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|The Making of the New Man|
By: By Adan Adar
What is the most striking aspect of life in North America that a visitor or an immigrant (from the ‘Old World’) would notice at a glance? If the visitor is not a gadget-man wearing facial-rings, equipped with clattering devices - mobile phone, pager, walkman, and dancing solo with his own rhythm, what makes him uneasy at first sight? What makes the old ‘New World’ distinctively captivating? What prompts him to believe he is out of place?
In good old days, straight-up social structures such as hierarchy, class and status characterized society. Family was the collective mark of the household and its values were something beyond reproach. Love and respect were the cornerstone of family relations, kindness and compassion the bonds that cement the family ties. Family was one and united in good and bad times. Husbandship and wifeship were highly merited professions within the society. Man was regarded as the head of the family, a responsibility bestowed to him by both religion and the natural phenomenon. The chain of command was structured from top to bottom and the pecking order was unambiguous and logical.
Man was a social animal: altruistic, disciplined and responsible.
Religion, customs and tradition were the compass that guided the behavior, personality and interaction within the family and the society at large. The good and bad, right and wrong were clearly spelt out in black and white terms. Virtues and morality were the goals, and integrity the yardstick for critical evaluation of the individual. These were the traits of the olden days. They are among the core values that have been eroded by the electronic age that has wholly encroached on the technologically developed ‘western world’. Hence, old (fashioned) values are virtually undersiege. With the erosion of the old values and customs, peculiar but fashionable culture is setting in. The new culture is vigorous with consuming instantaneous impact. It is rapidly transforming the shape and conformation of society producing a distinct form of mankind, ‘The New Man’. Giving a deserving focus to the birth and development of the New Man and for the purpose of this commentary, we shall consider the stratagem that brought about his evolution as the ‘New Order of Mankind’. Before we ponder to assess the attributes of the New Man, let us look into the characteristics of the New Order of Mankind.
The transformed society: In North America, long cherished values have slowly given way to something different. Society is no more distinguished and determined by hierarchy, denomination and deference. Certainty has been traded for uncertainty and growing confusion. There is no more vertical structure that regulates the conduct of society; authority has become ubiquitous - laterally and horizontally stretched. Heterogeneity, diversity and plurality have supplanted homogeneity of identity and culture. The basic setting of the society has been transformed. Minority is no more obligated to accept or espouse the views (rather the wish) of the majority. Formerly repressed groups (underprivileged, feminists, gays and lesbians, unorthodox religious cults and the likes) have raised their voices to attain acceptance and a formal slot within the social strata of the society. The quest for equal rights by relatively deprived groups and classes distraught by an ever-widening economical imbalance and social stereotypification, has further fragmented the very fabric of the society. Discipline, trust and friendship are the topics of the past. Truth and moral virtues are scarce and social mores of the past are shrinking steadily. Hate has replaced natural affection and neighbors neither talk to nor interact with each other, any more.
This new order of mankind has resulted in a state of melancholy surrounding the once sanctified institute of marriage, fewer interactions among relatives, widespread state of stress, depression and despair. It has spawned a somewhat prevalent phenomenon. Owing to resultant strain, boredom and frustration caused by the dynamics of the evolving cultural transformation, various forms of hysteria loom large. Hitherto uncommon malaise of stress, depression and melancholy (termed by some as the malady of the affluent) that necessitated the evolution of thousands of astronomically priced spin-doctors, crisis managers, psychiatrists, counselors, etc., are on the rise. In spite of the unprecedented economic growth and technological development that tremendously eased the living conditions of mankind, the society is increasingly being afflicted. No other institution is so gravely affected by the New Order than marriage. Blissful matrimony is the thing of the past. It has been replaced by a fleeting ecstasy of cohabitation. Single parenthood is cropping up to replace the family wholeness. Love and compassion between parents and children is on the ebb and parental responsibility is fast disappearing. Furthermore, the proponents of the New Order contend that with every passing day marriage becoming high-priced subsidiary, protracted barrier and practically unsustainable (rather inconvenient) enterprise, the family size and its coherence are dwindling fast. Cohabitation is seen as a deeper and more meaningful commitment of equal partners where freedom and not, the stifling judicial arrangement, is the bedrock for the bonds of affection.
Perhaps as one of its outstanding feat, the new order has rather positively impacted on the rights and status of women. With man’s playground – wars and armed conflicts – declining, rules and roles are reversing fast. Man is no more calling the shots. With peace and stability on the horizon, women have taken position of eminence in the hierarchy of social and political structures. Male chauvinism is on the wane and seemingly, “feminism has triumphed”finally. The gender gap is closing in many ways. The opposite sexes are at least being bonded by a common costume. From earring to necklace, the attire is identical. Gowns and robes are exchanged for bikinis, shorts and revealing see-through clothes. A new socio-cultural synthesis is shaping the obviously resembling dress code of the opposite sexes. With the evolving costume synergy, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between man and woman from afar.
