In contemplation of this article I found myself reflecting on the days before pubes. When to be a pre-pubescent boy meant my thuggish, selfish behaviour would simply be dismissed as “boys will be boys”. Coming home with another bruise, a torn shirt or perhaps tales of a crush on a girl at school. I was dealt with as if my boyhood was to be cherished. It was so innocent.
The awkward pubescent-adolescent phase is far less fun. Relentless stiffies, the never ending search to figure out what girls like, which tribe I belong to and just what the hell do I do with all these stiffies?!? Though turbulent and practically always clumsy, at this age male behaviour is still mostly written off as somewhat adorable, silly, immature. A great time for making mistakes. Then at approximately age 19, the boy has graduated with some grace in to a taller, muscular version of himself and the mind has focussed. Time to be a man!
Before going further I must insist on laying out a non-professional disclaimer. This is all speculation based on experience and fragmented knowledge gathered over my years. It is not to be taken as fact. Research on these issues is available to be found. Please, if this topic tickles your interest, get reading or start listening to those you trust. It is potentially the great social movement of the 2010s.
Back to the man statement. Give the chest hair a scruff, put on your favourite money making uniform, head out to the big bad world and bring home some bacon. Sensing a bit of pressure yet? Only the whole community is leaning on you. The next generation of young workplace warriors. What shall you contribute? Want some relief? Don’t suppose a beer or two would help? Get where this is going?
It is my personal belief, and one shared by both men and women I look up to, that the young man is the most misunderstood creature in our community. The wild animal, lustful and violent. The great scapegoat of so many community ails. Drunk driver. Binge drinker. Woman basher. Street brawler. Coward puncher. And the relentless question: “how can we protect everyone from these foul animals”. Lock-out drinking laws, heavier drink driving fines, more security cameras, mandatory prison sentences for drug users and abusers and yet the problem keeps getting worse.
But wait a minute. More of these young men are killing themselves than they are falling victim to each other. Maybe, just maybe, there is more to this picture. Time to shift a cultural perspective? It’s been done before.
For example: in Portugal, a nation wide social experiment took place where all illicit substance use and personal possession was decriminalised. A treatment plan was adopted for problem users. They were given purpose, support and re-introduced into the community as recovering patients rather than guilty, unemployable outcasts. What was the result? Fandamntastic is what it was. Do yourself a favour and check what the chief of police had to say about the success of this venture.
There are comparisons which can be made between our modern communities vs that of, say, the 1950’s view on homosexuality, women’s rites, cigarettes… the list goes on. So now can it please be time to open the discussion about how we can come to better understand the working of the young male?
For instance, what is happening biologically at this early era of development? Testosterone and dangerous amounts of it is what’s happening. The sort of dosages that elite athletes use to enhance performance beyond standard human capacity. I’ve been that guy. I remember that boost. Like mild amphetamines charging through the veins. Eight foot tall and bulletproof. And being exhausted from establishing my status in occupation, I used beer and rum to relax on weekends, when what I really needed was some camomile tea and some fucking yoga.
Though I’ve come through to the softer end of young male-mindedness as a thirty-something, the web of mistrust still clings to me. Young women interrogate me for the likeliness that I could be that guy who assaults them. The community discourages me being near a child on my own. But if I sit down with a cold beer and a ready cheer for the local rugby team then other men will take me in safely for as long as I need.
I hope that you feel comfortable taking this chat to your work colleagues, gossip circle or bingo night buddies. Think of the young men you know and ask “are they really just stupid brutish fools with nothing but violence and substance abuse in their hearts?” Or perhaps, these behaviours which have long since surpassed the friendly categorisation of “boys will be boys” are a complex culmination of community pressure, undiagnosed mental health issues and victimisation due to accusation rather than a desire of understanding and integrating.
The role of the young male in any healthy family unit, social circle and greater community is one which ought to be celebrated and not feared or assumed. And get excited, because the education is happening, the rites of passage programs are being adopted. The research is being gathered, the support groups are forming. Happy seeking blankers and blankettes. Peace.