The Will to Unfreedom

“‘That government is best which governs not at all;’ and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

I’ve been asked many times to explain why I say “what we don’t want to do is go back to a traditionalist world” and I’ve made a few attempts to explain, but the problem has been that traditionalism as is referred to in men’s rights and in the MGTOW community (Men Going Their Own Way) has been limited to a discussion of traditional marriage.

There are many reasons why traditional gender-role marriages are bad for men, not least of which is that they traditionally bear the burden of being the protectors and providers for women and children. They do this at the sacrifice of their own lives and dreams. In compensation, this act of sacrifice has been given heroic qualities. He is the “good” man and the social rewards are many. This is the justification given by those who support traditionalism and marriage. Even in MGTOW, known primarily for rejecting the institution of marriage, there are some who are merely holding out until feminism loses ground and men are given their traditional respect in their role as husbands.

So the surface discussion rejecting traditionalism doesn’t go very far because the tradition has not been exposed for the fraud that it is. That is what I hope to do today. And, because I’m ambitious, I’m also going to discuss the reason why no political system involving a state will bring about equality. It is not the institution that is set up incorrectly, it is something inside of man himself that I will call “the will to unfreedom.”

Most people would agree that it is desirable for men to live in a state of freedom and prosperity. Our culture and all of our rituals are designed with that pursuit in mind. Yet, time and again, we fail miserably.

“Nobody was very happy with the way history and civilization had turned out, and many thinkers of that time supposed that if the first steps in the process of the oppression of man by man could be pinpointed, then the decay of civilization might be arrested and even reversed.”
~Becker, Escape from Evil. (1975)

To anthropologists, primitive society was largely seen as an egalitarian system lost in the annals of history, and some believed that property was a key element in the origin of inequality. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau noted in his famous essays, stirring revolutionaries for centuries:

“The first person who, having fenced off a plot of ground, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.”
~Rousseau, First and Second Discourses (1754)

It was assumed that social inequality and the propensity for man’s inhumanity to man was rooted in social inequality caused by hoarding of resources by the powerful, and that if these resources were redistributed equally the inequality and suffering would disappear. But this theory failed. Miserably. Many times. There was something deeper in the psyche of men that created a will to unfreedom and Rousseau’s statement gives us a key.

It is not the declaration of ownership by one man but the agreement from others that brings about inequality.

Becker points out in Escape from Evil,

“Social imbalances occur because of differences in personal merit and the recognition of that merit by others.”

The deference of power to others is, at its roots, religious. It is a fear of mortality and the systems we devised to keep that fear at bay. An anxiety with the overwhelmingness of the world around us, our vulnerability to it and the knowledge of our inevitable death. Through the use of rituals and symbolic meaning, each man tried to alleviate his anxiety and survive his own death through the symbolic world of his creation.

In primitive societies men felt a connection to the life giving elements of nature. If a hunt went well, food was abundant, men believed that sacrifices needed to be made to return the gift of life to the creator or source. Prosperity was a sign of approval from the gods and men wished to stay in favour. As such, the bounty of the tribe was shared openly and the surplus given back to the Gods to renew the cycle of prosperity.

Awareness of the fragility of life was kept at bay through the symbolic world man created which would elevate the meaning of his life. He would survive his death by taking part in the rituals and reinforcing the symbols of the tribe. The survival of the tribe assured the immortality of its members.

Objects such as the tooth of a shark were invested with mana power because it was part of the life giving force of the creature. The scalps of slain enemies gave the life force of the previous owner to a man and he carried these trophies around as testaments to his ability to both deal out death and defy it. Symbols of death defiance were worn or displayed by men in order to strike fear into others who would challenge him.

But just being a good hunter isn’t enough. You need other people to see that you are a good hunter.

The accomplishments and symbols required to overcome fear of insignificance can’t be achieved in isolation. It is the acknowledgment of others towards your achievements that proves your worth. In other words, a man requires other men to assert his value and to alleviate his anxiety. Without a mirror man has no reflection or sense of self. So clever systems were put in place to facilitate this system and conveyance of meaning.

Rituals were invented in which every member of the tribe could participate as a life giving force, and rites of passage were created to alleviate anxiety over mortality.

Becker emphasizes:

“Let us not rush over these words: ritual is a technique for giving life.”

He goes on to say:

“… ritual could generate not only bears or yams, or the life of the whole universe, but the individual soul as well. This is the meaning of the “rites of passage” rituals which took place at birth, puberty, marriage, and death: by means of symbolically dying and being reborn via ritual the individual was elevated to new states of being.”

