“The state grows by family failure. The ideologies that make for an all-competent state demand family failure and call it freedom.” These are the sobering words of writer and professor Anthony Esolen, whose new book, “No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men,” argues that the collapse of a strong and effective understanding of manhood has hurt the well-being not only of men but of women and children too.
Consider, for example, the current breakdown of female sports. Because men and women have been increasingly viewed as interchangeable, the separation between male and female sporting events has eroded, meaning that it is now acceptable for biological males to compete against females. Women, of course, pay the price. For it is not merely that men are stronger and taller, but as Esolen points out:
“A man’s heart is twice as big as the woman’s, and it fills his blood with more oxygen; if they’re both in reasonably good shape, a man will not flag as quickly as a woman. He sweats much more freely than she does, cooling his body faster. He has a greater margin for loss. Five pounds of water for him are all in a day’s work. The same loss would be perilous for her. Sweating off three pounds of water would put her at risk of fainting.”
Now, most people recognize the obvious differences between men and women in athletics, but it seems to generate less attention these days with regard to putting women in some of the most dangerous and physically demanding positions in our military. But be that as it may, there are many other arenas in which men and women differ from one another. These tend to be ignored or outright denied nowadays.
One such area concerns vision. According to Esolen, “men do not see colors with the same boldness that women do. Women do not see things in distant and coordinated motion as keenly as men do. Men often miss the trees for the forest. Women often miss the forest for the trees.”
Further, women can more effectively interpret other people’s emotions than men. That is why the mother is more important to the newborn baby. It is not simply that her body provides the sustenance, but that she sees more deeply into the human person, into the baby who depends on her. The man’s vision, by contrast, tends to “systematize, to abstract from the individual, to grasp at the whole.” Essentially, he is more adept at looking out for the family as a unit, while she is better equipped to take intimate care of its members.
This certainly challenges our modern assumption about the sameness of men and women. But given our high divorce rate and the widespread breakdown of the family, perhaps there is wisdom here, even if it strikes us as uncomfortable, and even if it is not the case for every family.
Furthermore, Esolen argues that men and women also differ in their inner strength. While women have moral strength, “expressed most powerfully in patient endurance and unshakable loyalty to the people they love,” men’s strength lies in seeking adventure and conquest for the “safety for others, at the cost of safety for himself.”
Esolen does not merely mean that men thrive in the pursuit of external conquest, but they thrive in the pursuit of internal conquest and self-denial. An example of this is Todd Beamer, who led an ambush of the terrorists who hijacked Flight 93 on 9/11, which caused the plane to crash in the desolate fields of Pennsylvania rather than the busy Capitol of the nation. Before uttering his famous last words, “Let’s roll,” Beamer called the telephone operator, Lisa Jefferson, and prayed Psalm 23. He did this, notes Esolen, “because he wanted to spare his wife the immediate shock, as she was expecting a child.”
Beamer personifies male strength for “both the fineness of his sensitivity and the fact that he denied himself the comfort of speaking to his wife, for her sake.”
This virtue — of men conquering instead of succumbing to their emotions — is lost on those who encourage boys to let themselves cry, to let their emotions run free. Telling boys to freely express their emotions denies them the growth that they might experience by conquering their passions. In fact, males who express their unrestrained emotions tend to cause societal breakdown.
“Go to the most dysfunctional regions of our society,” suggests Esolen, “and you will behold boys and men who express their feelings quite freely: feelings of wrath, vengeance, lust, cruelty, delight in destruction. Before we tell men that they should express their feelings all the time, we might ask first what those feelings are likely to be.”
When men are left free to indulge their emotions and shirk their duties, women and children suffer the consequence, and the state becomes a substitute. And when the state becomes a substitute, men become less needed, meaning that the family further fragments. This, in turn, calls forth more government, and the cycle continues. Hence why the tens of trillions of dollars of welfare spending in the name of “freedom” and “equality” have not only failed to reduce poverty but have helped promote the disintegration of the family, especially in minority communities.
This, of course, is no surprise to those who understand the importance of the strength of men to a flourishing society. But for anyone who has doubts, “No Apologies” does a fine job of explaining why.