What is a Real Man? Up from the testosterone pit

Alpha Baboons are Jerks
Alpha Baboons are Jerks

On May 24, 2014 the 22 year-old son of a Hollywood director stabbed to death three men, shot down two women and killed a sixth person in a rampage that, true to our technological era, he prophesied first on a Youtube video.

He said he would “take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you.” He claimed he was lonely and frustrated because “girls were never attracted to me” and thus he was still a virgin. “You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.”

Seldom is the Real Man Dilemma stated so bluntly. The murderer’s position was that a real man gets laid and if not, a real man kills bystanders. This is a decent philosophy–for an alpha male BABOON. As Professor Sapolsky, who has spent decades studying baboons, says, “I don’t like them. They are actually jerks.”

For about 190,000 years of human existence in tribes, men had no such dilemma. If you were born with the equipment, you were a man. This was reinforced by initiation at puberty (very common, often painful) and every time a man went out hunting, which was potentially both dangerous and rewarding.

When humans settled down as farmers and herders about 11,000 years ago, success was measured by the size of one’s flocks, the fullness of one’s granaries, and the fierceness of one’s raiding party. Raiding, like hunting, is both dangerous and rewarding.

But what can young men do these days? Make lots of money? Get laid? Drive too fast? Where is the initiation? Where are the dangerous and rewarding daily activities? “Join the military; they’ll make a man out of you.” As if you are not a man until you learn to kill. We REALLY need to drop that idea.

My father was a real man. He was big and strong and served in motorcycle reconnaissance in WWII. He worked construction all day and farmed the rest of the time. No one ever implied that he was not a real man. But he hated violence. He hated even to kill farm animals for food, and despised men who hurt anything or anybody just to prove how macho they were, or who disrespected women or hit children.

I am not a man, so I don’t know, but his attitude seemed to be that he didn’t have anything to prove to anyone.

I think it would be great if we had pro-social initiations for young men that were somewhat painful and dangerous. Maybe tattoo all graduates so everyone would know they were Real Men.

Of course, some could die, so it’s unlikely we will do any such thing. But growing up with four brothers and a dozen boy cousins, I think they would go for it. And when they were through, maybe they would no longer feel they had to prove they were Real Men.

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