The Sound of Distant 
Drums


A Comment by Alan Mooney


In media hype the decade of the eighties was the era of
 the yuppie. This was characterised by the emergence of a 
stereotype man and woman – young, ambitious, a high 
level of disposable income and a desire to acquire the
 trappings of material success. Advertising made a great
 fuss about encouraging this philosophy and may even 
have been the progenitor of the phenomenon.

Being a yuppie was a strong but superficial ego strengthener where what you had 
or what you could afford determined self-worth and were the criteria for acceptance 
and approval.

Being a yuppie did not remove the fact of the underlying reality that no matter 
what you possess in material terms, loneliness and anomie were only around the
 corner. There always remained the possibility of losing the trappings of success. A 
job could fold or the size of an overdraft could be curtailed by a bank etc. The yuppie 
was an unstable species and with his/her designer labels was in fact too specialised
 to survive in a world which demands flexibility and a facility not to put all the eggs
 in one basket.

In the late eighties and into the nineties concern for Mother Earth and the recognition that we are responsible not only or our personal survival but also for the 
survival of the planet grew.

This is also noticeable in the advertising media which are a good barometer of 
the prevailing marketing forces. Products which appeared to be earth friendly as indicated by the subtle use of visual images e.g. deodorants which seemed to be so
 natural that the user could blend into the woodland and not be discovered by the 
sensitive noses of predators.

This type of misleading message has now been replaced by more direct and clear
 statements. There is a particular range of products for the home now which could
 be described as “down to earth” and which give the clear message that there is no 
hype – these products are 100% environmentally friendly.

There is also another change – advertisements for items like food and washing 
powder or cleaning materials in the home which traditionally were aimed at the 
housewife in the “married couple and two kids ” home, have been replaced by new messages which have the man and woman co-operating in the running of these tasks. 
Some even have the man asking the woman for advice on appropriate cleaning meth
ods and materials.

There are even ads which give recognition to the fact that not all families are of
 the traditional type. In a certain ad for gravy the subject family is divorced. In another ad the scene is set by a group of women who have set up home together and
 are engaged in redecorating their home. They are even shown showing affection for each other in a scene where one woman gently and willingly wipes some paint 
from the face of another woman.

The emphasis seems to have shifted so that there is a growing tolerance of difference and a broadening of perspective, at least in the world of marketing. The
 base for the expression of styles of human living and interaction is expanding. It
 seems that ways of living which would have been unacceptable a decade ago have
 now emerged as valid. I wonder if this is a real transformation of awareness in people. If it is, it is a quantum leap.

The New Man


There is another quantum leap which also seems appropriate for this decade of
 the nineties. That is the emergence of the “New Man”. The information about the 
new man is still emerging and a clear description is not yet consolidated; however
 the new man is seen as both the possessor of masculine strength and drive and feminine sensitivity. He is connected to his feelings and able to communicate with both
 men and women in a way which combines both logic and intuition – He is involved 
in the nurturing of relationship and in the the rearing of children. He does not arbitrarily demarcate “men’s work” and “women’s work”.

During the seventies and eighties here in Ireland there was a move toward setting up groups for men who wanted to explore the issues which were important to
 them but which had to be contained because of the cultural climate and the basic 
fear men have/had about showing need or weakness. Some groups are still going
 and are helping men to explore the taboo areas of their emotional lives, like fear 
and powerlessness and the discovery of how to manage their boundaries with each
 other and with women and children.

In recent times however, there is a more global awareness of the men’s move
ment. This is largely the result of the writing and work of an American – Robert 
Blye – who has written such books as “Fire in the Belly” and “Iron John”. It seems 
that men are beginning to learn that the image of the aggressive, rational and goal
 oriented man is tainted. It bears the seeds of its own destruction. They are begin
ning to realise feelings are OK. And even more importantly they are starting to
 share feelings with other men. They are talking about sadness and insecurity and 
their need for love. Every walk of life seems to be represented in the movement 
from university professors to farm workers. There are no distinctions made. Each is allowed to be present without the trappings of a society status. All can listen and
 learn from each other.

Men’s personal development groups are springing up all over the United States
 almost as the next phase following the feminist consciousness of the past twenty
 years or so. Men are saying they want to rediscover their psychic and emotional
 roots. Not only are they saying this but they are actively doing something about it.

I wonder what form this new Adam will take here in Ireland? In the States there 
is a return to the ancient native American tribal rituals to help men recapture the 
magic and energy of their nature. People will happily swap their computer keyboards for a tom-tom and make a new sound. They raise their voices in the chants 
of ancient America and the African Continent

The context of ritual has always been important for the expression of individual and communal feelings of joy or grief. On workshops, using all manner of ritual,
 men are grieving their lost innocence, their damaged childhood. They are express
ing feelings of emasculation by our patriarchal culture – a culture for which their 
sex is largely responsible.

If women have been bound by the ropes of patriarchy then there is a case to be
 made that men have been double bound by it. Men are the ones who have generated the power structure in the past and men who do not conform to it, i.e. who are
 unreliable and traitorous, are looked upon with derision – big boys don’t cry etc
.

I have noticed in the last few months that there has been a number of newspa
per articles and TV documentaries about the men’s movement in the US and I have
 read some of the reactions in the papers. It has been interesting to note that most 
of the reviewers of such articles and programmes, both men and women, have taken 
a sneering stance. They seem to be laughing at the idea of men going off to the
 woodlands together and getting back to their more primitive and freer roots. This 
may be as valid as the earlier sneering of both men and women at the burning of
 bras by the feminist movement. In other words: lacking understanding and perhaps
 tinged with a little apprehension about what it all means.

Facing the Ghosts


Just as the women’s movement needed to purge its collective history of the pain,
 repression and guilt it contained and individual women needed to join with other 
women to form support groups to help clear their personal pain and brutalising 
pasts, so men have reached a point – probably helped by the example of the women
 and prompted by the need to re-evaluate their role in the world and in relationship
 in the light of the feminist movement – where it is important for us to move into
 that archetypal world which is full of demons and fear. Men need to face their ghosts
 both collectively and personally if we are to become truly new men.

This century has seen the greatest and the worst of human development and
 technological advancement. During this time there have been phenomenal shifts in
 thinking and perception about the earth and the creatures, including ourselves, who
 live on it. It is entirely appropriate that in the area of personal growth and development that every assumption be examined. Of course there are poor judgements
 and false starts. In the world of psychotherapy there is a need to respect the tentative “first steps” of men and women in the journey toward wholeness and
 integration. It is time for everyone to listen to the sound of the drums which call 
people to deeper understanding of themselves, each other and the world in which 
we live.

As the millennium approaches there will be many apocalyptic thoughts and fears, 
however it is not by chance that the Spirit of the Universe arranges that the energy 
has been right for the transformation of women and the emancipation of men. 
Hopefully we will walk together in all our many shapes and sizes into the 21st 
Century.