Bob came to mow the lawn yesterday. I saw him creep through the side gate while I was sorting out my shell collection.
He slunk in hunched and filthy. His sticky white legs poking out of saggy King Gees. Bandy ankles thrust into ratty Blunstones, raw with mud and ash and spit from years of grubby labour.
Bob looked to be about 60. Dark skinned, grizzle-eyed, scribbled all over with tats. He was, as we say in Australia, built like a brick shit-house. In other words; Bob is a scary guy.
I decided to approach him with a gentle confidence before he got any ideas about burning down the house, or murdering the dog. I slipped out the French doors, glided over the dehydrated lawn, and was surprised to see, as I stepped up to him beside the jasmine, that Bob was clinging to the fence, crying.
His greased-up flanny was flinching with a wrenching breath. Little muddy rivers were breaking dams along his crinkled-up eyes. It came to me vivid-clear, like a bright star at night, that Bob, thinking no-one was home, had crept inside our pretty garden to be alone, to weep.
I was frozen in my little pink slippers. Stuck out in mid-field, doomed to break this spell, and ashamed of busting in a grown man doing secret grown man business in the delicate, lonely way he had found.
But it was too late.
Bob just about flew out of his skin when he saw me. Tears went scattering in all directions. He had a bit of a job, to muscle up to full size and shake the jasmine blossoms out of his hair, but he got it together and smiled at me, blue eyes flashing like sapphire spiders and said, “Fuck me! Arr didn’ know no-one was ‘ere!”
“Geez! I’m sorry love,” he sniffed, smudging up his face, and wincing in the sharp, unozoned southern light. He took a deep breath, shuddered it out and said, “It’s just I’m so fucking cut up over that thing with the dogs.”
“The greyhounds. It’s all over the news. They’re doin’ real bad things to dogs over in China, an’ over here too, it’s even worse. Right here in West Australia! We’re brutalisin’ ’em. All over the place. An’ when we’re done with ’em we’re just injecting em with pesticides, cause it’s cheaper ‘en proper death drugs.
“They showed it all on tv. It’s a hell of a death. I saw blokes chokin’ them dogs with their boots on their throats while they’re dyin’ like that. It’s just too much for me. Too much – all of it. I’m sorry. I’ll be right in a minute.”
Bob reckons the whole place has gone mad. He says he’s given up on the human animal. “We’ve gone feral.” he reckons. “It’s a fuckin’ mess,” he says. “It’s this, and the blokes who got off after raping and killing that Indian girl – how can ya reckon it? The whole lot of it! I’m desperate when I think what the world will be like for the gran’kids.”
“We’ve just gotta hope that somethin’ – maybe the weather, maybe the war, maybe some kind of bloody god or whatever… puts an end to us. Soon. So’s the rest of the place can get on in peace.”
Bob is holding a pretty antique plate, and a posy of gardenia and roses.
“Ere,” he says softly, holding out the flowers. “These are from the wife.” He passes the plate over gently too, “This is from your place ‘ere. Your friend gave it to me last week. All the ladies in the street bake me cakes,” he explains shyly. “I just love cakes, an’ the wife can’t keep up.”
“I come over and do the lawns, tidy things up a bit, and the ladies leave me cakes. It’s a great street this – are you here by yerself? Well ya oughtta come for Christmas! We’d be bloody glad to have yer.”
I am standing among the bobbing dandelions, holding a bouquet of
flowers tied with string, knowing that I am witnessing one of those great treasures in life – a rare moment; a sort of homegrown miracle, actually.
Bob, I can see it, is a great and fine thing. A rare and wild blessing – an ordinary bloke. A man with more love still in him than he knows how to handle.
He’s an endangered animal, actually, and a triumph of our time – a good man, with heart. We need as many of those as we can possibly nurture.
His being in the world, tough and grizzled and mean-eyed as he is, is a great comfort to me, and proof that the role of the Truly Good Man is not being left solely to hippies, or self help writers, or the various New Age wasters who have hijacked the archetype – thank God!
In general, it’s fair and about time we said it: the Bad Man, the Deadbeat dad, the Greed head, the Cruel boss, the Creep, the Wanker, the Yuppy, the War lord, crook, the school Bully, the Traitor, the Sloth, the Yellow Dwarf, the Wolf and the Devil have taken over the bodies of men everywhere.
In short, the Wrong King is sitting in the man’s place in our society – and we all know it!
This shifting of archetypes is key in the new work of teacher and mystic, Caroline Myss, who I spent a week with in New York last year. Myss spent a good deal of time practically screaming about the terrible impact of sabotage and reversing of human archetypes going on in the culture.
You can see her discussing this sort of thing here. But be warned – she blows the lid further than I do.
She pointed specifically, for example, at how The Lover has been transformed into The Vampire in movies, books and imagery.
“This is dangerous, dangerous, evil shit!” she said.
