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Men’s conference

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That other week, not last week, a man opened up. Or, I opened up a man. Like some surgeon, I had him there, tore his flesh open, counted the bones on his skeleton and—finally— saw him for what he is: a human.

Then, a friend texted late at night—on a Friday.

“Man, that thing today, is relatable”—paraphrased.

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I said: “really?” Not because I did not find it relatable but I wanted him to open up as well. And say more. And tell a story. Another story. Or, maybe, a similar story.

But, he did not tell a story. Instead, he told stories. From this. And that. Just those stories friends tell each other. Stuff I cannot write about here— not for their sensitivity, but for their irrelevance.

A story almost came on Facebook, from a stranger. This man somehow read that dissection, got moved, looked at the photo here and found no contacts, flipped through the newspaper and still no contacts. Then, somehow, thought of Facebook. Because, which man these days is not on Facebook?

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And, there, he found me. In my glory.

He sent a friend request. I took long to respond. But, when I responded, he did not hesitate to text:

“That story about that man who walks around with a suicide note spoke to me.”

I thanked him—that politeness—then invited him to open up. I said:

“Why?”

Then, he said he could relate. Not for the suicide part. But, for hiding things from the wife. Sensitive things.

“Why would anyone do that?”

He said it is because there is a war—of genders.

He wrote in capital letters, perhaps to emphasise the urgency of this war. I responded with that surprise: “oh really?”

Then, he narrated. That men are being fought. And shamed.

“There has been a privilege we inherited,” he wrote—not really in that exact economic academic fashion. “Now, from that privilege, we are not allowed to fight back. But we are being beaten. And clobbered. And defeated.”

He said something which implied that because men are aware that we are in a fight, they are not opening up because ‘you do not reveal your secrets to an opponent’.

The other day, over a lunch, I raised it with some more men —that idea of a war. It was not that I went to them, notepad in hand, and said:

“Is there a war against you, against us?”

No, I just stirred the water a little. Just pointed at the stats. Of the men killing themselves.

And, there, I had them. They jumped on it.

“Life is hard these days,” one said. “You can hardly do anything as a man. Everywhere, we are pressed.”

“It’s the feminism. That thing is a war against us. I hope they get happy when they hear that a man has died by suicide.”

I acted rattled by that, said nobody can be happy to hear of the death of another. Not even if it were there worst enemy. I added: feminism is not like you are portraying it, it just demands for a seat at the table, it demands that women be seen and heard.

The proponent of the idea appeared charged—in that friendly fashion.

“Man, you are talking about what they say. The actual feminism is not like that. It is the one that is threatening our position as men. It is that which is making many of us to just decide to die.”

There was another voice that quietly disagreed. This one said the anti-feminism crusader was not looking at the bigger picture. It said the bigger picture was mental health. That men are dying because of bad mental health.

“It is not just suicide. Men, these days, are just collapsing. You just hear that such and such a person has collapsed, you then hear that he suffered a hypertension. All those collapsing, few are women.”

I asked if there were any statistics to back up that. He never had any so, instead, he decided to fault ‘my education’. Said, of course with that respectful friendship chatter and laughter:

“It’s your school that will keep blinding you to reality. Tell me, which woman have you heard lately that just collapsed and died? For men, let us start counting: do you remember…?”

“But, it is not just feminism. It is pressure. Today’s society pressurises us. It demands more from us. Gone are the days when you could just get away with stupid things. Now that such liberties are no longer there, we do not know how to navigate life. End result? Death.

“Like I heard on the radio that a man committed suicide. Why? He had raped someone. You know what? Back in the days, the community could just have buried that story and maybe give him a few slaps. Not anymore. Now, it is Police. And all these organisations demanding that you rot for years…”

“But that is a good thing certainly,” I said. “Not the death. But that such men can be punished because that is terrible to do to another human being?”

“I also agree that they should be punished, but I just wanted to say how things changed. And how, as men, we are struggling to fit in.”

Then, a Christian brother came in:

“It is the signs of the times, the world is coming to an end.”

“Why, because men are killing themselves?”

He said not really that. But that there is a war of the genders. He said—or maybe prophesied—that what we were seeing was just the beginning of the end. He said things will get worse.

“And why is that?”

It is the design. God’s plan.

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