Dami Lare is a Thinker. Humanist. Realist. Theist. Independent Editor. A graduate of a school of his choosing. Writes from somewhere in Nigeria, Africa, with works previously published nowhere but can now be found in certain places (online and print). He is the co-founder of Lunaris Review, a journal of Art and the Literary.
The Man Myth
(OF UTILITY AND INQUITY)
It could be said that it isn't love upon which the sturdiest of foundations are laid but the utility of merciful lies, which ironically serves as a sort of sacrosanct therapy to the troubles of diversity and opposition. As such, controversial notions like Will, Culture, Identity, Liberty, and Authority, chiefly explored from the remotest ages to the practical and theoretical dialogues of the millennial, and pushing forward new conditions in the process, obtain more as consequences – of these lies – than catalysts in the narrative of Man. A species that positions itself as conqueror of all and the self: the private space on which the utility is manifested. But in the same way that the triumph of humanity is defined by boundless dishonesty in boundless pursuit of boundless ideals, the Man, ‘un-knows’ the self in a futile lust to cast himself in the image of the other: that which is, at a point, and then indefinitely, impressed on him – by merciful lies – as superior/better/lust-worthy. This ruinous cycle is distinctive of a species faulted by the texture of its progress and the temper of its dialogues. Man, thus, ceases to exist in the light of a conqueror (of himself or the other), but as a transaction (duped) into constant and recurring strife. Plagued with the traumatic fortune of becoming and unbecoming, breaking down and sustaining, of remaining yet being the other, and of being soft within and hard without.
Navneet Alang, in his essay, ‘The Good Man is a Self Hating Man’, writes: "to be a man is to have arrived too late [...]: immersed and saturated in a thing out of its time." In contrasting yet somewhat complementary terms, I contend that to be a man is to be fated, ad infinitum, to a state of repeat, through desires impressed on him by (dismissible) exterior expectations, thereby fetching more as an object with broad functions and, thus, transmuting from entity to concept, like a myth. A 21st century myth.
Mummy, Dare n bu mi o.”
“N se ni ko gba eti e.
That was my mum and one of my older sisters, dialoguing on the character of my insolence and measures apt to put to rest such impertinence. We were not older than 5 and 8 at this time – my sister and I. Yet to be initiated into propriety, but prudent enough to revere each other, as African culture demands.
Yet were the temper of an emergent mould of African culture, which seeks to disregard old dialogues and politics through radical posturing, anything to go by, the above incidence should exist only as bogus chronicle. A fraud in comparison to the 'supposed' reductive texts obtainable from the African space: texts whose elaborations on the private and public politics of the male-female gender are premised on the primacy of 'roles' and 'contexts'; texts maintained against the snags of globalisation, culture-contact, and evolution by functionalism and conformism.
But, as this protest tradition, likewise any other, conservative or novel, is never completely couched in its theories, the traction gained through its struggle is conversely proportional to its intent – perhaps as a result of monochromatic tenets which in the process of rupturing old, unfavourable practices carve spaces for new ones.
Hence, the contemporary, functioning as beneficiaries of this generational transaction have remained, by implication, upon receipt, and through time, custodians. And this way it has been till the insuperable juggernaut of the West came bounding with caustic intent. With its unfounded, pseudo-ubiquitous and falsely superior rationality that arrested respect and labelled it servile, deracinated the individual and erected the collective, ripped apart the old, structured collective and invented polarities, and remoulded the nucleus of Africa, diversity, into the degenerative, antagonism. The result which is the African outlook not only regresses but also becomes unpreserved. And in its place, a new variant of the culture, reliant solely on the West’s (modernist) instruments of opposition and deviancy becomes applicable to the African space. As such, the West’s fundamental themes of hero and prey and villain, of one mould being 'perpetually' and 'solely' subjugated by the other becomes principal.
This is best corroborated by the words of Julius Nyerere:
“that to minds moulded by the West’s [political] traditions, the idea of an organized opposition group has become so familiar, that its absence immediately raises the cry of dictatorship...it’s no good telling them that when a group of 100 equals have sat and talked...until they agreed [and “until” implies that they will have produced many conflicting arguments before they eventually agree] they have practiced democracy...”
From this point, it becomes more comprehensible how simple it is to impress the role of subjugator on a class and victim on the other; and how the western temper of modernism – of non-conformism and dissension – achieves its relevance.
