This article is an excerpt from my book, How To Be A Superior Man
It was 1854 when Henry David Thoreau wrote in his masterpiece Walden that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”, which is even truer for the men of today than it was for the men of Thoreau’s time.
In today’s society, very few men are satisfied with the way they live their lives and it’s no coincidence that Thoreau observed the same thing because he too lived in an industrial society like we do today, where economic and political life was organized on a gigantic scale.
What does modern society organizing itself on a gigantic scale have to do with a self-improvement book? Bear with me until I explain as briefly as I can because this is the primary reason why masses of men lead lives of desperation.
What Makes Modern Society Different
While human beings have populated the earth for about 200,000 years, the entire history of human societies can be broken down into just 3 stages:
- Hunter-gatherer societies (∼188,000 years)
- Agricultural societies (∼12,000 years)
- Industrial societies (∼250 years) –> We are here
For more than 95% of the time we populated the earth, we were hunter-gatherers which also is when human nature took its form. For a little less than 5% of the time, we were farmers. Modern living came with industrial societies, which don’t even constitute a mere 1% of the entire human history (more like 0.1% to be precise).
Since 0.1% is just a blip in the history of humanity, our nature is thoroughly incompatible with modern living. While our nature still operates by the ancient codes of the times we lived in small tribes, we now have to live in huge societies made of millions of people which massively reduces the significance of individuals.
The population of a hunter-gatherer tribe used to be tiny, ranging from an extended family to a maximum of 100 people.1 While the populations of agricultural societies were larger than the populations of hunter-gatherer societies, cities with millions of inhabitants didn’t even exist prior to the Industrial Revolution which took place in Britain, continental Europe, and the United States between 1760 and 1840.2 For example, In 1800, New York had a population of just 60,000. Philadelphia, the largest city in the United States at the time, had a population of 69,000. The biggest city in the world, London, had a population of 864,000.
By the year 1900, the population of London had exploded to 5 million; and by 2000, it had exceeded 7 million. New York City’s population had exploded to 3,4 million by 1900, and by 2000, it had exceeded 8 million.
Most people attribute the exponential growth in the size of cities during the Industrial Age to the growth in World’s population but this is false. If this was true, the populations of rural areas would also have exploded which didn’t happen. The concentration of the population in large cities is the result of large-scale industrial production in urban centers. People congregate where large firms exist (because that’s where jobs are) and large firms are also the result of the logic of the Industrial Revolution that made production on a massive scale possible. There’s no other reason why population growth would be confined to cities. Population growth, on the other hand, is a consequence of improved living standards due to increased industrial production.
This newfound organization of societies on a gigantic scale resulted in a game of modern life massively rigged against the average man and caused billions of men to lead lives of desperation because of three reasons:
1. Government Indoctrination To Uniformize The Citizenry
It was inevitable for the industrial age to also become the age of big governments because, as preeminent economists of the industrial revolution era pointed out, government size imitates factory size.3 The exponential population growth due to increased industrial production and the concentration of populations in urban centers due to gigantic factories resulted in the emergence of big governments that rule over millions of people.
Large societies with millions of inhabitants aren’t easy to govern as every human being is profoundly unique. Since a gigantic society of outliers is ungovernable, modern governments found it expedient to uniformize the citizenry so that the people are predictable and easy to control, cheap to govern, and easy to exploit.
The average modern man is the product of this uniformization. It’s no accident that from the moment you were born, you’ve been bombarded with relentless indoctrination to make you feel small, insignificant, and unimportant. You’ve been encouraged to be average, to blend in; and your edges have been brutally rasped so that you just obey your masters and don’t rock the boat.
Your indoctrination started early coming from your unsuspecting family members who are the products of the same indoctrination grinder. As soon as you begin to gain conscience, you were sent to school, the purpose of which is more to indoctrinate you than to educate you. The school curriculum is engineered toward fitting you into the category of a “model citizen” that aims to render you a docile, obedient sheep. The typical model citizen obeys the authorities without questioning them, follows orders, pays taxes, and dies.
Also, you internalize at school that it’s normal to exchange five days of your life for two days of freedom on the weekends, which conditions you to be just another cog in the machine when you grow up and get a job. You learn at school to obey the authorities, otherwise, there are consequences. While real-life success isn’t possible without multiple failures, you’re taught at school to be terrified of failure which is punished by the dreaded F.
