A Crime Boss or a Captive

In some comments SFC Ton made a counter-argument that power is manliness, rather than authority.

Authority comes from power, masculinity is power
You can be a good man and use your power and authority in ways the Almighty would approve of and be a good man.

Or you could use power and authority counter to God’s word. Makes you a bad man

But a man either way

Desire is femininity was settled in my mind a long time ago, and in a future post I will talk about some of that. The nature of manhood took a little longer, and a big part of the reason was because of the way we use the word power. As a word, power is like love in that we use it to mean so many things. It confuses our thinking; mine included. I recognized that, but it still took time to work out.

My first answer was: Manliness is competence. I told this to a friend, and two things happened. First, I was frustrated by my inability to explain what I meant in a way which sounded clear as I said it out-loud. The second was that, while my friend agreed, he wasn’t visibly enthused. My friend is sharp. That lack confirmed my frustrations and I knew I hadn’t got it.

I went through capability, forcewill, and a bunch of words–including several returns to power–each time thinking through the ways each word could be used. That power can be used in so many ways forbade it from me every time I went back to it. Power can mean legitimacy in discrimination. It can mean the force used to exercise discrimination. It can mean the will to make discriminating choices. It can mean the ability to persuade another person to do one or all of those, or to manipulate circumstances to make such events likely!

As I thought about these things, I realized that a common formulation which I learned as a child, was slightly, but significantly, wrong. I had been taught that men have responsibility, and that men who properly handle that responsibility are then given authority. That is wrong because we cannot separate responsibility from authority. We sometimes talk as if we can separate them; as if we are responsible for things over which we have no authority. But that only seems to be true either because we believe lies (like modern marriage “vows”), and because other men in authority sometimes abuse their power. Men are susceptible to this because authority is our thing. We want it to be true when we are told we are responsible. We intuitively grasp that to give us one handle of responsibility should gain us the second handle of power and so the whole of authority. Women, though, are quick to point out their own powerlessness when it true, or even when it merely suits their purposes.

So there is one thing: authority, with two parts: power, and responsibility. When we try to separate them, the effort fails and things go badly because men lose their hearts. Any authority with a those two parts out of balance creates, instead of a man, either a kind of moral monster (power without responsibility), or a pitiful wretch (responsibility without power); a crime boss, or a captive.


30 thoughts on “A Crime Boss or a Captive

  1. In Greek, manliness is excellence or virtue to throw out some more thoughts.

    G703 — ἀρέτη — aretē — ar-et’-ay
    From the same as G730; properly manliness (valor), that is, excellence (intrinsic or attributed): – praise, virtue. Total KJV occurrences: 5

    e.g. 2 Peter 1.

    In general, I agree though. All of God’s creation is built off the back of the fact that men are in authority. The Church and marriage reflect this.

  2. @DS

    In Greek, manliness is excellence or virtue to throw out some more thoughts.

    I found the same thing, but was at first disappointed because it is a tautology. What is the virtue of men? Virtue! The Greeks used arete for a lot of things; sort of like our love, or power, or freedom. But in the beginning it meant something more specific. Arete is derived from the the name of the Greek god of war, Aries, and the word is meant to invoke the image of power under authority, like a war leader.

    Later, philosophers like Plato and Aristotle said that the highest form of arete, of manliness, was philosophy. At first I didn’t understand that idea, and I didn’t like it; It smacked of self-promotion by philosophers. Now I believe they are right because what the philosopher (the good philosopher) does–above all–is speak the truth and teach it to others. Speech is incredibly powerful. More conflicts in a day are resolved by speech than by any other means in years. Men don’t fight well unless you tell them why.

  3. This dichotomy that you’re discussing (though the word desire to me doesn’t seem to fit quite right and I can’t put my finger on why) fits with what I was taught about the nature of the sexes. I was taught that man is directed outward while woman is directed inwards. This is seen in sex, where the man goes forth into the woman and creates a child out of himself, while the woman draws the man into her and creates a child within herself. This is why we call God Father and not mother, because He created the world out of Himself, and he is other to us. The natural relation of a mother to her child is apparent, and the mother’s desire for her child and the child’s desire for his mother are ingrained through pregnancy and nursing. It is the Father as other who must go out and create his place in the family; he does this by taking authority over his family.

  4. Desire/Power is confirmed in Gen 3:16 as the fundamental root of masculinity/femininity, at least in the fallen world.