But while the yoke of relevance is heavy that of sustenance is light. To attain the relevance of heroism, a thesis – villain – is invented. If pre-existent, the villainous charges are trumped up. In the instance where consensus concedes the villain as vanquished, to continually sustain the scheme, a lineage of villains is charted. This way the collective opposition remains pertinent, and the spirit of rebellion, even at its uttermost irrelevance, becomes integral.
The result of this post-colonial choreography is group-consciousness restructuring, which births a radical awareness where what was once norm exists presently as the periphery – incidences where respect is horizontal and the basis for interrelations are considered fabrications or at best, one-offs.
Being the only male child, and last born, of my parents should have subscribed my parents to some form of parental parochialism, but at no point in time was I made to feel superior or in any way special. In fact, it was the opposite as I was made to engage everything that would demean this theory. At a point I conceived certain animosity toward my sisters (and was appropriately dealt with). This contradicts the theories of the emergent protest tradition: that the male child is always treated special, more so, if he is one among many girls.
So one can only imagine the horror I felt years later, after being made (through implication) to respect the girl image, when an acquaintance (female) slammed me with the accusation, ‘all men are misogynist, sexist,’ because I was a boy – a male. In fact, later, it was propounded in certain literary gatherings that all males are the cause of female’s woes. I had felt like a relic of iniquity after that encounter – the thesis.
Perhaps Navneet Alang is right: the good man is one who is retro-active and apologetic for his nature, recognizing and correcting mistakes after the fact. Right as a prophet of the success of the new ideological occupation of the African space, for the very disappearance of male-stereotyping/subjugation in clinical, notional and academic discourses on gender, partially because of the inconveniences of its implications, chiefly because of the import of the anti-thesis in post-modernist purchases, is deconstructive of the origin of this emergent tradition.
Consequentialism is an elusive episteme in the pursuit of an absolute. Its ubiquitous employment rather than esoteric renders it a certified means to bias, since what is considered end/truth is often times the obligation of practice to certify. Consequentalism, hence, becomes defeated episteme at best, and at worse a nonsensical valuation, as the true arbiter of action remains wholly subjective, and what obtains as the ultimate present – end/reality/truth – is corollary of comparative judgements: what could have been in relation to that preferred.
This way the present is aggregate of a math of convenience; its character and utility are by no means adjudged independent of comparison. In this sense is the 21st century Man a relic, with functionalities outlined by comparisons. He is keepsake of all that could have been right and that has been wrong; the myth to sustain the narratives of what-ifs and whatnots. And he is never autonomous of this. He is preceded by these superscripts pre-conception. Like Sisyphus he is saddled with them upon formation and thereafter and indefinitely. His ascension into maturity is descent into the abscess of convenient truths – the purgatory of rehearsed history. Lauren Quinn in a personal essay on memory writes that: "Our minds have a funny way of re-writing history". The account of the 21st century Man is of a mythical figure whose purpose e is to (what Alang states unapologetically as) "purge himself of iniquity through self-hate".
But, at this point, a pertinent question arises: what iniquity? To this I would come presently.
Scientists fault the concept of repressed memory as fraudulent and near impossible, thus bemoaning unearthing memories (through therapy) as a chance at scientific charlatanism. By re-creating memories, there is tendency to rehearse memories, which are wholly deceptive and utter fabrications. Rehearsed memories are a patient’s projections founded through a series of intrusions – hypnotism and other modes of psychotherapy – to unearth buried events. The fraudulent part rests not only on the unempirical procedures but the recovered memories that are ideal fixes for whatever malaise had necessitated their purchase, considering the complexity, flexibility, and susceptibility of the human mind.
The therapist, armed with paraphernalia of psychotherapy, urges the victim of a distorted past through regenerative processes; the patient trapped in fraudulence projects 'convenient' images prompted by extrinsic, questionnaire-backed suggestions. An overwhelming force of re/creation ensues, birthing alien ideas that ingrain in the psyche as recalled events. To the patient, a repressed memory is remembered – but, truly, the patient is no less a zombie.
Another question that Quinn asks then tallies with the first: "what do we do with what we remember?" Of this and the previous I would explain together.
