I have been thinking about examples of individuals that are not the obvious choices from history and from current prominent men in the media whose behaviors exemplify the best of masculinity. Two come to mind that I came across in my travels. The first example was a display in the Jewish Museum in Sydney Australia which described the following.
At a time when Aboriginal people were denied citizenship in Australia and other basic human rights, William Cooper an elder in the Yorta Yorta nation was moved to action when he heard news of Kristallnacht. On December 6, 1938 aged 77 and in ill health he led a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German consulate in Melbourne. They were refused entry but Cooper’s petition on behalf of Aborigines of Australia protesting against “the cruel persecution of the Jewish People by the Nazi government of Germany” was made public that same day.
On several dimensions, Cooper’s actions were the best of masculinity. He used his King to take come up with a value driven plan of action. His Warrior non-violently in word and deed confronted the horror of Kristallnacht with the only resources he had at his disposal. His Lover was profoundly in display in his compassion for a people that had little direct impact on his life and lives of the aboriginal community. I am cautious about using the word hero or heroic. It is so often glibly applied to the point that has lost its meaning. However for me William Cooper is truly a hero.
The second example came from an action that I witnessed when visiting China. As the aphorism goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words” so I have included the photograph below.
What I witnessed and photographed as you can see is a Russian naval officer leaning on one knee while giving a Chinese street musician/beggar a donation. What impressed me most was the body language of the officer. By lowering himself to one knee instead of merely dropping some coins from above he demonstrated respect and compassion for an individual clearly less fortunate then himself. Given the hyper masculine stereotypes we associate with a military officer his behavior was in sharp contrast to the stereotypes and demonstrated both his Warrior and Lover behavior in the light. He set an example for his sailors by modeling compassion and leadership in responding to an individual in need. I don’t believe he expected external validation for what he did. It was just a spontaneous gesture that reflects the best of masculinity.
I am certain that there are many examples of men displaying the best of masculinity in their everyday lives and it is extremely important that we recognize these men to counter the notion that our masculinity is an outdated artifact of male privilege.