By R.F. Doyle
The men’s rights movement is often dismissed as a “bunch of angry men.” Of course we’re angry, and justifiably so, just as Jews are angry about their treatment at the hands of Nazis. The men’s/fathers’ movement, the struggle for men’s rights, is positive, not a reaction to women’s lib, though it’s true we must drain the Feminist swamp. The prevailing level of discourse on the subject of men’s defense, especially by newly divorced men, was and still is comparable to that of illiterate 14th century peasants speculating on the cause of plague.
To many men it might seem that they don’t have a dog in this fight, but they do; read Martin Niemoller’s admonition in the introduction to Save the Males. Reform sympathizers are many but relatively silent. Victims of the ‘rape of the male’ cry out only when their ox is being gored, almost never before or after. Quoting the greats: Edmund Burke, an 18th century Irish philosopher and statesman remembered principally for his criticism of the French Revolution, said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Ronald Reagan (The man who fired me in the PATCO massacre) said “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
“My country right or wrong” is often nonsense; to accept things as they are requires more puerility than patriotism. And outright condemnation, though easy, is equally wrong. Muttering to each other on poker night is insufficient. Barstool philosophy is rampant, but ineffective. Many changes must be made before this country again deserves the title “Land of the Free.” “Love it or leave it” are not the only alternatives. It will be one of the most intense and difficult confrontations of our lifetime, a responsibility of biblical proportions – yet absolutely unavoidable if we are going to restore equal rights and dignity for men.
Organized attempts at improving the status of men have developed over the years, differing according to various perceptions of the problems. In America, this began in the 1800s with small groups scattered about. The National Sociological League was perhaps the earliest large organization. In 1931 its Executive Director, Dr. Alexander Dallek, claimed 25,000 members, from every state in the union. They attacked shotgun marriages and unreasonable child support. In 1932 an organization called The Family Protection League lobbied state legislatures. No details of its demise are recorded.
Like Burke’s “Little Platoons,” rival organizations and coalitions came and went throughout the ?70’s and ?80s, reproducing like amoebas. A veritable alphabet soup of acronyms was spawned, theoretically all on the same side in the struggle against injustice, many of them just one man, a typewriter and followers. Meetings were, and still are, held across the country which accomplish little more than venting wrath at ex-wives, judges and lawyers, now via internet.
Unfortunately, communication was practically non-existent. Each new group had to reinvent the wheel. They rediscovered the same issues, gave the same speeches spoken decades before by their predecessors, all the time imagining they were boldly going where no man had gone before. The new guard became the old guard, as ‘summer soldiers’ dropped out, and the cycle began over and over again. What a waste of talent and experience! The inefficiency boggles the mind (Plus ce change…)
Masculism has as many shades as Cher has hair colors. In most movements, and especially this one, there have always been differing factions. Many tunnel vision reformers concentrate on a favorite aspect of reform, one that may have personal significance to them. But the philosophical differences are not nearly as great as the personal ones. Activists often act like crabs in a bucket, dragging back down any others climbing to the top. Some have egos the size of the Hindenburg, but without the intelligence to match. This type pursues private fantasies of being the Messiah who will bring us out of the wilderness. Every rooster is king on his own dung heap. The attendant ego blast overrules the greater good. Little did, or do, these ‘leaders’ seem to realize that lieutenants in a major organization are more important than generals in an unnoticed group.
Quixotic individuals fruitlessly dashed themselves against the unyielding rocks of misandry. Some have had excellent ideas for reform; Several have even run for president or state governor on men’s rights platforms. For decades many fathers and several grandfathers have gone on hunger strike in many countries protesting inability to see their children or grandchildren. None, to my knowledge, have died. These endeavors have been and still are like farting in the wind because the reform “movement” has always been too disorganized to implement or back them.
Resistance has been greater from within the movement than from without. Disputes over means to the same end have rendered us largely ineffective and permitted our common enemies to grind out destruction with pitifully little opposition. This suicidal self-castration is indefensible. The buffalo comes to mind; these magnificent animals almost became extinct, because they stood around eating grass and nosing their freshly killed as tongue-hunters picked them off one by one. Had they a brain large enough for self-preservation instincts, they could have herded up and stampeded the poachers; even if it meant not personally leading the charge or that several of them might get shot. These continuing problems are not confined to the U.S. Every country has experienced the same fractiousness.
