There's a Posy Simmons cartoon strip from back in the 80s, showing a family sitting around the TV evening news. It's a typical night, featuring a man attacking and robbing a pensioner, a child murder, a rape, some military horrors, football hooligans etc, and frame by frame we notice the family Dad getting smaller and smaller until his legs no longer touch the floor and he slinks out of the room in shame. Recent news stories of police murders, suicide killings including children, abduction, child abuse, torture, and war show that the tale hasn't changed a bit, and make me sometimes feel just like him, deeply ashamed of my sex.
"Men!" – you can hear it any night in any household containing an exasperated woman, hopefully with a touch of humour and compassion to gentle it. But as the bad stuff pours endlessly in through the TV, radio, computer, it's clear that women are rarely any part of it. We're the problem. In fact author Hannah Rosin has even written a book called The End of Men.
So let's man up, chaps. What are we for?
OK, that. Sex is one of creation's amazing tricks, ensuring that no living thing sits around in a comfort zone quietly making identical copies of itself. Those terrified by the idea of clones have the wrong end of the biological stick. The whole point of evolution is variation – it's what keep us in the game, prevents us being wiped out all together by some unfriendly force, from climate change to a new virus. We have to keep changing our pack of DNA cards and the best way is by random contributions to the new generation from two different sexes, one basically a nurturing sex and the other more adventurous, ingenious and if necessary aggressive. Like all nature, the proof that it works is the fact that we're here to talk about it.
But males in nature always need special arrangements. Most species recognise that they're only interested in – and good for – One Thing, so you don't need too many of them or they tend to fight among themselves, not a good survival technique. Either have favoured one between lots of girls, or better still keep the lad going until he's done his stuff and then ... bye bye. Bees do this. They feed a bunch of lazy guys – surfer drones perhaps – all summer, but then after the fittest one has sex with the queen (which he swiftly regrets) the rest are thrown out with the trash. With some spiders and insects, the Missus actually enjoys the Mister as a pleasant post-coital snack. Ouch.
Even with domestic animals it's as well to treat all entire males like unexploded bombs. Two cockerels will kill each other. Dogs have dog-fights. Male cattle are either castrated and fattened for our dinners, or kept as solitary bulls for us to beware of. There's violence in us all.
In human society there's no arrangement at all. We're all in this together, which might have been all right when men had clearly defined roles and did the physical work that women couldn't do, but it's breaking down now. Now it's the female skills the workplace wants. Families prosper now without a male figure at the centre. All of which leaves a lot of blokes struggling with the feeling that they're worthless, pointless and unappreciated. That we don't need them; which effectively we don't.
The end of men. In Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men he comes to the conclusion that the only things women need to live a totally man-free life are artificial insemination and a step-ladder. Even my Mum reckoned the perfect marriage would be to have one man at weekends for fun, and another – preferably with a van – for the working week.
It's a crisis, one that can be blamed for gang culture, depression, family breakdown, pornography, and, at the extremes, the more horrible things listed above. Stating the problem helps explain things but it doesn't solve them, and it certainly doesn't excuse them. It just means our standards have to be higher or our society doesn't work any more. Goodbye Rambo. Real Men are respectful of women, safe with children, civilised with each other. We even need to break our ancient manly codes and grass each other up, if there's domestic violence going on and we know about it, if there's a loner in our neighbourhood who's just too friendly with the local children. In the end they let us all down.