For anyone looking for a good basis of evidence to combat myths of a serene and blissful prehistory, this book will not disappoint. However, what recoFor anyone looking for a good basis of evidence to combat myths of a serene and blissful prehistory, this book will not disappoint. However, what recommends it so highly is the author's admission that he, too, participated in what he calls the "pacification of the past," but as an archaeologist he was forced to re-examine his assumptions about primitive peoples in light of so much hard evidence that proves our ancestors were just as likely to engage in violent disputes as "civilized" people have been.
Keeley is no war hawk, looking for easy justifications for war. In fact, he seems genuinely troubled by the evidence at times, and makes the point that if humans want to find ways to end war, lying to themselves about history and pre-history isn't going to produce the answers. Based on his analysis of prehistorical warfare and historical warfare, his conclusions are troublingly statist and seem to lean toward a "one-world government" scenario, though he offers some general observations about ways to avoid war.
Keeley presents his case engagingly, and this book should be accessible enough for any layman. His colorful anecdotes about primitive societies may appeal to those with a dark sense of humor.
Because so much of the book involves dispassionately comparing the war motives and methods of primitive societies to the corresponding aspects of civilized war-making, the book could also serve as a good primer for anyone beginning a general study of warfare....more
In WAR, Sebastian Junger notes that while pure objectivity is hard enough to maintain while covering a city council meeting -- let alone in the middleIn WAR, Sebastian Junger notes that while pure objectivity is hard enough to maintain while covering a city council meeting -- let alone in the middle of a war -- he committed himself to writing "honestly" about the American soldiers he lived (and very nearly died) with as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. Junger gives a raw, real, gripping and insightful account of life and death in "The Valley," but in WAR he never comes across as pretentious, preachy or even particularly political. Instead, Junger aims to get across what it feels like to be a man at war in a place where firefights often happen several times a day.
It is common to see soldiers portrayed as "victims" of war. Even as politicians and the media mechanically display a reverence for combat veterans and speak vaguely about "heroism" and "personal sacrifice," it is often clear that many are uncomfortable with the idea that there are men who willingly kill for a living. Junger's take on it is that they kill to keep on living, to stop someone from killing them. But back home many people speak of war as if it is something terrible that happened to soldiers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Junger refreshingly admits that "war is a lot of things and it's useless to pretend that exciting isn't one of them." Like Sergeant First Class William James in The Hurt Locker (2008), a lot of men apparently end up missing combat when they are sent home.
Junger occasionally frames his powerful revelations about human -- and especially male -- nature as something we are going to have to be honest with ourselves about if we are ever to "solve the problem" of war. However, if the tendency to make war, to get caught up in the excitement and the drama of war, and to vigorously protect defend your tribe to the death is such a powerful force in men, is it truly something we can "solve"? No matter what we may say, when I look at the kind of entertainment and activities men find themselves naturally drawn to, I have to wonder if men would really know what to do with themselves in a world where that kind of masculine conflict has become mere "history." I suspect they'd read a lot of history books.
At the remote outposts, Junger says the soldiers don't talk much about politics or the broader implications of the war. Soldiering is a job, and they do it at a human scale. The big picture is a distraction far above a soldier's pay grade, anyway. Nationalism gives way to a sort of brotherly tribalism. Talk of God and religion are also vague and many of the soldiers seem to quietly agree, unofficially, that if God or Allah or Zeus exists, he doesn't live in the Valley. Junger observes that most of the real acts of courage are not based on ideology; instead, he sees them as acts of love, based on a sense of interdependence within platoons or companies. Men risk their lives to save each other, usually out of a desperate fear of failing a friend in need.
This brings us to the ongoing discussion of honor. Junger writes that honor and bravery in the most traditional sense probably went out with the invention of the machine gun, because one heavily armed man can kill many from a safe distance. This puts the real beginning of Western honor's decline around World War I, which echoes James Bowman's assessment.
" ...much of modern military tactics is geared toward maneuvering the enemy into a position where they can essentially be massacred from safety. It sounds dishonorable only if you imagine that modern war is about honor; it's not. It's about winning, which means killing the enemy on the most unequal terms possible. Anything less simply results in the loss of more of your own men." Honor: A History
A convoy that Junger was travelling with to one of the outposts was hit by a roadside bomber, and he makes the point that burying a bomb in the road isn't particularly honorable either.
At the same time though, Junger reverently describes the soldiers he knows as being "honorable." It is difficult to tell exactly what he meant, but in light of his other comments and my own thinking and reading about honor, I'll take a stab at it.
