Few people take time to learn about the history of male oppression, the foundations of male masculinity, and the evolution of the modern man. Join author Rod E. Keays as he examines these important topics and more, including why boys and men accept certain roles; why men bully each other; why it's important to deal with emotions; and why it's so hard for men to talk about sexuality.
Keays explores his own experiences coping with the twists and turns that come with being a man. One thing he learns early on is that most men don't talk about their emotional highs and lows. As someone who likes to talk openly and frankly, he feels isolated, but he continues living life on his terms.
Discover what good men have been doing for thousands of years and how men's groups can help men achieve their goals. The world may have its share of problems, but The Naturally Good Man continues to contribute to society.
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THE NATURALLY GOOD MANAnd the Ten Thousand Blades of Life
By ROD E. KEAYS
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Rod E. Keays
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe First Foundation: The Constructed Man
I sat on a rock a bit removed from the trail wiping blood away from my face with the back of my hand. The fall yesterday left one eye useless and the other swollen and painful. I knew that if I could not see, I would be left for dead by the rest of the tribe. There was no extra food for an injured and potentially useless dependent like me. I had seen others leave for similar reasons. While it distressed me at the time, it was soon forgotten as the hardships of daily life took its toll on everyone. Later the next day my fear of impending doom resurfaced as my face refused to heal. At that moment a small child bumped into my knee. I could see just enough of her to see her sweet smile and the light that radiated from her face. At first she hesitated then took a scrap of fur from her pouch and tried to clean up my bleeding face. Her mother happened by and swatted her on the back of the head, scolding her that I was to be shunned and should be left to die. She walked on, but the girl stayed with me, and I wondered what could I give her in return, or for that matter of what use was I to the tribe itself?
I began reviewing the last few weeks of our travel over the plains in our never-ending search for water and food. What could I provide now? I did have a talent for smelling out water in obscure places. The tribe did occasionally look to me when luck was against us. Was there enough of a need for water that the tribe would keep me alive? Would someone be my eyes while I recover what sight I might still have left? Could I make my discoveries more secret or restrict them to certain members of the tribe, say for example—the children? That's it! I would tell them where to find the water and the adults would have no idea how this was done. Word would get around that I was responsible for the children's discoveries. I would get the credit and be looked after by the tribe.
How often did creative yet injured, mentally ill or other different gendered members of early tribes create a need for themselves so they would be looked after and not be faced with abandonment and death? The above story of a water sourcer may have led to a position within the tribe as an early shaman or witch doctor. These occasionally odd, possibly dangerous members often enjoyed positions of enhanced authority and prestige due to their unusual talents or disabilities. Their "magical" skills or quick-mindedness could morph into storytelling or myth-making. They had skills important to the functioning of early tribes and helped to maintain a cohesive sense of community between the members. As well, other oddballs, degenerates and loners found a place in tribal life, some much later than others. Yet many were cast out when injured or sick.
Even today, in wealthy Western nations some have yet to find an acceptable place. The urban poor for example, have not found a place. Those sitting in judgment of them assume existence in filth is a fitting end to those of an assumed weaker disposition. It is a rejection of their unseen value. Nonetheless we are seeing the slow acceptance of other-challenged persons within mainstream society in such areas as the Paralympics, creative transportation solutions for the disabled, sidewalks with dips to accommodate wheelchairs, traffic crosswalks with buzzers for visually impaired citizens, and many non-profit organizations set up primarily to assist these people. Something continues to include the oddball and the needy. As I have asked before, what is it? Is it just the recognition that skills are being wasted or that other humans are suffering needlessly that eventually brings society around? Could it be a concern about human rights? But where did that idea come from?
As further skills developed in pre-history and greater tolerance of exotic behaviors became commonplace, we see the establishment of hierarchy and the beginnings of the constructionist phase of our masculine heritage. We forget too easily that history has been winding its way for many thousands of years and we lose the knowledge of what happened in our father's generation and how that affected him differently from his father's. For example, in our grandfathers' day, it would have been a new idea to accept the possibility of rehabilitation of the mentally ill into functioning persons and to resist seeing them as wretched criminals without hope. Within that resistance lay the justification for their poor treatment. But the change had to be created by someone or something in order for it to happen. In our day, we have seen the acceptance of same sex marriages and the gigantic shadow of global terrorism. Two and a half million years ago it was something else. It appears to be part of a progression of some kind.
In more detail now we will explore this ancient and curious human trait of inclusiveness and generativity. Starting from the anthropological record we can witness the first stirrings of the future lives of men.
