Curing Modern Male Apathy

There is a disconnect between what males are told they should be and how they feel. Males could either become the dominant species or die off, but in order to succeed as individuals, it may take more than just technology and innovation.

Men are a product of their environment. The “male instinct to provide” is the urge to protect and care for women. This is why men are less likely to be apathetic in society.

Vintage old rusting power switch and cobwebs on it.

I saw the launch of “Human Planet” on the Discovery Channel a few weeks ago, a television program about how humanity have evolved to exist in the world’s most harsh settings. Perhaps “Man Planet” would have been a better name for the show, given it mostly documented the astounding accomplishments of men all over the world–guys on whom civilization’s tentacles have barely touched. Men were extracting sulfur from an active volcano, diving hundreds of feet and holding their breath for five minutes at a time to spear fish on the ocean bottom, and teaching their kids how to raise eagles to hunt. Even apparently mundane duties such as sending your children to school were dangerous; a father took his children on a 60-mile trek across the Himalayas, keeping an eye out for avalanches and crossing a frozen river that might have split open at any minute.

The show’s stunning cinematography quickly drew me in. But it was the idea of these guys straining and sweating, putting their lives on the line to pay for and feed their families that drew my attention.

And by the conclusion of the concert, a number of ideas that I’d been mulling about had come together.

What Is It That Affects Modern Men?

There has been a lot of hand wringing recently about the status of contemporary males, about how they seem to be lagging behind in life, uninspired, and listless.

What is the source of all this anxiety? Anyone who has read this kind of essay is acquainted with the following statistics:

  • Women have a higher chance of graduating from high school than males.
  • Men make up just 44% of students in community and four-year schools.
  • Female college students have better grade point averages and are more likely to graduate in four years than male college students.
  • “Among young people 25 to 29, 35 percent of women and 27 percent of males had a bachelor’s degree or more in 2009,” according to the US Census. This disparity has widened significantly over the previous decade, when it was just 3 percentage points (30 percent for women, 27 percent for males) in 1999.”
  • By the age of 23, women are 60% more likely than males to have earned a bachelor’s degree.
  • For the first time in history, more women than men are getting advanced degrees, according to the US Census. “A master’s, professional (such as law or medicine), or doctorate degree was held by 9% of women and 6% of males in the 25-29 age group.” Women account for almost six out of 10 people with advanced degrees between the ages of 25 and 29.
  • During the recession, men lost 3/4 of the 8 million jobs that were destroyed.
  • For the first time in history, women now outnumber men in the workforce.
  • 1/3 of males between the ages of 22 and 34 still live with their parents. In the previous 20 years, there has been a 100 percent growth. According to the census, 56 percent of males and 48 percent of women aged 18-24 still live at home with their parents.

There have been several explanations proposed as to what is causing these numbers. Some blame the economics, claiming that historically male-dominated businesses have been relocated or gone extinct. Another argument is that corporate culture and bureaucracy have sapped men’s souls and stripped them of their male liberty. Others attribute it to our consumer culture and the emergence of time-consuming hobbies such as video gaming. Some argue that feminism, the shifting dynamics of male/female interactions, and the “cheapness of sex” are at the basis of the issue.


But, in my opinion, there isn’t just one item that you can point to and say, “That one.” That was the assassin who killed the guy.” Instead, a combination of all of these variables is to blame for the contemporary male’s lack of drive. In a nutshell, the “issue” is contemporary life as a whole.

Without a question, the contemporary world is the finest conceivable planet to live in. Technology and cultural breakthroughs have made life safer, freer, and longer than it has ever been.

At the same time, no matter how pure a good is, there will always be unforeseen repercussions with which we must deal. Men feel lost and adrift as a result of contemporary life’s unforeseen consequences.

The Wild Man’s Adventures in the Twenty-First Century

“Inside our ancestors was civilisation, and outside was the wild. We live in the civilization they built, yet the wildness still exists inside us. We live what they imagined, and we dream what they lived.” T.K. Whipple (T.K. Whipple) (T.K. Whipple)

Our forefathers developed distinct psychological qualities that helped them survive and prosper in a perilous, hardscrabble planet over tens of thousands of years. While we prefer to think of ourselves as smart and intellectual, the truth is that all men have these basic psychological qualities entrenched deep inside them. There are still males that live this lifestyle now, as shown by shows like “Human Planet.” In the vast history of civilization, the contemporary society we enjoy today is a small blip on the screen.

