Autumn Fundraiser 2013, Day 4
Our quarterly bleg is moving into its fourth day, and the readers of Gates of Vienna are proving to be an uncommonly open-handed bunch. If the current trend continues, we should be able to make it all the way through
Christmas Winter Festival to Shrove Tuesday Carnival of Drunken Debauchery without having to worry about the wolf at the door.
You’ve heard of living from paycheck to paycheck? Well, this is living from fundraiser to fundraiser. And it’s not anxiety-inducing, for some reason. My motto: “Sufficient unto the quarter is the evil thereof.”
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This week’s theme is “culture and traditions”. Today I’d like to focus on a particular tradition that used to be very common, but seems to be rapidly disappearing: the instilling of manly virtues by a father in his son.
By “manly virtues” I don’t mean physical strength, fighting prowess, and skill with firearms, although these are very important. Rather than behaviors, I’m thinking of a set of character traits, habits of mind that are drilled into a boy early and often so that they become part of the young man’s being, and define who he is.
For these virtues to be passed down from father to son, generation after generation, each son must have a father. A grandfather, uncle, or stepfather may be able to do the job when required, provided that bonding is strong enough, and occurs early in the boy’s life. But nothing beats the blood tie between a father and son as the most effective source of cultural transmission.
The postmodern age has cast away the role of the father in many instances. Boys who grow up without fathers, or with fathers largely absent, often lack those vital manly virtues as a result. Inadequately socialized boys constitute a culture-wide epidemic. It’s a sort of mass vitamin deficiency of the soul.
Below is a partial list of crucial manly traits, compiled from a very personal perspective. I think it’s important to chronicle these virtues before they disappear entirely, as the culture jettisons the time-hallowed traditions of masculinity.
1. Keeping your word
In wasn’t all that long ago that a failure to keep his word was a source of the greatest possible shame for a man, at least in European cultures. A man’s word was his bond, and an oath-breaker was considered the lowest of the low, worse than an animal. This was one of the fundamental components of honor, European-style.
When we had an addition built onto our house twenty years ago, the contractor and I drew up the plans together, and then shook hands on the deal. For one reason or another we neglected to actually sign the contract until the job was almost done. But he kept his word, and I kept mine: he built the addition exactly according to the plans, and I wrote the checks exactly on schedule.
The handshake was enough.
This was once a common practice in the United States. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoirs of life on the American frontier preserve a vivid account of the days when such contracts were the norm — they had to be, because in those sparsely-populated territories on the edge of Indian country, a handshake and a rifle were the only things holding civilization together.
But that was then, and this is now. Keeping one’s word is rapidly becoming passé, a quaint atavism, a relic of times gone by. Mendacity and treachery are celebrated. The clever liar is often a hero in pop culture. Whether in marriage, friendship, employment, or personal debt, the keeping of a promise is becoming more and more optional.
Since patterns of personal behavior are passed on to the political sphere, it’s no wonder that our politics have become so degraded.