There’s that thing I keep running into: the concept of “alpha male” and what it means… and I kinda have a problem with it. I think it’s mostly bullshit.
The concept entered human psychology from observations of captive wolves’ behavior, where a pack is supposedly divided into the leading pair, the alpha-male and alpha-female, who are the only reproductive pair in the pack, and the subordinate wolves who are growled and bitten into submission.
Later, it turned out that in nature, the alpha pair are the parents of all the other wolves in the pack. The reproductive ban serves to prohibit incest and the parents keep the kids in line in order to be effective hunters and to prevent all kinds of bullshit. It has nothing to do with any kind of a hierarchical organization of a pack by differentiating between the supposed leaders and the supposed followers, or supposedly strong and the supposedly weak. And it is completely unrelated to any kind of social dynamics within human communities which consist of genetically unrelated individuals.
This, however, points to the true problem: once a quasi-scientific factoid enters the noosphere (you can call it mindspace), you just can’t get rid of it anymore. We still have the “facts” that spinach contains a shitload of iron, that Neanderthals were retarded brutes with clubs, that women were oppressed by men throughout history, or that there’s enough food and other resources for everyone if just the rich didn’t hold it all to themselves.
The alpha-male theory is particularly interesting since it’s complete and utter bullshit without any foundation in either facts or reality, something akin to astrology and people identifying themselves as pisces, leones, librae or fucking unicorns for that matter. The only way you can say you’re an alpha male is if you’re a father of the family in a strictly monogamous relationship with your wife, the alpha-female, and you don’t fuck your daughters, nor do your sons fuck their mother, and children aren’t allowed to be disobedient to their parents or eat before they do. That would make an equivalent wolf-pack with an alpha-pair. Other than that, if you talk about alpha-males this or that, you’re just ignorant.
But this ignorance is not random, it’s actually quite structured: an alpha-male is supposedly an aggressive leader who fights all the contenders into submission on the slightest sign of dissent, and it’s always “my way or the highway”. People imagine it as some sort of a cult where the guru fucks all the females and the only way up in the community is through constant sucking up to the leader, or his favorite females. On superficial examination, such communities appear to exist. In reality… it’s all bullshit. But this statement requires explanation.
Interestingly, one of the best literary descriptions of male leaders is the Children of the Earth series by Jean Auel, in which social dynamics within primitive human communities is so well explained, I actually think it maps completely onto reality without any discrepancies I could notice, and I actually read the entire series several times.
The examples of the male leaders are Brun of the Brun clan, Talut of the Lion camp of the Mamutoi, Dolando of the Sharamudoi and Joharran of the ninth cave of the Zelandonii. I will briefly describe the characters in order for you to get the general idea, but do look into it.
Brun is the headman of a Neanderthal clan. By social arrangement, every member of the clan is subordinate to the leader and obeys him immediately and without question. The only exceptions are the Mog-ur, the clan’s shaman, who communicates with the spirit world and whose opinion can override the leader’s, and the medicine woman, who has authority over healing and health issues in the clan. Brun is strong and proud, but very thoughtful, considerate and just. He weighs every decision carefully in order to account for the well-being of every member of the clan. If people are content, he is doing a good job. If there is discontent, something needs to be done about it, and quickly. He is acutely aware of the possible frictions between clan members, and works to minimize them. Basically, his power is almost absolute, but his responsibilities are equally so, and he is personally distressed if he thinks his clan is in any kind of danger or difficulty that he could do anything about. Essentially, obedience of others is, to Brun, only a tool he needs in order to be able to do his job of protecting and caring for his clan. He never abuses the trust or uses it for any kind of a selfish goal, and he is therefore seen as an ideal leader within his entire species. The main antagonist of the series is his son, Broud, who is a power hungry egomaniac, who wants power in order to exalt himself above the others and in order to be able to humiliate others and destroy the ones he hates. He is petty, vindictive and vile, and after he succeeds his father, he leads the clan to its ruin. From this description, it is obvious what Jean Auel thinks about the qualities of a good leader, and also about the perils of genetic succession; you can have a great king who is brave, just and strong, but if he is succeeded by a son who is an egomaniacal lunatic, the entire society will be destroyed. But essentially, the problem with the alpha-male construct is that it matches Broud more than it does Brun. Brun looks like a totalitarian leader at the first glance, but he really isn’t, because his power is held in very tight balance by his consideration and care for the well-being of his clan and each of its members. He explicitly says that a leader has less freedom than a woman (who is expected to obey all men unconditionally) – he is expected to completely ignore himself and dedicate himself completely to the common good. Basically, the leader is the servant of all. When a leader doesn’t understand that, as Broud doesn’t, it dooms everybody.
Talut, the headman of the Lion camp of the Mamutoi, is a Cro-Magnon human; he’s a huge mountain of a man, something like Arvidas Sabonis, but extremely kind, gentle and good-humored. In his community, he rules by consent of his tribe, and he allows everyone to speak his or her mind freely, and then makes a decision that accounts for everyone’s needs and well-being. He prides himself for having the most diverse camp among all the Mamutoi, including all kinds of eccentrics and best-ofs, such as the oldest and wisest shaman, the best carver, best flint knapper etc. He is proud of his great strength and uses it when hunting, but otherwise he would never consider harming anyone. He is enraged only at injustice and is otherwise gentle, kind and funny. Like Brun, he rules in such a reasonable and beneficial manner, his tribesmen would never even consider replacing him as a leader for as long as he considers himself physically fit enough to proceed in his role.
He doesn’t fuck all the females. He doesn’t fight with other men for supremacy. He doesn’t use his physical strength to submit others. He actually doesn’t even argue much and rather lets the others voice their opinions and then decides after careful deliberation, and his power isn’t even contested, not because it couldn’t be, but because other people understand how lucky they are to have a wise and calm arbiter to lead them and handle disputes between them, which could otherwise get out of hand. Essentially, the ideal leader of a human community has no resemblance to the alpha-male construct, where other men follow the leader because they are cowed into submission. No, actually men rarely want to lead others because they usually have other things to do; the one who leads is not the one who beats the shit out of everyone, but the one who is most likely to be reasonable and even-handed in resolving disputes, is just and just steers the ship calmly and without disturbances; essentially, the best leader is the one whose presence you don’t feel, because he doesn’t try to prove himself, or have battles of will against the others. And when you see a man who tries project himself as dominant and assertive, it’s probably the lowest ranked man within a community. The highest, most powerful man in the community will try to project kindness, justice and goodwill. He will lead by good example and will feel an imperative to take care of the best interests of his community.
Basically, the strongest, most powerful leader of a human community would be described as a “mangina” by the supposedly macho-male men activists. Something to consider…