With conservatives feeling besieged by acceptance of same-sex marriage, gender fluidity, and multiplying pronouns, a key practical question for them is how to restore the patriarchal family to its rightful, protective place between the market and the state. A spate of recent books, including two by US senators, all reach the same frightening answer.
NEW YORK – Long ago, before writing based on alphabets, knowledge was stored and conveyed across generations acoustically, by word of mouth arranged in rhythmic patterns that could be memorized and then recited whenever collective instruction called for it. All knowledge was formulaic and compulsively repetitive, because innovation – originality, or creative departure from received tradition – meant the erasure of previous truth. Novel facts signaled unwelcome danger or deviation, not exciting new possibilities.
To absorb the contemporary deluge of books and essays on the plight of men, manhood, manliness, and masculinity – or to invoke our ancestors’ acoustic precedent by listening to podcasts on the beleaguered male – is to relive this ancient experience of illiteracy. Contemporary authors on the state of manhood, whether of books, transcripts, or reviews, seem determined to say the same thing over and over, as if mere repetition were a convincing rhetorical strategy – and as if the novel fact of greater equity between males and females signaled deviance, devolution, and decay.
For example, Missouri’s Senator Josh Hawley’s new book, Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs, reads like a very long, very boring speech written for a day filibustering against Medicaid expansion on the floor of the US Senate, and its admonitions echo the ersatz philosopher turned male guru Jordan Peterson’s endlessly repeated and truly inane exhortations about caring for the male psyche in his 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
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