Can Men Survive the Demise of the Bread-Winner Role?

Like many men, my father grew up knowing that he had to be successful as the family breadwinner. Then, as now, it wasn’t always easy to fulfill that crucial role that is at the core of a man’s self-esteem. While his brothers all went into business, my father’s passion was to be an actor. When he was twenty-three years old he left his home in Jacksonville, Florida and hitchhiked to New York to become in search of his dream.

He was successful at first, but the Great Depression soon hit and he found it difficult to find a job. He and my mother got married and they both found part-time work. But when I was born, the gender-roles kicked into place and my mother stayed home to take care of me and my father redoubled his efforts to become an actor, but jobs were few and far between.

We moved to California and he switched careers to writing for the emerging movie and television industries, but he had the bad luck of being black-listed because of his left-wing leanings. His journals at that time showed his gradual slide into depression.

October 10th: “Oh, Christ, if I could only give my son a decent education—a college decree with a love for books, a love for people, good, solid knowledge. No guidance was given to me. I slogged and slobbered and blundered through two-thirds of my life. I can’t make a decent living and it’s killing me.”

December 8th: “Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work, Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.”

January 24th: “Faster, faster, faster, I walk. I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family. I try, try, try, try, try. I always try and never stop.”

June 8th: “A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out. Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried. All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying. Yes, on a Wednesday morning in June, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his June 8th entry, my father took an over-dose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Hospital. Back then, there was little real treatment. He was mis-diagnosed as being psychotic, though today he would have been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, but his real problem was basing his male identity on his role as family breadwinner.

When I lost my job a number of years ago, I became depressed and suicidal. I didn’t even like the job and was planning to leave, but was blindsided when the loss of the job made me feel I was worthless as a man. This is a real dilemma for millions of men today. We consider the breadwinner role essential for our sense of manhood, yet the male breadwinner role is in decline and may be on its way out.

A study conducted by the World Bank, which sampled 19 countries throughout the world, concluded: [Read more…]

Men’s Business: How Two Unlikely Entrepreneurs Help Men Look Good and Live Well

ebgr1szj3dg-idriss-fettoulI’ve been helping men live healthier, more joyful, lives for more than 40 years. I’ll be honest. It’s been an uphill struggle. Like most guys, I grew up with the belief that “real men” were tough, didn’t complain, and played hurt. I survived high school and college sports with my share of injuries, both physical and emotional. I’ve dealt with everything from back pain to bipolar disorder. Feeling that others might benefit from what I’ve learned in my own struggles, I started a business, MenAlive, to help men, and the families who love them, to live well.

I’ll tell you it isn’t easy making a living helping men. Women tend to be more focused on their health and well-being, but men need health and support just as much as women and women are happier and healthier when the men in their lives are healthy and happy. I’d like to introduce you to two men who have taken on the challenge of helping men live healthier and more joyful lives. Their names are Josh Meyer and Matt Bolduc.

Josh and Matt both grew up in Skowhegan, a small town in rural central Maine. They met in high school and have been best friends since they were sixteen. Good business role models are rare in economically-depressed central Maine. Matt’s parents owned a Christmas wreath shop. Growing up, he saw firsthand how much hard work a successful small business takes. Josh’s parents have always been hard workers. He worked along with his grandfather, dragging brush and doing odd jobs since he was a boy. From a young age, it was instilled in both Matt and Josh that you have to work for what you want. [Read more…]

Making a Living While Making a Difference: Finding the Balance Between Charging for Services and Giving Them For Free

6281142155_cf33c5be64_zI come from a long line of helpers. As far back as I can remember my mother was always helping friends, neighbors, and the community. Throughout her life she was a member of Altrusa, an international civic organization started in 1917 by women helping others during World War I. My father was a writer, actor, and playwright. Both were involved in progressive political activities.

My mother spent her adult life working as a secretary, making just enough money to support the family and did her “helper work” after hours. My father wanted to make a living doing the work he loved, but he never made money at his craft and eventually became depressed and tried to take his own life when I was five years old.