Of course these ideas seem silly to modern man. We no longer believe we can create brown kangaroos by making specific words and gestures over a fire. Yet the symbolic rituals remain the same, only in re-envisioned forms.

The worship of invisible deities was replaced by tribal leaders who were seen as the physical contact point of the Gods. Religious leaders, in older times often epileptics, would have religious fits from which they would come back with visions and the tribe believed they could communicate with the life giving force that caused food to grow and animals to be born. The bounty of the tribe was a reflection of the good relationship the chief had with the creator deity. And if the bounty did not come, if there was a drought, the chief would even offer his own life in sacrifice, or be killed.

How does this differ from the religious devotion current society holds for their leaders? We may not think of them as representatives of God, but we build grand houses for them to live in, we protect them with vast security forces, and we mourn their deaths with disproportionate grief.

Culture, as a death denying fixture, is so deeply rooted that men will die in droves to protect their nation. The survival of the state trumps men’s own self preservation. While many people believe that survival and procreation are the innate driving forces, we find many people throughout history who have taken vows of celibacy in devotion to a god. In a modern context, we find the current homosexual community fighting intensely for public legitimacy, not so they can procreate but so that they may join in the symbolic life of their culture.

As humans, we need to attach to something bigger than ourselves in order to survive our own deaths. We seek this in order to ensure our significance in a world of meaning.

And if you think we are still just talking about primitive society, look around you.

In the ritual of marriage, we can readily see the devastation visited upon “good” men after devoting themselves to family life only to have the family courts strip them financially and emotionally, treating them as cogs in a machine and cash dispensers for women. Yet men still want to get married. They defend the tradition as a life giving force. The symbolic meaning of the ritual is more pressing than the reality.

The MGTOW community is repeatedly asked how they can judge men who choose marriage because aren’t they in favour of men choosing their own paths? And if a man chooses marriage then he is somehow still free. The usual response is that slavery isn’t made okay because the slave gives up his freedom willingly. But why would a slave give up his freedom in the first place? Why do men, knowing the dangers, still choose to get married?

It is a fear based behaviour.

Those who believe marriage is necessary claim that the ritual of commitment somehow solidifies the relationship. They fear that their partner won’t stay unless that ritual is performed. You can see the irrationality of this thinking, given how easy it is to get divorced. Marriage is a commitment “forever”. As if a devotee to the institution can determine the future by performing that ritual. This is magical thinking perpetuated by a desire to organize the chaos of life. Marriage is an immortality project, to be accomplished by binding yourself to something bigger than you. You think you are no longer alone. No longer vulnerable.

In fact, we hear the rebuttals to the MGTOW rejection of marriage phrased thusly:
You’re all going to die alone.

Traditionalists invoke knowledge of mortality to coerce men back into the tradition of marriage.

But will these symbols (marriage, the state) bring about freedom and prosperity? History tells us they won’t. If we elect the right government will inequality disappear? If we marry the right person will our life be made significant? There are many people reading right now who want to answer “yes”.

But until we recognize the fear that makes us believe in these institutions, and reach a point where we don’t need them anymore, we will never be free. We’ll have our illusions, but we will continue to destroy each other out of fear. And the symbolic world will continue trump the needs of the mortal man.

So, we vote in elections, we slaughter others who threaten our way of life, and we make vows to one another based on fear of being alone. We do this, and worse, needing validation that our life has meaning.
And then we wonder why we are not free.

We mock or try to destroy those who threaten our symbols. And when our symbols fail us, we look for the nearest scapegoat to slaughter.

12 thoughts on “The Will to Unfreedom”

  1. I must admit at the outset that the only place I have encountered Ernest Becker’s name is the writings of Diana Davison. If one were to argue that those who know nothing about Ernest Becker have no right to comment on Ms Davison’s ideas, I have no reply to make.

    I urge all of you to read this link:
    I was pleasantly surprised to read that Becker had career difficulties because of his defence of Thomas Szasz’s right to teach a critical libertarian perspective on psychiatry. While the views of Becker and Szasz differed in many ways, what they apparently had in common is a willingness to question conventional thinking.

    “The will to unfreedom” is a turn of phrase that gives off a strong odour to my intellectual nose. When Diana says that, I first think of Erich Fromm, prominent 1940-70, but now largely forgotten. Then I think of Nietzsche, a misogynist who never married, and who probably died of the syphilis he acquired in a brothel when he did his military service. When I was a young man, I discovered Walter Kaufmann’s writings on Nietzsche, writings that did much to make Nietzsche palatable to us pragmatic Americans.

