Friday, November 8, 2013

The Loss of Our Rites of Passage

"... a Rite of Passage – it’s a journey from boyhood to manhood. It’s the way he breaks away from his attachment to his mother and becomes part of the father tribe. To once again quote Joseph Campbell, the Rite of Passage is a way 'for the individual to die to the past and be reborn to the future.'" - Michael Hiebert.

The purpose of initiation rites, ultimately, is to make sure boys turn into men and not pussies, i.e., girls. And to make sure girls turn into women and not men, which is what the initiation rites of leftist/lesbian feminism wants to do to girls.

All "primitive" societies have forced boys, right at the age of 12, to undergo initiation rites in which they symbolically died as children and then were reborn as adults, under the direction of learned elders (I'm going to repeat that -- learned elders, not just elders).

One of the reasons for this "rebirth" is to pull away from the mother, who at her worst is represented by the motherly/destructive/seductive mythic goddess Kali (today, she's the Borg Queen and before that, the Virgin Mary/Eve), and these days by society-destroying radical feminism. This pulling away is necessary for boys to be introduced to the world of men, otherwise, under the influence under the worst aspect of the feminine, they can end up as gang members...or maybe even far, far worse.

To a much lesser extent, there have been rites of passages for girls. In both cases, it happens right at puberty, when the body and brain are changing rapidly and profoundly.

Nowadays, we're lost these rites, at least the good ones. Did we ever have good ones? I'm sure we did, but offhand, I can't think of what they were. Currently, we're got some bad ones, and the kids and society pay for it. And pay and pay and pay. The lack of them is damaging to individuals and to the culture. "Culture is the public expression of group continuity," said one commentator, and I couldn't agree more.

Many people either don't know, or don't want to admit, how fragile society is, and that one of its purposes is to repress or transform all the badness inherent in human nature. When societies lose those myths, rituals and rites that help repress or transform the badness, worse rites will take their place. That's how we end up with kids wearing tribal tattoos and acting like whiggers.

Here's an example, and it's about a woman I knew: when I was about 23, and in college, I was sitting in the room of this woman, who was about 21 years old. We were just passing time listening to her records. I even remember one of the songs -- Ten Years After's "I'd Love to Change the World." Years later I realized how appropriate that song was for our conversation.

I was casual friends with her, but had noticed she was a bit more intelligent, sensitive and creative than the other girls who lived in her house, almost all of whom, in my opinion, was callow and not-very-bright college students. The one I was talking to was an art major, the only one in her house of 11 girls. Most of the others were studying to be grade-school teachers, urp.

To this day, I have no idea why she told me the things she did. She starting telling me about her time in 7th grade, when she was pudgy and wore those kind of horn-rimmed glasses that always sit crooked on your face. She showed me a picture; personally, I thought she was rather cute.

She was certainly cute at 21, certainly much better-looking than the other girls in the house. I always wanted to jump her, but never did.

She told me that because of the way she looked, she was ostracized by the other 7th-graders. Twelve years old and an outsider and a scapegoat. Just great. No wonder Stephen King's novel Carrie was such a big hit. Public schools, blech.

Over the summer, she told me, she grew up, lost the baby fat, filled out, and got contacts. Ugly duckling to swan in less than three months. When she came back for the 8th-grade all the kids who ostracized her now wanted to be her friends. She ignored them. I thought, "Good for you."

The way she was treated in the 7th-grade affected her for the rest of her life. She told me she was never attracted to what most people would consider "good-looking" men and was instead attracted to what she called "unusual-looking guys." (It occurred to me: was why I was in her room, unlike the other guys who hung out in the house, and why was she telling me these things? Uh oh.)

I got a big laugh out of this one: she told me she liked guys who looked like Peter Noone. Peter Noone? Who's that? You know, Herman of "Herman and the Hermits." They were popular about the time she was being born.

I saw her a few years later, after we had graduated, and sure enough, she had married a guy who looked like him.

She turned out just fine, but her initiation rites in 7th-grade consisted of a bright, creative, sensitive girl being ostracized and humiliated in public school. And they were unwitting initiation rites, ones that, I repeat, affected her for the rest of her life.

Rites of Passage are certainly not about being humiliated, which they are today for many young boys. And the humiliation often continues even when they are men - because society is set up that way these days. And humiliation leads to revenge, which is an attempt to replace shame with pride.

The woman in college was lucky enough to make it through her ordeal, even without wise elders, just teachers instead, although in a sense she was scarred for the rest of her life. She symbolically died and was reborn courtesy of being treated like crap by a bunch of dim-witted, immature 12-year-olds tossed together helter-skelter in public schools (which I think should be burned down and the ground salted). Those were good rites of passage for her? That's a rhetorical question, by the way.

