Becoming a Renaissance Man, Introduction

A quick note: it appears that I lost 150 subscribers, almost half my total, after my last Obama post. Well, at least you can’t say it didn’t move the readers.

Second quick note: it seems the immortality drive series was depressing the shit out of people, so I put it on hold for a while. I’m coming back to it sometime next week.

Anyway, I get a lot of ideas for posts suggested by readers, and I store them away for future reference. I figured now would be a good time to dig up one of those suggestions.

Someone, can’t remember who, asked that I give a 12 step plan on being an alpha male. I thought this request over for a while and realized I couldn’t give him the kind of post he was asking for. I imagine he wanted some tips on how to stand, talk or dress that would make him more of an alpha male. There are two reasons I felt unable to write such a post. First, there are many other sites that already write about such things, and do it much better than I ever could. And the second, and probably more controversial, reason is that I don’t really think it’s possible for most of us guys to even become alpha males in today’s society. Yes, you read that right.

Too many of the behaviors and attitudes associated with being a true alpha male are either extremely frowned upon socially, or are outright illegal. The very, very highest level of alpha male throughout history has been the guy who has been willing to either injure or take life (even if by ordering someone under him to do it) or risk injury and even his own death. For example it used to be perfectly acceptable, if a guy insulted you, to punch him in the face if you wanted. Now in today’s society, a guy can pretty much insult you all he wants until the cows come home, but the moment you get sick of it and punch him in the face, you have committed a crime. Back in the day though, you not only had the option of punching a dude, you could even duel him to the death. I’m sure the number of passive-aggressive pricks was much lower back then as a result, given repercussions like that. But not only is it illegal, we have a generation of men socially conditioned to avoid and frown on fighting from the moment they enter the school system. It’s drilled into their heads to the point where the average middle-class guy would do anything to avoid punching another guy in the face, not only because it would be illegal or because he fears the scorn of his community, but also because deep in his heart of hearts he feels like he failed as a civilized human being. Fighting has become a moral failing in the mind of modern men. The prevalent social attitude is to either stand there all day and bicker like a woman or take the “high road” and just walk away. Even guys who have asked me about how to be more alpha in the past, when I suggest punching a guy in the face once in a while when they get fed up as one of the steps, balk at this suggestion. And given the ways the community and the legal system will punish you for engaging physical violence, I can’t totally blame them. I once believed the same thing, but I made a pledge to myself two years ago though that to the best of my ability I would no longer shy away from physical violence to solve problems, or view it as a sign of weakness to do so. The people who created such rules were women and powerful but physically weak intellectual men who wanted to find a way to level the playing field for themselves against alpha males by using the legal system.

Most men are afraid to fight for the same reason they’re afraid of approaching women. They’re afraid of that ego-shattering sensation of failing, and publicly to boot. It’s safer to not try. With fighting, they even take it one step further by reframing their fear into a virtue, which is why most civilized men will try to portray their unwillingness to fight as a virtue.

But that’s just one of the many ways society has neutered the ability of men to be alpha males. One of the effects of a society with men totally free to be as alpha as they want is (1) incredible inequality as much of the power and sexual opportunity gets concentrated in the hands of the few and powerful, and (2) lack of security for the average person. Societies with unbridled alpha aggression free a man to go for the things he wants, but also leave him open to someone bigger and stronger doing the same thing to him at some point. And for women, these societies can be especially dangerous and volatile.

As societies become more civilized and become more democratic, they tend to start valuing things like equality and security above all else. Consequently these civilized societies start relegating all alpha status to the state, and to its enforcement arm, the legal system, in exchange for more equality and security. The State is the biggest alpha in America now. The only individuals who can achieve true alpha status in the West nowadays are the people who are rich and powerful enough to influence and control the state, the criminals because they refuse to play by the State’s rules and thumb their nose at its legal system enforcement arm , and the members that make up the frontline of that aforementioned enforcement arm such as police, prosecutors and military men in times of war.

The only option available for the rest of us is to be as much of a man as we can while still toeing the line. We can only be alpha within limits. So in trying to come up with a term beside Alpha Male, I decided to use Renaissance Man instead. This is a term that is also used by Tariq Nasheed. The Renaissance Man is a modern man who is as alpha as he can be despite not being rich and powerful and while still living within the limitations set upon him by society and his power level. You can often see examples of such men in old movies that were made before the 70s.

This is an open-ended series with no set ending, I’ll just keep adding installments whenever I feel like it. Part 1 comes tomorrow.

