The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Omega Men

"What about the Omegas?

It may sound flip, but it's a serious question. Especially with the Alpha/Beta paradigm, I imagine it would be hard to ignore the people whose lot in life is to be abused by the Alphas and the Betas (strangely appropriate to the blog title, eh?)

It seems to me that this is a group that is in desperate need of instruction on how to get out of the hole they've found themselves in."

I am unfamiliar with this term. If the writer will explain, I'll try to see how it fits into my world view. The intent of the project is to create a road-map for anyone who wants to become an adult. My take on it is that in most cases, this will automatically create the "Man" or "Woman" vibe. But I still want to slant things in the "man" direction because I've simply seen too little of what seems honest advice in this direction. It is either knuckle-dragging, smirking chauvenism or weepy-eyed "let's all share our feelings" "women are right, men are garbage" nonsense. Seen far too many men who are afraid of their own power, terrified that they might turn into an abuser. And others who are afraid to tap into their feelings, or even to love deeply. Confused about what they need to do or be to be attractive to the women who attract them.

This just isn't necessary. And if people don't like the role models I've selected--who cares. What they'll also have a chance to do is see HOW I"m modeling these men. Don't like mine? Choose others, and model away.


To reiterate, I'm taking the position that a healthy human being can either lead or follow, depending on the circumstances. Natural Alphas find themselves in (or seek out) the leadership positions more often. Natural Betas seek out positions where they can follow an effective leader. But within any hierarchy, only one guy at the top isn't following others (and doesn't he have to be aware of the feelings of stockholders?) and Most "followers" except those at the very bottom have followers of their own. So anyone "stuck" at either position is a potential problem. People with skills and ability who won't "step up" are, in essence, stealing from those who taught them.

There are a dozen conversations I've had over the course of my life that have changed me. One of them was with a lady named Jamie Charles, who looked me dead in the eye and said: "if the Alphas of the tribe don't take responsibility for leadership, the tribe suffers." I can see that. More clearly, the older I get. None of us become what we are in a vacuum. And the best way of repaying our teachers and mentors is to teach and lead.

And if we had bad teachers, bad examples? If we are to be adults, we have the obligation of seeking out positive ones, and modeling their behavior, attitudes, strategies and emotions.


Of course, you know my answer to: "how do I know I've found someone to model?" You look for balance: a healthy body, healthy relationship, and healthy career. Some of my chosen models are only "o.k." in one of the three areas, but make up for it by being STELLAR in the others. That works for me. But I won't model anyone who is "blown out" in one of the three, unless that problem is genetic or beyond control of conscious action.


I'm asking my role models a series of questions, and their answers will help me refine the questions. There are eleven questions, some of which are compound, and the first is:



Dan Moran said...

You're a man when you've committed to and are capable of protecting the innocent.

You're an adult when you're able to raise children effectively.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve
Where can we find good definitions of Alpha, Beta and Omega? males. Or do you care to give a "textbook" definition yourself?

Shady_Grady said...

A man takes care of himself and his family/friends. He doesn't lie or make excuses. He doesn't seek out conflict but handles it when it arises.

There are other important things but basically the idea is that you just take responsibility in all areas of life.

Marty S said...

I like Shady's definition.

Dan Moran said...

Me too, though it appears to apply to women as well as men.

Either there's a distinction between men and women, or this entire exercise is pointless. (It may be, when we drill deep enough down, that it is pointless, that all the concern about "manliness" is just driven by male insecurity. I don't actually believe that, but I'm not sure I'm right.)

josephrobertlewis said...

A boy enters manhood when he fully commits to the notion that the buck stops here. It is a commitment to being the strongest person in your own life, to supporting yourself and those around you while not being a burden on anyone else.

And this may ring of sexism, but manhood means acknowledging a hierarchy of responsibility (not power) that ends with the man: the notion that no matter what occurs for what reason, it is ultimately the man's responsibility to resolve conflict, to safeguard the well-being of others, and to ensure that his personal world (marriage, family, business, friends, etc.) is preserved.

Being a man means being the final and unflagging line of support and protection for your family.

Shady_Grady said...