Charlie Metz long ago advised me against trying to unify the movement, comparing it to herding cats. Although Charlie’s advice to me was usually right on target, I didn’t heed his warning. After one lengthy earlier attempt at unifying the movement in the early ?70s in Elgin, Illinois failed, several other ecumenical-minded activists and I met in Los Angeles in early 1977, first at the home of Professor Amneus, and next day in a conference room at his University. There we formed a new coalition called Men’s Equality Now International, its acronym M.E.N. International. The foundational philosophy recognized the broader aspects of anti-male discrimination. It was to function as a forum of information exchange, with a Board composed of the heads of major organizations.
Predictably, rival coalitions formed, some with quite talented people. The drain on membership and talent by ongoing defections and by officers and members dropping out when their individual problems were resolved, as well as an internal palace revolt, caused M.E.N. International to slowly slip into dormancy. Some U.S. coalitions remain active and do good work, but are not large or influential enough to be effective. There remains an obstinate, almost militant refusal of the various elements to cooperate in opposition to external and internal enemies and problems. This old accursed phenomenon does more harm than all the anti-male elements in society combined. One is reminded of the psalm of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Today’s leaders have forgotten, actually they never knew, whose shoulders they’re standing upon. A purported history of the men’s/fathers’ movement was recently published by a gentleman with a decidedly leftist, pro-feminist, pro-gay orientation. Overemphasizing at length the importance of such groups, his book, Uneasy Males, claims to be an overview of the men’s movement from 1970 to 2000. The writer’s only knowledge of the movement at the times he writes about is what he gleaned from studying University of Michigan archives. The section on Yours Truly, obviously sourced from archived writings of my critics (you can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back), is loaded with inaccuracies. This retired history professor is not in the same league with Professor Amneus, politically or intellectually. His is shabby history at best.
The Current Situation
Appealing to Reason and/or Militancy
Vigorously forged and tempered under past male dominance, the country is growing soft and weak under existing conditions of female dominance. If this continues, Mid-Eastern crazies may become emboldened enough to attack in worse ways than they already have.
Charlton Heston fears our national social policy originates with Oprah. Must we continue trotting toward our own destruction? Or will society eventually tire of crime, immorality, injustice, family instability, and female domination? After we are stoking the fires of hell, will some future female-dominated legislature pass laws guaranteeing rights and privileges of men, and the pendulum begin another swing? It’s up to us.
The entire spectrum of amelioration includes both positive and negative approaches, twin blades in the scissors, analogous to reward and punishment in child behavior. The traditional, positive field is flooded with therapists, books on the subject, demonstrations, passive resistance and other “reasonable” measures– some helpful, some nonsense. There is another blade to the scissors.
Fredric Bastiat said, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” When law conflicts with morality, it must be defied. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery Alabama bus in 1955, she violated the law, obviously the right thing to do. Black civil rights activists sat in at ‘whites only’ lunch counters. Columnist Wendy McElroy described previous instances of non-violent protest thusly, “Anti-slavery activists flouted the law by harboring run-aways; the most famous of them, William Lloyd Garrison, called the Constitution’s sanction of slavery “an agreement with hell, a covenant with death” and urged non-violent resistance.
19th century labor advocates staged strikes that paralyzed entire regions and industries; they burned factory owners in effigy. Philosopher Ayn Rand said “Civil disobedience may be justifiable in some cases, when and if an individual disobeys a law in order to bring an issue to court as a test case.” Rand supported civil disobedience for individuals or groups “when and if the risks involved are their own.” During Vietnam, the anti-war movement barraged ‘the system’ with flamboyant tactics. Perhaps the most famous one occurred when Yippies threw dollar bills from the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange and effectively closed down trading as brokers scrambled for the money.
Though our cause is arguably, indeed patently, more just than that of war protesters, such measures in the domestic relations arena have been little more effective than my urinating on the grave of the judge who ruled against me in a custody suit (I fantasized about that for many years). The ex-wife of John Murtari, mentioned in Save the Males, moved to California with John’s son, Dom. John has difficulty seeing Dom, and is heartbroken. He has been attempting to gain an audience with Senator Hillary Clinton to publicize the plight of all parents unjustly separated from their kids by divorce, separation, or the machinations of social services. Because Clinton refuses to see him, he took to demonstrating outside her office. Federal and local police arrest and jail him so often for this activity that all are on a first name basis. John’s approach to family justice, patterned after that of Mahatmas Ghandi and Martin Luther King, is his previously-mentioned hunger strike. Officially, it hasn’t been very rewarding even with politicians less beholden to Feminists than Hillary. However, a San Diego-based producer is making a documentary on his plight, entitled “Support System Down.” It includes interviews with 38 people.
