The militant enthusiasm syndrome

There are few things in the world so thoroughly despicable and deserving of immediate destruction as the fiction of an ideal cause artificially set up to elicit enthusiasm in the service of the contriver’s aims.

Konrad Lorenz

Imagine a band of arrogant, hyper-emotional college students taking over the dean’s office. They have an agenda and refuse to leave until their demands are met. One of them latches onto a bullhorn and reads off the demands one by one. They include:

(1) The establishment of an administration-supported, fully-funded men’s rights group.

(2) That the college divest itself of any holdings in corporations that discriminate against men or promote feminism.

(3) That the college immediately undertake a male recruitment program until the student body is 50/50 men/women.

(4) A safe space for all men who identify as MGTOW.

MRA social justice warriors? Impossible? Ridiculous? Well, let’s take a closer look.

The explanations for the rise of the social justice warriors are numerous; they’ve been coddled and indulged, they’re spoiled, they’re cult members, they’re mentally ill, they’re narcissists… or whatever.

Consider the possibility that they are merely doing what comes naturally to the young: that is, displaying militant enthusiasm.

Militant enthusiasm is a phrase coined by Konrad Lorenz, author of On Aggression, a controversial book published in 1963 and translated into English in 1966 , thus coinciding with the Vietnam war, civil unrest, and graphic violence in movies. Controversy was assured.

Born in Vienna in 1903, Lorenz had a front-row seat for militant enthusiasm, as he had witnessed the rise of his fellow Austrian, Adolf Hiltler. Given the times, Lorenz’s own political background was suspect, but he held an M.D. and a Ph.D. (in zoology). Also, he had won the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and is often regarded as one of the founding fathers of the discipline of ethology. So if anyone was qualified to comment on the dark side of human nature, it was Lorenz.

Lorenz took a nuanced approach to human aggression, but his book was tarred with the brush of biological determinism because it didn’t cleave to the tabula rasa narrative. In exploring the topic, he posited that militant enthusiasm was a form of aggression characteristic of late adolescence and early adulthood.

Since college students are mostly in their late teens and early 20s, it’s no wonder that the campus is the ideal greenhouse for militant enthusiasm. The phenomenon, however, is not restricted to leftist/progressive politics. Given the right circumstances, it could manifest itself in the Young Republicans club, Young Americans for Freedom, or libertarianism.

And militant enthusiasm is not restricted to politics. There’s a reason politics and religion are both out of bounds in polite conversation. They are not disciplines but systems of belief. Ideologies are not susceptible to logic, reason, or evidence but they can be animated by the peculiarly adolescent emotion of militant enthusiasm.

When militant enthusiasm is behind a religious awakening, it usually involves a religion different from that of one’s upbringing. For example, it is often observed that Catholic converts tend to be more zealous than cradle Catholics. This should be no surprise, as it is a choice consciously made at a period when a young person is actively shopping for new beliefs.

According to Lorenz, a sharp break with one’s background is a key feature of militant enthusiasm:

During and shortly after puberty human beings have an indubitable tendency to loosen their traditional allegiance to all rites and social norms of their culture, allowing conceptual thought to cast doubt on their value and to look around for new and perhaps more worthy ideals. There probably is, at that time of life, a definite sensitive period for a new object-fixation, much as in the case of the object-fixation found in animals and called imprinting.

Once one grasps the concept of militant enthusiasm, one readily sees how it manifests itself, not just in college but in other institutions. For example, the army has always known here is a narrow window of time for molding men into soldiers. Even if you can still mold their bodies at, say, age 28, you can’t mold their minds as well as you can at age 18. The gung-ho factor dwindles as men mature.

It’s also on display in corporations. Young employees are more susceptible to the inculcation of corporate culture. Middle-aged employees, no matter how skilled, no matter how competent, no matter how reliable, are less likely to embrace a new corporate culture. In fact, they may even resist it. “When I was with Smith, Jones & Brown, we used to do things this way” is not what management wants to hear.

As for the institution of marriage, nubile women have always known that their influence is strongest when men are youngest. Long before the MGTOW movement came along, women knew that the more a man is “set in his ways,” the more sales resistance he has, and the less interest he has in pair-bonding. Whether it’s declining testosterone levels, life experience, or just less plasticity of the brain, the older the bachelor the more confirmed he is. Whatever his feelings towards women, militant enthusiasm is not among them.

