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Weekly Digest: Where Is the Right Wing Virtue?
The leading advocates of traditional society aren't very traditional themselves.
Welcome to my weekly digest for October 27, 2023, with the best articles from around the web and a roundup of my recent writings and appearances.
Head’s up. As you know, I have a book called Life in the Negative World coming out in January that talks about the new “negative world” we are in and how to live in it. I’m working on a program you can join to go deeper into the content of the book with me. I’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks.
A quick question for you: What would you like me to include to allow you readers here to discuss or go deeper into the book?
In my recent reader survey, one of the things people wanted was to know what I’m reading. So I’ll start sharing some of the books I’m reading. My most recent was Culture Wars: The Struggle To Control The Family, Art, Education, Law, And Politics In America by James Davison Hunter from 1991.
Lack of Right Wing Virtue
Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni dumped her long term boyfriend after he was captured on tape making lewd comments to several women and apparently attempting to seduce them. By all accounts it was a fully justifiable decision by Meloni.
What I find interesting is that Meloni, who is frequently labeled “far right” and has positioned herself as a champion of “traditional family values,” was not actually married to this man, with whom she had a child and was presumably cohabitating.
Few “new right” type political figures seem to display personal virtue as would have traditionally been understood. Say what you will about Barack Obama or Mike Pence, but they appear to be faithful husbands and devoted fathers - good family men. The same can’t be said of people like Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Corey Lewandowski, etc.
I wrote previously about how the advent of the negative world means the end of moral standards (as opposed to ideological ones) in politics. Still, there’s something very off about populist political movements that supposedly want to “RETVRN” to traditional society, whose leaders don’t even want to embrace that for their own lives. As various people have said, this movement increasingly resembles the Jerry Springer Show.
Young Man Syndrome
Rob Henderson posted a very interesting text of a recent talk he gave on young man syndrome.
In his cross-cultural research, the psychologist Martin J. Seager has found 3 consistent requirements to achieve the status of manhood in various societies around the world.
First, the individual must be a fighter and a winner.
Second, he must be a provider and protector.
And third, he must maintain mastery and control of himself at all times.
Across cultures, there seems to be an implicit understanding of what being a man is.
Indeed, in a widely-cited study of 25 cultures—including New Zealand, Finland, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bolivia, and Trinidad—definitions of masculinity and femininity hardly fluctuated at all. As a rule, participants in this study said they did not believe that men and women differed in all respects, and they did not view one sex as inherently superior to the other. But in every culture, men were seen as active, adventurous, dominant, forceful, independent, and strong.
The idea of “maintaining mastery and control himself” is a key element of masculinity that receives far less attention than it should. (Though there are online influencers who talk a lot about this, such as Jocko Willink). I devoted newsletter #62 to the topic of self-mastery:
David Gilmore notes that the Mehinaku men engage in these daily contests largely for feminine approval. Success at beating other men translates into success in the mating game. Women frequently shout encouragement from the sidelines and express interest in the victors. A man who refuses, or who regularly loses these contests, experiences what Gilmore describes as “social marginalization” and “an ever-dwindling status.”
As Jordan Peterson put it, “girls are attracted to boys who win status contests with other boys.”
Henderson writes later:
The desire for status is often viewed as tawdry or unserious. Many people resist the idea that status is so important. But they don’t resist equivalent terms. If you say you want a job promotion for the status, you might be judged harshly. But if you say you want to be promoted because you want respect, that’s often regarded as an appropriate desire. These two terms, though, mean roughly the same thing.
The core reason why our human ancestors cared about status, and passed this desire onto us, is because it was directly tied to the ability to obtain critical resources, secure social allies, attract romantic partners, and ultimately, the likelihood of producing offspring.
In modern societies, men who obtain high levels of income or occupational prestige are more likely to find a romantic partner and have children. A study from 2019 found that a man at the top of the earnings distribution has a more than 90% chance of obtaining a committed romantic partner. In contrast, for men at the bottom, less than 40% find one.
Young males are inevitably going to try to obtain status, whether in the real world or in a digital one. But anthropological and psychological evidence indicates that people whom young males wish to impress—such as peers, high-status individuals, respected authority figures, and young women—have a lot of influence as to which activities confer status.
If we don’t want to see young men fall prey to the worst expressions of the young male syndrome, we must be intentional in guiding the avenues through which they seek status.
Status seeking is generally viewed negatively by evangelicals, even though certain forms of status seeking are expressly approved by the Bible (e.g., 1 Tim 3:1). We see here that status in the world is directly tied to tangible life outcomes, such as being able to get married. And that status seeking is critical to channeling especially young men into healthy and pro-social behavior. When status is not awarded for healthy behaviors, it is probably being acquired through other status systems that are unhealthy.
In response to my previous mention of a New York Times article about recruiting in the US Marine Corps, one of my British readers sent me this new video celebrating the 359th anniversary of the Royal Marines in the UK. I don’t know anything about the Royal Marines, but they appear to be more of a special forces type outfit. I appreciate the aspirational messaging in this video, as well as the focus on waterborne operations. They are marines after all.
Best of the Web
Richard Reeves: Men without children - “It looks like it might be especially corrosive for men to end up on a bare branch of their family tree.”
Russell Moore: Let the Children Play: Their Lives Depend on It
City Journal: The Economic Forces Pushing Both Parents to Work
WaPo: ‘The Two-Parent Privilege’ gets caught in the trap of convention - This book review is a good example of how some people absolutely hate the idea of a society where marriage is even slightly normative.
Ryan Burge: Two Misconceptions About Abortion - Very interesting findings on abortion politics
Auron MacIntyre: The complete failure of ‘1984’
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New Content and Media Mentions
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