The above, standing in its right as analogy and fact, mirrors the 21st century African cultural construct. There is an extrinsic influence (the therapist). There is a people (patient). There is the Man (the idea/image) re/created and hidden in the people’s psyche to account for particular narratives – in this case the thesis against which an antithesis must rise, which returns us to the instruments previously cited. Thus, the people, a particular class, conveniently transform into the antithesis – a zombie collective swayed by a controlling force (cultural and socio-political) that has made an alien idea integral through the process of induction and indoctrination (hypnotism). This zombie collective, like all patients/victims of rehearsed memories, seek penance, reparation, reprisal, freedom, and closure from the alien (myth) fashioned specifically to serve as sole cause of its grievances.
In a likewise sense does the 21st century Man exists, introduced by the protest tradition as a ready-made iniquity, culpable for whatever gender crimes are conceivable – this responds to the questions of iniquity and utility. His utility bears similitude to that of the fiendish phenomenon Baba-Yaga conjured to instil fear in children. Only his is of a construct inducing antagonism and opposition within adults.
In continuance of the foregoing, the 21st century Man is never fully independent of this baggage of utility and iniquity. It becomes chief that penance is sought if avoidance is desired: continuance in seeking to align with the antithesis and remaining in perpetual states of unbecoming (of himself) and becoming (of the other) is the rule of conduct. Only then does he achieve the grade of what Alang calls 'the good man', through a process of self-hatred, which Alang says is a good thing: a good man is a self-hating man.
But this process is never finite. Like Prometheus, his contrition is absurd, laborious, and eternal. Yet like Wu Su-Kong he is humbled for eternity, for it is impossible attaining the stately image of the other, no matter how he hates himself or identifies with the antithesis. He realises nothing is sufficient – that acts of penance can be adjudged dubious. This paradox sums his fate, what Susan Sontag, in her essay on Camus, 'The Ideal Husband', expresses as an absolute revolt that encourages limits. One from which is no escape. So any dissenting or consenting view to gender-oriented literature, or appropriately put, feminist literature, is his quota in sustaining patriarchy. A quota he must, nonetheless, do away with. A quota he inadvertently impels – like Oedipus, propelling the very narrative he tries to avoid through avoidance. Eventually, a Julia Kristeva’s or Adrienne Rich’s experience leaves him divided, ripping at the seams, effusively penitent and soused in self-pity as any of these is realised to him:
That to be alive is to have chosen one of two impossible choices: a boy or a girl. And to be the former is to be condemnable for institutional wrongs and supremacist agendas that he must grow to be culprit of – never a victim.
That to be alive as a boy is to have chosen to be privileged and to have been a scheming mind in a previous life (African Eschatology), with the contrivance to amass certain birthrights that typify instances of fraudulent origins.
That to grow up as a boy and have burdensome expectations of misogynist forebears and the society impressed on him is to be privileged by the repressive doings of the same fraudulent forebears. So he has no case.
That to be a boy is to be considered an over-ambitious heir of patriarchy who wishes to dominate. (Wishes prompted by delusional notions of delusional birthrights.)
That to be a boy is to be sole culprit of the humanity’s crimes and undoing.
That to choose to offer suggestions and correct institutional lapses is to make ethical pretensions from a favoured position, or to seek to understand gender plight is to be a pretentious bigot with a mocking intent. He can never truly understand feminism.
That to desire a girl with uttermost affection without having declared himself a feminist is to harbour ulterior motives that are misogynist.
That to be a boy and a human being is never enough: he has to be a feminist or a misogynist.
That to have grown among the female gender, loved and respected each is insufficient; restoration in form of a public disavowal, confessions of/to (generational) sins and dissociation from supremacist ideology is required.
That to be a boy is to be by default intimidated and emasculated by a woman’s success if she earns more or attains a higher rank.
That to hold women in high esteem and attempt to be chivalrous is to be a benevolent sexist – a pretentious sexist is no better than a vermin.
That his father is patriarchy and his mother is patriarchy, and everything he has known and has taught him to be the way he is patriarchy.
That all roads lead to being a sexist.
That to be a boy is to be nothing more than a potential gender terrorist – a readymade one.
Post-discovery, the 21st century Man initiates a war with the self – breaking down and sustaining. He is caught in an identity battle, a few steps shy of self-destruct. But sadly, this isn’t his only battle.
