Since early days I had an interest and love of songs, song writing and the songwriters art. From David’s psalms where the tunes have been lost, to Bob Dylan, who epitomises the pinnacle in contemporary song writing and whose work has so far not yet been eclipsed. Many people have written good songs but few have produced consistently good material. Many of the singer songwriters I have admired have been women. From the soft and lyrical, country voices caressing words to the biting snarl of pent up rage. Singer songwriters like: Sinéad O’Connor, Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Pat Benetar, Bebe, Souad Massi, Coco Mbassi, Suzanne Vega, Charlott Dipande and others . Many of these write and perform songs which often display their deep dissatisfaction with the men in their lives and with men in general. Sometimes it is wistful disappointment in “He never will need me” to the savage “Malo malo malo eres ”. I was always curios why I, as a man, should be drawn to this material. Why would I choose to hear my gender mocked and savagely ridiculed? Why would I be drawn in the way that some men are drawn to the strand of pornography which show men being humiliated by women in feminine dominant sadomasochism scenarios . It took me some time to realise that I shared in this frustration in this disappointment with men and this inevitably meant with myself. I too was frustrated with the way we were and how far we fell short of what we should or could be. But to have a sense of disappointment you must have a standard or a model you can aspire to. You must have a vision of something better. What was it?
I had many male models to admire friends and colleagues and leaders in society and in the world. I had three older brothers who I looked up to and through whom I learned: the desire for exploration and finding out, the beauty of hard work and order and doing things well, the constant pushing beyond the obvious of what we were told to the other side of the argument, the cynics art of lifting the lid on pretentions and self-authority and, I had my father. On the long walk homes from Cleadale in the dark after visiting a home with tea and scones he would tell stories, or round the Raeburn in a morning, when there was time, he would read from the bible and excite us with tales of David or Paul. It was in the way he told the stories that I knew that he admired these men in their courage and commitment, despite all their obvious flaws. In the same way as he was excited and drawn to the lives of these men, I was most affected not as much by what my father said, as by what he did. His commitment was all the way. Once set on the path He was never half hearted. Even when he insisted on praying publicly and giving thanks to God for a meal in a crowded fish and chip shop, to the embarrassment of his children,you could not but admire someone who was not afraid of ridicule or shame in the eyes of others. He was not as the Scottish Paraphrase puts it “ashamed to own my lord or to defend his cause”. I often sung that in church uncomfortably thinking that I would be a little ashamed at times. He didn’t ever seem to be. Later I discovered the character Job, specifically; when he describes the kind of role he had in his community. Reading this through a 21st century lens, with our twisted sense of humility, it might seem a little arrogant, but pride would have been furthest from him when he longed for the days past that had been taken from him so cruelly:
“When I went to the gate of the city
and took my seat in the public square,
the young men saw me and stepped aside
and the old men rose to their feet;
the chief men refrained from speaking
and covered their mouths with their hands;
the voices of the nobles were hushed,
and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist them.
The one who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow’s heart sing.
I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.
I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth.
Here I thought was an example, a model to follow. The respect he had was not because of his position or his wealth or his skills of gifts but because he rescued the poor cared for the orphans and promised the dying man that he would look after his widow. He took up the case of those who couldn’t and if this required boldness and firmness and necessary force against the wicked who caused the suffering he would not hesitate. He was neither a macho misogynist nor a soft in the middle new man. His was a life to emulate. Here was model to follow.