Never fear: this is not a political exposé. Instead, it’s a reflection on a fascinating conversation that I had with Dr. Jed Diamond last night on my internet radio program. As you may know, Dr. Jed is the author of the best-selling books, Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome. What I didn’t know about Dr. Jed (until last night’s conversation) was that he’s quite an accomplished futurist. In retrospect, how could henot be? He has spent his life dealing with men in transition, and one critical aspect of the syndrome relates to the way men in midlife transition have to cope with a world that’s in transition. I was very much taken aback when I realized in the course of the interview that the world itself is going through a midlife transition!
What exactly does that mean, and what does it have to do with the US President-elect? Fundamentally, it means that human beings in general, and men in particular, now have to redefine their role in society, in culture, and in history. All of our traditional roles are very quickly becoming obsolete as the very meaning and purpose of human existence shifts in response to seismic shifts in humanity’s interrelationships with one another and with nature transformed by human activity. “Future shock” is now. The information explosion, coupled to the communication explosion heralds what very well could be the emergence of the next stage of human evolution: social networking on a scale never before imagined. In the process, the female of our species, as empathetic connector and nurturer, rises to prominence while the aggressive, systematic male, a holdover from the age of the hunter-gatherer rapidly faces extinction. When what it means to be a man in the near – very near – future bears little or no resemblance to what it has meant for countless millennia, the shock can only shake the foundations of our human society to its very roots.
In his Irritable Male Syndrome book, Dr. Jed points out that most of the leading careers currently (and even more so in the future) require a high degree of education and sophisticated networking skills. This applies to both leading private sector and public sector jobs. While corporate America may be evolving slowly toward integrating women fully into the workplace, civil service jobs have been evolving much more quickly. Once you delve beneath the surface of political appointee careers (which are still very heavily male-dominated), highly-educated, powerful and highly-networked women now clearly dominate the career bureaucracy. We must understand that this isn’t an aberration; it’s the future. Rather than alpha males imposing their will on a staff of subservient women (have you seen AMC’s series, Mad Men?), men in positions of authority now have to rely on their own networking skills to interface with a highly-motivated and highly-integrated staff, or risk either being left behind in the dust or facing a workforce revolution of massive proportions (see the Office of Special Counsel vs. Scott Bloch). The best an aggressive male can expect from a 21st century workforce would be, as Gandhi proposed, ‘nonviolent noncooperation.’
Faced with a global shift of these proportions, men have few options. As their IMS increases, they can either wage war on the people they blame for their plight, or they can embrace a massive change in their whole concept of what it means to be a man and of their role and purpose in the broader social context. ‘Win at all costs’ has become a losing strategy. From now on, win-win is in fact (if not in policy) the only affective approach left.
That’s where the President-elect comes in. The political campaigns just concluded offer us a stunningly clear example of the contrast between the world that’s passing away and the world that’s emerging. Just as in the male midlife transition, the old definitely won’t leave the stage without a protest. However, it will leave, because it’s job is finished and it’s increasingly less relevant to the way the world works now. Barack Obama represents (at least for the US) the first of the new millennium leaders. Cowboy diplomacy has come and gone. The era of deepened communication, opened technological channels for the interplay of ideas, grass-roots participation and empowerment, teaming, shared responsibility (and power), social networking (and the mutual acceptance and respect on which it depends), all have been modeled in Obama’s campaign, and we have strong hopes that it will characterize the governance of this new administration more than ever before.
Males are neither extinct nor are they obsolete (although their traditional roles and self-image are quickly becoming so). It’s very exciting to realize that the current age – the world’s midlife transition, so to speak – will see the emergence of a new, more aware, more confident and self-assured man, both capable of and skilled at assuming the role of shared leadership in the daunting task of reforming our relationships with one another and with our planet. We’re witnessing, according to Dr. Jed, the birth of the ‘green’ man!
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