Who Stole My Spear —a new book from an award-winning British journalist and documentary filmmaker Tim Samuels— reveals challenges around masculinity. In The Conversation with Ksenija Pavlovic, Samuels talks about journalism, politics, and relationships admitting that men, in fact, do not deal well with breakups.
I first met Tim Samuels in 2010 at a soiree at Hampstead Heath in London, where I was living at the time with my sister. A groundbreaking journalist and documentary filmmaker, often compared to British Michael Moore, Samuels was born and raised in Manchester but has inhabited the Hampstead’s next-door Primrose Hill known for being the venue of the notorious parties of Gallagher brothers, Kate Moss and Jude Law. One of the striking aspects of Samuels’ make-up is how effortlessly he can shift the conversation from relationships to politics to the problems military service men and women face with the mental scars of warfare. Samuels is provocative and on-point, both in his private and his highly acclaimed journalism life. He first entered the world of media at the age of 13 when he had a chance to interview his music hero, the legendary Morrissey, the former lead singer of The Smiths. At St. Andrews University, he turned the student newspaper, The Chronicle, into The Saint — which led him to winning the Guardian Student Newspaper of the Year award. After graduation, Samuels went to work for BBC news, becoming an investigative correspondent for the flagship Newsnight program, where he won Young Journalist of the Year. Always on the lookout for a new investigative story, he quickly moved on to making documentaries. Samuels has collected many once-in-a-lifetime awards from Royal Television Society: Best Current Affairs Documentary (2008); Best British News Story (2004) ;Young Journalist of the Year (2002) to Banff World Television Festival: Best Current Affairs Documentary (2006); Race In Media Awards: TV Journalist of Year (2005) ; New York Festivals: World Medal (2004); Amnesty International commendation (2005); Mind Media Awards: Making A Difference award (2013) to New York Radio Festivals: Gold Medal (2014). Samuels’ brilliant columns and features regularly appear in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, GQ, Guardian Weekend magazine, The Observer and The Independent.
Samuels has worked undercover as an investigative journalist in Northern Ireland, and, by his own confession, has faced numerous dangerous situations: confronting fascist skinheads in riots to fearlessly accusing a drug lord of a murder plot in Jamaica. He has also talked to his friend Jamie Oliver about The truth about single dads (and their cooking). In the acclaimed documentary Arts for Heroes he tackled the struggle veterans have with PTSD. It would take a book to truly unveil all the layers of Samuels’ creative and thoughtful storytelling. A few weeks ago, I was awakened in New York City by the news that Samuels’ long-awaited book, Who Stole My Spear?, finally came out.
It is a brilliant manuscript in which Samuels starts a conversation about what it means to be a man in this world. “Have we become Man Zero? A low testosterone version of who we were meant to be?”, reflects Samuels, in his raw and yet humorous style, provoking the reader to rethink masculinity. Parts of the dating chapter sound like they could come straight out of Californication – Tim as London’s own Hank Moody. So it’s perhaps not surprising that David Duchovny is a big fan of Tim’s book, saying: “I laughed a lot. And cried some, but only on the inside. Which is where a man cries.” While Samuels is currently promoting the book in London and across the UK we are looking forward to hosting him in New York.
Many refer to you as a young British Michael Moore, but without the political agenda. What is your agenda then? How would you define it and in what way does it change for you?
Tim Samuels: The agenda, if there is one, is really about journalism and finding different ways to tell stories to make sure they really cut through and have an impact. The approach really depends on the story and how to really bring it to life. Sometimes that might involve a stunt or some such of use, other times it is a much more straightforward documentary. But really it’s about telling memorable stories with journalism that people will hopefully remember for a long time.
Looking at what is going on at the moment in the U.S. presidential race, and considering that you were awarded long time ago for revealing new forms of racism against the Muslim community in Northern Ireland, how can we make sense of the realities we face today at the global societal level?
Tim Samuels: I think so much of this comes down to the economy and a real sense that many men especially don’t feel a sense of security or that they have a real future. When the basic hunter-gathering is proving hard for men – such as for many blue-collar workers who used in factories or mines etc – that creates a real groundswell of anger and frustration which can take on radical forms and looks to blame others such as immigrants or women.
The subject of war veterans you opened in Arts for Heroes by showing the impact of art therapy in helping to heal the mental scars of war. How did you become so sensitive for these topics?
Tim Samuels: It is very humbling to meet veterans who have served our countries and whose daily lives are still blighted by those conflicts, sometimes decades after. We just don’t seem to do a good job of looking after those people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for our country. Which is why it is so unusual and inspiring to see the impact that art therapy can have in getting tough guys to open up about something so emotional.
The title of your book is Who Stole My Spear. Why does a man need a spear and in what way, if any, is your title a response to the feminist theories?
