Perhaps that’s the problem with ISIS and Vladimir Putin: not enough modern men in the ranks of their faithful, making cute lists to describe themselves.
On the theory that actual “men” won’t want to read about this for very long, I’ll try to be brief here.
I recommend reading this list published by the New York Times for yourself, to save time. The very fact that it’s a list of sort of hip-sounding, random-seeming things is a dead give-away that the list isn’t really about being a “man.” It’s about adopting an ironic pose, as an opening position in a social negotiation. It’s about caring, for no good reason, what people think of you. It’s about preemptively deconstructing things that most people know better than to think anyway.
In short, it’s the kind of list you find in Glamour or In Style magazine, geared to women in their 20s and 30s. Women, especially younger women, love such lists – not as holy writ (women are smarter than that), but as passing entertainment.
Guys tend to think of a list of 27 things as either (a) a set of instructions, which they were only going to half-read anyway (and which was probably written by some non-native speaker of whichever language they’re trying to work in), or (b) the set-up for a late-night joke.
When men think about what a man is, their “lists” tend to be very short and to the point. A man is most likely, in fact, to have a simple creed; e.g., “Your word is your bond.”
The creed means too much to him, to ramble and get perilously verbose about it. Descriptions that start getting into weird areas of extraneous detail (the brand name of your oxfords??) are for – well, we’re a family publication, so I’ll leave that to your imagination. Let’s say the feminists wouldn’t like it.
Men do care what others think of them. But they care for their own reasons, which tend to number very few and be predictable. They aren’t interested in other people defining hoops for them to jump through, as regards approval or prestige.
Brian Lombardi betrays with his list, however, that he does worry about jumping through other people’s hoops. He’s defined the modern man, effectively, as a co-dependent poseur.
To me, that implication, in his list of things that define the “modern man,” is of the greatest concern as the world falls apart around us.
Sure, Lombardi talks about the modern man having “no use for a gun,” and refusing to own one, and it’s way easy to key on that to the exclusion of everything else. But that aspect of the modern man – if Lombardi has him pegged correctly – is a symptom, not the disease.
The disease is that this modern guy can never – never – be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Frederick Douglass, or Ze’ev Jabotinsky, or George Washington or Thomas More, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca or St. Francis, Charles Martel or Scipio Africanus, or Epaminondas or Paul of Tarsus or Joshua. He’s too busy worrying about whether anonymous third parties think he embodies the house-husbandly virtues of cell-phone charging and dry-dish stowing.
With the entire last century of Western order being blown off the board as we speak, we’re going to have more use for men with simple creeds than men who use brain cells to write about what they wear to collect crisp newsprint off the driveway.
Not all of the men we can use will carry guns. They know better than to measure a man by such faddish litmus tests.
The good news is that we do have such men in America today. They don’t care if they’re modern or not. The framework of modern dialogue doesn’t give them much scope for speaking up, in fact. That’s a knock on modern dialogue.
They don’t make lists of their traits, as if life is a performance-art demonstration of a dating-site profile. They tend to like fishing and car-chase movies more than I do. And God bless ‘em, every one. I think they’re about to come back into style, big time.