Evolution of Man
The 21’st century man wears Dior Homme, uses face wash, and usually cooks his meat before eating it. These were the first three things that came to mind when I sat down to think of things to write. A lot more followed, of course, but before I get into the fun stuff, let’s look into some numbers associated with the sanctimonious Y chromosome, shall we?
Statistics show that baby boys die in greater numbers in infancy, and are usually more fragile than girls. They are far more likely than girls to be told they have learning disabilities and constantly demeaned for things they’re not always responsible for. They are more often sent to the principal’s office, given medication for hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder, suspended from high school, commit crimes and are diagnosed as schizophrenic. In adolescence, they are often deemed obsessive-compulsive and kill themselves five times more often than girls with the same intensity of ‘problems’ do. In early adulthood, they are being incarcerated at ever-increasing rates, abandoning families, and becoming more likely to be both the perpetrators and victims of sticky situations, and if things get out of hands, even violence.
Men. They’ve been in the making for thousands of years and every new member adds to the perfection (at least we’d like to think so) of the final product of today; The 21st century man: This volatile, rumbling energy, beaming with the pleasure of knowing that he holds worldly power much superior to any other, and ready to run free and trample anything in his way– A burst of glorious flame waiting to unleash and conquer the small world he lives in, this Man; probably not the most intense of creatures, but intriguing none the less.
He’s traveled long distances, from being called a mono-cellular dirt dweller to a not so wise monkey who gave in to evolution to being dubbed God’s grooviest creation ever.
He’s been there and done that, and he’s survived it all too, which makes him all the more interesting.
Evolution of Manhood
An important theory that haunts my intellect is that are men still as strong as they supposedly were a few hundred years ago? Because the primitive ‘man’ was not ‘man’ enough unless he was ‘strong’ enough both physically and emotionally. And since most of us aren’t ‘strong’ as in ‘strong’ anymore, does that not make us ‘men’–so to speak? Of course it may seem right to assume that physical power has been subtly replaced by physical wealth over the centuries—where wealth is good enough to get you just about anything—be it power of authority or the damsel you’ve taken a fancy to.
Five years into yet another millennium, I think it’s time we accept how much we, the men, along with the world around us have changed. Comparing our pampered, mushy, don’t- touch-my-hair selves to the men before us, who actually lived their whole lives on the edge, we realize that the whole concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ has changed in meaning all together. The man who was once a ferocious hunter satiated only when he got what he had his eye on has now turned into a relatively tamed creature that competes with his mind and everything else that comes with it, not physical strength and performance. Today, only the smart cookies survive long enough to enjoy the comfort of the title. And it’s quite evident that with the simple hierarchy of male authority and dominance threatened, the men of tomorrow are not being trained for a world in which their traditional survival mechanisms –physical strength for one– no longer prevail because intelligence is always at odds with instinct. If the instinct provided proper survival action, there would be no need for intelligence. Indeed this is the case with all of the other animals. Intelligence is supposed to override instinct to provide action that is more suitable than another.
Men have conquered the world. They are the fat cats. They are on top of the heap. So now, peak intellectual performance and self-discipline are the fundamental requirements for survival, which is quite obviously reflected by the heed paid to professional education and careers.
We’ve reached a cusp in time where we’re ruled by our insecurities and shortcomings; afraid that tomorrow might not actually bring what we have started to believe is a part of every day life.
Evolution of male fashion and consciousness
Men are no longer comfortable letting their bodies succumb to age. Spending, or at least planning to spend a couple of hours a week at the gym sweating their arses off is no longer an idea unthought-of. Rock hard abs and firm behinds are now as important as trendy hairdos and perfect skin.
And vogue has always held great meaning to men as well. Maybe not as much when all the poor guys had was a string of leaves to call clothes, but dress and vanity have been an important part of conversation among men, be it a couple of thousand years before Christ, the turn of the first century, or now, when men have finally come out of their shells and aren’t afraid to come clean: they want to look and feel good about themselves, dress up in designer slacks and jackets and throw in the right amount of accessories, and maybe even visit the local saloon for a facial every now and then—something they were collectively made to believe was an utterly ridiculous idea thanks to the who-gives-a-damn attitude of men from the 60’s and the 70’s.
The Romans and the Egyptians had no competition when it came to trendy fashions. Everything their men wore emitted class, and wasn’t in any way less extravagant than what the female’s chose to wear.
Men in our part of the world, however, started paying more attention to their attire and hygiene after the advent of Islam. Silk, however was deemed illicit and more attention paid to cottons and wool.
At the turn of the century the Crusades which lasted up until the 13th Century caused great influences on the dress of the people. These influences were created by the return of the crusading knights who had been in contact with other more civilized societies and cultures. Other factors were the importing of different fabrics such as brocade and velvet (fabrics later, for some time only though, considered very feminine) and other items from foreign countries.
