Back in 1996 Robert Bly wrote a book entitled “The Sibling Society” in which he portrayed our culture as being obsessed by youth, suspicious of authority, intent on wanting to destroy “vertical” culture, especially any sense of patriarchy. Their desire was to replace it with a “horizontal” culture expressed by pop music, movies, TV, student-style politics and in our day, the social media. For better or worse, the watershed moment was 1968.
“The sibling society stands in contrast to what preceded it,” observed John Waters, “the father-oriented society in which authority was unafraid to speak or to be despised by the young for so doing.” He defines authority as “the capacity to endure unpopularity in the interests of the good.” Authority expressed in fatherhood invited resentment and rebellion. “The father” notes Waters, “was the guarantor and custodian of civilization, and even malcontented youth looked to him for guidance, free to remonstrate in the knowledge that affection would not be withdrawn.” But today the father figure is mostly absent or suspect, leaving a hole in the souls of young men, now being invaded by the demons of a anti-Christian culture.
The Jordon Peterson phenomena comes to mind when there is talk of a “father figure.” Peterson is speaking to the soul of young men, who are looking for a strong, confident masculine voice to give them direction in a culture that has given the masculine little hope of finding a sense of being. There is much to disagree with, in regards to Peterson’s personal theology and spirituality, but I thank God that he is willing to confront the cultural narrative regarding young men. I admire him for his courage and insight.
Many of those who are his sharpest critics, were themselves a product of the 60s culture of peace, love, dope and an anti-establishment mentality. I agree with Waters when he says, “They are…..the worst kind of people to be running anything requiring even a modicum of authority, having themselves grown up thinking that youth values ought to trump experience, wisdom and tradition.”
Where are the elders who behave like grown ups in our culture. It needs to start with fathers and the right view of authority. I remember well all the years I taught confirmations classes to junior hi youth. We would study the 10 commandments. “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” was the fourth commandment. What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not show contempt for our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.”
I told those young teens that parenting was like putting a loving fence around the children. As teen agers they would bump up against that fence and get frustrated, anger, etc. This is normal for young people. I reminded them that parents in their love for children would get bruised and battered from their behavior. Then I asked, “What would it be like if there was no fence to confront.’ They usually said that they would be on their own. Waters is right when he says the “snowflake” problem today “is the result of an absence not so much of adulthood as of grown-ups.”
“Today’s university students seek to apply the most natural and tired method of young people since the time of Cain and Abel, by pushing their elders until someone let a roar of ‘enough.'” (Waters). Men stand in the gap. Ask God for grace to say “enough.” It is your place to do so.