27 Responses to “Becoming a Renaissance Man, Introduction”

  1. Yay! I like this new post! More please!

  2. Renaissance man. I can dig that. Good term. K-Flex cracks me up, btw. (This is a compliment.) I listened to his podcast for a pretty long stretch before falling off b/c of a job switch that didn’t allow for it. I suppose this falls under your explanation of societal clamps, but the “something to lose” factor plays a major role for me. Like you said, the threat of jail is a big deterrent, not to mention potential job fallout (my workplace is buttoned up, and any visible bruising wouldn’t be well-received) and the ever-present catch of not knowing far someone else — or their friends — are willing to go.

    The Brooklyn Boys last blog post..Ugh.

  3. Excellent post T. I fully agree. I have always believed that part of being a man is having a toolbox of skills not valued in the least by society today. Hunting, gardening, wilderness survival, self defense, knowledge of how to build, of the seasons, of the habits of animals, how to navigate by the stars, etc.

    To my mind the renaissance man must be able to be independent. Our society encourages specialization and rewards it. The rules for success in the civilized world emphasize a high degree of interdependence and reliance on the system. If the power went out, the gas stopped flowing and the food stopped being trucked into the cities, you would see a degeneration of civilization in VERY short order. The skills shunned by civilized society, the qualities of being alpha, would come to the fore.

    Any man who would not commit violence in his defense or the defense of innocents is no man at all in my opinion, certainly not an alpha. You are correct that shunning the principal of violence when justified is a beta trait, one that arises from fear. Evolutionarily men, particularly young men, feel a sense of invincibility because it has an evolutionary advantage. This is why alpha/renaissance men can hurl themselves into the face of danger, climbing the stairs of the twin towers to help the injured, or storming the beach of Normandy. These are men. Those who would run and hide and allow the women and children to be raped and killed to save their own hides are craven and don’t deserve the title of “men.” Even eunuchs have more balls than this.

    This is part of the reasons why so many returning vets have difficulty reintegrating into society. They have experience living as men, responsible for their own survival, watching each others backs, and able to respond to challenges with violence when provoked. After such an experience coming back to the US and trying to live your little unimportant beta life is emasculating and insulting. Like men who lose a fortune and kill themselves to avoid ignominy, these men can’t imagine being re-feminized after having a taste of true manhood.

    Civilized society is fundamentally incompatible with living as we naturally evolved to live. Fighting when challenged, fucking when fertile, living in communal tribes according to defined gender roles. From each what they can give, to each what they deserve.

    This is not a new problem. Freud described it here some time ago:
    http://www.amazon.com/Civilization-Its-Discontents-Sigmund-Freud/dp/0393301583

  4. Great post idea, I like where it’s going.

    One thought about fighting, though. I don’t think society turning away from violence is entirely due to the rise of the physically weak into positions of power. I think it also has to do with the way violence has evolved in America. A generation or 2 ago, two people could fight, one would lose, and they would both walk away. Now, in many areas of the U.S., if you fight someone and win you have to worry about them coming back at you with a gun or a box cutter the next day. If you lose, you can’t count on your opponent just talking some shit and then walking away – you’re liable to get stomped to death, or to the point of severe injury. In short, fist fights rarely end in a clean ass-whupping anymore. Legislators and school officials realized this, so when faced with the choice of allowing hyper-violence to continue or banning any form of violence totally, they went with the latter. Unfortunate for those of us who don’t mind giving and taking a punch when the moment calls for it, but understandable given the circumstances.

    Keep up the good work, bro.

  5. Mike — Word. That “hyper-violence” is what I was referring to at the tail end of my comment. Well-put.

    The Brooklyn Boys last blog post..Ugh.

  6. Brooklyn Boy and Mike Says made a great point. Of course one has to fight within reason. If someone gives off the vibe that they are willing to take it to the next level with a weapon or retribution, etc., one has to be reasonable. I was envisioning more the middle-class guy having a dispute with another middle-class guy, where both sides will go on and on and on but will avoid any actual fighting at all costs.

  7. Funny you should mention the part of talking trash and how you used to be able to blast a guy for running his mouth. Our firm recently had a client who was out to have some drinks with his wife and friends (in their 40s) and he runs into the wife’s ex-husband from like 15 years ago. The ex starts in saying some obnoxious things, calling the guy names, but nothing too bad. Just obnoxious. The bartender tells him to shut up, the guy and his friends try to ignore it, but after awhile as the ex gets drunker he gets more bold and starts saying things like how the wife’s a whore and her pussy is nasty and starts to say just unbelievable things. He even gets so bold as to walk up to my client’s face as he’s going to the bathroom and make some absurd comment about what he used to do to the wife.

    Client slugs him and lays his drunk as out in one punch. Ex gets up, leaves the bar, and comes back with some cops just walking the bar and pub beat and my client gets charged with assault.

