Silly Men: Is There a Cure?

September 22, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


Today… “the young, unmarried male has become a far more prominent — and more vexing — social type. He has devolved into the child man…”


Mr. Cross [author of Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity], an antiwar activist during his college years, is unsparing about his generation, which he now believes threw out time-tested ideals of mature manhood without offering anything substantive in their place.


Mr. Cross observes that the current generation of young men has been uniquely shaped by a popular culture in which the “celebration of the puerile” never flags…


Mr. Cross, who does a commendable job of diagnosis, proposes several remedies that might drag the boy man into adulthood, such as sharpening generational boundaries and reviving a “culturally richer aesthetic.” But the prescription seems woefully inadequate to the disease.


From Kay Hymowitz’s Review of Men to Boys by Gary Cross, Wall Street Journal


Is there a real crisis of manhood in America? I believe there is. Not only does our culture work overtime to prevent boys from maturing into responsible men, it works just as hard to bring down the ones who do make the leap.


It’s true that there has never been a perfect society, but I think we can look back and see that manhood has been turned into a rare commodity today – and the main cause is really quite simple.


It’s not because we no longer define manhood properly. There have always been myriad definitions of manhood – ranging from the tough frontier guy idea to the reserved literary model. Most people could probably agree that Daniel Boone and James Madison were both real men, however different.


Real men come in many different packages, but they all have one thing in common – they become men because they have the responsibility to do so.


Rob a man of responsibility and you rob him of his manhood – his reason for shedding the frivolity of boyhood and moving on, growing up. For that matter, take away a woman’s responsibility and you take away her womanhood. Men are reduced to perpetual boyhood and women to everlasting girlishness.


How do you reduce society to this level of immaturity?


There are lots of ways, but one of the most effective — and pernicious — is to take away the children. Rob the majority of grown-ups of the responsibility of the next generation and you have yourself a society of mostly children, people whose main responsibility in life becomes their present rather than the future.


Children think: What would be fun now, what do I want now, what would make me feel good now?


Adults think: What do I want my future to look like, my children’s future, the world’s future?


Children think as they do not only because they are young and immature but because there is little they can do to change the future anyway. Adults can think about the future because the power to shape it is within their means.


By taking away the primary means of shaping the future — the rearing and education of children — the state reduces adults to the level of those children – powerless to create tomorrow, thus devoted to the pleasures and whims of today.


The good news is that today’s adults are not really powerless. The best news is that significant numbers are taking back their responsibilities, turning their backs on the state’s claim to their children and the future.


It’s an uphill battle, to be sure. The forces working against strong families and mature adulthood are many and powerful. Some have the best of intentions, others outright evil intentions; whatever the intentions, the result is the same.


The more of us who take our children back from the state, the more we can expect to see society improve and the future brighten. We can expedite the process by helping others take back their adulthood, too. “Courage is contagious,” Billy Graham is credited with saying, “When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”