Op-ed: Western Men become Foreign Fighters; Search for Masculinity

Military literature is ripe with examples of self-starting, independent, rebellious adventurers. From T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) to the characters of Ernest Hemingway, there was this sense of virile masculinity in our male protagonists. This (my) generation have the emotional, brooding Edward Cullen or nerd-culture boys who always end up with the hot girl who find the error of her ways, and leaves the dumb jock and sees beyond appearances and goofiness and the “normal” hero wins the day (and the hot girl).

All hail, the blow to traditional Neanderthal masculinity!

Even nerdy Peter Parker turned into crime-fighting Spiderman.

Like society, there is still a need for a great deal of men and boys to find that band of brotherhood that have, in the wake of metrosexuals, lumbersexuals, and whatever-sexuals, been tossed out the window for guitar-playing emotive men who are more concerned with facing feelings than slaying proverbial dragons.

At the end of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the subsequent drawdown of troops across all Coalition Forces ripped those who have spent their adult existence fighting in foreign lands from the only living they know. They were thrust into the unknown – a place of peace where their skills had no place, and their laekonian creed mocked by rhetoric-laden pop philosophy about love, peace for all mankind and kumbaya.

All of this creates a western world where young men who turn from skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and product-riddled facial hair are made to feel alienated, sidelined, out of place.

As Chris McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, had left his comfortable middle class existence and burned his money to seek the wild, so too are millennial men sneaking into Ukraine or the the Middle East to fight on whatever side of a war they have no skin in. Inspired by the likes of mercenaries, foreign fighters and soldiers like Lawrence, Gaston Besson and even the Bear Grylls (formerly in the French Foreign Legion), they seek explosive horizons to test their manhood.

Many men – and a handful of women as well – were not raised on romance novels, vampire literature or Harry Potter. Many were raised on King Arthur, on tales of Sparta or Beowulf. They were raised to idealize an early baptism by fire to forge them into manhood, shoulder to shoulder with others that are just like them.

Some of the blame rests on western-ism and intellectualism that shun physicality. Within that foreign fighting culture is the nod to the Old Greek World. There was Athens, the center of liberalism, economic conquests and loose morals, against Sparta’s militarism of young men, stringent gender roles and the oppression of non-citizens.

“And liberal Athens was defeated by Sparta!” my pro-Russian contact told me. Athens, the idealistic shiny city on the hill, manned by frou-frou fops of toga education and round-about philosophies. Spartans were simple-minded men of action.

Mockers of the western world site things like “Warning: Contents Hot” on a coffee cup. Or lament that hiking trails, canyons and nature are destroyed by safety handrails, nets and signs – as though one needs a sign to know that slipping off the edge of a cliff might result in death. Warning labels tell you that knives are sharp, that electrical sockets may electrocute you, and that lighter fluid is flammable.

There are websites that explain the Art of Manliness. Masculinity is now used synonymously with an emotionally retarded outdoorsman. Adventurers and warriors are mocked – why would you willfully leave running water to test yourself in the wild or in battle? Uncivilized! Haha!

The Western World is more likely to accuse you of tilting at windmills, than to encourage you take up arms. Or, worse, say that those who take up arms were too dumb to get into college.

15,000 volunteer fighters from 80 countries have joined in the fight to overthrow Assad, many flooding towards the Islamic State. They are not compelled by governments, but there by their own will – the color of their passport becomes parenthetical at best.

In Ukraine, there are about twenty in the predominantly Serbian and French Unité Continental who fight for the pro-Russian separatists against NATO and EU “globalization” – which they consider the new form of international colonization. Victor Alfonso Lenta, their spokesman and commandant, criticizes his (our) generation of men who are bred with little, or no, conviction, who lack the fortitude to stand up for their beliefs with arms and their life, if necessary.

Lenta quoted Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc, a member of the French Resistance, the French Foreign Legion and a leader in the coup plot against Charles De Gaulle in 1961:

“The adolescents of today are afraid to use words like fidelity, honour, ideal or courage… it would be criminal to unroll a red carpet in front of them, and let them believe it is easy to act. The nobility of human destiny. This is also the concern, the interrogation, the painful choices where there are no winners or losers.”

Career mercenaries like Mikael Skillt (Sweden) and Gaston Besson (France) are fighters with professional military backgrounds fighting with the Azov Battalion, a 300-strong Ukrainian volunteer unit. Their background is peppered with a life of war. When there is none in their own country, they find another to go to.

These are not moderate men. These are not people who live in the middle ground of the spectrum of existence – they are not shades of gray. They live in the fringes, in black and white, in extremes and their politics reflect it. Counter to the popular liberal democracy, many of foreign volunteers are fascists, nationalists (nazis) or ethnicists. They are anti-apologists.

“I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people,” says Skillt, “After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

Oddly, the desire to join the pro-Assad fight if they survive the Ukraine war is something Skillt has in common with the Unité Continentale, though they fight as enemies in Ukraine.

International conflicts, particularly when you are from an uninvolved country, can serve as a Rorshach test; an imperfect representation of one’s greatest ideals. And as young men lose their sense of masculinity in a world that values safety above adventure, comfort above self-sufficiency, and validation above measuring themselves against the world they will seek the challenges of a different landscape. They will tilt at windmills and search for the adventures looking for their great war, their adventure, their piece of history; a version of man’s events where war is where the glory lies.

2 Comments

  1. Tabitha says:

    This piece is absolutely excellent. It’s interesting how times can change so much of what gender roles are deemed as should be, and to see how it can affect change in not just perspectives, but functionality of the world. I sometimes wonder if this push away from stereotypical gender roles, the one that is becoming such a vocal outcry, is perhaps doing more harm in that it’s deterring those who WOULD have chosen those roles from ever pursuing that path.

  2. Tabitha says:

    This piece is absolutely excellent. It’s interesting how times can change so much of what gender roles are deemed as should be, and to see how it can affect change in not just perspectives, but functionality of the world. I sometimes wonder if this push away from stereotypical gender roles, the one that is becoming such a vocal outcry, is perhaps doing more harm in that it’s deterring those who WOULD have chosen those roles from ever pursuing that path.

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