Globalism. Social justice. Dependence on government. Feminism. Gay rights. Today’s media, politicians, and educators champion these tenets and expect others to accept and follow them. But what about the man who doesn’t? What if he prefers to think for himself, to believe that being a man is a good thing, to rely on government as little as possible, and to focus on the needs of those closest to him rather than turn his attention on the global community?
According to Jack Donovan, the author of the book Becoming a Barbarian, that person becomes an outsider even if he’s firmly rooted on the inside. He’s labeled a barbarian—an uncouth, selfish, angry, racist, sexist homophobe. Members of society scrutinize and condemn his actions. They even question his motives. What is this man supposed to do? He can fall in line, change his views, accept the status quo. Or he can redefine what it means to be a barbarian. He can put his own twenty-first century twist on the term and turn “barbarian” into something positive. And he should.
The Exemplary Man
But how does a man become a barbarian? The principles are quite simple, but the process requires effort. Like all meaningful things, the end result is worth the expenditure. Becoming a barbarian involves valuing the qualities of an exemplary man. According to Donovan, those qualities include Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor.
- Going against the flow of society requires strength—both physical and emotional. It takes manual labor to do more tasks for yourself and rely less on the “gifts” of government. It entails emotional grit to stand up to those who differ with your choices and malign you for them.
- And once a man makes the tough choice to be a barbarian, he will need the courage to stay true to that decision. Most people will oppose him. They will argue against his ideals, call him “out of touch,” and attack his character. He will become the enemy. A barbarian disregards the voices of others in order to stay true to himself and his tribe.
- An exemplary man also values mastery. He’s not content with mediocrity. He strives to conquer whatever task or calling is before him. If he’s a bricklayer, the walls he constructs are structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. If he has a family, he’s the best husband and father he can be. To this man, doing “just enough to get by” isn’t doing enough.
- In his life, the exemplary man chooses honor. Integrity dictates the actions of his days. He rules his life by predetermined principles, ideologies that are more than mere words.
If a man takes this step on his path to becoming a barbarian, he will not only have begun his journey, he will also have gained some priceless qualities that will enhance every part of his life. Who wouldn’t want that?
“Us” vs. “Them”
Embracing the barbarian lifestyle also entails recognizing the “us” and the “them” in each person’s life. A man’s “us” includes family, friends, country, ethnic group, gender, and others—any group of which he is a part. He builds his life around the “us,” and understands that group more than he does the “them.” His “us” receives more of his attention and time. Can he understand the male psyche better than the female mind? Yes. Because men are part of his “us.” Will he generally defend a fellow worker rather than his employer? Again, yes. Because the worker is “us,” while the employer is “them.” Siblings are known for squabbling at home. They may even seem not to like each other at all. But let someone outside the family threaten any one of them, and the brothers and sisters will rally together and defend the bullied person. Why? The “us” has been attacked, and the rest of “us” will provide protection. Recognizing the “us” helps a man evaluate relationships in his life and prioritize his time and energies around his crucial “us” groups.
Another part of stepping into the barbarian life is acknowledging and coping with the selfish side of people. Every person has a large streak of “me first” lurking inside. It’s natural, then, for everyone to safeguard his own interests. Any man who has determined his “us” realizes that for most of the rest of the world, he is part of “them.” As such, he cannot expect people around him to value what he does. They have their own ideals. Neither should he be surprised when they use means of trickery or deceit to achieve their own ends. Recognizing the self-centered bent of people helps barbarians to cope. A familiar adage states “Forewarned is forearmed.” Since barbarians understand man’s selfish nature, they won’t be shocked by it, and they won’t spend hours in anger and frustration when others choose selfishly. Barbarians will move on, wiser and more able to see “them” for what they are—skillfully determined to get what “they” care about. After all, barbarians are people, too, and they also have a selfish streak.
Preserving the Community
Putting on the barbarian lifestyle means becoming more linked to the community and less tied to the state, more concerned about the local news than about national or worldwide events. His view must narrow, rather than broaden. Perhaps no other community in American embodies this principle more visibly than does the Amish sect. The Amish live by their own set of religion-based rules. They dress by old-fashioned standards, travel in outdated modes, and shun many modern conveniences. Their children attend separate schools. Their young people don’t mingle with outsiders. In an era of globalism and multiculturalism that condemns as selfish anyone not interested in expanding his views and aiding those on the other side of the world, the Amish appear backward and their ways undesirable.
But while “Englishers” shake their heads and stare, the Amish go on with their lives—many as farmers who support their families and also sell farm produce. Others practice trades such as woodworking, carpentry, masonry, rope making, roofing, and taxidermy. Amish women are noted for their cooking, baking, and quilting expertise. Children learn trades and skills from their parents and from others within the community. When tragedy strikes, the Amish turn to friends within their group. Crews assemble to rebuild barns claimed by fire. Neighbors hurry to the aid of the sick. The Amish may not have heard of Jack Donovan, but for decades, they have valued the community over the state. Today’s barbarian must be willing to do the same. If he does, he can experience a deep bond that will affect his life in ways too numerous to measure.
Able to Stand in Adversity
Becoming a true barbarian requires the expectation of being misunderstood and maligned by those controlling the status quo. Barbarians must face the truth: those operating the car have no time for backseat drivers, alternate routes, or new destinations. Their course is set, as is the course of anyone else in the vehicle. Any passenger who dissents is likely to be tossed out, just in time to be flattened by the next car on the designated road. A man who thinks he can choose independence from the mores of life and not suffer any consequences or hardships is fooling himself. Christopher Columbus endured ridicule for his absurd notion that the world was round. Elizabeth Blackwell pressed on amid censure and earned her medical degree in spite of being a woman. Donald Trump won the Presidency while being a political outsider. Each one chose a path “less traveled by” and would likely echo the concluding words of Robert Frost: “and that has made all the difference.” To experience a change and to make a difference, a barbarian must expect and endure vilification.
Today’s barbarian doesn’t apologize for his manhood. He doesn’t let others dictate his path. He accepts that his choice to swim against the current makes the journey more difficult. And he perseveres despite censure and problems. Oh, that there were more barbarians. Are you ready to join the ranks?