“‘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.
“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.