Zero value men: their pursuits, and their pursuers

A while back, I wrote my thoughts about MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) where I came up with the alternative of MUTAW (Men unable to afford women, or maybe just unwilling to) to describe my experiences. I later elaborated about men’s alternative goals instead of pursuing a family. In relation to my more recent posts about value, these earlier posts essentially defended a pursuit of zero value. At the time, I did not go so far as to avoid any relationship with anyone, but I did express a desire to minimize relationships, and in particular abandon any goals of marriage or fatherhood. In my understanding at least, this is very different than most of the discussions of MGTOW that define the term always in terms of the relationship with women: ranging from informed caution to absolute avoidance. My approach does not consider women at all, but instead reduces all relationships to sporadic contracts of some immediate need: gigs instead of relationships.

I like the concept of the gig economy that peaked in popularity in the last decade, but as since faded due to corruption of the concept. The concept I liked is where the gig economy involved people whose default status was unemployed yet pursuing their private interests. In this default status, the individual is not advertising his availability or his capabilities. There is no need for a LinkedIn profile, or any other kind of public media presence. The gig is a circumstance where the man volunteers to take on some task due to the specific circumstances, usually due to a desire to replenish his funds, but may be due to answering some plea for help with his capabilities.

The actual gig economy was more expansive than what I am describing. Within this concept also included people working full time with advertising or participation in job-sharing sites to string successive gigs to fill in a full work schedule. Many in this category were reluctant participants because their preference would have been a more formal employment or long-term contract but such opportunities were lacking at the time. I am describing a niche within the concept where people embraced the spirit of punctuating his liberty with occasional, randomly-timed, gigs.

Although this concept is in context of the modern opportunities of social media and smart phones, the underlying concept is probably ancient. Having career-duration full time employment is a relatively recent invention, especially in terms of work that is not associated with some trade or guild. From my own childhood, I vaguely recall knowing of adults who had sporadic work and who enjoyed the downtime between their jobs: enjoyed in the sense that they were not depressed about their plight. I grew up in a semi-rural area where there was seasonal work either related to the farming, or to small-town type initiatives. Even something like a dit

Although this concept is in context of the modern opportunities of social media and smart phones, the underlying concept is probably ancient. Having career-duration full time employment is a relatively recent invention, especially in terms of work that is not associated with some trade or guild. From my own childhood, I vaguely recall knowing of adults who had sporadic work and who enjoyed the downtime between their jobs: enjoyed in the sense that they were not depressed about their plight. I grew up in a semi-rural area where there was seasonal work either related to the farming, or to small-town type project that quickly ends and does not need repeating for a while. I imagine such opportunities were even more abundant earlier.

There was a time, not too far in the past, where the gig economy was the rule for most people rather than the exception. While most probably would have preferred the “high value” of a job that provides reliable income for many years to come, they adapted their lives to the reality that those opportunities would not come, or that they were unwilling to go to those opportunities.

The modern gig economy, or at least the one that flourished recently, was more voluntary. Single men partaking the gig economy did so despite their opportunities for steady income. Similar to their predecessors, they adjusted their lives around this reality by replacing the notion of a disposable income with the notion of separating income and expenses at different times. In a gig economy, there are different periods: one for earning and the other for spending.

Relevant to the recent discussions, these workers (the subset of the overall gig workers who appreciated the sporadic nature of the opportunities) strove in the opposite direction than that of the high-value man who needs the prerequisite of a reliable source disposable income. The high value man is high value because he has a lot to offer to a high-value network. In contrast, the here-described gig worker tends to minimize his offering to others, partly because he has no confidence of future funds-replenishment, but also partly because he wants to postpone the need to replenish his funds.

Discussions of the desirability of high-value status often immediate dismiss as obvious the undesirability of being low value. The gig economy argues that this option cannot be so quickly dismissed. There is a wealth in minimizing obligations to others, a type of wealth that is antithetical to the high-value man.

Meanwhile, the discussion of gig economy still has a lower limit on value. The gig worker must retain some value in terms of advertising the availability of his capabilities order to secure the next gig. The gig worker does not strive to be zero value, but he may approach arbitrarily close to that limit by postponing as much as possible his next gig.

I propose that there is a population of men who do pursue zero value as their goal. Again, value in this context, is what society can extract from him. Value approaches zero as the quality of his relationships approaches zero: retaining only those relationships that demand no burden from him.

Which is more manly: pursuing high-value, or pursuing zero value? The modern answer seems to be the first option. This is partly due to the idea of a man having access to intimate relations with women and that requires attracting women. The modern era requires the man to earn this attraction through his value. No woman is attracted to a zero value men, or at least their prevalence is so low as to be unlikely to be found.

It seems to me that this obsession of a sexual marketplace is a recent phenomena, and one that has rapidly grown over my lifetime. I think in recent years, this obsession has peaked before reaching the entire population of men, and has since declined as many men realized they were duped into participating: the MGTOW phenomenon.

Men have many other opportunities of satisfaction outside of sex. If sex is the primary motivation for pursuing higher value (in the sense I’ve been discussing recently), than setting this option aside frees a man from needing value. He can get by with offering less value. From some minority of men, they may set aside other value-obligated objectives to approach zero value. These are like the ascetics that have been around forever.

I’ll assert that attaining zero value is a legitimate manly pursuit. It is part of the options available to the nature of being a man. It would be an interesting scientific question to understand whether this is a regressive trait that appear in only a few men who lack sufficient motivation to pursue value. There are certainly the two extremes: at one end are the men who are insatiably driven to pursue high value, and at the other end are the men who are annoyed at having to offer any value at all. The scientific question is about the number of men pursuing value because they are convinced they have no other choice.