  5. Masculinity as authority sheds interesting light on Gen 2,3 and Matthew 28, among others.
    Adam is given authority in the garden, fails his responsibility, and is frustrated in his powers. Christ restores authority, taking on responsibility while emptied of power.

    I do not see a parallel on the femininity/desire side.

  6. Taciturn:

    I think the parallel would be that desire has two prongs: direction and constraint. Direction makes something specific the object of desire, while constraint moderates the desire so that it is not attained through immoral means. While Adam shirked his responsibility, Eve threw off her constraint. Christ, as the New Adam, fulfilled his responsibility and revealed his power; Mary, as the New Eve, put on her constraint and directed her desire towards God: “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”

  7. “I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ ”

  8. “Power” at its most basic, is the ability to make things happen. You may have the power to turn of the light in your kitchen. A dictator make have the power to turn off the lights in a whole city. God has the power to creat a universe.

    “Authority” is a KIND of power. It is the power to cause OTHERS to make things happen. It is the power to direct others, whether those directions (or orders) are enforced my a moral code, a good argument or threat of violence.

    Masculinity – or manliness – are the collective DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS of a man. Those things that make men DIFFERENT from women.

    Pardon the caps, but I do not know how to do emphasis in this format.

  9. “Responsibility” means that you are responsible TO someone. You must ANSWER to someone and be held ACCOUNTABLE by them for the consequences of what you made happen.

    There are two possible arguments from this.
    (1) that people like Mao and Stalin had tremendous authority – the ability to give and enforce orders – through their monopoly of force in their nations. Both caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, yet were never held responsible/accountable for those deaths.
    (2) The Christian view that all power and hence all authority have their origin in a God, and that all people (Mao and Stalin included) will be held accountable by God at judgement.

    Perhaps we should decide whether we are talking about these concepts in the earthly context, or the divine..

  10. @Peter W.

    Pardon the caps, but I do not know how to do emphasis in this format.

    How to italicize text.
    How to bold text.
    How to quote a block of text.

    Masculinity – or manliness – are the collective DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS of a man. Those things that make men DIFFERENT from women.

    There is a common thread in the dissents and it is this: The dissenters are looking for a monolithic and wholistic claim about manliness. That is not what I wrote. Men are more than authority. What I wrote was:

    The essence of manliness is authority. It’s the need and ability to make decisions, to pronounce those decisions, and to act upon them. Strength, power, command, competency, respect, courage, assertiveness…these are all parts of authority, but they lack the spoken component. Good and right speech is indivisible from authority.

    When men succeed, they succeed along the paradigm of authority; be it wise decisions, strength, assertiveness, achievement or any of the other forms of authority.

    We also count men’s failure along the paradigm of authority.

    And men are also more than power. The Spartans failed to stop the invasion, but they were manly. A young man after a car who works, saves, and then is financially wiped out by an accident is still considered manly. “It’s a shame, but even so he’s a hard worker”; i.e., he performs well according to the unwritten rules of manliness; he does the right thing. A young man who is born rich isn’t given the claim of manliness even though he has the power to get the car.

    What I’m talking about is how men think and make decisions. I’m describing the orientation of men; not their whole being. The same is true in regards to what I’ve said about women and desire.

  11. Cane…. I understand what you are writing about and trying to explain.
    It helps if you use language accurately.

    To use your own example, if “the essence of manliness is authority” it is because (a) the tendency to greater authority is what distinguishes men from women, and (b) because this particular distinction is more important, more obvious and more common than any other.

    In arguing for a proper definition of terms like “power” and “authority”, I am not dissenting from your basic argument, but trying to make it clear enough to be useful. If we don’t know what authority actually IS, then the distinction becomes meaningless, even if we know that it exists.

    So yes, an accurate definition of manliness is useful. A fuzzy one based on what people think it might be, based on misconceptions, is not.

    In judging your own arguments, ask whether they clarify the definition and fit into it….. or whether the cloud and distort it.

    Ask what the consequences are of applying your ideas where they don’t fit. Women with authority, for example.

  12. When we try to separate them, the effort fails and things go badly because men lose their hearts

    This is why the “training environment” in the military always crushes my will to continue. I have been in this environment several times, from basic training, to advanced individual training, to primary leadership development course, etc.

    In each of these courses, there are student leadership positions. If you get one, this theoretically means that when you give an order, it carries with it the weight as if the drill sergeant himself said it. But everyone knows its now true and when student leaders start yelling at their peers they just get ignored. I have always hated being picked for these positions because they are impossible.

