When I was crafting the title, I was going to write about Masculinity in Post-Modernity. However, my “ADDeity” sideswiped that thought train, and rerouted it to the topic of Identity. Modern Men, especially white men have no sense of Identity. James Bond knew who he was. His sense of self-assured confidence at the Baccarat table, when we first meet him in Dr. No captivates us, even through we only see him in profile. He is charming, poised, and sure of himself, his allegiance, his job, and his objectives. He is a risk taker, allowing his opponent to raise the table limit, and then proceeding to beat her, with a cool head. We aren’t at all like this poised man.
1. James Bond is a British Patriot. He loves his country, and is certain that she can do no wrong. God Save the Queen. We modern Americans are nothing if not mistrustful of our Country, and for good reason! We have been abused, lied to, manipulated, conned, extorted, and generally mistreated by our government and its various branches for the last 60 years. We have little national pride, and no sense of majesty when we think of our country. Those who do are labeled fanatics, or extremists, or just plain crazy.
2. James Bond is proud white Man. Now, to preface, I am not saying that being white is better or superior to any other race, but it is supremely equal, and we should be proud of our heritage, not ashamed of it. As a man, He is proud because of his intellect, cunning, suavity, physical prowess, and general force of will make him a superior being to most of the other men he meets. He may not be the strongest, or the smartest, (though he is well learned, quick-witted, and physically fit), but he has the most force of will, resilience, and dogged determination. He will not bend, break or quit. He never gives up, and keeps trying to achieve his goals, backed by the trust of MI-6 and British Intelligence.
3. James Bond is calm, cool-headed, and intellectual juxtaposed with fiery passion for women, and his duty. He holds both extremes within him. This is not exactly a balance, for it is a direct contraction. Rather, it is a system in tension: a juxtaposition of contradictions each held together as a truth. He isn’t concerned with personality types and labels as his choices reflect a hierarchy of ethics. His priorities are typically: World, Country, Job, Women, Pleasures, with His own well-being as the least of his priorities. He is a thrill-seeker, who enjoys death-defying challenges pitting his will and cunning against a worthy adversary in a high stakes game of Roulette. However, he is a generally self-less man sacrificing his own well-being for the protection of all others, including his foes.
4. James is a master of seduction. Men and Women alike fall prey to his devil-may-care grin, and dashing debonair suavity. He only need ask for what he wants and it is given to him: access to impregnable fortresses, the secret to a diabolical plan, a woman’s heart? Check, check, and double-check. He has merely but to wink, nod, smile and ask and the secrets of the universe are unfolded before him.
5. James Bond is a man of impeccable taste. His fashion sense is emulated world over by men who would aspire to be him. His tailored suits allow him to always be a noteworthy figure in whatever room he should appear. He always dresses perfectly for the occasion and is never out-of-place. Without being ostentatious, he manages to draw every eye to his elegant simplicity. His tastes in vice are also notable. He only smokes the best cigarettes, drinks the most refined liqueur, and pursues only the most beautiful women. This is a man who has explored the options and has discovered his own preferences. Refinement is just that: a process of culling good taste out of the myriad of options. It is learning to sift through the dross to discover the finer things; It is also learning to appreciate the finer things over the more common – simply because they are better. James is also most attracted to women with confidence and depth. As Roger Ebert so eloquently stated,
“A girl who is uncertain at her core can never be really interesting, no matter how beautiful she may appear to be on the surface. She isn’t really there, and that fact frightens her.”
James only pursues women who “are really there”, and ignores the lesser insubstantial girls that flirt with him. His keen perception shaves off the best, leaving the uninteresting choices behind. He loves women who tease, are mysterious, with a fiercely independent core. He loves the thrill of the chase, the challenge of wooing his prey, and he relishes the glory of having finally won her over. These same loves are also what keep him spying, and marry him to the job; no matter how many women he takes in his arms, he will always love the job more.
I started writing this post about Identity, but in the end, is was about modern masculinity. True Masculinity is about knowing who you are, loving who you are, and being completely comfortable in your identity. We shouldn’t allow women to dictate what our identity is as men. Men should decide who we want to be, and what we want to be, and who we are needed to be, and then be that. Clearly we can’t all be James Bond, nor should we all aspire to be. However, there are many lessons to be learned from him that are applicable to all Men: young or old, straight or gay, large or small, Type A or Type B.
I will summarize these lessons: Boldness, Courage, Integrity, Dependability, Inquisitiveness, Courtesy, Keen Wit, Creativity, Physical Fitness, and Confidence.
