View from

In Defense of the Bugmen

But I am not interested in chiding Bronze Age Pervert—as other publications, such as National Review, have done—for his use of dehumanization. Instead, I want to offer a full-throated defense of these nasty bugmen.”

In the new Netflix series 3 Body Problem, aliens on their way to Earth determine that humans are like bugs. Throughout the first season, there is commentary about whether or not humans are, in fact, no better than bugs. Maybe it is true? In the final episode, this attitude is embraced whole-heartedly when one of the lead characters observes that humans have been trying to get rid of bugs forever. “But look around. They’re not going anywhere.” Which is to say: Even if we are bugs ourselves, that does not mean we can be easily defeated.

This attitude is instructive in the context of an entirely different kind of threat to civilization—a threat that comes from looking backward in time, rather than forward. It is articulated in the infamous 2018 book Bronze Age Mindset. According to the book’s author, Bronze Age Pervert (BAP), human flourishing peaked during the Bronze Age, when men were free to be men in the most cliché sense of the word: muscular, brave, warring, close to nature, and unencumbered by the demands of modern, liberated women. For example, in praising the ancient Greeks, BAP writes:

“You know about their great art, science, and literature, or think you do. But these were men of conquest, exploration and adventure first. Aeschylus had on his tombstone engraved that he fought at Marathon, not that he wrote his plays. The free man is a warrior, and only a man of war is a real man.”

Central to the thesis of Bronze Age Mindset is the notion that bugmen are to blame for perpetuating the weakness inherent to modern society. To BAP’s followers, the destruction of the bugmen is an exciting call-to-action. As one reviewer on Goodreads put it: “If you’re tired of tasteful banter in wine bars and want to scorch the bugmen from the anthill I recommend [Bronze Age Mindset]!”

Yes, scorch the bugmen! It is quite a battle cry.

“Bugman” has no strict definition. Commentators and meme-makers online use it as a derogatory term for any perceived enemy of right-wing causes. Often, it is used as a synonym for terms like non-player character, beta-cuck, normie, or libtard. To BAP, a bugman seems to be anyone who 1) is not sufficiently masculine, 2) is on the Left, 3) is “neutered” by the modern “hivemind,” 4) emphasizes the role of nurture over nature, or 5) works within modern institutions.

So, indeed: a normie lib. 

Reading Bronze Age Mindset, it is easy to get swept away by BAP’s comical and oddly endearing style. With intentional grammatical errors and missing words, he comes off as an impassioned caveman philosopher. (For example: “Chimp in state of nature never jerks off, but in captivity he does, wat does this mean? In state of nature he’s too busy, to put plainly.”) This style is not exactly convincing, but it is engrossing. At some point while reading the book, I found myself cheering the imminent destruction of the odious bugmen—all while entirely aware that I, myself, am a quintessential bugman. 

It is common for ideologues to dehumanize and to “other” anyone who is not like themselves. This is the trick BAP is playing: By labeling them as bugmen, he is dehumanizing all the normie libs (like me) who gladly play the games modern society has orchestrated for them to play. But I am not interested in chiding BAP—as other publications, such as National Review, have done—for his use of dehumanization. Instead, I want to offer a full-throated defense of these nasty bugmen. 

First, where I agree with BAP: I agree that there is a general sense of being trapped in the modern world. The ideal American life is a hum-drum story that entails two decades of education, four decades of mind-numbingly dull work, and a final decade or so of retirement, complete with mounting health challenges. At what point in this story does a person truly get to live?

As I wrote recently, our culture has failed to optimize for peak experiences. Instead, it is optimized for uniformity, complacency, and bland experiences. At a time when suburbs are expanding, participation in youth sports is declining, and time spent on social media is rising, it is hard not to be pessimistic about modernity.

Or, as BAP writes about suburban living, “There are no nooks and corners where boys can form gangs, be away from prying eyes of parents and others, and have the feeling that they are exploring and owning territory, as there is in the city and the countryside. America has successfully portioned off its historical population, its rightful citizens, and its tax base, in work camps and dormitories. That is what the modern American ‘city’ is: an economic zone arranged much like a work-camp.”

