10 October, 2016
On 19 November 2015, a panel discussion was held at the Student Activity Center at The University of the West Indies, in Trinidad and Tobago (in the Caribbean). It was spearheaded by an undergraduate female student, Ms. Michelle Roopnarine, and featured Dr. John Gedeon of the University's Office of Planning and Development; Ramia Coleman, the Chairman of the all-male Hall of Residence on campus; and Jonathan St. Louis-Nahous, the Guild of Students' Representative for Part-time and Evening Students. The panel successfully generated some interest and lively discussion among a cross-section of students on campus and across faculties. During the past five years, similar small scale observances have been held on campus. Despite this recognition many students and members of the public are still unaware of the existence of International Men’s Day.
From 1999, International Men’s Day was tailored and revamped to continue building the global Men’s Movement and promote an ideology that would encourage peace, resolve disputes, and transcend the growing gender gap. The annual observances of International Men’s Day on November 19th indicate a global concern for the numerous problems plaguing families and the rest of society.
The focus of International Men’s Day is not restricted to men but includes boys, women, teenagers and children. The underlying message is that ongoing conflict among men, women, and children must cease and the healing must begin. The observances of International Men’s Day are part of a global non-violent revolution. It is annually observed by persons who support the ongoing effort to improve lives, heal scarred lives, seek solutions to social problems, heal the seemingly irreparable troubled minds, help the dysfunctional, and promote positive role models in society.
Men’s organisations, anti-war groups, peace organizations, women’s groups, Gender Departments at universities, politicians, and individuals from all walks of life have annually celebrated International Men’s Day. One illustration is the decision in 2010 to have observances among prisoners and the selection of Carry Greaves, in 2012, as an Empowerment Coordinator. Greaves, a father, is incarcerated at a correctional facility in New York in the United States. Undoubtedly, International Men’s Day has transcended language barriers, geographical boundaries, political ideology and religious differences. Furthermore, International Men’s Day observances are not restricted to any particular class, gender, age and occupation.
In 2013, the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, (IGDS) Mona Unit, (in Jamaica) issued a press release as it joined the rest of the world in observing International Men’s Day, which stated:
“ . . .We salute all male role models on the UWI Mona campus as students and staff, and urge the UWI family to collaborate in changing unequal gender relations that undermine the health and safety of both males and females. We encourage the UWI Mona family to: build partnerships based on mutual respect, human rights, gender equality; change attitudes and behaviors in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence; increase male participation in education, and support implementation of international human rights commitments, Jamaica's National Policy for Gender Equality as well as the UWI’s Gender Policy and Gender Action Plan.” Such bold statements are relevant for the present and future.
A considerable number of feminists have not felt threatened by International Men’s Day and welcome the six objectives of IMD. Interestingly, some of the goals of feminists are similar to the six pillars of International Men’s Day which include promoting gender equality. International Men’s Day is unique in that some of its greatest promoters and supporters are women. These women include Diane Sears of the United States who serves as the International Men's Day Coordinator, Chair of the United States 2012-2022 International Men’s Day Ten Year Plan Committee, and is a member of the International Men’s Day Coordination Committee. Other dynamic women include Marie Clarence of Hungary, Geneuvieve Twala of Botswana who is the International Men’s Day Coordinator for the nation of Botswana, Nelcia Robinson-Marshall of St. Vincent, along with Kavita Ganness and Gabrielle Grant of Trinidad and Tobago who have all realized the positive benefits International Men’s Day will have on our families, neighborhoods, nations and the world.
Additionally, Uma Challa of India, is part of the International Men's Day Coordination Committee. Under her leadership, last year India was extremely proactive in its observance for International Men's Day. An International Men's Day Flash Mob was organized with Men and Boys dancing in the streets, a video of a famous female Indian actress who talked about the importance of Men and International Men's Day was produced and uploaded to the Internet, the creation and implementation of the "Show Men Some Love Wear Blue On International Men's Day" movement and an International Men's Day song entitled, "Show Men Some Love." Other women around the world, who support International Men’s Day, have proven to be visionaries and have been a tremendous asset to the Global Men’s Movement.
