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In Defence of Young Men

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Friday, 2 Sep 2022, 14:30

One of the items on the RTE News this week caught my eye (one of the advantages of living along the border, we get all the British and Irish Channels).

Apparently, there has been an increase in suicides among young men due to the economic situation here.  Figures showed that 38% of these young men were unemployed, while 32% worked in construction, which is the sector suffering most since the downturn. I also read in the New Statesman that suicide rates in Greece have gone up 40% since the austerity crisis.

The high suicide rate relates to men and boys and a few years ago there was a European report which showed that the suicide rate in this part of Ireland was 73% per cent higher than anywhere else in Europe. So, although the present economic situation is partly to blame at the moment, there are also other reasons why young men are suffering so much. 

One of these, I believe, is the level of violence aimed at young men. I never knew how bad it was in this country for young men until I had some of my own. Throughout their lives, from they were children until they were grown up, their primary experience of dealing with older men and boys was one of threat, violence, bullying and intimidation. I remember having a conversation with my youngest son many years ago when he was at secondary school and he said to me, ‘Mum, you have no idea what it is like, every day, all you get is, I’m gonna fight you, I’m gonna get you.’ 

This level of threat has followed them right through their lives, from their teachers to their peer group, to work colleagues. I remember, as a teenager, witnessing a teacher slapping a twelve year old boy on his hands with a leather strap that was a quarter of an inch thick and feeling physically ill. (I was in another classroom that overlooked his). I have seen numerous acts of violence committed against young men throughout my life and, so, it was no surprise to me to read that young men under the age of twenty five were more likely to be victims of violence than any other group.

Here in the North, there is another more sinister side to this violence that comes from a self-appointed Republican paramilitary group RAAD, who are shooting and beating up young men for minor drug offences (the major drug dealers pay protection to other criminal groups so they don’t get touched). They think if they add Republican to their name, this gives them some sort of legitimacy within the Nationalist community. We have had the extraordinary situation of parents bringing their sons to these people to be shot out, of fear that if they didn’t, there would be worse done to the whole family.  

There is also the cultural aspect to this, the macho culture that continually supports the ridiculous idea that males need to be toughened up. A few weeks ago, I read a letter in the Observer newspaper from a doctor, (unfortunately the paper went to the recycling) who said that males were the weaker sex, that a premature child was more likely to die if it was male. I was also speaking to a school principal who taught at a girls school for many years before becoming principal of a boys school. She told me that there was a huge difference in them and that girls were smarter, quicker and matured earlier and the boys were more naïve and took a lot longer to mature. I have to say that concurs with my own experience of bringing up boys and girls.

The question I would like to pose is this – what if all this violence was being directed towards young girls?  What would we be doing then, society would be in uproar!  A friend of mine asked this question at a recent community meeting, he works with and counsels young men. After the meeting, he was taken aside and told not to ask the question again by members of one of our ‘political parties’.

What kind of society have we created which accepts that young men are legitimate targets for violence and do not deserve to be treated with the same gentleness and kindness as young women? Why do boys have to be toughened up and made to repress their emotions? 

There are also paradoxes to this here in Ireland and that is in the way young males are ‘mammied’. Where their mother, whether through her own narcissism, or through some warped idea of her role as a parent, mollycoddle young men and do everything for them, indulging them all the time. The outcome of this, is to leave a grown up boy who is incapable of caring for himself, who has never learned how to deal with issues in a mature fashion and who finds himself in adulthood completely unprepared for, and unable to cope with, the realities of life.

A boy is a human being and, as such, has the same emotional range as a girl. He needs to be allowed to freely express his feelings as a child in order to learn how to manage and control them so that they don’t overwhelm him then when faced with crises later in adulthood.   

The role of a parent is to prepare your child for life in the real world. To spoil a child is about the worst thing you can do for them and is not a sign of your love for them but a sign of your own emotional immaturity. Most of us love our children and only want the best for them but spoiling a child is the laziest form of parenting because it requires no effort. I watched Rabbi Shmuley Botech on Oprah a few years ago and he drew a great analogy that has always stayed with me. He said that if we thought about it in terms of meat, it would help us to see it more clearly, a piece of meat that is spoiled is rotten and no good to anybody.

This is exactly true of children, the worst people to deal with in life are those who have been spoiled because they expect everything their way, have no empathy for others and have an overbearing sense of their own importance, (the front bench of the Tory party is a fine example of this) and while your child may be important to you, the rest of the world is not so enamoured.

As a society. we need to re-think how we treat our children, boys and girls. Our young men are in crisis and there are not enough grown-up men to help them negotiate their way into adulthood. We all need to take a long hard look at ourselves as parents and human beings because we are failing our children. We try to impose cultural falsehoods on them about how they should act and behave with no regard for the person they are. We allow these levels of violence against them to go unchecked and even believing it is for their own good. Men will not stop being violent until they are brought up without violence, when it is seen as the evil it is and not as something all boys need.

