An Exploration of Beta

There are certain occurrences in my life that contribute to my perception of myself as a Beta Male. I want to describe some of them, but before I do, I think I should explain something.

What is “Beta”? That is an important question. How can I go about discussing something or the people associated with it if I never actually define what it is? That would be devious and wrong.

By Beta, I mean tending towards a passive attitude in life, being “cool with whatever,” or “just going with the flow.” Certainly there is something to be said for chilling out and letting whatever happens happen, but when it becomes essentially a way of life—an approach describable as a lack of an actual “approach,” but rather sitting back and letting things happen to you—is when it starts to constitute Betaness.

What is the possible result of this attitude towards life? Anything good that happens to you seems to happen as a result of mere chance. Anything bad happens for the same reason. Never do you feel like you’re in control of your own life; in fact, if things are going even remotely acceptably, you avoid control of it at all costs, because you start to believe that controlling it will mess things up for you.

What else is Beta? Dependence on other people for your idea of yourself. There comes a time when everything our parents tell us as children and we hear in society comes into complete conflict with the way society seems to actually work. Being told that “you can be whatever you want to be,” or “follow your dreams,” has little to do with the fact that other people define your value as a person from childhood onward: parents, teachers, bosses, public figures, celebrities, police. In other words, this is a society based on respect for authority figures. So how is a person, of any gender, supposed to materialize “dreams” when their entire image of themselves has been imposed on them by a string of authority figures?

Many people on the internet who discuss Alphaness often complain that there are no Alpha males anymore, that it is a “dying breed,” and that Beta Males constitute the majority “these days.” I agree in some ways, and I assert there is a good reason for it. It is less that the world is “polluted by socialism, political correctness, and complacency,” and more the above conflict I have just described.

Speaking generally, as the middle class in America has grown over the last 50 years, so has the tendency of parents to teach children that “anything is possible” and that they can “be whatever they want to be.” They start to believe that success will come to them, that it is essentially guaranteed, whether they work for it or not. Meanwhile, myriad consumeristic comforts are provided to them: TV, video games, HBO, the internet and all of its lighter and darker idle amusements, and the belief that being allowed only one or two restaurant outings per month is somehow indicative of financial straits. Because the fruits of financial success (material comfort) are already in their possession, these children believe they are already successful. Going further, part of them—the privileged part—believes they deserve success without having to do anything, because they didn’t have to do anything for the comforts they’ve enjoyed their whole lives besides be born.

When so many of your comforts are provided for, and your need for entertainment is more than satiated, where in all of that morass of encouragement is a person supposed to find himself or herself? Where is he or she supposed to identify what is important in life? Will it be helping others or contributing to society in some way? Or will it be getting the new game console for Christmas, getting a laptop to use at college, or getting a car that makes you feel cool?

I’m not saying that comfort isn’t good. I’m saying that in a society that demands we get out of our comfort zones and “make something of ourselves,” it leads to spiritual confusion. And this is where the Betas that seem to dominate our society come from: being told what’s important—video games and cars and phones and computers, by the parents who buy them and the friends and advertisements who implant the need—and being given those things their entire lives, only to have nothing to be passionate about or interested in when it comes time to “make a living.” So a decision is made to do something you don’t care about or want to do. Why? Because people tell you that you must.

So, the video games and internetting and watching sports are done in your meager free time with the hope that you’ll come across a great creative idea that gets you entrepreneurial wealth and success from the comfort of your desk chair, Mark Zuckerberg-style, so you can quit your job and go back to….playing video games even more. But the idea never comes; you don’t have time, or make time, to really focus on it, or are the type of person to take such risks. The years pile on, as do the obligations—marriage, children, mortgages, financing—and promotions at the workplace are taken, paying better but still poorly for longer hours, and those odd, misshapen dreams of financial success without risk recede further and further into the background…

So much for “you can do whatever you want to do.”

That little tangent is by way of saying that Betaness is about more than being a “nice guy” who “finishes last,” although that is part of it. It is about having no passion, no driving spirit in your soul, because all of the painful conflict that should occur between the soul and the world—the good type of conflict which lets you see a problem or challenge in the world worth fixing and actually GIVES RISE to passion—has been massaged out by a lifetime of material comfort and affirmation or validation from others. And then, as an adult, nobody cares how you feel anymore. You need to get a job, or you’re a worthless lowlife. A failure.

So many people engaged with jobs they hate, marriages they settled upon, and children they conceived by accident. What else would be the result but loss of passion, loss of engagement, loss of confidence? In a word, Betaness.

Lao Tzu

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
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