You are not a man. You are too cold for a man. Men never do like this. Are you not a man? O n se okunrin o.
That is my father voicing his concerns. And my mother. And my sisters. My friends. My enemies. And pretty much everyone known to me.
The Neo-platonist in pursuit of the absolute, the perfect principle, realises 'beauty' as unattainable – that the ideal is a myth. (Beauty here figuratively translates as the ideal man.) Yet to this is a man made to aspire. The 21st century Man exists in this light, entangled in infinite processes of re-branding to fit a mould. He is continually aspired to two things: the other and an ideal state of himself – two impossibilities.
I have an inexplicable dread for insects that hop or fly. This my parents, especially my dad, do not understand. An 'emasculating' tendency it is. To imperfectly quote my Dad, a man petrified by insects is less a man. He says, "O n se Okunrin o – you’re not a Man." The word phobia is non-existent in his dictionary – an excuse for wimps. And, sadly, this doctrinaire reproach never terminates with arachnids, but expands to other outwardly manifestations of the self, ranging from physical exertions to inter-personal relationships – anything that requires a validation of me as a Man. Consequently, I am trapped by the need to aspire to a stately and plucky version of myself: which like the Neo-platonist I am unable to attain, for in my father’s eye (and every other person's represented) I am never yet a Man.
A while ago, a friend’s father died, and because I possess acutely suppressive tendencies borne of extreme introversion I said nothing, conscious that nothing could be said that redeems loss. My dad upon hearing this incident queried if I knew. I said yes. He asked what I did. I said I did nothing. That I didn’t think there was anything I could say that would trump loss. He said I had to learn how to grieve, that I needed to be a Man. Was I a woman? There again, that need to aspire.
I know of a man, let’s call him J. J's relatives are of the opinion he is not man enough because at age 32 J is still a bachelor. J, embattled by the constant demeaning references to him decides to be a Man. Few months later he weds. But J discovers he has bedroom difficulties. His wife calls him an excuse for a Man: he isn’t a real Man. Humiliated by a thing that could be as natural a condition as breathing oxygen, he seeks help to be a real Man, and by any luck he is, but then he loses his job shortly. His wife calls him a pathetic man: real men provide for their families. And so it goes till death. Failure to be the perfect Man keeps him in constant aspiration toward impossibility. All his life, rather than live, J tries to be a myth.
At this juncture, I dare point that any man, contemporary or otherwise, would have at a point taken delivery of this, or forms of it – being charged to be a Man, the ideal Man. Thus, if men, rumoured to be cushioned on the upside of existence by defective institutions, are themselves badgered by conservative expectations to be something other than their natural selves, it becomes no longer a faulty submission that a man isn’t all he is rumoured to be.
But, sadly, it is the fictitious, unattainable model (the myth) that scores of gender-theorists and feminists have sought equality with. A version supposedly ideal and graced with unnatural benefits, patriarchal, domineering, perfect, and superior – that is a myth. A 21st century construct whose appearance has launched the world into chaos; well-honed fairy tale that men, by being men, are made to aspire to, and that women, through collective notions of inequality, have advocated equality with.
A woman is obligated by faulty traditions to act like a Man. In the same vein, a man is required to act/be a Man. This attests that a Man, in the sense propagated, is an unwise, impracticable and inaccessible generic cultural reference (myth).
Most assuredly, the catalyst behind the exulting of this myth from fraudulence to relevance is the preponderance of collectivism in the millennial culture. Pixley Isaka ka Seme in a rhetoric published as the ‘Regeneration of Africa’ says: "Men [humans] have tried to compare races on the basis of some equality. In all the works of nature, equality, if by it we mean identity, is an impossible dream! Search the universe, you will find no two units alike." It is nearly impossible for a thing to be commensurate with another it shares vast degrees of differences (no identity) with. Everything is exclusive in its individuality. Perhaps it is the texture of the enterprise whereupon ideals are set. Perhaps it is the quality of such ideals. Perhaps somewhere along the trajectory of history, humanism has been swapped with ideologies. But the 21st century reality is that of an individual (what Stanberry expressly promotes as the unfathomable reality of individual consciousness) being trumped by the collective.
