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Every Man is a Nation-Builder
The functional purpose of masculinity
Any “men’s interest” magazine will confirm that the genre contains only 4 categories:
Zero-sum competition (sports, business, politics, dating)
Amplification of mechanical force (vehicles, tools, strength training)
Exploration (technology, history, discovering new frontiers)
One can make the strong argument that 4 exists to inform 3, which helps perform in 2, for the sake of getting 1.
We share this drive to spread our genes with all sexual species.
Males are armed with the interest and ability to leave their imprint next generation.
But we are not fish who simply “spray and pray”. Nor are we gorillas who can only protect our progeny through immediate brute force.
Humans are complicated. Baby humans are particularly vulnerable and require a lot of energy to make it to the next generation.
Man has the unique ability to create structures that can protect and provide for his dependents in his absence. They can continue to support his descendants even long after his death.
These structures form a perimeter around his dependents. This perimeter contains them and allows them to safely interact with the outside world.
As women contribute the absolute most important role within the perimeter, creating and nurturing life; The social function of the human male is to build the perimeter.
There are two components of the perimeter:
Material— Food, shelter, security, direct relationships, common genes.
Abstract (Spiritual)— Beliefs, values, morality, collective identities, common memes (a.k.a. culture).
The material component obviously takes priority. (If someone is physically breaking into your home, you are unlikely worrying about politics or the stock market.) But the for most human life, the abstract component matters much more.
One rarely has to consider the material perimeter because of the abstract perimeter.
Said differently, the abstract perimeter determines the strength of the material perimeter.
The money in your bank account (abstract) determines how much food and shelter (material) you can purchase.
The nation-state you live in (abstract) determines the general safety, social services, and economic goods available to you (material).
The values you live by (abstract) determine the actions you take in reality (material).
Therefore in order to provide a secure material perimeter, man must create or support a useful abstract perimeter.
The abstract perimeter is made up of memes.
Memes are units of culture— Ideas, values, beliefs, morals, identities. (Yes, Internet jokes count too.)
As genes become prominent through natural selection, memes become prominent when “carried on” by surviving individuals.
But memes aren’t passed on through sperm meeting egg. Memes are passed on through action and observation.
So in upholding the perimeter, every man’s conduct, in some way, is contributing to the well-being of the next generation.
When a collection of memes becomes sufficiently stable, it becomes a defined culture.
And when a group unites behind a culture, it becomes a nation.
A successful perimeter forms a Nation.
A nation is group united by abstract commonalities to the point of collective identity.
Historian Benedict Anderson calls nations “Imagined Communities” since they believe themselves to be connected even though they don’t know each other personally. But that doesn’t mean the connection isn’t real.
By having enough memes in common (especially morals and perceptions) they can operate in unison. This allows them to take collective action that’s greater than any one person can take alone.
The advancement of nations impacted humanity more than any other abstractions. Familial tribes that couldn’t to grow into nations were inevitably conquered by those that could. (viz Episode II: Chiefs to Kings)
The memes that create nations are more important than genes beget strength or any other positive attribute. Peoples have risen and fallen based on their men’s ability to further useful memes.
Nation-building is the primary function of man.
The male interests mentioned above are essentially components of nation-building.
Reproduction— of both people and ideas
Out-competing other peoples and ideas
Using tools and tactics to amplify competitive edge
Discovering or developing new tools and tactics
The male instinct to spread genes also applies to the spreading of memes.
The average man may not father a literal nation, but these activities are still universally fulfilling to men because we’re encoded with the software to create memetic legacy (some perceivable contribution to humanity).
In other words, nation-building activities hit the same primal reward system in men as reproduction activities.
In fact, if you have a family then you definitely better see yourself as a nation builder— A family is only functional to the degree that it is united in values, identity, and perceptions. Inversely, a dysfunctional family is one that only shares common genes but cannot take collective action to their lack of shared memes.
A nation-builder is one who passes on memes that allows the next generation to survive and thrive.
In turn, the success of nations depend on how individual men pass on the memes the allow the furtherment of life.
Useful memes— values, ideas, perceptions, patterns of behavior— are the most important mark a man can leave. And that is done, in some way, through every action we take.
But we don’t own our memes.
The genes your father passed you didn’t originate with him. He received them from the previous generation. He simply repeated the process of his ancestors in contributing to the circle of life.
Likewise, the memes we pass on don’t originate with us, even if we contribute useful mutations. We each are simply a node in an infinite chain.
The ideas, values, and patterns of behavior that allow man to excel come from branches of the infinite game tree of those who have come before us.
That’s why it’s important to read up on history ;)
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Episode I: Sticks and Stones covers the creation of masculine memes in the Stone Age.
Episode II: Chiefs to Kings covers the move from personal tribal dynamics to abstract nation-building/statecraft in the Bronze Age.
Episode III: With Your Shield or On It will cover the necessary tradeoffs of values that some would call “culture wars” via the Greco-Persian Wars and Hellenistic Age.
I know Episode III has been a long time coming. I’m in the process of moving my family across the world. It will be out soon.
I appreciate your support so far.
Dating is a zero-sum game in the sense of male-male competition in a culturally monogamous society. (If a woman is with Man 1, she cannot be with Man 2).
Ideally the game is positive-sum between the men and women. (Both partners are better off together than alone.)
Non-monogamous situations can throw off the payoffs, sometimes creating negative sum games (in the case of infidelity). Genetically though, it’s still zero sum. (Only one sperm can enter a given egg.)
Korzybski calls the human ability to build off of the ideas of dead men “time-binding” since it requires one to perceive events from other times.