Rapists, murderers, thieves, sadists, psychos, hustlers, adulterers, cheaters, gangsters, corrupt politicians, tax dodgers, bribe-taking cops, paedophiles, greedy business owners, and more. We know that lots of people, especially women, can find reasons to despise a man, but that’s the point. He’s just one man and not all men. And I doubt that one man is all bad at everything so please give all men a break.
A colleague recently shared an experience she had with a client. As a counselling psychologist her job involves addressing bad news and working with people to get out of a rut. On providing positive feedback to the parents of a client, she noted their dismay.
They left her with a warning. “That’s not the real John!” So my colleague responds, “So if that’s not the real John, because I saw the good, are you suggesting that John is bad, and capable of nothing else?”
Well that’s exactly what they were suggesting. Seeing the positive in a man can be hard in this world, and who can blame those amongst us with this phobia of men-folk? Pick up the newspaper and look for good news, just try it. If there were good news, how much of it could you actually read without being bored out of your wits? The drama and bad news culture of the media piques our interest, but for what reasons exactly? I am not entirely sure, but we have to put it into its context. The knowledge that some men are violent or would engage in crime, doesn’t provide evidence that all men would respond identically to similar social situations.
Look at the case of Damien O’Garro – a young talented carpenter put behind bars for the murder of Maria Felix. The killing went down over $200 that O’Garro owed Felix for sexual services she rendered to him.
Taking life away is arguably never acceptable, and I feel for them both. I believe they are both victims. I have never met O’Garro, but I am sincerely sorry that no one briefed him on Bruce’s Night Club and sex workers. I am equally sorry that Felix had to be put in such a position to generate an income.
The case is sad, and O’Garro did wrong, maybe even Felix did wrong based on the OBSERVER’s weekend news, but is he a bad man because he killed? Or is he a human that committed a terrible act? I would go with the latter. What is crucial is identifying ways to help men to avoid falling into such incriminating situations.
My introduction of a few negative labels some men wear from time to time is not an accident. We wear these disgusting labels to fit into, and live up to, a prescribed gender identity, and sometimes it is a result of taking masculinity way too seriously. It begins with the fact that few men are ever nurtured by their family to just ‘be’ humane. To this day, we live on an island where mothers police their peers to toughen up their sons.
O’Garro’s ability to kill shocked many. And his lawyer rightfully chose to present a case for his generally good character. Those of us who work in human development appreciate the challenges involved in changing behaviour and it begins by acknowledging and seeing the positive and potential in all of us, just as my colleague did with her client.
What’s unfortunate is that I didn’t really read about O’Garro’s character outside of him being a diligent student and skilled craftsman. I would have loved to read about his ability to address conflict, like the one he was faced with. I would have liked to read about his relationships with women, as told by a man and a woman. Because it seems like men are likely to falter the most in this aspect of our lives. The personal and emotional aspects of life seem to stress us out more than an abusive employer.
I hear parents speak, and it’s sad to hear them being peer pressured into roughing up their sons: “If you don’t toughen him up, he won’t survive as a boy.” This was the advice given to the mother of a five-year-old. I am perplexed by this logic of following trends that are obviously a highway to social catastrophe. Why don’t parents meet to discuss what their kids are talking to them about, or the types of behaviours they are observing in their children?
Gender policing is real. I remember another colleague, professor David Plummer, undertaking research on young men in Trinidad and highlighting that adolescent boys are most influenced by their peer groups. So what boys need are role models to follow, and as men, we are responsible for setting an example for them.
If we can help kids to pressure their friends to exercise humane behaviour characterised by fairness to all and self determination, as opposed to following trends, it can go a long way to turning things around from barbarism to humanism.