To give currency to this argument is to employ Nabokov’s ultimate question in Bend Sister: "...Which is more important to solve: the outer problem [space, time, matter and the unknown without] or the inner one [life, thought, love, the unknown within...]?” Stranberry in 'Nabokov and the Prism of Art' explicates that, "Far from claiming pride of place, neither Marxian social problems nor Einsteinian space-time can compete with Nabokov’s institutions of a higher consciousness behind the surface fabric of phenomena." Furthering the afore-going thought in its context is another excerpt of Nabokov on Karl Marx and his social theories in The Eye:
"Some mean-spirited little man decides that the whole course of humanity can be explained in terms of ... the struggle between an empty belly and a full belly. Luckily, no such laws exist... Everything is fluid, everything depends on chance, and all in vain were the efforts of that crabbed bourgeois, author of Das Kapital."
Replacing empty belly and full belly with a penis and a vagina, the hermeneutic logic, that the world’s challenges are too distinct, dynamic, and fluid to be simplified by notions (collective), that explain the universe as the dialectic of genders, becomes more unequivocal.
That the individual intellect and the grooming of the individual consciousness merit foremost consideration in intellectual dialogues that seek to explain the universe can never be overemphasized. Descartes’ submissions on reality in The Meditations that Corgito ergo sum – I think, not we think – is testimony to this; more so is the philosophy of the existentialist(s), Jean Paul Sartre, which is hinged on individuality.
Another question that present itself then is: what really then is the purpose of the collective?
Professor Ali Mazrui’s in an essay on the role of the (African) intellectual attempts an answer that:
"It is sometimes said that the academic-intellectual should promote the national values. There is a lot to be said in favour of such a move. What ought to be borne in mind is that the majority of African countries have not as yet evolved a body of values coherent enough and stable enough and intellectualized enough to be called national values... because we do not as yet have full coherent, stable and internalized national values, the task of the [ideologue] is not to indoctrinate the students with ideas which may be very transitory and impermanent. The task of the academic intellectual is to contribute not towards a definite doctrine at this moment in time but towards general intellectual sobriety. A combination of faith and scepticism, sympathy and criticism, loyalty and nationalism, is the dialectic of the teaching process...”
Sadly, the very opposite is what obtains in the emergent tradition.
To disregard a tradition (and its import) that positions itself to further the human condition, or a part of it, is foolhardy at best, and in reality an undoing. Yet, sweeping conclusions or the disregarding of the negative sensations and dialogues generated by such a tradition (and its import), however altruistic its intent, is a greater foolhardy and undoing put together. Such that only propels the very postures that have been dividing the human species. A classic case which Orwell describes as an effect becoming a cause, bolstering the original cause and producing the same effect, in a re-inforced manner, and indefinitely. A practical manifestation of the final stage of the Hegelian dialectic: the thesis-antithesis synthesis.
As an aside (as I have tried to avoid referring to this tag as much as possible, and yet it becomes integral at this point), a person once said: to not be a feminist yet profess support for the girl child is foolish. Another explicitly claims that to be a man and claim to be a feminist is deceptive and a scheme. The absurdity of these thoughts is revealing of the roughness of the age. One: humanism, in its strictest sense, predates feminism, or any other ideology whatsoever, and that is sufficient to dispel these thoughts. Two: the human character is naturally progressive, enough for the discernment of right and wrong, absent any external imposition. As such, if everyone were to commit to the advancement of the self first – and not the collective – ideas like those afore-mentioned would perish pre-inception.
The fourth question that recommends itself at this point is: is the human species capable of love without dependence on exterior factors for consideration and expression? If yes, every extrinsic mould of authority that channels thought is secondary, hence optional. For it is the unpremeditated implications of collective ideologies and monochromatic ideologues that grow an enterprise as banal as a myth into a fundamental ingredient of existence, which, fulfilling its mandate, has made merciful lies (of one thing being the source of grievance for the other) the foundation of contemporary reality, and not love.
It bears repeating that it is the purpose of the collective to transmute myth into man for the function of an irredeemable thesis, whence comes the struggle to be the other (woman/antithesis) for redemption. It is also the purpose of the anti-thesis that he remains himself, so that he may aspire to be a Man – a better version of himself. Thus he aspires for many things but attains nothing, and yet continues to aspire till death, for the sort of man who achieves this fusion successfully, if at all, is non-existent. A Myth.