Sunday, March 11, 2007

Men Will Be Boys, Sometimes At Least

Posted by olvlzl.
Writing about an unread book based on a review probably counts as a bad habit. I wouldn’t have been tempted except that I wrote a piece about the subject of bad behavior by American men last year. Reading it again after reading the review of Us Guys: The true and twisted mind of the American Man by Charlie LeDuff in the paper this morning it seems to still hold. Reading Dan Cryer’s review, though, it’s interesting to notice two things about the title. Us Men. Notice that LeDuff uses the first person plural objective pronoun. The objective case more than implies that Us Men are being acted on by the subject, they are at the receiving end of something. And then in the subtitle the author says that he’s presenting a true mind of “the American man”. Why the use of the singular all of a sudden? And there is the use of “the”, as if there is only one “American Man”.

The book, if the review is accurate, seems to be a series of drive by glances at groups of men engaged in group macho activities. The reviewer didn’t think much of LeDuff’s views, which are presented as being pretty superficial. And, apropos my piece, that none of them seemed to be engaged in particularly useful or responsible activities. Did these men go home to responsible lives, unseen by the author and the other men in their group?

But who was it who was acting on “Us Men”? I suspect that if pressed they might name any number of people doing them wrong. It could be people with actual control of their lives, bosses, politicians or others. But in conservative, "Guy-merica" I suspect that in most of cases the answer might be women or illegal immigrants or minority groups. It’s my experience that macho men, even in groups, are generally too cowardly to attribute their oppression to those who actually have power and prefer to nourish their resentments against people who are less powerful. Macho men are cowards.

But there are adult men who are responsible and who aren’t afraid to face who has power and who doesn’t. They tend to function heroically in daily life by just being responsible. Gregory Peck as opposed to the young Clint Eastwood. The role models are there in popular culture. Some men function quite fully as men in real life refusing to be a part of a boy pack. Why don’t these guys make better decisions? Maybe one of those acting on them is “Us Men”. Maybe they’re afraid of the group and it’s opinions, maybe it’s easier and less scary to go along with what they think is expected of them. Laziness and cowardice should never be discounted as a motive for group think. Maybe Us Guys are entirely familiar with their enemy and the enemy is “Us”.