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Men and Violence
A Spiritual Outlook on Men's Desire to Fight and Kill, Noble Causes, and the Abuse of Masculine Virtue
There’s a very popular book called “On Killing” by Dave Grossman. I haven’t read it but I’m familiar with its thesis: that men actually don’t want to kill one another in direct combat and must therefore be brutally trained to overcome this hesitation for the purposes of war. Unlike some you might follow, I’m not one to review or talk about a book I never read, but this idea is something I’ve wanted to attack for a while regardless. It’s built upon a myriad of modern-day myths about men, violence, and war; riddled with inconsistencies and this vapid need to bleach history for the sake of convincing men that they’re something they aren’t. Many of the tragic mental health issues and their consequences, I suspect, come from this veil of lies that’s been pulled over the eyes of men from early childhood, especially those of a religious background. I do not speak from scientific sources, or studies, or any medical jargon. This is written for men who believe the decree of God to reign over all, and my analysis takes ultimately that into account:
Cain and Abel
Disclaimer: I use my perspective as a Muslim to go through all of this, but any monotheist should be familiar with this.
The story of the first murder of Cain killing his brother in a fit of rage, is the archetypal story of lack of emotional control leading to disastrous consequences. He does it after a build-up of resentment when his sacrifice is rejected, when his lackluster efforts to appeal to God are shown to be not enough. Cain does not know what it means to kill. He is not familiar with violence and death, and his actions result from an outburst of emotion that did not originate from rational thought. When teachers of children go over this story in schools, whether Islamic, Catholic, or otherwise; many convey whether by accident or not as if the devil directly whispered to Cain what to do to satisfy his bloodlust. The truth, of course, was not that Cain was motivated by the devil directly to commit the act of murder, but merely to succumb to his nafs1, and do what came naturally to him when rational thought removed itself from the equation. The result was a violent death, one he was left stunned and clueless to deal with after the deed was done.
This story alone is a clear indication that violence and murder are as natural to man as any of his other desires, all that separates it from his inclination to eat, drink, and have sex is that there’s a much greater threshold needed to achieve that deed. It’s a lot to us, but not that much harder a job of persuasion for the devil.
We don’t have a full saga of Cain’s reflections and ruminations for weeks, months, or even years after he killed his brother. We know from the Quranic story that he panicked, that Allah needed to send two birds with one dying in front of him to show how a burial is properly done so he may conceal his great sin, but once that is over and he is separated from the rest of his siblings, that’s it. It’s clear theologically what he did was sinful, but as usual, what is conveyed the most from this story on the part of those who teach it today is not the nuance of what led to the act, but a broad brush that paints the act itself as the culprit regardless of circumstance.
This is an obvious, pedantic point, but it’s necessary to make this distinction from the start. Cain’s sin was not that he took a life, it was that he took the life of his own kin, and that he did so for an unjustifiable reason motivated by greed and emotion. In other words, killing itself is still on the table. Just as food is a blessing that is sinful to indulge in, and sex is a pleasure that can easily be perverted and done out of bounds, the great act of taking a life is a tool - it just needs to be used well, and with justified intention. So, when is it justified?
Dave Grossman’s work portrays a universal, false assumption that men by nature abhor killing. Fighting is fine you see, but that one stroke that takes a life is what really does us in, that causes all the PTSD and depression that has claimed the lives of thousands of veterans across recent years, who fought undoubtedly in wars that any well-read person today knows were government-organized scams motivated by a lust for money and power. His main work, On Killing, is based around the famous S.L.A Marshall ratio study, that only 15-20% of soldiers in WW2 fired their weapons, a number that through different training tactics put into place by the U.S. military was brought up to 90% in the Vietnam War.
A lot of doubts about his methodology arose, but that is not my focus. I do not have a meticulous analysis about why he’s wrong. I refuse to engage in the academia tier analyses of men in stuffed shirts. Rather, I believe he was on to something by accident, even if his stats were incorrect: men in the modern age are far less willing to fight wars, in far fewer numbers and with less enthusiasm, than ever before. The scientists and military top brass from this same era of warfare were aware of this problem, but they did not look at it as a spiritual one; to them it was a calculation, a numbers issue that can be bumped up. Instead of depending on manly virtue to have their soldiers kill relentlessly, as commanders have done for millennia, they turned it into a muscle memory reaction.
Taking another life is no small thing. To do so in a situation of life or death, or under threat of annihilation from another army shakes the spirit of a man to the core. But since the beginning of time societies that perfected war (like the Ancient Greeks, the Mongols, or the Muslims during their peak times) man was braced, mentally and spiritually, with a divine purpose for committing such a deed. To spill blood such became a sacred act, a ritual that made a boy a man when he finally felt the thrill of fighting a worthy adversary.
