Tonight at 9PM EST/8PM CST I will be joining Eric Diamond and Jason Richards on the X-Oriente Live podcast speaking about what an increasing number of researchers and sociologists regard as the crisis among the 21st Century male. It's complex, far reaching, and there are no single causes or simple answers. But I continue to believe that Freemasonry has a very strong role to play in solving some of these issues. Or at least being a sanctuary from the world where men can attempt to solve them for themselves. So, we'll be talking about this on the show tonight.
Check out the Xoriente website HERE. If you can't listen live, be sure to catch the archived show later.
Just as a little extra food for thought before the show, Eric posted the following very thoughtful message on my Facebook page in response to my original post. He's been thinking about this for a long time, too:
I think we've gone thorough some deep philosophical changes, that started in the 1970s. There is a generational aspect to it, in that those changes largely follow the baby boom, but the effects are not exclusive to boomers. I think it began in the 1960s when electronic media started exposing the hypocrisy that was an undercurrent in American society. This led to widespread and growing mistrust in our institutions: government, the church, higher education, and with the spectacle that was Watergate, our fourth estate (the press) learned that gotcha journalism sells. It was as if JFK challenged the nation not to ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, and the moment he was killed the nation turned away from that.
The breaking of Society (with a capital S) in the 1960s, gave way to what became the "me" generation, with people pursuing their own forms of self-actualization outside of communities. They abandoned mainline churches for new start-up evangelical communities, which demanded little of their followers than money and declarations of faith. It is at this time that marriage starts to break, with no-fault divorce.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the most terrifying worlds were"I'm from the government and I am here to help." That cemented a whole generation of people who oriented themselves toward dismantling institutions rather than trying to reform them. A mythos of the self-sufficient American Pioneer grew more powerful in people's minds. The truth is, up until that point, the only communities of self-sufficient speculators in America were Jamestown and Roanoke, and they both failed because they did not work together. The rugged individualistic cowboy, the frontiersman, was an aberration, a character that had no status and inspired a sense of curiosity. For most of human history, a man without a community was a dead man.
The truth was, that America succeeded because of communities of people that worked together to varying degrees. People had a sense of duty that was driven by status and a sense of propriety that derived from the communities they were a part of: their civil society. One's reputation in these communities was everything, and men worked hard to be upstanding members of their communities.
By the 1980's all of that was in decline. I remember t-shirts of the time said "those who die with the most toys wins." Status was now about what you had, not who you were. A sense of consumerism took hold of our culture. Institutions were now no longer a place to build a reputation, as reputation had little social relevance in the face of money. "Lifestyles of the rich and famous" showed us the lavish spending that was possible and this is what we fixated on as a society.
The purpose of higher education was not to make gentlemen, or a more competent electorate, but to prepare elites to have high-paying careers. The best and the brightest no longer went into government, academia or the State Department: they went to work for Lehman Bros. or Goldman Sacks. "Greed" became "good."
With the rise of technology, we can now connect to more people, but like Robin Dunbar noted, our interactions have become more shallow. We no longer write long and thoughtful letters to each other-- we text, because we don't read anymore.
And Masonry reflects this. Grand Lodges are falling all over themselves trying to find things to "give" initiates things. We must "give" them an experience. We must "give" them education. We must "give" them convenience. We must "give" them programs. We must "give" them badges and titles. Our lack of trust in institutions has set many of us in opposition with our Grand Lodges. For the first time in a long time, the Grand Lodge of Illinois isn't even going to propose a per capita increase even though it desperately needs one, because they haven't been able to pass one in more than 15 years. They have given up.
We've lost a shared sense of community, of common purpose and of duty to each other. We are suspicious of devoting our time, effort or money to anyone unless we see a direct benefit to us. It even extends to charity, where we will only contribute if we feel the person "deserves" it. We are only interested in helping if they are a member of our tribe, our church, our party. We are more concerned with "welfare queens," than improving the welfare of our society. (How best to do that is a political discussion, which we need not explore here.). We are more concerned with "voter fraud" than with instilling the idea that voting is a sacred DUTY. In another Facebook thread, a Freemason actually wrote, "Why should I give my hard-earned money to help educate someone else's kid?" Because you are an American? Because you love your country? Because you are a Freemason? Have we learned nothing?
Somehow, unless it concerns children, being compassionate, asking for help and freely giving help is somehow seen as "unmanly." We think that masculinity means we are self sufficient. Islands. And then we are isolated and depressed. We set ourselves against other races, other genders, other sexual orientations, other religions. Rather than help the man who is down we turn away and avoid them as if it is some form of communicable disease. We isolate ourselves online in carefully curated social media bubbles, and then we wonder why our suicide rate is climbing.
I've always said that the purpose of Freemasonry is to teach men how to love each other, care for each others' welfare in spite of our differences, in a uniquely masculine context. Women don't need to learn to do this. They are (rightfully) empowering themselves, and with movements like Time's Up, are supporting each other. And as a society, we are applauding them for it. We have a movement too, but we've let it languish. It is time we reclaimed it.
We have lost the essence of what Bro. Ben Franklin said, supposedly moments after signing the Declaration of Independence: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
It is time for the Age of Enlightenment 2.0.
Join us for the show.
The show is now available on Youtube today HERE.