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This article first appeared on, where Jed is the resident expert on male issues.

Does Anyone Really Believe That Males Could Become Extinct?


Read this article:
  • If you're interested in man's role in society
  • If you think men are getting a confused message
We are constantly fed with the message that women are the put upon ones in society today, and that for all the years of feminism, it is still women who do housework and raise children, and it's men that make the big decisions. Well, that's partly true, but Jed Diamond looks at some worrying trends for men in this fabulous essay.
In November, 2001, the prestigious British Journal of Medicine published an editorial written by Siegfried Meryn, M.D. titled "The future of men and their health: Are men in danger of extinction?" The average person might laugh at the suggestion that men are in decline. Aren't men at the top in the world of politics and business? Don't men run the world? Maybe this was true in the past, but not now. Not only are men no longer masters of the universe, but an increasing number of serious scientists believe that we may be facing the most significant extinction in last 3 million years-the end of men.
Dr. Meryn is not some "pop-psychologist." He is a medical doctor with a world-wide reputation in the field of men's health. He is professor of medicine at the University of Vienna, chairman and president of the World Congress on Men's Health, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Men's Health and Gender. "Although there is still a long way to go in most societies around the world, it is clear that women can perform (and on most occasions outperform) pretty much all the tasks traditionally reserved for men," says Dr. Meryn in his editorial."
But we're not just talking about men's roles being in danger, but we may be in danger on a much more fundamental level. Our balls may, literally, be on the line. Devra Davis is one of the top health researchers in the world. Her specialty has been the relationship between health and the environment. She is now Visiting Professor of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School and Senior Advisor to the World Health Organization. In her recent book, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution she devotes an entire chapter to the serious decline in male reproductive viability that seems to be caused by our destruction of the environment.
In the chapter "Save the Males" she notes that men are having increasing difficulty fathering children and males are actually in decline. "Now it looks like something is wrong with baby boys," she cautions. "Fewer boys are being born today than three decades ago, and more of them have undescended testes and effects in their penis. More young men are getting testicular cancer than as recently as the early 1990s, and they are developing it at younger ages. Some trendy magazines have even suggested that male health is an oxymoron."
Dr. Bryan Sykes is one of the world's preeminent geneticists. He is professor of genetics at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University and has been doing research on the future of the Y chromosome. What he has found is not heartening for males. In his book, Adam's Curse: A Future Without Men. He tells us that the Y-chromosome, that unique piece of genetic material is makes us male, is suffering from increasing decay which is affecting fertility. "Male infertility is on the increase," Sykes tells us. "Under the microscope a high proportion of human sperm from what we would consider a normal human male are already visibly deformed. Sperm counts are falling dramatically, though there are other contributory causes as well as Y-chromosome decay. The human Y-chromosome has been decaying for a very long time and will continue to do so; and we have to expect a progressive decline in male fertility as these injuries accumulate. One by one Y-chromosomes will disappear until eventually only one remains. When that chromosome finally succumbs, men will become extinct?"
Of course, Sykes doesn't think men will become extinct anytime soon. In fact he estimates that guys have another 125,000 years. "Not exactly the day after tomorrow," Sykes says, "but equally, not an unimaginably long time ahead. Very roughly, in fact, as long into the future as our species has been going so far from its beginnings in Africa." So we might say we are at mid-life. But there is a relentless anxiety that begins to occur when we reach the apex of a cycle and begin down the other side. Whether it is the peak of oil production, "middle-age," or the remaining time males have on the planet, when we recognize that we have more behind us than ahead of us a kind of corrosive depression takes over in the psyche.
Do We Really Need Men?
