A world that rejects the foundational attributes of masculinity is in danger of leaving itself vulnerable to the manifestations of evil. From Columbine to Florida to rural Canada, we have repeatedly witnessed teenage boys turn their inner turmoil outward in destructive acts.
This summer’s weeks-long manhunt for two teenage murder suspects captivated Canada and the world. The troubled lives of the two fugitives bear striking similarities to many other young men who turned their despair into ultimate acts of evil.
Tommy Ste-Croix, one of the few people to interact with the pair as they fled across the country, unwittingly helped them pull their SUV from the mud. He painted a picture not of evil incarnate but of scared, insecure boys.
“Can’t see those kids killing anyone. Can’t even shake a hand properly, lol. Soft baby hands,” he said in a Facebook post.
It is difficult to reconcile the act with the actors. These are not hardened and violent men we can comfortably condemn.
But this is the distressing reality of the modern-day mass murderer. Far from the cold, calculating personas of Ted Bundy or Charles Manson, killers today are often troubled adolescents hell-bent on an irreversible path of destruction.
Despite the heinous acts of violence, it’s hard not to feel some empathy for these lost souls and wonder at the missteps that drove them to the ultimate edge.
The War on Boys
The war on boys is real and it is threatening the fabric of society. Juvenile male underachievement is a Western epidemic and boys are falling behind across many metrics. Diagnosis of ADHD and behavioral problems in boys is on the rise, as is anxiety and depression.
In 1960, one in 10 boys were raised without a father in the home. Today, that number is closer to one in four. It’s irrefutable that with a strong male role model, boys do better in nearly every avenue in life. Studies show that they are statistically better off in almost every metric, from grades, to drop-out rates, to obesity, to general well-being.
And yet society has put great effort into perpetuating negative male stereotypes, to the point that every masculine ideal is scrutinized and deemed uncivilized. The role of the father has been dismissed as unnecessary while single motherhood is celebrated.
Manhood was once a term that encompassed responsibility, stoicism, honor, and strength. There was an inherent nobility that characterized the idealized man—a self-sacrificing meta hero who could overcome hardship while adhering to a moral code. It gave both boys and men something to aim for.
But in today’s world, masculinity is no longer something desirable but rather a symbol of oppression and violence. The boy who is given the impression that his innate nature is bad is left with an internal struggle that becomes increasingly impossible to resolve as he grows into a man.
The Importance of Self-Worth
The relentless emphasis on self-esteem in the modern school system is backfiring. In fact, the push for self-acceptance may actually be destructive, especially for young boys.
Self-esteem says, “Despite my flaws and character defects, I am fine just the way I am.”
Counter this with the nobler principle of self-worth, which says, “I am imperfect and flawed, but I have it within my capacity to improve and change myself for the better.”
This empowering message is what boys need to hear and what they need to practice. Self-worth equips children with the power to contend with the world, while self-esteem leaves them to languish in their own inadequacy, never realizing their potential.
Competition is no longer seen as a means to learn fair play and self-betterment, but is instead deemed a hurtful and patriarchal manifestation of negative human nature. To have competition is to have winners and losers. The very concept is so out of vogue now that a naturally competitive child is discouraged from doing their best in order to spare the feelings of other children.
Classrooms aren’t equipped to harness the restless and rambunctious nature of boys. Instead of refocusing that exuberant energy, medication and social constraints are prescribed to “fix the problem.” Some schools are banning dodgeball, tag, and even recess in an attempt to curb bullying and aggression, even when these activities are shown to be a healthy outlet for children and their social development.
Without competition, the beneficial loop of effort-failure to effort-success is broken and boys become stagnant, left without the requisite skillsets to contend with a complicated world.
There is more interest in building safety nets for children than helping them develop mental fortitude. Instead of well-prepared adolescents with the necessary skillset to tackle their problems, we are producing highly medicated, socially inept young men who fail to self-actualize.
With the proper reframe, the education system could teach boys how to “fail forward” and embrace failure as the surest way to success. Failure avoidance creates paranoia and a desire to save face, suppressing the path to wisdom and a healthy sense of self-worth.
Intervention needs to start early, and needs to start now. Recognizing that the status quo is not working is a necessary first step. Reversing the emasculation of boys and men starts by recognizing the inherent value of masculinity and understanding the mechanisms that can develop it in a positive way.
To contend with the world, boys need to be given the requisite tools to properly take their place in society as healthy and strong individuals. Unless the pendulum swings in that direction, we will be left with a society of emasculated men prone to fits of rage and vengeance.
Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver, Canada.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.