I will admit to some weakness. At some point in my youth I was a complete wuss as far as dating is concerned. (My friends and I have heated arguments about the duration of this stage, and whether it is really over J) Naturally my first point of reference was Google. In the process I came across hierarchical stratifications of males both in the wild and in controlled environments. The dating philosophies related to these stratifications are thoroughly flawed but the stratifications themselves hold little nuggets of truths.
So this shall be our focus today, the world of men as depicted by these stratifications. Before we delve too deep, it must be noted that the original study which was the basis of the below categorisations, was done on animals in captivity. Animals in captivity behave very differently from animals in the wild. Let’s get right into it.
Many social groupings can be categorised into the following segments:
Alpha – these are your typical king of the ring, found at the top of a social pyramid. Alphas are culturally stereotyped as barrel-chested, charismatic and brilliant; head and shoulders above the rest both literally and figuratively. More often than not they are depicted as multitalented with excellent pro-visionary and artistic skills. These chaps have the rest of the clan following behind them in lockstep, single-file with martial discipline.
Sigma – Kings without kingdoms, sigmas go through a separate development path away from the rest. Once they get beyond a certain developmental (or is it survival?) threshold, evolution takes place and pack thinking falls by the way side. They normally possess raw talent but prefer to operate outside the hierarchy. It is worth noting in passing that the life cycle of male lions requires at least 1 or 2 years of solitary existence away from any pride before they can claim leadership of a pride.
Beta – These are almost alphas. They are high up in the hierarchy but subordinate to alphas. They are often lieutenants to alphas and are often being groomed to take over after the alpha leaves.
Other categorisations exist but they fall outside the scope of our focus today.
By definition a leader is an alpha, a sigma or a beta (when alpha leaders have been culled or are under development). Some leaders have the luxury of developing organically, while others are thrust into leadership roles. The process is immaterial. The outcome is the same. As a result of being thrust into leadership roles, leaders must deal with issues of real and perceived value. They are forced to face facts and manage real situations. A leader by definition must structure order out of chaos. If you read any analysis of a presidency, the sense of lurching from crisis to crisis is very real.
Normally in these cases, what you know defines how you play the game. Information asymmetry is sometimes crucial to this process. The possession of information oftentimes separates the few from the many. In feudal societies dukes ran the world. The term ‘duke’ is derived from the Latin word ducere which means to educate. Dukes were in many cases blood brothers and relatives of the ruling king. These guys saw the big picture and knew the score. Everyone else was just paddling along.
We could choose to use the possession of information, and its resultant thinking patterns, to classify people into 2 groups; blue pill thinkers and red pill thinkers. Blue-pill-thinkers know the rules, work with the rules, play by the rules and believe in the rules. In most cases they are protected by the rules. A classic case of rigid blue-pill thinking (despite strong evidence to the contrary) is Sansa Stark before her education by Ramsey Snow and Lord Baelish. Red pill thinkers get exposed to the flaws and the cracks in the rules, whether advertently or inadvertently. As a result of this exposure, they begin to question the causes, effects and application of these rules as well as the motives of the various actors. As The Matrix accurately put it, each pill has irreversible effects.
Many alphas are red pill thinkers who deliberately perpetuate blue pill thinking among their followers for the maintenance of order within the pack. They will shield their charges from certain facts because some people just cannot handle the truth. This is part of what it means to structure order out of chaos. An example of this kind of thinking within a corporate context is the Gervais Theory of organisations. Somebody commented that it described his career spanning 20+ years. Most sadly this explanation was coming at the tail end of the individual’s 20+ years!
Perhaps another way of illustrating this stratification is the understanding of tribal arithmetic. The 2008 and 2013 elections opened my eyes to tribal thinking. So one place that I found to be a veritable treasure trove on this was quite surprisingly the Bible. So I tried to run it through the history of Israel. In truth, if you read through Judges, all tribes judged Israel at one point or other. The children of Israel forgot that their security was Jehovah Elohim for any consistent stretch of time. So this is what came up.
