You know the story of Cain and Abel, right? Even if the Bible isn’t your thing (because you follow another religion, you’re an atheist, whatever), most of us in the Western world know the legend of the first murder.
In short: Abel and Cain, first children of Adam and Eve. Abel served up animal sacrifices to God, while Cain offered plants. God seemed to prefer what Abel was dishing out. Cain gets jealous, decides to kill Abel (one theory suggests Cain thought God would like a human sacrifice, something even more precious than a lamb).
Cain kills Abel with, um, the jawbone of an ass (my theory: this is a metaphor for Cain acting like an ass, whining/”jawing” at his brother until Abel died of boredom). God comes looking for Abel, and asks Cain about Abel’s whereabouts (another theory: God knew where Abel was because, well, he’s God, and was testing Cain to see if he had any redeeming qualities by admitting his guilt).
What was Cain’s reply to God? “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (I imagine him being very sarcastic about that)
I imagine God would have told Cain YES, you ARE supposed to be your brother’s keeper. But, sadly, nothing seemed to change after that first murder. Men have long been competing with, fighting, and killing each other. Much to our detriment and sorrow, right up to today.
MEN, WE NEED TO FLIP THE SCRIPT FROM COMPETITION TO COOPERATION.
As I always say when I go on one of my social change activist rants, this isn’t some wishy-washy, touchy-feely kumbaya suggestion. This is a matter of urgent and practical necessity.
It may be no secret that men lead the charge when it comes to death from suicide, heart disease, violent crime, drug use, and on and on. But many of us ignore a big underlying cause of the destructive behaviors that result in male mortality: rampant extreme competition.
Western culture, especially in the United States, tends to train men to see each other as competitors. And while a healthy level of competitiveness is good for us and drives us to be better, there is a toxic version of competition many of us have been taught.
My own father always stressed that it was a “dog-eat-dog world” in which I was never to trust anyone. Other men were just out there to mess with you, take your stuff, and generally screw you over.
But we’re more than animals (no matter how often people try to tell us different). I like to say human beings are both apes and angels: the ape represents our evolutionary primate survival mechanisms, and the angel is our ability to rationalize and create works of art. Both sides of our nature are vital to our survival. The tension between the two keeps us striving, moving forward, and help us avoid stagnation.
But when we rely too much on either the ape or the angel, we throw things out of balance and we no longer grow.
This means, as men, we aren’t destined to just be at each other’s throats, eternally clawing for supremacy to become the cliched “alpha male.” Our culture’s fixation on males vying to dominate and destroy each other CAN be changed. It’s just another bad societal habit that we can work out.
When you hear the pundits lament the fact that our nation is no longer innovating, you can bet a leading cause of that apathy is over-competitive men suppressing each other (not to mention suppressing the advancement of women’s equality, but that’s a topic for another post).
Men need to work together to cultivate a healthy balance of competition and cooperation. We need to see each other as brothers, whether we share common genetics or not.
The time is NOW. Be your brother’s keeper, and let’s keep each other alive and thriving!
About the Author
Anthony Simeone is a writer, speaker, personal development activist, and social change warrior with over two decades of experience studying the practical application of literature, philosophy, psychology, and other disciplines. The culmination of his work is the Live the Hero concept, which he offers as a life path for use in overcoming life’s daily obstacles. Live the Hero combines the wisdom found in the arts and humanities with the latest discoveries related to modern neuroscience. You can contact Anthony and learn more about his work at livethehero.com.
Yes, indeed! It is far past time to move on from toxic competition and into cooperation. It is a “dog eat dog” world only as long as men choose to act like it is.
Reminds me of the African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Let’s go far!
Very well articulated. I’m reminded of how western culture conditions us to believe that in order to be “real men,” we have to think in absolutist terms and make either-or choices. When I rejected the “either-or” ideology and started telling myself that I can have BOTH, life got a helluva lot better. Thanks, Anthony!