    I think there is tie-in to some of what Zippy has written in the past when he quips (paraphrasing) “the problem isn’t that we don’t have good leaders, its that we don’t have good followers.”

    This is a feature, not a bug of a society drenched in individual “rights.” It follows that if your starting point is the what the individual is entitled to, you eventually get America, 2017.

    The conventional wisdom is that if the student leader in those courses fails (defined as the other students turn on him in mutiny) it is because he was a poor leader–relying on his authority to bully people instead of using some super-sophisticated way of motivating people etc, etc.

    I don’t buy it anymore. If someone is in charge, and you are not–do what they tell you to do.

  13. @Scott

    And I would add–the other students ALWAYS eventually turn on the leader in those training settings.

    I would suspect some of that may have to do with the dynamics of an all-volunteer military and the absence of a military threat. How many smart, well-adjusted people are going to join? Without them, who will form the core group who will–because of external threat–pressure the outliers to conform to the exercise?

    Everyone is an outlier in an all-volunteer military without a real war. They’re looking for something specific; like honor or respect or college tuition. It’s a fundamentally self-centered choice. “Normal” people just get a job when no one is trying to kill you.

  14. And I would add–the other students ALWAYS eventually turn on the leader in those training settings.

    Interesting. Living a similar life I did not see this much. People pulled together in a kind of mutual hostage situation. Everyone knew he was going to get tagged with some of these pretend offices, and wanted the others to back him when his turn came.

  15. LP-

    It may be a medical thing. (Although I went to basic at Fort Benning).

    What I mean when I say “turn” is this. Those student leadership position are nothing but trumped up tattle-tales. You have no real authority. No one listens to you, no matter how reasonable the order. So, you are forced to either let it go and wait for the drill sergeants to come back from wherever they are, find out what happened, hold you accountable and fire you, or be a tattle tale. Its responsibility with no authority–just like Christian “headship” today.

    Maybe I’m just a crappy leader. I hate it when I get picked for leadership jobs, but I always seem to get picked anyway. (At least in the training environment).

    On the other hand, when I have been in a true supervisory role (Ive never been command, just first-line supervisor/rater type jobs) I do pretty well. I never really throw my rank around unless it will benefit the mission.

    My last position was as a clinic chief, where I was supervising 2 officers of higher rank, 4 enlisted soldiers and 13 civilians. At my party there was crying. (Lame, I know. But it was very sweet and nice to know they were sad to see me go).

    Leadership is weird. For me, if I have real authority, I almost never use it. But if I don’t have it, I would like to have it, and shrink from the responsibilities involved. It’s stupid to try to motivate people with just words.

  16. That wasn’t my experience either Scott but the Army mostly pencil whipped those things for us. I did PLDC because we were tier 3. It was a joke for us, but not for the combat support/ service support guys.

    Someone pencil whipped BNOC & ANOC so we could get promoted,

    Most of everything else I did, those kind of games would get you peered out/ non selected. I attended a lot of civilian ran schools and student leaders didn’t do anything but act as a POC, hand out info conduct head count etc etc. I did sign someone’s emergency leave form during photo reconnaissance but this the only Army type thing I can recall doing as a student leaders.

    This has been an extremely revealing thread

  17. Just a point of clarification. What is “tier 3?”

    It sounds like you mean you were promoted in the field and were running up against the “get to PLDC or lose rank” rule.

    I went to PLDC with a lot of guys in the first of Afghanistan like that. (XVIII Airborne Corps PLDC).

    I was commissioned with only 33 month in the army so I wasnt a SGT for very long.

  18. Scott

    For me, if I have real authority, I almost never use it.

    The clearest indication that you are in fact using it as it was meant to be used.

    Training environment vs. real life similarities, everyone is wearing the same clothes, that’s about it.

    P.S. I hope those crying at your party were the chicks.

  19. SOCOM’s tier system. For the Army and back in the day

    Ranger Batt was tier 3; conventional Army mos’s at an elite level. We didn’t have our own BNOC or ANOC. Had to travel down to Stewart to go to PLDC after desert storm to keep my rank. 28 days of sobriety and no sex after 6-7 months of sobriety and no sex made for some cranky Rangers.