Tim Samuels: The spear represents a good form of masculinity – and that really is vital to man, especially these days. If men cannot vent that masculinity in a positive way it will definitely find negative outlets – whether that’s violence or something self-destructive. It isn’t any direct response to feminism. It’s a description of the male experience and the situation many men find themselves in today.
Where did the motivation to write this book come from?
Tim Samuels: The motivation really was just seeing more and more evidence that there is this bigger crisis or challenge around masculinity. From the documentaries I’ve made to the radio shows that I have done, it just really seems that this is something that needs to be talked about.
Who is the reader of Who Stole My Spear and what are you hoping for her or him to take away from your book?
Tim Samuels: I don’t know yet! I hope it’s something that appeals to both men and women, who would leave with a sense of looking at men and masculinity differently – and perhaps looking differently at the men in their lives.
On BBC Men’s Hour you tried to talk intelligently about relationships and the pressures of life. In what way your book has been an extension or accumulation of everything that you have learned in discussions on Men’s Hour?
Tim Samuels: Men’s Hour was the start of a journey which hopefully the book has taken on in much more depth and analysis. It’s putting together the pieces of the jigsaw which show that men across the world are having a tough time and we really need to think about masculinity. When you look at male prison rates, violence, mental health, boys lagging behind at school – it all adds up to a much bigger picture. http://gty.im/522812120
What is your idea of a good marriage? Do you desire to have one?
Tim Samuels: Haha. I think I am not the best-qualified person to say what a good marriage looks like, as a single man still trying to grapple with relationships.
But I guess a good marriage is something that is rooted in reality and expectations that are true to life not dictated by Hollywood, with a real sense of partnership, kindness and support at the heart of it.
In what way are you conservative and in what way are you traditional?
Tim Samuels: I don’t ever think of myself as particularly conservative, but I guess the idea of trying to push back against some of the breakneck forces of technology and progress might be one area. For example, thinking that boys should grow up running around, kicking a ball, climbing trees and not spending all their lives in front of screens. But I’m not sure that makes me a fuddy-duddy conservative.
Finding the right partner seems very complicated and yet, for some very easy to find. What do you think makes a difference?
Tim Samuels: Gosh, there are so many forces affecting how people approach relationships – from your jeans, seeing how your parents got on or didn’t, to previous relationship experiences. But I do think some people are just more wired to find partnerships and relationships more straightforward than others. And living in a big city like London or New York, surrounded by choice and expectations, doesn’t make any of it easier.
What it’s like to be a man in this world?
Tim Samuels: It really depends on what sort of man you are and where you fit into the pecking order. Life as a man can be a great hedonistic experience – or it can be very isolating, frustrating, and depressing. So much depends on your own circumstances, mental health, and how life happens to be going for you. But generally, I would say it’s a more absurd and challenging time than many of our predecessors had
What are the 3 major challenges that men face today?
Tim Samuels: The economy – finding stable, meaning for work, that means the basic hunter-gathering instinct can go well. Mental health – the soaring rates of male depression speak volumes to what men are up against. Not being part of a bigger tribe. So not having that sense of belonging that used to come from being in a union, or part of a religion, or fighting for something more than just yourself
What is the biggest delusion women have about men?
Tim Samuels: That men have it easy. Just because men are the dominant gender does not mean a lot of individual men are having a tough time out there. Neither do men take breakups well!
The best relationship advice you have been given by celebrity?
Tim Samuels: Celebrities are possibly the worst people to give you relationship advice…
Why do you keep attracting fascists? Did you find out? And what do you mean by fascists? What that kind of a woman is like?
Tim Samuels: That speaks to some of the crazy people that are out there on Tinder – which is such a strange and unnatural way of meeting people. I don’t know why I keep attracting far right women! I’d love to know why!
How often do you self-censor yourself in expressing the excitement and love and praise for someone? Why do you do it? Do we need to conform to those rules?
Tim Samuels: I think in the early stages of a relationship is when you might naturally self censor how are you feel because you’re not sure whether those feelings are real or just driven by the chemicals being released in those early days. So you don’t want to become overexcited, only for those feelings to wear off. Not that British men tend to become too over excited anyway…
In what way a woman can emasculate the man?
Tim Samuels: It’s important that women see men spending time with their male friends as a necessity rather than something that happens infrequently. Men who spent time with our friends actually have better immune systems. So don’t stand in the way of that quality man time!
In women’s rulebook for dating, they are advised to play hard to get. Is it what the men are looking for when they decide to pursue a relationship?
Tim Samuels: I think a little of playing hard to get at the beginning isn’t a bad thing, just to keep a man on his toes. But if that becomes flakiness, then that’s a real turn off. A little bit of intrigue is always a good thing.
Tim Samuels: Not having moved to New York yet…
You can order Samuels’ acclaimed book on Amazon