A couple of weeks ago, I was slightly vexed by the latest “what does it mean to be a modern man” article on the ‘web. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that it contained a higher-than-normal amount of drivel; that was its only saving grace, in fact, as it gave Larry Correia the opportunity to fisk it in such a way that I nearly died from laughter. What vexes me is the very fact that there is still a place for that kind of article.
I thought we were supposed to have been working towards a culture of equality and individuality; a culture in which we could all create our own definition of the ideal us, free from the shackles of gender roles and other arbitrary societal impositions. Clearly, I was wrong. We might have managed to erode the old stereotypes to a degree, but all that’s achieved is to make people look for new ones. A vocal majority is still looking for a set of fixed, externally-imposed guidelines, and arguing over what they should entail. If that wasn’t the case, people wouldn’t be getting upset over the content of such articles, but at their very existence. The issue wouldn’t be whether the modern man needs a melon baller or a gun to self-actualise, but why on earth some pretentious blatherskite has the audacity to even contemplate the merest possibility of trying to telling other men “the right way to be.”
(And, before anyone accuses me of sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, the same twaddle applies to women. This type of cretinism is ubiquitous regardless of the gender involved, though it’s particularly obnoxious when expounded by people allegedly campaigning for the right of self-expression. Every time wanna-be feminists try to tell me about “the right way to be a woman,” I feel like flogging them with suffragettes’ ribbons.)
So yes, after days of people arguing about “modern men” vs “real men” and melon ballers vs guns, I was somewhat vexed and exploded thusly:
You want someone to tell you who to be? Go Sumerian! When in doubt, just ask yourself: what would Gilgamesh do?
I was mostly joking. Thinking about it afterwards, though, I wonder whether I’ve stumbled over something important. Gilgamesh, for those of you who didn’t have to spend their childhood stuck indoors, is the main protagonist of “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, a poem from Mesopotamia. He is both a historical figure and an archetypal hero; it’s his role as hero that interests me. A hero is defined by the hero’s journey, which is a transformational experience. The hero’s journey is mirrored in rites of passage to adulthood.
As a society, we’ve done away with most of that – heroes, their journeys, and rites of passage. We reject the concept that we need to undergo some kind of ego death in order to become an adult. I wonder if that’s where so many of us are coming unstuck: they are not looking for someone to tell them how to be a man or a woman, but just for social confirmation that they are fully-fledged adults.