In their view there were only two kinds of people in the world: The “workers” who eked out a living, but helped others and the “owners” who exploited the workers and got rich at the expense of others. I’m sure they would have been on the front lives of those protesting the 1% who became Godzillionaires and the 99% who worked hard all their lives for a small wage.

I grew up conflicted about helping others. On the one hand I thought I should follow my mother’s lead and separate her “job” which included making a subsistence wage from her “passion” for helping others. On the other hand I wanted to follow my father’s desire to make a living doing what he loved. But I was always afraid that if I did what I loved I would fail to make a living, become depressed and run the risk of following my father’s path from a suicide attempt into a mental hospital.

Over the years I’ve found a balance. I decided I would make a living doing what I love to do. Over the years that has been writing, teaching, and counseling. I never got rich and don’t expect I ever will, but I’ve managed to do well, find a great wife, raise our family of five children, and help our 16 grandchildren, mostly by giving love, occasionally by giving a little money when they need it.

I started MenAlive in 1969 following the birth of my son, Jemal. I made a vow to him that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me and I would do everything I could to create a world where men and women could make a living doing what they loved to do and where children could grow up with parents who loved and supported them. [Read more…]

How to Prevent the Next Mass Killing: Stop Abusing Our Boys

Talen Barton Pic

Talen Barton with his attorney Linda Thompson at his court appearance when he plead guilty to the murders of Teo Palmieri and his father Coleman Palmieri. – Chris Pugh — Ukiah Daily Journal

Mass killings in our society are becoming more and more common. We all deal with the trauma in our own ways. Writing helps me. In 2012 I wrote an article for the Huffington Post about 20 year-old Adam Lanza who killed 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Violence by young men seems to be escalating and getting closer. It recently came to my home town.

When I first heard that Talen Barton had killed his best friend Teo Palmieri and Teo’s father Coleman Palmieri I was stunned. When I learned that he had nearly killed Coleman’s wife, Cindy, and her brother, Theodore, in the rampage I was shaken to my core. I worked with Cindy, a medical doctor at Long Valley Health Center in Laytonville, and remember when she and Coleman first moved to the area. I knew that they had taken Talen to live with them a number of years ago and treated him as one of the family. After mourning the loss of life, I needed to understand how this tragedy had happened.

The headline in the Ukiah Daily Journal on October 6, 2015 summarized the outcome:

Barton handed 71-year sentence in Laytonville stabbings, likely off to San Quentin

Men and women who work in law enforcement see too many killers like Talen Barton.

One detective said he was encountering “pure evil,” that Barton was an “absolute monster.”

Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster, prosecuting on behalf of the people, summarized the way we treat killers under our present system:

“He’s going to go to a warehouse where the forgotten go.”

We Must Be Willing to Go Deeper

If we are going to prevent more killings we have to go deeper to understand how Talen Barton became a killer. Talen Barton is 19 years old. Most mass murderers are young men who were once innocent little boys.
[Read more…]

Eight Little Known Secrets About Being a Man

Secrets of being a manIt isn’t easy being a man (or a woman) these days. Roles are changing. The world is changing. It can feel like the very foundation of who we are has been built on an earthquake fault.  Just when we think we can walk around safely, the ground begins to move and we are knocked off our feet.

My parents tell the story of my circumcision (one of the many hazards of being male, and still a hazard for many women in the world). My father was behind me as they spread my new-born legs and cut away my foreskin. It was supposed to me a ceremony of celebration of manhood. Not for me and not for babies who are abused in that way. I let out a scream and arched a stream of urine over my little head, which hit my father in the eyes.

I’ve been fighting assaults to our humanity ever since. Here are a few things about being a man that I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Sex Matters: Males and Females Are Different in Every Cell of Our Bodies

According to Marianne J. Legato, M.D., Founder of The Center for Gender Specific Medicine, Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.” This difference goes right down to the cells in our bodies. David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says, “There are 10 trillion cells in human body and every one of them is sex specific.”  [Read more…]

5 Ways to Achieve Peak Prosperity as We Face the Biggest Economic, Environmental, and Energy Transformation of All Times

change machineAs Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’.” Indeed they are, big time. We are facing the biggest crisis in human history as we deal with our economy, environment, and energy use. Although we face great danger, there is also great opportunity. We often experience the impact of change through illness and pain—everything from Alzheimer’s and depression to anger and arthritis are on the rise.

