The Jungian psychoanalyst Marie-Louise Von Franz wrote a compelling book about men who have big bodies but remain children. Such men are often the life of the party, charming, at least at first. Then they tire of you (insert “children”; “wives”; “girl friends”; “friends”) and jump ship (insert “leave home”; “skip town”) and find a new circle to hoodwink. While I know of no studies linking these “flying boys” (Von Franz’s term) with sexual assault, it’s a good bet that groping, rape, violence, and child abuse are all parts of their embodied politic.
So I’m in mind of these matters post election, 2016. In mind of boys who stay boys, embittered, predatory, loud, bullying. In mind of America’s contemporary addiction to public relations and self-branding, both of which are deeply tied to the “boy-man complex.” Every journalist or public intellectual in America who covers local, state, or national politics, human rights or business, or sports, or yes, higher education, should read Von Franz’s book about the terrifying reality and devastating consequences of the boy-man epidemic.
Anais Niin once said: “I hate men who are afraid of women’s strength.” Without knowing it she was referring to flying boys. At the risk of sounding like Robert Bly, true men are aware of their failings and capable of bravely addressing them. For my money, what little I may have, what’s so disturbing about Trumpism is it’s fealty to collective, loud, masculine weakness. Bigotry and bullying belong to the ten year old boy or the “mean girls” who emulate them.
So what does blogging mean in the age of Trump? Say you’re a human rights activist and modestly recognized public figure, a poet, someone who believes in the American intellectual tradition of John Dewey and Doris Lessing. The morning after Trump’s victory I thought of these lines from Lessing’s Golden Notebook:
“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”
What does blogging mean now? To stay more robust and individual and when you’re encouraged to leave, do so in the quest of your own best education rather than adhering obediently to the narrow and particular needs of dominant culture. Trumpists believe this is what they’ve done, that they’ve bravely taken on fictional “elites” but they’ve merely leaned into the spit of baby boy adolescence. Spit is the language of resentments and playground canards.
Gloria Steinem (who is not without her flaws as I am not without my own) said: “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.”
Sisterhood yes. And grown men. More of Steinem: “Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.” Is it too much to expect our nation’s boys to grow into individuated free thinking men? No.
I will continue to blog in the service of this very idea.