    Alpha male did the right thing, but gets arrested. Old passive pussy gets what he deserves from the client, but has his mouth-talking bullshit backed up by the cops who arrest client.

    Can’t be the alpha-male anymore.

    PrivatePiggs last blog post..A Round-Up of Presidential Predictions

  8. I’m glad someone is thinking and writing about this. I’m fascinated by the idea of the appropriate use of violence within a comprehensive code of virtue, and specifically violence within the Christian code. I was given no high-level instruction in the right use of violence as a child and I learned (by default, since it was discouraged on a case-by-case basis) that violence was always to be avoided. I now see that is wrong, and am struggling to teach my son a better way. He, like all the males in my family, tend toward egg-headedness and caution, so he (and I) especially need to understand when violence is appropriate.

    One big problem for Christian culture (and western culture generally, which is still influenced by Christian thought in a residual way) is the “turn the other cheek” teaching. Once we understand that what is being described is not a coercive blow, but rather an insulting slap, it suddenly makes sense. (It then fits right in with the rest of Christ’s teaching, much of which is all about the need to give up a craving for status.) Without this interpretation of “turn the other cheek”, Christians either choose pacifism (and therefore can never explain how to respond to unrestrained evil–heck, can never even devise a coherent theory for why we have police) or live with inconsistency.

    T., it remains to be seen how much you (or your readers) care about reconciling your approach with Christian thought, especially on the question of status, but anyway, it’s important to me and I think it can be done. Ought to be done, really.

    Fred?spheres last blog post..Dr. Manhattan

  9. I’m going to dissent here. I’m glad society has gotten less violent over the generations. I know you didn’t say this, but I’m not looking to die in order to save face, fuck that! I gladly give away my right to violence to a democratic state, so long as my neighbor does the same.

    Now,don’t get me wrong. I’d love to be John McClane and fight terrorists/thieves and rapist, etc. But those situations are non-existent in my normal, hum-drum life.

  10. I’m not saying I want it to return to the primitive days of the alpha male free-for-all, where like was just a short, brutish, winner-takes-all competition. I love that civilization has made us more secure and allowed us to live in relative peace. However I do think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction when it reaches the point where things happen like the story PrivatePigg told in this comments section where his client gets arrested for punching that douche. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

  11. “I gladly give away my right to violence to a democratic state, so long as my neighbor does the same.

    This is like the gun-control arguments. The problem, of course, is that your neighbor never “does the same.” The bad guys, by definition, don’t play by the rules.

    Generally, I reconcile certain types of fighting with Christian thought by simply recognizing that Jesus was perfect, and I am not. Probably a pretty poor rationalization, I know, but I seriously do not know how to deal with some people other than fighting them (or, in the larger picture, like war, killing them) or locking them up. It’s easier to justify when the question is war, actually, and the enemy is “evil” and is bent on mass killings, than it is to justify punching some guy in a bar – since even a dumb human can figure out that he can just walk away.

    So, in war, I justify it by my own stupidity. How else do we, as humans, stop a Hitler, or Stalin, or bin Laden, who refuses to “do the same” and play by the rules? You have to kill them, or fight them, to save other lives. It seems almost moral in those terms.

    I can’t really justify being an alpha-male hardass in a bar, though.

    PrivatePiggs last blog post..A Round-Up of Presidential Predictions

  12. rawdog billionaire on January 24th, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    T – Great post, looking forward to more on becoming a Renaissance Man.

    Fredo – when the time is right, you should sit down with your son and watch Rambo IV and Kingdom of Heaven.

  13. you’re right about the repercussions to punching someone in the face. as a result we get a lot of the ‘man dance’: two dudes staring each other down and talking shit, but neither wanting to be the first to strike a blow.

    my suggestion is to employ an open-hand slap. it’s sufficiently violent to let a dude know that you’re not to played with, and it has added humiliation value, which may deter the slap-ee from seeking legal redress. it’s one thing for a guy to go to the police or to a lawyer and complain about being sucker punched, but how many dudes really want to go around talking about how they got bitch slapped.

    lances last blog post.."This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl"

  14. “Man Dance.” Ha, that is the PERFECT term for it. I wish I knew it before I wrote this post, it’s going into my regular lexicon now. 8)

  15. I probably wouldn’t want to be the guy who is known for bitch slapping other guys when he gets mad, either.

    PrivatePiggs last blog post..A Round-Up of Presidential Predictions

  16. It’s thanks to this pathological aversion to violence that half the problems we face in society exist. For example:

    *Muslim rioters who demand the deaths of anyone who “insults islam”. This, in societies where they are (still) vastly outnumbered. So far, only Australian surfers have had the balls to stand up to muslim men who demand that all women (not just their own) be treated like property.