Reform must be more than a notion. Here’s a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.” In another context, Logan D. Clements said “Rebellion gave birth to America. Rebellion is what we need right now… Sometimes, like our forefathers, when your adversaries are stronger than you are, you have to fight back in creative ways.” Joel 3:9 says, “Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up.”
It seems evident that appealing to reason alone (repeat, “alone”) cannot prevent the ‘rape of the male’ or the proliferation of divorce. As in other endeavors, negative approaches can be effective. For example, the militancy of Malcolm X frightened bigots and others to take Martin Luther King seriously. To ignore 50 percent of the remedies is as self-defeating in reform as it is in psychology. Appeals to reason must be supplemented by more pragmatic measures. Feet must be held to the fire.
I’m not encouraging violence, neither am I discouraging it, unless it in the end harms the prospect of reform. Unfortunately non-violence hasn’t promoted reform. The system definitely needs “a shot across the bow.”
Dante said there is a special place in hell for those who, in times of moral crisis, fail to take a stand. There is a growing element in the men’s/fathers’ movement tired of begging for justice, tired of kow-towing to the powers that be. Following St. Paul’s admonition to “fight the good fight,” they believe in more forceful responses than joining hands and singing “Kumbaya.” It puts one in mind of what H L Mencken said, probably with tongue in cheek, “Every normal person must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the Black Flag, and begin slitting throats.” These words are harsh, but how else can one adequately address harsh realities?
Advocating such measures, many formerly pacifistic reformers have embraced militancy, especially overseas. ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ (F4J) in the U.K. and Scotland, and the Blackshirts in Australia are in the vanguard of these angry men. F4J members dropped turds, figuratively speaking, into the British legal system punch bowl, climbing atop government buildings, cranes and highway overpasses, unfurling banners, and causing massive traffic tie-ups. Two members threw a condom filled with harmless purple powder on Prime Minister Tony Blair during his address to Parliament, and in January of 2006 threats were made in their name, but not by them, to kidnap Blair’s young son. To my knowledge, there has been no stalking of judges – yet. After the kidnap threat, the group announced its disbandment; but reportedly a movie is in the works.
Matthew O’Connor, Chairman of F4J, had this to say after the condom-throwing incident: “If you had seen what we have seen with our eyes, if you had heard what we have heard with our ears, if you had carried the crushing weight of human suffering on your shoulders, you would understand why we must break the law. And if that means prison, so be it.” It is easy for those who haven’t suffered such devastation to criticize those who have, and are threatening desperate measures. There is a Sioux proverb “Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins.”
Politicians and the media are taking favorable note of F4J. One of their representatives had an audience lasting nearly a half hour with Prime Minister Blair, and was well received. Their efforts motivated government to take seriously the more pacifist British organization, Mankind. The entire men’s movement could learn a lot from them. Godspeed to them. Offshoots of the British F4J units are forming in the USA, Canada and elsewhere, emulating the parent organization’s tactics.
The present situation in the U.S. is equally unacceptable. When Shay’s Rebellion of farmers broke out in Massachusetts in 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” Officials beware – there are many justifiably angry divorced men out here, enough to make Shay’s Rebellion look like a picnic; I have met them and looked into their eyes. You would be well advised to restore justice. The clenched fist crowd is formidable, and should be.
We must engage in whatever civil disobedience it takes. I hope the culprits responsible for it will clean up their own houses, so that this burden does not devolve upon victims. But if it does, so be it. I empathize with them.
A Preferred Direction:
Philosophy, Strategy, Tactics
Beneath the corruption, our political institutions are creations of wise and prudent men, and repositories of much that is good. It is these very institutions that make our society function, however imperfectly. Contrary to Marx, I would like to see us build a superior social order upon the basic structure, rather than the ruins, of the old. Nevertheless, reform must be more than a notion.
A scholarly and well-documented defense of fathers and attack on family disincentives appears in the July 1993 issue of The Family in America,1 Highly recommended.
To change things, we must first understand them, then act upon those understandings. Anti-male elements in society understand but one thing: political clout on a national – indeed international – level. If we are serious about reform, we must agree on a common philosophy, define who we are and cooperate with legitimate allies within existing structures to develop that clout. Until we do, we can forget ever achieving equality. I have long suggested as a common unifying philosophy, “Equal rights and equal dignity for the male sex, and preservation of the traditional, nuclear family.” That may be the only philosophy that all the disparate legitimate elements of this poor “movement” can agree on, and I believe it to be a good one. Note that family and children are secondary to the central concept. “For the children” has been a totem for both anti-male and pro-male advocates, an excuse for much hypocrisy.
