Review: The Way of Men

February 1, 2017

Over the course of this blog, I will try to lay out concise reviews and recommendations for books that will serve the purpose of the Cascade Legion: namely, to help each other stay strong, to learn, grow, and fight to both manifest and defend our values, including (but not limited to) strength, competence, and a good sense of humor.

The recommendations will vary in genre, length, and style, both to keep things balanced and to keep the books from feeling monotonous. You should be seeing both ancient classics and contemporary edginess in the coming months. The more you read, the more in tune you'll be with the group. And if I'm doing my job, the better, more awesome of a life you'll have.

In that vein, and in light of recent political events, the Cascade Legion book for January is Jack Donovan's The Way of Men.



In this short but powerful work of anthropology and philosophy, Donovan lays out the historical foundation for where masculinity came from, what elements are universal, and why they are still relevant today. His conclusion is that all nations and tribes, throughout history and today, have valued and required four virtues out of men:


1. Strength - Physical strength, and grit, or "gameness"

2. Courage - The psychological fortitude to do unpleasant tasks that may be required of you

3. Mastery - Competence and skill required to perform your job within a group

4. Honor - Caring about what other members of your group think of you, and being answerable to their opinion


These virtues apply to whatever particular job you may have for your group. If you do not have a job within your group, or if you do not have a group at all, then you may understandably feel alone, insecure, unprotected, in our increasingly hostile and divided world. You may feel like a lone mercenary, a gun-for-hire, in an environment increasingly distrustful of those without time-proven loyalties. The four tactical virtues are not merely guides for behavior and habit-development within your job or within your group, but also guides for making yourself an attractive worker and group member in the first place. They are the universal standard by which groups of men judge members and potential members.


But there is a deeper reason which Donovan elucidates, both in The Way of Men and in his shorter essay, "Violence is Golden." That is that every man, whether in reality, or merely in the deep, subconscious minds of the men and women around him, is expected to fight to protect his group, should the need for fighting arise. Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor, are all valuable and worthwhile virtues in an employee, but there are many other important virtues, like compassion, timeliness, openness to experience, and curiosity, which can be as useful as the tactical virtues, and in certain situations even more so. But in combat, the need for all those nice, extra qualities goes right out the window. What you need is to be surrounded by people who are strong, who are courageous, who are competent, and trustworthy. When bullets are flying, intelligence, compassion, and moral or religious righteousness are worthless at best, and liabilities at worst.


This is not to say that you should not be intelligent, kind, and well-versed in moral philosophy. As Donovan himself says, "Men of ideas and men of action have much to learn from each other, and the truly great men are men of both action and abstraction." But the point of the book is that being a man of abstraction and of ideas--the kindly, intelligent, and moral man--is not the most important thing. Being a "good man" is important, but not as important as "being good at being a man." The latter is a necessary foundation for identity, for providing value to other people as a man, and for finding genuine happiness in yourself. It is this concrete notion of the substance of masculinity which has been mercilessly attacked in our culture and in our media, simultaneously denied and derided.


The Way of Men can help you see this poisonous message, and by identifying it, learn to ignore it. It can help you pursue your own interests through the tactical virtues that men have always pursued their interests across time, and become not only the sort of person that the Cascade Legion wants you to be, but that you want to be.

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