In the 60's there was a bumper sticker popular among feminists, "A woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle." The meaning seemed to be that women could stand on their own two feet and take care of themselves without needing a man to protect and provide. There was also the clear suggestion that men are superfluous. One feminist friend seriously suggested that the world would be a better place if we eliminated most of the men. She reasoned that a few could be kept for breeding purposes. Without men, the world would be a much safer and healthier and more enjoyable.
The idea that men are no longer needed and could be eliminated, although popular among the small group of radical females, didn't catch on. Most women and all men just shook their heads and snickered. Few people took the notion of male decline very seriously. Sure, women were advancing and making strides in the world of academia, business and politics. But it was still a man's world and would likely be into the foreseeable future. Now, the question of men's position in the world has been re-introduced and it is men who are doing the asking. Why are we here? Are we useful? Is there anything unique that men have to offer?
Look around at the myriad bugs, bees, plants, and animals. Everything has a place in the web of life. When an individual animal or a species no longer is adapted to its environment, it is in danger of dying. Men and women have shared the planet since humans first evolved because they each had a unique function to play in the perpetuation of the species. Without a purpose we lose the will to live. Are men still useful? Not everyone believes we are. "With the advent of sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, sex sorting techniques, sperm independent fertilization of eggs with somatic cells, human cloning, and same sex marriages," Meryn warns, "it is also reasonable to wonder about the future role of men in society."
In 1949 Simone de Beauvoir wrote the book, The Second Sex. In it she described a period when women's lives were restricted and men enjoyed the freedom to advance on the world's playing fields. Women were seen as mothers and homemakers and those who wanted to work outside the home were often seen as "less than" a complete woman. Males ruled the workplace, government, and academia. Since bringing home the bacon was seen as much more important than raising children, the men were given greater respect after work as well. His home was his castle and he was king. It was a time when "father knows best" and "what is good for General Motors is good for the nation."
But as Bob Dylan sang, "the times, they are a changin.'" One of the most perceptive researchers studying the future of men and women is anthropologist Helen Fisher. After studying men and women around the world she concluded that the balance has shifted significantly in the 56 years since de Beauvoir wrote her book. She reports these findings in her book The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World. She quotes historian Gerda Lerner who says, "We stand at the doorway of what may become an age of women."
Fisher uses her considerable talents to survey the world of the 21st century and concludes that women will increasingly find their talents and skills being useful while men, unless there is considerable change, will find themselves to be falling farther and farther behind. For instance, she finds that the differences in the way males and females think will favor women. She says that women more regularly think contextually. They take a more "holistic" view of issues. Men, on the other hand, tend to compartmentalize their attention. Their thinking is more channeled. In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, where context is everything, men are at a considerable disadvantage.
After traveling around the world, Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas L. Friedman concluded that the world is flat. By that he means that cheap, ubiquitous telecommunications have finally created a truly global market place. We no longer have a hierarchy where one or two superpowers rule the world, but now countries like China, India, Japan, Korea, and Malaysia are becoming economic superpowers. In his recent book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century he suggests that a number of trends have occurred that have destroyed the traditional hierarchies and have ushered in a new world with a flatter, more equal playing field.
It is a world where our tax returns may as likely be done by someone in India as by our neighborhood accountant. In 2003, some 25,000 U.S. tax returns were done in India. In 2004, the number was 100,000. By the end of 2005, it is expected to be 400,000. "In a decade," says Friedman, "you will assume that your accountant has outsourced the basic preparation of your tax returns-if not more."

