Dear Dr. Kim:
I’m having trouble figuring out what it is to be a man in today’s world, what with all the talk about “oppressive patriarchy”, “toxic masculinity” and so on. I’ve tried reading a few self-help books, but none of them seemed to help much — in fact, the suggestions they make seem to be designed to make me… well, less of a man and more like a woman. Do you have any ideas? — Browbeaten, London
Let’s just start by addressing a few core principles.
First: men don’t buy books to improve themselves; they buy books to improve their stuff. So manuals about fixing small-block Chevy engines, cleaning a Colt 1911 pistol, photography techniques or improving one’s golf swing — all these are about the only acceptable “self-help” books one should find in a man’s bookcase (right next to the novels of Ernest Hemingway, Wilbur Smith and John Masters, as well as to history books written by John Keegan, Paul Johnson and Victor Davis Hanson).
Second: most “self-help” books of the kind you speak are written by women bent on “improving” men or else by their camp followers, girlymen psychologists and so on, all with the same objective (as you seem to have discovered): making you behave more like a woman. They (and their writers) are to be avoided at all costs. The only modern-day exception to the above is the brilliant Jordan Peterson, whose “12 Rules For Life” are probably all you’ll ever need on the topic of yourself.
Third: most self-help books you’ll read will dispense bullshit nostrums like, “Don’t get angry” or “Maintain a pleasant attitude.” Let me tell you right now: there’s nothing at all wrong with rage, provided that you don’t take that rage out on anyone who didn’t cause it. Many great inventions came about because a man said, “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” and after destroying his laboratory, felt better and then kept on trying. Omaha Beach was not taken by GIs who maintained a “pleasant attitude”, but by a bunch of pissed-off men who were sick of being used for target practice by Nazis. (And if you think that today’s feminized society is not using you and other men for target practice, you’re fooling yourself.)
Finally, let’s look at the heart of the problem. Unless you are a serial killer or -rapist, or someone who works in HR, or someone who votes Democrat (some overlap), there probably isn’t much wrong with you. I suspect from the whining tone of your voice that you’re one of the Millennial generation, and therefore probably didn’t have a full-time father when you were growing up.
That’s not your fault, of course, but it means that you’ll have to rely on the support of other men — what we used to call “good friends” in my day, and not “my crew” or “bros” — and it’s an old adage that much wisdom can be found in the counsel of friends. (Also a lot of bullshit, but at least their advice will be based upon knowing something about you, as opposed to self-help writers who don’t.) Just be aware that the advice you receive from this source will likely be short at best, or even monosyllabic. “Dude, you need to quit after six shots of tequila”, or “That chick is fucking up your life”, or “Have another beer.” I know, that all sounds like crap advice, but it’s no worse than the bullshit you’ll read after dropping twelve bucks on something called “How To Be A Better Man In Today’s World”.
All that said, you can take heart in this proven fact: you are not alone. After venting my own rage in an invective-drenched rant called The Pussification Of The Western Male, I was astonished by the number (literally thousands) of men who wrote to me and said, “I thought I was the only guy who thought like that.” (Hundreds of others, whom I can only suspect were academics and similar such girlymen, were not pleased by what I’d written, but even they were outnumbered by the women who wrote to me and, figuratively speaking, wanted to bear my children.) Millions of men feel the same way that you do: puzzled, bewildered, irritated, enraged and so on. Seek them out, and find comfort in their company.
I know that by dispensing any advice on this topic I run the risk of sounding like someone who’s written a self-help book — I haven’t — but of course you may feel free to ignore anything I’ve said above. Unless it enraged you, in which case… you’re welcome.