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Swatting Flies:
Reflections on Men & Murder


Hercules battles the hydra

4,531 words

Recently I suffered a plague of flies. It started small, with just a couple. I noticed one buzzing around the living room, moving at a fairly leisurely clip. It was easy to kill, a deed I committed with a dish towel. But I quickly noticed a second one, which seemed rather odd to me. The apartment was relatively clean. There were no rotting carcasses about, or starving African children.

I didn’t think much of this until about a day later, when I found four or so of the little buggers in my kitchen. That was in the morning, when I was in a hurry to get to work. I killed a couple, then headed out. Needless to say, I gave the flies no further thought for the next several hours, until I was pulling into the driveway in the late afternoon. It was then that I thought of the flies once more, and wondered with a kind of sinking feeling whether their numbers had multiplied. Indeed they had. I found at least nine of them in the kitchen, and busily setting about trying to thin out the herd.

It was in the kitchen that they normally congregated. I was therefore convinced that there had to be some kind of filth lurking in there somewhere. Perhaps a bit of rotting sausage had fallen between the stove and the sink. Perhaps my cat had pursued a wounded mouse till the thing had crawled under the refrigerator and died. I looked everywhere and thoroughly cleaned the place. But it did no good. Day after day the flies were back, and their numbers kept increasing. There was one day when I reckon I must have killed fifteen of them.

I went to the local drugstore and bought fly paper. The kind you see in movies set in places like Havana: hanging from the ceiling, shimmering in the golden rays of the July sun, and shivering a bit in the breeze from the rusty old table fan. There was indeed something romantic about it. I pictured myself sitting under the flypaper, wearing a Panama hat and smoking a stogie. The trouble is that flypaper just doesn’t work. After several days every last strip of it was bare. I kept moving the strips around, hanging them in doorways, convinced this would catch the flies as they flew from room to room. But they just flew right around it – and I got stuck in the stuff as I made my way around the apartment, forgetting it was there. Did flypaper ever work?

After several days I noticed was getting better at killing them with the dish towel. The trick is to wait till the flies light on something, then sneak up on them very carefully until your hand and your weapon are actually quite close. Then – smack! Speed is absolutely crucial here. The trouble is that the dish towel displaced the air and the flies got a warning rush of wind before the towel came down. The younger, quicker ones would zoom away.

It was then that I came to appreciate the brilliant design of the traditional plastic fly swatter. Its perforated paddle reduces the degree to which air is displaced as the thing comes wooshing towards an unwary fly. I acquired two at the local dime store. Armed with this specially-designed technology, I now perfected my fly killing skills.

Instead of flailing at them all over the kitchen I simply stood calmly at the center of the room . . . and waited. I no longer struggled to watch the little black dots flying about, trying to spy where they had landed. Instead, my eyes slowly scanned the surfaces of the kitchen. I would see one on the handle of the refrigerator door. Moving quickly but silently, I would position my body within range. Then I would extend my arm, getting the swatter as close to the fly as possible. And, with a speed that often surprised even me, my swatter would flash forward. Sometimes I never saw the fly fall. It would just appear on the floor, its little legs barely discernible, reaching skyward.

Often I would move in rapid succession. An execution on the refrigerator door handle would be followed by one on the stove. Then one on the venetian blinds. Sometimes I would come into the kitchen and it would seem to be completely free of flies. No little dots whizzing through the air, no buzzing. But I quickly realized they were trying to outsmart me. I looked up – and there they were clinging to the ceiling. It wasn’t that bright a move, though. All I had to do to kill them was extend my arm up and brush the swatter swiftly across the ceiling tiles. The impact would cause the flies to go crashing into the walls, and falling to the floor. Dead from multiple contusions.

A few days earlier I had been jumping about and cursing, working up a sweat. Now I had found a little center of stillness within myself, from which I was capable of calmly dealing out death. I found myself gripping the swatter less tightly as I struck. A light grip was all that it took. My movements became graceful – but, in a strange sense, automatic. As if some dark power were working through me, and all I had to do was calmly allow it to take possession of my body. I looked at the swatter in my hand and thought, “I do not strike. It strikes all by itself.”

