.:.ACTION IS KEY.:.
An interview with Jack Donovan
Jack Donovan stands in many circles. He is the author of The Way of Men (2012) and A Sky without Eagles (2014), books about masculinity, a theme that pervades many circles. In a recent podcast, Donovan stated, “I’m in contact with a lot of men from very different worlds, men who wouldn’t necessarily talk to each other, but who talk to me; Christians, Satanists, Pagans, Atheists, Nietzscheans, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, Native Americans, Anarchists, Libertarians, Conservatives, Patriots, Traitors, Gun Guys, Knife Guys, Powerlifters, Crossfitters, Martial Artists, Regular Artists, Pick-up Artists, Nerds, Weirdoes, Homos, Cult Members, Academics, Rogue Thinkers, Writers, Men’s Rights Activists, Gang Members, Alphas, Betas, Alcoholics, Teetotalers, Soldiers, Officers, Cops, Criminals, Ex-Cops, Ex-Cons, Teachers, Editors, Propagandists, Priests, Engineers, Builders, and Destroyers.”
We had an opportunity to interview Donovan about his latest book, among other things.
Heathen Harvest: What would you say is different or new about the ideas presented in “A Sky without Eagles” when compared with “The Way of Men”?
Jack Donovan: Many of the essays in A Sky without Eagles were written and published online during the process of writing The Way of Men so some could be considered supplementary to it. There are essays, for instance, that deal with masculinity and feminism. I would say that whereas The Way of Men was a book about the theory of masculinity, A Sky without Eagles is more about my political reaction to my conclusions about the nature of men and their place in the modern world. I’ve often said that, when you truly understand what masculinity is, “certain political conclusions follow“–depending on whether you think men should strive to be more masculine or less.
One major addition to this book is a new essay titled “The Brotherhood”. When you criticize modern society, I think it’s also important to think about what kind of society you would prefer–even if it is idealistic and impractical. Otherwise you’re just bitching. In “The Brotherhood”, I identified some of the positive values I’d want in a tribe and a better society.
HH: Can you explain the book’s title, “A Sky without Eagles”?
JD: A Sky without Eagles was actually the title of a speech I gave at a private event, and a transcript of that speech is included in the book.
When men write about masculinity and hierarchy in the positive, people always assume that they imagine themselves at the top of some masculinity hierarchy, and are just whining because they feel somehow robbed of the status they think they deserve. I don’t feel that way, and I don’t imagine myself on some white horse leading men into battle. But if I had to be led into battle, I’d want to be led by a man who I believe is better than I am–not in conniving or in attaining wealth–but in the masculine virtues. I want to be led by a great man, or by great men. I want to look upward in my society and see men of strength, courage, mastery and honor.
I don’t admire our leaders today, and I don’t think most men do. That’s why there’s this fascination with Vladimir Putin. He’s probably a crook, but he’s the kind of crook a man can look up to–like a mafia Godfather or something like that.
There’s an absence of manly greatness in the political and cultural leaders of Western nations today. We are overrun by mediocre rats and rabbits who scrounge around for grub and money, who simply live and die and create nothing of beauty or value. Men who want to strive to be great are scolded and handicapped, Harrison Bergeron-style, to make everyone feel equally special.
HH: In the book it states that you gave the “Sky without Eagles” speech to a secret gathering of White Nationalists at an undisclosed location. How can I get invited to the next one? I jest, but in all seriousness, in addition to this event you have also recently spoken at two other pro-white conferences. So perhaps a more apt question is: how did you get invited, and have you taken any flack for your participation?
JD: I was invited by Richard Spencer to write about masculinity for his Alternative Right website when it first started. That was more or less my introduction to the far right and many pro-whites. After that I started writing for Counter-Currents, and more recently, Radix. Since I was part of those circles online, it was natural for me to be invited to speak at events in the same general circle.
The leftist/progressive approach to masculinity in America is to condemn it, so the opponents of progressives and the left have a particular interest in masculinity. Radical Traditionalists and most conservatives believe that men and women should have distinct roles, so they are more interested in defining those roles than destroying them. And like most men today, I think they feel that something vital and virile is being exchanged for the convenience and security that modernity offers.
