It’s been a while since I was an alpha male. I used to pound my chest and lay waste to my enemies. It was all so easy in those days. I was a merger lawyer, consigliere to the barbarians at the gate. Turn your back on the wrong guy, show a little weakness, and that was it for you. Badabing badaboom.
But now I think I’ve become a beta male. Can I survive? Not in my old world, I’ll tell you that. They’d be escorting me over to a nice iceberg, offering me a gold watch to count off my remaining time. They only cared what I could do for them. Truthfully, I liked it that way. I was running and gunning, happy to match wits and guile with anyone.
The thing I didn’t realize at the time, when I was sure all my success was because of me, was that even then I had a huge safety net, carefully stitched by white male privilege, waiting to catch me if I flew too close to the sun. I was a partner in a big law firm. If I flamed out as a Jedi Master of big deals, I could always come down from the high wire and work closer to the ground.
I see all that now. I didn’t see it then. All I saw were the spoils of conquest.
That’s an anecdotal way of saying I understand Donald Trump. I’d like to think I was never as unprincipled as he is, but I was in some bare-knuckle fights. Perhaps the only difference between me and The Donald is that only the terms of an acquisition agreement depended on me, not the state of the union. I don’t know if I would have abandoned long-cherished societal norms to gain an edge for myself, but I like to think not.
That same anecdote also illustrates why it might not be such a good idea to entrust modern democracy to alpha males. We’re good at war and hogging mates, but peace-making and promoting a fulfilling communal life for all is not really our thing.
Now, as we watch The Donald in the full rage of dominance tantrums, the question we have to ask ourselves is what do we need from our president. Do we need someone who will go to the mattresses every time, who will not be dominated, who will annihilate his enemies and even his former friends to stay on top? Or do we need a nice nerdy beta person? Someone whose first instinct isn’t to come out shooting but to sit down an write an app that might solve whatever the problem is.
Has the world changed enough for it to be safe for the betas to rule?
There is no question that from the dawn of time the men who ruled were almost all alpha males. The countries they led took what they wanted: minerals, countries, slaves. It was a cushy gig for those with the right DNA and a good broadsword.
But now, there’s an app for that. No alpha male ever had more knowledge at his command than Google gives each and every one of us. No peasant ever had a better chance of getting needed help than homeless people in our cities whose needs are monitored digitally by social workers determined to give the dignity of food, healthcare and shelter to even the most unfortunate among us.
That isn’t the way it was for most of the millennia of evolution that gave us the ethos that Trump has embraced: survival of the fittest, cut the weak from the herd, don’t waste resources on non-contributors.
Is it still the law of the jungle out there? Are we just an unfair trade deal away from being taken over by the guys in the next cave? Or has the world changed, even if our Darwinian programming has not caught up?
American voters will have to grapple with that question in the upcoming midterms. Those contests will, as conservative commentator Alex Castellanos somewhat sarcastically put it, pit beta males and the women who want to be them against alpha males and the women who love them.
It’s shaping up to be a fight to the death.