Jaithirth "Jerry" Rao, a native of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is one of the new flat-earth entrepreneurs. His firm, MphasiS, has a team of accountants who are able to do outsourced accounting work from any state in America and the federal government. What's interesting is that Friedman learned that the skills necessary to survive and succeed in the new economy are skills that have been traditionally associated with women. "No matter what your profession-doctor, lawyer, architect, accountant," Friedman found, "if you are an American, you better be good at the touch-feely service stuff, because anything that can be digitized can be outsourced to either the smartest or the cheapest producer, or both." We see that women's way is increasingly becoming the business model of the future. According to Edie Weiner, a futurist and co-author of Insider's Guide to the Future, "These trends toward decentralization, a flatter business structure, team playing, lateral connections, and flexibility favor women's way of doing business."
We are seeing an emerging pattern throughout the industrial world, says Anthropologist Lionel Tiger, author of The Decline of Males. "Men and women may not discern it clearly, but the pattern underlies their experience in industrial society. It is a pattern of growth in the confidence and power of women, and of erosion in the confidence and power of men."
This is evident in the major shifts we are seeing in the workforce. Women are moving in and men are moving out. Women currently make up 40 percent of the labor force in Europe and the rest of the industrial world. During the last two decades more women have begun to work outside the home almost everywhere in the world, while men's participation in the labor force has declined.
The cover of the book Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men by social scientist Andrew Hacker shows a couple from the knees down. One has their feet planted firmly on the ground. The other must lift up on their toes to reach their partner. It's somewhat shocking and disconcerting to see that the one reaching up is the man in his wingtips.
"An additional subtitle for Mismatch could have been ‘from affinity to estrangement,' says Hacker. "As women are becoming more assertive, and taking critical stances toward the men in their lives, they are finding that all too many men lack the qualities they desire in dates and mates. And despite bursts of progressive rhetoric, only rarely do men show themselves disposed to change in more than marginal ways. Thus there is a greater divide between the sexes than at any time in living memory. This result will be a greater separation of women and men, with tensions and recriminations afflicting beings once thought to be naturally companionable.
Production and Reproduction: Men Are Losing Out on Both Fronts
With male economic prospects declining and females increasing, women are less likely to marry and have families with men who aren't on the track for success. The education gap is having a profound effect on marriage and family life. According to Paul Harrington of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies, we are now seeing a "marriage gap," where educated women are finding it more and more difficult to find partners that they consider equals.
The complaint that there aren't enough "good men" available is particularly noticeable for college-educated African American or Hispanic women. African American men receive about half as many college degrees as black women and Hispanic men are outpaced 60 percent to 40 percent by Hispanic women. What has been true for minority women for some time, is now becoming true for mainstream women. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Creating a Life says that the more successful the woman, the more difficult it will be for her to find a mate or bear a child.
From a man's point of view his prospects are becoming diminished. Without a good education he can't get a good job. Without a good job he can't get a good woman who wants to settle down and create a family with him. Without a family a man becomes increasingly isolated, irritable, angry, and depressed. What I describe as the Irritable Male Syndrome is one of the primary results.
In losing out in the world of work, men are losing a part of the male role that has always been at the heart of what it means to be a man. "It is no longer possible for men to hunt for their daily bread and bacon in literal terms," says Lionel Tiger. "Man the Hunter is profoundly unemployable at the job he did well for hundreds of thousands of years."
As women have fewer children, more are choosing to raise them without the involvement of the father. "More women are having children without men, and therefore more men are without the love of families, says anthropologist Lionel Tiger. "With startling new techniques, unprecedented arrangements have been struck for insemination, conception, implantation, frozen embryos, and surrogate mothers. Adoption has become an international trading pattern as infertile nationals of one country import the children of other countries with more children and fewer resources."
Increasingly it is women who are having and raising the children. If present trends continue, by 2004 nearly half of all Americans born will be to single mothers. "Meanwhile, men fade out of the picture," says Tiger. This trend is occurring all over the world. In Thailand and Brazil, for example, 20 percent of households are headed by women; in the Dominican Republic and Hong Kong, the figure is 26 percent; in Ghana it is 29 percent.
As men become separated from their roles as father, they also lose incentive to fulfill other roles of breadwinner, protector, nurturer, teacher, and mentor. Without significant roles to play in the life of his family, men become increasingly angry and violent. One of the leading predictors of violence in countries throughout the world is the percentage of young men between the ages of 20 and 29 who are not married.
Countries with large percentages of young men in this age group include Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, India, Afghanistan, China, and Israel. We don't have to be experts in world politics to know that these countries are also the ones where war and violence is a constant concern. According to Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc., a leading futurist consulting group in the United States, "The most destabilizing geopolitical force in the world today is the vast number of young men without jobs and other opportunities."
Depression and Suicide: Males Are Killing Themselves in Record Numbers
"Depression is the flaw in love," says Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. "To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair." Men who are unable to be "bread-winners" in the new economy are not chosen by women. This trend produces violence directed outward in the form of aggression and directed inward in the form of depression.
There are millions of men who are depressed, but don't know it and millions more who know it, but are afraid to show it. It isn't manly to be depressed. There is a double stigma for men. Although we resist accepting physical disability, mental disability makes us feel even more helpless and out of control. Emotional problems are also seen by many of us as "feminine,"
and we have been taught since we were boys to run in terror from any behaviors that might bring the taunt of "sissy." We most often cover our unhappiness with drink, drugs, excessive exercise, overwork, and angry moods.
Psychotherapist Terrence Real, author of I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression says: "Hidden depression drives several of the problems we think of as typically male: physical illness, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, failures in intimacy, self-sabotage in careers."
Not only is it difficult for the men to recognize their depression, those around them tend to see the men as "bad" rather than "sad." It isn't surprising because men's behavior seems more aggressive than passive, more wounding than wounded. "Because men are raised to be independent, active, task oriented, and successful," say Drs. John Lynch and Christopher Kilmartin, authors of The Pain Behind the Mask: Overcoming Masculine Depression. "They tend to express painful feelings by blaming others, denying their feelings, and finding solutions for their problems in places outside of themselves."
The number one risk factor for suicide is being male. The imbalance between the number of
males who kill themselves and the number of females who die by their own hand is evident
throughout the life-cycle as the following table illustrates:
Estimated Annual Suicide Rate per 100,000 by Age and Gender