At this point about 2.4 million years ago early humans still lived in trees. In the great plains of Africa began an expansion due to a drying trend in the world's climate. The forests that covered much of the world began to die back. In order for the early humans to survive, a major change to their lifestyle was required. It just so happened that the human male was two times the size of the human female, faster and not encumbered by young, soooo ... guess who got to climb down from the tree and go get the bacon? You' re absolutely right—the guys!!! It just made sense; the environment demanded it. This was way before any choice was available in our gender roles. Even though recent research has shown that later in history, females often went along on hunting parties and assisted in the killing for meat, it generally fell to males to do this. Although females, proving their capabilities as warriors alongside males, probably stopped these adventures during childbirth, and no doubt choose for the rest of their lives to raise their young children. For the male hunters in pre-historic times, not only was it hard work, it was also very dangerous. In those days, large cats and other predators roamed the plains. Many males were killed or maimed. Even with their large size, the males were very poorly equipped to kill game, as stone points and spears had not been invented yet. Often the only fresh meat available was stolen from other predators or scavenged from the natural deaths of prey animals. With other predators competing for the same food clashes occurred. That was the dangerous part. Lives were often short and brutal. There were no cell phones to call a paramedic in those days.
Thus began the tradition, an initiation, where we males came to see our role in society as defined by the level of risk involved in a given task. This defined us in its broadest sense, up to and including modern times. The male role models still in existence today as if they were the gospel truth, developed from this early beginning. This role model influenced the choices we made, as well as having an unconscious effect on the choices that were forced upon us. For example, the kind of work we choose can have a shortening effect on the length of our lives. The kind of women or friends we choose may severely limit or enhance the freedoms we experience in our private lives. We are still waking up to the cost of our survival from the past.
Ten thousand years ago early humans had evolved into the Cro-Magnon or as anthropologists prefer to call them now, Early Modern Humans. They began to diversify into racial types. These included the Asian, Persian/Indian, African and Caucasian races. Some male cultures in these new races went in very divergent directions developing distinct initiations along their way. Hierarchy was in its very early stages and individuals found a place to survive using natural talent. Different cultures had widely imaginative methods for handling social power or prestige; it was an inevitable and urgent need of early tribal life. I will say more on this later.
With the development of many tools for killing and for preparing meat, the large mammals were largely wiped out. A new era was beginning and another forced change was coming. As with every major change in history, including living on the open plains and survival through difficult ice ages, the realities of life led to new requirements for survival. Without wild meat, many bands and tribal peoples were forced to cultivate agricultural plants and learn to domesticate wild animals. Basically this change ended their nomadic way of life. They were evolving into something new.
But had their initiations changed? Not at all. If anything, new ones were layered on top of the old ones, although these early societies were often matriarchal or egalitarian in structure and substance. For example, women did often hunt along side males at this point. At the same time goddess religions flourished. Men and women lived with equal rights and obligations, and close relationships were valued. This society had no need for "Power Over" politics. Elites however were beginning to take form. Changing initiations were beginning to establish precise cultures based on growing surpluses. In an absolute sense, if you have a full belly, you have time to think, to plan and to dream. If not, your entire effort will be directed toward finding food: nothing else would matter.
Referring back to the concept of males judging their masculinity based on the risk in a given job, these new elites took the form of "warrior clans" protecting the new surpluses. The clans represented a major change in the way males of the day perceived themselves. As we shall see, this new identity came to be associated with, so called "healthy masculinity," where strength in battle, protection of women and children, and the cultivation of domineering and powerful instincts were desirable traits in men. Women and gentler men didn't stand a chance. Men's liberation was an unimagined luxury and would stay so for many centuries yet.
Hence the first signs of male oppression find its start in the simmering hatred and envy for the powerful and ruthless leaders. These leaders gave the initial shape to the generalized negativity that so often characterizes masculinity in the modern world.
This structured system recently called patriarchy developed slowly. As women were often preoccupied with food gathering and raising children, the males focused on construction of shelters, hunting, protection of the tribe and decisions to move or stay in a given place. In early transitional societies these "necessary decision-makers" began to acquire power over others in subtle ways. They were not even aware it was occurring. It was more of an after effect of the need for these decisions to be made in a multitude of social, cultural, agricultural or defensive concerns. From his recently published book "Is There Anything Good About Men?", Roy F. Baumeister writes that men at the time of egalitarian societies gradually created power structures because men are better at arms-length relationships or less intimate ones than women. For example, in a modern context, he says, men are better at business than women because they can make hard decisions about allocating resources, hiring or firing individuals. Women on the other hand view relationship as more important. His theory does shed light on how easily men created power structures and hierarchies. Men more naturally acted from the big and shallow relationships of business and the military, whereas women maintained small and deeply intimate relationships, generally with children and friends that essentially stayed the same over time. By focusing on close nurturing relationships women guaranteed the emotional survival of the species. Wealth, knowledge and power were created in the men's sphere fostering security and hope for the future and the continued wellbeing of the species.