    Ms Davison’s quoting of Thoreau intrigues me. Thoreau wrote eloquently and sarcastically about the antebellum political and moral order in which he lived. But compared with the world you and I live in today, his world was a utopian paradise. The Federal government was a night watchman state, subsisting on some customs duties. Property taxes were low, income taxes nonexistent. In most of the USA, there law enforcement was limited to the county sheriff, often a part-time job. When there was a serious problem requiring backup, he had the authority to deputise volunteers to form a posse commitatus. 1776- 1860, The USA was, in effect, a libertarian utopia. The main flaw in that world was its protection of southern slavery, a slavery that was unusually harsh because all children of a slave woman were slaves forever.

    What happened? In a word: war. Each time the USA goes to war, its public sector becomes more authoritarian forever. There is no going back to the status quo ante. War includes the Cold War and the War on Terror. The USA has been on a de facto war footing since 1940, a situation which required high taxation, a standing army of a few million men, and which gave rise to irresistible temptations to compromise liberty and privacy.

    Unlike the case in Canada, the American financial sector has been prone to chronic crises. The creation of a powerful central bank has not solved this problem. American lending practices are bipolar, leading to populist distrust in the market economy, and a call for public sector intervention. Unfortunately, the American public sector is nothing but a group of people drawn from the same population that gives us overoptimistic and self-deceived bankers.

    1. I agree, there is no going back to previous versions of the world and why should we want to? Utopias are just as dangerous. A lot of great thinkers have come and gone who have uttered great words. One doesn’t have to support the entire vision a person espoused to find usefulness in their work.

  2. Marriage exists for two reasons.

    1. Marriage limits the damage that can easily arise from the human sexual urges, especially the urges that many (but not all) men feel. I have a growing suspicion that women have similar primal urges, that in recent decades have begun to emerge from under a mountain of prudish repression. A major problem with gender feminism is that is pretends that women are exempt from the urge to be lewd.

    2. Children have a higher quality of life, on average, when they are raised by two adults. One specialises in spending time with the children. The other adult specialises in earning money to help support the children and the first adult.

  3. For those young men whom are considering marriage.

    No matter the laws you got married under, you will be divorced under the law at that time. Do you honestly think men in the 1960’s would have thought what the laws of current would include?

    Marriage should be treated like a business decision. And as far as I can tell the risk-v-reward doesn’t balance.

    Remember though, marriage is a state sanctioned (i.e. government) legal paper. Which has nothing to do with “till death do you part”. That is your oath to GOD. Are you willing to make that oath when you have no control over the current rebellion of women? Your part is just along for the ride off the cliff.

    It’s your call.

    Stay single my friends!

  4. Feminism and no-fault divorce exposed the fallacies of the traditionalist’s illusions and enchantments – causing much anxiety and irreparable life destruction amongst men. Nevertheless, at the same time, these developments forced a man inclined to free thinking to see through the illusions and enchantments. The hard cold truth may very well suck, but in the end, it’s a lot better for you than the lie. You want the red one or the blue one? That is the question.

    Fear is based on attachment and dependency. Marriage is based on attachment and dependency.

    I had to accept what you’ve written here back in 2010. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Giving up one’s illusions and enchantments can bring with it massive disillusionment and years of painful psychological readjustment. It can also eventually lead to a far wiser, more balanced and happier individual.

    Because the MGTOW mindset is very much a part of freeing men of their illusions and enchantments, I’m very much a fan.

    Thanks for the great article!

