September 24, 2011
BERLIN - A couple of years ago, a postcard made the rounds that had this text printed on it: "What would the world look like if there weren't any men in it?" The card also provided the answer to the question: "It would be full of fat, happy women."
Really? Okay, if there were no men we could close down a few prisons, and the ranks of corporate execs would be thinned to a pathetic trickle. In Germany, both prison and executive populations are 95% male. The manufacturers of three-quarter length khaki all-purpose pants would go out of business. Plus, travelers would reach their destinations faster because they could ask for directions if needed.
But would women really be fatter and happier? The goal of the women's movement was to open up male-exclusive territory to women -- and by and large, from trash collection to the Catholic Church, that goal has been achieved. Women can lead nations, and men can talk about their issues. Women can decide on their own if they want to continue working after childbirth. And men -- provided their wife agrees -- can stay home to look after the kids, cook and clean.
The macho – a particularly fine specimen
You could say that today's women are now free to do whatever king of male-free activity they want -- go on gals-only trips, read chick lit, meet up at the sauna for girls night. For men it's now the opposite. As soon as a guy wants to do something not involving women, women come running, saying it's not fair and they want to be a part of it.
From the female point of view, this is certainly a fine development. Another development is this: by invading all that was previously male-centric, women have all but eradicated one particularly pronounced type of male: the macho. If the proverbial macho man still had some stock in the 1980s, by the 90s, the metrosexual, with his facial tonics and washboard abs, had won the day.
Until now, that is. Even if, as most seem to agree, the macho is an anachronism that has largely been shelved, the "classic macho" genre is one that is again being hotly discussed.
The current issue of the German edition of GQ men's magazine carries an article about how men don't like behaving like machos. This premise is based on a 2011 poll that found that men have a cozy, home-loving side and love the feeling of soft skin – their own. Justin Timberlake is also quoted in the same issue as saying that men have overcome their macho side.
But whether or not that makes women happier is another matter, especially if you consider that the American pop star went on to say that the new type of male posed a different set of problems – like not wanting to commit. Today's less macho guys are also "a bunch of career-obsessed egotists," according to Mr. Timberlake.
Uh-oh. Maybe it's time we gave the macho man a second chance.
Machos are more exciting
There's a new American romantic comedy called Crazy Stupid Love. In the movie, comedian Steve Carell plays a man whose wife leaves him because he's too bland and unsexy. It takes a real macho to teach him how to become a hero in women's eyes.
Another movie -- this time a German one that is number one at the German box office -- is What a Man. This tells the story of a nice guy whose girlfriend runs away with a testosterone-driven stud because he's just so much more exciting. Again, the abandoned boyfriend seeks to become a new-school macho.
The Macho 2.0 guys in both movies, by the way -- played by Ryan Gosling and Elyas M'Barek respectively -- may be compulsive womanizers, but they're also a lot better looking than the nice guys.
There are a lot of other good reasons why we won't be able to do entirely without machos in the future. This is the most important one: the macho sees himself as the center of the universe. While that probably means he's not very aware of the feelings of others, it also means he's not very aware of his own feelings either. And that can come in handy for a partner.
Take these examples: on long trips, the macho is not constantly saying he's too hot or too cold, and he doesn't quibble about being tired or hungry. He doesn't have a boss who treats him unfairly and doesn't suffer from illnesses whose progress he reads up on anxiously in a medical encyclopedia.
The macho believes he knows how to do everything best -- which means he takes care of a lot of stuff. That can be a very positive thing if you're thinking in terms of assembling flat packs and keeping the lamps in functioning bulbs. He also doesn't have to take a nap when he gets back from the office because he had such a hectic day, or go to the day spa with you on Saturday -- he's off doing guy stuff.
Machos keep it simple
Machos – particularly the younger ones – are in love with themselves. The upside? They look after themselves and are highly presentable. They also think nobody can get enough of them, and don't know the meaning of the term "self-doubt" -- so they don't tear themselves to pieces trying to make a decision. A kid? A new job? A move? Mr. Macho just does it. Machos also have a childish streak: he simply won't let in any notion of reality that doesn't tie in with his self-image.
Have we really eradicated machos? Not even GQ believes that. The visual accompanying the Justin Timberlake interview shows a nude, post-coital beauty lying on a sofa. The prince of pop himself is shown getting dressed and giving the camera a "You talkin" to me?" look.
No, a world without machos would be one-dimensional. We need these most anachronistic sort of males -- if only so we can all have a good laugh at just who the heck they think they are.
Read the original article in German
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
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The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.
October 21, 2021
LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
The role of the nuclear pact
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
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Kayhan is a Persian-language, London-based spinoff of the conservative daily of the same name headquartered in Tehran. It was founded in 1984 by Mostafa Mesbahzadeh, the owner of the Iranian paper. Unlike its Tehran sister paper, considered "the most conservative Iranian newspaper," the London-based version is mostly run by exiled journalists and is very critical of the Iranian regime.
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