What Ted Kaczynski, Silvio Berlusconi and Cormac McCarthy Have in Common

The article discusses three models of masculine rebellion against the present age. The first model is the "rebel without a cause" who rejects society's values. The second model is the "lone wolf" who withdraws from society. The third model is the "warrior" who fights against society's injustices.

What Ted Kaczynski, Silvio Berlusconi and Cormac McCarthy Have in Common

Three important people died recently: Ted Kaczynski Silvio Berlusconi and Cormac McCarthy. The strangest of characters, a murderer who thought himself to be a philosopher; the louche billionaire who created the modern Western populism; and the novelist, who used biblical phrases without any biblical assurances.

Maybe the three men weren't so oddly arranged. Perhaps they were variations of a common theme: alienation.

The crisis of masculinity has been discussed a lot lately. Statistic shows that young men are falling behind their female counterparts in terms of education, ambition and other indicators. On the left, there have been attempts to detoxify the masculinity, and on the right, promises of a masculine revival. Even if solutions are disputed, the root of the issue is clear: the things for which men are best adapted (or socialized, if that's your preferred narrative, but the biological element appears inescapable), are valued much less in a postindustrial society than they were in the past.

When we speak of traditional manhood we often refer to the mastery that comes from physical strength and violence. This kind of mastery has always been valuable, but its value was greater in 1370 than in 1870 and in 1870. The excess, or superfluous, must be suppressed, tamed, or educated away.

What happens to men that are not interested in this taming? Kaczynski’s terrorist career offers one answer: they become enraged, twisted and fantasize about a more true, free, authentic past. They confuse grievance with philosophical ideas (the Kaczynski Manifesto has its admirers online, but much of what he preaches is packaged in a more entertaining way by ‘Fight Club’), they imagine revolutions, but deliver empty, homicidal gesticulations. Kaczynski is the heir to school shooters, terrorists who are religious, and paladins for meaningless violence.

Berlusconi is a different type of he rebel. The taming masculinity in modern society allowed the Italian Prime Minister to present machismo with a smirk, a wink and a leer rather than the alienated rage of the Unabomber. His shtick reduced the threat of violence to a milder form of misbehavior by men. In his political career, you could see that the bad boy politician thrives in a more feminized environment. He was just outrageous enough to be different, and just different enough to attract the discontented.

It is not surprising that Boris Johnson, with his shambolic naughtiness, and Donald Trump have both offered the same type of masculine burlesque. The policy results for both Berlusconi’s Italy and Johnson’s Britain are also no surprise: If our therapeutic era tends to stagnate, electing men that make a show of their virility won't be a magic ticket back towards dynamism.

Cormac McCarthy represents -- what? Well, you could call it memory, prophecy or witness. Or all three. His novels were intensely male, violent and unconcerned about the burdens that come with being a man in tamed conditions. He left them behind, personally, to a greater extent than his literary contemporaries. And in his novels he did not care about the burdens of being a man under civilized conditions.

McCarthy's vision is best expressed in 'No Country for Old Men', not his most important work but one of its best introductions. It's a view that the civilized world is a fleeting thing, plagued by shadows and haunted with forces it cannot resist but can only deny.

This vision says that it doesn't really matter how tamed the world becomes. Violence will always return, and masculinity will have its time. It's not the day of dominance and power that some online influencers dream about. McCarthy, according to Graeme Wood in The Atlantic, placed his men into conditions that they could not fully master. They were 'in a crossfire between gods and demi-gods, on a battlefield that predated human existence, and will continue after we all are gone.

Wherever it was present, the admirable masculinity of his characters consisted in endurance, survival and integrity. His cosmology, while pre-Christian and devoid of liberal optimism, was not completely void of hope. This hope was only a glimpse, not a snare. It could not be seized.