    *Religious fanatics who protest at funerals for US military members killed at war. Seriously, in any self-respecting society these people would be shown that there are painful consequences for such rude behavior.

    *Idiots with bumper stickers on their Volvos that say, “violence is never the answer”. Say that aloud when your daughter/wife/mother is being raped. Trust me, there are most definately times when violence is the ONLY answer.

  17. Dang, I forgot the best argument of all to the Jesus-was-a-pacifist assumption. Remember the cleansing of the temple? Jesus found the court of the Temple clogged with people selling sacrifice-ready animals. He looked around, decided that here was a problem that violence could solve, and then he proceeded to kick some ass. Nothing gratuitous, but still, plenty of whipping and shoving and table-flipping.

    So, PrivatePiggs, if you want to follow the Christian Way, don’t feel like a hypocrite (necessarily) when you decide a little violence and intimidation are called for.

    Fred?spheres last blog post..Dr. Manhattan

  18. been there, faced charges after a drunk guy grabbed my girlfriend ass RIGHT in front of me then tried to pull down the straps on her top. I only got out of it b/c he was going to face sexual assault charges otherwise. wtf?

    Benedict Smiths last blog post..Emotional Pump n’ Dump

  19. You lost 150 subscribers because of the Obama post?! When I hear things like that occuring on a blog like this I am becoming even more disheartened.

    zprs last blog post..Emoticon Obama

  20. Lance your recommendation of the open handed slap made me laugh to tears!

    I have a young boy that was terrorized by his cousin during a summer visit. Moms tend to let their kids take beats because hitting is bad. Well, I gave my son a quick boot camp, showed him how much force he needed to use by restling him and gave him the words he needed to tell his cousin he was not gonna take it anymore. One of my proudest moments as a mother was seeing my son pin the kid down and defend himself without having mommy rescue him. I am not trying to raise an alpha male but if I can give him the confidence and means to stand up for himself and certain other people then I think I’ve partly done my job. But as an adult their is no question about violence landing you in trouble. I think it’s usually bettr to take the ‘high road’ but never look scared!

    T, I read your blog to figure out ways of better parenting. There are so many times I see adults making bad decisions and I wonder how I can teach my kids to make good choices once they’re on their own. I like your analyses and they seem spot on. I am in the process of testing your theories on the ppl I know.

  21. As Plato points out, every civilization exists in a cycle. As it ages, it accumulates more neurosis and achieves less consensus, so tears itself apart.

    Society protects against threats, therefore is inherently dysgenic because it defends those most at risk at the expense of those most able to adapt.

    The only solution is to sacralize the process of nature, so that a society can celebrate death and destruction — which are necessary — without becoming blindly destructive.

  22. So much of this seems specific to place, like urban. I’m in Montana with a lot of hard labor guys around (oil rigs, windmills, ranchers) and on the edge of an Indian reservation. I’ve been around here off and on for fifty years. There have always been fistfights and knifings. Not so much shooting until recently. Baseball bats as deadly weapons.

    But in a nearby town there’s a problem with “extreme fighting” matches between high school boys, sometimes organized by grown men for purposes of betting. They admire “red meat” athletes and don’t believe there is such a thing as rape. The local coach just smiles.

    We have a recent interesting case of three rough-type bros who are in the habit of picking on mild-looking single Indians at closing time of the local bars when people are loopy. They get the victim in the parking lot and beat them badly. Usually no one wants to interfere — they just want to get out of there. The law is not much interested if it’s just someone’s ranch hand.

    In this case, the brothers picked out their victim and started in on him, using boots, when a bigger Indian stepped in to try to make them stop. His wife also tried to intercede. Both were knocked to the ground. The “bigger Indian” is a county commissioner. He knows how to use the court system. The bad boys are pleading guilty and hoping for mercy, but Texas is beginning to sound good to them.

    I just think violence is highly situational. But I admit it is one tool in the box, so to speak.

    Prairie Mary

  23. Violence makes women hot; why do you think they love to start fights in bars.

  24. the lord said if man strike the 1 cheek to turn the other one
    what planet are ya from

  25. This is a very interesting topic.One I have thought much about for many years now.It brings to mind two movies that echo My thoughts on alpha male violence.Henry Hill in goodfellas says “But by then, I didn’t care. The way I saw it, everybody takes a beating sometime.”
    And fightclub.Tyler Durdan says”How can you know yourself if you’ve never been in a fight”?These two quotes have come to form the core basis of my personal alpha male outlook.And I think if you let the other guy throw the first punch you can claim “self defence”.

  26. Bullies don’t belong getting laid. If you think you can beat someone up to get some ass or food, than you deserve to have your water poisoned as far as I am concerned.