The modern era is very secular with little religious influence. What little influence religion has, it is mostly focused on recruitment or retention of their members. In the past, when religion was more central to society as a whole, there was more visibility to at least the existence of monasteries and the validity of the option of joining them. The monasteries may have some religious motivation to save oneself, or his family, or his community, but the attraction may also have been the minimization of personal obligation through the dilution within the monastery as a whole. With the monastery, there were at least the opportunities of achieving a status of being left completely alone. Even if that option involved the most extreme of asceticism, there would be some number in those positions, or aspiring for them.

Perhaps a better example is within some eastern religions (Buddhism?) where the ideal is to end the cycle of reincarnation by dismissing all emotional attachments to the world. The ideal is to cease to exist, not just in this life but for eternity. At one time, this was a very popular pursuit for men within their cultures that celebrated those perceived to have attained this ultimate goal. That goal is absolute zero value. Pursuing zero value is an option available to men, and in fact may be attractive to some number of them.

My understanding is that such practices are less popular today. I suspect that may be a consequence of the supremacy of modern science that has demonstrated its ability to improve life. That science reduces the baseline suffering that in the past would have encouraged people to seek to escape. It also provides, through the theory of evolution, an obligation to procreate because of the need to propagate genes. The combination of the greater sense of invincibility provided by science and the evolutionary justification of survival of the fittest seduces men into a lifetime commitment of pursuing of value.

I have a lot of respect for the wisdom of past cultures. I also have a lot of suspicion about the corruptive influences of science. I tend to think that the earlier attraction toward zero value could be a valid pursuit for men. Obviously not all men will choose this. The few that do choose this path are no less men for doing so. There is a masculine quality to pursuing zero value. This may be the ultimate in masculine because it excludes the feminine to the point of denying the resources that the feminine aspects of life requires. Perhaps selfish, but masculine nonetheless.

There is a widespread attraction for men to pursue high value. There is a similar attraction to pursue zero value. Clearly there is a huge market for advice and consultation to achieve high value. This may be misleading us to think there is no market for similar services to achieve low value. For one thing, people pursuing high value are eager to invest money and time for the chance to raise their status. Meanwhile, people pursuing zero value are disinclined to make any such commitments. Ultimately, pursuing zero value is a private and individual effort, and this is necessarily the case in at the near-zero extreme because there is no network to negotiate such advice.

Population statistics provide some hints that this population is substantial. There are many working-age men who are not in the labor market. They are not earning incomes. They are not paying taxes. They are not applying for jobs. They are not advertising their availability. We know this is true, but their reasons are not easy to measure. It appears impossible to establish the reasons for most of these non-participating males. These could be discouraged workers who have given up finding something that they can do, or they could have financial arrangements that frees them from pursuing incomes. Less discussed is the option of deliberately avoiding the opportunities they could easily capture because that seems unlikely.

Culturally, we cannot conceive of a well-adjusted man forgoing an income opportunity that requires no more burden on his life than his private pursuits. The common example are men spending time on role-playing video games. At least from my own experience, playing such games is just as difficult as many jobs. Our culture has a strong bias that it is irrational to turn down the income opportunity for the same level of effort.

It may be very rational for a man. The flaw may be in the science of economics.

The above makes a case for the benefit of seeking zero value. Like pursuing high value, pursuing zero value pursuits come with substantial risks especially as the individual gets closer to the ultimate end.

High-value status is very competitive with abundant aggressive actors either defending their status, or fighting to displace someone higher. After all, aggressiveness is a prerequisite for true high value because it earns the trust of others that selected would fight for the desired objectives. There will be conflict, and that conflict can have catastrophic results for at least one of the competitors.

Zero value status lacks this aggression because there are no relationships. As a result, there is no zero-sum competitions for zero value. There is no limit as to the number or proportion of men attaining zero status, at least in terms of the current generation. I can even envision a time of voluntary extinction for humanity as I believe often happens in nature and that has been seen in experiments such as the mouse utopia experiment. This is risk for the species, but not a risk to the pursuers.

The risk to the pursuers is the lack of relationships makes them vulnerable to society. They can be accused of anything and they would have no network to defend them. A man with no connections has no alibis, no one to vouch for their good character or their unlikelihood of doing what they are accused of doing.

I described in earlier posts, that society tends to judge zero-value man with suspicion. I described that this as a villain who either is hiding to sneakily acquire some unearned benefit, or is hiding some beneficial capability so as to not be obligated to deliver it. In both cases, society has an incentive to seek these out in order to interrupt their goals.

Another risk is more sinister in that people can exploit the vulnerability of near-zero-value man’s lack of a support network. A high-value man may achieve his goals nefariously and then assign blame to his discovery of some near-zero-value man.

For such a frame-up, there is a double penalty on the zero-value man. In additional to facing undeserved penalties, he is forced to participate in the proceedings of justice and this alone sets back his zero-value goal: he now has an inescapable relationship with society. Once caught in this trap, it is unlikely he will ever be able to achieve the sought zero value status. In the context of Buddhism, he is almost certainly guaranteed another life to start all over with.

Zero-value status is prey to the high-value predators. Once caught, the predator can do any sort of crime that advances his value while escaping any blame by attributing the fault to a man incapable of defense because of his lack of a support network or relationships.

At some point, a person pursuing zero-status recognizes this risk. I can’t imagine it being anything but obvious. Pushing ahead despite this risk is a masculine trait, and all the more so because society can’t comprehend the benefit.

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