For most men, opportunities to be with other men center around sports, work, drinking, or military service. The idea of an unaffiliated men's organization is unusual. Below are several members' interpretations of what the Nation of Men means to them:
Who We Are
by John Renish, Past member; article used with John's permission.
We are one of many similar men's groups in North America. ... We are organized into autonomous teams of about 5-10 men, each with its own traditions and polity. The word "team" is intentional because teams have leaders.
We are not a group of sensitive men in the feminist tradition and maintain a certain hierarchy of authority, no consensus decisions for us. We do, however, elect NoM leaders democratically and have a rough equivalent to a parliamentary vote of confidence. The Nation of Men (NoM) is a "team of teams" that offers us camaraderie and "support." In addition, it gives us a large enough body to facilitate certain desirable activities, such as community service projects and impromptu football games.
For the most part, the team's purpose is to support men to be their best on their own terms. To that end, we practice tough love or "ruthless compassion" (admittedly an oxymoron). We have developed a vocabulary for our "technology" for achieving our purpose; I have put quotation marks on some of the terms we use.
One of the things that characterizes us, setting us apart from the bulk of American men, is that we are unabashedly male. We do not subscribe to the politically correct idea that men are the problem and in fact believe that conscious men are the solution. We often engage in traditional manly behavior, such as belching, farting, swearing, and cigar smoking (even cigarettes have fallen out of public favor in California these days) because it affirms to us that we are fine just as we are and that knowing and acting on that knowledge is our right and obligation as men. Are we pigs? You bet! Are we also dedicated and romantic lovers? Yup. Are we fathers? Sons? Peacemakers? Warriors? Sages? Buffoons? Tricksters? Guilty. We strive to be whole men, with all the contradictions that implies.
My comments do not mean we are merely a reaction to other social movements. We perform soul-to-soul resuscitation for men's spirits, rather than midnight raids on the National Organization for Women. Having said all this, I caution you to remember this article is only one man's perspective. I sincerely hope you receive a kaleidoscope of opinion because it exists and it all has relevance for men who respect their manhood.
Finally, we sometimes upbraid one another for "significance" when the discussion just gets too weighty. If I have been too heavy, mea culpa...*belch*. A Meeting of the Nation of Men:
One Man's Experience
by John Grounds
I get together with a group of guys the first Saturday of every month at 8:00 am at Bramhall Park in San Jose, rain or shine.
The purpose of the group, the Nation of Men, is to honor men, teams, and community. About 60 of the approximately 100 members usually show up at the meeting. It is a group of men from all walks of life, who share the commonality of being a man, faced with the challenges of being alive, challenges like relationship, fatherhood, divorce, drugs, career, women, racial issues, money, homosexuality, jail, the IRS, etc.
It is not a discussion or support group. It's more like hanging with about 60 brothers for an hour and a half. There is no doctrine, no agenda, no political bias, no cult mentality. It gives us a much-needed break from our women, a breather from being a warrior out in the world. There are jokes, gifted inspiration, Three Stooges mentality, incredibly beautiful spiritual flights. The time spent is usually hilarious, often moving. It's just a circle of men dealing with whatever comes up, in a loosely scheduled format.
The group is made up of smaller teams of typically 6-8 men. One of the teams serves breakfast at the end of the meeting.
Teams often prepare some spiritual ritual, or a game, in the manner of a tribe at play. When the Mayans played their ball game, it was played for life or death. Although this is not so intense, there is an edge. You may have your spiritual life at stake, your brotherhood life at stake.The decision not to play for any reason is honored, respected, and accepted. There is honor in saying what you will do, and what you will not do.
Accountability is respected. Sheep mentality is not. There is a circle, with a Truth Stick passed around. If you wish to speak, you take the Stick, and you pass it when you have had your say. If you do not wish to speak, that is also honored.
I have done this for eight years now. I am still a work in progress, but I have grown with these brothers, grown into dealing with my alcohol dependency, my addiction to money and material things, and my fight for mastering my territory. I have also found the appropriate avenues elsewhere to deal with such issues after getting a good look at them in this circle. All in the right time, when I am ready to see the truth and own up to it, strong enough to take it on. I have listened to men, wise men, recount their experiences and I have learned from them. I have given to them.
This is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to improve or examine their lives and get their shit picked at or have their comfortable illusions shaken. Everyone wants the feeling of kinship and acceptance, but few may be willing to ask for it. I am not suggesting this gathering to you because you are beyond help and wear a pinwheel hat and roller skates. This is not a trick to get you into the group or to extract money from your wallet or indoctrinate you. I'm just putting it out to you.
This is something that is missing in America. There are no cultural rights of passage, no tribal gatherings for men here. As a kid, I played for endless days as a warrior in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. I was in touch with the spiritual and I shared the warrior spirit with my gang and we tarzanned across the creeks and all over hell. I lost that ritual space growing up. I have never, ever lost the spiritual in me, it sings to me all the time, but at some point, I was drawn further and further into shirt and tie society and I put my spirit deep into a cell alone. This is letting the spirit and passion break free with your brothers.
by Ken Krantz
I believe that all men are connected, in their hearts and in their souls, to one another. When they have the opportunity to experience this, and to truly experience themselves as men among other men, they become closer to becoming the "man they always wanted to be." NoM gives men this opportunity to experience themselves as men among men, as men on teams, in a community that supports them. It gives men the opportunity to experience the strength, wisdom, compassion, spirit, and joyfulness of men connected to one another. I have only to look back on the last few events I attended in the company of the men of NoM to get a personal reminder of what NoM can be for the men who join and participate in it. I ask you to look at NoM membership as a great opportunity for your men friends and relatives, and also to look at these men as opportunities for your team and for our community.