International Men’s Day promotes constructive dialogue between both sexes for greater understanding and tolerance. Additionally, the promoters of this day hope it will help reduce the polarization between the men’s movement and the women’s movement. Indeed, International Men’s Day highlights the common bonds of humanity. Those persons supporting International Men’s Day seek to restore the dignity and respect of members of the human family. The supporters, coordinators, and participants have been trying to offer different perspectives and new ideas for the leader and layperson. The movement has embraced all persons and is not interested in continuing problems and promoting divisions.
The global support of International Men’s Day reflects the widespread willingness in building a society aspiring for peace and a more tolerant and understanding future generation. Annual themes and topics focused on health, gender relations, and fatherhood. Also discussed are the linkages among gender, religion, class, ethnicity, poverty, environmental protection, and nationalism.
International Men’s Day is gradually generating support that will be a wake-up call for the media and contribute to men and women being portrayed as honest, decent, morally upright, and possessing morals. Only then would there be a chance for real and permanent change. This men’s movement must initiate an era of enlightenment where dynamic, rational role models will emerge with a mandate to positively transform our world.
The celebration of this special day includes promoting solidarity and developing wholesome individuals. Such developments are badly needed in today’s wounded communities which reflect many scars due to many distorted and outdated beliefs and constant clashes among men, women and children which unravels the fabric of the family and the society. Undoubtedly, the philosophy underlying International Men’s Day is much more than optimistic thinking and rhetoric; it is a way of life, a world view, an alternative peace model designed so that the next generation will nurture and continue to sow the seeds of tolerance, acceptance and harmony.
International Men’s Day has the potential to improve our lives, positively influencing those who govern us and preserving our environment. International Men’s Day intends to continue promoting a safer and better world and be the voice for the victims of war, troubled souls, the oppressed and the physically and mentally challenged.
Today, International Men’s Day is observed in approximately eighty countries. The most recent country, Uganda, officially joined the movement in September 2016. Volunteers and well-wishers of International Men’s Day are constantly devising strategies and creating a global community that is more collaborative and less aggressive. International Men’s Day is not a top-down movement limited to a few persons. It has spread among the grassroots and maintained its growth among neighborhoods and communities. International Men’s Day has sought to dismantle the many stereotypes associated with males and females. And, more importantly, International Men’s Day has challenged those who are unable to see the “invisible” boys and men who are positively contributing to our society.
The World Health Organization (www.who.int) reports that 450,000,000 souls out of the 7,466,598,202 souls with whom we share space on Planet Earth are struggling with mental disorders. The mental disorders include, but are not limited to, dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Suicide.org (www.suicide.org), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which provides a forum for suicide survivors -- souls whose loved ones have committed suicide--, estimates that 1,000,000 souls throughout our global village commit suicide annually. While the suicide rate among the world’s male population – 3,766,212,140 souls – our sons, fathers, grandfathers, husbands, fiancées , uncles, brothers, cousins, nephews, neighbors, and co-workers -- is rising at an alarming rate, Male Suicide continues to be the proverbial “elephant in the room”.
So, why is society, as a whole, ignoring Male Suicide? And why do so many of our sons, fathers, grandfathers, husbands, fiancées, uncles, brothers, cousins, nephews, neighbors, and co-workers feel that killing themselves is the only option they have available to escape the excruciating psychological, spiritual, and emotional pain that engulfs their souls?
