Guys, its time to grow up
I’m going to get into trouble for saying this but that’s ok: Australian men really need to grow up! Already this year we’ve seen some appalling behaviour from men in the media and I think it’s time we, as a nation, took a really good look at ourselves and asked why?
We’re all “growing up” all the time. Life is a constant process of evolution, always moving in a forward direction, learning more about ourselves, the world and our place in it, and ultimately improving on who we once were. But sometimes this process gets hindered.
As men there are clear developmental stages that we go through as we evolve from boy to man, but this doesn’t just happen. There is no magic switch that turns the immature, me-centred boy into the self assured, emotionally literate, we-centred man. It is a process that requires effort, guidance, structure, and elders to show the way. Unfortunately these crucial elements are almost non-existent in our society, we send boys out into the world to act as men and the consequences are killing people.
As 2016 began we saw the latest young man to lose his life as a result of alcohol fuelled thuggery. In Queensland, Cole Miller was knocked to the ground with an unprovoked “coward punch” to the head, later dying in hospital. A young and hopeful life lost all too soon and an unimaginable tragedy for Cole’s family.
But before we take the easy route and condemn those responsible, let us first ask some difficult questions; who are these two young men? What lead Armstrong Renata and Daniel Maxwell to make such a choice which so disastrously impacted their own lives as well as ending Cole’s? What kind of men will they now become? What of their families? Where did we fail them?
These may be hard questions to ask, but if we want to address the deeper issues here we need to see these men as exactly that; as young men, sons, brothers, mates, not so unlike Cole, but who, for some reason made a terrible choice. It’s all too easy to see them as monsters and lock them away in our closet so we can go on avoiding our own cultural shadows, but it won’t help. And bandaid solutions like changing laws, restricting licensing and tightening the nanny state grip on people’s freedom is not the answer. We’re better than this.
Then take us to Australia Day, the nation’s greatest excuse for getting blind and acting like a fool. As Australia suffered its hangover we saw the latest NRL player to have his monumental screw up paraded in public. Mitchell Pearce, the Sydney Roosters captain was caught on video, drunk at a party, harassing a woman, simulating sex with her dog and urinating on himself.
Ok we’ve all done things we regret after a few too many. I know the bitter taste of regret all too well after one drunken night behaving like an idiot almost cost me my life (more of that story here). But the danger here is the hero status these men hold in our boy’s eyes. Sure there are some formidable athletes, who deserve admiration, but our culture holds these men up as leaders and examples of manhood, yet time after time they fall from their pedestal hurting others on the way down. By accepting and minimising this behaviour we send a message to our boys that it is ok.
After this event I listened to a fascinating debate on Triple J’s Hack program–
What struck me was the number of callers who justified Pearce’s behaviour with comments like “boys will be boys” and “everyone acts like a tool on Australia Day”. What does this say of our ideas of manhood, as well as our cultural alcoholism? We’re better than this.
A core need at the heart of boy psychology is acceptance; the boy is desperate to be accepted into the world of manhood and to do this he is driven to prove his worth. Traditionally this need was guided by a rite of passage where the boy is lead by his male elders through a series of training, challenge and initiation. Without this structure we have a culture of boys initiating themselves through gangs, violence, sex and drugs. This is what we see in these two cases, and in emergency rooms and police cells every weekend across the nation; boys desperate to prove their ”manhood”.
In my work I have seen this same desperate boy in the eyes of 12 year old abuse victims, 18 year old gang members, 30 year old Special Forces operatives, 40 year old CEO’s, 50 year old bikies, and of course in the mirror. I know him well.
Cole’s attackers and Mitchell Pearce made some terrible choices for which they are solely responsible and accountable. Hopefully, as I had to, they’ll do some deep inner work to correct their course. But we all have a part to play here.
Men, yes you and I, we need to step up and stop accepting a mediocre version of manhood. Lets come together and show our boys that manhood is not about who you can hurt or how much you can drink, not about how big your muscles, your dick or your bank balance is. Let’s show them that manhood is about having the balls to say no, to make a stand and speak for the voiceless, to drop the masks and own our pain and insecurities, and to serve life, love and the greater good.
And women, we’d really love your support.
It is time for us all to radically redefine our cultural meaning for “manhood” and to consciously and collectively GROW UP!