In the United States there is only one thing we do better than taking care of each other. That would be screwing each other. I know because I have been a perpetrator in the past, still guilty on occasion even now, and firmly believe I will always possess the tendency to want to punish others for times I perceive to have been wronged. We cannot continue this “kick the dog” mentality or we will never have a society worth living in. Why is this an overwhelmingly male condition? How do we start to heal and redeem ourselves?
I understand how difficult it is to suppress the urge to smite someone or something that screwed you. The other day, in talking with someone about what legal recourse I have to recover thousands of dollars in repair costs due to what I believe was an undisclosed issue with a house we purchased last year, I was reminded by the person that ethics does not figure into the situation. It is all about what you can prove. She told me she has never heard of a real estate dispute that resolved in favor of the plaintiff. I left the conversation more pissed-off than when I started. The money is the least of it, of course. The real blow is the shame. I am convinced I was made a fool of, that the prior owner of the home is laughing at me, that my father is scolding me, even from the grave. Perception is reality.
Men do not do well with intangibles. Our desire is to make tangible our feelings, and it never ends well. We smash the dish as a symbol of a broken heart. Worse yet we physically beat someone so they can feel externally what we feel internally. There! You feel that?! No, they don’t. They don’t make the connection because it is not even an apples to oranges comparison. You cannot control your own emotions by controlling someone else.
Boys learn early on that social rank is important. It goes beyond popularity. It is imperative to be an alpha if you want to receive tangible benefits like sex, money, fame, and respect. The irony is that sex, money, and fame are either fleeting, of minor importance, or come with a whole new set of drawbacks, or all of the above. Meanwhile, respect has nothing to do with sex, money, or fame. Money should be earned, but in gross amounts it seldom is. True respect hinges on how you deal with….intangibles. How do you handle rejection? How do you deal with disappointment or failure? How do you react when someone wrongs you? Does your perception of reality match actual reality?
You can’t let people walk all over you, you say. You have to fight back, your father tells you when you are the victim of a bully. You gonna let her do that to you, bro? your friends say when your girlfriend breaks up with you. Toxic logic, that is what we are constantly bombarded with. We are taught that we are already perfect, and anyone who challenges that notion is our enemy, and they need to be taught a lesson. No, it is we who need to see our setbacks as lessons. Step back, take stock, adjust, and move on.
Most women understand this. They may have the opposite problem of failing to be assertive, believing that they are not worthy alone, without a relationship. They are taught a different kind of toxic logic, that they are to be subordinate to males. This was probably never true even when we roamed the African plains in our early evolution as pre-tribal groups. Our lineage would have ended long ago if either sex failed to provide for the other.
Fast forward to modern times, to today when we face a global pandemic and our overriding reaction here in the U.S.A. is selfishness. Hoard the tangibles. Hit the beaches, physical distancing be damned. Get myself tested whether I have symptoms or not. Figure out how I can exploit this disaster for my own financial benefit, be it selling stocks via insider trading, or crafting a predatory scam. “Eff You!” has replaced “E Pluribus Unum” as our national motto.
We are consistently pitted against one another. Employers overwork and under pay during the best of times. Now they fire the workforce to appease shareholders who see their stocks plummeting. The cascading effects of a capitalist economy can now be seen clearly, yet we cling to more toxic logic: If we just work harder, we’ll eventually achieve the riches we aspire to. The American Dream itself is toxic. Material wealth is no measure of respect and self-worth because you cannot measure intangibles. We desperately strive to make it so, but it never will be.
How do we find some measure of hope when venomous economics, poisonous relationships, and now a lethal pandemic are what we face? We have to begin, individually, to perpetuate peace and kindness instead of anger and pain and resentment. It takes mindfulness, willfulness, and persistence. It is proactive instead of reactive. In essence, we have to create our own hope. The good news is, that as long as we are alive, and our brains are functioning, we can do that.