ManHole or ManWhole? A Red Card from Football. Addressing men’s abuse, violence and racism in England and elsewhere.

We witness in England increasing levels of nationalism, racism and violence. England’s defeat in last Sunday’s European Cup Final exposed the dark side of the personality among a minority of English men engaged in rage against defeat. Men can descend to a dark hole bringing out the worst and have no idea how to develop a sense of wholeness.

More and more people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may well wish to distance themselves from association with the unresolved shadows in England of those who advocate prejudice and display forms of xenophobia.

We witness Parliament voting this week to cut aid to the poorest countries in the world, which triggers suffering and death of men, women and children while preparing to spend billions on expanding the number of nuclear bombs. It reveals the craving in this country for voices to acerbate self-importance through warped beliefs in superiority and the inferiority of non-White and non-English. This is one expression of troubled minds.

The dark side reveals itself in the caste system of this country dominating our culture for centuries from those in power to the powerless. Obviously, women, young and old, engage in bullying and aggression but not on the scale of the male gender.

A Red Card from Football

Violence of speech and action took place before the match when English fans smashed down barriers to break into Wembley stadium, a holy grail of global football. The riot had echoes of what happened in Washington DC in January after Trump lost the election. Violence of speech took place in the booing of national teams from the continent during the playing of their national anthem at Wembley Stadium.

The male rage continued after the defeat in the finals with online abuse on social media – made possible due to the abject failure of social media, like Twitter and Facebook, to distinguish between freedom of speech and ugly abuse of language. Social media platforms show an unwillingness to change, probably due to their craving for attention. Government shows an unwillingness to bring in legislation to stop social media who act as intermediaries to promote abuse, prejudices and racism. Social media ran out of excuses years ago.

Plenty of devoted football fans in this country would have experienced some relief that England lost on penalties to Italy. Our concern about the triumphalism of being European champions would have fed the arrogance and inflated egos of our political masters and sections of the English population.

Responses in continental Europe after the European Cup Final

French daily Liberation: “Where have the much-vaunted English qualities of fair play, respect and decency gone? Victory would have been beautiful, but this defeat, this violence and racism, put the finger on a bitter truth. How to make oneself hated by all?”
Italian daily La República: “The darkest in English football. England has not learnt how to react to defeat”.
Germany’s Deutschland funk Radio: “There were only 1,500 fans from Italy. This balance of power should have obliged an elegant, cool and friendly host to deal with the situation fairly.”
Swiss newspaper Blick: “The English didn’t just lose a penalty shootout. Three Lions also have to wave goodbye to a lot of respect from the rest of Europe”.
Germany’s daily Sueddeutsche Zeit: “Hundreds of fans ran over security guards to storm the stadium because they didn’t have a ticket was not only stupid, it was dangerous. British national chauvinism has been more visible at this tournament than England’s progressive side. In the end, it was the English fans who left us with the worst memories of these Euros.”
Spain’s daily El Pais newspaper: “While it (England) is a powerful, advanced and often generous country, it is also a petulant country, incapable of accepting its limitations.”

A Response Requiring Urgent National Attention

Problematic state of mind and attitudes of certain men have little to do with the social-economic backgrounds. The superiority notions embedded in much of our newspaper and television media gives the impression that poor, white working-class men behave badly at home, socialising and attending football matches. We hear that forms of domestic violence occur in one in  four homes along with blame, threats and revenge ridden acts when a relationship or family breaks-up.

This situation forms part of the national problem. Just as a section of white, poor fans heaped blame on our remarkable young, black footballers, so the press and commentators heap blame on poor sections of society. The Prime Minister and his government seem incapable of self-reflection and incapable of seeing the political social ills permeating this country. While making the usual gesture politics of condemnation of racism and rioting, our government ignores addressing in practical ways these outbursts except with a few meaningless comments.

We need a major social change that addresses the words, behaviour and actions of men including the most powerful, the richest, middle classes and poorest of every background.

The country needs to engage in soul-searching through groups of men meeting together to share their lives, feelings and emotions with other men – in the real world and in virtual reality. Such weekly meetings need setting up in Parliament, board rooms, the workplace, universities and schools. We need meetings in rooms in our high street, townhalls, pubs and leisure centres.

The ugly face of English football does not reveal the epicentre of abuse and violence but reveals a single example of an epidemic. Abusive behaviour takes place in the home, bullying in the schools, knifing on the streets, gangs and prisons. Powerful men use their access to the media which appears to give a nod and wink to negative projections on people of colour and the diversity of culture, including dress code, religious beliefs and heritage. The media regularly reveals the names of men, rich and powerful, who exploit and abuse people. We read about the mental corruption, such as sexual predatory behaviour, of influential people in places of influence and privilege.

We need a network of Hubs to address the appalling levels of Hubris permeating England and elsewhere. Women and children suffer under the toxic masculinity of troubled men arguing, shouting and dominating lives of their loved ones, as well as strangers. Male voices can become icy cold, make threats, shout, swear at home, slap and punch or more. These domestic situations occur whether men live with another in a huge, detached home or in a bed-sit.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

Surveys show that most men have very few close friends and perhaps none. Identification with masculinity contributes to avoidance of sharing the dark spaces in the mind and resist appearing vulnerable. Pressure builds up leading to bullying, blaming everybody else and increasing internal pressure. The same pressure turns on itself leading to depression, self-harm and potential for suicide. Far too many men do not understand emotions, lack emotional intelligence and suffer as a consequence. Others suffer too.

I read men often think entering therapy shows signs of emotional weakness and a failure to handle one’s life. Men may lack long term close friendships with other men to share unhappy states of mind. Those disconnected from bonding with others tend to have far more problems with loneliness, agitated states of mind, diet, alcohol, obesity and a meaningful social life. I read that one in four men say they have nobody to confide in.

We need networks and meeting places for men living in stress. Under pressure, they might put others down in order to feel better about themselves. Mindfulness, one of the resources, offers a wide range of tools, techniques and skills to develop well-being.

Rich and poor alike, men need to make themselves available to each other, to listen and learn from each other. Mutual cooperation and skilful facilitation has the potential to develop respect, friendship and support for each other.

Final Word

The suffering around the finals of the European Cup could serve as a catalyst to support men in England, the rest of the UK and elsewhere. Thoughtful voices of women and children can support such a major cultural change. Attacking men for their behaviour is not the answer. That feeds their unresolved contractions which will burst out.

Such a cultural change to develop and support men’s well-being would be a win-win situation for everybody.

With our wonderful footballers and fine coach, England would then deserve to win the World Cup next year.

The rest of the world would applaud, too.

Admittedly, it might be a quiet clap from the runners up. It is football, after all.
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