Submitted by Billy Pratt
“The ghosts of West Virginia, they are calling me home…”
Day breaks as I sit in my Honda Accord- a car without much utility outside of taking a civilized man to his civilized job- sipping coffee with an eye on the Misfits air freshener dangling from my rearview mirror when it occurs to me that Daryush Valizadeh will probably not be reading my very first book Welcome to Hell (2021)- even if there are clear similarities to it in Valizadeh’s latest work, American Pilgrim (2021); even if we’ve had eerily similar experiences; even if we both arrive to the same conclusion- that the modern world is an elaborate, painful test from God, like being trapped in an endless Saw (2004) sequel; that we’re already living in hell.
For the sake of sales and readership, American Pilgrim was published under the name which Vaizadeh used to craft his Internet empire. Seventy-six thousand Twitter followers later, I knew Roosh had hit a new level of notoriety when female friends, unaware of the degree to which I was ensconced in male-centric niche culture, started sending links to the clickbait articles he’d publish on his now defunct Return of Kings website, seething with outrage- this is when I knew Roosh had transcended being the big fish in a small pond; Roosh had become an Internet god.
However, even if American Pilgrim was published under the Roosh name, it was not written by Roosh. American Pilgrim is effective- breathtakingly effective- because it was written by Daryush Valizadeh; and the distinction between Internet sex guru and real-life human being is one which Valizadeh struggles with throughout, suggesting that Valizadeh hasn’t stepped outside of his Roosh persona for quite some time. The foundation of American Pilgrim is one of self-discovery.
Valizadeh does not mince words from the outset- American Pilgrim opens at a crossroads between epiphany and confession; Valizadeh states plainly, “I’ve wasted my life.”
Part of the first generation to grow up with Internet access, it’s hard to fathom understanding the world around me without it- making generations who’ve come before seem like wizards, or black magicians; alchemists, turning limited resources into sexual success. Like Roosh, I would not fully know women without the Internet- but like anything, methodology varies. Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, drawing similar conclusions a world apart; Henry Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius- starting with nothing and creating life.
My parents sent me to a Catholic high school because they felt it guaranteed success; a house with an above-ground swimming pool; a middle-management supervisor in place of God. Private school carried a flimsy prestige that translated to student growth potential for the best universities and their soulless admissions officers- but even if the reasoning was suspect, it was still better than a filthy, Satanic public school. My parents, to their credit, got something right.
But the problem of going to a Catholic school was that you didn’t make a lot of neighborhood friends- the student population was decentralized. Before laying claim to your dad’s old beater, you had a lot of lonely Saturday nights sitting on the computer- but the human animal adapts; the teenage body demands physical gratification and will intuitively find pathways to sexual success, guided by invisible forces- ghosts pushing hands on Ouija boards; Joshua, with relentless persistence, unlocking missile launch codes. I found my way to AOL chat rooms- local singles swapping jpegs- and with repetition and experience; grit and determination- I was able to get girls on the phone, masturbating to the sound of my voice. This was my introduction to what I’d later call “game.”
A by-product of learning game- the art of talking to women for sexual success- is garnering a basic understanding of human nature. The myth of the individual dies after talking to enough women. This is the first lesson a player learns. People are not terribly unique; female sexuality is surprisingly uniform. While men most desire ownership, however temporary, over a woman they’re lusting after, a man’s mate selection has more to do with his self-image rather than her value (most men couldn’t handle a ten, nor would they want to).
Women most desire the man with the highest value- the top dog. This is why women would crowd around Elvis Presely or think they’d have a shot with Tom Brady, if only he’d look in their damn direction; female sexual strategy is standing around with fingers crossed. Women are not terribly unique; women are an algorithm- a series of ones and zeros- to be understood and hacked; a problem to be solved. Learn to work the algorithm and start getting girls.
I noticed that women seemed to like it when I lowered my voice and talked a bit slower. They loved pet names- especially vacillating between complimentary infantilizing (baby, princess) and playful vulgarities (brat, slut). All women loved getting teased; the more you poured it on, the more excited they’d get. Similarly, there was no limit to the degree of inexplicable confidence you could display- I learned that women get off on someone who seems like a narcissistic sociopath; a total asshole. Every girl seemed to like when you’d push her limits- they found it exhilarating.
