The Rise of the Lone Wolf

Rise Of The Lone Wolf

It’s been interesting to see how the perception of the “lone wolf” (social context, not terrorism) has changed over the years.

The lone wolf is often seen as a romantic figure. If you’re a Western man, particularly Australian or American, you know what I mean. We think of The Man With No Name and Mad Max, trappers and wilderness explorers like Jedidiah Smith and Jim Bridger, stereotypical rugged masculine loners who come in and save the day before vanishing. We admire and crave the independence and self-reliance they convey. They are unattached, uncontrollable, and free from expectations or social restraints. They live life on their own terms.

Others before me have highlighted some problems with this image. It’s great to watch in a film, but loners in the real world aren’t quite as appealing. Humans are social creatures, and to reject all social ties in favor of unbridled individual liberty is to renounce some natural inhibitions. As much as men love the lone wolf, they also love the idea of brotherhood and friendship. The dichotomy reflects competing values men must balance; maintaining their individual identity within a collective group while assimilating into it.

Lone wolves are frequently anti-social and suffer from psychological problems – for the record, this isn’t the same as being introverted and in need of quiet space to recharge. You may admire loners for their skills and knowledge necessary to maintain their lifestyle, but chances are you wouldn’t like them or want to get a beer with them.

Inasmuch as lone wolves are commonly depicted in entertainment within historical times, the truth is that such men were very rare, if they existed at all. Every hermit you’ve ever heard of wasn’t truly “alone” and had people bring them the equivalent of care packages. Henry David Thoreau didn’t forsake civilization. He just spent a lot of time away from it at Walden, but when it was needed he didn’t turn it down. Dick Proenneke from the documentary Alone in the Wilderness wasn’t truly alone; a friend paid regular visits and flew in supplies and material, and he traveled back to see family.

Lone wolves were more akin to King Nebeuchanezzar from the Bible: men reduced to an animal-like state and societal outcasts.

The Rise Of The Lone Wolf
King Nebuchadnezzar – a true lone wolf.

At the same time, I suspect we will see more and more men adopt a lone wolf lifestyle for a variety of reasons. As we shift away from a crypto-matriarchal society toward an avowed one, men will be discouraged more and more from forming any meaningful relations in whatever male-only environments are left.

The destruction of male spaces has robbed men of the critical opportunity to build strong rapport and deeper connections with each other in a masculine manner. Any attempts to do so in converged spaces are opposed by enforcers of the matriarchy who ensure that male behavior is first filtered through the feminine. In other words, men will only be allowed to build relations with each other if the feminine imperative is first acknowledged, and typically that is by conforming to the female preferred form of communication and interaction. Masculine men will have fewer and fewer chances to befriend each other without either repressing themselves or having someone else restrict how they express themselves.

What often gets overlooked is the true cost of this convergence. Much of our lives is a continuity of things that happened before us that we inherit, from infrastructure to educational legacies. Robbing men of these spaces cuts them off from that continuity, from establishing the kind of plain, yet important social networks that are more valued than one might imagine. Like trees, men are sturdier and resilient when the roots go deep.

Some may say “build your own spaces,” but such sentiment is unrealistic in almost all cases. Doing something new requiring not only money and time, but without established rules, customs and traditions you risk endless debate and feuds over how it should be and look. Further, it takes the kind of collaboration men today really seem to be incapable of doing. At best, modern men are either maintenance workers or amateurs; they are capable of maintaining an institution or slowing the degradation, but they’re not construction workers or architects.

The easier response to the destruction of male spaces is to simply check out. Fellow masculine geek Aaron Clarey has documented his futile efforts to play D&D with people in real life, and I’m sure most of you reading this have had similar frustrating experiences.

The second element is that if you’re an emotionally mature man you’ll find paltry few companions. With the matriarchy comes juvenile behavior. If anyone has doubts about the childishness of the average Western adult, social media can dispel that within a few clicks. Add in more and more boys raised without a father and in a female-dominated education system, and you get passive aggressive, snarky, whiny, weak, soft, soy-faced boys who talk and act like high school freshman girls. To be sure, the older generation of men have their fair share of issues I’ve experienced.

