By Richard Oduor Oduku
My friend Mwende Kyalo is wondering why when it comes to International Women’s Day or International Mother’s Day, the timeline is awash with beatitudes for women and flowery pronunciations of love and care and blessings, from both men and women, but in International Men’s Day or International Father’s Day, the timeline is overflowing with comedy, memes, snide remarks and competitions by the women who are the men in their children’s lives. She observes, correctly, that women and children are appreciated for who they are, their humanity, but men are appreciated for what they do aka what they provide. No man is appreciated just for existing. It is a privilege not accorded to men, and they learn this early not to expect much if it is not in appreciation for what they’ve done or provided.
Most will organize and pay for the birthdays of the women and children around them, but on the man’s birthday, a man must organize and pay for his own. Most men bypass this by adopting indifference to such celebrations.
The knowledge, replicated in every sphere of the society, that you only get the love based on what you have or what you can provide, makes men mechanistic and overly aggressive when it comes to pursuing the resources necessary for living and ownership of property.
The memes and comedies from men, on International Men’s Day, are often a coping mechanism with the absence of the equivalent of what women are bathed with on Women’s Day. Most women are quick to rationalize this by saying that men should be more involved in bla bla bla, which is essentially saying that men cannot be appreciated just like women and children. A typical pet dog probably gets more appreciation in most households than the man that burns his daily hours to feed, clothe, and keep a roof to the entire household, including the pet dog.
This, is however not entirely the women’s fault, though the evolution of human society has tempered it’s harshness, it is nature’s call. The animal Kingdom has countless illustrations of how a male species’s livelihood, control and power is based on their physical strength and ability to deploy violence to exact power and control.
The least evolved of the human male is still more likely to deploy violence to exact power and control. The more evolved smoothen the curve by conversation, negotiation and manipulation to achieve a certain level of cooperativeness, a situation which allows them also to receive the resources necessary for wellbeing, especially psychological wellbeing. Men know they can’t just be given the love so they do things that allow the women and children to give them love.
The paradox is that the pursuit of the things which makes it easier for a man to get appreciation, in the capitalist lane, are also the very things that can exacerbate his alienation and isolation. As women get more and more absorbed into the capitalist sphere of selling labour to earn income for livelihood, basically being away from their spouses and children, they’ll also come face to face with the structures that blunt their own capacities to love and be loved, structures that demand atomism. They are getting alienated even from the love of their children, those who have emerged from their wombs, those whose love should be a given. Atomism is a scenario where the society is conceptualized as a collection of self-interested individuals and largely self-sufficient individuals, operating as atoms.
The secret, as has always been, is to try to find a balance between giving and receiving. But in the absence of genuine giving and receiving, the world has receded into performance.
My old love with dadaism introduced me to Guy Dubord, and he predicted way back in “The Society of the Spectacle” in 1967, that as societies become more and more absorbed into the capitalist conditions of production, all life will become an accumulation of spectacle. That everything that was directly lived will move more into representation.
That in a hyperconnected society where cognitive capitalism reigns, our lives will become a representation of what we try to imagine to be our real lives, a mere performance, a mere appearing to.