This is the coming of a technological era that has already begun, taken root and flowered but not yet complete. The dynamics of technology is rapidly transforming the man’s behavior and personality, propelling him into the main stream of a way of life that is on constant momentum. Custom-made personality tailored to emit synthetic humane facial expressions, standardized "friendly" phrases and stereotyped greetings that do not flow from deep down the throat but form the edge of the mouth, is replacing the inborn behavioral disposition of man. A seemingly streamlined personality armed with a coached mouth - loquacious, fluent and giddy, is in the making. Society is dynamic and futuristic, guided (and often manipulated) by seemingly uncontrolled technology. The computer is not only the guide and source of information but also the preeminent stage director. Multinational radio stations and TV channels relentlessly bombard the society with diversified issues and diametrically opposed views. Electronic and print media combine to confound confusion and disseminate a prescribed set of indoctrination.
Peggy Noonan aptly states that “TV gives everyone an image but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains.” People are being programmed like computers to become convenient robots for a system that is intrinsically materialistic. Production, marketing and consumption are the ultimate goals, cut throat competition, the means to rise above others, and individualism the morality that comes first than collective well-being of community and shared family values. Thus, the society’s growing prosperity demands continuously expanding markets, new attitudes and reformed personality.
The secular effect: In the olden days, religion used to function as a source that provided to all its adherents a secure identity. Society used to be defined by religion. Religion answered most of the great questions of human existence whether cosmic or worldly – societal values and code of conduct, marriage, life goals and critical explanations on things metaphysical. It provided a sense of belonging and solidarity to its members. It ordains righteousness and love, justice and mercy. This is hardly the case any more in the technologically advanced western world.
The evolving New Order of Mankind has consigned religion to the doldrums. Condescendingly, the New Order of Mankind keeps other legitimate ways of life at bay. Considered unattractive and antiquated, the once exalted religions have humbly capitulated to the mighty cosmopolitan system. Like ideology, religion is being superseded by technology. Everywhere, "while the worst is full of passionate intensity," the highly regarded establishments of religious edifices remain deserted - churches, synagogues and temples are scarcely attended. Their influence is rapidly waning. Apart from occasional celebration of religious anniversaries, wedding and funeral ceremonies are among the shrinking list of rituals the sacred buildings continue to perform. Microsoft, Internet (the unregulated information highway) and the Yellow Books are consulted and referenced while the Great Books are shelved. With strong and resourceful insurance companies, banks and 'milch-cow' at the corner, religion has ceased to provide social security for the individual. Prevalent and burgeoning range of alternatives such as the political party, the university, the community center, the municipality, health and fitness clubs and the Hollywood have proven to be attractive and useful. Religion is no longer the allure that it once was. There is no longer the same fascination, reverence or influence attaching to the institution. Its lofty teachings have been relativised and rendered neutral. Bypassed and undercut, religion has been replaced by a cosmopolitan system reigned by a ruthless plutocrat class, media magnets, and greedy omnipotent corporate who function as the ultimate controller, lender, manipulator and trendsetter. Hence, the system has effectively replaced family and tribal or ethnic affiliations and creed.
The New Man the result: The New Man is born in a region graciously graced by peace and stability, in an era of economic prosperity marked with rapid technological transformation, where science has infringed on the very art of God – The Creation, and life expectancy has been prolonged. The new man is the product of multifarious factors; science and technology, new attitudes and perspectives and perhaps man’s “strives to surpass himself, and yearns for the impossible”. William Booth, the author of In Darkest England, and the Way Out, outlined the need to craft and infuse a new element in man. “To get a man soundly saved is not enough to put on him a pair of new breeches, to give him regular work, or even to give him a University education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged you have wasted your labor. You must in some way or other graft upon the man’s nature a new nature, which has in it the element of the Divine”, writes Booth. The urge to “graft upon man’s nature a new nature”, is essentially the fundamental ingredient for the quest to invent a new man. Many factors and factions are involved in the overall engineering of the shape, form and content the new man had to assume. Whether run by force majeure, marketplace ideals, or the laboratory, this structuring is taking place unceasingly, although it is seldom explicit. What are the conspicuous attributes of the New Man?