The alternative objection-fixation search is facilitated in college, which offers a veritable buffet of options. Like pedophiles scouting for and grooming the most vulnerable children, progressive teachers of all stripes are always on the lookout for more foot soldiers.

Since most college students come from middle class backgrounds, extreme left politics is something new and revolutionary in their lives. Before you know it, they are transformed into social justice warriors delivering sanctimonious lectures to their parents during semester breaks.

Every warrior needs a tribe, and the same is true of social justice warriors. Regardless of which tribe a college student joins, it is essential be part of a team. A key part of militant enthusiasm is figuring out which tribe is the best fit.

Lorenz identified four conditions conducive to militant enthusiasm:

  1. A social unit with which the subject identifies himself must appear to be threatened by some danger from outside;

  2. The presence of a hated enemy from whom the threat emanates;

  3. An inspiring leader figure; and

  4. The presence of many other individuals, all agitated by the same emotion.

Dubbing the fourth condition as possibly the most important, Lorenz acknowledges that militant enthusiasm could be employed in any number of productive activities, but it is a double-edged sword:

At the postpubertal age some human beings seem to be driven by an overpowering urge to espouse a cause and failing to find a worthy one may become fixated on astonishingly inferior substitutes. (emphasis mine)

Well, think about it. Of all the battles the SJWs could fight, what are they concerned about? How women are depicted in video games and comic books; whether men take up too much space on public transportation; the low sexual market value of obese women; whether gender blenders have a place to piss in peace.

But getting back to our original question: could militant enthusiasm be employed in the service of MRA issues? Could it be employed to take on gynocentrism with the same ferocity that feminist SJWs take on the patriarchy? Is there a place for MRAs in the self-righteous, victimhood one-upmanship sweepstakes?

We know that obnoxiousness does not equate with righteousness, so employing the natural militant enthusiasm of young men comes with a curse. Can you behave as badly as your opponents and still maintain your self-respect? Deep down, we know it just isn’t manly for a man to play the victim. It might work for some, but if you’re an able-bodied, white, heterosexual male, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Fortunately, militant enthusiasm isn’t the only form of aggression. Humor, for example, can be wielded like a weapon. In fact, Lorenz has a lot to say about the superiority of humor to enthusiasm:

Laughter never makes us uncritical, while enthusiasm abolishes all thought of rational self-control.

[W]hile laughter, even in the form of the most outrageous and scornful ridicule, always remains obedient to reason, enthusiasm is always threatening to get out of hand and turn on its master.

So rather than adopt the grim, mirthless demeanor of the social justice warrior, perhaps it would be better to play the trickster, to employ ridicule as a double-barreled weapon (1) to attack the enemy and (2) to create a bond with one’s fellow attackers.

Certainly the SJWs are an easy mark when it comes to humor. There are any number of blogs, web sites, or YouTube videos out there that make fun of them. But watching such videos in isolation is not a bonding experience. So perhaps meet-up groups making fun of SJWs is the answer. Stand-up comics could appear at local comedy clubs during open mic nights. Aspiring comedy writers could come up with SNL-type skits lampooning SJWs.

Then there is audience participation. Many years ago, a bar in Dallas had a much-publicized contest involving Howard Cosell, a controversial network sportscaster. The bar held a raffle in which the winner got to throw a brick through the screen of an old TV during one of Cosell’s telecasts.

Think of the possibilities of such contests as fund-raisers. One could easily obtain an old monitor and play a video of Gloria Steinem or some other ogress, and have at it. Or how about a piñata party with an effigy of Trigglypuff? Or putting an Anita Sarkeesian look-alike (all eyebrows and earrings!) in a dunking booth?

Maybe one day mainstream humor will take on the SJWs, and they will become regular fodder for the monologues of late-night TV hosts. In the meantime, what are you waiting for? To my way of thinking, there’s no such thing as too much mockery, and the SJWs are all walking around with targets on their backs.

As Lorenz puts it, acting against reason is not only immoral but . . . it is very often extremely funny!

Humor is the best of lie-detectors.

Hey, how can it be hate speech if everyone’s laughing?

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