In 1993 I participated in a Native American sweat lodge ceremony. During the sweat lodge I had a vision where I saw the sinking of the “Ship of Industrial Civilization” and the emergence of “Life Boats to a New Way of Life.” Since that time I’ve gotten a clearer understanding of the reality of this change and how we can all find our lifeboats, get on board, and create a new way of life that is more sustainable and satisfying than anything the world has ever known.

  1. Recognize the Opportunity Within the Crisis

If a raging tiger broke into our yard, we’d immediately recognize the danger and run for our lives or fight to survive. But economic, environmental, and energy changes occur slowly enough that our brain doesn’t register them. We have to use our creative imaginations to see the danger we are in.

In his book and video series, The Crash Course, economic researcher and futurist Chris Martenson describes the three major forces that are impacting our future: Economy, Energy, and Environment, how these big three Es interact, and how they determine our prosperity or decline.

Our Industrial Civilization has been driven by the use of more and more of the Earth’s resources.  As Richard Heinberg points out in his book Peak Everything, our use of fossil fuels is damaging the environment and we’re reaching the end of “cheap oil” that drives our energy economy. But if we understand the trends and address them wisely, Martenson and Heinberg believe we can move towards Peak Prosperity. [Read more…]

Awaken Your Genius: How To Free Your Creativity and Manifest Your Dreams

Over the last 40 years I have been helping men, and the people who love them, to live well.  I’ve learned that we never heal alone.  There are always helpers and guides along the way that give us the love, support, and the wisdom we need to find our true selves and manifest our dreams.

One of my greatest guides has been my son, Jemal.  He was born 44 years ago and is a fantastically creative artist.  In the delivery room on a dark November morning he came into the world and I made a vow to him that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me and I would do everything I could to fulfill my dreams to make a positive difference in the world.  He continues to inspire the best in me.

It’s clear to me that if we don’t find and live our dreams we get sick in mind, body, and spirit.   We get everything from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer’s, depression to chronic pain. Our current medical system focuses on treating symptoms, not the real causes of disease.  More and more people are getting sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Carolyn Elliott is one of those people.

In her wonderfully helpful book, Awaken Your Genius:  A Seven-Step Path to Freeing Your Creativity and Manifesting Your Dreams, she shares her journey and offers the wisdom of her experience to all those who are ready to become the person they were always meant to be.  “Back when I was a young dreamer,” says Elliott, “I did drugs.  A lot.  And not just the good ones.  I did the nasty ones too.  Nearly to the point of killing myself.”

She continues to share her truth from the honest center of her soul.  Many of us have struggled as she has.  “I was suffering from my genius.  I wanted to feel different.  I wanted to feel better.  I want to live my life in ecstasy, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for myself or anyone else.” [Read more…]

The Crisis Enters Year Five: Are We Ready to Address the Real Problem?

According to Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City, “The current capitalist global crisis began with the severe contraction in the housing markets in mid-2007. Therefore welcome to Year Five.  This inventory of where things stand may begin with the good news: the major banks, the stock market, and corporate profits have largely or completely ‘recovered’ from the lows they reached early in 2009. The US dollar has fallen sharply against many currencies of countries with which the US trades and that has enabled US exports to rebound from their crisis lows.

“However, the bad news is what prevails notwithstanding the political and media hypes about ‘recovery.’ The most widely cited unemployment rate remains at 9 % for workers without jobs but looking. If instead we use the more indicative U-6 unemployment statistic of the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, then the rate is 15%.  The latter rate counts also those who want full-time but can only find part-time work and those who want work but have given up looking. One in six members of the US labor force brings home little or no money, burdening family and friends, using up savings, cutting back on spending, etc.”

