Gentlemen

We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.  C.S. Lewis

 

With the waning of interest in professional football it has been suggested that the oddsmakers could recoup their losses by taking bets on who the next celebrity will be to stand accused of sexual misconduct.

For two or three generations the word, “celebrity” brought to mind an actor or filmmaker, but we use it today to include the continuous parade of politicians and pundits and the entire menagerie of personalities and stars to which we have ceded the national will and consciousness.

Wave after wave of  headlines shout out new accusations, revelations or condemnations, as more and more women, and men, are emboldened, might we say, empowered, to speak up.

Unfortunately, our attention span has become such an ephemeral thing. When we are flooded with information, as we are now, with one scandal stacked on top of another, we quickly lose track of fact and interpretation. We lose interest, and we seek distraction. At this time in our history we run the risk of losing the narrative entirely, and it is a vitally important narrative.

It’s as if two alternative timelines for the future of our culture are forming. On the path that we hope we’ll take, we will have evolved to the point where people are less afraid to speak truth to power, where truth and reason and the rule of law prevail over brute force, not just in the courtroom, but in our homes and businesses as well.

And brute force is exactly what we are talking about. All along the continuum between the brutal insensitivity of rape and the hypersensitivity of micro-aggression lies the intention to exercise power over another human being. A civil society keeps that intention in check.

If we are lucky, the ongoing revelations represent a leveling up of our collective consciousness and our  rejection of  brutality. The effect will be systemic and far reaching, and our grandchildren will live in a better world because of it.

If we are not so lucky, the pendulum of public anger and opinion will swing so widely that it damages the clockworks. It’s happened many times before. We are quite capable of going from the roaring 20’s to prohibition in less than one generation.

Without a thoughtful read of history, it’s easy to forget how that clock does actually work. The reason which designed the elaborate gear mechanism and the laws that define the escapement of the complicated clockworks of our society are useless without the pull of a weight or the tension of a spring, or one might also say, the brute force, which makes the clock run.

In other words, in our zeal to signal our collective virtue, let’s stop well short of an outright neutering of what is masculine in our culture.  We may think that we’ve outgrown the alpha male, but without him our species would have died out long ago in the days of the megafauna. Without him we would soon discover that all of the noblest ideals of our better natures would be little defense against a planet which has demonstrated over and over again the power of brute force.

Once again we strive for a middle path where strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Men used to have an unofficial code for navigating that path. We once referred to  those who followed such a code as “gentlemen,” and we need them now more than ever.

The concept of the gentleman will be foreign to some, and others may confuse the term with one of the caricatures offered by the theater, but should you find it necessary to explain the word to someone, a gentleman gives all women equally the same respect that he would ideally give to his mother, sister or daughter. It really is that simple.

 

 

 

 

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