The warrior is sensitive enough to discern truth, and has the courage to stand up for it.
Are you tough enough to be a warrior? Probably not … at least, not if you define your toughness as a man by the yardstick provided by messages you’ve received from every possible information outlet since your birth. And the lesson on toughness that you’ve learned is what gets passed to your sons and further reinforced by the same messages from even more sophisticated and instantaneous information sources. And the consequences for men, women, and society have been devastating.
Male enrollment into college is down and still dropping; instances of stomach-turning bullying is up and still growing as we raise a generation of “tough” boys and young men with no outlet for the use of their muscles and machismo, developed at the expense of their minds, souls, and heart. Let’s face it; the age of physical strength is long over. It’s the least important attribute in the modern world. Men do not hunt for survival and the need to fight other males for the hand of the woman you desire to have or keep is now waged in the very areas we have generally sacrificed to physical strength. It’s a battle, at any rate, for those women who have not been similarly sucked-in by “tough-guy” imagery…
Remember that old milk commercial where the skinny little boy is standing next to the supermodel in a bikini? What does the skinny little boy have that might attract such a fine specimen of womanhood? Only “intelligence, sensitivity, and charm.” Not good enough. Instead, the boy grows into a man while drinking his milk and proudly proclaims after listing off his manly physical attributes “will you love me just for my body? I can live with that.” In this we see that the male must be physically strong to capture the most beautiful woman (herself a victim of the same messaging).
I was never so happy to be lactose intolerant.
And what does all that physical toughness get you? The girl? Maybe. Fear? Definitely. There is always someone tougher than you and, even if you happen to be the toughest, most absolute badass in town, you’ll never overcome the images of a society so enamored with male strength and toughness that it produces movies and literature about men for whom none living can compete. Superman, Batman, the X-Men: an endless list of fictional men to which no mortal can ever compare. And when do you remember one of these movies not being a blockbuster? Men that have succumbed to television advertisements and big-screen fiction are increasingly physical beings in an ever-more virtual, intellectual, and emotional world. They have become dependent upon their physical attributes (or at least a self-image based upon the image of physical strength) and are not properly equipped to compete with society’s dominant image of “manliness.” Thus, the physical man lives in a physical world and, to greater or lesser degrees, must relate to that world through control. When such control is based physically, and such men are threatened in such physical spheres as work, sex, and sports, the response is also based physically and expressed—often times with tragic results—in bullying, manipulation; the language of physical force, based on pernicious “tough-guy” images, is all some men have.
Indeed when the language of intelligence, sensitivity, grace, and charm has been muted, coercion is the only voice the “tough guy” has left.
All that focus on physical toughness at the expense of intelligence, sensitivity, and charm creates (counter intuitively to the dominant societal message) the conditions of true weakness in the warriors we need our young men to become. The tough guy increasingly does not read or go to college, he does not cry or show emotional vulnerability, he exudes more testosterone into the air than he does grace and wit, nobility or poise into the atmosphere. Strangely, it is the history of warfare that demonstrates that these traits in men are NOT the ways of the stout warrior. From the Japanese Samurai—fearsome fighters that also developed an entire language around the arranging of flowers—to the great Western philosophers of warfare, the intelligent, sensitive, and noble man was the one valued above all others and, by extension, the most successful in battle.
The message, in this regard, from that oft-quoted philosopher of Western warfare, Carl von Clausewitz is that the warrior and the leader of other men must be a man of feelings and intelligence; one sensitive enough to find truth and the courage to stand up for it.
“If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensible: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may lead.” (On War, trans. Michael Howard & Peter Paret, Book One, 102)
This passage might describe what young boys today might call a “geek” or a “nerd,” at best or at worst, a “fag” or perhaps a punch in the face.
Far from being an eloquent example, the literature of warfare is studded with references to the qualities of a warrior being, primarily, those of the heart and the mind. From Sun Tzu’s Art of War to the implacable practitioners of total war like General George S. Patton (an avid reader, deep thinker, and open weeper), it is the “softer side” that moved them and inspired others to victory, not their physical fitness. Men who rely solely on physical strength as the primary attribute on which to base the image of their own “toughness”—and for what use is toughness if not for fighting other men for prestige or women?—lean upon a very thin reed indeed when confronted by the thinker, the feeler, armed with his intelligence, sensitivity, and charm.
And it is the true warrior, the true man who today, follows his “inner light,” pursues his truth, and defends himself, family, and others from that basis.
The warrior we need is, then, the man who can fight without fear using the muscles of his mind and heart and not those on brash stereotypes of traditional male toughness. The sensitive child who can empathize with his picked-on peer and stand up for him against bullying; the intelligent man who raises his sons and daughters to reject an impossible media standard of men with all the energy that women increasingly reject the supermodel body and mentality; the noble and charming young adults that know not the language of force and coercion that find an unsurprising and logical culmination in violence and rape—these are the warriors we need standing vigilant on the walls.
We need more warriors … we need YOU (and your sons) …
Image credit: Karl wilhelm Wach/Wikipedia