Why? Because it is a direct attack on the innate virtue of a human being, on sacred, cosmic intelligence which aligns with Grace and Love, and not with Feeding, Sadism, Sickness and Violence.
What we’ve got, and what Jung says has been creeping up on us since major shifts toward city-living, industry and centralised government in the 12th Century, is a corruption of the archetype of Father, Leader, King and Protector – what the Chinese might call an attack on the Yang forces of life and culture.
But this is much bigger than a gender issue – and I hope you can see that too. Because we are not dealing with a crisis caused by men, or inflicted by men, but actually being done to men, and therefore trickling out to undermine us all.
Masculinity is something the whole culture shares – not only the men. It is a metaphor for traits the Chinese would call Yang; forward-moving, extrovert, bold, sun-oriented, warrior-natured, active, decisive, clear, aggressive, independent and strong.
We associate these strongly with men, but the qualities are obviously and naturally also held and reflected by women, and in the way we all do things – either overtly and strongly, or covertly and gently, which we could call Yin, or feminine: these are qualities, not actual gender roles.
Distortions in this symbolism have been wrongly translated into a gender crisis.
Men have been persecuted and used as slaves by industry, state and church under the crucible of an overly-yang culture, and women are getting sucked down that tube as well. Because we have blamed this on a Patricachy, instead of a culture headed up by men and women, we have fallen into fear of the wrong enemy; men blame each other, women blame men, sons blame fathers, fathers blame their wives, and everybody is distracted from the real source of the problem.
And what is that? Could it be that we are being undermined by a war-driven State that instead of cultivating life on Earth, and enriching its citizens, thrives by devouring the planet and exploiting its living beings – black, white, male, female, children, aged, feathered, forested – all.
As our leadership models are weakened, we are becoming more ferocious, desperate and cruel – “in this era of consciousness, actually, we have never been more disconnected from ourselves, from spirituality, from the Earth,” says Myss.
The trouble for us today is that we’re bent over buckling, tackling all this as if it were actually personal. We’re carrying deadly wounds inflicted by mothers or fathers who were absent, cold, drunk, violent – or statesmen and CEOs who are, and the damage they have done to us,our Earth and hope, and happiness.
We’re limping over grief and wounds that appear personal, but are way way bigger than our own biographies.
Myss says it like this; “No way! That’s all over now. You can’t turn up saying I’m hurt because daddy didn’t love me, or daddy was a bastard.
What you’ve got to realise is that whatever daddy did, and the daddys before him and before that – they did to ALL of us. We’re all dealing with wounds and psychic illnesses that are deeply spiritual for the whole creation, for the whole cosmos.“
One of the most powerful has been this twisting of our idea of masculine power, and the hobbling of men.
We have inherited a world where men have been tricked out of their goodly role as lovers, fathers, healers, peace-makers, providers, wise-ones, truth-keepers, nourishers, protectors and life-givers – and into the role of gladiator, wage slave and hamster on a wheel driven by industry, and not by spirit.
Good men have been deceived by a devilish deal, and sold their own hearts, souls and happiness to a world that promised them riches, but left them cold and mean, or crying in the jasmine.
This culture encouraged men to cultivate coolness at heart, make bad trades, errors of judgement, choose the tv over real life, turn a blind eye to need or injustice, indulge in vanity, lust for ‘things’, abandon their children, siphon power from servile wives (or neighbourhood sirens), and just generally degrade themselves out of true power and happiness.
This creeping in of sick values and sneaking out of the Great Male Qualities in our families, streets, councils, corporations and governments is the secret wound that festers as the swords fly in our world. Women are in on it too, when they masculinise themselves at the cost of others. And when they fail to ally with their husbands, sons and brothers against the whispers of a culture which, at its dread root, nurses a war on the love between man and woman.
Why? Because if you can cut humanity right there – in the guts, the heart, the crutch of our most holy longing – that of union between the Great Mother (Earth) and the Great Father (Humanity) principles – you’ve got a lost species that will shop, work, war and drive a billion industries with its grief and anxiety.
“The basic discovery about any people is the discovery of the relationship between its men and its women.” Pearl S. Buck
What peace is lost between loving men and women, between children and parents, and in the private worlds of individuals is the base essence our culture. This modern world alchemises our anxiety, ambition, fear, cruelty and greed into the unholy oil that drives the economy, governments, the ideology of war, and loss of spirituality.
Add to this an off-planet, war-backed Christian/ Jewish Father God, separated from life on Earth except to issue Commandments, exact revenge, demand total worship and allow his son – the Good Man – to be brutally murdered on the planet… and it’s not a very encouraging picture for men, is it?
It has been like this longer than we have been at war over oil. And if you want to fight against terrorism, then get this – the root of all this crap is in the constant temptation and slaughtering of the basic humanity in us all – what Myss calls our natural, spiritual intelligence.
Good men, as we all so well know, are truly hard to find. Partly because those who remain have disguised themselves as dangerous yobbos, to keep Other People away, and partly because unknown numbers are presumably scattered about the place, quietly crying in the shrubbery, or in bars, offices, traffic jams and sheds.
