For all the stupidity and small-mindedness on Twitter, there is a large number of very interesting people who write there. One of them is someone who goes by the name HUNTSMAN. He usually limits himself to writing about logistics, military and civilian, and other similar topics that extremely important but boring (TL;DR). Here he writes about something else.
Oct 18, 2019
“Make no mistake: it’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reckoning.” – Doc Holliday, Tombstone (1993)
There is all the difference in the world between primal, devastating wrath, and righteous anger.
I’d intended for some time to do a thread explaining my deep and unyielding appreciation for the classic film Tombstone.
There are a lifetime of lessons on masculinity contained in its 2+ hours, but I wanted to focus on one specific domain:
Kurt Russell turns in one his best performances in a tremendous career as Wyatt Earp, the legendary lawman of the early West.
Tombstone picks up after Earp’s given up his marshal’s star, opting to settle in Tombstone, AZ with his wife, brothers, and their wives.
Tombstone is a mining boomtown, bustling with more opportunity than order.
The Cowboys, a vicious gang that sports red sashes, have free rein of the town.
The Earp brothers, all retired lawmen, just want to make their fortunes and be left alone.
Life rarely goes that way.
After a series of escalations, including the famous showdown at the OK Corral, one Earp brother is murdered and another gravely injured.
Wyatt, the last Earp standing, picks up his marshal’s star and sets about his final mission – the elimination of the Cowboys.
Wyatt, Doc Holliday (in an iconic performance by Val Kilmer), and a few allies eventually stumble into an ambush set by the Cowboys.
Against incalculable odds, Wyatt kills Curly Bill, the Cowboy leader.
Wyatt and Doc’s friends remark after that they’d want revenge too.
Doc turns his weary eyes to them and says:
“Make no mistake: it’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reckoning.”
In that moment, Doc communicates a truth that most men these days refuse to grasp:
The right kind of anger is necessary for peace to flourish.
Throughout the film, we see the simmering anger held in check by Wyatt Earp.
We see the way in which he dispatches the small-time thug/card dealer Johnny Tyler (what’s up, chubby Billy Bob Thornton!) with a couple well-placed slaps.
Wyatt is fluent in violence.
It is anger that informs Wyatt’s actions.
Anger at injustice.
Anger at the soft, weak men who enable the predacious behaviors of the Cowboys.
Anger at himself for being torn between his own self-interest, and what is good for the town he wants to make his family’s home.
Wyatt and Doc’s bete noire, Johnny Ringo, is the gunslinger of the Cowboys.
He too is angry.
But his anger does not arise from the tension between ethics and an unethical world, as does Wyatt’s.
Ringo is simply evil. He lives to sate himself on fear and blood.
Late in the film, Wyatt and Doc discuss Ringo.
Wyatt wants to know what motivates Ringo’s heart of darkness. Why he is such a ravening beast.
Doc simply replies that Ringo needs “revenge…for being born.”
Some men are born already cracked.
A duality of man is represented in these two archetypes.
Wyatt Earp, the imperfect avenging angel, is a man born to his time. He is the swift and certain hand of a judgmental god.
Johnny Ringo, the destroyer, is a supremely talented practitioner of brutal self-interest.
Anger moved to action is violence.
Like a weapon, it’s a tool that is imbued with its master’s intent.
The universe/God/fate has given to man this force multiplier.
It activates our primal man, calling to itself our greater reserves of strength.
But in our post-civilized world, we have fundamentally atrophied in our understanding of anger.
We do not see it as an inborn tool, and thus something that can be harnessed and wielded under control.
We fear it, because we fear inflicting pain.
We fear ourselves.
It was not always this way. There’s an inverse correlation between comfort and adaptive anger.
It is struggle, pain, and conflict that teaches us how to regulate anger.
The earlier and greater we exist in constant comfort, the less capable we are of handling anger.
The decadent, “always-on” culture we inhabit offers too much convenience and simplicity.
We age, but we do not mature, because everything we “need” to address a problem is found external to ourselves.
And in avoiding struggle, we do not master our baser emotions.
This is why we can no longer distinguish between righteous anger and wrath.
Wrath is that untamed monster that explodes from our crocodile brain every time we experience conflict of some kind.
Righteous anger is governed by first principles.
Where laws are fairly enforced regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc, there is peace.
A common standard of conduct, equally applied, is the basis of civilization.
But where such laws do not exist, or are not equal, man is left with only principled anger.
Anger, properly used, rebalances the scales of peace.
It is what compels a man to stand his ground in the face of obvious wrong.
Improperly used, it results in a jealous boyfriend killing a cheating ex, or a vicious act of road rage.
Both scenarios come down to choice.
A “reckoning” is that application of natural order where laws and civilization have failed the individual.
Principle is the motivator.
But “revenge” is just eye for an eye, unsanctioned by the law.
Wrath is the motivator. It skews the scale.
Balance versus imbalance.
From righteous anger is born durable, lasting piece.
The prospect of a reckoning is a threat to those who wish to create suffering and chaos.
When the wrathful know that a man capable of wielding righteous anger is watching, they will be slower to their evil work.
Some might read this thread and see it as creating excuses for violence.
These people cannot understand the nature of such things, because they have never stepped foot outside of civilization.
To them, legal authority is all that matters.
That is why they are not free.
Nu-males are gelded, cowed by fear and crippled by moral incompetence.
They do not recognize that the powerful will crush the weak.
And they do not know that the righteously angry man is the final defense a society has against the predatious and powerful.
The hidden mortar of civilization is an implicit, shared understanding that any man, at any time, is capable of stepping up to defend the weak and innocent.
To get ANGRY at injustice.
To stand even for a few moments in the Dark, in order to serve the Light.
Three more tweet threads.
A society that shackles its boys’ natural tendencies towards understanding righteous violence will find that they grow into insecure young men who are obsessed with it as a means to validation.
Boys who are taught to defend themselves, and others, do not grow into monsters.
“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
- C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man”
Western Civilization indeed has a masculinity crisis.
Further reading (3/3):
We’ve all seen the variously-attributed quote:
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Most men and women live their lives and die without ever having stood for something.
Fewer still have fallen for that one thing.