I have been seeing a lot of comments about the behaviors expected of the “typical alpha male” since Donald Trump’s disgusting behavior was made public. It seems there is no longer a bridge too far for the average American voter. The morality and honor which – for generations – defined and anchored the moral underpinning our society is completely eroded. We have been so conditioned to depravity and at least amoral behavior that we no longer understand what is required of individuals that we might raise up leaders of men.
Instead, we have an infantilized segment of the populace which used to be comprised of men, now being occupied by man-children. Thus, I will attempt to endeavor again to describe what it means to be a man. I will borrow some ideas and phrases from others who have written on the matter, because (quite honestly) they’ve already done the heavy lifting.
So, what makes a man?
A man is not merely a biological male. To be a man, one must exhibit certain social characteristics which allow him to be deemed thus by himself, his peers, and the women of his society. To do so, humans are biologically programmed to seek specific traits. These traits can be found in what Jack Donovan (Masculinity & Tribalism) describes as Tactical Virtues:
Strength is obvious. Displaying physical strength earns an opening to prove your worth among those would-be peers in the Man Club.
Courage is found in many surprising places. It is defined simply (by me) as standing to fight when your mind & body tell you to run. Courage finds itself standing defiant in the face of both physical and emotional threat and does not require physical strength.
Mastery, likewise, comes in many shapes & sizes. It can be mastery of physical feats, intellectual pursuits, scientific achievement, philosophical or other pursuits, but the man must seek to attain mastery of something in his life.
Honor is much tougher to define because as The Art of Manliness defines there are two forms of honor. The boiled down root though, is easily translated as Integrity – doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Most do not understand the code that exists to bind men together in the pursuit of righteous admiration. The villainous can exhibit many of the behaviors and attributes of honorable men, but they lack the righteous admiration because they lack integrity: honor.
Horizontal honor requires a common & accepted code or ethos to which all entrants are bound – as between military veterans, police officers, samurai, etc. It requires you to have achieved the status of manhood as accepted by the peer-group to which you are seeking entrance (“earned the right to respect among an exclusive society of equals”). Military service is the most apropos example but there are many various coexistent groupings which qualify one for horizontal honor and this honor generally extends between groups as they are perceived to have achieved the status of “manhood”(cops, firemen, fishermen, doctors, professional athletes, et al, etc). Likewise honor requires a group and the group requires a shame component to hold men at the accepted minimum standard.
Vertical honor, is not about mutual respect, but rather admiration for having exceeded the minimum standards of honor which bounds the peer-group together. This is exemplified by the additional status one receives with a Ranger tab as opposed to whatever comes with a towels & basketballs MOS. Veterans have a brotherhood, but those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor hold the vertical honor of the rest of the brotherhood for having excelled.
How did this connection between manhood, bravery, and honor evolve?
During times when the rule of law was weak, and professional military and law enforcement bodies did not exist, honor acted as the moral force that governed the tribe and maintained its survival. Men were expected to act as the tribe’s protectors, a role in which strength and courage were vitally necessary. If they were not strong physically, they were expected to contribute in another way through mastery of a skill (shaman, medicine man, scout, weapons and craft-maker, etc.) that benefited the tribe.
Honor is what motivated men to fulfill these expectations. If they showed courage and mastery, they were honored as men (horizontal honor), and with that honor came the privileges of being a full member of the tribe. If they excelled at the honor code, they were granted even more status, and thus more privileges (vertical honor). But, if they showed cowardice and laziness, then they were shamed as unmanly, and lost their access to those privileges.
The anthropological nature of masculinity has, for thousands of years, dictated that men must meet a certain threshold to be given their Man Card. The route to achieving this Man Card takes on many forms and is decided by nature and the man himself through his decisions, actions, and contributions to the social unit I which he strives.
Anyone who fails to breech the minimum threshold is – and should be – shamed and denied access to the respect and admiration of others. Failure to meet the minimum standard means that you aren’t carrying your own weight, and thus your duty to the rest of the tribe and humanity itself, is left wanting.
These days, biological males are accepted into the tribe (outliers though they may be) by virtue of having one or more of the characteristics of manliness, while being completely devoid of the characteristics which actually qualify one as a man. Namely, they may possess strength and bravery, but without also possessing virtue and character, they can never be qualified for the Man Card.
Somewhere along the way, progressives decided that masculinity and manliness were the antiquated veneration of behaviors belonging to a patriarchal and oppressive society which prevented the self-actualization of anyone who was traditionally not accepted into the club. They want everyone to be able to claim a title to which they had no standing. These same meddlers decided that society must curb the instincts of men and derided the historically masculine traits of being stoic, courageous, and honorable as something to be ridiculed. In effect, they said, everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.
This quest for asexual equality has led to a watered-down standard of manhood and a societal cessation of any behaviors which even exhibit manhood.
The man is no longer expected to harden his body and cultivate his mind as a tool for the defense of his society and his position within it. Now it’s good enough to merely call yourself a man. The modern man can get by mimicking his fellow through sexual conquest and the vulgar exhibition of wealth. The actual Man doesn’t require these outward expressions of manliness because he has inwardly and outwardly proven his manhood to himself and those whose respect he hopes to attain.
Many men in America today have conflated (deliberately or otherwise) the symptoms displayed by the imposter with the behaviors ingrained in and exhibited by the actual Man. This is why so many mistakenly consider lone symptoms such as sexual conquest, physical prowess, or displays of skill to be acts of manliness, when in reality they are behaviors of those unfamiliar with what it means to be an actual Man.
Societal acceptance of these outward symptoms of manliness while not demanding the virtue and character required of the actual Man, is highly corrosive and destructive of the natural order.
As evidence, I offer the words of Theodore Roosevelt – imperfect as he was – as a fitting standard of what it means to be a Man:
What we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man.
The boy can best become a good man by being a good boy–not a goody-goody boy, but just a plain good boy.
I do not mean that he must love only the negative virtues; I mean that he must love the positive virtues also. ‘Good,’ in the largest sense, should include whatever is fine, straightforward, clean, brave and manly. The best boys I know–the best men I know–are good at their studies or their business, fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrongdoing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless.
Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable. If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society.
He can not do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have a thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice and fair dealing.
In short, in life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard: don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard.
Contemplate on this and remember it when someone tells you “this is how men behave” and proceed to hold forth examples of mimicked behavior as a poor substitute for manliness.