Where are our male role models? Are they nonexistent or on the verge of extinction? Are they sitting in the prisons? Not only the prisons like Camp Street, Mazaruni or Lusignan, but imprisoned in their minds, like those who seem devoid of wisdom or the strength to walk side by side with women or to inspire children.
Are our male role models sitting in buildings garbed in suits and ties? Or toiling in the fields soiling their attire until the sun sets? Or does the sun glisten on their heads as they make bargains, while the women and men they love rob their children of sustenance?
Do the role models stand in the churches, temples and mosques, devout it may appear, but devoid of compassion and mercy? Do they hear the cries of others and do they ignore their own need to cry?
Are our politicians, our teachers, doctors and lawyers the role models? Do masons, carpenters and artists carve principles that can inspire the young?
Monday, November 19th was set aside to celebrate the achievements of men and to bring awareness to their health. But there was no great effort in Guyana to mark the day. It was not remembered by most, not cared for by others, or so it would appear, unlike International Women’s Day, when many events marked the occasion celebrating women everywhere.
Someone asked: Where are our male role models? It was not the first time the question was asked and it will not be the last. But in an era where we are so evolved, enlightened, and connected, why is this question still necessary?
Although the day was first observed in 1992, it was relaunched in 1999 by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, a Trinidadian. Many countries around the world have since recognised the day, but besides one newspaper article where a Non-Governmental Organisation, Men’s Value and Purpose, was calling for the day to become more recognised in Guyana, there was very little mention of the it.
The deafening silence suggests that many do not see the importance of celebrating men, recognising male role models or raising awareness about men’s health. Perhaps it is assumed that men are strong, formidable and do not need to honoured. Or maybe it is the assumption that men are not worthy enough to be celebrated.
On Father’s Day, while many fathers are shown love and appreciation, many children pose with their single mothers and highlight that their mothers played the role of both parents. I am not one of those people who believes that a woman can fulfill the role of both mother and father. My father died when I was very young, and I grew up missing him and sought fatherly guidance in my grandfather and then an uncle, because I craved that male presence in my life.
I cannot say that I have ever seen someone pose with their Dad on Mother’s Day although I do not doubt that it has occurred. However, women are often celebrated. On days like International Women’s Day it would be strange for someone to ask, where are our female role models? But maybe the need to celebrate women stems from the history of oppression. Women have had to fight for their human rights to take their rightful place in society. And, even now, many are still oppressed. But still we must ask, haven’t men also fought great battles?
Haven’t they defended their lands? Stood against foes to protect their women and children? Haven’t they too faced oppression? Fought too for human rights?
The question about male role models is necessary. For often what we witness in our society is the repression of women and children by men. The violence is more often perpetuated by men. The rapes are predominantly by men. The paedophiles are more often than not men. Those who abandon their children are mostly men. Those who commit suicide are mostly men. Most of the crimes that are committed are by men.
The evidence that many of our men are in trouble is clear, but it seems like there is little effort to investigate their pain, the source of their rage and their mental illnesses. There is little effort to help save those who can be saved.
Maybe the notion about men being the stronger of the sexes, the heads of households and Lords in many instances, has desensitised the society to the struggles of men. Statements like ‘real men don’t cry’ have perhaps caused many to suppress their emotions, which can result in many of the horrible acts we see men committing. And still boys are being born every day and they will look for male role models.
If any society needs to highlight the achievements of men, it is ours. To say that there are no male role models is untrue. There are many fathers, professionals, tradesmen, survivors, who are prime examples of what younger men should strive to be. For too long, we have allowed the faces we often see in our news to speak for most of our men.
International Men’s Day should be seen just as important as International Women’s Day because although many men may not admit it, they too need to honoured, they too are vulnerable, and they too need support. And it is clear that many need to focus not only on their physical health, but mental health as well.
When we look around our society, many young men are on a path to destruction. Many fathers, who are supposed to be their first role models, abandon their responsibilities and so, in many cases, they start their lives missing a strong male presence. And just like I sought it in my grandfather and then an uncle, they too will seek it somewhere else. Some are lucky to have grandfathers, older brothers and uncles. Some are lucky to find spiritual leaders and teachers who become their mentors. But some also look to their peers for role models. They look to the artistes they listen to and often what they get from such sources is not in their best interest. Often, what they believe makes a man contributes to the destruction of our society.
Our male role models are in our homes, religious institutions, schools and everywhere in our society. Their numbers may seem few in a nation where it appears that the ills are more often highlighted.
Sadly, those that may be looked at as male role models are also sitting in the prisons. Some believe that every strike is a badge of honour. Some believe that they are the strongest and the toughest because they can survive behind bars. However, the worst prisons exist within the minds and it those from which many need to escape.