BRAVE NEW MAN. On archetypical masculinity and searching for empathy.

This last month has been a challenge for what being a man means in Latvia as well as in globally. Including possible changes of regulations for mostly boys doing, some say, archetypical masculine activities, then following eating habits, and ending with toxic masculinity cases and senile military celebrations. In a nutshell - this year so far has been a fuss to men, and it is hard to find a good place to start.
Sequentially, this EDITORIAL in February has no end. It's more of a pack of notes of my and other's opinions, my and other's memories, and my and other's practice and experience in the present-day Latvian man's world. A pack of thoughts worth discussing, if you'd like.


Let's begin with mid-January, when Gillette released their new self-loathing, yet promissing ad1 that I cherished, but nothing from it was anything new and useful to me. Firstly, I am very much aware men can do better in treating the world, people and its female counterparts particularly. Secondly, I am very much aware of the importance in educating boys of being strong in their feelings, light-hearted in their values and emotional enough to understand the world through heart in addition to brain (because when the robot apocalypse comes, people will be required to feel rather to be mechanical, and women will turn out to be the best for the job, hahah (evil laughs and coughs)). Thirdly, I haven't used razor to shave for a decade or so, plus, Gillette is a brand by Procter & Gamble - a mega corporation with enough money for such image polishing campaigns to vague up arguable reputation. Despite being honest, honourable and candid in shouting out an important message, I am not their customer and this ad doesn't suit me for the given reasons. I believe we need something to eureka in men themselves, not it being trademarked by global corporations.

Meanwhile 23 February, 2019 has been celebrated as Red Army Day for 100 years in Russia and many Post-Soviet countries (Defenders of Fatherland day as for now). A day when heavy drinking, any "boys will be boys" activities, and brawling and harassing was and still is a part of the "for the masculine brotherhood's sake" agenda. And a day many people even in Latvia once mistaken for the real "Men's day" (some older women say that 23 February was obligatory to celebrate, because there would be a great chance to receive flowers in return on 8 March). As you might understand by now - this is definitely not my celebration, and I won't give any more credit for it in this article. In fact, if you've got any savvy left and you are mostly younger than 35 and not coming from a pro-Kremlin family - this isn't anyone's celebration in Latvia. But most of all, a day of promoting war, the red terror, distorted manship and toxic masculinity shouldn't be anyone's to celebrate at all, yet for many Post-Soviet sympathisers it takes a challenge accept that.

Why do I actually think it's called toxic masculinity? Because it's fucking contagious, radiating and resilient. And takes generation after generation to cool down its effect and to weed it out. Do you know how poplar trees survive? You fell one with #metoo and Gilette advertisements, and that cunt sprouts in ten other different spaces even through asphalt from the same root in meters distance. And you yank it out again. And again, and again.

I try to build myself as open as possible, only shutting down to bullshit. I try to be a centre-left combination of socialist, liberal, democrat, atheist and sarcast truths in its best way possible. Meanwhile am a fan of functional capitalism only (I don't need the newest shit and I like old, well designed, economical and practical cars). So, it's been a few decades to elbow myself out from Post-Soviet mentality and deep countryside upbringing when growing up. Yet, after some 20+ years I still catch myself rarely, but still having a flash thought of someone as - well that guy is a real sissy. Or, this fella is so gay. Where does it come from? Does it simply mean as really imposing on someone to be damn lame, idiotic and absurd, or is it still not accepting other means of execution and skills of everyday life processes in the man's world? Is it my judgement or is it a construct I grew up with when girls only do dolls, but boy's don't cry?

You don't need to be a sissy, or a poofter to realize that we all are men, not meat. We have feelings and we must use them more than our muscular and physical abilities. Eventually, the larger the noise, the smaller the balls, a research says2.

Strenghten the union of army and navy!

This year also began with an intensely discussed draft law on should we whether approve or disapprove hunting from the age of 16 by law. Many stated this is a shady law with vague reasoning, while some folks decided it is an attack to man's rights. A famous Latvian writer and theologian Nils Sakss-Konstantinovs also made his comment, that, on the contrary, was generally well written, with situations related to doubts properly refuted. Although for many, including him "hunting with father" still seemed like one of the last resorts of male bonding and escaping feminine dominance in family and among nation's psychologists and therapists exclusively (of which his is true; also adding the sad reality of many boys growing up without a well-made male figure by their side thus creating insufficiency and dissemblance of worldview and contrasts). Meanwhile commentators agreed on hunting with dads to be the key of growing up not to become a "liberal faggot", and to claim that "dads are real only in hunting, not in theatre" (honestly - a liberal faggot are to blame to all decadence in the man's world globally and in Latvia).

