by Jack Donovan
Milwaukee, OR: Dissonant Hum, 2012
Manliness rated high on ancient lists of the virtues; indeed, for the Romans, virtus designated both the general concept of virtue and manliness in particular. Today, as author Jack Donovan remarks, if manliness gets mentioned at all, it is usually made a vehicle for selling us on something else: “real men love Jesus” or “a real man would never hit a woman.”
How might we arrive at an objective understanding of manliness? The Way of Men looks to Homo sapiens’ environment of evolutionary adaptation, viz. life in small hunter-gatherer bands struggling for survival both with nature and with other similar bands. Civilization has not lasted long enough yet for us to become fully adapted to it.
The state of nature is not a world of individuals, as the early philosophers of liberalism imagined, but of cooperation in small groups or bands. The first aim of such cooperation is to establish and maintain possession of a territory for your band. Then you must guard the perimeter and acquire the means of sustenance—either by killing animals in the wild or by successfully raiding other bands.
Manliness, in the first instance, consists of whatever traits make for success at these tasks. Donovan calls them “tactical virtues,” and lists them as strength, courage, mastery, and honor. Strength and courage are more or less self-explanatory; mastery refers to competence in whatever skills are useful to one’s band: building, setting traps, making blades or arrows, and so on.
Honor in its most basic sense means “the primitive desire to hit back when hit, to show that you will stand up for yourself.” In a lawless situation, a man’s life may depend on his ability to make others afraid to harm or even show contempt for him, i.e., on avoiding any appearance of weakness or submissiveness. This raw form of honor can still be observed in prisons or amid Sicily’s onorevole società—i.e., among men who respect only force. With civilization, young men learn to honor their elders in spite of being physically able to beat them up. Gradually honor may come to be associated with such intangibles as knowledge or moral authority, but it never entirely escapes its origin in violence.
Donovan believes that the human male’s environment of evolutionary adaptation explains the modern man’s visceral disgust at flamboyant effeminacy in other men, something which several decades of homosexualist propaganda have not been able to alter. The explanation is that in a lawless situation, a man who rejects the male honor code brings shame upon his group and thereby weakens it. A man might rationalize this aversion or disgust by appealing, e.g., to the biblical condemnation of homosexuality, but his behavior has a much more visceral origin.
The author insists on the distinction between manliness and moral “goodness” in general:
In Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth, the King promises his enemies that unless they surrendered, his men would rape their shrieking daughters, dash the heads of their old men, and impale their naked babies on pikes. [Yet] I can’t call Henry an unmanly character with a straight face.
Hollywood is also well aware of men’s abiding fascination with amoral “tough guys.”
As civilization develops, combat is replaced by the safer, ritualized combat of athletic contests. Many men come to experience masculinity vicariously, for the most part. An increasing number turn their masculine instincts inward, and focus on “self-mastery, impulse control, disciplined behavior and perseverance.” Raw masculinity is tempered into manliness and assigned a place beside justice, temperance and other virtues not specific to the male sex.
It is hard to deny that much of this represents a gain: the Victorian gentleman is surely an improvement over the Paleolithic hunter, not to mention MS-13. But something of masculinity does get sacrificed along the way, and the transition is difficult for many men to make. Donovan cites the Epic of Gilgamesh, composed back in the days when urban life was something new: “Here in the city man dies oppressed at heart, man perishes with despair in his heart.” Another character complains of growing weak and being oppressed by idleness.
As Cochran and Harpending have shown (see The Ten Thousand Year Explosion, pp. 65ff), human beings have adapted to settled civilization to some degree in the ages since Gilgamesh—but few have adapted enough to feel at their ease amid the unprecedented effeminacy of the present age.
In the future that globalists and feminists have imagined, only a few people will do anything worth doing. For most of us there will only be more apologizing, more submission, more asking for permission, more examinations, more certifications, background checks, video safety presentations, counseling and sensitivity training.
In short, we are becoming the society William James predicted “of clerks and teachers, of co-education and zoophily, of consumers’ leagues and associated charities, of industrialism unlimited and feminism unabashed.”
In one of the most interesting sections of his book, Donovan discusses two species of great ape: the Chimpanzee and the Bonobo. These were formerly considered varieties of a single species: they look very similar, are interfertile, and their territories are contiguous. Yet closer examination revealed that they differ radically in their behavior.
The gist of the difference is that Chimp society is organized along male lines while Bonobos behave like proto-feminists. Male Chimps form alliances, females don’t. Among Bonobos, it is females that maintain social networks, while males don’t. Male Chimps batter their mates; male Bonobos don’t. Female Chimps acknowledge male dominance; female Bonobos don’t. Male Chimps patrol the border of their territory and make raids on other groups; male Bonobos do neither.
What causes these differences? It turns out that Chimps must hunt to survive; Gorillas and other rivals take most of the vegetable nourishment in their territory. Bonobos have no such rivals, so they simply live off the abundant vegetable food available to them. Female Bonobos can provide for themselves, so males are less valuable to them and less respected by them. While Chimps mate to produce offspring, Bonobos are “sexually liberated,” mating for pleasure and socialization. (The female great ape is no more “naturally monogamous” than the female human.) Homosexual behavior is also common among them.
In short, the “Bonobo masturbation society,” as Donovan terms it, is the natural end-product of feminism, which is a natural response to a long run of abundance and safety. A lot of effort is being put into selling men on a vision of the future as more of what we have today: more food and drink, more security, more labor-saving devices, more vicarious sex, more vicarious masculinity, more real effeminacy.
The Way of Men closes with some recommendations for men who are not thrilled by this prospect. The author believes that the future mapped out for us is “based on unsustainable illusions and lies about human nature.” It is already falling, and only needs a push. Men will not be able to challenge the system directly, but they can encourage fission around the edges. As central authority loses the loyalty of an increasing number of men, we are likely to witness a kind of social atavism, as men begin forming small groups—gangs, in fact—to protect their interests. Eventually nature will triumph, as it always does, and men will “follow their own way into a future that belongs to men.”