The Headless Monster of “Modern” Masculinity

(Originally posted at Alternative, March 2010)

In 1936, while staying at the coastal village of Tossa de Mar with artist André Masson, George Bataille envisioned the Acéphale, pictured above. The Acéphale was a headless monster who symbolized man’s rejection of hierarchy and God and his escape from the boredom of civilization into a life lost to the pursuit of fascination. Bataille was determined to bring about his leaderless, communal, ecstatic age of chaos through a sacred conjuration, and to this end he formed a secret society. As the tale goes, members of the Acéphale Society performed clandestine rituals — one notably celebrating the decapitation of Louis XVI. However, the true conjuration sacrée required a human sacrifice. To bring about a new age of the crowd, of survivors held “in the grip of a corpse,” someone needed to become the Acéphale. Someone needed to lose his head.

It never happened.

But it may as well have, because modern man has truly lost his head.

Modern man has the body of a Man. He has manly strength, sinew, reflexes and appetites. But he lacks direction, purpose, an ideal. He lacks virtus — manly virtue. Modern man, like any freshly beheaded corpse, twitches and thrashes about destructively without his head to guide him. I cannot help but see this, and in observing this gruesome, sloppy spectacle I stand aghast alongside feminists and other “modernizers” of masculinity. However, I know that while headless, modern man is a monster — a beast — it is idealized, fully embodied and focused that Man is most fearsome and awe inspiring. Modern man flails about because he is ultimately impotent. Traditional Man is terrifyingly potent.

Masculinity has always changed. Men have been writing and speaking and arguing about what makes a man throughout history. As the particulars of a society change, the prevailing model of masculinity becomes more nuanced or more brutal according to need.

When men helmed Western civilization, they maintained a smooth continuity through changing times because they knew themselves. They knew what men were, they knew what men could — and could not — become. They knew what stirred their own souls, they knew how to speak to each other and reach common ground. They knew the kinds of ideas that would take their own hearts and move them into battle with swords or muskets, in animal skins or sharp uniforms. They knew that in peacetime men could not be ruled by fear alone, that masculine ideals and codes of honor would reveal both the stronger and the nobler aspects of a man even when he was not being watched. Men were able to carve a hard jaw, a stern brow and a proud, noble chin for mankind because they knew themselves. They knew how to shape a head that fit the body of a Man. Embodied Man had a rich and sustaining bloodline; he lived and thrived in the context of history and Tradition.

“Modern,” headless man has no life-sustaining bloodline. Women and men with counter-masculine, alien, anti-Western agendas have successfully severed him from his history of heroes, ideals and the world of masculine Tradition. Traditional Man is their fearsome enemy, the agent of their supposed oppression and the Man to blame for all violence and what they call injustice. Their project is one of ressentiment –to cast the heroic Traditional man as the ultimate villain, and to ennoble their own set of “virtues” as the ideal.

(T)he problem with the other origin of the “good,” of the good man, as the person of ressentiment has thought it out for himself, demands some conclusion. It is not surprising that the lambs should bear a grudge against the great birds of prey, but that is no reason for blaming the great birds of prey for taking the little lambs. And when the lambs say among themselves, “These birds of prey are evil, and he who least resembles a bird of prey, who is rather its opposite, a lamb,-should he not be good?” then there is nothing to carp with in this ideal’s establishment, though the birds of prey may regard it a little mockingly, and maybe say to themselves, “We bear no grudge against them, these good lambs, we even love them: nothing is tastier than a tender lamb.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality

The wealth and luxury of the modern world have made possible an age of the lamb, and oh how the eagle is cursed!

Women, the weakest men, men with an exploited sense of chivalry and misguided advocates for men are struggling to fashion a sheep’s head for the eagle. But that project, too, is an unnatural, bloodless monstrosity. Frankenstein’s work. The head doesn’t fit. The body of Man rejects it, shrugs it off and remains headless. The enemies of Men toil under the assumption that the age of the sheep will last forever, and that the eagle must don a sheep’s head if he is to survive at all.

Forever is a very long time.

The project for Traditional Man is first an archeological one. He must venture out onto the lake of ice and recovers the frozen remains of Man’s severed head. What follows is an anthropological project. He must study paleo-masculinity; he must reverse engineer the head and understand the mechanics of masculinity as it functioned before Man’s beheading. He must understand what came before, and repair his connection with his bloodline.

The sheep are crafting a world and a “modern” masculinity meant only for sheep. Eagles have no place in it.

But the age of sheep can’t last forever. It is artificially ordered, unbalanced, unsustainable. The meek have inherited the earth, but by the very nature of their meekness they will be unable to keep it.

Traditional Man must find and keep his head, his manhood’s redoubt. It is difficult to find and walk a path of honor in a world that is hateful to honor. It’s a lonely path. But ultimately, every man is alone with his Honor.

Ennio Morricone is playing.

Eventually, an Interphase will come.

And another Age of Eagles.