I really agree that maybe there was a reason for Nils to say another thing, quote: "Today schools evidently are more suitable for girls rather than boys. Girls are better at grades, while boys are diagnosed with various behaviour or psychological difficulties, [..] or being born as a male in general is the absolutely highest factor to getting into jail or ending life in suicide, where Latvia is a stable leader globally.3" I totally see now how the archaic, senile and primitive ways of bonding in the man's world has led to 85 % of attendees of the "sissy entertainment" (theatres, cinema, exhibitions, concerts etc.) being females. While males ought to grow up to be blunt and unable to contemplate, discuss, debate, girls really turn out to dig it. What soft skills can a boy learn, if a dad has stopped his mental, intelligent and spiritual fulfilment and only relies on chopping wood skills?

Sometimes I think I would give everything if my parents (including dad) would've taken me to music or arts school, or to a concert or whatnot, when I was a kid. But maybe that was my kind of insufficiency that generated my thirst for knowledge, understanding. Maybe it was the early narrowness of opinions and horizons sowing that little, snoozing intolerance in me as a kid. Like it did to many other men in this country - because being a prick is a better career than trying out a good book by Franz Kafka.

Here, again I totally accept Nils' opinion and I don't have anything against archetypical masculine activities per se. Physical activities, agility and dexterity, competition is a great thing theoretically, but I am definitely against anything that makes someone being fatally hurt. You don't need to be vegan, vegetarian or gay to realise that there are less archaic, violent and more sustainable, complex activities supporting such archetypes and that we have, through many millennia, grown up mentally to find more ethical, clever, mature alternatives and cherish them.

For example, I used to play rugby for a short period of time. The whole team were a scale of "dexterous and skinny me" to big, angry Latvian men. But one thing that amazed and really struck me was the nobility and maturity those mega-men showed to their coach and, more importantly, to referee (one only needs to watch a single game and grasp a true gentleman's attitude towards someone with greater wisdom or sharper eye).  So - here you have an alternative activity to sniping down and ending innocent creatures in forests. An alternative also promoting those archetypical masculine things with adding bruises, brotherhood and, believe it or not, higher education. Turns out vast majority of the regular world-cup-class rugby players have university degrees. Not saying that every male should turn to rugby now, and it can save the world, but I am just pointing out a solid alternative to a present-day man. It made me think of such sportsmen as males, who could grow up intelligent and settled.

And then there comes a contradiction as stated by one of Latvia's most prominent animal rights activists and a long-time vegan Sandris Ādminis (a man - how inconveniently convenient). In one of his latest, also one of the broadest interviews Sandris states, that:
"around 70 - 80 % of animal rights activists (making a majority of vegans - ed.) are women. It is mostly a question of upbringing, because boys are not taught to feel empathy. There is a large macho narrative. It's OK for a woman to defend animals and to cut eating meat because of compassion, but in case of a man he is considered to be a softy."
"Oldtimers hold a view," Sandris continues, "that a man can't survive without meat - he won't be powerful and potent enough. Meat is already historically tied to the masculine - hunting, power, rule. Therefore, of course, women are more interested in health, through that again heading us toward questions of ethics4."

The international Veganuary campaign in January was another reason, why this year started like a pain in the arse for stoic men an talked about eating habits focusing on conscious food and also animal well-being. Most of participants, practitioners and even the promoter celebrities - were, again, women. Yes, no-flesh diet (rather - a lifestyle) is a real drag to male world in Latvia at full throttle. Everybody is now trying to take away man's pork, his blood sausage and his hunting rituals held for ages (though only some 5 generations the max)! Meanwhile Latvia keeps on scoring top places in Europe of men dying of fattening, heart failures and cardiovascular deceases, while women keep on living longer lives per average. Maybe because they always take measures to better food and activities, but possibly, it is just a daft reason:
"An analysis by sex reveals that in most EU Member States a higher proportion of women (than men) re-ported that they had high blood pressure. The gender difference was often considerable, especially in the Baltic Member States..5
Well, paraphrasing the "male symbol" James Dean and recalling, what Sandris Ādminis said about being a real man and eating a real meal - ""live feast, die young" is always better than being a softy". Because, Mr. Obvious, a real man is never a softy in Latvia.


