By James Strauss
What are we made of?
Not physically. Our physical makeup has been the subject of conjecture, research and analysis for thousands of years.
What are we made of psychologically when it comes to being men and women rotating on this planet earth through the periods of our seemingly short lifespans?
The mental differences alone, between the two sexes is astounding, much less the vast differential between the brainpower and exercise of Homo sapiens when weighed against the other animal species. We are all the product of two forces, honed and shaped to current condition and some situation through a process called evolution while struggling with one another using a methodology called survival of the fittest. Survival of the fittest can best be described as guerilla warfare unless it breaks out into the declared thing, which it seldom does, compared to the daily battles generic to everyday life and survival.
This article is directed toward the analysis of men and why they act the way they do and why almost all of them lie about that “why” all the time. And it’s also about forgiving men because, in almost all cases, they know not what they do. If you, as a man reading this article, don’t believe that then you’ve never felt the overwhelming surge of adrenalin when someone cuts you off while driving a car or a truck. The inner rage, whether acted up on or not, is not something that instantly appears following a logical analysis of why your mind and body have responded the way they have.
Back in 1976 a movie came out called “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” So long ago, it seems. But so cogent through the ages. This particular movie was written by philosophers and anthropologists well ahead of their time, although their credentials didn’t reflect the brilliance of some of their illustrated conclusions. The movie is filled with violence but not violence simply dedicated to the uncaring application of it without compassion as seen so many times in the cinema of the modern era. The Outlaw Josey Wales is quite possibly the definitive movie of all time in portraying the difficult passage through life of a mythically held American male psychology and belief system, no matter how flawed and tattered. The movie’s filled with violence but none of it gratuitous and none of it applied by the protagonist as being anything other than necessary for survival. Sometimes violence is the only way when life visits in one of its more arcane ways. A ‘war is over’ sequence comes near the end of the movie. So many American men are fighting in wars that only rage through their minds. Wars they never had to engage in but roil about in their emotional center anyway. There is no ‘war is over’ concluding catharsis for these wars of the mind. The human male cerebellum is waiting for what we call war and it makes up fully sixty percent of male brain processing power. Males are genetically selected for war not against it. It is only our neocortex, that very thin layer of truly creative power that allows us to reject war, if we can. At the end of the movie the main character, Josey, mentally sets his burden down.
Can we do that as men in our culture?
Can we get other men to do it in other cultures?
Our emotional structure is not concentrated in any single part of our male brain. It is diffuse. Human beings take in unending reams of data, much of which never reaches the attention of our conscious state. We know this from studies recently conducted using MRI and other advanced detection technologies. But data only provides a foundation upon which we build our emotional lives. Man is more selected toward physical violence simply because of the direction we were pointed in over millions of years. Hunting is violence, and it can be violence against creatures from a different species or against those of our own. The violence does not have to be specific to need, want or immediate survival. As with the recent slaying of Cecil the Lion in Africa by an American dentist on safari, it can be violence stimulated by emotions seeping stewing atop our data foundations over the course of millions of years. There is a reason for the male selection toward violence in today’s cultural groupings but it’s not a reason most of us will admit or find comforting. The day may come when mankind will be able to view acts of physical violence between its members as the Indian, Lone Watie, viewed a potential food source inquired about by Josey Wales: “All I have is a piece of hard rock candy. But it’s not for eatin’. It’s just for lookin’ through.”
Until more enlightenment and understanding translate themselves into action and accommodation, men will continue to kill one another, as well as any other animal targets of opportunity we run across. There was a recent article detailing the results of sales for the new Ford F-150, the best selling car or truck in America. It’s sticker price has grown to over fifty thousand dollars and it’s macho appearance begins to approach the depraved viscous facial presentation used by special effects experts to make King Kong appear so frightful in earlier cinema offerings. The looks of the this new iconic pickup truck, the specially manufactured sound of Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the never-waning attraction of ever more powerful and plentiful assault weaponry reveal just how much the social order is not changing when it comes to this male need for physical violence.
Men are not done killing one another or other large animals and every ‘Cecil the Lion’ needs to fear and hide from this most dangerous predator to ever move about the earth, until male minds can be turned to pursuits that support the survival of all instead of the deceptively satisfying survival of the one.
We must “endeavor to persevere” until that day dawns.