At first when I killed a fly I would immediately reach for a piece of paper toweling and scoop up the little thing and toss it into the trash. Then I stopped bothering, I was killing so many. The kitchen floor was now littered with the corpses of my victims. Something about this appealed to me and I didn’t mind stepping over their little bodies. Of course, one reason I had earlier cleaned them up so quickly was that I didn’t want the flies to suffer. Sometimes I would only wound one, and then I would see it lying on its back sputtering in what must have been (to a fly) unspeakable agony. When I picked up the flies with my toweling I would always crush them to put them out of their misery as quickly as possible.

After killing dozens of them, however, I became hardened. I remember one morning in particular. I was making breakfast when I saw one dart in front of me and sail off towards the wine rack. I was mildly amused by the little thing’s hubris in flying so close to me – so close to the angel of death. Hadn’t it heard? Calmly I lifted my swatter, twirling it in my fingers like it was a light-weight spear. Then, in a twinkling, I had dispatched the fly—crushing it against an empty box of cat litter. I could hear the little thing lying there buzzing in agony. But I had some toast to butter. Which I then calmly ate while standing in the kitchen listening to the insect’s death throes.

And then it occurred to me: I’m taking pleasure in this. At first, the thought disturbed me, and I recoiled from it. After all, what kind of person would that make me? A sociopath? When I was in grade school, I remember hearing whispers about a little boy in our neighborhood. He was “not quite right,” the adults said. His parents had bought him a succession of pets, each of which he had killed in one way or another. None of the other parents would allow their children near him, and there was talk of taking him out of school. “Am I that sort of person?” I thought to myself. It’s a question that has actually occurred to me in one form or another for years.

From time to time I have violent fantasies (as well as violent dreams). I’ve sat in meetings and imagined myself cleaving a colleague’s head with an axe. I’ve stood in lines or sat on buses dreaming up ways to torture annoying people that would have shocked the Marquis de Sade. When I’ve found myself doing this sort of thing it always disturbs me. I’ve often thought it’s as if there’s a devil living inside me somewhere.

The dreams I’ve had are even worse – though I haven’t had any violent dreams in a long time, actually. Mainly I had them when I was much younger and going through a lot of emotional turmoil. The pattern of the dreams was always basically the same. They would involve some horrible act of violence or sadism, but never perpetrated by me. I was always a helpless onlooker – but completely incapable of intervening to stop what was happening before my eyes. I would awaken from these dreams often horrified and disgusted at myself. After all, I had created the dream. It was my imagination that did it. How was I capable of such thoughts? And what did it all mean?

And now my experience with the flies had yet again brought me face to face with the darker side of myself. A side that enjoyed causing suffering and death. My cat came in the kitchen shortly thereafter, looking to be fed. I’ve had this cat for twelve years. She has been with me through thick and thin, and in some ways I regard her as my best friend. Could I torture or kill her, as I had the flies? I immediately realized that I could not, that it would be impossible for me. This thought was reassuring. I could kill the flies because they were my enemies. They had invaded my home. They were annoying me and spreading germs. And they were definitely not cute. I felt no qualms at all about what I had done to the flies. It was me against them, and I had acted with just cause.

And yet — to take pleasure in killing and tormenting them. That thought still disturbed me. But not for long.

One afternoon while standing in the kitchen and wiping little specks of fly blood off the linoleum, I realized that it is not just psychopaths who take pleasure in killing and causing suffering. This is universal to the human species – though, as I will argue in a moment, I think it is most strongly felt by men. Now, this “discovery” of mine may strike you as glaringly obvious. Didn’t we all know this already? Yet it’s one of the truths that we usually admit to knowing only when we’re confronted with it. Otherwise we go around in complete and total denial of it.

