Chest-thumping vs. honor and nobility

It’s worth remembering, when we are surrounded by all this thrusting masculinity, what substantive manliness once looked like. For example, 2,400 years ago the Greeks had a more fully developed vision of manliness than anything we see in or around the White House today.

The Trump administration is certainly giving us an education in the varieties of wannabe manliness.

There is the slovenly “I don’t care what you think” manliness of Steve Bannon. There’s the look-at-me-I-can-curse manliness that Anthony Scaramucci learned from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” There is the affirmation-hungry “I long to be the man my father was” parody of manliness performed by Donald Trump. There are all those authentically manly Marine generals Trump hires to supplement his own. There’s Trump’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin and the firing of insufficiently manly Reince Priebus.

With this crowd, it’s man-craving all the way down.

It’s worth remembering, when we are surrounded by all this thrusting masculinity, what substantive manliness once looked like. For example, 2,400 years ago the Greeks had a more fully developed vision of manliness than anything we see in or around the White House today.

Greek manliness started from a different place than ours does now. For the ancient Greeks, it would have been incomprehensible to count yourself an alpha male simply because you can run a trading floor or sell an apartment because you gilded a faucet handle.

For them, real men defended or served their city, or performed some noble public service. Braying after money was the opposite of manliness. For the Greeks, that was just avariciousness, an activity that shrunk you down into a people-pleasing marketer or hollowed you out because you pursued hollow things.

The Greeks admired what you might call spiritedness. The spirited man defies death in battle, performs deeds of honor and is respected by those whose esteem is worth having.

The classical Greek concept of manliness emphasizes certain traits. The bedrock virtue is courage. The manly man puts himself on the line and risks death and criticism. The manly man is assertive. He does not hang back but instead wades into any fray. The manly man is competitive. He looks for ways to compete with others, to demonstrate his prowess and to be the best. The manly man is self-confident. He knows his own worth. But he is also touchy. He is outraged if others do not grant him the honor…

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