Some profound answers to this question can be found in an article entitled, “It’s Society, Not Biology That Is Making Men More Suicidal” published by a British newspaper, The Telegraph (www.telepgraph.co.uk) and penned by Mike Snelle:
“ . . . Our culture treats people with depression as if there is something wrong with them; a biological imbalance best treated with medication. But if it’s impossible to understand biology outside the context of environment, and there is a frightening increase in male suicide and depression, perhaps we need to take a closer look at the other variable - our environment. An increase in mental health problems, and in particular suicide rates amongst men, suggests that the environment we live in has become more hostile to men. If depression is the mind's way of telling us there is something wrong in our environment, then the broader increase in male suicides is telling us that there is something wrong in our society. We are trained to be in competition with one another, and rewarded for ruthlessness. Empathy and emotional understanding are regarded as weaknesses. . . . “
Mr. Snelle suggests that we need to connect the dots between what is going on in our environment – our society – a society that is not friendly to Men – a society which, as a whole and in general, transmits mixed signals to Men about masculinity, their societal roles and responsibilities, their value as human beings, and the rules of engagement for courtship and marriage – and the unique psychological, spiritual, and emotional issues that confront them every waking moment of their lives. Mr. Snelle also takes a stab at the manner in which Men are socialized about strengths and weaknesses as they make their journey from childhood to adulthood through his inferences about competitiveness, ruthlessness, empathy, and emotional understanding.. He is drawing a straight line from mental illness and Male Suicide to the manner in which males are socialized about strengths and weaknesses. It is this socialization that many of the souls who are males in our global village use as a yardstick to measure their “worthiness” and their ability to successfully navigate and transcend the environment they were born into.
A serious need exists to rethink the manner in which we socialize boys during their journey from childhood to manhood. When boys and girls emerge from the womb, they emerge from the womb with the same set of emotions and the same set of spontaneous and natural responses to physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual pain. They emerge as "whole souls". When boys -- Our Sons -- reach a certain age, they are summarily discouraged from expressing their inborn and spontaneous reaction to pain. As an example, they are not allowed to cry. Crying is deemed to be “unmanly”. On the other hand, girls -- Our Daughters -- are allowed the same emotional freedom we deny to Our Sons. Now, I am not trying to feminize Men and Boys – something a number of my detractors have publicly accused me of. We have socialized boys in such a manner during their journey from childhood to manhood that they believe that no matter how great the physical or emotional pain they are experiencing, they must not talk about it or cry out for help. Boys are socialized to believe that any expression of or reaction to pain is a demonstration of their vulnerability and vulnerability is equated with weakness. This is so unhealthy that it borders on insanity. In actuality, the expression of vulnerability denotes strength. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable opens you up to risks. A strong person, totally cognizant of the risks associated with vulnerability, will take that leap of faith.
Men and Boys who do not practice or are not allowed to practice "emotional freedom" implode -- self-medicate through alcohol, work, food, drugs, or sex or --- seeing no other options for themselves, end their pain by committing suicide). Those who do not implode, explode. Their years of pent-up anger, frustration, and hopelessness manifests itself in horrific acts of violence which create grave public safety issues.
A need exists for all key stakeholders to engage in an open and solutions-based dialogue that addresses Male Suicide, the resocialization of males as they make their journey from childhood to manhood, and the creation and maintenance of mental health resources and support services for Men and Boys. In the United States, we can seek out legislators and encourage them to introduce, support, pass, and enact legislation which will establish an Office of Men's Health in the United States Department of Health and Human Services. An Office of Men’s Health has the potential to, among other things, focus on the unique mental health issues of Men and Boys through national mental health awareness campaigns, create mental health facilities that specifically address the unique emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues and needs of Men and Boys, and provide increased research and research funding that aggressively and effectively addresses the unique health issues of Men and Boys.
The same mixed signals that are transmitted by society to Men and Boys are also transmitted to Women and Girls. Everyone has bought into the misperceptions and myths about Men and Boys. What do we really believe about Men and Boys? Do we believe that they do not cry . . . that they do not have a full range of emotions . . . that they are emotionless automatons? Are the concepts that we have about Men and Boys based on reality? One of the key “pieces of the puzzle” to ensuring that Male Suicide no longer remains the “elephant in the room” and creating a world in which Men and Boys no longer feel that killing themselves is their only escape from an existence that is emotionally, spiritually, and emotionally painful, lies in changing our misperceptions about them and creating an environment that provides them with emotional freedom. Men and Boys will only allow themselves to be vulnerable with souls whom they know respect them – souls who are trustworthy. Each of us has the power to create an environment that gives Men and Boys the emotional freedom they so desperately need. All we need to do is demonstrate – through our deeds – that we respect them and that we are trustworthy. .
