Monday, August 21, 2017

The Curse of the Unwilling Beta

Sacchi Green

Warning! I’m jumping the shark here, going off in a direction that doesn’t fit the intent of our theme at all, but this has been so much on my mind lately that I need to vent.

I totally agree that men we might consider betas rather than alphas can be very appealing, but usually, I’m guessing, only when they‘re secure in who they are and not obsessed with ranking systems like alpha and beta.

It’s occurred to me before, and has become even more apparent with the alt-right/white supremacist/nazi demonstrations lately, that men who are drawn to these political groups are struggling to climb from an unwilling beta status to alphas, however they may define the terms. They feel victimized, unrespected, somehow oppressed even if they have to make up straw-man oppressors, and are easily convinced that their “white” status should qualify them as alphas. If they had any other source of pride, like skills, intelligence, good jobs, they wouldn’t have as much need to try for respect—including self-respect—on the basis of their color and ethnicity. The problem is compounded by the almost universal concern with hyper-masculinity, with what they think defines a “real man.”

This also applies to those few immigrants, almost entirely males, who are attracted to extremist groups and terrorism when they can’t manage to get the respect they crave in their new country and culture. I thought of this in connection with the Boston Marathon bombers. The younger brother was getting along fairly well, in college, with friends, but he was till under the influence of the older brother who hadn’t managed to get jobs that would provide respect.

There are plenty of other factors involved in these situations, like upbringing, cultural differences, psychological tendencies, and unfortunate experiences, but if there’s one uniting force it’s an internalized feeling of being unjustly deprived of respect. And to make things worse, they feel unjustly deprived of sex, which leads to misogyny and harassment and sometimes violence against women.

I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but I read that one of the enticements offered to get participants to join the goulish demonstration in Virginia last week was the promise that “chicks” would be attracted to men standing up for their “white” rights. In short, that the men would be alphas, no longer betas. One of the main organizers, the one who’s been most interviewed and quoted, was full of swagger and what he clearly thought was manly appeal, but later did the odd thing of filming himself whining and almost crying over the fact that he might be arrested, and nobody would give him a job. Then someone dug up his profile on a major dating website. Apparently he didn’t have a girlfriend, and strutting around preaching white supremacy didn’t seem to be helping his sex life at all.

I don’t see a cure for any of this. It doesn’t help to point out that the lack of good jobs these days is due more to automation than to immigrants getting the jobs. People who feel victimized need to identify victimizers, however wrongly. And young men who cant get laid—at least not by the blonde Hollywood types of girls they’ve been conditioned to think are the only ones desirable—need to claim some reasons apart from the fact that they themselves haven’t managed to be desirable to girls. Their desperate need for self-respect may be even more powerful than their need for respect from others. Doing away with our cultural ranking of men according to how well they meet strict masculinity requirements, among them alpha-ness as opposed to beta-ness, might help, but that’s not going to happen. I guess we should be glad that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone to go farther down the Greek alphabet in ranking men.

That’s enough wild speculation. I know we meant some entirely different definition of beta for this week’s theme, and I apologize for going so far afield. Chalk it up to news overload and far too “interesting” times, okay?


  1. I don't think this is a wild theory at all. I remember reading that the guy who shot up the theater in the Joker costume (so many, many terrorist incidents ago) used to complain on Facebook about the fact that he couldn't get a date.

    Actually, this gives me an idea for a story. "Terrorist Therapy".

  2. In my antiques business I would often attend gun shows to find ethnographic weapons designed and manufactured so competently that they fell in the realm of art. I look for such things where they're not supposed to be. But that's beside the point, just explaining why I was at a gun show in the first place. :>)

    Anyhoo, I would notice how many purveyors of such items were compromised, either physically, and (considering the attendant literature) emotionally/mentally. Some were deformed, confined to wheelchairs, so what you're saying rings true.


    A true alpha is a measured, responsible leader who protects his fold. Definitely not the hangers-on we saw in Charlottesville.

  3. When I think of these things I think of tribe. As a species, we come from a specific place. Our ancestors were/still are, pack hunting predators, like wolves or lions. We had our alpha male who got all the babes and then there were the rest of us. But we survived as a an intensely tribal species. I think so much of the violence as well as the goodness in this world comes from this element of tribe. A good tribe can give you wings. A bad tribe can leave blood on your hands.

    Men have always sought acceptance in the eyes of men and women, seeking to prove themselves to their people as manly men. But there are no initiation rituals anymore such as primitive tribes had, that could define the substantial line to cross over and officially no longer be a boy and now officially be a man.

    Politicians have exploited this by playing up the idea to white men, especially the disenfranchised, that no matter how beat down they may seem at least they're not black. So they could feel superior to someone. It's very hard to change that thinking. I think it is changing but a lot of the violence and terrorism comes from young men who no longer feel sure what it is to be a man until someone comes along and defines it to them.


  4. I thunk your comments are spot on. It's long been known that bullies are insecure, and make themselves feel better by picking on those they perceive to be even weaker. A true 'alpha', whatever that may mean, definitely doesn't need to prove it by swaggering about and attacking defenceless communities. Even the act of laying claim to the 'supremacy' status demonstrates the underlying lack of conviction. I could feel sympathy for such individuals if they weren't so bloody dangerous

  5. We all know that the whole alpha/beta thing comes from wolf-pack terminology, but I've seen reports lately that close observation of wolves has shown that the alpha male is alpha because he's the father of the group, and the alpha female is the mother. I don't know whether this is accurate, and how things work when the parents get too old to hunt and the children become adults with mates. New packs, I guess, for the kids, and solitary decline for the parents.

  6. To further comment on what Garce said, I've also read that there are theories that the prevalence of DNA that is NOT the alpha's in packs proves that when the alpha was away doing whatever it is he did all day, the beta males would creep around the hen house and see if any of the hens were up for a little bit on the side.

    There is also a theory that part of the reason that younger men "pop off" so fast is that they had to...the alpha male could return at any time. If they were going to have any chance at all to spread their seed, they had to be quick about it. The alpha could afford to take his time, and as the older male, he would most certainly have been forced to by his own biology.

    On a side note, I used to do home daycare for after school when my kids were much younger. We often had black kids in the house, since the school was very mixed, with 15-20% of the kids speaking another language at home. At the beginning of each school year, I'd have "the talk" around the kitchen table over brownies and milk, about how we don't allow prejudice in our house. If the only thing you have to be proud of is the only thing in your life you had no control over: what color you dropped out of your mother, then you are a sad waste of skin and oxygen. By all means, be proud of your skills, your nature, your abilities to do anything. But if whiteness is all you have, I feel sorry for you. The world has largely passed you by, and you will be a forgotten relic in the anals (purposely misspelled) of history.

  7. This brings to mind a quote I once heard:

    The patriarchy isn't going to fuck itself.

    These "men" are clinging on to antiquated and misinformed definitions of what they believe it is to be a man or to be masculine. (This is, of course, putting aside the fallacy of the notion of gender roles to begin with.) We'll be much better off when these assholes are gone.


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