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An Ode to the Barber Shop

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Isn’t it amazing just how much of our lives we take for granted? The vast majority of us have never really taken into consideration the organizational effort that goes into running a local library or operating a small business. Like most of us, I have eaten at pubs, borrowed library books, and gotten my haircut without giving a second thought to the little intricacies that make such things possible. Then my barber decided to retire.

If I’m honest, learning that John, my barber of over five years, had decided to retire threw me in a loop. The prospect of finding a decent, skilled barber who could deal with my thick, wavy hair seemed virtually insurmountable. The truth is that the relationship John and I had ran deeper than just mere haircuts. Our friendship was based on a familiarity built over a number of years. John knew my hair and knew how I liked it. And I had the honour of having my hair cut by a man who had been barbering since the mid-sixties, and who was a pillar of his community.

John was one of a dying breed: the traditional barber. They offered men a haircut and, perhaps, a shave (occupational health and safety not withstanding), and little else. These barber shops were usually small and run by only a few men. They had built personal relationships with their clients over a number of years. These barbers knew their customers, knew their backgrounds, and knew how they liked their hair. (Naturally, this was dependent on clients returning to the same barber year after year, month after month).

The traditional barber is a relic of a bygone age. Whenever I think of old-fashioned barber shops, I think of the 1920s to the 1950s, of a world of glamour and sophistication when ladies wore evening dresses and men had neat hair and wore dinner jackets. When I think of old-fashioned barber shops, I think of the Rat Pack and James Bond and the movie stars of the 1930s to the 1950s. For me, the old-fashioned barber shop is synonymous with timeless male style.

Sadly, society no longer believes in style, glamour, and sophistication. The traditional barber shop has given way to a cruder, wannabe variety. These establishments are more masculinised hair dressing salons than proper barber shops. These places think that by offering cheap haircuts in an atmosphere immersed in masculine nostalgia – usually achieved through wood paneling, empty Jack Daniels bottles, and pictures of men doing “manly” things – they can achieve the mantle of the traditional barber shop.

The truth is that they can’t. Gruff looking barbers with arms covered in tattoos are about as far away as one can get from the dapper gentlemen who cut men’s hair in the past. When I walk out of the barber, I want to look and feel like Cary Grant, not like a thug. John made that happen for me. He and his kind are vanishing rapidly. They will be missed.

Whatever Happened to Personal Responsibility

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There is an old adage which states that you do not know how big a tree is until you try and cut it down. Today, as cultural forces slowly destroy it, we are beginning to understand that the same thing can be said about personal responsibility.

Society no longer believes that people ought to bear their suffering with dignity and grace. Rather, it now believes that the problems of the individual ought to be made the problems of the community. Individual problems are no longer the consequence of individual decisions, but come as the result of race, gender, class, and so forth.

The result of this move towards collective responsibility has been the invention of victim culture. According to this culture, non-whites are the victims of racism and white privilege, women are the victims of the patriarchy, homosexuals are the victims of a heteronormative society.

The 20th century is a perfect example of what happens when responsibility is taken from the hands of the individual and placed in the hands of the mob. The twin evils of communism and Nazism – which blamed the problems of the individual on economic and racial factors, respectively – led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Furthermore, such ideologies led otherwise decent individuals to commit acts of unspeakable violence. Whilst observing the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a former SS soldier who had been one of the architects of the Holocaust, the writer, Hannah Arendt was struck by the “banality of evil” that had characterised German war atrocities. Arendt noted that the men who conspired to commit genocide were not raving lunatics foaming at the mouth, but rather dull individuals inspired to commit evil due to a sense of duty to a toxic and corrupt ideology.

The Bolsheviks taught the Russian people that their misfortune had been caused by the wealthy. And that the wealth was gained through theft and exploitation. Likewise, the Nazis convinced the German people that their problems could be blamed on the Jews. It is not difficult to see how this philosophy led, step by step, to the gulags and the concentration camps.

The same thing is happening today. The only difference is that those who play it have become more sophisticated. Today people are encouraged to identify with identity groups ranked by so-called social privilege. Then they are taught to despise those with more social privilege than them.

Under this philosophy, crime is not caused by the actions of the individual, but by social forces like poverty, racism, and upbringing. Advocates claim that women should not be forced to take responsibility for their sexual behaviour by allowing them to essentially murder their unborn children. Sexually transmitted diseases like HIV is caused by homophobia rather than immoral and socially irresponsible behaviour. And alcoholism and drug addiction are treated as a disease rather than a behaviour the addict is supposed to take responsibility for. The list is endless.

Personal responsibility helps us take control of our lives. It means that the individual can take a certain amount of control over his own life even when the obstacles he is facing seem insurmountable.

No one, least of all me, is going to argue that individuals don’t face hardships that are not their fault. What I am going to argue, however, is that other people will respect you more if you take responsibility for your problems, especially if those problems are not your fault. Charity for aids sufferers, the impoverished, or reformed criminals is all perfectly acceptable. But we only make their plight worse by taking their personal responsibility from them.

