. We are reality translators with widely varying levels of experience confronted frequently with languages we’ve never heard. I pray we are gentle with our interpreters and spend most of our time just listening to reality. When we profess our own truth or witness the truth of others, that we hold it delicately.
We cannot reveal our greatest gifts without confronting our deepest darkness. Can we love both? Can we hold the truth of our impacts standing before those we have wounded? Can we own it all without tearing ourselves and our communities apart? Is it possible that this fearful reckoning will create the more beautiful community we know is possible? I hope so.
Aug 18, 2022 | Writing
The Growing Movement of Men Trying to Unlearn ‘Toxic Masculinity’
Another strong mention of the ManKind Project and #menswork. MKP believes in men; we love, support, and challenge ourselves to grow. And for many, the beauty and generative goodness of men gets buried in the muck of ‘toxic’ socialization, often now called ‘toxic masculinity.’ Under multigenerational wounds and damage, the true potential of men is suffocated. The damage caused is frequently played out in the world as violence to self (suicide, addiction), other (domestic violence, murder), and the world (ecological destruction).
The term ‘toxic masculinity’ can be misused or misunderstood, and yet it is valuable. We need men (and people) of strong character. A ‘masculine’ character trait, like strength, grit, stoicism, aggression, or even kindness can be used to help or used to hurt. Some natural human character traits that have been consciously and unconsciously repressed in men (excised from ‘masculinity’ as a typology), like empathy, compassion, communication, and interdependence, need to be reintegrated in a healthy way. How character traits are expressed changes with time; what was appropriate and needed even 75 years ago may not be what society needs now. And some distorted and hyper-expressed traits of masculinity (what we might call shadow aspects) are indeed toxic to healthy community AND to the men who embody them.
What masculinity was is not all it will be. What was life-sustaining and essential generations ago may be life-damaging now. The process of change is constant and necessary. How we adapt and shape change will be our legacy.
#Menswork is about taking responsibility for our impacts. It is about taking conscious responsibility for the process of change. This is soul work, heart work, and head work. Character is required and the healthy expression of character is a practice that we undertake to create a better world. We do the inner work of #healingmasculinity, creating a culture where there’s room for more beautiful masculine and feminine expression from all people.
Aug 18, 2022 | Writing
To a man sitting in pain and confusion. I feel it also. Maybe this will resonate for you. If you’re a man with some of my out-facing characteristics, it may be easy to feel like a target right now, even with those we care for and are who we are actively working for justice and dignity with.
Here’s the thing I’m slowly learning. *I can hold the target without being the target.* This is the martial art that the times demand from me. This is the nonviolent protest of the privileged that this karmic play is asking for.
Shouldering the weight of history, using gifts both earned and unearned, AND shielding our beautiful souls are all parts of the work for men right now. Know who you are. Let what is true land. Experience it. There may be fear, sadness, anger, shame there. (May there also be pride, gratitude, and excitement!) I keep looking in the mirror. Ah yes! I see that in me. And it does not define me. I am a royal flush, white, cis, straight, educated, middle class, able bodied … the list goes on. There is no way for me to experience the subjective reality of my sisters and brothers who were not born with my stacked deck. Don’t argue with reality. Reality wins.
Know that I am not my ancestors, and yet I carry their legacy. Know that I am not a ‘bad guy’ and yet I swim in the same unseen water of culture. I have absorbed the same messages, learned the behaviors, taken the bait more times than I can count. Know that I am not the patriarchy, and yet I am a beneficiary (and an unwilling symbol) of it.
I will never be a perfect ally. Sometimes … I won’t even feel like an ally. (to you or to me) This isn’t going to be pretty or easy. I’ll keep showing up anyway.
Can I hold the container? Can I make space for rage and heart-shattering grief, and BE the rock, be the river, be the soil? Sometimes. Sometimes the weight of it is collapsing me.
The intensity of the heat and the repetition of blows hardens the steel. Now is the time to hone our edges and learn to slice with the precision of dragonfly wings. Cut the people free from the restraints of gangrenous systems. I set down the bludgeon I have used against my brothers and sisters, but first let me plant one stake. This marks the corner of the new temple. Bring your shovels.
