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Manliness fell upon serious hard times when modern liberalism took root. Liberalism is a two-edged sword to the manly man; its love of liberty suits him but its desire for security does not, and its often obsessive concern for the rights of others might just drive him over the edge, because others are not usually his first priority. John Stuart Mill, whom the author calls a “wimp” and a purveyor of “graduate-seminar liberalism,” believed that we must rule ourselves but never others because “liberty demands forbearance,” a quality that never mixes with thumos.
Men torn between instinct and reality became a popular theme in late 19th-century novels. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson portrays Henry Jekyll torn between the manly ideal of science, which marches on in the face of risks, and the “unmanning terror” he suffers when he realizes he has unleashed Hyde’s evil. Other novels treat the conflict with unconscious humor. H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines is about three determinedly manly Englishmen who go to Africa to search for a fabulous treasure. The trip quickly turns into a more-manly-than-thou contest with their guide, revealed to be a native king, who fears that their unmanly love of money will contaminate his tribe’s manliness. Watching the Englishmen shoot elephants for sport, the king remarks that it is unmanly to shoot animals except for food and arranges “a simple meal of roasted giraffe marrow.” Reality rears its head in the character of Alan Quartermain, one of the Englishmen, who wonders if he might be “a bit of a coward.” It is a question no manly man would ask himself, and Quartermain blames it on his “detestable habit of thinking.” Yet it is precisely his habit of thinking that gets the group safely out of the cave and back to England, where they will tell manliness stories in the comfortable confines of their club.
Mansfield is convinced that it is the conscious aim of modern life to put manliness out of business. Some of its notable successes:
1. We have replaced the manly man with the “professional,” who judges and is judged by objective criteria; substitutes “professional courtesy” for chivalry, and never punches anyone out — that would be “behaving unprofessionally.”
2. Technology has given us a high priest of rational control: the Customer Support geek.
3. “Health Awareness” (read educated hypochondria) has produced a universal desire for “a longer, less troubled life rather than a short, eventful life in the noble manner of Achilles.”
4. The rise of Meritocrats, who “let the educational system do the manly job of self-assertion for them by awarding them honors they do not have to fight for.”
5. The rise of Representatives: “…agents, lawyers, various intermediaries, are unmanly because in representing a client they discreetly avoid asserting themselves and are content with only a percentage of the reward.”
6. Commerce in general has made gain more important than victory and trade-offs more important than justice.
7. About all that is left of manliness is found in the salesman, who is still free to boast and exaggerate like the bellowing Greeks of old.
Were it not for its title, this book would sink like a stone, but precisely because of its title liberals in droves are reading it, probably through spread fingers like jurors looking at autopsy photos. I hope they don’t blot anything out because the book contains a sentence that is even better than the title, a sentence that could change America overnight, or for that matter, in a few seconds.
Cast your mind back to the stars of the feminist movement in its heyday. That was 35 years ago. They’re elderly ladies in their seventies now. We’ve already lost two of them — Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin — in the last year alone. Shocked disbelief and towering rage are bad for elderly ladies. If the surviving members of the sisterhood all read The Sentence…
The Sentence: “In my experience it is difficult for a man who is attracted to a woman not to find her cute, rather than intimidating, when she gets angry.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online