Consider the following. What reason do hunters give for what they do? I’m not talking about hunter-gatherers who depend upon killing game for dinner. I’m talking about guys who take weekend trips out into the boonies loaded up with ammo and cheap beer. Sure, they may bring home a deer and feast on its meat for a few weeks. But that’s not why they went out in the woods. And it wasn’t to drink beer with their friends either. Quite obviously, they were re-connecting with their primeval male role and delighting in surprising and killing another living thing. But if you ask hunters why they do it they’ll tell you it was because they like venison, or because they enjoy getting away for the city, or because they wanted to spend time with their friends. You’ll seldom hear one admit the truth: “I enjoy killing.”

And the same is true of soldiers. When asked why they kill, they always tell us that they are serving their country, or that they are “liberating” the people they are killing. On one level, of course, this is entirely true (at least in the sense that they think these things are true). But if you were to ask them if they take pleasure in killing, you would find scarcely one who will admit to it. Now, many very well may not take any pleasure in what they do. And I have indeed talked to some soldiers who seemed thoroughly traumatized and disgusted by having had to kill other human beings. But I wonder whether they might be in the minority. And I wonder in some cases if the trauma might have been caused by the realization that they actually did enjoy killing.

In unguarded moments, soldiers certainly talk like they enjoy killing. In 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter pilots accidentally killed a Reuters reporter and his crew. “Look at those dead bastards,” one pilot was caught saying on tape. “Nice,” replied the other. A Marine sharpshooter in Baghdad told a reporter “We had a great day. We killed a lot of people.”

During World War Two, the British secretly taped the conversations of German POWs [2]. One bomber pilot was recorded as saying “It became a need in me to drop bombs. It tingles me, gives me a fine feeling. Just as beautiful, in fact, as shooting at someone.” Another German said “I used to shoot at everything. We liked to go for women pushing prams, often with children at their sides. It was a kind of sport, really.”

Of course, some of this may be false bravado, or a desire to shock (especially when talking to reporters). Perhaps these men actually loathed killing, but felt that they had to put up a false front to seem “manly.” Since the Second World War, in fact, it has been popular with Left Wing intellectuals to claim that despite what soldiers say they really can’t abide killing – and, indeed, can barely be induced to do it at all. This claim really got off the ground as a result of a widely-publicized, and apparently fraudulent, study carried out on infantrymen following the war. Allegedly, the majority of the men claimed that they could not even bring themselves to fire their weapons at the enemy. In subsequent interviews, however, the same soldiers denied not only that they ever made such statements to the psychologists conducting the study; they denied ever even being asked whether they’d been reluctant to fire their weapons.

Stephen Pinker mentions this anecdote in his book The Blank Slate and notes that “Recent surveys of soldiers in battle and of rioters in ethnic massacres find that they often kill with gusto, sometimes in a state they describe as ‘joy’ or ‘ecstasy.’” This has to remind us of the Berserkers from whom so many Counter-Currents readers are descended. The absurd Leftist claims about masses of reluctant soldiers are merely an extension of the Rousseauian fantasy of the “noble savage” (a major target of Pinker’s book). Leftists want to believe that human beings are naturally “good,” and that killing just isn’t in their nature. Society or patriarchy or capitalism or something forces them into it, against their better nature.

But in evolutionary terms we ought to expect that people would enjoy killing. Indeed, it would be surprising if they didn’t. And furthermore, there’s a strong argument to be made that not enjoying killing is dysfunctional and dysgenic; a perversion, one might say.

It’s a biological truism that the activities and functions necessary for survival and reproduction are all pleasure-inducing. Two obvious examples are eating and having sex. People have a tendency to name sex as the most intense bodily pleasure. But they would sooner give up sex than give up eating. And the pleasure of eating after a long fast is far more gratifying than an orgasm. This is how it should be: we have a drive to reproduce, but our lives don’t depend on it. And if we die of starvation we may never reproduce. So the drive to eat is stronger, and so is the satisfaction it produces. But much else that has to do with biological necessity is a source of pleasure. Defecation and urination are two obvious examples that we don’t often mention in polite company.

