A few years ago I was living in Tilburg, The Netherlands. This is a small town in the middle of the country. The one amazing thing they have is a large pop venue that is a favourite touring venue for punk bands. It is one of the few places in The Netherlands that my son, a punk drummer, has been to. One night I went to see ‘Good Charlotte‘, the US punk band based around the Madden brothers. I had an envigorating, rocking evening, even though I was in my sixties! The song that remains with me from that gig is ‘Young and Hopeless’. It is a personal song that aches with teenage angst and disconnection.
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My role is to take this sense of being a man and project it out into the world to help others to see that they too can qualify to achieve manhood.
We sat in the cafe, me drinking an Americano and she a Capuccino, talking about our past, feeling our way through the pain and shame of our previous lives. The partners we had mistreated and been mistreated by. The parents who had shamed us into submission, who had distorted our views of reality. Mostly we talked about how long it had taken us to understand and accept the culture of domination and suppression, the culture we had both, unknowingly, bought into many years ago.
We all get angry at times. When we feel we’re threatened we react with anger. But we know people who get overly angry or their anger causes problems with their relationships at home or at work. I was one of those people.
This faded photograph is from 1958 and is of a memorable family holiday in France. Taking pride of place is my father’s favorite car, the Ford Zephyr Mark II. This was a UK produced car of distinction, it was in production from 1956 to 1962. My mum and dad are in the picture wearing sporty hats with me, in the middle, and one of my brothers.
It was 1984, my birthday, I was 36 years old with 2 sons 5 and 3 years old. I was in the office at work on a lighting project when my colleague brought me a cup of coffee and suggested I sit down. She put a call through from my wife who told me that my dad had died suddenly in the night. He was only 72 years old, exactly twice my age, and very fit and healthy. Bang—just like that—no warning—a heart attack.
The poem uses language generally rejected today with its focus on men and brothers, but it does align with the reality of its time. What is interesting, though, is its focus on the feminine as offering the solutions to issues we face. In that it pre-dates much of what is spoken about today.
Anger is a part of all our lives whether it comes from inside or whether we experience it from other people. Anger is a recurring theme in relations between men and women both on a personal and cultural level. The recent shooting in the US has generated countless pages both about the shooter’s anger and the anger of those reacting to him and what he did. Much of that anger has been directed at a perceived battle between men and women, some of it has been about the pressure of men’s entitlement and the effect this has on women.
According to Tony Robbins we all have a Primary Question. It’s a question we ask ourselves everyday of our lives, one that controls our focus and the direction of our lives. For many years my Primary Question was, “What if I’m found out?” I regarded the life I was leading as a lie, a mask, an attempt to bolster my male power. My fear was being found out by someone, by anyone. My fear was that people would see the real me, the weak, indecisive and scared me.
A year ago I became a grandfather for the first time and I am still in a daze about it. It is over thirty years since I became a father. I loved it at the time but I have no desire to go through it again. Being a grandfather is, however, completely different, I am glad to say.