Mailvox: “McRapey and me”

EGA writes to describe how l’affaire McRapey has caused him to rethink his opinion of the theory of Game, particularly as it concerns the socio-sexual hierarchy:

I have read your blog for some time. Your posts at Black Gate during the fluffle started by Leo Grin’s descriptive essay on the “bankrupt nihilism” of the current wave of epic fantasy were my start. You made me laugh and cringe while arguing with R. Scott Bakker, and I enjoyed your posts on economics, about which I admittedly know very little and found many of your posts challenging, yet enlightening.

I read your blog mostly for the economics posts, and enjoy much of what you write on other subjects. I never exactly agreed with your writing on a few subjects. I am very skeptical about much of what is written about “game,” about human biodiversity and a few other subjects. In fact, I didn’t think that your breakdown of the sexual market place hierarchies synced, at all, with my own experiences or observations. And while I do enjoy some of what is written in the manosphere, Heartiste and others set me on edge.

So when the posts on John Scalzi started, I cringed worse than I ever did when you had a similar argument with Mr. Bakker. And I wanted for Scalzi to win, at least in some fashion. I was the one who commented on his blog, trying to point out how much he was only proving you correct. Every chance he gets, he manages to do almost as you (and I) might predict, almost as if he were following a script. You know because of your experience and observation. I know how to predict him because, honestly, I am him.

I didn’t want him to lose that fight because I didn’t want to believe that what you wrote about the “gamma male” was true, which is perhaps indicative of how weak my intellectual opposition to the idea was in the first place. You wrote that it is a good thing to lose well. I don’t know how to do that. I am that guy and I hate myself for it. You wrote that it is a good thing to use knowledge you share to improve your lot, but I don’t even know how to start with that. Few things I have ever read have ever scared me or caused me to question what I’m doing with myself, but I am lost here. Hence, I’m writing to you, asking for any advice on what to do with myself now that I’m ready to admit that I’ve been looking at the whole subject of male-female relations, intellectual argument and epistemic pursuit hopelessly backwards.

P.S. I recall that in my exchanges with Scalzi, I claimed that you were
enjoying an echo chamber of sycophants. This was unfair and untrue. I
apologize for that.

His apology is accepted, of course.  Unlike the rabbit warrens, VP has never been an echo chamber and even the Dread Ilk cannot be reasonably described as “followers”, much less “sycophants”.  And EGA’s ability to admit that he was wrong is the first step forward in the journey upon which he is about to engage, in consciously developing his self-respect and improving his status as a social creature in a social hierarchy.

How does one learn to lose well?  One puts oneself in competitive situations where one is going to lose, regularly and frequently, until the sting of defeat disappears and the fear of failure is gone.  That is the point at which progress towards becoming a true competitor begins.  It is also why non-athletes are disproportionately represented among the gamma population; few athletes reach 10 years of age without experiencing a considerable amount of defeat.  I may have been a NCAA D1 sprinter who played for a #1 ranked soccer team in high school, but I was also a member of a church basketball team that lost its first game by 47 points.  (Note: if you’re a white kid without a jump shot who is going to play in a church basketball league, a Lutheran league is your best bet.  Baptist leagues, not so much.)

I’ve written before about my favorite kids team.  I was their coach for all three years they were in the scuola calcio, from 6-8.  The first year, we had one 7 year old and we were winless, losing most of our games by double digits.  It was brutal, but by the end of the season, there were no more tears and losing didn’t faze them.  The second year, they started to become competitive, winning games here and there, although they were still beaten badly by the two big teams attached to the professional clubs.  But the third year, they went undefeated, and I have never seen a more fearless and ruthlessly competitive team play any sport at any level.  It was like watching a squad of sharks dispassionately ripping apart everything that crossed their path.  It was one long glorious bloodbath.

Before the first game, some of the parents complained that I was only bringing the 8 year olds and the best seven year olds to the tournament.  So, I brought everyone and started all the little kids.  We were down 3-0 within three minutes, two of the little ones had been hurt and had to come out of the game, (they weren’t hurt badly, they’d just been hit by the ball), and my playmaker cried out, in genuine anguish, “what are you doing?”

“I’m making a point,” I said, loudly enough for the problematic parents to hear.  Their ringleader promptly stepped forward and explained that the point had been taken, so I signaled the ref and mass substituted the entire team.  The boys cheered as they ran onto the field, visibly alarming the other team, and went after them with all the gleeful fury of weasels in a hen house.  We won that game by four goals. 

In the championship game of the big tournament, it was tied 1-1 at halftime.  I knew we would win, and even told a Brazilian acquaintance whose son played for the other team as much, because my kids knew how to lose and didn’t fear it, while some of their opponents had quite literally never lost a game in their lives.  I knew that if the other team scored next, my kids would try all the harder, whereas if we scored, they would quit.  Sure enough, we scored the next goal, every head on the other side went down, fingers started pointing, and their voices started sounding accusatory and panic-stricken.  We ended up winning 5-1, beating the very same team that had beaten us 14-0 two years before.  More importantly, we had beaten a club that had beaten ours for literally generations.

One defender’s father was openly in tears at the end of the game.  I asked him what was wrong and he shook his head and smiled.  He said: “They always beat my grandfather.  They always beat me.  But my son, he has defeated them!”

The best thing was that the competitive culture the kids created was, for a short time, passed down to the younger kids.  We went undefeated the next year too; four of my boys ended up being recruited by the top pro program, which was three more than in the previous 20 years.  And their pride in having been a part of that team was such that when the big club played against our club in subsequent years, they refused to take the field.  In one star striker’s case, he even put on his old training jacket over his uniform and sat on our bench for the entire game.

They weren’t any better than the kids from the best programs, in fact, they were mostly smaller, slower, and less skilled.  Two of our three biggest players were rejects who didn’t make either of the elite teams.  But they were fearless, so perfectly fearless, that it was a joy to watch them and a privilege to coach them.  I quit coaching a few years later when I found I couldn’t replicate their success to the same extent.  I definitely played a role in their success, but I now believe it was mostly the result of the tempering they had received during that season of unending defeat.  Looking back, I realize that my three most valuable players were, ironically enough, the least talented; the miniscule defensive rock who couldn’t kick the ball ten yards, but reliably brought down attackers twice his height, the single-minded lupolino who couldn’t do anything with the ball but put it in the back of the net, and the emotional leader of the team, who had two left feet and berated his own failures more ferociously than anyone else’s.

They were magnificent.  I’ve had my share of victories in athletics, as an individual and as part of a team, in a variety of sports, but I couldn’t forget those kids if I tried.  If you ask me what is a champion, I think first of them.

Just as the seeds of future failure are often sown in success that comes too easily due to good fortune, the seeds of future success are planted in our failures.  Don’t be afraid of them.  Admit failure and attempt to understand it, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.  Even when you can’t reasonably expect to succeed, you can try to fail for a different reason.