  5. I’ve only recently become aware of MGTOW and find the skepticism and criticism of traditional gender roles inspirational. Most MGTOW ideas are things I’ve always felt, but never been quite able to put into words.
    DD’s compelling philippic on the roots and weaknesses of traditional society rightly argues that ultimately we choose the society we live in and today we have chosen a dysfunctional, freedom-smothering society that evolved from fearful, superstitious primitive peoples. These aren’t original ideas, but they’re well-presented from a fresh perspective with a fresh audience in mind. The treatise is dense with thought-provoking, challenging ideas rooted in philosophy, biology, psychology, and anthropology. Overall, this is challenging and though-provoking, but I have a few issues.
    At the heart of blog is the hypothesis that human society evolved from primitive egalitarian groups to superstition-based then leader-based ritualistic tribes. This hypothesis overlooks group dynamics, particularly the role of leadership, in molding society.
    Today leaders tend to emerge naturally in groups, small or large, and it was undoubtedly the same in prehistory. Thus, leaders would likely have emerged in human groups before superstition and ritual were factors. Primitive groups may have been egalitarian to greater or lesser degrees, but they would have always had leaders. Leadership attributes would have been the same than as they are now, and wise leadership would certainly have been a profound survival advantage.
    Not everyone is a leader. With leaders there must naturally be followers. The point when people follow is the point when they choose, consciously or not, unfreedom. So, choosing unfreedom is not as unnatural and nefarious as it is portrayed in the blog. It does become sinister, however, when society uses appeals to authority, superstition, religion, ritual, patriotism, and tradition to mollify people into choosing unfreedom.
    There is an overemphasis on the role of fear in molding human behavior. Fear is certainly a factor, but human behavior is predicated on much more than fear. At its most fundamental level, human behavior, whether of individuals or groups, aims to perpetuate the gene pool, rather than to protect the life of any particular individual. Therefore, I find it more convincing to explain social constructs such as religion and marriage on their utility in perpetuating human groups and the genes therein, rather than attributing them to fear. If they do nothing else, rightly or wrongly, religion and marriage create group cohesion, which, along with sound leadership, would have been particularly advantageous for perpetuating primitive societies.
    The statement, “[Marriage] is a fear based behaviour,” is simplistic. People get married for a lot of reasons, but “fear of death” or “fear of loneliness” is rarely cited. More often the reasons are things such as love, lust, friendship, companionship, devotion, and all too frequently, familial and social pressure. Granted, none of these should be viewed as a good or sufficient reason to marry, but it isn’t necessarily explicit or implicit fear that drives men to marry.
    This blog alludes to the most off-putting aspect of MGTOW: overt antipathy towards “men who choose marriage.” It is one thing to criticize slavery, and quite another to criticize slaves, be they willing or not. It is likewise for marriage and married men. Bachelorhood seems to be the litmus test for inclusion in the MGTOW community, and all married men seem to be viewed as misbegotten, lesser, weak organisms—pariahs. This attitude is capricious and myopically dogmatic. Maybe, there is good justification to keep married men away from the community, but I’m yet to hear one.
    Although the decision to marry should be rational, it is usually not. Most men (and women) “choose” marriage when they are young, horny, impressionable, and naïve. They are thinking with their hearts (or other organs) and not their brains. Perhaps they should know better, but unfortunately they’re blind—arguably, through no fault of their own—to consequences and alternatives. People are prone to make bewilderingly stupid mistakes but shouldn’t automatically be ostracized for them. The same can be said of married men. Furthermore, it is widely observed that the best bullfighters are one’s who’ve been gored. As weak, naïve and unenlightened as they may be (or may have been), married men, rather than being simply cast to their fate, are worthy of respect and inclusion.
    Criticism aside, DD has presented a compelling argument to question the society we live in and our role in bringing about greater justice and freedom.

  6. @nixcommerhouse ..

    You’re married aren’t you? Check Yes or No.

    If you’re not married, problem solved, follow your heart.

    If you’re married, ouch, be careful who you tell about your red-pill leanings.

    Either way .. a lot of your criticisms are wrong or you have a misunderstanding of a Man Going His Own Way means and doesn’t mean. Your mission if you choose to take it is read as much red-pill writing you can. Then follow your heart. Again, I’d be careful whom you tell of your new found wisdom. It’s just safer for you that way.

    1. Nope, not a fan of marriage. There’s no ring on my finger or in my nose. Most of the men I know are married and many are bewildered about their situation. Furthermore, many have sons. Based my burgeoning understanding of MGTOW, it has a valid message for men single or married, young or old. If the goal of the MGTOW community is to affect change, that message has to got to be spread as widely as possible. To ignore men with strong influence on the next generation just seems short-sighted to me.
      If I’m wrong about my characterization of MGTOW, I stand corrected. I’m sincerely trying to understand.
      I am trying to read as much red-pill stuff as I can. But wading through myriad blog and vlogs is ponderous. If you’ve any specific recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them.

  7. @nixcommerhouse ..

    Yes it’s sad (re: what young males have ahead of them without the red-pill) to see the plan’ta’shun slaves and not be moved.

    But, most of these men do not want or need to be freed. Be careful whom you share your knowledge. It’s for your safety and live’lee’hood (i.e. job).

    Just so you know many are purposefully re’de’fining MGTOW as a movement. If so it’s not an orgin’ized one. We are not MRA .. but MRA used to say bad things about us. You see we don’t pay dues or bow to any leader (except God). We know what’s right and wrong. Shaming doesn’t work. So they (e.g. AVFM; aka Paul) decided to proclaim himself MGTOW and then declared to define and issue parameter’s for MGTOW in his book. He is a shame. He was blasting us just a short time before. What a scammer.

    Which brings me to my last point. Be careful who you listen to .. the advice on the internet is worth the price you paid for it .. nothing / free.

    Trust your instincts. They got you this far didn’t they?

    As for me .. I’ll be Ghosting to the end .. Stay single my friends.

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