The Myth of Strong Men
“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”
This quote has been popularized on social media and misattributed and often botched by its users as an accurate account of the history and the potential downfall of society at the hands of so-called “weak men” or as other interlocutors like to call them, “sissified men.”
The quote stems from a post-apocalyptic book series called Those Who Remain written by U.S. combat veteran, G. Michael Hopf. Whether Hopf coined the phrase or popularized it in his series is irrelevant. What plagues our modern mind is how a quote uttered in a fictional tale about the end of civilization has become a pseudo-axiom accepted and disseminated by “strong men” types who use it to promote their ultra-masculine, super-cool, military-combat-man in an age of peace styled marketing ploy for men experiencing mid-life crises who need a place to belong and a cause to promote.
There does not exist a better time nor a more fertile environment for a middle-aged man and young men without a greater altruistic purpose in life to find refuge in a movement that disparages people as a way to unite its adherents.
I’ve worked for a physician who specialized in endocrinology and most of his patients were mainly people dealing with diabetes, thyroid complications, or men who stopped by for testosterone shots. Not that it’s bad to re-up on testosterone or to restore chemical balance to a man’s life but some of the men seemed fit, muscular, and active, almost as if the shots they paid hundreds of dollars for were more of a drug to help them accomplish something in life that they lacked than it was a medical necessity.
Men tend to have a decrease in testosterone production or secretion once they turn 30 and the amount released into the body after that age decreases with time. Now, you must understand that this is natural. There is nothing abnormal about your body slowing down with time. It happens to everyone until we are in the grave.
Now, being part of a society where men see decreased testosterone levels as a potential indicator of the feminization of men is disheartening. Men still produce estrogen but the volume of that hormone in our bodies is so low, so minuscule that it is pointless to spend time fretting about the possibility that you’ll develop breasts and more absurd thinking you’ll secrete milk from them should you develop them in the first place. Nearly impossible but not entirely impossible considering our genetic makeup and the similarities in anatomical and physiological makeup we share with biological women.
Regardless, there is this unsubstantiated fear that men are losing their manhood as if to say that men who are not strong anymore are not men at all.
With our recent strides in gender equalization in the workplace, education, voting, politics, and beyond, not that we’ve arrived at equality but that we’ve made much progress, some men feel displaced as many of their jobs and positions within society have been “hijacked” by persons who they believe should not be in those areas. (Women) Men of antiquity, and by antiquity I mean Western civilization, created this myth about women being “lesser” or “weak” or more prone to “hysterics” and best suited for more “submissive roles.” Little did they know, or rather, little did they care to investigate that previous non-western, non-white cultures valued the active woman who hunted, gathered, fought, soldiered, and led their communities. There are not many surviving matriarchal societies but the ones that did exist were not any less powerful than the man-led societies we have today. Warring for power throughout history isn’t an aspect dominated by men or women but more so a tactic of tacticians in war and politics. Men and women.
This myth has permeated society under the guise of religion, culture, and mythology because men in power, or anyone in power for that matter wanted someone or a stratum of our society to serve them. Kings and queens are nobodies without serfs. Therefore if women are subjugated not by nature but by social status, then men automatically take the positions of leaders and situational kings.
Although few people care to admit it, oppression and oppressive systems disadvantage the oppressed, in this case, women, historically, and also the men, the perpetrators of this system, because it creates an aura of superiority by biology and social status that is not innate to our existence but a delusion of our own making. Men who see all men as automatic leaders are setting men up for failure. One does not inherit leadership like one inherits brown eyes or blond hair from their parents.
Superiority and inferiority are myths created by people in power or people attempting to gain the power to gain something from those subjugated to them; sex, money, glory, fame, power, etc.
Now, returning to the myth of strong men, I cannot emphasize enough just how cringe these suave, posh, boujee, pampered, and suspiciously overdone motivational “strong men” can be when they begin to break down what makes a man a man and why women need to stay at home and listen to their husbands.
Their grievances stem from the presence of intelligent women holding leadership over “weak men” who should be in those positions of leadership, independent of whether these men are competent and intelligent or vacuous-minded individuals. Also, in religious and political spheres, if a woman is a leader of a church or a state or nation, that nation is years away from imminent doom. This, of course, is a conclusion they arrive at independent of the successes of that particular leader.