I’m sure that my association with pro-white events and websites turns some people off of my work, but I try to remain consistent. I believe that globalism is so big a threat that all kinds of tribal groups must break away and assert their own interests. I happen to be white, so I’m more naturally a part of that group than I am of a black group or a group of Mexicans who I have no direct cultural connection to. I’m not interested in writing negative things about other groups–I’m interested in promoting tribalism for everyone–so I think that keeps a lot of people from stereotyping me as some kind of race-obsessed hate-monger. Which is good, because I’m not one.
HH: You also write that you are in no hurry become a card-carrying member for any organization or movement, but in a more abstract sense do see yourself or your work as part of a larger cause or a shifting of the winds in how people think?
JD: Absolutely. I see myself as an advocate for men and masculinity. I see masculine virtue and honor disappearing all over the world. It’s being proscribed, penalized, distorted and erased to make room for the cutesy, frivolous consumer cultures that cater to women. Masculinity is a natural resource, and like the most magnificent things in nature, it is both beautiful and terrible. Real masculinity is dangerous–like lions, volcanoes, mountains, and fire. The world of women and emasculated merchants and their wage slaves is encroaching on this world like a suburban development–replacing something wild with something safe, ugly, and cheaply constructed.
I want to make men see that they are being used as the tools in their own castration. If I can help them identify and abandon the people and institutions that are manipulating and emasculating them–if I can push them to start taking back what is being taken from them–then I am doing the work of the gods.
HH: Do you ever wonder whether you and your associates have joined the losing side?
JD: We are men, not plankton. It’s not about going with the flow. I find people who wait to pick the winning side sociopathic, or at least Californian.
I have absolutely no respect for people who believe whatever is popular simply because it is popular and profitable for them to do so. Today, those people are progressives, who see themselves as righteous rebels, but who are in fact both conservative and authoritarian.
HH: Can you describe the type of society discussed in your essay “The Brotherhood”? Do you think that such a society is feasible today, even if on a small scale, or is this a dream of the distant future after civilization’s collapse?
JD: “The art of the possible” is for politicians. Determining a feasible goal wasn’t necessarily my aim. My project with that essay was to describe a positive ideal to contrast with my negative criticisms of American consumer culture, feminism, egalitarianism and so forth.
If you don’t have some kind of positive ideal, you’re just a complainer–or at best, a heckler. A lot of writers and commentators on the far or alternative right come off, even at their best, like different versions of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. The whole world is foolish and degenerate, but you never know what they really want instead. You don’t know what they think is good.
I believe that a society where brotherhood is the highest value, followed by family and ancestry, is better than other societies, based on my high placement of masculine virtues in the hierarchy of virtues. This may seem radical to people who see the nuclear family as the foundation of society, but the idea of men serving the needs of their tribe over the needs of the individual family is not so alien. Men have always been expected to leave their families behind to go fight for the tribe or the city-state or the nation. The cult of manly virtue has been central to many Western nations, with religion as a kind of supporting or counterbalancing force to the warrior mindset. Representations of great warrior kings and war heroes and other heroic figures were prominently displayed and revered in Western cities until relatively recently.
I do believe that in pockets where the bourgeois consumer state is weak, brotherhoods gain strength and often become de facto governing bodies. I see The Brotherhood as the goal, a direction to push toward, which means pushing for less government oversight and making more room for independent confederacies of men to act in their own interests, instead of being ruled by the interests of bankers and feminine consumers.
HH: In another new essay you declare that your god is CROM, the fictional deity from Robert E. Howard‘s “Conan” stories. Why is CROM different from other gods and why is he the best?
JD: It seems like I’m always meeting one of these guys who worship the four winds. This is so ridiculous to me, because CROM laughs at the four winds. He is strong on his mountain.
