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Michael Walsh made the case for “toxic mas­culinity” on Tuesday. COURTESY

On Tuesday evening, former TIME cor­re­spondent Michael Walsh spoke to a packed audience in Lane Hall where he pre­sented a lecture titled “In Praise of Toxic Mas­culinity.” 

Walsh, an author, screen­writer, and jour­nalist, drew his talk from the first chapter of his forth­coming book, “Last Stand.” Throughout the book, he ana­lyzes famous his­torical battles in which the losing side was com­pletely anni­hi­lated to dis­cover what it takes for a man to survive a non-sur­vivable sit­u­ation. 

“I ended the book with the Korean War,” Walsh said. “I included the Battle of Chosin Reservoir because my father, who is still alive at 93, was there when it hap­pened. A very small force of Marines was sur­rounded by more than 100,000 Chinese troops, and it was a miracle they escaped with their lives.”

According to Walsh, lis­tening to his father’s first-hand account of the battle was not only moving but also tied all the threads of the book together. Walsh said that these threads can be traced back to a single idea that Immanuel Kant expressed in his essay “Per­petual Peace.”

“‘The state of peace among men living side by side is not the natural state,’” Walsh quoted from the essay. “‘The natural state is one of war.’”

According to Walsh, people refuse to accept this fact in the 21st-century because war is now so anti­septic and imper­sonal that we think about it in almost bloodless terms. In his opinion, we’re just lying to our­selves. 

“War is not only in our blood, it is our familial birthright and burden,” he said. “No matter how much we may wish it away, erase our martial past or recast it in a more fem­inist light, war, or its con­stant threat, is always with us and will be until the day mankind van­ishes.”

For Walsh, this isn’t nec­es­sarily a bad thing. 

“War, or the spectre of it, is the prin­cipal means of sci­en­tific advancement, ter­ri­torial expansion, and the defense of the per­sonal, social, and political ele­ments that society holds dear,” he said. “Without the invention of guns, we wouldn’t have had clocks, type­writers, or any­thing that requires fine machine tooling.”

According to Walsh, mas­culinity and war are closely linked. 

“At its root, war is a mas­culine engagement under­taken on behalf of women and children, in large measure to win the former and ensure the sur­vival of the latter,” he said. “This is a truth not often told or acknowl­edged.”

Walsh said that the way the West approaches war today is largely respon­sible for the vacuum of mas­culinity and the societal con­fusion that it causes. 

“In the post-indus­trial, fem­i­nized West, children — once seen as the future of society — are now seen as a burden, and women are believed to be indis­tin­guishable from men,” he said. “Nature abhors a vacuum. Do I therefore come down in praise of war, in praise of death? To con­tem­porary sen­si­bil­ities, this seems bar­baric.”

Walsh said that the modern West has a deep fear of both death and pain. 

“Now that religion in the West is largely nugatory, the sole purpose of exis­tence is to live as long and as pain­lessly as pos­sible,” he said, describing the modern mindset. “There may be nothing worth living for, but there is surely nothing worth dying for.”

According to Walsh, this is a very limited way to live life. 

“Human beings have a larger purpose than simply living out their three­score and ten,” he said. “Men are born to father children and to defend them, and their women, against other men that would kill them or oth­erwise take advantage of them.”

Although defending hearth and home is an essential part of a man’s life, his worth is deter­mined by more than his skill in battle, Walsh said. 

“The measure of a real man is what he has done in his life, how far he has sailed, how well he has loved, how he has raised his children, and how much, or little, they love him,” Walsh said. 

Hillsdale senior Stephen Richmann, who attended the talk, said he thought Walsh danced around some deep truths without fully addressing them. 

“He said that the natural state of things is men fighting other men, and I don’t think that’s nec­es­sarily true,” Richmann said. “The reason mas­culine aggression is good, at least in the Christian con­ception of things, is because we live in a world where evil has not been defeated. And the con­flict isn’t just man versus man. It’s man versus evil, or man versus other men doing evil things. It almost seemed like he was roman­ti­cizing war.”

Ellen Hancock, a sophomore at Hillsdale, said that she agreed with many of Walsh’s points. 

“The beginning of the talk made a lot of sense,” she said. “The most mas­culine thing I can think of is men fighting for their country and pro­tecting women.”

According to Hancock, Walsh’s com­ments on the modern West were com­pelling. 

“People today are obsessed with comfort,” she said. “Nothing is worth dying for because we worship our­selves.”

Walsh said that although we view war as a cat­a­strophe, refusing to fight is not an option. 

“The culture that doesn’t fight is bent on suicide,” he said. “Civ­i­liza­tions do not just dis­solve from inno­vation, although that is cer­tainly a factor; but their end is always punc­tuated by con­quest. Just ask Romulus Augus­tulus, the last Western Roman emperor.”

For Walsh, con­tinuing to fight even in the face of certain death is the epitome of mas­culine courage. 

“They were pre­pared to make the ultimate sac­rifice,” he said. “They did it for them­selves, for their brothers in arms, for their women and children. And above all, they did it for their country.”

Toward the end of his lecture, Walsh tied Immanuel Kant’s con­tro­versial statement to 21st-century issues.

“As much as it pains the West to admit it, war appears to be the natural state of mankind, and peace the aber­ration,” he said. “The time when civilians could opt out of global con­flicts is long past. The best way to pre­serve the peace is to prepare for war and hope it never comes. But come again it will, and we must know its nature and history in order to cope with it when it does.”