It seems to me that, in the U.S., there is a fear of beards, or at least an apprehension. I see it all the time, especially with females. I’m noticing it more and more since I’ve been letting it grow longer. More than once have I said that “the problem with the U.S. is that there is a fear of this (then I tug my beard). That underlies everything.” This, in a way, is saying that there is a fear of the male and male authority in the U.S. And that later statement says it all: Authority. The beard definitely has a mark of authority. In many societies the beard is associated with authority, from the tribal chief to the wise old man.
I’ve always wondered where the fear or apprehension of beards began in Western society. To me, it seems to originate from Christianity and one of its by-products – democracy. In the north of Europe, a long time ago, all the guys had beards. It was Christianity that brought up the idea of a clean shaven face. Christianity was brought up from the Italians who didn’t have beards, usually. Since Christianity was a sign of ‘civilization’ and decency, this was represented in the clean shaven face. And, because of this, this is where another mystique of the beard originated – that it represented pagan barbarism and lawlessness. I still hear references to that today. This seems to be the beginning of the apprehension towards beards in Western society. But this association with pagan barbarism, it seems, has created a new mystique that surrounds the beard. Some guys like the beard because of its association with barbarism and lawlessness. And to go further, for some, it has a representation of rebellion against society.
Later, it seems, the population of Europe grew and grew and, naturally, caused all sorts of tensions and problems. Who was blamed? . . . the King and the government – authority. Then the Protestant Reformation came and the Pope was blamed – authority. During this time there was great interest in the Greek classics at the Universities. Since the King and Pope caused all of Europe’s problems, or so they thought, they began to idealize, as a solution, the government without authority, without a leader – democracy – which came from Greece. To me, the history of democracy since then seems to be nothing but a history of anti-authority, of the gradual undermining and destroying of authority in society as a result of the blind fear of it. Take a look at the American Constitution, it has continual references to the fear of government and authority and how we must protect ourselves from them. Here we see the paranoia that is prevalent in the democratic view of the world: Fear . . . fear of the King . . . fear of government . . . fear of religion . . . fear of God . . . the fear of any authority. This whole society is rooted in the fear of authority. Everywhere I turn I see examples of it. Is it no wonder that there is a fear or apprehension of beards which, all over the world, has associations with authority? It doesn’t surprise me at all.
Some years ago, I was vacationing in Rome. I was stunned how girls, especially, would look at me then glance down at my beard and give me this look of respect (so unlike what I see here in the U.S.). That society, unlike America, has more respect for authority and, it seems, has more respect for the beard. This seems to be true for much of the world. One of the signs, it seems, of a society which has respect for authority is that it has a respect for the beard! And, because of this, guys don’t grow beards because it means ‘rebellion’, or ‘barbarism’ either, like they often do here in the U.S.
(I wrote this in early 2010)