Men today are so protected and coddled. They’re told that they deserve “respect” just because they’re breathing. Many don’t have fathers, and whether they do or not, they have mothers and teachers and the media telling them that no one should ever bully them or make them feel bad. They play games where everybody is declared a winner. We all post our pictures and thoughts and feelings online, and expect people to “like” them and make us feel good about ourselves. This constant affirmation makes men narcissistic, delusional and weak.
The last thing men need today is a god who loves them no matter what they do. Men don’t need a god to be their big buddy in the sky. They need an ambivalent father figure who is difficult to please, who isn’t impressed by their mediocrity. Men today need a god who is only impressed by valor, because they live in an overprotected world of mandatory safety vests.
CROM is also in some ways a pop-culture stand-in for Odin. In the movie, if not necessarily in Howard’s works, CROM will cast a man out of Valhalla if he doesn’t understand “The Riddle of Steel”. Odin is a more complicated father figure, to be sure, but out of all the historical gods of Europe, Odin is the god I feel the strongest connection to.
We’re at a new turn in history, and I believe that the gods of the future will be syncretic, and they will not necessarily be the gods of the past. If I had to choose an old god, it would be Odin.
HH: A recent essay of yours, “A Time for Wolves”, describes your visit to the monthly “moot” of a heathen group called the Wolves of Vinland. Have you gained any new wisdom from this experience?
JD: Yes. It showed that things I was thinking and writing about in theory were feasible and were already being put into practice by others independently. We aren’t condemned to sitting around online imagining meaningful brotherhoods and tribes outside the state. Men can make this happen. Are you going to start a massive movement that’s going to take over a corporate-owned state with 350 million citizens? Probably not. Can you push things in a different direction by taking action on a smaller scale and showing men an alternative to shopping and masturbation? Yeah, you can.
HH: In addition to forming small-scale “brotherhoods”, what other ways would you recommend for encouraging tribalism and resistance to globalization?
JD: Obviously writing about both subjects and spreading relevant books, memes, films, essays, speeches and ideas will be helpful. Criticism of globalization is relatively fresh outside the far left, and I think an increasing amount of men and women from all walks of life are disgusted with what influence global corporations have over their political representatives and their lives. And in many ways, progressives, who are used to thinking of themselves as people who “fight the man”, are advocating ideas like enforced feminism and diversity that enable the expansion of global corporate influence and stifle the formation of alternative groups and “lifeways”. I think that’s an important theme for writers, journalists and activists to develop.
But real-life action is key. Without it, talk is just talk.
HH: At the end of the preface for “A Sky without Eagles”, you state your location as “Milwaukie, Oregon, Cascadia Bioregion.” What is the Cascadia Bioregion?
JD: The Cascadia Bioregion is basically the Pacific Northwest. It includes Oregon, Washington, and sometimes British Columbia and Northern California. Cascadia has a similar climate and there is a somewhat different culture here. Some have proposed that it should be its own independent nation. I support all forms of secession, so I support that idea, though a lot of the people involved seem to be the progressive types I just mentioned. I used it as an address because the book is about a mental separation from the idea of America and being American. Why not start behaving, wherever it is feasible, as if the United States is already irrelevant?
HH: Your approach to men’s studies and masculinity seems unique compared to what’s coming out of larger publishing houses. For those who enjoy your work, do you have any recommendations of writers, past or present, that convey ideas similar to “The Way of Men”?
JD: Mainstream ideas come out of mainstream publishing houses, and women–feminist women–have a lot of influence in the mainstream publishing industry. Anything that challenges the feminist worldview that comes out of that industry will be wimpy, controlled opposition feel-good garbage like Iron John. Even something thought-provoking like Harvey Mansfield‘s book Manliness was framed as an argument for why women should appreciate manliness in men.
Print-On-Demand publishing and e-books and the Internet made it possible for men who have something honest to say about masculinity to go around the feminist filter of the mainstream media. They are no longer the gatekeepers of ideas, and as “legitimate” newspapers compete with gossip blogs to produce click-bait content, I think the credibility of the mainstream media will collapse.