Misogyny plays a central role in “strong men” mythos and the more “strong” that man becomes within this echo chamber of misguided anxieties, the more “anti-woman” the man and his compatriots become.
“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”
I despise the above-mentioned quote because it doesn’t confront itself. I’m not sure what the author’s intent was in writing it, who the character was who said it, and what setting they were in other than the book taking place in a post-apocalyptic North America. What I know is that “strong men” who get their nails done, eyebrows trimmed, feet pampered, make-up done for photoshoots, and beards combed and sprayed for glamor and stance for their “masculine man of the year for strongmen’s conference award” use this quote to their advantage not considering the evident lunacy of the quote itself.
If “hard times” create “strong men” and “strong men” create “good times” and “good times” create “weak men” which in turn creates “hard times” what is at issue here? It seems like a healthy cycle, no?
Is it the presence of strong men who fail to create something more lasting and worth idealizing than so-called “good times” that is the issue?
What are “hard times” and who determines what is hard and for which time and which people?
The quote creates a non-ending cycle of nonsense where each item in it leads to the next and the next and the next until it reverts to the start of it all, a start no one knows where it begins, which leads us, supposedly, of course, down the same spiral again.
Which item is best removed from this equation?
Hard times + strong men = good times
Good times + weak men = hard times
What’s the solution?
Good times? If the goal is good times then that means we must always have hard times and strong men. If we want to have an eternal kingdom of pleasure, exuberance, and unabated euphoria, that means we must always have hard times, for, without hard times, and the collective of strong men, we will not have good times.
Now, if we want to live in a world without hard times, then, according to this nonsensical calculation, we will have good times with weak men, which, in theory, will again create hard times.
The cycle continues.
It seems as if no matter our decision, no matter how things end up, the presence of strong men and weak men isn’t the issue, independent of our choice, we will always return to these so-called hard times which are an important necessity of this cyclical calculation that creates the opportunity for strong men to create the good times that create the weak men that create the hard times.
When will it end?
We must remove weak men, I presume, according to them, to duly enjoy the good times. But without the presence of “weak men,” there will be no such thing as hard times, a necessary part of this equation to create the necessary environment in which strong men are birthed.
And where did strong men go when good times were achieved? Have they died off? Have they wandered into caves in search of bears to fight, snakes to bite, and bees to step on? Have the strong men become weak in good times? If so, are strong men only strong when they are tested and weak when they have been proved through trials and challenges? Meaning, that strong men are only strong depending on the time of day or month, or year?
And if strong men are expected to remove weak men from society, if that is their solution, what does that look like in practice? In Germany, strong men annihilated weak men by throwing them and their families alive into industrial furnaces. In the 1400s, Vlad the Impaler rounded up the weak men he captured in battle and had them impaled, their rotting corpses put on display all around his kingdom and on the road that led to his kingdom. In Russia, revolutionaries rounded up weak men and shot them in the dark of night for failing to side with their communist ideas. In the American Deep South, strongmen lynched black men, women, and children after church services as autos de fe.
When strong men attempt to remove weak men from society we witness the devastating reality of the combative strong man ideologies. You may say that I’m exaggerating by comparing strong men mythos of today with the horrors of the holocaust, military crimes against humanity, communism, and white supremacist terror.
But find me a time where weak men were out doing these same things. Find me an era, find me an atrocity, find me a colonial establishment or an imperial fiefdom conquered by a weak man. Find me an executioner who was a weak man. Find me a thief whose bloodied knife and the cash-filled bag had made him a weak man. Find me a world leader of antiquity whose rise to power is bloodless, whose reign is guiltless of shedding innocent blood, and whose reign is free of terror. Napoleon? Not a weak man. George Washington? Not a weak man. Christopher Columbus was not a weak man. Nor was Hitler, Mussolini, Gaddafi, Pinochet, Bin Ladin, Hussein, and Trump.
They’re all strong men. “Strong men.”