Man within him, from the moment of birth, has the seed of masculine virtue within him. For some men this seed is bigger, some smaller; across mankind the fruits this seed may later bear are different in color and texture. But it’s there, and it depends on the developed virtue of the men who came before to guide its growth and - most importantly - not to abuse that virtue once it has grown. What we have today, sadly, are vandalizing scum who freely swing over this tree’s branches, deface it with their claws for fun, piss on it, then when they become bored cut it down and parade the mutilated trunk with crocodile tears in their soulless eyes. If you were this type of virtuous tree, with a consciousness that became aware of the fact that you would later suffer this exact fate, how motivated would you be to grow big and sturdy? To allow your branches to extend as far as they could, and produce abundant fruit for the village you grow in?
The problem today with the broken down, abused soldier who cannot take in or process what they do is complex, but it’s root causes are simple. Some may point to an evolution in cultures and attitudes, to a general softening in men down to the biological level, but to deny the spiritual is a fatal mistake. War will never leave us; it will remain on this earth until God brings it’s end and begins the Day of Judgement. But rather than acknowledge this fact, we decided after a certain number of wars that we were better than our nature; that we now have the freedom to tear down things like religion, masculinity, and ancient traditions because we’ll “never have a war like that again”. It’s like the commander who opens the gates of his fort after a victorious defense, thinking they will never suffer a siege that bad again.
What happened instead was wars continued, even in their differed form, but with none of the traditions or values that once made them worthwhile for the man, that at one point rose him to the glory of ancient heroes that inspired him like Achilles and Perseus or motivated him with the same divine rewards promised to his fighting ancestors since childhood, when they swung swords and shields of wood and leather.
The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) was the latest example of this. Unlike Vietnam, there was no draft that compelled those young men to join in droves and fight. They had been convinced and manipulated by the ruling cabal that this was a worthy cause, that their families and values were threatened, and after a devastating, unthinkable direct attack that they were taking righteous revenge against its perpetrators. It does not matter where you stand politically, the reality is that this is what happened. A certain level of manly virtue had reprised in the young men of that age, and it was flagrantly abused in the worst ways possible.
I don’t know about you guys, but no vet that I know expected to be placed in the kind of humiliating, pointless, and absurd situations they were put in, and for as long. No nineteen-year-old man from Appalachia signed up to stand guard at poppy flower fields under the scorching sun. No seasoned warrior thought he’d have to grovel and cry in front of a village chief to ‘apologize’ for one of his men blowing up a child. Many young people today who were not the victims of these wars, instead of casting blame on the gerontocracy that modeled this modern-day hell for both warrior and civilian, cast it instead on the soldiers themselves. There are indeed war criminals, psychos, etc. but these are not who I’m referring to. These are men who show us combat at its absolute worst; not when the fighting itself gets bad, not when X number of soldiers of civilians die, but when those who survive look back on their carnage and realize it was for nothing at all. Not for God, not for glory, but the greed and lust of the ghouls who hate them with a rage even greater than those they killed.
Should it be any surprise then that killing in today’s age has such devastating consequences on the heart and mind as they do, when you have the sacred act of combat degraded to a muscle-memory pull, rather than have it rely on the initiative of the fiery passion of men? I don’t exactly recall stories from Ancient Greece or the Muslims of Arabia where they cried and brooded over the men they killed in past wars. This is a more recent phenomena in human history. When they spoke of those tragedies it was to commemorate friends who died beautiful deaths, how they stood firm and brave in the face of a greater enemy and won against all odds. The reason why we celebrate men such as Ernst Junger2 as the eruption of the ancient man in the modern world is because his outlook was exactly this, despite the demonic blood sacrifice that was WW1.
The warriors of today suffer because in a way, like Junger, they are men out of time. They perform the things we schizophrenically pretend are both necessary and unecessary, and we bash them for it no matter which decision they take. Like in the recent war in Ukraine, the men forced to fight on either side are ridiculed online by obese nerds who would never face the things the former do willingly, in a conflict fabricated for the benefit of satanic oligarchs who don’t bat an eye at their sacrifice.
The question we must contend with as men today is not whether to forgo our violence, our killing, and our desire for war. These will exist for as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Rather, we must ask whether we will have what it takes to restore the virtue that comes with such tragedy, so that we may properly contend with it in our hearts and minds when the deed is done, when we wash our hands and feet of the blood and dirt so we may rejoin our loved ones for a time of peace.
Nafs: Islamic word for self, ego, psyche, etc. It is where your innermost desires originate.
For more on this specific aspect of Junger’s writing, read his main work The Storm of Steel.