The Trouble With Boys (Soldiers, Poets and Theory, Oh My!)
What's wrong with men?
It's a very valid question, considering the fact that they kind of, you know, run more or
less everything. And, as has been pointed out, a fine mess they*'ve got us into. ("They" and
"us" being fairly nebulous concepts in this case, given that I am in face of a masculine
persuasion - there's a distinction to be made here between people who are phenotypically male
and males who define themselves fully by a societal conception of their gender role. A
differentiation between "men" and "gentlemen", if you like, although the reality tends to
differ from the etymology rather).
Right. Society is a self-perpetuating system, in that it reproduces the image of its subjects
into the next generation. What I mean by this is that the reason you fit into society is not
that it is designed for you, rather that its dictates have shaped aspects of your persona. So
far, so simple. This can be seen incredibly obviously in the choice of playthings we give
children. All little girls grow up to be mothers, so we give them plastic imitations of
children and household objects to train them for this role. Equally, we give little boys toy
guns and military uniforms, because all little boys... Hang on a minute.
The first statement is evil, anti-feminist and Wrong. However, the role of wifehood is more
or less achievable to women. (Slightly more sane note: Unless they're gay, asexual,
individualist, etc, but bear with me here.).
However, in a fairly non-militarised culture, we bring young boys up to be soldiers. Some of
these young boys can go on to fulfil their goal, and join one of the various
uniformed-forces-that-kill-people in their respective countries. Everyone else has to live in
a supposedly civilised society where you have to make your own decisions and try not to kill
people (unless you're in the Cabinet). So, in the simplest figuring, as a man you're either
trapped in a societally-approved and lethal childhood fantasy, or wishing you were.
So, Binky the Cheap-Suited Corporate Drone in middle-management wishes he was out on a
battlefield somewhere, blowing the backs of people's heads off, or, worse, he figures his
current career as if this were the case.
The problem is that this meme of men-as-soldiers is incredibly widespread, and it's not
restricted to simply to people who buy into societal concepts of gender. It's almost
tediously common for men in counter-cultural positions to figure themselves as soldiers or
rhetoric as warfare (look at the archives and you'll see how often I do it myself). To think
of yourself as a soldier in a war against the forces of conformity shores up the reactionary
paradigm of discourse and discussion as warfare. To a certain extent, for the polemicist to
represent hirself as a soldier is useful: a soldier is a utilitarian humanoid who is trained
to perform a task adequately, but is ultimately replaceable. This, then, is useful, but
ultimately anti-individualist. Therefore, it looks like we need another archetype to adopt for maximum cultural impact. Perhaps the poet symbol might work, given that it is the diametric opposite of the soldier. The poet is aesthetic, super-sensitive, artistic and irreplaceable. However, this archetype is seen by society as effete and irrelevant, and any polemic produced from this figure can be pigeonholed as "artistic" or otherwise not true. My suggestion is that a fusion of the two as a symbol would be the most efficacious. The polemicist should be a solder-poet; a sensitive figure that is fully capable of doing battlle in a rhetorical arena, an individual figure that is part of a wider ideological movement and so can't be dismissed on hir own... In other words, FORWARD THE LEGION OF DOOMED POETS!