By the time you finish your school education, you’ve not only learned how to conform but you’ve also become conditioned to fear making mistakes, failing, or taking risks. You’ve become timid. Your aspirations have long been murdered. Ask preschool kids what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll be amazed by their aspirations. Ask them the same question when they are 18 and you’ll see most of their aspirations are long gone.
If you were somehow able to keep your aspiration to be great and exceptional intact during your school years, brace for your professional career.
Modern workplaces, be it public or private, are places where obedience and brown-nosing are rewarded, not competence. Personal sovereignty is a grave threat to the existing power structure so it has to be destroyed at every opportunity. The goal is to break your spirit and innate desire to excel so that you stay mediocre. If the masses stay obedient and mediocre, all of the available power and money flow into the hands of those at the top. It’s no accident that in the USA, just three people have more wealth than the bottom half of all Americans.4 This is by design.
The mainstream media is also in the hands of the same powerful people, the main purpose of which is to maintain the status quo where those at the top keep thriving while an overwhelming majority of people settle for scraps.
The average modern man is the product of this propaganda machine. For all of his life, he’s been lied to about anything that actually matters; be it wealth, relationships, fitness, or health.
Buying into this propaganda will result in an average existence at best and it does. After he’s been successfully indoctrinated, it’s very easy for the ruling classes to control a modern man because, acting from a mindset specifically programmed to keep him down, he’ll self-defeat for a lifetime with little need for extra intervention.
Most people never become aware of the ruse and waste their entire lives wallowing in the cesspool of mediocrity. Many of these men have the potential to be great but their personal growth is stunted by uniformization before they even make it to adulthood. The greatest waste produced by humans is not physical waste but wasted potential.
If you do nothing against this relentless indoctrination to keep you down, you stand no chance to actualize your immense potential and become the man you want to be. You must defy the artificial limits imposed upon you. You must refuse to be an average man and elevate yourself above the masses of men who lead lives of desperation. This book teaches you how.
2. Masses Of Men Suffer In Large Societies
As we’ve covered in the previous section, our nature is incompatible with living in large societies as human nature has taken its current shape during the times when we lived in small tribes. Another definitive aspect of human nature is that we are hardwired to organize our societies in status hierarchies. In any given group of humans, you can observe a status hierarchy because that’s how we are wired to operate.
For example, in governments, the presidents are at the top of the hierarchy followed by congressmen, senators, middle-rank bureaucrats, lower-rank bureaucrats, etc. In kingdoms, the king is the top dog followed by ministers. Armies are commanded by generals followed by lower-ranked officers. Corporations are managed by CEOs followed by higher and middle-level managers. In all of these organizations, large numbers of people are at the bottom of the status hierarchy (citizens, soldiers, and workers) whereas the rulers are small in numbers.
The group size doesn’t necessarily need to be large in order for status hierarchies to form. Even the smallest group of men tend to quickly organize themselves in a mini-hierarchy no matter the purpose which made them come together. For example, small soccer teams of just 11 men, or basketball teams of just 5 men, must have a captain in the field to function optimally during a game. Examples can be extended indefinitely but you get the point. No matter which type of a group humans form, a status hierarchy has to be formed. Otherwise, our social organizations wouldn’t function.
Since status hierarchies are indispensable to the proper functioning of human societies, you have a mechanism in your brain that constantly tracks your status in the social hierarchy so that you automatically know your place and act accordingly. You might not notice it consciously during your day-to-day life but during a typical day, your subconscious mind is bombarded with signals that remind you of your status in any given social setting you participate in. Your brain automatically picks up these signals and your mood and behaviors are tailored accordingly. This automatic process enables groups of humans to function optimally but it also has important consequences for your individual well-being.
Your individual feeling of well-being is closely tied to your relative status in the status hierarchy of any society you participate in. The higher your status in society, the more serotonin your brain will release.5 The lower your status in society, the more octopamine your brain will release. Serotonin is the molecule that makes you happy, satisfied, gallant, and confident; whereas octopamine is the molecule that makes you stressed, dissatisfied, timid, and unsure. In other words, if your status in the hierarchy is high, your brain rewards you with happiness and encourages you to take action so that you have more. Conversely, if your status is low, your brain punishes you with unhappiness and discourages you from taking action lest you lose what you already have.