I’ve described before some traits that are indicative of emotionally immature men, and one dysfunctional trait to add is the profound inability to make small compromises for a greater gain. Too often I see men with a short-term thinking, “my way or the highway” mindset that makes long-term planning or collaboration impossible. This kind of overly-assertive behavior perhaps makes sense if we’re discussing Game, but not within the realm of male interaction.

I can’t help but add that a lot of men possess micro-managing, control-freak tendencies. Everyone wants to be the chef in the kitchen, the captain of the ship, the director of the film, etc. The increasing number of gamma males who despise the natural hierarchy just add to the misery.

Not to belabor the point, but it needs to be said: A lot of men are broken inside, and I’m beginning to see this even in the eyes of young men. Sometimes it’s their own fault, other times they’ve suffered profound injustices. Whatever caused it, they’ve lost their idealism and hope. They have a sense of insipid resignation only repressed by anger and bitterness. They have the desperation of a drowning victim whose head never goes beneath the water’s surface, but only a fool accepts their pleas to get in the water with them. I suspect their numbers will grow as the war on masculinity intensifies all the more.

Eventually, men who want to accomplish something within a group but suffer disappointment after disappointment decide to go on their own, limitations and all. It’s where I’ve found myself often enough, and it kills me to think of what could have been, had more men involved been capable of the maturity and perseverance.

Further, when you do encounter men who are emotionally mature, it’s likely in a context-specific environment. They may or may not live near you, but they don’t work the same job, and their career could take them elsewhere tomorrow. I’ve had this happen with close friends of mine on more than one occasion. As much as the Internet allows for instant communication, it will never replace real-life interaction.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and in most cases a friend who lives next door will have a stronger connection to you than the friend who has more in common but lives two states away. The only exception is if you put in the effort with the online friendships, which most can’t or won’t. Men will also be reluctant to pull out from their current location and move somewhere else; the only examples I can think of is if there is a strong, deep friendship based on significant mutual life experience such as combat.

Aside from the effects of feminism and matriarchy on men, I wonder if driving the lone wolf mindset is that male individualism is a luxury afforded by civilization that would be otherwise restricted by necessity. As much as my libertarian-inclined friends may protest, the hyper-individualism expressed through the life of a lone wolf requires Big Government to ensure their safety. Whether he likes it or not, a man relies on the State today for whatever he may have dependent on from a tribe or the church in Medieval times, but the loyalty and obedience he must offer in return does not bring with it any fellowship.

In the ancient world, there were no lone wolves. You didn’t survive outside the big group. Teamwork was required to stay alive.  But nothing really monumental happens when that classic car club you wanted to start goes nowhere, or the weekly tabletop game night at your house dies after one or two sessions due to flaking or petty disagreements.

Rollo Tomassi made an observation that I think gets at the heart of this dynamic.

I’ve seen this phenomenon myself. When life is in danger, the modern LARPing that is our society and culture gives way to reality. Like the saying there’s no atheist in a foxhole, there’s no egalitarians in a natural disaster.

The troubling conclusion is that traditional masculinity requires a degree of peril or risk the State has sought diligently to eliminate. Danger or risk is also needed to keep men committed to one another within a modern “tribe.” Necessity is the mother of invention, but it is also a vital element for maintaining a collective group. What binds men together the most is enduring hardship together, and few will undergo suffering if it isn’t needed.

It is simply too easy now for men to abandon commitments and move thousands of miles away and have virtually no consequences for it. As Captain Ramius noted in Hunt For Red October, “when he reached the New World, Cortes burned his ships – as a result, his men were well motivated.”

Either way, masculine men face the probability their future is to a large degree that of a lone wolf with intermittent bouts of fellowship. Some will manage to stay within a tight-knit pack, and that is both a blessing and commendable. But many will not, even though they don’t see themselves as such.

I don’t say any of this in celebration or lament, but to help men, particularly those just starting out in life, adopt realistic expectations about a world they didn’t create but must navigate.

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