James W. Messerschmitt, Taking a more modern feminist view wrote "Capitalism, Patriarchy and Crime, Toward a Socialist, Feminist Criminology", states "[...] patriarchy as an ideology that arose out of the exchange of women, as simply being the power of the father, and as the sexual hierarchical ordering of society for political control." He defines patriarchy as: "[...] a set of social relations of power in which the male gender appropriates the labor power of women and controls their sexuality. This appropriation and control-in both the home and market provide the material base of patriarchy." In addition, "[...] patriarchal gender relations then, are similar to class relations in that they entail appropriation, control, domination, and conflict." He states further, "I use the terms "masculine" and "male gender" rather than "male" throughout the book since "male" behavior is learned rather than biologically determined."
I am wondering if this analysis is useful. Does it help us to see clearly how history and circumstance led to the hardships and initiations that developed along the way to enable our survival? I find it confusing because it focuses on finding fault rather than seeing the circumstances, needs or purposes that led to these actions. It avoids finding clear-headed solutions and muddies the waters further with evildoers and their victims. I would rather advocate the creation of new circumstances so that domination of any kind is no longer necessary.
Messerschmitt states that all male behavior is learned; yet men are driven by a protective and provisionary impulse that almost all men know instinctively. Although both Connell and Messerschmitt pointed to the lack of evidence to support a biological urge in males, isn't the urge for survival alone a biological urge? Males historically responded to a clear need and provided food and security so others could survive because it was in them to do it. They had the strong bodies unencumbered by childbirth or the responsibilities of child-rearing, The lack of these things does not suggest a vacuous or selfish state. In fact it suggest a rough and ready can-do physicality that joyously takes care of all the other jobs needed to support the mother-child duo, or the elders or the wounded or infirm. Almost all male behavior is based upon this built-in response to threat or need. It may not always be the best response as in the example of the American response to the 9/11 attacks. However with greater gender equality, women's opinions may provide a different viewpoint. It is hard to say with confidence if women will provide a real alternative to traditional male thinking and acting. After all power is power and in the end women are still humans. Even research into lesbian relationships has shown a high level of domestic violence between spouses and rates of mothers killing children is also higher than one might expect.
Power then became more entrenched with the further establishment of male elites based on agricultural surpluses. In more favored areas of the earth such as China and Persia, the need for decisions of how these surpluses ought to be distributed became an important social issue. It became clear that if a surplus of food was available then some people did not have to work, or at least not as hard as before. These people would then be free to do other kinds of work not directly involved in the production of food, which used to be a major part of everyone's day. They could be the record keepers of the surplus or in the modern form, accountants. Then managers were needed to oversee the accountants. You see where I am going. Eventually all of these early societies that developed surpluses began the slow development of hierarchies in order to manage their surpluses, paving the way to the modern system.
As these activities advanced the new "bureaucracy" of males, cities were laid out with walls to protect the surpluses, guardians to defend from invasion, castles for ceremony, streets of certain width for transportation, aqueducts for water and sewage for sanitation. As these decisions were undertaken, males developed friendships and alliances with their co-workers who supported and promoted each other. Religion and social custom came to reflect the earlier social strata of males making decisions and occupying positions of authority. Women, less able men and outsiders (who could be categorized as the physically disabled, homosexual, blind or deaf, the mentally ill and other unwell people) were oppressed, controlled or killed if they tried to object to this new way of doing things.
Excerpted from THE NATURALLY GOOD MAN by ROD E. KEAYS Copyright © 2012 by Rod E. Keays. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
An Introduction To What I Discovered About My Own Life....................xxvii
Chapter One The First Foundation: The Constructed Man....................1
Chapter Two The Second Foundation: Culture = Nature or Does it?....................42
Chapter Three The Third Foundation: Objectivity = Survival of a Kind....................71
Chapter Four The Fourth Foundation: A Purpose for Life, Resolution?....................83
Chapter Five The Fifth Foundation: The Evolutionary Process....................89
Conclusion To The Five Foundations....................173
Resources and Recommended Reading....................179