Samuel Adams said “It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” What reformers need more of is what Tom Wolfe called “The Brotherhood of the Right Stuff,” men with cajones. Remember the great old song, “Give me 10 men who are stout-hearted men, and I’ll soon give you 10,000 more. Shoulder to shoulder, bolder and bolder they grow as they go to the fore.”
Reform requires developing mutual respect, confronting seemingly inherent egotistical problems, eliminating them in any way necessary, and restoring organizational continuity. Defections from existing organizations and formation of new ones must be discouraged. I submit that the path toward unity involves honoring our founding fathers, deceased or not — men such as Reuben Kidd (whose niece informed me during this writing of his death, 2/26/07 at age 94), George Partis, Jay Burchette, Charlie Metz, and others. The best approach would have been to give them total authority to dictate strategy and tactics, as was attempted at one unity conference in May of 1985 at Gaithersburg, Maryland. Sadly, it is too late for that; those early birds still alive are unable to take the reins.
In spite of Charlie Metz’ pessimism, I continue to plead with organization leaders to, if not unify, at least agree to some degree of formal cooperation and information exchange. Reform begins locally, it’s true; but our big problem has been inability to ‘think outside the box,’ to implement nationwide, even international, cooperation – a high wire act. The various groups throughout North America, the U.K., Europe and the newly forming ones in So. Africa, Australia, and New Zealand must mature sufficiently to begin working together. The best hope of bringing some measure of cohesion to the movement would appear to be some sort of amalgam of organizations, at least as a forum for mutual cooperation. To that end I maintain M.E.N. International’s corporate shell and its IRS umbrella status in the event reasonable people come to recognize the need.
The movement has many different wings; if we can get them flapping in the same direction, and if those elements on the fringes – the introspective types – would focus upon the more important issues confronting men and fathers, great strides could be taken. There is plenty of talent in the worldwide movement to obtain our goals – if it could be marshaled properly. Activist Mark Charalambous says “The Father’s Rights movement has been waiting for ‘the anointed one’ for decades now.” When and if such a man emerges, he will need very thick skin; he will be a human piñata, not just for the man-haters of the world, but from his own compatriots.
There are some bright spots. In October 2004 the American Coalition of Fathers and Children (ACFC) assumed publication of The Liberator, enlisting the capable John Maguire to be Managing Editor, and graciously allowing this writer to remain on staff as Editor Emeritus. If there is a publication better equipped to serve as a common information forum for the liberation of men, I’d be interested in hearing about it. ACFC’s undertaking of The Liberator relieved me of the editorial duties I had since 1975, freeing me to write this book. Besides taking out impressive, punchy full page ads in conservative newspapers, ACFC has recently become cooperative with Phyllis Schlafley’s male-friendly Eagle Forum.
Blog sites are popping up on the web. A good one is at http://mensnewsdaily.com. Richard Farr has initiated KRights Radio (http://www.krightsradio.com/) which has strong potential to serve as another communication medium within the movement.
A group of men and women in the U.S. are taking issue with biased media perceptions of domestic violence. Coming on strong, they’ve formed a group called “RADAR” – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting. Its objective is to assure that the mainstream media tells the true story and the whole story of partner aggression. RADAR is setting up a network of persons they call ‘Media Monitors’ to track every major newspaper in the country. When they spot a biased story, an ‘all-hands’ alert goes out, asking people to send e-mails to headquarters, make phone calls, and write letters to the editor. Their website is www.mediaradar.org.
On March 7th, 2006, blogger Wendy McElroy reported on ANCPR.com that at least 28 federal lawsuits filed by fathers groups across the country against states for violating fathers’ rights are being consolidated into a single class-action suit by the Indiana Civil Rights Council.
New computer technology will permit easier access to free, realistic counseling for divorce victims, both male and female. Print and internet forums for men abound, but the popularity thereof or the glibness therein do not necessarily reflect important content. The internet is a potentially powerful resource for all men. If organizations could agree, a central website could be created to do resource referrals and provide information. It could be self-supporting by requiring member subscriptions. If only current leaders had the imagination.
With the right numbers, we could do many things, such as pressure governments into financing us by giving us half or less of the money saved by our members informing on the many welfare frauds they are cumulatively aware of.
Having made the diagnosis, the prognosis, and the prescriptions, we must see to their implementation. We must establish a modern crusade against the anti-male jihad. That is the most fitting memorial that can be erected to the victims.
We haven’t reached the endgame. Justice is not an “Impossible Dream.” Imagine a world in which justice prevailed. As Irish hunger-striker Bobby Sands said, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.” 2 As with Solzhenitsyn, our day will come. Tiocfaidh ar la (Irish for that term).
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