And, yet, as much as I love BAP’s rants against suburbia and bland modern living, I see almost no value in his prescriptions. In his view: “Only the warrior is a free man. The only right government is military government, and every other form is both hypocritical and destructive to true freedom.”

BAP over-emphasizes the value of freedom without even defining what he means by this. And almost any way I can think to define freedom, I do not see how the warrior comes out free. The modern suburbanite might feel trapped on a spiritual level, but in reality he can, at any moment, grab a credit card, buy a plane ticket to anywhere he chooses on the entire globe, and proceed to embark on a madcap adventure, held back only by his own imagination and local laws. Compare this to a warrior (ancient or modern): No matter how free his soul might feel while engaged in the act of battle, he is at all times physically trapped. He is trapped in his rank; he is trapped in a rigid schedule; he is trapped to a fate that will likely lead to a painful, early death.

As for the idea that “the only right government is military government”—in what world and by what metrics? Of the countries currently ruled by military dictatorships (Gabon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Guinea, Chad, Myanmar, Mali), which one, exactly, is supposed to serve as a compelling example of this form of government providing an enviable amount of freedom to its citizens?

As in the days of ancient Greece, so it is today that the military men not only lack real freedom (in terms of being able to move freely about the world); they also lack real power. Real power is held, indeed, by the bugmen. Consider Tim Cook, who controls the most valuable brand in the world, with Apple valued at over $3 trillion. Or consider Satya Nadella, who runs the company (Microsoft) that briefly overtook Apple as the most valuable. Or consider Sam Altman, whose company may already hold the power to end human civilization.

Cook, Nadella, Altman—the three of them put together have about as much masculine energy as a high school freshman who just barely made the cut for JV tennis. And yet the power and authority they command in the real world is more than anything an ancient Greek warrior could ever fathom. In fact, the technology titans of today have more in common with the Greek gods than with the mortal warriors. The fact that BAP cannot appreciate this indicates that he is enthralled with an aesthetic of masculine power rather than with power itself.

But the average person (bugman) does not need to become a technology titan in order to wield extraordinary power. In the modern world, it is relatively easy to gain a certain level of influence thanks to the Internet or, at the very least, to gain power through knowledge. Anyone working in the medical system contributes to curing illnesses that would take out an army of the strongest Bronze Age warriors. Architects and engineers can construct towers into the heavens or build energy plants that light up megacities. Being alive today means having endless opportunities to achieve godlike dominion over nature. 

Looking forward, real power will be held by the people who help humanity cure aging, become multiplanetary, and harness the power of nuclear fusion for an endless supply of energy. These are the battles the bugmen will fight and very likely will win. And if their biceps become even scrawnier in the process, then…well…who cares?

We objectively live in an amazing time. And wherever in the world there is wealth, stability, and freedom, it is all but guaranteed that there is a healthy population of bugmen keeping the society running. Scott Galloway, a particularly proud normie lib, puts it bluntly, “The most positive force in the world today…is the American middle class and the US government.”

The idea that normie lib instincts are optimal for individuals and society is not particularly new. The ancient Greeks themselves often gave voice to this same idea.

In The Law, Plato wrote that peace is “the highest good” and that lawgivers should aim for the highest good in all legislation. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes about the importance of harmonious relationships as opposed to conflict and aggression. And Euripides often critiqued war and violence in his plays. For instance, his play The Trojan Women highlights the tragic consequences that result from violent conflict.

It is true that modern liberal men are often lame, annoying, and overly fragile, but at least they do not fantasize about a cartoon version of the optimal male psyche (and body) from a time before anyone even understood the value of washing hands. But go ahead and call us bugs, BAP. We won’t be going anywhere.

Peter Clarke, a Merion West contributor, is a writer in San Francisco and the host of the podcast Team Futurism. He can be found on X @HeyPeterClarke

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.