So be kind to your sons and if you want to spoil your child, spoil them with your time and attention. Make an effort and show them their true worth and how to value it. The constant threat of violence only leads to more violence and, inevitably, plays out in the ultimate act of violence against the self, suicide. The job of parenting is probably the hardest job there is, you are responsible for preparing this other human for life, it’s a profound role  and it requires effort but it has it’s own rewards when we see our children grow up into happy respectful people.

 As a final thought I would like you to think about this, the Lakota word for child is Wakanyeja, it translates as ‘sacred being’. Imagine what kind of world we could create if every child born was treated as a sacred being.     

 

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Weddin

Marriage again!

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Monday, 5 Sep 2022, 15:24

Well, our feminist is on the rant again I see. You don’t want to take her too seriously, she gets a bit carried away at times. However, she does make you think about some of the issues around marriage. There are so many ways of looking at it and I was going to take a different angle on this but I was watching the news the other night and they reported a story about Fr. Brian D’Arcy being censured by the Vatican for expressing some views in support of marriage for priests, or against celibacy, if you prefer to look at it that way.  Fr Brian is well-known in Ireland and writes a column in a newspaper, the Sunday World, and he sometimes does a stint in the ‘spiritual’ section, on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2. 

As someone who was brought up Catholic, I’d like to throw out a few ideas around the issue, and would be interested in what other people think. I have been watching the BBC 2 series, Divine Women, and have found it interesting how the early Christian Church operated, compared with all the patriarchal rules and regulations that have been imposed upon it since. 

So consider this, within the Catholic Church, when a man or woman wants to become a priest or a nun, they have to go through years of study to prepare themselves before they are allowed to make that lifetime commitment and, in effect, when they do, they become married to God. Now, on the other hand, any gombeen with a notion to, can give 3-6 months notice, do a pre-marriage course or not ( I don’t think they are compulsory) and then get married. 

Within the Catholic Church, there is no divorce and there is certainly no re-marrying in the Church if you have been divorced. Now just for arguments sake, lets concentrate on the nun’s perspective on this. A nun wears a wedding ring and is considered a bride of Christ. She can leave the Church, which many have done, and she can then get married in Church. Why is that allowed? She is able to divorce herself from God and re-marry in Church, even though she went through all those years of training in preparation for her marriage to God or taking Holy Orders, as it is called.   

But an ordinary woman or man cannot do the same, even though they may have had little or no preparation at all before marriage. Is there a double standard operating here?  Is marriage to God, not as important as marriage to another human being? Holy orders and marriage are considered sacraments in the eyes of the Church, how is it possible within the law of the Church to be able to marry God, then leave him/her or it, and then marry a person in the Church?

And there’s another thing, if any of you have watched the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series on Channel 4, I wonder if you think like me that there is something immoral about allowing sixteen year olds to marry. What does anyone know about anything at sixteen, not to mention the realities and responsibilities of a marital relationship?

What is marriage supposed to be about?  What is it’s purpose?  We were taught at school, a Convent Grammar, that the purpose of marriage is to have children. So, if you can’t have children are you entitled to get an annulment? Or if you know beforehand that you can’t have children, should you be denied the right to marry? 

I’m just asking these questions because I’ve actually come to believe that there is something unnatural about the whole situation or maybe it’s more about the whole approach to marriage.

I’ve been on this whole spiritual journey for many years now (I may have mentioned it in one or two other posts) and the more I look at these things the less sense they seem to make. Among my friends, there has recently been a plethora (great word that by the way, I remember it from The Three Amigos, if I recall correctly!)  a plethora of relationship break-ups, and all the break ups were instigated by the females, funnily enough. Some of the couples were married, some not, but all involved children. 

A few months back there was a great story in the Observer newspaper about a woman who was approaching her forties, she wasn’t in a relationship but wanted to be a mother. If you know the story you can skip ahead but if you don’t, read on, because it’s really interesting. What she did was, she advertised for a man who wanted to be a father because she wanted the child to have parents who were both interested in being parents. She wasn’t having much luck, as most of the men she interviewed shared different ideas about parenting. Then a friend recommended a gay man who they knew also wanted to be a father. They got together, had shared ideas about parenting and so they decided to go ahead and have the child. And this is where it gets really interesting…he fell in love with her, even though he had lived his whole life as a gay man and had never had a romantic relationship with a woman. They are now very happily married and the child is about two years old. 

Isn’t that a fascinating story??

So maybe the conversation we should be having before marriage is not what colour the bridesmaids should wear, or who to invite, but how to bring up the children? Because the pre-nuptial agreement, which is very popular among the rich to protect their assets, is something that could be brought in and extended to cover not just the monetary assets but every aspect of the marital relationship from childcare to housework and, in case there is a breakdown, living arrangements, finances, and contact arrangements for the children. People think about their monetary assets but give no consideration at all to what will surely be their greatest asset, their children!!

We jump into these situations assuming everything will work itself out in time and the real issues are seldom addressed before the wedding, then it’s too late afterwards and when I look around me, I honestly don’t see very many genuinely happy marriages. That is not to say that marriage can’t work and there aren’t good marriages out there but I don’t believe the preparation is anywhere near adequate for the task ahead and I really believe that parenting is something that should be taught in schools.