Men should be bold. They should weigh risks, calculate odds, and act decisively. They must not be afraid of mistakes, though they should actively minimize them. Mistakes allow us to learn and grow. The poet Virgil teaches that “fortune favors the bold”. He who dares little gains little. He who dares greatly may fail greatly but having failed, lives more vivaciously than those timid and cold souls who will no neither victory nor defeat.
Men must be courageous. History is full of tales, myths, and legends of men whose courageous actions made all the difference in the trials they were facing. It was one man who made the difference, while the rest panicked and cowered fearing for their lives and possessions. He might have been considered the crazy one, but his crazy courage saved lives, fought off raiders, saved the dyke, protected the innocent and the weak, even at the cost of self-sacrifice. When men cease to be courageous, evil will always win. Courage and conviction is the only stopgap between evil and good. Good is weak by nature. Good people are pacifists. Black is kept at bay from white, not by Grey, but by Red.
Men must live with integrity. Men must act and think according to a standard. Men must be trustworthy, and loyal to a cause and people greater than themselves. Personal gain means little, if it was gained at the expense of your character. If you do one thing wrong, you risk losing yourself, for corruption within grows with each corrupt action. Character is pure until it is blemished. Just like a brand new car: it is easier to ding and scratch it than it is to repair it. A car can’t be “mostly flawless”. Integrity is selfless. Hand in hand with integrity is dependability: a man who acts with great character, will also be inherently predictable. He will be exactly where you would guess him to be: the position where he can do the most good for the most people: the position of the most value, and the highest risk.
Men must be inquisitive. We are by nature, as boys, and we must continue to hone this inquisitiveness and shape it into a razors edge, for intellect is formed from questions. The better the question, the better the knowledge. A gnawing question will force the intellect to crave an answer and will motivate intellectual study, growth, and creative problem solving. We must ask the who, what, where, when, why, and hows. All progress in history has come from some person who asked “Who in God’s name…?’, ‘WTF?’, ‘Where did that shit come from?’, ‘When did that damn thing get here?’, ‘WHY?’ and ‘How the Hell?’.” And then “I wonder…”. Without this we would still be cytoplasm swimming in the Prehistoric ooze. This inquisitive nature manifests as the “ivory tower”, “scientific obsessions”, or “wander lust”. The great explorers, philosophers, and scientists in history all suffered so. They had unanswered questions that the world couldn’t answer, and they were compelled to discover.
Men must be courteous, polite and charitable. Your actions should not be based off of how people treat you or act toward you. Men must treat people as if they matter, with respect. This demonstrates a personal greatness and magnanimity that is an expression of your superiority over your lesser states. Courtesy is an expression of inner strength, and inner peace. It demonstrates a maturity and a level of control that befits a true man.
Men should be quick-witted, with a keen intellect. A witty and playful banter is an essential part of male to male bonding and experience. Playful fighting is a game that tests the strengths of an opponent. It is a competition, which is a known favorite pass-time of all men. We like to be the best. We like to prove our proud superiority over others. May the best man win!
Men should be creative. They should not shy away from artistic expressions in any form, be it painting, sculpture, music, dance, film, poetry, theatre, fashion, carving, metallurgy, or any of the myriad of arts available to us. Art is an expression of one’s self, and a true man should be in touch with his base nature and his personal nuances. Art can even be a means of self-exploration and discovery. A Man must know himself.
Men should be fit. A man is a physical being. We occupy a time and space. We are competitive both with each other and ourselves. Fitness increases strength, hormone balance, elevates moods, and provides a sense of accomplishment. Fitness allows us to achieve our goals, and dreams. It makes us more self-sufficient, and self-reliant. No one desires to keep a “needy man” as company. A man should be a doer, and a go-getter – not a piece of baggage or dead weight. Fitness is not just about being in shape: it is about being prepared for life’s challenges and being capable of meeting them. It is about being able to contribute when your friends need help. It is about health, wellness, and holistic being.
Finally, a Man should be confident. Looking back over this list, if a Man is these things to any decent measure, confidence will come naturally as a symbiotic by product. In fact, confidence is the measure of a man. If a Man is truly magnetically confident, he will be achieving and growing in these fields. How much? Just look at his confidence! Remember to distinguish confidence from arrogance. Confidence is earned. Arrogance is faked.
In Sum, Men KNOW YOURSELF! Find your identity. Grow, learn, explore, take risks, make something of yourself. Be the James Bond of your story.