The Industrial and the French Revolution also brought about changes to male fashion with a more conservative image and with more attention paid to fit and cut.
At the French court men and women competed with each other in excesses of personal adornment. They wore powders, perfumes, wigs, laces, jewelry, corsets, ruffles, and beauty marks that originally were black patches to cover blemishes, including scars and pits left by disease. Ointments of oils and almond paste were used to whiten skin, as were clay, chalk, and zinc. Powders of Orris (the rootstock of a European iris), flour, and cornstarch became so popular for faces and wigs that they caused a shortage of grain for hungry peasants! (Anyone wants to question the French nobles?)
The Mugals introduced the idea of glitzy fashion in India. Their bright colored silks and extravagant jewels were an eye opener for both the early residents of the sub-continent as well as the British who later took over.
The nineteenth century met men all over the world with a notion to tone down. The exquisite ‘Angarkhas’ in India and god-knows-how-many-piece suits in Europe were replaced with simpler, and maybe a lot more comfortable ‘Kurtas’ and cotton suits, which was quite reasonable if you think about how fast the world then was evolving into what it’s become today.
Evolution of Relationships
I talked to a few ‘happening’ men across the globe about this and was surprised to find out that in general, the men of today, even if they’re not so sure about it themselves, aren’t really ‘afraid’ of commitment anymore. But what’s even more astonishing is that most of these men don’t see themselves settling down before they’ve crossed the 35 – 40 year barrier.
Even if on the one hand it may seem that the number of restless young men who now quite obviously pay more heed to their personal relationships than school work for instance—as opposed to young men half a century ago who lived their lives by a preset doctrine, knowing that education and a good job came before love, marriage and kids (not necessarily in that order)—Is on the rise, on the other hand, men who’ve made it through teenage are more comfy when they’re not in a hurry to find their ultimate someone. And why should they anyway? Who in good god’s name wants a naggy wife and bratty kids back home when they’ve got an assortment of beautiful women prostituting their bodies for his credit cards?
The trick of the trade is to let the good looks and fat wallets play their magic for as long as they’re good, and only then, when the hair line has started receding and walking up those darned stairs has become more problematic than tucking the belly in at the sight of a beauty passing by, think about settling down and starting a family.
In the bigger picture however, commitment isn’t the core issue anymore. You’d still find plenty a babies who’d be ready to tie the knot if they didn’t have their parent’s consent to worry about. Being ‘afraid of commitment’ is definitely down right old fashioned!
In such a un-blasé climate, the world today — a cool head that knows its destination— is refreshing and even subversive. It represents men’s way of thumbing their nose at the status quo and moving on. Cocky men with a pinch of romanticism have never looked so avant-garde. And although at times it may seem that the last bastion of manhood might only be the TV remote control, or the erratic watchyagonnadoaboutit attitude that comes with a smothered squeak, some men really need it, sitting home alone every Saturday night during ‘Ladies Night Out.’
That doesn’t however; wash over the fact that men have more love to give out than women. Once they start giving it out that is.
Which is probably why over 80% of the relatively sane men I talked to were very enthusiastic about having children even. Most of them didn’t know when, of course, but ‘as soon as I can afford to’ was a common answer. Now this tags something new to their universal image—the strong, often thoughtless man has not only turned wise but emotional and responsible as well! And these men, unlike some may have thought, don’t really give having a boy for a first born a priority, agreeing that girls are just as exciting!
Doesn’t this confirm how much we’ve changed? From men who would order the hanging of anyone who predicted the birth of a girl child to men who dreaded the thought of having anything to do with a new life to men who quite look forward to fatherhood and the joys the whole experience brings.
It’s the story of where we have been, of how we became who we are, and where we’re off to. History shows us the achievements of the men before us, and it also shows us their shortcomings. And that isn’t a bad thing at all; really, for it is because of this that the past can become for us an ocean of knowledge.
More often than not labeled wild and ruthless, today’s man has struggled with understanding how he could possibly have committed an act that is extremely offensive to others. His offensive behavior—whatever it may be—has often been inconsistent with other experiences in his life. He’s had difficulties understanding these inconsistencies, frequently experiencing considerable shame and regret, and grapples with rebuilding a life in which he will not come to harm or offend someone again, depicting an amazing sense of responsibility and strength, able to look at himself with an open, critical mind
This raises an inevitable question: Where are we off to? And how do we improve? Many lessons can be learned through retrospection and progress can be achieved only through learning. If we look back and see where the ones before us have erred, and where they have succeeded, we can discern and eventually evolve into something far incisive and learned than what we have so far, which doesn’t only give birth to the possibility of affirmative intensification of the male soul, body and the mind, but also the fulfillment these men can draw out of knowing that they are indeed God’s grooviest creation so far!