The worrying state of modern boys, revisited

posted by Eivind on September 9, 2009, at 4:42 pm

In my latest blog post, I expressed concern that many young boys these days are relating with each other in extremely aggressive and often destructive ways. I have observed their antisocial behaviour on public transport and in open public spaces. Of course, upon throwing my concern out there, I was given ample opportunity for deeper reflection – that is the benefit of publicizing an opinion. I realize now that it is a complicated issue and that the aggression itself is not necessarily a problem, precisely because this red expression of dominance-behaviour is an integral part to masculine evolution.

It was thanks to Robert Bly (as it often is these days) that I gleaned some insights into the many facets of this issue. He speaks in his stunning book Iron John about three knights of three different colours.He presents these knights as a metaphor for masculine evolution, wherein the red signifies the most primitive step – power, aggression, ego, dominance. The red knight then moves on to the white knight, who is a do-gooder, a man who desires to banish evil from the lands. But then he makes the observation that our culture has no tolerance for the red knights, preferring to chuck them into prisons or institutions. Accordingly, young boys are prematurely rushed into the white knight stage (and they never reach black because it requires access to red). The result is cowards who are internally arrogant, judgmental and passive aggressive. Men who consider themselves noble and forces of good, but who don't act on it, preferring instead comfort and security.

This is what made me realize the error of my ways, or at least the inaccuracies of them. In myself, I feel the distinct absence of a fully integrated red knight. And I see it in practically all men I meet. What these boys are acting out, then, is a force that I am not used to seeing, and that I am not used to channeling. Little wonder I felt the tension.

Now, I have been aware of my challenge in this regard for some time, which is why I have picked up martial arts, why I'm more willing to confront people, why I will stand up for what is right and why I am becoming edgier in my style of communication. Still, the red knight is but a shadow of what he could be.

The tragedy here, then, is not so much that these boys are being evil with each other. The true tragedy, rather, is that there are no men around them who are comfortable with their level of aggression, and who can comfortably and with authority help them work through the red energy skilfully. Many cultures, Robert Bly points out, have a deep understanding of this red phase of our personal evolution as men, but Western culture has none.

So we suffer.

I have written an article about this issue that I believe is potentially life-changing, and I invite you to sign up for my newsletter, as that is the only way you can get it (it comes as a thank you gift for your interest).

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