As a result, we have a mismatch, in which the inner characteristics of masculinity for males in the industrialized world remain intact, but the outward environment in which those qualities reside has been significantly transformed. Instead of spending the bulk of our days outdoors, we spend the majority of them inside. We spend our time in climate-controlled facilities rather than battling the weather. Rather of crafting things with our hands, we choose from hundreds of objects that fill the aisles of massive supermarkets. We purchase our meat pre-cut in Styrofoam containers rather than foraging for it. Instead of being looked up to as tribal leaders, we are mocked in the media as clumsy and incompetent.

The basic aspects of masculinity reside inside us like a well-trained army of troops ready and wanting to battle, but restlessly and eternally waiting in reserve. Men are square pegs seeking to fit into a round hole because core portions of their mind remain dormant. Men are becoming enraged and restless as a result of their repeated encounters with this mismatch, losing their drive and giving up.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the Modern Man

Many more commentators like describing today’s issue with males than really proposing a remedy. When a remedy is suggested, it usually comes in the form of “Get over it, guys.” The sun has set in your area. Now is the time to move on. It’s now a woman’s world.” And what this usually means is that you should try to look more like a woman. Get in touch with your emotions, learn to be more loving, and pursue a career in nursing, which is a flourishing and historically female-dominated field. The square peg is instructed to sand down his rough edges.


Another approach used by some guys is to reintroduce themselves to an environment comparable to that of our caveman forefathers, in order to reawaken those distinctive male characteristics. Men like Chris McCandless and Eustace Conway retreated to the bush to recover their manliness and rediscover themselves by living a more primitive existence.

So we’ve arrived to the core of the issue. Some men’s solutions, such as dressing more like women and abandoning conventional manliness, are unappealing to the majority of males. Most people don’t think living in a cave or an abandoned bus to live off the land is a practical or acceptable alternative. As a result, males appear to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. They settle down and succumb, feeling as though there is no way ahead, and content themselves with floating along.

Some people now believe that the wandering male isn’t such a big deal. That males are outmoded, and that they have no function to perform in the current world. I reply, “Bullocks!” to that.

It’s wonderful that women now have the freedom and possibilities to be their best selves, but society as a whole requires both sexes to strive for their maximum potential.

Men who are at their best will be required at all times and in all places. Our special abilities are no longer just used for hunting supper and fighting battles (although as the recent killing of Osama bin Laden testifies, we certainly still need men for that). Men, on the other hand, are still needed as family leaders, honorable statesmen, inventors and entrepreneurs, teachers and mentors, and honorable brothers, spouses, and citizens. Regardless of the shifting terrain, men at their finest have something distinctive to give the world. Men are very necessary for society’s survival. It’s ridiculous to throw up our hands and declare ourselves outdated. All we have to do now is figure out how to repurpose our distinctive male characteristics for our new surroundings.

There is still a place in the world for guys. All we have to do now is find a method to re-motivate ourselves and get back on track. To regain control of the situation.

Changing the Manliness Switches

The answer to the contemporary male plight is found in the core concept of the Art of Manliness: moving ahead by looking back.

The answer is getting beyond the all-or-nothing mindset in which we sometimes feel trapped. Men believe they will never be able to totally accept the old methods or fully embrace the new ones, so they choose to do nothing. However, it does not have to be an all-or-nothing situation. You don’t have to be a delicate ponytail man or a Neanderthal to be successful.

Recently, I’ve found that seeing those distinct primal male features as power switches that are either on or off has helped me. When these switches are switched on, our Wild Man is activated. The Wild Man is the spirited, primordial portion of a man’s psyche, as described in works like Iron John and Wild at Heart, as well as here on AoM.


And what I’ve learned is that you can engage your Wild Man by doing things that aren’t quite as dangerous as chasing down a herd of antelope for food. You may use the elements of masculinity that have been a part of manliness for hundreds of years to ensure that some semblance of them is present in your life. They were active, but not to the level that they were expressed in the life of primitive man. We sometimes fail to progress in our lives because we believe that the answer to our issue must be intricate and time-consuming in order to be successful. Manliness switches, on the other hand, may be activated in very tiny and basic ways.

What are the manliness switches?

I know it’s arguable, and everyone will have an opinion on what they are, but I think there are five switches that every man must activate in order to fuel his zeal and ignite the passion that enables him to achieve his maximum potential:

  • Legacy
  • Providing
  • Physicality
  • Nature
  • Challenge

Over the following several weeks, we’ll look at each of these switches, including the sociology and biology behind them, as well as practical strategies to turn them on in your life to calm your restlessness, activate your manliness, and heal any contemporary male malaise you may be experiencing.

The Cure for Modern Male Malaise: The Switches of Manliness Series Physicality is the first switch. Challenge is the second switch. Legacy is the third switch. Switch #4: Make available Nature is the fifth switch.



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7 masculine archetypes” is a blog post that discusses the 7 masculine archetypes and how they can be used to cure modern male apathy.

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