The Need To Protect
My friend Colin Room has a story I love to hear. Growing up in the East End of London in the 50's and having a big appetite for life, he got into many scrapes and fights. But he had a friend who played the violin. Only this friend got beaten up on the way to his violin lesson- the violin was for sissies-and sissies were for thumping. After this, Colin walked with his friend to the lesson- acting as a bodyguard and keeping his mate safe. The bullies didn't dare mess with Colin. Why do I love this story? I find it re-assuring. It reminds me, that there are strong men who want to protect the weak. And that's what healthy power does. It protects. Whether it's Gandhi protecting the rights of a continent, Martin Luther King protecting the rights of an oppressed people, a young father caring for his new born child, or Colin protecting a timid musician.
The healthy masculine wants to help. It's strength and power come alive when they're able to serve others. The healthy masculine is a deep well of strength. Strength that directed properly, could transform society. What a waste, that this resource is pissed away in pursuit of unreachable goals. Masculinity becomes toxic when men fixate on power. To look big, they pump themselves with steroids, or buy fancy cars they can't afford. Men need to appear in control, like they've 'got it sorted.' Some hope that a six-pack and an expensive watch will do the trick. But these sorts of power are paper thin. Thin and greedy. Even a BMW or Mercedes can't calm the restlessness for long- not when a Sunseeker 115 Sport Yacht costs £8 million. There is always somebody richer, stronger, more powerful.
In our minds we have an idea of what it is to be a man. Call it a gold standard of masculinity. We compare ourselves to this standard, and measure our worth as men, against it. This gold standard tells men they need to be powerful, invulnerable and in control. It is forever, just out of reach. This false gold standard steals the very power it promises. It saps our vitality, and sucks us dry- so that by middle-age, many men just give up. The highest rate of suicide in the UK is for men aged between 45 and 49. They are three times as likely to kill themselves as women. But we don't have to take our lives to give up- we can sedate ourselves with booze, drugs and television. We can numb our selves with food. Or blot our deep wishes and desires with fierce exercise regimes.
Despair or rage happen when the masculine is not able to serve and protect. This is its calling. Men want to protect. Last night I spoke with a neighbour who had been a body builder for years. He had massive and impressive muscles. He told me that people treat you differently when you're big. They give you respect. He trained at the gym 7 days a week, to maintain his bulk. When his daughter was born he was given the opportunity to love and protect in a way he had not experienced. It changed him- he told me:
Being a Dad is more important than being big. Size and power become irrelevant. Being a Dad gives love, happiness, satisfaction. Everything. That's the best job in the world. I'm so protective of my daughter. It's so important for a father to protect because nobody else is going to do it. It's your role."
There are lots people out there like my friend Colin. Men who protect the weak. They don't make a song and dance about it. Often their small acts of kindness go unnoticed. These men serve the masculine. These men are the healthy masculine, in action.