    Long Tabbers were tier 2, with their own MOS’s, BNOC and ANOC built into to their schools

    Tier 1, whatever MOS we were when we tried out., and often promotion sucked. The Army tried a bunch of different things to speed up promotion, got to keep the talent around. At one point the Army expected the old timers to take time off training and mission cycles to attend various carer development schools. Which was pretty crazy given there is no peace time when you’re SOCOM and the high level of professionalism requires regular 15 hour days. Hell at one point I was told the Army wanted them to go back into the conventional Army to get their platoon sergeant time etc to get promoted, then come back and recert. . During my time, those schools were pencil whipped and we were promoted as soon as we meet the minimum time in grade/ time in service requirement. As I was leaving, the rumor was, they were going to spool up a very short version of 18B school for us to help with the promotion system. Know idea how that played out or if they did it. I imagine they fixed the promotion system so,easy how

  20. @Scott

    I just want to make sure I understand what you meant. You wrote:

    Leadership is weird. For me, if I have real authority, I almost never use it. But if I don’t have it, I would like to have it, and shrink from the responsibilities involved. It’s stupid to try to motivate people with just words.

    but I’m understanding you to have meant:

    Leadership is weird. For me, if I have real authority, I almost never use it. But if I don’t have it, and I would like to have it, I shrink from the responsibilities involved. It’s stupid to try to motivate people with just words.

    (I moved and and inserted the I. Is that right?)

    I have been told I am a natural leader. My experience has been that if I am explicitly given authority, then I almost never use it; just as you write…though it doesn’t bother me to pull rank. Whoever said “If you have to pull rank you’ve already lost.” isn’t a very good leader. Good leaders want to be followed, period.

    But if my authority is based solely on my conduct and speech (i.e., being right, of good character, and confident), then I must use it–and people respond in direct proportion to that natural authority. Sometimes that response is rebellion, but even then it is clear that I’m being told off. Whatever the issue was about before: The issue becomes pride.

    It was that habit of people which taught me to watch what others say six months after I said it–and to keep my mouth shut even if I don’t get the credit. That’s hard to do.

  21. The “and” works, but it is superfluous in this case.

    If I am put “in charge” of something, and am not given the authority to actually make things happen, then I always want that authority.

    In those situations, I am not in really charge of anything and therefore I wish I would either be relived of the position or given the tools it takes to carry out my leadership responsibilities.

    I become the consummate delegator/shirker. Never to be found around the office, no knowledge of what is supposed to be happening, with plausible deniability that it was someone else fault. This is what the army calls “setting you up for failure.”

    Another way it does this in the training environment is to give you a task that no human can accomplish. For example:

    “All 60 of you better get up that 2-person wide stairway to your barracks, shower, change out of your PTs and into BDUs, make you beds and get back down here in 4 minutes or you’re going to be pushing”

    When they say this, I just start walking up the stairs. Everyone around yells at me “Klajic, common on man! We’re going to be pushing!”

    Me: “It is mathematically impossible for 60 people to get up those stairs and do all that in 15 minutes, let alone 4. Might as well take your time, we will be pushing anyway.”

    If I have the real authority, I always stand in place and take whatever credit/consequences of the decisions I make.

  22. This is becoming an excellent leadership treatise.

    It was that habit of people which taught me to watch what others say six months after I said it–and to keep my mouth shut even if I don’t get the credit. That’s hard to do.

    This is total victory, and always feels odd, almost like ‘not victory’. A thing you propose, or try to get people to believe or do is met with skepticism or resistance. Later, it has become ‘common knowledge’ and your role in making it so is subsumed.

    Another way it does this in the training environment is to give you a task that no human can accomplish.

    Excellent. This is of course arranged specifically to be impossible, in order to smoke out the real leaders of a group. Scott’s reaction is the one they’re looking for, and why he continues to advance and have success in leadership roles. Failure to freak out, or bow to peer pressure is a demonstration of authority.

    This one makes the rounds from time to time but I always like it. Dead guy quote from German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, circa 1943. FWIW he was an opponent of Hitler and the Nazi regime, but kept on the rolls because he was good at his job.

    “I divide my officers into four classes: the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities.
    Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments.
    Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy.
    The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations.
    But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!”

  23. Pingback: Thoughts on leadership and personality | American Dad

  24. My first job upon exiting the military was as a technical project manager. I quit that job before I got fired, and vowed never again to be put in that position.

    A project manager is responsible for the timely completion of the project, but has no authority over the people doing the work. They are pitiful wretches indeed.

  25. @anonymous_ng


    I had a similar job. For a good while I had the authority, but the last two years it had ebbed away as the company grew. The job became what you describe. I took a demotion to part-time because it paid more than full-time salary, and then left altogether. I miss the income, but not the job.

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