My family male history is rather speckled, actually. My father served in the Soviet army, my eldest brother in the Latvian one, and I almost got enlisted, too. My dad learned Russian perfectly, my brother got his teeth fixed, and I found out about my poor eyesight. These, probably, were the only benefits of this "brotherhood" that many men eventually try to forget. My dad, at least as much as I remember, never contacted with his military comrades as well as my brother until his premature death. Me myself, I would most likely end up like any of the Nils' mentioned statistics, when in the army. Never was a fan of any authority or any "serve and order" concept, so - it's either a jail, depression, or suicide, hah!

Eventually the law changed, compulsory service was meditated to professional, and I instead enrolled in Latvian Maritime Academy to become like my uncle. Once a maritime navigator - prosperous, witty, yet not a very gentle guy, that was my childhood symbol of successful career, but not a symbol of good husbandry, constantly bickering and arguing with his first wife. After one and a half years I would quit my studies exactly because of that mediocre "brotherhood" of other seamen I didn't want to be a part of to become this fig I am today. Would you call me presumptuous and uppish? Hell, no, I might not be Michel Foucault, but I am still craving for a good piece of deep conversation these guys had hard time maintaining.

As for hunting, my granddad was a vivid hunter, so is his son, my uncle, and was my eldest brother, too (more like as a hobbyist beater). Didn't know my granddad well enough to observe him (seemed calm, but hell, he was a tired fella around his eighties, when I saw him). My uncle though (and as I remember) is still very impulsive. Knowing the fact that my granddad lived separately from my uncle through his childhood, his character might have been carved by my grandmother that turned out not to be the most noble role model even to my mom. Although his other brother grew up to be a very kind, friendly and music record loving man even without maintaining "the bond" with his dad and through this male insufficiency. As for me - never really found any interest in participating any hunting activities from starters. If I remember correctly, could've been taken to a single hunting at a young age to only remember the hunter's hat and that it was late, a bit snowy and cloudy November (or March), and everything was tied into the lushly green coniferous forest mood.


I am sometimes still ashamed to be a white heterosexual man these days. Because of other men of my similarity being the cause of most of shit going down on Earth, including Latvia, and most of other people looking at me like I'm some kind of evil counterpart of it. A malicious, "2 000 000-year-old masculine underground ritual". No, ladies, gays and Mexicans - me not involved! Yet in several cases I have faced a backlash from people in discussion no matter how logical, empathetic and substantiated my point of view was. Like I said in the beginning I only shut down to bullshit - male or female - doesn't matter who delivers it, I just turn whether sarcastic or nihilistic. Still I have a feeling in 50 % cases, that there is a big chance my dearest opinion sounds to someone like bigoting simply because I still am a part of that white male supremacy, an uber douche club with loaded dicks.

Lauris Bokišs, another agenda-changing dad was one of maybe few, who decided to take his paternal leave from work to rise his child and speak about it openly and loudly through media6. First of all, if leave for child care for one and a half years sounds like a dream to, say, most Americans, this is a proof in Latvia, that the social system is very much open to support families this way. BUT if you live in a country where also fathers are able to take such deed, this means the paradigms are a-changing for all - men, women, fathers and children. I can deeply relate to all those dads, who are next to their male offsprings and are much interested in taking their boys to performances, book stores, films, galleries, museums, culture spaces,  sanctuaries, art and music schools and discussing about every single mean of live. Not to rely on bonding with their children in activities in their spare time or with militant and trivial taste. As clarified earlier there are better alternatives to shooting animals with your son.

Maybe a proper hike in real mountains, snowboarding or birdwatching can also flush some adrenaline, train physical abilities, bring experience through taking deep breaths and bruising a knee. Or maybe the problem of all is that men have only used their upper storey for limited activities. Maybe if they fought against their prejudices and helped making the world a more empathetic place - that would be a nice starter for a brighter, peaceful future. Otherwise we have Latvia's largest start-up event TechChill run by women, and a 16-year-old girl fighting against climate change globally in front of mostly full-grown millionaire men, for instance. Just some food for thought.


Mārtiņš Eņģelis
editor-in-chief


1 We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film). Youtube, 2019
2 The Louder the Monkey, the Smaller Its Balls, Study Finds. Motherboard.Vice, 2015
3 Nils Sakss-Konstantinovs: Par kendamu un medību atļaušanu jauniešiem. Delfi.lv, 2019
4 Sandris Ādminis jau 10 gadus vegānu sektā: "Es nedomāju, ka visiem jāredz šausminoši kadri no lopkautuvēm". Jauns.lv, 2019
5Cardiovascular diseases: statistics. Eurostat, 2018"
6Visaptverošā tēva loma. Satori.lv, 2018"

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