How does it feel to exist, but to be treated as if you are unseen—as if you are ‘”the least among us”? What is it like to speak, but not to be heard because the souls around you are either not listening or pretending not to understand your utterances? Having one’s humanity denied is a deeply hurtful and spirit-crushing experience. Who are the souls whose humanity and plaintive pleas for acknowledgment, justice, resources, and support are summarily dismissed?
Who are these broken-spirited souls that struggle to exist in a world that denies their existence?
They are the homeless, Our Elders, refugees, the poor, the incarcerated, the mentally ill, and the physically disabled.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimates that approximately 100,000,000 souls throughout our global village are homeless. On any given night in Dublin, Ireland it is estimated that at least 2,366 souls can be seen sleeping on the streets. Over 2,500 souls call the streets their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on a daily basis. Other cities in our global village with a high rate of homelessness include Rome, Italy; Athens, Greece; Lisbon, Portugal; Denver, Colorado, Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Washington, San Diego, California, Tampa, Florida; and Baltimore, Maryland in the United States; and Tokyo, Japan.
It is estimated that approximately 126.5 million souls throughout our global village are 80 years of age and older. These souls – Our Elders – are the “jewels” of our global village. Our Elders – the “jewels” in our midst -- are an untapped source of history, valuable life lessons, and wise counsel desperately needed by a world that seems to have totally engaged itself in “youth worship” and is dangerously disconnected from its past.
Approximately 3 billion souls live on less than US$2.50 each day. Out of the these 3 billion souls, at least 1.3 billion are living on less than US$1.25 each day and 1 billion of these souls who languish in poverty are children – the next Generation of Leaders, Husbands, Fathers, Wives, and Mothers.
On World Refugees Day, 20 June 2016, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) (www.unhcr.org) released a report which pointed out that approximately 65.3 million souls throughout our global village are refugees. And 51% of these souls are children. We live in a world where at least 34,000 souls every day are forcibly removed from their homes due to ethnic or religious persecution or armed conflict. Approximately 10,000,000 souls have been denied a nationality and access to health, education, employment, and freedom of movement.
According to Penal Reform International (www.penalreform.org), 10,000,000 souls are housed in correctional facilities throughout our global village which are grossly overcrowded – a condition that creates an environment that is life threatening and not conducive to rehabilitation. At least 114 nations are guilty of housing incarcerated souls in overcrowded correctional facilities. Prisons around the world have used some form of isolation on incarcerated individuals to segregate them from the general prison population as punishment for committing perceived or actual breaches of discipline. Solitary confinement as a form of punishment is being overused in prisons. In a number of correctional facilities throughout our global village, incarcerated souls must contend with poor sanitary conditions, inadequate lighting and ventilation, extreme temperatures during the summer and winter months, insect and rodent infestation, and insufficient personal hygiene supplies.
The World Health Organization recently reported that 450,000,000 souls throughout our global village are suffering from a mental disorder. Published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, the World Development Report advises that approximately 1,000,000,000 – or about 15% of our global village’s population -- have some form of physical disability.
Why should we care about the homeless, Our Elders, refugees, the impoverished, the physically disabled, the mentally ill, and the incarcerated?
Because we are connected to each soul that is an Elder – a “jewel” of our global village.
We are connected to the refugee who is forced to flee his or her home with nothing more than the clothes on his or her back.
We are connected to the homeless man or woman who is utilizing the concrete pavement as a bed and pillow every night.
We are connected to the souls who are wallowing in poverty . . . the physically disabled . . . the mentally ill . . . and the incarcerated. Our destiny is intertwined with theirs.
The manner in which we treat these souls – whether we ignore them or whether we acknowledge their existence by providing them with the options and tools they need to transcend their particular set of circumstances – speaks volumes about our own humanity.
We must, with all deliberate speed, lift the suffocating “veil of invisibility” which shrouds these souls.
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