Men were made for gangs.
As Jack Donovan rightly points out in his book, The Way of Men, there’s no way to talk about masculinity without referent to a man within a group of men. Here’s how Donovan spells it out:
Masculinity is about being a man within a group of men. Above all things, masculinity is about what men want from each other.
In other words, men need a gang. A group of men who sharpen each other, share the same core purpose & mission, and who help each other “defend the perimeter.” Men aren’t made to be loners, but instead to band together with other men, to form bonds around fighting and building.
What’s interesting is this principle: the smaller the group of men, the more close knit they become. Conversely, the larger the group, the less bonding.
In the U.S. Army, for example, research shows that smaller groups, from platoon to company size, would gladly die for each other. But that sentiment drops off pretty quickly if you get any bigger.
Men, Donovan writes, form gangs around four “tactical virtues.” These are (physical) strength, courage (bravery in the face of fear), mastery (competency, skill), and honor (reputation among your brothers).
In the end, what matters to a gang of men is that each member is committed and competent.
Loyalty (often to the death) and mastery of skills (competency).
These are the men you want by your side when the SHTF. In such a scenario, it won’t matter if you know how to order a triple-pump-soy-non-fat-macchiato in record time or perfect the art of the spreadsheet, but it will matter if you can fight off bloodthirsty enemies, pull a plow through hard ground, slit a throat, and sacrifice skillfully for the safety and well-being of the gang.
The problem with so much of the church today is that—in a world absent of daily survival-type dangers or actual fighting but overflowing with luxury and ease—we reduce masculinity to metaphorical virtues. We separate “spiritual virtues” from real life skills & competencies. That’s why we need a reclamation of what Donovan calls being good at being a man.
No group of men will respect you unless you possess real strength, courage, mastery, and honor. Doesn’t matter how deep your theological knowledge is. Doesn’t matter how sweet-like-an-angel you pray in public. Men honor those with tactical skills in manly living. This is why so many preacher-types in books and movies are portrayed as worthless and incompetent.
Can you order your own household well? Do your children respect you? Do you know how to keep a home or organization on the track to financial prosperity? Can you kill an intruder or attacker? Can you replace a disposal, patch a radiator, or help a neighbor with the irrigation pump? Do you hesitate to pull the trigger? Do you stand by while other men pull the real weight? Will you confront sin? Are you a man of action? Will you stand courageously when the outside world attacks?
These are the things men judge each other by. It’s the way of men.
Find Your Gang
A gang, Donovan says, is “a bonded, hierarchical coalition of males allied to assert their interests against external forces.”
Every man needs one. Maybe you need to start one.
While you can simply hope to fall into a gang, it’s a much better idea to pick your gang. Maybe it’s a few men from church. Maybe it’s a smattering of manly men from your community who share the same values.
Based on Donovan’s definition, one of the central tenets of the gang is defining what you’re about. What is it that gives your gang a unique identity and causes other men to rally together? What gives it the us versus them flavor? It’s a good starting place to define what you’re about.
Once you’ve done that, you can use social media, Twitter, Facebook, or email newsletters to send out “messages in a bottle” and see who responds. Who wants to be a part of what you’re doing?
But here’s the deal: it needs to be local.
You can’t form bonds when there’s 1,000 miles between you. Yes, social networking via Twitter and Facebook is important. That’s why the Hard Men Podcast exists—to help make these connections.
But the real work is turning those Internet connections into face-to-face connections. Talk to the people you meet online. Schedule face time. Plan events and activities in the real world. Get to know each other.
Because ultimately, who’s gonna have your back when the boogaloo comes? You need to find men in your local context. You need proximity, familiarity, and you need to train together. Sharpen your minds, muscles, and morals together. Go shooting. Take a backpacking trip with your sons. Start a martial arts group together. Drink beers and cigars over a game of poker.
Don’t make it primarily about leisure. Make it about sharpening and honing tactical virtues. Work and fight. Get calluses and bleed next to your gang.
One Last Thing
The church often fails to attract men because, rather than fostering a band-of-brothers mentality around tactical virtues, it reduces male interactions to gay group therapy sessions in which men are expected to tell each other about their feelings. Ugh.
Effeminate pastors trying to coax men into warm fuzzy conversations about sentiments and feelings. Yeah, that’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.
Men need a mission for meaningful work. Men need a fight. Men need a life-consuming building project. Ultimately, this is the colossal failure of those (like Donovan) in the manosphere. They rightly identify problems but fail to cast a vision for masculinity that finds its center in the kingdom-building, dominion mandate of Scripture.
Once you’ve established what the dominion mission is, who the us and them are, then you can start getting together to hone your skills. Study together, go to the gym together or for a long, grueling hike to find early season elk. Strap on your backpacks and pound the hills with your sons. Chop and stack firewood. Get together to brand or butcher cattle.
Take carbine and handgun courses together. Start an airsoft league with your buddies to train for the SHTF moment. Build a shed in someone’s backyard. Tackle a lift on a truck. Replace a set of brakes. Go 4x4ing. Take a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters for a week in the wild. Raise steers or hogs together, then have a butchering day. Replace someone’s toilet.
It can be many things. But remember two principles for your activities: Blood and dirt. Fighting and work.
Go start a gang.