Men Are Hit Particularly Hard

We know that although both women and men are impacted by unemployment, men are particularly vulnerable to the demoralization, stress, and depression which often go with our feeling that we are not taking care of our families adequately.  According to Boadie W. Dunlop, M.D. Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “Men in the changing economy will face the same risks for depression that women faced in older economies: trapped in a family role from which they cannot escape because of an inability to find employment.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.

“The recent recession afflicting Western economies serves as a harbinger of the economic future for men, especially for those with lower levels of education,” says Dunlop. “Dubbed by some the ‘Mancession’, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard, because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries, such as construction and manufacturing, although of course working women have also been affected.”

Getting to the Core of the Problem

We all feel the burden of an economic system that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%.  As the hype for next presidential election gets underway, we need to remember that both parties have increasingly become dominated by the rich, though Republicans seem more hell bent on insuring that the rich get richer.

Wolff points out, “Neither party can shake off its utter dependence now on corporate and rich citizens’ monies for all their financial sustenance. Therefore neither party imagines, let alone explores, alternatives to massive deficits and debts. After all, government deficits and debts mean (a) the government is not taxing corporations and the rich, and (b) the government is instead borrowing from them and paying them interest.  So the two parties quibble over how much to cut which government jobs and public services.”

We need a new model for how we run our business life.  Up to now, the model driving our economies depended on perpetual growth, requiring ever more resources and investments. This model has inherent flaws. It leads to unjust societies, highly skewed and exploitative economies, and devastated ecosystems. The business model that defines corporate environmental responsibility in terms of size of investment, and defines corporate success as increased shareholder value and grandiose executive compensation, must be replaced. The new economy must be more effective and more collaborative.  It must become truly sustainable, introducing innovations that permit less investment, generate more revenues, and build the strengths of a community and builds up social capital – not debt.

Moving Toward a Sustainable “Blue” Economy

Gunter Pauli an inveterate entrepreneur whose scope of initiatives span business, culture, science, and education.  In his book, The Blue Economy:  10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, he says, “the current global crisis highlights the need for an framework of economic development that is based on fundamental innovation and that will generate desperately needed jobs while sustainably addressing the needs of the earth and all its citizens.”

 “This ‘blue’ approach,” says Pauli, “is not only viable, it has already begun to take root. Four years of research has identified a portfolio of 100 innovations including whole systems models that have the potential to generate as many as 100 million jobs worldwide over the next 10 years.”  This is the business framework that will drive the new Blue Economy. This is the framework that will seek out and define true sustainability for all living species on Earth.

What do you think?  Are we ready to move beyond capitalism towards a system of economic democracy?  I’d like to hear from you.

 

For Love or Money: The New Male Vocation Is….

The cover story in Time magazine headlines:  The Richer Sex:  Women, Money, and Power. It reports on studies showing that almost 40% of working wives make more money than their husbands and goes on to say, “Assuming present trends continue, by the next generation, more families will be supported by women than by men.”

This raises some interesting questions:  Will present trends continue, or will things shift back again towards men carrying more of the load to support the family?  If present trends do continue will it be good for men, women, and children?  Could the new male vocation be learning how to love more rather than learning to make more money?

I think there’s a wonderful opportunity here.  I’d offer it in the form of an equation (thanks to author Chip Conley for the idea of turning big ideas into short equations):

Love
________    =  Happiness
Money

Love divided by money equals happiness.  I know for most of my adult life, I thought I created happiness for myself and my family by working harder and harder to make more and more money.  I put a lot more effort into making money than learning the skills to love myself, love my wife, and love my children.  I knew I loved them, but I thought I expressed it best by making money.

My equation of effort might have looked like this  1/10 = 0.1.  I put in 1 unit of learning to love for every 10 units on making money.  Now, with so many men finding it difficult to make money, perhaps we can reverse this equation.  10/1 = 10, where we can put ten units into learning to love for every unit on making money.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Time Magazine Cover March 26, 2012