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Strange men

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Change for the better.

Change for the better.

Like many of you, I watched the grand final(s) last month but did it with a group of strange men - blokes I largely didn't know ...

Just writing the words "strange men" curdles my stomach a little because we've all had such a dose of the more sinister overtones of the phrase in the past month.

The thing is, after my hangover had receded by about the Tuesday after the weekend, my experiences with "strange men" left me hopeful about who we are, and who we're becoming as males and humans.

Despite the deeds of alleged rapist murderers, the petulance of religious extremists, the pique of Alan Jones and the relentlessly stupid narrow-casting of men that pervades so much of our culture, I was quietly overwhelmed by how thoughtful, kind and caring were most guys I talked to.

And this was on a day when many blokes are prone to drinking too much, screaming obscenities in the faces of others and generally subsuming displays of our finer natures.

Over the course of eight hours, I found myself at tables with guys with whom I had absolutely no connection - save alcohol - and, after they realised I was simply on the piss, rather than taking it, they answered some pretty personal questions.

Moreover, the men were of diverse backgrounds - a group of Vietnamese and Malaysian heritage, another trio whose relatives hailed from the Middle East and some plain vanilla Anglo-Saxon types, among many others.

They were footballers and bankers, personal trainers, IT-types, tradies, miners, chefs, labourers and the odd drug dealer.

However, they all shared a kind of bewildered disappointment about the actions of the more contemptible, aggressive, irrational and, tellingly, widely publicised members of our sex.

The phrase I heard most?

"Things have changed" and I believe it's only the most ignorant, wounded and desperate men in Australia who don't recognise that.

The frustrating thing for many guys is the change occurring among us is multi-generational, and often near-glacial compared with the instant demands of media and social media.

In some groups it's older men who are leading, in others it's younger guys - but attitudes have shifted - about women, race, religion, violence, family, fatherhood and homosexuality - and they continue to do so, slowly eroding the spine of cruelty and dispassion often characterising traditional male roles.

What's stunning and, enormously encouraging, is that we can even perceive this change.

When you consider that all of us, male and female, have been in these bodies since the first "anatomically modern humans" appeared 200,000 years ago - that we can even register development on the immensity of that timescale is truly remarkable.

Like everything else to do with humanity, our psychological development - and dare I say, its refinement - is speeding up.

Scientists have known for years our physical evolution has jumped forward a gear - thus "modern man's" tolerance to lactose and cereals and the appearance of genes that suppress body odour and thwart malaria.

Darwin also famously theorised evolution occurs faster in larger populations and, like it or not, our cultural "population" has exploded in the last 20 years.

The number of voices, ideas and attitudes we encounter daily has gone from being simply our peer group, family and home town - to much of the world.

And while many of those voices and thoughts are dreck, endless echoes of our tinier, fearful selves - it's hard to disagree a general theme of tolerance and compassion for "strangers" has, and continues to, emerge.

I just wish the process would speed up a little more.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

56 comments so far

  • "And this was on a day when many blokes are prone to drinking too much, screaming obscenities in the faces of others and generally subsuming displays of our finer natures"

    Nah, it's more about a bunch of guys getting together to watch something they enjoy and having a laugh along the way. Even if one of the athletes bites another's ear.

    Although, I think you're confusing the physical nature of evolution with certain social changes that ebb and flow over time.

    Commenter
    Bender
    Date and time
    October 22, 2012, 7:13PM
    • I'm fairly sure the physical and social natures of evolution were touched upon here champ. Perhaps you were in such a rush to post first that you only scanned the piece?

      Commenter
      Dr Warren
      Location
      Burrows
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 10:57AM
    • No, it was conflating the two. They are different.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 1:07PM
  • Beig around strangers is terrifying to me. Meeting new people is terriofying to me. I make myself go through the process and I am lucky enough to have met some awesome people during my Year of Doing Random Stuff.
    People are scary. You don't know who the safe ones are and who the unsafe ones are. If you gove the benefit of the doubt will it be okay or will the random chance of having bad stuff happen actually occur.
    Rationally I know that I am more likely to be harmed by someone I know. i really do.
    It doesn't stop the anxiety being there though.