Age Range
5 - 14
15 - 19
20 - 44
45 - 59
60 - 69
70 - 79
80 - 84
It should be noted that at every age, males outnumber females in suicides by a factor of at least 3 ¼ times. During the teen years between 15 and 19, six times as many males commit suicide as do females of the same age. It drops slightly to five times higher during the reproductive years between 20 and 44. Women are most likely to commit suicide in the menopause years between the ages of 45 and 59, but men who commit suicide still outnumber women in this age group 3.6 to 1.
However, as men move into the retirement years and their jobs (for those who still have them) are no longer a stable part of their identity, the suicide rate steadily increases. It steadily rises from 4.8, to 8.1, to 12.4, to 15 times the rate for women. Men over 85 (the segment of the population that is increasing at the highest rate have a suicide rate that is fifteen times higher than women of the same age.

Summarized from R. Anderson, K. Kochanek & S. Murphy. Report of final mortality statistics. Monthly Vital Statistics Report, 45 (11), Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 1997 and from G. Murphy. Why women are less likely than men to commit suicide. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 39, 1998, 165-175. Reported in Sam V. Cochran and Fredric E. Rabinowitz. Men and Depression: Clinical and Empirical Perspectives. San Diego, California: Academic Press, 2000, p. 141.

A Vision for The Future

It seems clear that the world as we know it is undergoing huge change. One of the primary changes is manifested by the ascendance of women and the decline of men. As men, we have two choices. We can follow the trend of many and give up. We can kill ourselves slowly through such things as alcoholism, workaholism, or foodaholism; or quickly through suicide. On the other hand we can find a new vision to engage and sustain us.
I found such a vision at a men's gathering in 1995. I was with a hundred or more men meeting outside Indianapolis, Indiana over a long weekend. As part of the experience we were invited to experience a Sweat Lodge. I was reluctant to join since I've had asthma most of my life and at times have difficulty breathing. Nevertheless, I joined with 10 other guys who decided to share the experience.
We were told by the elder leading the experience that the Sweat Lodge was an ancient ceremony used in cultures throughout the world. It is used for rituals of purification, for spiritual renewal and for healing. The Sweat Lodge is a small structure made of a frame of saplings, covered with skins, canvas or blanket. A depression is dug in the center into which hot rocks are positioned. Water is thrown on the rocks to create steam and a small flap opening is used to regulate the temperature.
As we touched the earth and made a prayer for "all our relations," we crawled naked through the doorway and took our positions around the stone pit. We were told there would be three "rounds" where we would chant and pray. In between rounds the flap would be open to allow us to cool down. With each round the lodge became hotter as more stones were added and the experience became more intense.
As it turned out, I was at the back of the lodge where it was the hottest. In the third round it became so hot that many of the people crawled out. I was one of the few people left inside, but I didn't feel the heat. I was somehow transported to another time and another place:

We are all on a huge ocean liner. It is the Ship of Civilization. Everything that we know and have ever known is on the ship. People are born and die. Goods and services are created, wars are fought, and elections are held. Species come into being and face extinction. The Ship steams on and on and there is no doubt that it will continue on its present course forever.

There were many decks on the ship starting way down in the boiler room where the poorest and grimiest toiled to keep the ship going. As you ascend the decks things get lighter and easier. The people who run the ship have suites on the very top deck. Their job, as they see it, is to keep the ship going and keep those on the lower decks in their proper places. Since they are at the top they are sure that they deserve to acquire more and more of the resources of all those below them.

Everyone on the lower decks aspires to get up to the next deck and hungers to get to the very top. That's the way it is. That's the way it had always been. That's the way it will always be. However, there are a few people who realize that something very strange is happening. What they come to know is that the Ship of Civilization is sinking. At first, like everyone else, they can't believe it. The Ship has been afloat since time before time. It is the best of the best. That it could sink is unthinkable. Nonetheless, they are sure the Ship is sinking.

They try and warn the people, but no one believes them. The ship can not be sinking and anyone who thinks so must be out of their mind. When they persist in trying to warn the people of what they were facing, those in charge of the Ship silence them and lock them up. The Ship's media keeps grinding out news stories describing how wonderful the future will be. Any problems that are occurring will surely be solved with the wonders of our civilized life-style.

The leaders of the Ship smile and wave and promise prosperity for all. But water is beginning to seep in from below. The higher the water rises, the more frightened the people become and the more frantic they scramble to get to the upper decks. Some believe it is the end and actually welcome the prospect of the destruction of life as we know it. They believe it is the fulfillment of religious prophesy. Others become more and more irritable, angry, and depressed.