Junger explains in the quote above that the combat itself is not about honor. And we don't offer the soldiers who risk their lives the sort of public esteem or glory that they might have received at another time in history. We don't spend much time "singing their songs," because Westerners have officially nurtured a civilized horror of war. The most basic form of honor, reflexive honor, is definitely evident in Junger's stories from the Korengal -- especially when members of the group are killed in action and the group retaliates. Bravery and strength are evident in all of the men, and it seems to me that the sort of honor which best matches their deeds is public honor, but in the most insular sense. The outside world doesn't understand the soldiers, outsiders can't know what they've been through, but they understand each other. Their honor is public within the context of their small honor group -- the tribe. They don't want to be shamed by the group and fear failing their brothers-at-arms. Their honor is a reputation for courage, strength and masculine virtue as it is defined culturally by the other men who they respect and depend on at these rugged outposts in the graveyard of empires.
(Longer review originally posted to AlternativeRight.com.)...more
Honor: A History is an important book on the topic that, even outside of its own political context, provides insight into the history and present statHonor: A History is an important book on the topic that, even outside of its own political context, provides insight into the history and present state of Western honor, as well as providing a valuable framework for discussing it -- particularly in terms of the differentiation between reflexive and cultural honor....more
Iron John is peppered with meaningful insights, but it is also insufferably fruity.
Bly frames Iron John as a book primarily for men ready to do thisIron John is peppered with meaningful insights, but it is also insufferably fruity.
Bly frames Iron John as a book primarily for men ready to do this kind of “inner work;” men around the age of 35. If you’re going to really change manhood, you have to reach out to young men, too. A movement for 35 year old men has no future. Group therapy culture can’t replace authentic, organic masculine experience. That’s a problem I still see with the men’s movement, though I think this is changing. A transformative movement that is going to appeal to young men has to have balls. Iron John contains some truth, and Bly is a natural storyteller, so the book is very well written in its own way. Bly acknowledges some of his own weaknesses and that requires a certain courage and honesty. But ultimately, Iron John offers no path to power for men. At best, it outlines a way to make peace with a wounded male soul.
(From a longer review which originally appeared at the-spearhead.com)...more
Keen's insights on the way that women wield power over men -- and his advice about how men need to put women into perspective and see them as human beKeen's insights on the way that women wield power over men -- and his advice about how men need to put women into perspective and see them as human beings -- are worthwhile, though a bit overblown to the point where I was reminded of Camille Paglia. Keen is an engaging writer, but ultimately he argues from the false premise that humans were once peaceful goddess worshipers. Because that isn't true (a noble savage myth perpetuated by feminist anthropologists) Keen's observations on human nature and the need to alter masculinity to return to this peaceful state of nature and harmony don't work. ...more
The first hundred pages of Sam Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart made me want to pack it in and take up needlepoint. After graduating from high school, SheThe first hundred pages of Sam Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart made me want to pack it in and take up needlepoint. After graduating from high school, Sheridan joined the Merchant Marines, went to Harvard to study art, sailed around the world as a crew member on a yacht, studied Muay Thai in Thailand, won a fight in Thailand, got his EMT certification, fought fires in Washington and Arizona, worked in Antarctica, studied MMA with Pat Miletich and received a good clobbering in an amateur MMA match. In short, he’s done everything awesome.
Sheridan describes the adventures he has during his quest to understand fighting and the men who choose to fight with a balanced mix of articulate insight and thoroughly readable “guy-speak.” He’s genuine and likable. In fact, he’s so likable that when he writes at length about other fighters the chapters start to drag — especially the informative but 20 pages too long chapter on boxing. Sam is the main character of A Fighter’s Heart. And when Sam starts training for a fight, his dedication is so inspiring it made this writer want to put down the book and hit the gym. His efforts were heroic, even when they didn’t translate into wins.
Because he was a man immersed in male-dominated circles, A Fighter’s Heart is often as much about men as it is about fighting. When he followed Brazilian Rodrigo Nogueira to a PRIDE match with Fedor Emelienko, the chapter wound up being about the intensity of the experience, about camaraderie and in Sheridan’s own words, about “love” between men who fight. In contrast, his exploration of the world of boxing with Andre Ward and Virgil Hunter revealed a look into the tight, symbiotic "two against the world" relationship shared between coach and the athlete.
Sheridan’s brief examination of the idea of “gameness,” a concept that comes from the world of dog fighting, and its application to men was itself worth the price of the book. He describes gameness as “the eagerness to get into the fight, the berserker rage, and then the absolute commitment to the fight in the face of pain, and disfigurement, until death.”