I was going to respond further but Joseph's post sums up perfectly what I would have written.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I don't know if this is the same as Omegas, but there are men who repel women. I don't know what causes it, and this clearly isn't s matter of reliable female intuition (some very abusive men are attractive).

If you have anything that helps with skeevyness, it would be a public service.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Also, a little late to the discussion, but what about the need for adventure and challenge?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Also, a little late to the discussion, but what about the need for adventure and challenge?

suzanne said...

Alpha Beta and Omega division
of humans
is from Aldous Huxley's Brave New Weorld

Omegas are the grunts

Steve Perry said...

Omega Men have to look out for vampires and take better care of their dogs ...

Nancy Lebovitz said...

suzanne, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon were from Brave New World. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Omega are probably from PUA (Pick Up Artists, afaik a bunch of systems for seducing women) and possibly based on a misunderstanding of wolves. (In the wild, wolf packs have a stable hierarchy because the parents are the leaders. In zoos, unrelated wolves formed packs with a lot of competition for leadership.)

Lobo said...

The most obvious example of the Omega are the nerds from Revenge of the Nerds. They don't have enough social cachet(sp?) to assert themselves in a meaningful way and are often seen as targets by people farther up the totem pole. The revenge fantasy notwithstanding, they probably would have been beaten harder if they tried to stand up for themselves.

Nancy actually makes a good point by using artificially induced pack behavior among wolves. There's a lot of competition, but there's also the wolf whose lot is to be abused by everyone over him and is not allowed to fight back. You see it in artifically induced social structures in humans. High school probably is the most vivid example. There's always the outgroup of kids who are the targets of the more aggressive kids. Even if they were inclined to hit back, they would have no allies outside their own group.

Hell, I work for a software company with a wide range of age and experience levels and we have an Omega at our company. I've seen this guy get harassed for no other reason than the people farther up the ladder don't like him. He's been disciplined for minor infractions like checking his personal email while the Betas are given much more leeway to do things like talk about World of Warcraft, loudly, for long stretches of time. He's constantly being run down by other people when he's not around. He is the preferred target for anyone who wants to take a shot at someone who can't push back. Just about everyone in the company actively avoids him. I've actually been told about informal company functions where I was specifically instructed not to say anything in front of him so he wouldn't show up. I hate to say it, but even I have avoided him simply because being associated with him would professionally harm me at this company. The only thing I can do is refuse to take part in the various abuses.

Getting back to the idea of being at the mercy of people up the social ladder, just like an Alpha can be forced into a Beta role, they can also be forced into the Omega role. For instance, take an African-American who by all accounts is a good guy. He's well-liked in the community. He's got a good job and a good family. But to a certain kind of cop, he's a convenient target. To that cop, his existence begins and ends with how the cop can abuse him with near impunity. When they cross paths, this guy is now in a position where he has to take this cop's shit and has no real means with which to push back. Maybe part of manhood is gracefully dealing with situations where circumstances have forced you into that role and empathizing with those that are still there.

It's late, I ramble.

Marty S said...

An interesting question in all this is are people born alphas, betas and omegas or were they born that way. How much is nature and how much is nurture. I knew one absolute omega as teenager. I never could figure out whether he was really the dumbest person I ever met or whether he just somehow became so beaten down early in life that he just didn't care. I once spent an hour tutoring him in math and it was a total waste of my time.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

My point was actually somewhat vague-- it was more a matter of compulsive dumping of possibly relevant details, with some flavor of "be careful about classifications that *sound* true-- things may be more complicated than you think.

Once a person is an omega, can they change their status just by changing their behavior, or do they need to move to another group?

For a little about female omegas, see Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sappires. She was the food reviewer for the NY Times, and she had disguises so that she could see what the food and service was really like at the restaurants she was reviewing. Folks here might be interested in how much more personality range she had than she generally used, and that she apparently set all of it aside when she stopped being a reviewer.

Anyway, one of the personalities was a hard test for the restaurants-- a older woman who gave off strong "Don't bother with me, I'm too unimportant" vibes. I'm not an expert on self-help books, but I've never seen one specifically about getting out of that trap.