With a reported rise in domestic violence and bullying at every level of society, with road rage, brutal street assaults and gang activity, we need to recognise the rage in the male heart. It’s not enough to demand an end. We cannot suppress it with punishment and declaring war on it will only start one more war.
If a man does not recognise or understand forces driving his attitude, he won’t act to contain them or use them for good. He’ll keep lashing out, using his strength in the home, the workplace, on the street, in the pub and on the sporting field.
I am neither the quietest nor gentlest of men. I’m known for loud opinions, I can be persistent and I’ve done my share of sticking my nose where it’s not wanted or invited. As a television journalist I was good at getting people to speak. I can be very pushy and recognise it. I’d like to think of myself as assertive rather than aggressive.
But I am also someone who would never emerge victorious from any brawl.
I’ve never done martial arts training but admire those who have. Put me in a brawl and I’d most likely walk into the first punch headed my way.
There’s a rage in me and it is in every man on the planet.
We can use that rage to improve our world or we can let it loose to destroy everything and everyone around us. I’m at the wheel of my car and you cut me off and there’s every chance I’ll have a few choice things to say. But those angry and offensive words will be at you and not to you. I recognise I’ve been raised to believe I am entitled to control, that it is my birthright as a male. When I’m losing that control I feel rage. Question my knowledge, my judgement, my place in the world and my ego will need to take you on.
I was raised the way we nurture most boys. We are told: ‘You’re a man’; and to ‘act like a man’. Our traditionally meaning is to grab it and fix it and build it and to go to war over it. And all these things can be good and worthy. But they can also destroy our lives and our sense of self and turn us into bullies and violent men.
Why is it that the strongest offence you can give any man is to tell him he’s acting like a girl; that he’s a bit of a sheila? Is it because he’s then a reject from the men’s room, he’s not one of the boys? It implies a superiority over and contempt for women; a chasm between men and women. It eats into our willingness to be gentle and show compassion, to show tolerance and be inclusive. It suggests a loss of gender identity, it says that violence is strength and compassion is weakness.
It is why we’ve sneered at effeminate men and long been intolerant of any sexuality other than strictly hetero or any man attracted to same sex. When those desires exist inside us we struggle to repress them and drench them in guilt and fear and shame. We’ve been raised to do so with extreme prejudice and its made life hell for our gay brothers and sisters.
Raise our sons to believe they are entitled to control and do not need to earn or even deserve it and here is what will happen: The moment control is absent in a relationship there’s a strong chance a man will use physical strength to regain it; make him the boss and he could demand control as a bully; put him on the sport field and he could resort to violent tactics, to win at any and every cost.
And there’s an equal chance we’ll cheer him on from the sidelines.
We need to overthrow the bully in our souls, the bully who demands control at any cost. Two of my favourite movies are BRAVEHEART and GLADIATOR. They are about the man who takes on the dominant and bullying force with great personal sacrifice to change his culture and society.
It is about THE CHAMPION we would all like to become. It is also why the theme of vengeance and heroic characters with superior strength have always sold more cinema tickets than any other story.
Would any of us do the same in those circumstances?
We’d like to think so. But it would take plenty of courage.
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