It’s not enough to challenge racism as though it’s the cause of Christchurch’s Mosque massacre and many experts agree that the growing white supremacist movement is yet another symptom of the male identity crisis. The devastating reality is that we ignored the signs that our men were hurting.
We ignored the staggering suicide statistics and the ever-present anger of men who know no other way of telling us they were in pain and we’ve done so to our own detriment.
Racism is like mould in a home and it doesn’t matter how often you clean the house it will return until you deal with what it is about the house that makes it a breeding ground for such toxicity.
Mould is an apt metaphor for racism because it isn’t simply a case of changing the societal environment to rid it of infection. Not all of the elements within society that foster racism are under our control and just like dealing with mould you can open windows and insulate a house but if the roof or pipes are leaking then those efforts only reduce the mould and never really eliminate it.
Sometimes you have to strip homes right back to the studs to reveal and remedy the sources and when we do that here we find the economy and our roles within it are key factors in why we’re seeing a surge in racism.
If we continue with the analogy of mould as racism then the Alt-Right Neo Nazi movement is the type of mould we’re dealing with.
Many studies are showing that the Neo Nazi movement, once filled with bedroom dwelling socially incompetent white boys, is now being adopted by primarily white middle-class men and it is this core element that we need to examine to understand why they’re turning to such extremes.
We’re experiencing massive transitions, world-wide, both in our cultural and our economic environments and these shifts are hitting white men hard. Amidst the turmoil of change comes the realisation that our economy no longer serves the public good, or even the interests of most people.
Capitalism is sick having reached peak capacity of Schumpeter’s Gale signalling the collapse of industries that were was once the central pillar of what it meant to be a successful man. They afforded workers not only financial validation of worth but also the esteem of having produced something of quality.
Men were vastly prouder of their work than they are today and were rewarded for effort and skill. This isn’t the case any more.
In an effort to appease shareholders’ insatiable appetite industries are reducing quality in the name of ‘efficiency’ (a.k.a profits) and a need to stay competitive. The fall-out from this hits at many of the tenets of male identity, not just in being valued as a provider but also the deep desire to pass on to their offspring the skills and wisdom accrued throughout their working lives.
Far from being a patriarchal evil that sought to dominate anyone that wasn’t white or male, the male identity as provider and protector continued during the industrial age out of a need within society as work and home lives separated. It just made common sense for women to be at home with children whilst men provided for them.
And for the longest time white men had benefited from a hegemonic society. Their identity, what it meant to be a successful man was easily recognisable and attainable.
This is no longer the case.
Women are taking on more work and moving into more highly trained roles leaving a gap in front-line, low-skilled work. Increased immigration fills this gap but with the elite consuming the lion’s share of community wealth and increased competition for previously male dominated roles the working class man is left struggling to meet an ever elusive masculine ideal.
Ignoring the fact that gender roles are oppressive, they were never flexible enough to cope with the constantly evolving landscape of our economy and are way past their ‘use-by’ date. Even if society had been successful in reinstating male privilege at best it would have bought time but it never stood a chance of fixing the economic problems of the gluttonous elite who mistook their girth for greatness nor the plight of the emaciated working class man struggling to keep lard-laden capitalism on its feet.
The frustration over loss of privilege and identity results in reactive racism and sexism. Women and immigrants are seen as threatening to male identity, not just financially but to its very core as protectors and providers and we see a concerted effort to put women and immigrants ‘back where they belong’.
Increasingly powerless to stop changes some men seek to create a world that encapsulated all those things they perceived had been denied them; power, prestige, leadership and followers and dedication to a cause that would validate them.
But theirs was a selfish motive.
Rather than a genuine concern for the ruination of European life and all it holds dear, the primary driver of this extreme route is the all too human desire to make something great of oneself.
The men who choose this path often look to history for figures who exemplify the sought after qualities and find them in martyrs; heroes who died for their cause.
Henry Kessler calls this worship of dead heroes, which was so central to Nazi culture, ‘propaganda of the corpse’.
Our social and economic environments aren’t going to get better any time soon nor will they go back to what they were so any solution needs to be built upon the acceptance of inevitable change and needs to focus on exchanging gender as the hinge pin of identity with humanity. When we do that, then being successful is measured in terms that we can control to a much greater degree.
Moving forward, the single most important thing we can do as a community to prevent a recurrence of our darkest day is to provide support for our boys and men as they go through this transitional phase.
They need to know they are loved and valued, not for what they do but for who they are as people, for the qualities of humanity they already possess. When we do that, humanity become our shared language and gender becomes our accents.
Author of A Natural, Ross Raisin, offers this most excellent counsel as a ‘where-to’ from here:
“What some men need … in all those areas of life (private and public) where an old, familiar order has broken down and men have yet to let in different kinds of identity — is help getting them to that place; acknowledging rather than avoiding the difficulty of the transition.
Focusing attention on the everyday crises that people are facing is part of that. Support (together with its counterpart: governmental relieving of the policies and ideologies that put men, and women, in economic and social hardship) is another.
Replacing an entrenched structure with nothing is an inevitable cause of real crisis. Replacing it with a new box to be put in is not healthy either.
Dialogue, openness, empathy and equality are what is needed by us all — men and women — both to aid those in trouble, and to move the crisis conversation on from “how to be a man” to “how to be a person”.”