Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Being a Man

By Aussiegirl

In reading Christina Hoff Summers' wonderful review of H. C. Mansfield's new book, "Manliness", I couldn't help but think that the entire civilizational conflict we are witnessing between Islam and the West can be boiled down to the concept of manliness expressed here. Islam, with its complete subjugation of women, is perhaps the extreme expression of the worst forms of manliness unchecked by feminine domestication and reason. The warlike, chest-thumping, hostile and aggressive forms of warrior masculinity find their expression in Islam, while in the West the male has been reduced to complete equivocating wimphood by liberalism and paralyzing self-deluded leftist intellectualizing. What's interesting, is that in many cases it is women who are standing up and acting "manly" in the absence of manly behavior from men. Many of the dissidents in Muslim nations are women, and even in the West we have examples like Oriana Fallaci, who dares to say what no man will dare to. Modern western man has been so emasculated by all his education and schooling and refinement, that he most often seeks accomodation (self-preservation) rather than open battle. Compassion, tolerance and all the current PC emotions are not "manly" emotions, and hence our civilization is in peril.

Being a Man

[...]In Manliness, Harvey C. Mansfield seeks to persuade skeptical readers, especially educated women, to reconsider the merits of male protectiveness and assertiveness. It is in no way a defense of male privilege, but many will be offended by its old-fashioned claim that the virtues of men and women are different and complementary. Women would be foolish not to pay close attention to Mansfield's subtle and fascinating argument.

Mansfield offers what he calls a modest defense of

manliness. It is modest, not because its claims are cautious--Mansfield courts wrath and indignation on almost every page--but because, as he says, "Most good things, like French wine, are mostly good and accidentally bad. Manliness, however, seems to be about fifty-fifty good and bad. . . . This is what I mean by a modest defense."

"Manliness," he says, "is a quality that causes individuals to stand for something." The Greeks used the term thumos to denote the bristling, spirited element shared by human beings and animals that makes them fight back when threatened. It causes dogs to defend their turf; it makes human beings stand up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. "Just as a dog defends its master," writes Mansfield, "so the doggish part of the human soul defends human ends higher than itself."

Every human being possesses thumos. But those who are manly possess it in abundance, and sometimes in excess. The manly man is not satisfied to let things be as they are, and he makes sure everyone knows it. He invests his perception of injustice with cosmic importance.

Manliness can be noble and heroic, like the men on the Titanic; but it can also be foolish, stubborn, and violent. Achilles, Brutus, and Sir Lancelot exemplify the glory of manliness, but also its darker sides. Theodore Roosevelt was manly; so was Harry "The Buck Stops Here" Truman. Manly men are confident in risky situations. Manliness can be pathological, as in gangsters and terrorists.

Manliness, says Mansfield, thrives on drama, conflict, risk, and exploits: "War is hell but men like it." Manliness is often aggressive, but when the aggression is tied to the concept of honor, it transcends mere animal spiritedness. Allied with reason, as in Socrates, manliness finds its highest expression.


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