There are a lot of young boys in The West who have never had a father. Never had a man, especially one from the greatest generation, tell them the five most important principles of masculinity and how they guide a boy into becoming a Man, capital M.
Many fanboys prefer Batman to Superman because Bruce Wayne is just a man. To them, Clark is a god among men because he is alien and not from this human world. Thus, Bruce has the edge on manhood over Superman because he had to become a hero through hard work. Bruce had to build his mind and body to peak perfection from scratch, with no super powers to rely on to save him. But the one crucial distinction that will always divide Batman from Superman is the #1 reality all boys will have to face as they grow up to become men.
How to properly assume and wield power.
Women will never have real power in the world. It's a plain fact. Women will never be as strong, as fast and yes, even as smart as most men are capable of becoming. Thus it is power, and a man's use of it, that defines him as a man because only a man can acquire and wield real power.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
This is why Superman has more to teach young boys about becoming men than Bruce Wayne.
Bruce Wayne does not have Superman's god like power.
Bruce does not have the ability to do nearly anything. To impose his will on not just one man, but the whole of humanity.
It was with great fortune, or divine providence, that Kal-El crash landed on a prairie field in Kansas. Jonathan "Pa" Kent is the man that is responsible for guiding young Clark toward manhood and eventually choosing to become Superman and help humanity move forward toward a better future. Jonathan taught young Clark what I believe to be the five cardinal principles of masculinity that lead to authentic masculinity.
I - Love
Love is demonstrated from the very beginning as the underlying life lesson taught to Clark by Jonathan in Superman's origin story.
Here is this alien, but human, infant. Crash landed in a farmer's field.
Helpless. Exposed. Vulnerable.
The Clarks' responded to this alien event with only one choice.
To take the young infant in and raise the boy as their own flesh & blood son.
This too is Ephesus. Just outside the gate leading to the Temple of Magnesia is the city dump standing in sharp contrast to the bustling opulence and marble clad glitter of the city of Ephesus is this quiet, very sad place.
Sad...sad because here among these littered relics of the past was the place where citizens of Ephesus would come and discard their unwanted babies on the top of the trash heap.
The Roman law death by exposure permitted the citizens of the Empire to throw their unwanted babies away in places like this and then the exposure to the heat, the dehydrating infants would soon pass out of this life and it was into the sad stench of a dump like this that Christians grabbed an opportunity. History tells us that early Christians came out here and harvested these babies. Took them back into their homes and reared them.
Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you believe in God or are a rabid atheist, the fact remains that in the transition from pagan Rome to Christian Rome, it was Christ's message of love that began to rescue babies from the garbage and end the practice of exposure in ancient times.
To have true, authentic masculinity, you must believe that all human beings deserve love, and show that belief in how you treat others.
Superman demonstrates love toward all humanity over and over again in his personal choice to use his god like power to help, not dominate, the whole of humanity.
Even in the most recent Hollywood take on the man in red and blue tights, love and compassion are what drives Superman in his dealings with others. Without that love, that love for himself and his fellow man, Superman would be a nightmare on earth.
In this scene from Batman Vs Superman, the final battle between the Dark Knight and Superman demonstrates clearly that as smart as Bruce Wayne is, as tactical as Batman is, he is alive ONLY because Superman restrains himself from killing him.
If I wanted it, you'd be dead already.
This... is what love as the primary root of masculinity allows a man to become.
A Compassionate, empathic, restrained and mentally disciplined wielder of power.
This... is the miracle that Jonathan Kent performed in raising Clark Kent.
Had Clark been raised differently, without the lessons of love and compassion for humanity, who knows what Superman might have become.
I know talk of love in the emerging patriarchal men's movement is not something anyone feels is worthy or deserving of serious discussion. Talk of love is weak. It's "feminine" (it's not, but that discussion is for another post). It's divorced from the reality of living life as a man in the feminist 21st century. Perhaps, but love is what gets these two superheroes to stop fighting one another to focus on the real enemy. Love for their mothers, both named Martha.
When Superman tells Batman to save Martha, Bruce is forced back to the day his own parents were brutally murdered. This is the real difference that matters between Batman & Superman - one boy grew up within a loving intact family, the other had his family, and specifically his father, brutally taken from him. It is not a mystery to me why Bruce and Clark have different views on how to go about being superheros. They are two men who are products of very different upbringings. Yes, one is a man, the other an alien, but both men know the power of love and it is what drives both characters in their individual fight against crime and injustice.
I don't know what the future of man is in the 21st century, but without love, man is truly, and hopelessly, lost.
II - Truth
When the world finds out what you can do, it is going to change everything.
Truth follows after love because without love, you can't know, nor speak, the truth.
Love for a son who is confused and looking for answers. This is why Jonathan decides it is time to tell Clark the truth about his origin and begin to lay the moral groundwork for Clark's future life as a man.
Speak truth to power is a revolutionary slogan for a reason.
Weak men obsessed with power and control over others fear not violence from the masses. What they fear most is the truth. Truth is what sets all men free, Christian or not. It's a truism because once a man knows the truth, he can make right decisions.
Moral decisions. Ethical decisions.
Like deciding whether to save someone's life or not.
You may never have to face the choice of having to save your own life or someone else's, but as men, we will all be faced with making both small and large moral choices as we navigate life.
