In a free country like United States of America, the land of equality and justice, there is a statistics from the Congressional Research Service that advises the US Congress on facts and data, entitled American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, Updated July 29, 2020, which states that the combined deaths in Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf war were 95,156 for men and 25 for women. Even if an adjustment is made for the percentage of male and female (approximately 85:15), the number of deaths for male vs. female (99.974:0.026) is extremely lopsided.
Does this statistics reflect a cultural conditioning or an innate inclination, not for the death, of course, but to opt for a task that risks life? Is this only a modern time phenomenon or an ancient practice? There have been women warriors and fighters in modern times like Rānī Lakṣmībāī, Rānī Durgavati, or Rānī Chennāmma, as well as in ancient and mythological times like Durgā, Kaikeyī, Surpaṇakhā, Lankinī, etc. However, the overwhelming number of men fighting and dying in battles is beyond any shred of doubt. The Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, the two epic wars were fought by only men the extent of their annihilation at least in Mahābhārata war to restore the honor of women! There is no such an instance for the other way around.
What may be the driving force for such a preponderance of inclination in men? If it is due to cultural conditioning, there ought to be a change with change in cultural expression today when there is equality among men and women. If it is due to an innate inclination, it needs to be understood from philosophical, psychological, and scientific analyses.
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing (a consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School), wrote a blog (dated February 16, 2016) article entitled “Why men often die earlier than women”, with following observations:
There are many reasons why the ratio of men to women (which is roughly equal in young adulthood) starts to favor women over time. Among the most powerful factors? Men tend to
Take bigger risks. Some of the reason seems to be “biological destiny.” The frontal lobe of the brain — the part that controls judgment and consideration of an action’s consequences — develops more slowly in boys and young men than in their female counterparts. This may contribute to the fact that far more boys and men die in accidents or due to violence than girls and women. Examples include biking, driving drunk, and homicide. This tendency toward lack of judgment and consideration of consequences may also contribute to detrimental lifestyle decisions among young men, such as smoking or drinking to excess.
Have more dangerous jobs. Men far outnumber women in some of the riskiest occupations, including military combat, firefighting, and working at construction sites.
Die of heart disease more often and at a younger age. In fact, men are 50% more likely than women to die of heart disease. The fact that men have lower estrogen levels than women may be part of the reason. But medical risks, such as poorly treated high blood pressure or unfavorable cholesterol levels, may contribute as well.
Be larger than women. Across many species, larger animals tend to die younger than smaller ones. Although the magnitude of this effect is uncertain in humans, it may work against male longevity.
Commit suicide more often than women. This is true despite the fact that depression is considered more common among women and women make more (non-fatal) suicide attempts. Some attribute this to the tendency for men to avoid seeking care for depression and the cultural norms that discourage men from seeking help for mental illness.
Be less socially connected. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, people with fewer and weaker social connections (which tends to include men more often than women) tend to have higher death rates.
Avoid doctors. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are far more likely to skip routine health screens and far less likely than women to have seen a doctor of any kind during the previous year.
Even in this Corona crisis, we can find stark differences between male and female for the infection and mortality rates, with male accounting for more than two fold infections and death rates.
Philosophically speaking, there is a concept of Ardhanārīshwar, the Śivā and Śaktī, the essential concept of completeness. Could it be the Śivā that could be the symbol of the role model for males, just like the Nava-Durgās are those for females? To answer such a question one needs to examine various forms of Śivā to provide options of inclination to boys and men for the development of their innate qualities.
(to be continued….)
– Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA
Editorial note – As a complementary to the Indian tradition of Nava-Durgā as the ideal role model of girls and women, it is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. Recently, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras as Rudra-Manthan for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential. Rudra-Manthan series of articles will explore that possibility to promote a better understanding of the needs and to provide educational support to boys and men.