Where Have All The Warriors Gone?

The consequences are part of the appeal, and character comes of consequence.

There’s a line in Fight Club that says, “We are a generation of men raised by women.”  That’s not quite the problem.

One of the big perks of living in the world of dedicated climbers and skiers is the opportunity to meet men and women of good character.  Sure, there are a lot of jokers at high levels of both sports whose main and honest reason for participation is that they get to claim themselves as participants, that they get to tell others that they’re a climber, or a skier, who is, by the way, awesome.  But, for the most part, the people who are drawn to sports of commitment seem to be those of solid values who push themselves against risk to further their self-knowledge and feed their sense of adventure.

I call this a perk because it’s uncommon to find such people at large in the rest of the world.  This is especially true of men.  At a concert that I attended last night, I was frankly a bit shocked to see that the wall flowers glued defensively to the sides of the venue were all men.  That doesn’t jive with the traditional image of the shy girl off to the side, waiting to be drawn onto the floor by a confident man.  That doesn’t jive because the gender in question seems to be losing its collective confidence.

The evidence against us isn’t limited to the walls of concert venues.  In my conversations with women, a common theme arises when we talk about their troubles finding partners.  Sure, there are plenty of men out there, but they all act like boys.  For women dating men in their early twenties, this isn’t all that surprising, and is maybe even excusable, but the theme extends to gents in their thirties and even their forties.  In short, they’re either egoistic to a fault, or more commonly, they’re needy, lack confidence, and can’t keep up a mature relationship.

Here in Salt Lake City, this effect is particularly pronounced, and I suspect that it’s because of the predominant Mormon culture.  Mormons, like most religions, have prescriptive rules of behavior phrased mostly in the negative: no sex before marriage, no drinking, no drugs, hell, even no coffee.  But more so than many religions (in my experience) the Mormons have a dominating social and family structure that effectively enforces these rules.  As a result, their kids don’t have the opportunity to make many mistakes– the culture preempts the opportunity.

Though the intentions behind this Mormon culture are pure, they do their children a disservice because mistakes are a crucial source of self knowledge.  The small modicum of maturity and self-awareness that I have was in part passed on to me by my relations, but in much larger and more effective part was earned through more stupid and painful mistakes than I can count.  The crucial difference between a lesson ‘learned’ through the telling and one learned through personal error is that the truth of the latter is proved by personal experience and so carries more personal weight.

This phenomenon of the protective culture isn’t limited to Mormons, but extends also to the rest of the country, and likely to the whole first world.  I use the Mormons as an example above simply because the effect is most pronounced in a limit case like theirs.  I mean, hell, the very idea of suburbia is to protect families and their children from the pitfalls of urban life, and the modern city has come to look a lot like an oversized suburb.

This is a long way of saying that modern men aren’t quite “a generation of men raised by women”, but they are a generation raised by those who don’t see the value of danger and the opportunity to make mistakes.  As a result, maturity is a long time in coming.  Moreover, I think that this sheltering is also a side-effect of the shelving of certain values by our parents’ generation as perhaps less important than others.  The values I’m talking about are courage, self- awareness, integrity, and self-sufficiency, as these are the character traits that seem to be most lacking in younger men.  If these four traits are valued highly by a parent, then the usefulness of danger, the necessity of mistakes, and most importantly, the value of allowing a young adult self-determination will all three be a given, because all three are needed to develop the valued traits.

The consequence of this collective, and likely subconscious, failure is that men are looking a lot like boys.  On the flip side, women have come into their own over the past few generations as an equal and soon to be superior sex.  This is fantastic, and I fully support women’s rights… despite how news articles and statistics frequently make it seem, the two genders needn’t vie for power, but can each improve in their own right.  Right now, women seem to be strongly self-developing, though there are certainly many fronts that still need to be advanced.  I simply think that it’s time to turn our collective male attention towards raising men, instead of large children.

I can’t do much until I raise children of my own, so I implore you, men, to learn now what may not have been taught to you:  Learn to see your own fear, learn to act in spite of it, learn the true meaning of strength; learn to be vulnerable, and most of all, learn to please a woman.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

-from Wendell Berry’s
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front Manifesto

Category: Adventures, Travel, & Writing



  1. Interesting… and, btw, beautiful photo. I am LDS, though not raised necessarily in it and definitely not a Utah Mormon. I’d say I’m pretty liberal about my beliefs and such. I’ve gone in and out of activity, held strong to my basic beliefs though, whether practicing or not because they are things I personally believe in. And I think that is where the difference is. In my experience a lot of the guys who are strict to the religion are pretty mature. Not meaning the ones who just know the “rules” but the ones who take the spirit of their religion to heart- the ones that it actually means something to rather than just a culture. I think it’s all a matter of who you know, though. Just an opinion 😉 I appreciate you voicing yours and reading your words.

  2. Gina,
    Thanks for your response…I don’t know how this one slipped past my attention. I don’t hold anything against the LDS church, and simply wanted to use it was an example that was close to my mind. I hope that the distinction that I made was clear; that it’s not the moral systems that are creating the problem that I outline above, but the protectiveness of the culture, be it LDS or other. Practically any modern value system encourages its members to find security, stability, etc. which aren’t inherently wrong, unless they prevent and preempt the opportunity for folks to learn on the ground.

    Two counter examples come to mind. The first: Zen buddhism, in which practitioners are encouraged to listen to Dharma talks and to the meditation instructions, and to have some measure of faith that it’s solid and will take them where they want to go. On the other hand, equal weight is given to questioning the Dharma and each practitioner is encouraged to discover the truth of each thing for themselves, in light of their own experience on the cushion and out in the world.

    The second: the Amish. The Amish have a huge litany of rules that cover all aspects of daily life from prayer to the use of social security. nevertheless, the give each member the opportunity to go out into the world for a year as they come of age and to do as they please. The amish abroad drink, party, break all the rules, and remarkably, in large numbers return to the value system, having had the chance to see it’s value for themselves.

    And I give you this: most of the mormons that I know are in their twenties, and likely haven’t had a lot of time as an adult to find how their personal beliefs agree or clash with the LDS system. Maybe with more time, I’ll see a change.

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