(Originally published on The Spearhead, Nov. 2009)...more
If say, the Iliad or the Lord of the Rings were 5-Star books, this would be a one and a half star book. But rated for what it is -- a collection of fuIf say, the Iliad or the Lord of the Rings were 5-Star books, this would be a one and a half star book. But rated for what it is -- a collection of funny stories, with occasional moments of honesty and sparks of wit -- it got the job done and I enjoyed it. ...more
In Guyland, Kimmel describes and analyzes young American males with all the civilized horror of an eighteenth century missionary reporting on the custIn Guyland, Kimmel describes and analyzes young American males with all the civilized horror of an eighteenth century missionary reporting on the customs and activities of naked heathen cannibals. These savages, born innocent and full of childish wonder, learn early to fear the scorn of their male peers and become so desperate for male approval that they will engage in bizarre and often criminal behavior. Enter “Guyland,” a human terrain inhabited by young men that Kimmel maps only by the most extreme and sensational accounts of fraternity hazing, excessive gambling, sports obsession, drunkenness, video game addiction and gang rapes. Kimmel is at his most even handed and truthful when, as an avid sports fan, he writes about sports talk with his son and the influence that sports have on men’s lives. But for most of Guyland, he’s a critical outsider looking in – Kimmel, a Jew, offers that he was unable to join a fraternity in college because of the ethnic restrictions of the era, and Kimmel’s C.V. shows that he’s spent the majority of his adult life seeking the approval of feminist women. (He was one of the first males to attend and graduate from Vassar.)
Like many women and bookish solipsists, Kimmel looks at the male world and sees fear of social disapproval as a primary motivator for typical male behaviors, but this is spin and half-truth. For instance, if you only read Kimmel and had little firsthand experience dealing with “guys” in real life as peers, you’d think that young men only drank heavily because of peer pressure, campus rituals and outmoded masculine ideals. I read I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max alongside Guyland. Max’s stories about drinking and “hooking up” filled out Kimmel’s caricature and reminded me that men often drink together to create conflict and excitement out of the sense of boredom with polite, modern society that Kimmel acknowledges but fails to truly understand. Men drink to relax, and sometimes to wallow in self-pity, but men drink in packs for the story. Lionel Tiger was correct when he observed that men bond during aggression, and heavy drinking puts average guys in “safe crisis.” They fight their own bodies, concoct strategies to pick up girls, narrowly avoid or get into fights with other men. They do and say things they normally wouldn’t. Crazy things happen. Young men drink together because they’re looking for a good bad time, a story to tell, proof that something happened. While Tucker Max’s tales often involve boasting, they are just as often self-deprecating and have an honest humanity to them that doesn’t come across in Kimmel’s ethnography. For Kimmel, the only “guys” with any humanity are the ones who resist or reject the culture of “guyland.” Coming from the leading feminist scholar of “men’s studies” in America, this thesis feels more than a little self-congratulatory.
Guyland isn’t really an attempt to understand “guys.” It’s ultimately more of an exercise in telling women, feminists and frightened parents the horror stories they want to hear about the “privileged” white American male. ...more
This review is from: Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell (Paperback) An excellent source for anyone interested in learninThis review is from: Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell (Paperback) An excellent source for anyone interested in learning about the history of weightlifting or bodybuilding (or manliness) in the United States. I grew up in York, PA, but I never really understood the extent of York Barbell's influence on weightlifting until I read this book. It reads like a biography of Bob Hoffman, and probably could have been trimmed down a bit, but you can't really fault the author for giving you *more* detail than you really need.
I did find the "Bob was always trying to prove his manhood" theme a bit heavy handed, because many of the behaviors attributed to Bob's "need to prove his manhood" would be explained differently if the subject were just another competitive businessman of the time, instead of a muscle culture entrepreneur. I love the title, because York's culture was undoubtedly about proving and appreciating manliness, but I just felt like the theme was re-stated too often and unnecessarily, and that gave the book a distasteful hint of gender studies pop-psych. Sometimes men are actively and consciously trying to prove their manhood, and sometimes men are just men competing and doing things.
All in all I thought the author's treatment of the subject was appreciative, but even handed, fair and thorough. It gives a real sense of the times and the impact that Hoffman and York ultimately had in shaping American manhood....more
People often assume for various reasons that I'm a big Boyd Rice fan, but the truth is that I'm a latecomer who has been inflDiverse and entertaining.
People often assume for various reasons that I'm a big Boyd Rice fan, but the truth is that I'm a latecomer who has been influenced by others who Mr. Rice has inspired. And for the latecomer, "Standing in Two Circles: The Collected Works of Boyd Rice" is an outstanding introduction to this seminal artist whose inestimable influence on musicians, misanthropes and even boozehounds is driven home by Brian M. Clark's detailed biography.