Fighting and killing are also necessary for survival, and so it should be no surprise that they can provide us with exquisite pleasure. I can imagine the reader squirming in his chair at this line. But it’s true. This is the dark side of our nature, gentle reader. But there’s no denying it. Nature made mayhem and killing pleasurable because the organism often needs to be able to destroy and kill in order to survive – and to protect the social unit it depends upon. It stands to reason that an organism that felt pain (physical or psychological) as a result of aggression would be less likely to aggress – and thus more likely to die without passing its genes along.

Nature has therefore selected for human beings who have the capacity to enjoy killing, or at least to be able to do it with little or no pain. But I should be more specific: nature has selected for males who bear this trait. That killing is primarily the business of men is too well-known to require much argument. The reason women don’t go hunting has nothing to do with not enjoying the great outdoors. It has to do with the fact that they feel sorry for the deer. Tough, frontier-type women weren’t so soft and gooey about hunting, of course. But that was because their lives (and the lives of their children) depended upon it. Women in modern America recognize, correctly, that the boys won’t starve if they don’t go hunting; killing the deer is unnecessary. And the men know this too. But their blood lust is stronger than women’s, so they go and do it anyway.

Mark Dyal writes in his essay “Paganism without Swords [3]”: “It is heartwarming to watch the facial and body language of every man that picks up a bladed weapon. They are instantly transformed, not in thinking, ‘boy, it would be nice to slice some cheese with this,’ but instead, ‘this would look great buried in someone’s ribs.’ Something primordial is reawakened, if only for an instant, but it is there.” And: “There must be something horrible and magical about killing someone into whose eyes we may stare.” This is a significant choice of words. Horrible? Yes. But magical as well – beautiful, even. This is truly a “guy thing” if ever there was one.

Society, of course, places boundaries around blood lust, just as it does around the sex drive. And this is one of the most basic characteristics of civilization. Sex is hemmed in (or used to be hemmed in) in such a way that it not only doesn’t threaten social order but is positively beneficial to it. For the most part, men used to have to sublimate their sex drives until marriage, whereupon sex became a device for bringing more citizens into the world. Sex outside marriage, and sex that violated marriage compacts, was often dealt with harshly. Similarly, civilization forces men to channel their desire to kill into socially-acceptable forms. The most obvious example would be soldiering. Or being an executioner (a profession that really needs to make a comeback). Or a government assassin, like James Bond [4].

Society forces us to give “good reasons” for killing, and the top one is that we are killing for the good of society. And indeed many soldiers and assassins do sincerely profess that they are killing for their country and the common good. But there is always a reward involved, one far more gratifying than medals: the pleasure of killing itself. Of course, there’s pleasure involved in murder as well. The difference is that most murderers later feel guilt. Why? For no other reason than that the murder violated “the rules”; it was not sanctioned by the social order.

To be sure, soldiers and government assassins sometimes also feel guilt later on, but I’ll wager they do so far less often than those who commit unlawful murder. And many seem completely unplagued by guilt, even when they are shooting mothers pushing prams. I also think it’s probable that soldiers are much more likely to feel guilt when they are intelligent enough to realize that the words of their politicians are lies and that their government-sanctioned murder really isn’t protecting the folks back home. However, in situations where their people really are directly imperiled, I would wager soldierly guilt is much less common.

Men who are capable of killing for no good reason – indeed, who feel no need even to tell lies to themselves about why they kill – are psychopaths. In one way, the psychopathic killer is no different from most men: he is a natural born killer, and will enjoy killing if given the opportunity. But unlike most men his desire to kill cannot be channeled and made socially useful. And the reason for this is that he is incapable of forming real, personal connections with others and empathizing with them. One widely-recognized characteristic of the psychopath, in fact, is his inability to form ties even with those closest to him, such as members of his own family or race.