In the present it is still bloggers who are writing about masculinity from a sympathetic perspective. Brett McKay at Art of Manliness gets a lot of flack because he writes with his wife and he is essentially a reasonable, moderate guy. But in between posts about shaving and fitness and so-forth, he’s done more deep and honest thinking about masculinity than almost anyone. He wrote an in-depth series on honor a year or so ago that was really top notch. I don’t read him much any more, but whoever is writing at Château Heartiste is consistently perceptive, if overly focused on banging whores. There are a bunch of other guys writing about masculinity now; I think they’ve realized there is a market there, but when your goal is to come up with inspirational posts about manliness every day to drive traffic, you’re going to end up repeating a lot of things that sound good without actually thinking about them.
Before the twentieth century, most writing about men and manhood was written from a patriarchal perspective. So much of what guys like me are doing today is just re-discovering simple truths our ancestors took for granted about men, women and life.
HH: In the 21st century, the technological progress of our society seems to have created a situation where human survival is no longer dependent upon men being men. Doesn’t this render masculine virtues obsolete? Is the pursuit of these virtues primarily about aesthetic preferences?
JD: The word “aesthetic” is trivializing, but making choices about who you want to be and what kind of world you would rather live in is hardly trivial. It’s a philosophical question about what is good. Do men have to be strong or courageous to keep sucking air and eating food today? Absolutely not, so long as the supply chains and economic systems they depend on remain viable. But are they better? Are men today more admirable than their ancestors? Is what they are doing with their time more impressive or demanding? Hardly. A few sit in rooms inventing amazing gadgets, but I’m not sure a lot of those gadgets make life better. We live in a market-driven world, and the market is driven primarily by vulgarity and sloth.
When we talk about virtues falling out of fashion or being obsolete, I ask, “what new virtues have we replaced them with?”
How have these changes produced better men? I don’t see any evidence that men are better today than they were 200 years ago. They’re simply more like women.
HH: You seem to be saying that virtues in themselves are the answer to the philosophical question about what is good. Isn’t the essay “Train for Honor” from your book about this? Why do you think honor is so important to men in particular?
JD: Yes, we are conscious beings and we can choose virtues. Some people want all virtues to be utilitarian, a way to make life easier. That’s decadent thinking. That’s what is implied by saying things like “strength and courage and honor are no longer necessary“. Following that line of thinking, lying and swindling would be virtues, because lying and swindling make it easier to get what you want in the modern world in the same way that being strong and aggressive would have helped an ancient hunter. Should we call lying and swindling virtues? Is that how we want to live? It’s a choice. Wall Street bankers are certainly more effective in today’s world than I am. I have no desire to do what they do or live their lives or have what they have.
Human beings are very old, and the modern world is very new. We didn’t evolve to sit and stare at computer screens all day, but we can, and many of us do. I think it would be better to choose to live a life more in harmony with our natures–even if that is at odds with what is called “progress”. It’s not that we can’t continue to adapt to the modern world. The question is whether or not we want to.
Honor is important to men because it is really about their worth to each other. Men look for the esteem of other men. It’s part of how we evolved, and this is one of the main themes in The Way of Men. Just as women seek security and emotional affirmation, men seek the esteem of male peers–either directly or in some abstract form. We’re less connected to other men, and have less access to opportunities to do the kinds of things that men value. There are fewer opportunities to show courage, in particular. Men feel the absence of that, and some have scoffed at the idea of redesigning the world–even making it more violent to make men feel better and more present and more invested and valued–ultimately they are just redesigning the world the way women want it. Humans, men and women alike, are more emotional than they are rational. What we call reason is usually a pretense for a strategy to convince someone to do something we already wanted emotionally.
I’d rather live in a world dominated by the interests of men. So much of mainstream culture today is designed to cater to the interests of women and greedy, cowardly men that it feels emasculating and dishonorable to even participate. I don’t even want to read the news or hear what most people care about any more. It grosses me out. And yeah, that’s an emotional response. That’s how I feel about it.
My question for readers is…how do you feel about it? And if it grosses you out, too…what are you going to do about it?