In any given human society or organization, there’s a minority of high-status people at the top and the rest of the people are left to occupy the lower ranks. In multinational corporations, there are thousands of workers for each CEO or tens of workers for a mid-level manager. In kingdoms, there are tens of thousands of ordinary people for each king or minister. In modern countries, there are millions of citizens for every president, congressman, or senator, and thousands of people for each bureaucrat.
The problem with large-scale organizations such as corporations or governments is that the number of people that occupy the lower ranks is disproportionately high compared to the top dogs, which creates a tiny number of high-status people as opposed to an ocean of low-status people. This is easily observable in business organizations. In a small store, there are only a handful of employees for a store manager whereas, in a multinational corporation, there are thousands of workers for just one CEO.
When we lived as hunter-gatherers in small tribes, the number of higher-status people was as many as the number of tribes. As modern humans, we found ourselves living in giant societies with millions of people, which in turn led to a hierarchy with a tiny minority of winners and a large majority of losers because, in any given human society, the majority of rewards always flock to those who are higher up in the hierarchy. As the size of societies increased, the number of winners relatively dwindled while the number of losers proliferated. Most people don’t even notice the source of their anguish since status anxiety happens on the subconscious level but masses of people are miserable despite modern comforts because Industrial societies are constructed in a way where few win and many lose.
The average modern man’s subconscious mind is bombarded with status signals during any given day, constantly reminding him of his lower status, desperation, and dispensability. Even men in rich countries who enjoy more comforts than the kings of the past live in desperation and die without figuring out why exactly they feel miserable, not realizing that the problem is their insignificant existence in a sea of millions of people. The best and the most feasible way to overcome this problem is to leave the average behind and become a superior man whom life richly rewards.
3. Modern Life’s Comforts Made Men Soft And Weak
While the Industrial Revolution imposed untold amounts of suffering upon the people of the world in the form of politics, government oppression, corruption, a lack of individual autonomy and freedom, soul-crushing jobs, and so on; it also resulted in an unprecedented increase in standards of living due to a burst of economic growth powered by industrial machinery, increased life expectancy due to improved sanitary conditions and health care, and relative safety due to governments’ monopolization of violence.
If you have been wondering how masses of men put up with their suffering, look no further than modern comforts made possible by improvements in technology. The problem with comfort is that it makes men weak. This has long been a well-known phenomenon, forgotten during the good times, remembered only when the going gets tough.
When G. Michael Hopf recently wrote “hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times”, it immediately resonated with people and became a popular Internet meme because it’s true. However, we were already warned of this cycle more than two centuries ago by the authors of the American Constitution who believed that the cycles of growth and decay dictated the destiny of nations and good times make people soft; which is exactly what has happened to modern men who got soft because of modern life’s comforts.
The mass of men today not only don’t know why they are leading a life of desperation but they are also too soft and weak to do something against it. They quietly settle for operating at a mere fraction of their full potential, numbed by modern comforts that temporarily allow them to get away with weakness.
However, life eventually catches up and punishes them with desperation and helplessness because weakness is the only crime that mother nature doesn’t forgive. Unless the average modern man gets himself out of the rot by concentrated effort, he’s bound to be unapologetically crushed by the very laws of nature which brought him to existence. The only way to combat weakness is to become stronger by taking consistent action and quitting behaviors that make you weak. Your 30-day program in this book is tailored for you to do exactly this.
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my book How To Be A Superior Man: Master Yourself, Get Leaner And Stronger, Achieve Your Goals, Become The Man You Want To Be. Read more here.
- Hunter-Gatherer Culture | https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/hunter-gatherer-culture/
- Industrial Revolution | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution
- Gilded Age | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilded_Age
- The 3 Richest Americans Hold More Wealth Than Bottom 50% Of The Country, Study Finds | https://www.forbes.com/sites/noahkirsch/2017/11/09/the-3-richest-americans-hold-more-wealth-than-bottom-50-of-country-study-finds/?sh=320ef7aa3cf8
- Ziomkiewicz, Anna. (2016). Serotonin and Dominance. 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1440-1. | https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310586509_Serotonin_and_Dominance