Responsibility justifies a person’s life and helps them find meaning in their suffering. Central to the Christian faith is the idea that individuals are duty bound to bear their suffering with dignity and grace and to struggle towards being a good person. To force a man to take responsibility for himself is to treat him as one of God’s creations.

You cannot be free if other people have to take responsibility for your decisions. When you take responsibility from the hands of the individual you tarnish his soul and steal his freedom.

Freedom from responsibility is slavery, not freedom. Freedom is the ability to make decisions according to the dictates of own’s own conscience and live with the consequences of that decision. Freedom means having the choice to engage in the kind immoral behaviour that leads to an unwanted pregnancy or AIDS. What it does not do is absolve you from responsibility for those actions. Slavery disguised as kindness and compassion is still slavery.

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO TREAT DIVORCE AND FATHERLESSNESS AS THE ISSUE IT REALLY IS?

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Since the sexual revolution, society’s attitudes towards sex and the family have been shifting more and more to the left. Today’s sexual philosophy has its roots in the prevailing social forces of the 1960s and 1970s. These forces have challenged the traditional institutions of monogamous marriage and the traditional family, seeking to replace them with their own utopian values.

The introduction of No Fault Divorce in America in 1970 signalled the most immediate sign of the cultural shift. Previously, people got married young and stayed married. Divorce was a social taboo. Shifting cultural philosophies and changing laws have altered this reality. Conservative commentator and Daily Wire editor, Ben Shapiro, blames the rise of divorce on a lack of religious fervour among young people, and the existence of a ‘divorce culture’ which celebrates serial monogamy and single parenthood.

A natural consequence of the decline of monogamous marriage and the traditional household has been the rise of the single parent family. In the past children were born within the confines of marriage. This is no longer the case, as statistical comparisons reveal: in 2015, 40.2% of live births were to unwed mothers, compared to only 5.30% in 1960. Similarly, in the United Kingdom in 2013, 46.5% of children were born to unwed mothers, compared to 11% in 1979. In 2014, a Pew Research poll found that fewer than half of American kids lived in a home with their mother and father, compared to sixty-one percent in 1980, and seventy-three percent in 1960. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, it is believed that a quarter of all families are single parent families.

Of course, single parent families are never going to be a concern for the left. The traditional family represents an obstacle to the vision of socialist utopia the left holds so dear because individuals care more about their own families than they do about the wider community. Furthermore, it is much more difficult for the state to control a woman who has the financial, social, and emotional support of a loving husband. As Ben Shapiro notes: “the left is never going to recognise that broken families are a problem because it is one of the goals of the left to break families. Historically speaking, if you read [Karl] Marx and [Friedrich] Engels [authors of the Communist Manifesto], they do not like the traditional family, they think that the traditional family is a bulwark against an overarching, brutal state.”

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A further manifestation of the decline of monogamous marriage and the traditional family has been the increase in fatherless children. Fathers today have been relegated to the role of ‘accessory parent.’ We no longer recognise the spiritual and psychological influence fathers have on their children. As a consequence, fathers are considered people children spend time with on designated visitation days rather than a permanent and necessary influence in their lives. The consequences of this attitude have been disastrous.

Psychologically, children from single parent and fatherless families are more likely to suffer cognitive, social, and emotional problems and are more likely to be emotionally, physically, or sexually abused. Fatherless children often struggle with their emotions and suffer episodic bouts of self-loathing along with a diminished sense of self and a lack of emotional and physical security. Many fatherless children have reported feeling abandoned because their fathers were not in their lives. No wonder drug and alcohol use and rates of incarceration soar in children whose fathers are absent.

Fatherless children also suffer socially: not only in the wider community but in their personal relationships as well. Children are often left to fend for themselves because their sole parent and breadwinner is away from home. This has several consequences: it forces the child to take on adult roles prematurely. Older siblings are expected to take care of younger siblings, and younger siblings are expected to learn from their older siblings. Young boys often feel the need to assert themselves and take on the role of the “man of the house” causing power struggles between himself and his mother. Girls often feel more maternal earlier in life (especially when they’ve been tasked with looking after younger siblings). As adults, these children struggle to maintain long-term relationships and, in a cruel twist of fate, are more likely to end up divorced or as single parents themselves. Both men and women are more likely to engage in promiscuous behaviour. A natural consequence of this is an increased risk of pregnancy in teenage girls. Often they struggle to raise their own children because they do not have two parents upon which to base their parenting style. In the wider scheme of things, fatherless children are more likely to struggle at school and drop out.

Economically, they are significantly more likely to suffer economic disadvantage and, in extreme cases, outright poverty (including homelessness). As a result, many of these children live in poorer neighbourhoods, struggle to have their basic needs met, and are disadvantaged in school. As adults, fatherless children are four times more likely to experience long-term unemployment, remain welfare dependent, and have low incomes.

It should be clear that our current relationship system is not working. We must destroy the cancerous influences of feminism and Marxism in the social sphere. We must use cultural means – media, TV shows, movies, novels, magazines, etc. – to properly educate the masses about relationships and sex. On the legal and political front, divorce must be made harder to obtain. No Fault divorce, a cancerous law, must be replaced with a system of Fault Divorce which is fair to both men and women, and which dignifies and upholds the integrity of the institution of marriage.