Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: The Way of Men by Jack Donovan

I figured I'd read this book based on recommendations by bloggers I respect, like Aurini and Matt Forney.

Years ago, I read one of Rabbi Daniel Lapin's "Thought Tools" emails in which he said the Hebrew word for "male" is the same as the word for "memory". He said that is because it takes a man to make a man. Being a man isn't something most of us can "figure out". We usually have an example set for us by other men that we emulate. I have had some inferior examples, so as I've gone on my journey, I've looked for good ones.

My dad is a good man, but not the best example of how to be a man. He worked and fulfilled his commitments. He let my mom walk all over him, which was about the only example I had when I entered into my own marriage, which didn't end well. He was afraid to be in charge of people, something I'm glad I've overcome in my career.

Donovan begins his analysis of the way of men by breaking things down to the lowest possible level: a gang, facing hardship such as economic collapse, the zombie apocalypse, etc. He discusses how we can only form close bonds with a few people, and our social connections become unmanageable after about 150. Men fighting in a fire team have a close and fierce loyalty to each other, while they have less of a connection to the battalion or division. At that level, it becomes an abstract.

Donovan examines the "Tactical Virtues", or the most basic virtues associated with manhood. He says these are the "alpha virtues" of men all over the world. He defines them as:

Strength- Sure, women can be strong too. But a man without strength is not considered masculine. A woman lacking strength does not take a hit to the perception of her femininity the way a man lacking strength would take a hit to his masculinity.

Courage- Donovan describes courage as kinetic, as the initiation of movement, action, or fortitude. He says "courage implies a risk. It implies a potential for failure or the presence of danger. Courage is measured against danger." He summarizes it as "Courage is the will to risk harm in order to benefit oneself or others. In its most basic amoral form, courage is a willingness or passionate desire to fight or hold ground at any cost (gameness, heart, spirit, thumos). In its most developed, civilized and moral form courage is the considered and decisive willingness to risk harm to ensure the success or survival of a group or another person."

Mastery- Summarized as "Mastery is a man's desire and ability to cultivate and demonstrate proficiency and expertise in technics that aid in the exertion of will over himself, over nature, over women, and over other men".

Honor- Honor is defined by Donovan as it relates to the masculine ethos: "Honor is a man's reputation for strength, courage, and mastery within the context of an honor group comprised primarily of other men". Honor also has a masculine virtue component: "Honor is a concern for one's reputation for strength, courage, and mastery within the context of an honor group comprised primarily of other men".

Next is a section called "On Being A Good Man". In it, Donovan starts a discussion about what happens when you ask men what it takes to be a real man. Most men will begin talking about what it means to be a good man. But most of these men, when asked what their favorite movies are, will say things like "Godfather" and "Fight Club", movies where the main character is hardly a "good man", but is a ruthless psychopath. None of us would get very far in real life following those examples.

Rabbit Trail: I noticed this during the primaries for the last Presidential selection. I pay little attention to which psychopath the voters choose to represent each party, but somehow I stumbled across a debate involving the Republicrats desiring the nomination. It must have been a Daily Show clip. In any case, they were asked what their favorite movie was, and just about all of them said the same thing: movies like Godfather. If I were up there, I'd probably say something like "Lord of the Rings Trilogy", because that is my favorite. I've since been curious what that says about me, and what that says about men who prefer the psychopathic main characters. I liked Godfather and Fight Club for what they were, but I didn't take either as an example of how to live my life or what kind of man I should be. I'd much rather be Aragorn or Frodo or Samwise Gamgee than Tyler Durden.

Donovan continues the discussion that however psychopathic the men in these movies are, they are not unmanly. They are concerned with tactics, business, and bonds. They are definitely more exciting than a cubicle wage slave like myself.

Donovan discusses the difference between being a good man, and being good at being a man. The best I can summarize this is:

Being a good man is concerned more with virtues from philosophy, religion, and ethics. It is being noble and well-behaved.

Being good at being a man is concerned with a man's place in a survival scenario. Can you build, hunt, stand watch, keep the bad guys out? Can you fight? Are you the kind of man other men would want covering their backs when the shit hits the fan?

Rabbit trail: I've been watching the show "Gold Rush Alaska" on Amazon lately. In the first season, there was a man named Dorsey who went to Alaska. Dorsey seemed like a nice guy, like a good man. But in the context of the mining operation, he didn't seem to be good at being a man. He had no mechanical aptitude. Everything he touched caused more work for everybody else. He complained and threw temper tantrums. Eventually, he left to return to Oregon. I see him in this context as a good man who, at least in that scenario, was not good at being a man. At least, not good at being the kind of man the other men needed at their back in a mining operation.

Donovan says that in a survival scenario, a man who is not good at being a man may not live long enough to be concerned with being a good man.

Not much in the rest of the book stood out to me as worth the time to recount in this review, although I did enjoy it. There is some content that was removed from this book for efficiency available as a free pdf download called "No Man's Land". This is apparently Donovan's review of other works on manhood.

I highly recommend "The Way of Men". It is a good book. As a secular work, I rank it higher than John Eldredge's "Wild At Heart".

You can help me through my divorce and fukenfurloren by buying it from my Amazon Affiliate account:

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