What I mean is that the strong man mythos is founded on the ideas of dominance and strength, without which a man is seen as a powerless, incompetent waste of a man. And when this foundation is challenged the medium of defense and assault is violence. Physical violence, verbal violence, psychological violence, spiritual violence, political violence, and emotional violence.
Strong men, when their “strength” is challenged, not attacked, their identity, which is so fragile and intricately connected with their strength, is also challenged thus bringing about the possibility, of the ripe environment for them to use violence as a coping mechanism to restore that which they believe was lost.
“Strong men” are not strong at all, they are just men. Men with immature and misguided understandings of what it means to be a man in a gender-equal society.
Men (and women) are not defined by strength and dominance. People imprisoned by fear of loss of power and influence are governed by such ephemeral ideals.
Humanity is defined by its humanity, its aptitude to work together, to compromise, and its resilience in the face of an indomitable force, enemy, task, or challenge.
The men I look up to in life were not preyed upon by this baseless mythos of strength and dominance on the lines of biological sex.
The historical Jesus walked the dirt roads of Palestine and walked shoulder to shoulder with fishermen, peasants, sex workers, and tax collectors. He was captured and beat like a dog, spit on, had his beard pulled from his face, his body deformed by the whips of soldiers, and was nailed to a cross by Roman soldiers. Where was his combative manly domineering strength when it was expected of him to exhibit it for all to see?
Martin Luther King Jr. never raised a fist to the people who called him nigger and other equally horrifying names. He never asked for his compatriots to reciprocate violence for violence but opted instead to change the narrative in the name of love, temperance, pacifism, and common sense. He was shot in the neck by a white supremacist.
James Baldwin never raised a fist against his public opponents and not once called for armaments. He used poetry, words, sentiments, and ideas to combat the evils of white supremacy and the myth created by it of Black inferiority.
My father raised me into the man I am today because he exuded the character traits of an upright, moral, and respectable man. I’ve never seen him use strength and dominance as a tactic to get things done. He has spent more time using reason and piety to teach us how to best navigate difficult situations when all we wanted to do was use our fists.
“Strong men” is a myth we’ve created to protect us from the brokenness inside. We mask that broken childhood experience, that home with an absent father, the formative years with a mom who worked two jobs or worked no jobs at all, the empty pantries, and the social ostracism derived from lacking food, emotional support, or whatever you’d like to add to that list.
A mythical “strong man” Kevin Samuels (56) passed away this year and his passing came as somewhat of a relief for many women and men who saw his popular women disparaging rhetoric as divisive, antiquated, and potentially dangerous. The issue here is that men who gravitate to Samuels’ misogynistic rhetoric are still around and still looking for the next best immoral-living-behind-the-scenes-but-morally-upright-in-the-limelight strong man to lead them into the battlefield of ideas and culture wars against women and gender equality.
If our heroes and our role models are emotionally underdeveloped and socially awkward misogyny entrepreneurs, we need to readjust our intentions and revitalize our goals in life for the betterment of society and yes, the well-being of our young men and women.
Manhood is not defined by testosterone levels. It is not defined by a domineering presence. It is not defined by combative personality cults. It is not defined by generals, captains, lieutenants, admirals, and soldiers. Manhood is not defined by guns and explosives. It is not defined by one’s willingness to take life when called to war.
Manhood is a myth.
You are a man because you are a man, no more, no less. You are born one and you will endure and witness life as one. No one can take that from you because you fail in a particular area of life, say, in wooing women, marrying a woman, getting a job, a promotion, or killing six terrorists with only a knife in hand.
Stop giving into fear and stop platforming men who benefit from disparaging women and other men who do not live as they do.
Charlatans have made their coin in religious circles since the dawn of religious conceptualization. And now, because our western world has moved to a more secular sphere of philosophical understandings of the world and each other, these same money hucksters have adapted to the times to continue their pilfering of honest, vulnerable, and exploitable peoples.
And who do you think is the best possible target than people who perceive they have lost not only their identity but their power and influence in the culture they claim to have built?
Be wary of them, these “strong men” who are, themselves, weak.
Originally published at http://olivettheory.com on August 4, 2022.