An odd fact about serial killers is that they actually tend to exclusively kill members of their own race. Whatever the underlying reasons for this may be, it certainly indicates that psychopaths are unlikely to make good white nationalists. The pre-condition for channeling men’s blood lust into socially useful forms is their ability to feel a natural tie with those like themselves. If this is absent in a man, he is truly no better than a rabid animal. The normal man is a killer too, but his blood lust is tempered by his ability to feel sympathy with those like himself.

Of course, all of the above points to the inescapable conclusion that the readiness to kill for one’s own group or society is a social virtue. But, again, society has to place strict moral and legal boundaries around the desire to kill in order for it to become such a virtue. This inevitably means that some men (e.g., those who never become soldiers or assassins) never get to truly express their blood lust. And even those who do still carry an excess of blood lust that needs an outlet. The situation is exactly analogous to sex. Hemmed in by society’s rules, most men carry around an excess of sexual desire that is never expressed in actual sexual intercourse. The result, of course, is masturbation, and the vicarious enjoyment of sexuality through pornography.

It’s often been observed that for men contact sports like football, soccer, and rugby are a form of “war substitute,” and this is obviously true. Contact sports are to our lust for killing as masturbation is to sexual intercourse. And the analogy between watching sports and watching porn is fairly obvious. And did you know that testosterone increases in men watching sports – especially if their team wins – just as it does in men watching porn?

Is there also a connection between the lust to kill and the lust to rut? Is there something like a sexual thrill in killing? We tend to think that this is something that could be truly only of very, very sick psychopaths. (The kind that make normal psychopaths blush.) But I’m not so sure. Mark Dyal quotes a character in novelist Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire:

Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy’s belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this? Is your dick hard yet?

Goodness. Enough to make you wonder if there might actually be something to all those Freudian, feminist interpretations of spears, swords, guns, and rockets as surrogate phalluses.

It’s an interesting fact that fighting (whether real or pretend) and “war play” begins in little boys long before puberty. And, of course, it’s relatively uncommon in little girls. The reason appears to be that testosterone masculinizes the brains of little boys while they are still in the womb. In other words, they are already little killers right when they enter the world, and well before puberty and sexual desire ever set in. This is actually quite significant, really. It means that in a way the will to fight and to kill are a much more deeply-rooted, primal part of male nature than the desire to have sex.

We all feel sorry for the very tiny number of men who go through their entire lives and remain virgins. We feel that some very basic, fundamental aspect of their being has never achieved fulfillment. In many traditional cultures killing is a right of passage for young men. But in the modern world almost every man ends his life as a virgin where killing is concerned. (Most men go their entire lives without ever even getting into a fistfight.) We do not reflect on it, but it means – in fact – that an even deeper, more primal part of their masculine being goes unfulfilled.

Men are so sex- and porn-obsessed in the modern world because they aren’t allowed to be killing-obsessed. They speak about women they’ve slept with as notches on their belts – as if they were talking about kills. Sex and sexual conquest mean more to men today because real killing and conquest is closed off for them.

Hardier souls, however, are attracted to closer approximations to bloodletting, like mixed martial arts: the number of MMA academies has skyrocketed in the last several years. Remember in old movies how guys would sometimes just haul off and smack each other? (“Why, you dirty . . . !” SMACK!) It used to be that men would get in fights and shrug it off – and most boys had been in some scuffles at some point in their youth. Not anymore. Slug a smartass now and you’ll lose your job and spend a couple of years in the clink. And Big Sister is watching the playground, eternally vigilant lest bullying arise and forever scar the souls of sensitive young boys.

It’s enough to make you wanna kill somebody . . .

And enough to give you hope for the future. Because unless they find some way to screw it up, our nature isn’t changing. The emasculating, pacifying, “safe” modern world will never truly satisfy men. The peace they make with it will always be unstable, and ready to crack. I feel like a Marxist talking about “historical inevitability,” but it seems to me historically inevitable that given this tension, more and more men will abjure the modern, feminized realm. And all that pent up blood lust will boil over. A lot of flies are going to get swatted. And history will end – and begin again. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.

(See also my review [5] of Jack Donovan’s The Way of Men. And see the book itself.)