Generations of Impotence, Conclusion: The Cruelty of Nerds

Like so many modern American males, the Marquis de Sade was incapable of taking pleasure in the ordinary things of life.  Morally and intellectually feeble, he wallowed in fantasies of sexual violence.  The history of civilization might be written as a series of social inventions for the proper application of violence: boxing matches, duels, warfare.  When civilizations die, men cannot fall back on the killer instincts of barbarians who control their violence.  They are like the jackdaws studied by Konrad Lorenz:  Not genetically programmed to fight and kill, they do not have the ritual off-switch to stop violence, once it has been initiated.   So, paradoxically,

When men are nerds,

They kill like birds.

Even if the killing has to be done at long-range by little girls and boys pushing buttons on all the ships at sea.

Those who have never read Konrad Lorenz imagine that he believed that man was a naturally vicious predator who could not escape the competitive violence of his bestial ancestors . On the contrary, Lorenz proved that real predators like wolves and lions were naturally programmed with social mechanisms that could bring a fight to a bloodless end.  Every dog owner has seen a beaten or dominated dog roll over, exposing its gentials, as an act of submission.  It is non-predatory creatures, such as Lorenz’s jackdaws, who will peck one another to death because they lack the necessary social inhibitions.  

Man is not wolf to man, as the Latin proverb has it, but bird to man.  Once the appetite for violence is created, only the artificial constraints of society and civilization can restrain it.  The popularity of rassling shows us that those restraints are gone.

If American males are now sissies addicted to violent fantasies, the question is: After rassling, what?  The really creative cultural entrepreneurs in our society--people like Vince McMahon, Jerry Springer, and (on a lower level) Ted Turner--understand that as our own personal lives thin out like watery batter on a hot grill, Americans are demanding real-life soap opera.  The obvious next step is rassling to-the-death as a live-audience game show.  

Reality television programs, since the 1990's, have blazed the trail towards snuff TV.  In  “Survivor” (CBS) stranded male and female contestants on a desert island off the Borneo coast, and every three days the survivors voted to expel one of their number, last man (or woman) standing to receive $1 million. This is a recipe for sexual intrigue and intimidation, and viewers tuned in hoping  that some lucky contestant would be trampled to death by a wild boar or murdered by a rival.  Survivor is in fact a rip-off of a Swedish show, “Expedition Robinson” whose first loser killed himself a month after returning from the island.  The American show, it goes without saying, was scripted.

This movement toward real-time soap opera was anticipated by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451, but it took pop-writer Stephen King to put the elements of the Game show, Rassling, and the Soap Opera together into the greatest show not yet on television: The Running Man.  In the Arnold Schwarzenneger vehicle, innocent and heroic men, vilified by their brutal government, are forced to run for their life and face a series of professional slayers, including a very campy all-American “Captain Freedom”-played by future Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura gussied up in a red-white-and blue rassling costume.  

The Running Man was made in 1987, but it has the feel of the new millennium.  If fact, nearly 20 years ago a very campy Captain Freedom, with a mind to match his foul mouth, became the political hero to millions of dispossessed and unmanned American males.  That excessive use of steroids may lead to sterility and impotence is only one more reason for America’s resentful capons to have identified with Jesse Ventura and his spiritual heirs.

I do feel sorry for the capons and still sorrier for men who turn to real-life violence in their effort to escape the caponizers and castraters.  It is difficult, perhaps impossible for young men, growing up without fathers constantly in their lives, without civilized but virile role models in popular films, to grow up either as Beto O'Rourke or  Connor McGregor.  Where once we could choose between John Wayne and William Powell, the choice is now between Tom Cruise and Matt Damon--I wish I could name someone younger, but I cannot.

The unmanned males and savage barbarians are matched by polyamorous females and the loud-mouthed brat females that are entering Congress.  But even in this darkness, it is possible to see a few gleams of hope.  Few of these creatures will be having babies, though, alas, there are plenty more in the media-controlled suburbs they came from.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    While I’m fortunate never to have watched “Survivor” or others of that ilk, I was always bemused when I hear people talk about these shows and how exciting it was to watch people “stranded” in some exotic boondocks. Stranded with what, perhaps a hundred or so production people, with watercraft and helicopters on site? Another illustration that modernity cannot cope with reality.

  2. Charles L says:

    Perhaps because I try to ignore popular culture and even politics, I did not know who Beto O’Rourke and Mike Connor McGregor are. Googling the first revealed an official portrait that — well, let’s just say that is all I needed to see. However, I am at a loss over the identity of Mike Connor McGregor.

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    Beto is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He is a New Democrat, a new catholic,a new country music affectionado and soon to be new presidential candidate for our new country. He and Ted Cruze were in a very close race last election for one of the senate seats from Texas. Both males should have a bright future in their respective political parties ( that means popular and as empty as a crushed coors light can) if Tom Fleming is correct. And of course who can deny what he has described above ??

  4. Irv Phillips says:

    I suppose we have finally reached the point at which we can now calmly and desultorily say, “Oh, yes, that’s what it’s come to” whereas in the recent past we could warn, “Y’know, if we aren’t careful….” I recall watching The Running Man in college. Thankfully for me I remember Maria Conchita Alonso’s very 80’s-esque full body suit more than just about anything else in the movie. By the way, Dr. Fleming, there was a predecessor to both the movie and King’s book: a 1970 German TV movie called Das Millionenspiel, which I came discovered some years ago. I haven’t seen it, perhaps Ray Olson has?

    Regarding the “polyamorous females” mentioned above, the blogger calling himself Audacious Epigone recently commented on Reuters polling which apparently reveals that one-fifth of all women under the age of 30 “identify” as LGBTQ+. Humpty-Dumpty ontology: “When I say what I am….”