The tribe of Ephraim were alphas and without a doubt the bad boys of Israel. Ephraim was the son of the last patriarch, Joseph, and an elite Egyptian priest’s daughter. Ephraim was born into royalty in Egypt. Manasseh, his brother, was his trusted sidekick while Dan may have been his trusted lieutenant. With a political following this effortlessly developed, Ephraim oftentimes lorded it over the other tribes. It is my suspicion that this was the reason they used to ask Judges from other tribes, “Why didn’t you call us to the battle?” When the 10 tribes split from Judah Jeroboam set up his headquarters in Ephraim.
One of the tribes I find most fascinating is Naphtali. Naphtali was the lastborn son of Leah’s handmaid. In terms of patriarchal love, he started out from very low in the hierarchy. This apparently did not bother him and he flourished to become the free spirit of Israel. He bordered the northern ‘frontier territories’ and was a skilled warrior performing military feats during the times of the Judges. Naphtali played a key role in the reign of Solomon and greatly assisted his various construction projects. He appears in my mind’s eye as an artistically gifted, dreadlocked hunk.
Benjamin was blessed by Jacob with the words “Shall raven as a wolf…” He was Jacob’s lastborn, a brother of Joseph and the son of Rachel. As such his status and identity among the 12 tribes’ hierarchy was not in question. So he was not out to jockey for position. It is possible that the truth was more important to him than it was for the other tribes. The fact that the prophets Jeremiah and Paul were both Benjamites is (in my understanding) a direct consequence of this fact. CORRECTION: Jeremiah was a Levite, albeit from Anatoth – a Levite town within Benjamite territory.
Immediately after Joshua’s death, the tribe of Judah led Israel for a while. Thereafter the title of Judge circulated among the tribes in succession. My take is that during this time Judah was your typical sigma. Their ‘turning alpha’ was precipitated by the national crisis of the Philistines. That was the whole point of the Philistines anyway, but more has been said of that elsewhere.
An interesting aside is that Judah had a bond with Benjamin stemming from Judah’s pledging his life for Benjamin when Pharaoh’s representative (Joseph) was testing them in Egypt. Additionally, the two were neighbours. When Judah co-opted Manasseh, Ephraim’s blood-brother and confederate, Ephraim’s tribal alliance was crippled.
Normally a leader will be perceived to be wrong in one way or other. The thing about leadership is that everyone has an opinion. Or as Alliser Thorne in Game of Thrones phrases it so well, a leader has the right to be “second-guessed” by every single one of his charges, even though the ultimate responsibility for outcomes lies with him. By this token, ‘there comes a time’ when a leader’s followers must choose whether they want to continue following or whether they want to chart their own course. The alpha will at this point need to make a choice as to whether they want to play the political game and strike compromises with the wants of their charges or whether he will stick by their ‘non-negotiables’ and go it alone. This in some cases boils down to their rating on the ‘need-to-lead’ scale vis-a-vis the compromises being asked for. Examples of this happening include Israel asking Samuel for a king, Israel under Jeroboam asking “What part have we in Judah?“, the Conservatives rioting against Margaret Thatcher and the Lord Jesus Christ asking his followers, “Will ye also go away?”
In some cases this is how a sigma forms. In many cases a beta makes a play for alpha, fails and is summarily dismissed from the pack. Whatever the case or cause, one defining characteristic of sigmas is that they represent a legitimate alternative narrative which counters the prevailing trend. Examples of this state include Mike Corleone prior to the Sollozzo debacle in The Godfather and Cross deLena prior to the Virginio Ballazzo incident in The Last Don, Maximus in Gladiator, Merry and Pippin at the tail end of LOTR when retaking the Shire.
This ‘alternative narrative’ often poses an instinctive and existential threat to an alpha and their widely propagated blue-pill thinking. It could destroy the foundation upon which the alpha’s superstructure is built. A sigma need not necessarily replicate himself in order to spread. But his beliefs can. How else would one explain the phrase in the Bible “and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” Examples of this happening include Elijah at Carmel, Socrates, Sir Thomas the Archbishop of Canterbury, Che Guevara and PLO Lumumba.
Anyway, so much for analysis, live your life.