At Tribeca recently, I attended the screening of a very moving film: Die Fremde: A wonderful film about (among other things) the problem of spousal abuse. The subject had a strong cultural perspective. In Massachusetts, there has been a recent spate of partner murders. Here, the crimes seem to be based on power. Not a cultural thing. Or is it?
No one seems to have the answers, especially as to the ebb and flow of these types of crimes. In the past 31 days for example, there have been 8 murders of this type. All seem to have a component of control, of power-subject relationships. A man’s home is his castle, and his queen is the chattel of his domain. Many have a component of loss of control over their own lives. There is at least one area where control can be exercised – more or less culturally approved – and that is in the home. Love, honor. And obey.
What is allowed and what is not allowed impinge upon both the man and the woman. Often the woman finds it nearly impossible to make a clean break. Feelings of failure and inadequacy haunt these women. It’s these same feeling of failure and inadequacy that drive men to these crimes. When life closes in and men begin to sense a loss of control over their jobs, over their prospects, over ‘not measuring up’ to what are the cultural norms of success, then there is only one corner of his existence where he can exert himself – where he can express his manhood. In the home.
Ultimately, the constant stream of images that tell us what success is, what a man should provide for his family, contribute to the feeling of falling short. This is as much cultural as condoning ‘honor killings’ in the East. It’s just that here, there is no honor in it and in the East, the crumbling construct is that there is.