I also think that no girl should be allowed to marry under the age of twenty-five, and I would make that twenty-nine for a man. I know people have got married at younger ages and stayed together but I really believe that it needs much more thought and preparation than it is currently given and, I think with a few changes, we might have better marriages and fewer divorces.

 

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Weddin

The Alternative Feminist / Madness

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Friday, 2 Sep 2022, 15:49

I read this book the other day, The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. It's about madness or what is, or is not, madness and it raises as many questions as it answers. 

Going insane might be one of our worst fears along with serious illness, or something terrible happening to our children but after reading this I am now feeling highly reassured. I am never going to worry about going mad at all again because after reading this, I figure we're all a little bit crazy anyway, and some of us may even be a whole lot crazy but if we're not really harming anyone and managing to function in our lives, well, where's the problem?? Because what is normal anyway?? Does anybody even know?? 

Well you could say that it’s normal to get up and go to work every day. Ok then, think about this -  is it really normal to get up and go to work every day, the way we do? 

To slog your way through crowds and traffic, to sit in a building doing stuff for a company or corporation, to make money for them so they can pay you money to buy stuff, most of which you don’t really need, for a house, you didn’t really want, to begin with. 

Then you take on a mortgage to pay for the said house which will ensure you have to keep your nose to the grindstone for the next thirty years when you can finally look forward to retirement (which by this time you will be too worn out and too tired to do anything) to find that the company CEO has raided the pension fund and disappeared into the ether and you are destined to spend your old age in fear and poverty after spending most of your life working your bollocks off for someone else!!! 

AND, along the way, you missed out on most of your children’s growing up, your partner is now a complete stranger with a life of their own, that doesn’t include you, and all because you had to be at work, in order to pay your taxes to a government that basically doesn’t give a crap about you anyway!!! Yes, THAT'S normal!!

If that's normal, then I embrace my insanity with glee!!  Hee, hee!! Because inside all of us, there is a little streak of insanity. It may not manifest itself as a medically recognised psychosis (although if the American Psychiatric Association has it's way, it may very well soon be) but it might just be a little obsession about collecting stuff, or how we dress, or cleaning; something along those lines, because let's be honest, we all have our little obsessions, don't we?

And what harm are we doing?  Ok if your shoe buying habit is the reason you haven't paid your rent in six months well, maybe there’s a little bit of a problem there that you need to think about but still, you're not crazy are you??  And what about the girl up the street who goes out to work every day dressed up like Mary Poppins, or the old lady who walks around like the queen on LSD, are they really harming anyone?  Because the truth is, isn't it our little insanities that mark us out as individuals? Aren't these the hallmarks of our uniqueness in the world?? 

Because what I now realize is that THERE IS NO NORMAL. We’re all crazy in some way and some of the so-called most normal things are the craziest of them all!!!

What I see happening within the world of psychiatry is similar to what happened back in the 19th century, when the Victorian's did a study on sexual habits and labelled everything that wasn’t the Missionary position as sexually deviant. 

Basically the same thing is happening now with all human behaviour.  Anything that deviates from the norm (because we all know what normal is??!!) is now being diagnosed and labelled as mental illness and comes with its own line in pharmaceuticals. 

Roll up! Roll up!  Get you behaviour modifiers here, an emotionally-deadening pill for every little ill!!

‘WHAT YOU HAVE AN OVER-ACTIVE CHILD???’ (Fake shock and horror)

Here, don’t you know that a little Ritalin a day, will keep the pharmaceuticals in pay!!!’

If you think that’s a bit exaggerated, then I urge you to read this book, (if you haven’t already) because the really scary part of all this, is what is happening with children in America and, here too, so let’s not get complacent. Children are being diagnosed with all sorts of mental health problems. We’ve all heard of ADD and ADHD, ( I always had huge reservations about those two, even more so now!) but what about childhood bipolar disorder?? Now, there’s a happy little threesome, to label a child with!  Add to that, the huge rise in autism diagnoses and soon you will find that children everywhere are being medicated out of childhood. 

So, if you have an active child, don't take them to a doctor and definitely don't take them to a psychiatrist, take them to the park and let them run around, stop feeding them crap and let them dig that hole in the back garden and get mucky!! Who cares what the neighbours think!! Let them swing from trees, even better, join in and swing from the trees with them and, basically, go have some fun!!!! 

Because that’s what’s wrong here, we take ourselves far too seriously and have forgotten what it is to HAVE SOME FUN!!!! So let rip and let a child be a child and remember that you were once one too!!! Life’s too short to let it drift by on prozac and Ritalin. ENJOY IT!!!! .LIVE IT TO ITS FULLEST!!!! Because in the words of Noddy Holder -  ‘MA MA, WE’RE ALL CRAZEE NOW!’

So stop worrying and embrace the insanity because we are all in this one together!!!!! YEAHHH!!!

 

 

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