It’s also because, as boys and young men, those qualities of really feeling it, of being open, of being tender, of caring, intuiting and being vulnerable are bashed out of them by a society that favours a more ruthless kind of man. And his twin, the more ruthless kind of woman, too.
Boys get it at a very young age in Western culture – it is not ok to care. You will get the shit kicked out of you if you do.
If they are not bullied into being cold, tough, hidden or viscous at school, chances are their dads were, and will do the job themselves.
Breaking in boys is standard brutality in our culture – through sport, or the glamorisation of ‘cool’, of reason, competitive learning, of war games, of indifference to nature, of the normalising of porn, violence and money.
Dads who don’t abandon their boys through work or booze or divorce – thereby pulling the wings off their natural masculinity by denying them the model and protection of a loving, loyal, honourable father – might stick around to bash their sons into becoming ‘real men’, because it was done to them, and they don’t know any better.
Girls work out too, that it pays to wise up, to crack the social codes for power and influence by either attaching themselves to its male sources, or sizing up to fight for a share themselves – and thereby abuse their own Yang force. The feminist movement has been on that wagon for ages as women merrily stab each other in the back in pursuit of security, and I, myself, am sick of it.
Women have been bitching and moaning and wringing their manicured fingers over the injustices of the patriachy for decades now, and the so-called boys’ club they want in on – oblivious to the scaffold of male bones, brutalised boys, and shattered men, betrayed and abandoned on the killing fields of war and industry they’re climbing on.
How do women, who keep blaming men for the mess we’re in, ignore the collective wail of millions upon millions of men of all races who have been marched out and slaughtered, stolen and enslaved by the society they now aim to succeed in?
They forget that the fashion is for men to go bad. To have their hearts crushed early, so they can go to work, man up in the world, fight for a dollar, bring home the bacon, wrangle the rats and keep the noose firmly at their throats so they don’t choke on the horrors they see in the world.
Good men are few between, because we murder them in their beds before they’re 12. The ones who survive it are running like foxes from the fear-machine of society, and desperately searching for a light – a true light – to head for. Many have learned that not all women who glow are golden.
And I have learned that too.
We’re going through a dark time on the little planet, Earth. The signs are reversed, the balance all kallywonkers. Things are dying everywhere, or medicating themselves to Lalaland. The waters are rising, the forests are burning, the leadership looking more all the time like a pack of hyenas and here in Australia, at least one person dies every day by their own hand, because they just can’t handle the misery that’s being dished up as a human experience.
Or is it that they’re grief-stricken, actually? – their hearts opening up amid a chaos of gunfire and cruelty and callous social climbing, and they can’t find a good man, a real man, a proper hero – crying in their garden, to help show them the way.
This is a mass crisis. In 2012 in West Australia, one of the richest, most beautiful places in the world, suicide was the leading cause of death for men and women between the ages of 15 and 44. More people were killed by their own hands than by skin cancer or road accidents.
This tells how many people are wrestling with pain, are onto the fact that things are not what they seem, and haven’t found a light to navigate by.
In my own world here, I am oddly proud to say that half my friends are on anti-depressants. A good slab are on whiskey, porn or Deepak Chopra audio books – which is about the same thing. I’m observing it all with love, because they’ve got hearts that keep blooming, even if they haven’t quite worked out how to deal with that power yet.
Most are desperately searching for a Good Man, an Ordinary Bloke, a proper Father Figure to show them how to use their natural born power with fair aim and gentleness of heart. In this quest, sadly, most are as yet, in another great Australian phrase… completely fucking lost.
Their fathers are gone, unavailable, uninterested or just plain incapable. These are men who often tore off their own wings for corporate success, or to survive whatever war games were required to please their ambitious wives, or flee their own heart-ache and terror of ending up sobbing in the jasmine.
Myss says the archetype of the Good Man is under a spell. He is in the power of a social cult run by a greed machine, out of control.
Of my mates, a fair hunk are numb, resigned or confused. And there’s a handful who get around teaching workshops about healing, or being heroic, or becoming virtuous, or whatever, while secretly navigating their own ships through extremely narrow straits of total hypocrisy.
There are powerful black women getting the sneaky feeling that something still stinks around here, and experts in sustainable science gone saggy with despair over the social change circus. There are feminist motivators and spiritual entrepreneurs who just irritate the living shit out of me, and a LOT of people who really care – who worry about polar bears, and Aboriginals, and poor people, and stuff…. who are, like, totally into the idea of actually giving a shit – but are secretly just pulling the wings off fairies.
They’ve made the trade already. They’ve exchanged their feeling selves, the open, tender crush of being actually human at a time like this – for the practical business of getting on with it, of taking care of number one, of stealing whatever fire will bring them power, wealth and the stark refuge of status in a society that actually values the cut throat higher than the gentle heart.