Clark is confused in the scene on the truck that opens this post. He just saved the lives of his classmates when the school bus went off the bridge into the river. He managed to make sure few saw what he did, but those that did were shocked and scared. Clark knows he is different from other boys his age, but he does not know why his Dad has instructed him to keep his powers a secret.
It is in this scene that Jonathan begins to educate Clark into what lies ahead in his future. In what lies ahead in the future for every boy becoming a man by telling him the truth of his being.
What to do with the gift, and the power, of manhood.
And the responsibility of being a postive force in the world as he becomes a man.
While the story is coached in words of alien powers that separates Clark from humans, the deeper subtext is that of a boy becoming a man and going out into the world to do good, not wrong. We may or may not be alone in the universe, but each man is alone in the moral choices he has to make in life.
Will he lie, or tell the truth?
Will he be an honest man, or a cheat?
Will he fight for truth, or shrug his shoulders and say that truth is none of his business as long as he gets what he wants in the end?
Jonathan is giving Clark the first lesson in the power he wields - that truth can have devastating consequences in the world.
Both good and bad.
Telling the truth may incite violence, fear and anger.
But telling the truth can also result in clarity, purpose and resolve long standing questions, doubts and anxieties.
It is also a scene that demonstrates that telling the truth comes first and foremost from love for another person.
You only tell the truth to those you love.
Because telling a lie is the first sign you don't love someone enough to be honest with them.
Thus love and truth, compassion and honesty, are the first two principles of masculinity all men must develop in themselves so that we can bring about the third principle...
III - Justice
CLARK: I wanted to hit that kid... I wanted to hit him so bad.
JONATHAN: I know you did, I mean... part of me even wanted you to. But then what? Make you feel any better?
You just have to decide what kind of a man you want to grow up to be Clark. Because whoever that man is, good character or bad, he's... he's gonna change the world.
It is no co-incidence that Clark is reading Plato's Republic in this scene.
Love for humanity and truth amounts to nothing if a man does not take action to bring about justice.
It is justice that Jonathan is teaching Clark in this scene. The kind of justice only a man can assert because he has the power to do so.
Should Clark have hit back?
Would fighting that bully have served any purpose, any justice?
Or would it simply be an angry, emotional and undisciplined response?
As a man walks his life, he will be confronted with knowing the truth, and thus having to take action on the truth he has learned. But a man can't just react, especially in anger. A man must be disciplined in mind and temperament to not react in anger, but act in justice.
Action... versus reaction... is what makes the difference between justice and revenge.
If a boy grows up without knowing how to question and discern right from wrong, there will be no justice in that society because women, even if they care about justice, can do nothing to enforce it. Only men can enforce justice on other men, and thus bring justice to the whole of society.
Justice then is what unites the first three principles of masculinity into a trinity. A triune framework that makes a man whole, complete and capable of being truly, authentically, masculine.
When every man is his most masculine self, when every man incorporates the first three principles of masculinity into his very being, the fourth principle is given birth.
IV - Liberty
And who will decide which bloodlines survive Zod... You?
Tyranny. Oppression. Dictatorial rule.
Truth is the first casualty of war, and love the second when one sees one's fellow man as an enemy, not a brother. Justice then falls swiftly to the gutter in a race for the might-makes-right principle of Niccolo Machevli - the ends justify the means.
But whose ends?
Liberty is only truly cared about by men, because it is only men that are able to subvert it and take it away from all other men.
The greatest generation of Jonathan Kent's day fought in not one, but two of humanity's greatest wars of death and destruction. These men saw more death, more poverty, more suffering than you or I will ever see in our lifetime in The West. These men fought for one principle and one principle only - liberty.
Jonathan would have taught young Clark the importance of liberty. How when each man is free to live his life as he sees fit, so far as he does not infringe on any other man's right to live his, that this is the most blessed state a man could find himself living in with other fellow men.
With love as the foundation, a house of truth built upon it, and justice the roof, liberty is what builds the fence that makes for good neighbours.
And as we all know, with good neighbours comes...
V - Respect
Respect is the capstone of masculinity. It's what draws a man into fellowship with other men and allows him to work, to play, to find a woman to marry and enjoy the friendship and social support of a community he belongs to as a productive member of society.
In the clip above, respect is seen in its most pure form - trust.
Trust could be a sixth principle of masculinity, but it is more of a natural result than a founding principle. When men love one another as brothers, tell each other the truth, are vigilant against any man breaking the laws of his community or violating the freedoms of his neighbours, respect is easy to give and naturally leads to not just trusting others, but being trusted by them.
In a truly patriarchal society, trust and respect for others is a universal trait of every community of masculine men.
Doors are left unlocked.
Kids can play freely knowing neighbours can be trusted to keep an eye on them.
Criminals have a hard time, for there are so few they can trust to be as dishonest as they are to find partners in crime.
Difference of opinion can be voiced because respect ensures that the community of men will refute and correct anyone who is spouting lies and deceits to try and gain selfish advantage over others.
These five principles of masculinity are all a boy needs to become a man.
What was once old, will be new again.
A lot of things may change in the world, but Man is not one of them. If he could only embrace these 5 principles of masculinity in full once again, this world could truly be a paradise.
Strength & Honor