I’m not alone. You are not alone. There are many brothers out here feeling this pain, and working together. I stand with HER … the big global her that is emergent. To be part of this emergence, I am asked to dig deep and bring forth the best of HIM — and there is SO MUCH power, compassion, and solidarity there to call forth. I will continue to be what I want to see as much as I can. I will stand with. Sometimes right now that means standing behind. This does not make me second, or less, or sub, or oppressed.
The weight of my legacy of privilege is immense. It is weight that I can use to help move the lever of history.
Aug 18, 2022 | Writing
Me: the towhead on the right.
I was born in 1971. I’m a cisgender heterosexual white man. Everything I say here is from my perspective. Results may vary.
GenX is a transitional generation.
From analog to digital.
From outdoors to indoors
From the Lone Ranger to Mr Rogers … and From Mr. Rogers to HeMan … and Hulk Hogan and Die Hard … from Tyler Durden to Ted Lasso and “Top Gun’’ to “This is Us.”
From the Cold War to the Culture Wars. (and back to the Cold War?)
Rachel Maddow AND Tucker Carlson are both Gen X.
“I like you just as you are.”
“Don’t be a girly-man.”
We are the last generation who had any time in a world not saturated by advertising DIRECTLY intended to make us life-long product consumers.
We are the last generation to live without the ubiquitous availability of streaming pornography.
Analog to Digital.
Homogenous to Broadly Heterogenous
From hegemonic belief systems to the end of truth
There are lots of wonderful mythologies about GenX men — about our toughness, cynicism, ‘above-it-all-ness’ … Resilience. And in many ways — these are true!
And what I learned — and what I think many other men in my generation learned — is to be experts at hiding, dodging, and adapting. Unlike the silent generation — we were taught to have a voice. Unlike the Boomers — we were taught that we weren’t the center of the universe.
We are a generation where post-modern frameworks for understanding & deconstructing gender, politics, national identity, capitalism, and more came into the mainstream.
Shit’s broken. We know it.
We pretend day to day that it isn’t. Many of this are doing this for our kids. (They know it’s broken too, but we play a game of make-believe so we can keep getting by.)
The promises about what it’s supposed to be like … are lies.
The buckets that keep things organized … good and bad … are bullshit.
What I see in working with GenX men is toughness built of hard work and practice, AND also a rigid shell of armor, sarcasm, and cynicism adopted to shield the festering wounds of living in this transitional time.
Underneath the facade of resilience — we are still trying to internalize and understand — still trying to grasp what it means to live out the idealism that we learned in our childhoods, heal the trauma of our personal histories, and not collapse in the bludgeoning reality of the present moment.
We are the generation trying to figure out whether we want to stay in the matrix, break out of it, or burn it all down completely.
And this energy of contradiction, this energy of push forward and retreat is taking a tremendous toll.
I grew up believing that women were strong, capable of anything and motivated to succeed … and the reason for our society collapsing.
I grew up being taught that women should be in positions of power … and that they should be restricted from accessing power.
Both — at the same time — from different voices.
I grew up being taught that my feelings were valid and welcome on the one hand, AND that those same feelings would get me hurt — physically and emotionally — by my peers and by adult men in my world.
I grew up being taught that equality between men and women was the way it should be … but what I saw modeled around me was mostly the glorification of submissiveness, and men’s anger and frustration at being asked to make things different.
So what I witness in the ManKind Project with the men’s healing work we do …
Is GenX men attempting to integrate the contradictions we learned about manhood, equality, men’s roles in the world … How do we have feelings … and use them well. How do we express the healthy aspects of ‘traditional’ characteristics associated with masculinity?
How do we reconcile that in order to reach gender equality, we have to face the shadow that maintaining dominance by threat of violence is the essence of the social and political construction of manhood.
What am I without that?
How do we go to where the hurt is … and heal there.
How do we stop hiding from each other?
How do we overcome the cultural push to backlash against feminism AND against masculinity.
Well. It’s complicated.
And complicated doesn’t sell well.
Ambiguity is scary.
I did learn though, the answer usually starts with talking about it. Maybe we should spend a Saturday in the library.
“You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…
ANDY: …and an athlete…
ALLISON: …and a basketcase…
CLAIRE: …a princess…
JOHN: …and a criminal.”