As bad as it was for her, I think this lack of initiation rites is a lot worse for boys. A lot worse, and I can't emphasize just how bad I think this lack is. We still have them, to a degree, although they're exactly the same as my friend went through: being tossed into the mish-mash that is public-school 7th-grade. It ain't working.

The fact we don't have any initiation affects us politically, I'm convinced. Politically, the leftist nanny-state is Mommy. Why do men fall for it? Because, even though raised with two parents, they're still stuck in mommy-mode, due to the lack of initiation rites that pull them away from mommy and toward daddy.

This away-from-dominating-mommy/searching-for-daddy can be seen in gangs, most of whom were raised without fathers. They found all-male gangs, ones that denigrate women. Their initiation rites and lives are all in the bad-male mode.

Teenagers have a vague, inchoate, instinctive understanding of their need for initiation rites. That's why they act and dress as they do. I did it when I was a teenager. Almost all of us did. Almost all of us used drugs, although in those days it was booze and marijuana. Not too long ago it was Ecstasy and raves. I understand completely.

Looking back on it, I realize my friends and I were rather wild, at least compared to the other kids. There were a lot of us, creating our own initiation rites of drugs and booze and parties. We had no mentors, be it parents or teachers. There was no ritualistic adjustment from childhood to adulthood. Nothing. These days, we'd be given Ritalin.

The way I see it, in American society, the skyrocketing rise of gangs and reckless behavior dramatizes how youth seek some sort of initiation rites, made worse in the absence of anything provided by the culture (read "learned elders" for "culture"). Unfortunately, old geezers fear young people, not realizing their wildness and energy are really just an unending longing for initiation into the adult world.

Adolescents hunger for real tests, somewhat risky ordeals by which they can turn into adults, ones with a purpose in life. What ceremonies and rituals and rites do we have? High school graduation? College graduation? Meaningless. They're not tests. Nearly everyone wants to feel like the Hero on a Quest. Luke Skywalker, you know. Why do you think those movies are so popular?

True rites involve some risk, some pain, and self- discipline and self-sacrifice. Look how many boys want to join the Marines. When those things are offered, then there is community. It doesn't matter what it is - it can be anything from gangs to religion.

That lack of serious rites is one of the reasons Christianity is in the trouble it is in. It's too soft; it doesn't challenge. Make it harder, make it challenging, make it involve self-discipline and self-sacrifice, and the softness that plagues it will disappear.

We don't have, and we certainly need, adolescent initiations that meet the needs of kids today, ones that draw on tribal rites, ones that are feasible in a modern, urban culture. Since we live in a highly technological society, we need new rituals appropriate to urban teenagers. Then, of course, the other essential ingredients are elders and mentors willing to devise and perform such rituals and a supportive community - that "group continuity" - into which the initiated teens are brought.

The way things are now, we're turning into a society without fathers, and in some cases without mothers. The law has, foolishly and destructively, decided fathers are optional, and when they aren't, when a couple has to work to make ends meet and give their six-week-old baby to a pre-school, that's just another way of saying we no longer have elders. The government is no substitute, pace Hillary Clinton.

When you're looking at young gang members, you're looking at people with no elders. So we either develop elders, or the amount of violence will increase year by year. This is not something that can be replaced by government programs.

Sooner or later, we'll have to figure it out. We have to. But until we do, all the Ph.D.s and government studies and programs, are in vain, just chaff flying in the whirlwind.

"Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives..." - Joseph Campbell


dienw said...

"That lack of serious rites is one of the reasons Christianity is in the trouble it is in. It's too soft; it doesn't challenge. Make it harder, make it challenging, make it involve self-discipline and self-sacrifice, and the softness that plagues it will disappear."

As a Christian, let me say, from first hand experience, Yahweh does not make it soft for His people; and it does involve self-discipline and self-sacrifice; it involves emotional pain, ostracization from family and peers, and even physical pain including illness. Being brought through these is the initiation rite.

Anonymous said...

A rite of passage won't work correctly unless it is a ritual.

The society has to know the ritual, practice the ritual, get the details correct.

Then the society has to impose the ritual on every member.

People who have maturation experiences aren't undergoing rites of passage; they're passing without rites.

Glengarry said...

Yes, this sounds all well and good but first of all, what about health and safety? It can't be too demanding. After all, what about those who have asthma or are differently abled or gay? And second, girls must of course participate in the same rituals as full equals to the boys, possibly with a separate menarche ritual to be specified. Modern society, you know.

But, apart from little details like that, which I'm sure can be managed into an excellent best practices document, we can take it up at the next PTA meeting.