Monday, 1 December 2008

What about the men?

I have written before on this but I came across this posting and left a comment.

My only real qualification for talking about this is that I am a man. That means that I have been subject to various social pressures throughout my life that were aimed to encourage/coerce me into a certain model of masculinity. For various reasons, some of which still elude me, these pressures failed and I have found myself here, on the path of the Goddess and as a priest both of Inanna and of Avalon. So, I am not a stereotypical man and my experience of the conventional male world has been at best marginal. I have been, in many ways, an outsider looking on and observing behaviour some of which I comprehend and some of which baffles me. For several years recently, I worked in various situations in which the desire of men to conform to the models they had been given had led them into some very dark places - homelessness, drunkenness, addictions, violence and mental health problems.

Many of the men who came my way can, in effect, be seen as the casualties in the sex wars. They were men who, for various reasons, had failed to make the grade as "real" men. Some had been "real men" in their time. In the night shelter in which I worked there were a fairly large number of veterans of the Falklands war. Deeply traumatised by what seems to have been a particularly squalid affair, they were an embarrassment to the country they had served and their PTSD was untreated. What i remember most about them is how gentle many of them were. For example, there were two close friends, one of whom had been an NCO in the Royal Marines and the other had been in the Parachute Regiment. I remember seeing the extensive burns down one side of the marines's body from when his ship was hit by an exocet missile and one night he told me of how it had been. With no hint of braggadocio or self-pity but as a simple description of a few minutes of hell. Both the men were heavy drinkers. Both were targeted for bullying by other residents but would, rather than inflict the severe damage of which they were both capable on their tormentors, would elect to sleep out in the winter nights. They wanted no trouble. They were both "gentle men" - with a certain serenity that I have rarely seen. They had, as a result of what they had seen and done, turned their backs on violence. The para died of heart failure at the age of 32. Another man, whom because of his serious suicide attempts the management had eventually to ban for the sake of the other residents, told me of how he and his mates were sitting in a trench drinking tea when an artillery shell exploded nearby. His mate's finger landed in his teacup. Another gentle man.

Another man, not homeless but just out of prison after serving time for a serious assault. A history of abuse. A very high intelligence that was not picked up in the overcrowded schools. A deep anger that he was aware of and which frightened him. He wanted to deal with it. He spoke to me, weeping, about how, because of his reputation, he was being goaded by other men as he walked the streets of his home area. He was trying. But, there were no funds for him to access the psychological help he needed unless and until he lost his temper again. A gentle man - or one who wanted to be so.

A man of about 40 - alcohol and football violence his specialty - until, one night, he came into consciousness finding himself kicking the prone body of a security man- with no idea why he was doing it. He stopped and waited for the police. He did his time. Now he drinks at home with his wife and children and they watch football together. His old mates say he's gone soft. He is happy. He is a gentle man.

Another man. About 45, with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. At various intervals people will come into his house, sit in his chairs in his living room and tell him that he is all varieties of shit and that he should just do away with himself. They will keep this up for days. He is a single parent of three boys under 4. He organises his life to take account of what he knows will happen and has enlisted his boys in this. They know what will happen to Daddy and they know that they will have to go away until he is able to care for them again. They are some of the happiest children I have met. A gentle man.

None of these men would win any prizes as Mr Macho. They have all failed in those games. None of them are rich or successful in business, the arts or anything else apart from being decent, struggling, heroic human beings.

They all made my life richer from knowing them.

2 comments:

Livia Indica said...

The schizophrenic: these people that come into his house and berate him, are they "real" or hallucinations? I ask because it isn't clear. (And also because my brother is schizophrenic and experiences similar put downs from his voices.)

Brian Charles said...

sorry = yes they are his hallucinations - thanks for pointing out the confusion.