The New Man is living in a privacy-deprived hypermarket where the over intrusive surveillance eye of the sensationalist press, the police and the news mongering public is focused. Under the glare of the big cameras and the elusive electronic eavesdropping, no information is confidential or private anymore. The sacrosanct line has been crossed permanently. Market-driven new cultures are shaping the image, manners and judgment of man. “It is the marketplace that calls most clearly for men to be softer, more narcissistic and receptive, and the new man is the result”, writes Barbara Ehrenreich. The New Man has his own character and style. His appearance is a mixture of uniqueness and idiosyncrasy. He likes everything that is peculiar or, essentially, in disagreement with previously accepted standards of conduct and code of behavior. His clothing is strikingly strange and his language a blend of colloquial jargons and extraneous dialects. His medium of communication has been reduced to a single language, despite the inherent welter of linguistic diversity. He has no family but friends. He is individualistic, hypocrite and snobby with a larger-than-life image. A veneer of cosmetically enhanced smile shrouds his faceless and unfeeling personality. He is a secular animal, freethinking and urbane. He is a materialist living in his material world, vivaciously bent to quench his material needs.
U.S. philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote that “the birth of the new constitutes a crisis…Thus every new beginning recapitulates in some degree man’s first beginning.” In the New Order of Mankind, the cliche is 'survival of the fittest'. To qualify for the fittest and weather the storm, the individual is required to become career-minded, workaholic, egotistical and lame-brained, wholly detached from family and relatives. He is required to be constantly learning to upgrade his knowledge and marketable skills to sustain his usefulness to the system. To maintain his usefulness, he is obliged to be healthy, industrious with an outstanding credit record. The guiding motto is “every man for himself”. A lonely singular, selfless individual faithfully devoted to accomplish the requirement of the system. His wages and income hardly breaks even with his expenses. Thus, the individual should not be self-sufficient and strive to break the shackles that impelled him to remain the unflagging servant of the system. He is constantly struggling to keep pace with an ever-evolving machine, designed to supplant him ultimately. He is squeezed by an ever-increasing tax - a lifetime burden of exaction. The tastemaker - the omnipotent commodity magnate, has not only shaped the character formation of the New Man but has compressed and cowed him into constantly metamorphosing patterns of behavior. Old values of tolerance and compassion have been surpassed by techno-oriented values of efficiency and competitiveness. His Puritan tradition (religion and family values) overwhelmed, his cultural taboos (infanticide, adultery, homosexuality, child abuse and so forth) have been overcome. The umbilical cord has been severed. Hence, the making of the New Man is not imaginary but real. The New Man is in everywhere: at the convenience shop, the reception desk of public buildings, at the restaurant, the private sector and at the sales and merchandize bureaus.
Extroverted and assertive: In his outlook the New Man has no specific ideology but an agenda of expansion and transformation. His mission is to reach every nook and corner of the globe and “cleanse” humanity from the vestiges of bustling age-old customs, persistent taboos and eternal myths. Through Global Positioning devices and satellites, he is determined to pinpoint smaller hamlets and villages, dismissing the notion of remote places and isolated outposts. In his terminology, this kind of exploration is known, as “globalization” and planet earth is simply a “global village” for him. His standard of judgment and perspective is based on a set of criteria defined by his techno-culture. The New Man craves to impose his way of life on the rest of the world. From a position of dominance, he wants to dictate his terms and compromise is not within the domain of his political and diplomatic terminology. He views the world with spectacles of self-righteousness and bigotry. Oblivious and indifferent, he regards the rest of the world - the Not-so-Western, as savage, backward, uncivilized and chaotic where the Old (seemingly obsolete) Order is still the way of life.
A lasting imprint: North America was once known as the New World founded by flocks of immigrants spearheaded by Europeans of Anglo-Saxon origin. For more than two hundred years, it has served, as the dreamland for millions of people across the globe. Each new flock of immigrants has brought centuries-old distinct traditions, localized customs and profession. North America has ever since been the platform where a rainbow of miscellaneous customs and creeds struggled to infuse and establish symbiotic relations. Yet the concept of 'melting-pot' of cultures and beliefs had never been realized. Experiments on integration and coexistence endeavors of generations of immigrants are undermined by the dynamics of the evolving techno-culture that gave birth to the New Man.
Interaction and comprehension between the newly arrived staunchly armed with undiluted indigenous customs and descendants of the previous immigrants outfitted with the techno-culture of the New Man, is generating simmering, but glossed over, “clash of civilizations”. The fast spreading culture of the New Man is posed to homogenize the multitude of indigenous cultures resolutely hanging out in far away corners of the world, into a singular megalopolis culture. The distinction between man and machine might soon disappear forever. The New Man's culture has the potential to prevail over or transform preceding cultures. Hence, there is no hiding place for the 'Old Man' and his residual culture. The new immigrant, the epitome of the Old Man, is caught in the crossfire of the past and the present - the old and the new. Disoriented and baffled by the attributes of the techno-culture, the Old Man is left reeling with nostalgic reminiscence while the waves of the 'culture shock' continues to reverberate.