But as the water rises, those who have been issuing the warnings can no longer be silenced. More and more escape confinement and lead the people towards the lifeboats. Though there are boats enough for all, many people are reluctant to leave the Ship of Civilization. Many questions are asked. "The old stories tell us that we've been on this Ship for more than 10,000 years, isn't it safer to stay aboard? Could things really be this bad that we have to leave? Where will we go? Who will lead us? What if this is all there is? What if we all die?"
Nevertheless, the Ship is sinking. Many people go over the side and are lowered down to the boats. As they descend they are puzzled to see lettering on the side of the ship, T-I-T-A-N-I-C. When they reach the lifeboats many are frightened and look for someone who looks like they know what to do. They'd like to ride with those people. However, they find that each person must get in their own boat and row away from the Ship in their own direction. If they don't get away from the Ship as soon as possible they will be pulled down with it. When everyone, each in their own boats, rowing in their own direction, reaches a certain spot, a new Web will be formed. It will be the basis for a new way of life that will replace the life that was lived on the old Ship of Civilization.
I slowly came back to the present and found myself alone at the back of the Sweat Lodge. I wasn't quite sure what had happened, but the vision was clear in my head and has remained so ever since. For the last 10 years I have been trying to understand what I had been given and how to best share it with others. Here's what I've learned so far.
Eight Truths the Vision Has Taught Me
  1. Trying to achieve success in today's world is like getting a better deck-chair on the Titanic. When the Ship sinks, it doesn't matter which deck you've managed to reach.
  2. The Ship of Civilization is a 10,000 year old-way of life that has been based on extracting more and more resources from the earth, particularly fossil fuels.
  3. As author, Richard Heinberg says in the title of his book, The Party's Over,[1] that way of life is not sustainable and will end in the near future.
  4. Men no longer captain the Ship of Civilization. The old hierarchies are breaking down. The world is flattening out. Women are taking control.
  5. For men, the response to their loss of position in the world is that more and more suffer from The Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS). Some are acting it "out" through aggression, while others act it "in" through depression.
  6. Like all dis-ease, IMS, is telling us that something is wrong. As IMS becomes a world-wide epidemic it alerts us to the fact that the problem is planetary.
  7. For most of human history we lived as "hunter-gatherers" in small bands. In their role as hunters, it was the men who were the first to become aware of ecological change-to notice when the buffalo had moved or animals were dying. It was their job to protect their tribe and lead their people to safety.
  8. As has been true throughout human history, males are genetically endowed to be the risk takers. It is the role of modern men to lead their people away from the Ship of Civilization and move into an unknown world. If men of courage don't lead the way, the human species ends.  
The 7 Rules for Men of Courage
  1. Recognize that we are all sick in some way-physically, emotionally, interpersonally, and/or spiritually.
  2. We each have control over our own health and can get better if we choose to do so.
  3. Males (and females) are different and we need a kind of health care that is unique to men. Male-gender medicine is what we need for the new world.
  4. It isn't about us. It's about saving the children, grandchildren, and future generations. Most of us would give up our own life if we needed to do so to save our child. The question now is, "are you willing to save your own life so that your child will have a chance to live?" Without us, the children are doomed.
  5. We must be part of a men's support group. We can't do it alone. We need each other. Being with women is wonderful, but men need to be with each other if we are going to heal to a level where we can lead our people to a new world.
  6. We must be linked in a world-wide network through a men's place where we can heal, get support, meet others on the path, and get counsel.
  7. We must act now. We can't wait until we have all the answers. It is time for men, once again, to lead the way. This is the best thing a man can do for himself, his family, and his community. It's also the most fun that can be had anywhere on the planet. Civilization, as we know it, is coming to an end. But far from being a disaster, it is probably the best thing that could happen to us. A world economy based on taking more and more from the earth, while killing the animals and polluting the planet, was never sustainable. Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is the glass-half-empty follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. Diamond spells out the reasons cultures decline and societies collapse. In his encyclopedic analysis, it is clear that our present way of life is ending. "Civilization," he says, "is the worst mistake in the history of the human race."
The traditional male role is coming to an end. That also is a good thing. We are being called upon to engage a larger task than procreation, production, and protection. What is required of men in the 21st century is no less than the creation of a new world, one that is sustainable and where humans once again take their place in the web of life.
-The end.....and The Beginning-

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