Move over Rambo, you're cramping new man's style - Yahoo! News

Not The Road You Think It Is:

You surely saw the AFP article featuring the man wearing his suspenders backwards. "All the traditional male values of authority, infallibility, virility and strength are being completely overturned," says the article. I saw it on Southern Appeal, which responds in exactly the way I'd expect: a flat and proper rejection of the aesthetics involved.

What interests me about the article, though, is something a bit further down from the headline.

The designers claim that this "overturning" of "traditional male values" is being driven by that most traditional and bedrock of all male values: Courage.

"The traditional man still exists in China, Le Louet said, and 'is not ready to go'. But in Europe and the United States, a new species is emerging, apparently unafraid of anything.

'He is looking for a more radical affirmation of who he is, and wants to test out all the barbarity of modern life' including in the sexual domain, said Le Louet[.]
There are two things to be said about this. First, this is not a new trend, but a remergence of a primitive one. Second, it has already been tried in the modern world, and has proven to be a disaster.

To the first point: you may remember the character in Little Big Man who rode his horse backwards. This was a reflection of a real kind of Cheyenne warrior called a "Contrary," or a "Contrary clown." Like the character in the movie, these warriors were the sort who were most devoted to proving their courage -- so much so that they openly invited ridicule, yet made themselves so dangerous that few would dare to offer it.

The same drive has been seen in any number of primitive societies, often associated with shamanism, as it often was among the Cheyenne as well. The exploration of boundaries is meant to break them down for you; and the exploration of sexual and other boundaries is meant to train the spirit in the habits of courage it needs to be brave enough to break through the boundaries between worlds.

It may be that many in Europe, and in certain portions of the United States as well, are genuinely frightened by the boundaries they see falling apart before their eyes. The demographic changes in Europe, particularly, mean that much of the walls that have held society together are falling apart: religious attendance has all but ceased in Europe, and birth rates are falling, and there is massive immigration of unassimilated people of different culture; and there is economic worry, such as the French displayed in their recent vote on the EU, that the social support systems on which they rely may be failing.

Under these circumstances, it is not at all surprising to see a resurgance of this primitive form. It is, in its way, reasonable. If all the barriers are falling, and there is nothing you can do to put them back up again, it makes some sense to explore what sort of character you must adopt to survive after the catastrophe. Exposing yourself to sexual humiliation -- to "all the barbarity of modern life, including in the sexual domain" -- may help you prepare for the greater and final humiliations that are to come. It may ease your passage into this new world, as it does the shaman's.

Before adopting this movement, though, you should consider Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde was one of many who adopted this same idea in the last century, when the industrial revolution was also breaking down barriers in Europe. He too sought out 'the barbarities of modern life,' especially in the sexual domain. He also thought of it as expressing a kind of courage: he called it "The Time of Feasting with Panthers," in which "the danger was half the excitement."

The problem with breaking down barriers between yourself and other worlds, is that it can cause you to lose touch with this world. Traditional shaman often appear to be mad, even though they have a place in their culture that supports what they do. Modern life lacks one. You can see the results in Wilde's writings:
My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition.
Wilde wrote that 'sunsets are not valued because we cannot pay for sunsets.' Chesterton replied, "But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde."

And, in time, Oscar Wilde himself came to agree. In his prison writings, he had reconsidered. Having found the ultimate humiliation, which he had so sought among the Panthers, he found that the next world, the world without sunsets, was not at all to his liking.
For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us. Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. It is always twilight in one's cell, as it is always twilight in one's heart.... I know also that much is waiting for me outside that is very delightful, from what St. Francis of Assisi calls 'my brother the wind, and my sister the rain,' lovely things both of them, down to the shop-windows and sunsets of great cities. If I made a list of all that still remains to me, I don't know where I should stop: for, indeed, God made the world just as much for me as for any one else.
But he had cast away the world made for him, and sought another. By breaking down those barriers, by seeking out humiliation, he found himself in just the place that Chesterton described later in his work:
We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff's edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.
So it is here, and now, and would be shamen should mark it. We do live in fearful times, but Man always has.

The proper response is not to cast aside the world, but to defend the walls. The fashion that will save you is not the fashion of wearing backwards suspenders.

It is the fashion of wearing a sword.

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