    Commenter
    M
    Date and time
    October 22, 2012, 9:07PM
    • M, sounds like you go through the same things I do when meeting people. I actually hate meeting new people, it's just too nerve wracking and I feel so self conscious. Being with friends and others I already know is great, just getting there that's hard!

      Strangely enough, dealing with obviously crazy and even violent people doesn't faze me at all, it's an every day part of my job dealing with the public. But come social situations, I'm a wobbly plate of jelly! lol
      Add to that the fact I'm a guy who is not into sport, I'd never find myself in the typical pub with the big screen and all the guys glued to the football on it. Not my thing!
      I'd be especially terrified if I ever met Sam in person, I just know he'd find something about me to blog about! haha

      Commenter
      Nerdy Guy
      Location
      Yavin 4
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 10:45AM
    • M - A lot of people have had harm done to them and died in the history of our species! If you can find comfort in the fact that we are not going to survive this life it liberates you to experience things free of day to day fears. Look for the good in people, respect the capacity for evil in many and remember that your best defense in life is common sense. Make wise decisions and you will probably get to eventually regret living to be so old unlike most throughout history.
      A lot of people died yesterday and you were not one of them. My feel good post of the day!! :)
      P.S. on a separate topic (Sams article) most men will behave and articulate dramatically differently one on one as opposed to when in a group situation. Sometimes for the "better" and sometimes for the "worse"...much much worse! Women will do the same although the topics and behavior will differ.

      Commenter
      eyeswideopen
      Location
      earth
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 10:53AM
    • M, you just said everything I've been thinking about this subject for about the last three decades.
      What's most frustrating is that on the odd occasion that I do take the plunge and socialise, I am invariably seem to enjoy myself...but then the amnesia kicks in afterwards and I fall back into the fear that you have described so well.
      Maybe more beer is the answer?

      Commenter
      Mouse
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 11:01AM
    • Thank you Nerdy Guy, eyeswideopen and Mouse for being able to read my poorly spelled stream of consciousness on this subject.

      Nerdy Guy - I have met Sam on a couple of occasions many moons ago and he has never blogged about me, or to my knowledge any of the others that met him on the same occasions.

      eyeswideopen - Thanks fo rthe happy thought. It was a little touch and go yesterday as I was staring at a teetering mountain of boxes that I was unpacking. I am glad that I am here today.

      Mouse - More beer is most definately required. And pondering. Beer and pondering are a wonderful combination!

      Commenter
      M
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 12:54PM
    • I think what Sam is talking about is somewhat different.

      It is possible you have generalised anxiety or social anxiety disorder. Both are actually experienced by a significant percentage of the population surprisingly. The anxiety is caused by fear of judgement, of the responses of others and are manifested by intense self focus on perceived social flaws.

      There are many different approaches to treatment, including cognitive behavioural therapy, which gradually exposes you to anxiety producing situations until the situation practically becomes 'no'rmal'.

      If this sounds like you, then I would encourage you to seek out such treatment. I actually know of a few people who have experiend SAD and have seen it to be of great benefit.

      Commenter
      blogster
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 5:44PM
    • Thanks for the advice blogster. My anxiety is that I have an overpowering need to throw up when I an on my way to, approaching and at an event where I don't know many people. It is not a fear of judgement that I have it is a fear of hurling on someone's shoes. I have been like that since my ex-husband and I spolit up 7 years ago and it has never gone away.
      As I said I still go out and meet people, I just need to know where the bathrooms are and a back up escape route. Many people whom I met through this here blog probabaly don't kniow that is how I felt the first few times I met them. Most of the people I have met lately wouldn't know either.
      I am quite introverted you see so most social situations are terrifying unless they are in my own territory which doesn't lend well to having strangers about. I am different around familiar people because I am comfortable. Strangers terrify me.

      Commenter
      M
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 3:10PM

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