|Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1871)|
Hierarchies are a part of life. As Jordan Peterson writes in the first chapter of his book 12 Rules for Life, we are hard-wired for them. Most of us do not exist at the top of any hierarchy, and we spend our lives striving to advance even one step up in the pecking-order of whatever field we happen to be in. Sexuality is just as much of a hierarchy as a corporate office, and just as unfair. It is, however, a fact of life, not an injustice.
As much as it sucks to have to come to terms with our place in a given hierarchy, it is the brutal fact of life’s orders of merit, that allows us to enjoy the rush of accomplishment, the fascination of our ideals and aspirations, and which gives us the motivation to keep striving for something better. Again, as Jordan Peterson tells us, if we didn’t have hierarchies, we wouldn’t have our values. We wouldn’t be able to say certain things are better than others, and it is this discernment between what we don’t like and what we love, that is the foundation of a meaningful life.
It is depressing, then, to hear of an underground group of men - Incels - who instead of striving to rise up the natural sexual hierarchy, are seeking to dismantle that very hierarchy and call for revenge. This is allegedly the movement that formed the ideological backdrop for the recent van terror attack in Toronto, which killed ten and injured fifteen. Toby Young, writing in the Spectator points to a concept called ‘sexual redistribution’, coined by Robin Hanson in the wake of the horrific attack. That we are even talking about this shows just how mired in identity politics and class-war ideology such a movement is. It also shows how bankrupt a crude theory is, if it can be transposed easily from wealth to sexuality.
With the violent rage of a jihadi, coupled with the science-denying stupidity of a campus SJW, fanatical Incels view their place in the biological pecking-order not as a fact of life’s suffering with which they must contend, but as the product of some kind of conspiracy and injustice. Instead of using their natural grievances as energy to catalyse growth and change and become everything they can be, they lazily apportion blame on a faceless system which is supposedly rigged against them. Following the mindless and predictable trend of our time, they identify with their pain, and take it out on innocent people as representatives of their mythical oppressor.
Every woman who rejects them or does not return their sexual interest, must be some kind of privileged sexual aristocrat, and they must, according to this boring and unthinking view of life, be taught a lesson for their haughtiness and superiority.
Unrequited love can indeed be a kind of psychological torture. It can break the spirit and throw anyone into years of depression. It cuts right to the core of our integrity and self-esteem. Loneliness, we are told, is an epidemic, it damages our immune system and can shorten our lives. In short, yes, it bloody well sucks to have to face up to and accept our place in the sexual hierarchy.
That said, this very suffering is intrinsic to civilisation and essential for individual flourishing. To deny this and blame some mythical conspiracy for our lack of love, sex, wealth or happiness, is to relinquish our very personhood, to make ourselves unhuman. It is our grief and suffering that feeds our development as citizens and individuals. If there is no hierarchy, there is no sense of achievement. If there is no order of merit when it comes to sex and love, then there is no thrill of success. Love becomes meaningless. Sex is reduced to a bodily function. Without the threat of failure, there is nothing to strive for.
Dante could never get Beatrice, so he became the foremost poet of European civilisation. Shakespeare was driven mad by the love of an unattainable and beautiful narcissist. So he left world literature with some of the most intimate and relatable sonnets ever written. The genius of the best popular music - from Billy Holiday to John Lennon - comes from the intractable suffering of rejection and unrequited love. If it were not for life’s natural, sexual hierarchy, so much of civilisation and culture would not exist.
As Camille Paglia puts it in her masterwork Sexual Personae:
‘Everything great in western culture has come from a quarrel with nature. The west and not the east has seen the frightful brutality of natural process, the insult to mind in the heavy blind rolling and milling of matter. In the loss of self we would find not love or God but primeval squalor. This revelation has historically fallen upon the western male, who is pulled by tidal rhythms back to the oceanic mother. It is to his resentment at this daemonic undertow that we owe the grand constructions of our culture.’
Ultimately, all men are ‘involuntarily celibate’ at some point in their lives, many for most of their lives. It comes with the territory. An inability to accept the rough with the smooth of our erotic instincts is fundamentally just psychological laziness. When a man gets over any childish entitlement to sex he automatically becomes sexier, because he gives off the energy of responsibility and the strength needed to grow, adapt and lead. He shows potential partners that he is not unfamiliar with struggle, rejection and disappointment, even as he walks tall and is honest about what he wants. He knows his value, and he is prepared to test that value against the slings and arrows.
It is exactly this kind of man who created the great shifts in human culture, from Alexander the Great through Leonardo da Vinci to Steve Jobs. The very poetry of the human experience comes from turning rejection and loneliness into creative achievement. To hide your resentment at not being the top of the hierarchy behind the rhetoric of some cookie-cutter oppression theory is to turn yourself into the walking dead, and to let civilisation die on your watch.