I enjoyed reading "I'll Call You Abraxas," Rice's engaging recounting of his visits with Charles Manson, as well as "Hitler in Zimbabwe" and "Dystopia" while celebrating diversity at the San Diego Department of Motor Vehicles. There is a wry character to Rice's prose, and if you've listened to any of his spoken word recordings you can almost imagine his voice and intonations as you read through his essays.
Of particular interest are excerpts from a previously abandoned project called, "Physiosophy," a series of never-before-released essays written to clarify some of this enigmatic creator's worldview in the 1990s....more
In The Decline of Men, Guy Garcia begins and ends his discussion of the American male's loss of power at the BuAll We Have To Do Is Stay Male and Fail
In The Decline of Men, Guy Garcia begins and ends his discussion of the American male's loss of power at the Burning Man festival. In front of a sign that says "TRUTH" he sees an effigy of a man who is half-built, headless. The image of a man is being reconstructed after having been burned to the ground by surprise, ahead of schedule. Garcia sees the first man as traditional Western patriarchal man, and the burning symbolizes his loss of economic and political primacy in the United States and around the World. At the book's end, he muses that "through this failure and destruction [men] just might gain the freedom to re-create themselves as the men they know they can be."
His choice of exemplar here is telling. Gerald Levin, former architect of the disastrous AOL/Time Warner merger, was approached by a woman who wanted to start a New Age treatment escape in Santa Monica (Moonview Sanctuary). He left his job as a NYC executive and now spends his time managing a center that specializes in healing the rich and famous with New Age therapies ranging from drum circles to "brain painting" and "holotropic breathwork." (New York magazine, 2007) A convert to his new wife's "more feminine" ideology, Levin states in Garcia's book that his ultimate mission is now to "break down male culture."
The Decline of Men is a fairy standard, mostly one-sided catalog of men's issues with a particular emphasis on pop culture. His perspective feels tony and coastal, and his understanding of blue collar men outside of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles seems to be confined to observations in the "I once had a friend who had a friend who dated a blue collar guy once, and this is what she said about him after they broke up" insight bracket.
Garcia offers a 12-Step program for men, which feels like an afterthought, and insults men with suggestions that they "Admit [we] have a problem," "Apologize," "Admit mistakes" but to "Never Blame Women." He refuses to look honestly or thoughtfully about the way women wield their new power, and shames men who do by calling them "unmanly." In doing so, Guy Garcia reveals himself a media-saavy opportunist, trying to make a buck off The Decline of Men by expanding his claim to expertise as a speaker and media consultant who helps corporate clients interpret the new marketplace, without offending or challenging women (likely his potential clients) in any way. The Decline of Men flatters the egos of women, and offers no real direction for men beyond some sort of New Age awakening to grateful goddess worship and uncritical subservience. Garcia's 12 Steps might as well be condensed to three: Stay Male, Fail and Obey.
(Edited from a longer review first published at The-Spearhead.com) ...more
So many “scientific” books about people written for a general audience turn out to be ideological propaganda with a sprinkle of “science.” This book sSo many “scientific” books about people written for a general audience turn out to be ideological propaganda with a sprinkle of “science.” This book seems to have written by a vegetarian, feminist and pacifist male who nevertheless manages to fill a good 200 pages with a no-nonsense discussion of the more brutal aspects of human nature and chimpanzee nature. You really get the sense that Richard and/or Dale would rather humans (and chimps) were more naturally peaceful, but were forced by the evidence at hand to admit that humans aren’t noble savages, that they’ve probably always been male-bonded and violent, and that they have more in common with murdering, raiding chimpanzees than is palatable to peace-minded moderns. For anyone interested in men, masculinity, violence or human nature, this is very well written and well-worth the read for the evidence presented. It is, rarely enough, science with a sprinkle of ideology at the end.
The authors put women and bonobos on a pedestal, and wrap up with some grasping at straws (ranging from breeding out violent men – eugenics by another name – and some kind of New World Order one world government) and wishful thinking (albeit pessimistic wishful thinking). Their ideas could be referred to as “The Bonobo Theory” or “The Bonobo Project,” because the theme seems to be that if bonobos could evolve into a more matriarchal, peaceful society – then so could humans. The main problem with this is that for males, being a Bonobo sounds like a pretty crappy hen-pecked lifestyle, and the isolated Bonobos would in all likelihood be picked off easily by a group of raiding chimpanzees. Humans are not isolated. There are almost 7 billion of them. SWPLs are eventually going to figure out that the end result of their moralizing and environmental asceticism is that they will simply be bred out or conquered. The world is still full of people with the will to live who will gladly take the pie from those who are not eating it, and who will see the advantage in NOT becoming bonobos. ...more