Phone sex started as an end in itself and morphed into a framing device for dates once I started using OKCupid. What was initially thrilling ended up as merely procedural. There were times when I’d go through the motions more than once in a night- because who knows who’s gonna flake by the weekend. Roosh has a similar story in American Pilgrim- what he thought should be the crowning achievement of his career as a player, sex with two different women in one night, only felt empty. The thrill was gone.
Things changed for Valizadeh when his sister was diagnosed with cancer. He returned to America to help with her treatment. When he got the clear from doctors that she’d be okay, he went back to Europe and decided to look for a wife. The logic, flawless on paper, was that Roosh could take everything he’s learned about women, the algorithm he mastered, and use it to hack his way to a healthy marriage. Roosh meets a nice girl with all the right social opinions and attempts to have a serious relationship.
As the weeks turn to months, though, Roosh finds the same problems that he’s heard from men all across the western world- she had a social media addiction and would lie about where she went and what she was doing. Worse, she was emotionally manipulative when caught red-handed. Roosh tore the band-aid off with aggression, packed her things into a duffel bag, and sent her on her way. It was around this time that Valizadeh got news that his sister’s cancer had returned- only far worse.
Distraught and looking for mental relief, Roosh went back to what he knew. He hits the European bars for an easy lay- only this time was different. The game, the attention, and the eventual sex was no longer satisfying. Promiscuity couldn’t provide the good feelings that it had for Valizadeh in the past.
Valizadeh’s sister dies and he returns to America for the final time.
Valizadeh does not purport to be a Christian scholar, he’s simply relaying what he’s learned since his commitment to the Divine. American Pilgrim is the story of Roosh finding footing with his new identity as celebate devotee, as he travels across the United States giving lectures to young men. Many of these men feel lost in the modern world, unable to meet nice girls- not sure there are nice girls left to be met. Roosh does not approach this question as an expert, but rather a sympathetic peer- Roosh is struggling with the same issues.
Traversing America while taking notes, Roosh finds the worst of modernity in the big cities; laden with homeless encampments and filth. Those considered successful spend most of their time working so they can afford to live like rats packed into tiny apartments that are rented at a tremendous premium- a lifestyle we’re sold as superior through media depiction; the endgame of exploitative capitalism; Satanic ritual on Earth. Those lured in by the false romanticism are possessed with the pursuit of pleasure- women wanting drunken nights with wealthy businessmen hoping to secure a rich husband; men hot on the idea of a hedonistic epicenter, with sexual access beyond their wildest dreams. Both will end up sorely disappointed.
Roosh finds solace in small town America where he meets men who have managed to not only find nice girls, but marry and start families with them. When visiting their homesteads, these women prepare meals for Valizadeh who is floored by their humility. These women are unlike any he’s managed to meet in dance clubs while writing books about getting laid. Kind women exist, but they don’t dress in a way that would’ve gotten Roosh’s attention; they don’t hang out in clubs, nor do they respond positively to the verbal dopamine that game playing provides. They don’t live to chase pleasure- they live in service of God, their husband, and children.
Roosh sees that it’s possible- he understands the proof of concept, that good women exist- but he’s not sure how to meet one or if it’s too late for him to do so.
Uncertain of anything else, Valizadeh commits to celibacy and gets as far away from city life as he can. He rents a house in the mountains of West Virginia, with a life in mind that’s dedicated to nature, prayer, and living in accordance with God’s plan.
This is how Valizadeh envisions the rest of his days.
Watching the sunrise with an eye on my Misfits air freshener dangling from the same rearview mirror which Daryush Valizadeh keeps an icon of Jesus- one which he drew strength from when his trek across America felt insurmountable- I realize that Welcome to Hell ends where American Pilgrim begins. Roosh would have no reason to read my book. I can identify the problem, but I don’t commit to a solution- even if I know the right answer; even if I believe in God; even if I understand that the world is sinking deeper into the Satanic and without an active, explicit resistance, I am no better than even the most pleasure obsessed.
Even if I understand these things on paper, I’m not willing to cast aside the material world. I’m still possessed with fantasies of Bitcoin riches; I still go on dates to get laid. Spiritual procrastination- dragging things out just a little longer. When I have enough money; when my notch count is high enough; when I’m sitting in my Tudor-style house- by the fireplace, under the arching roof, watching the wintry mix fall from the wooden framed windows- only then can I finally cast off the chains of material desires and devote myself to God.
Living in the West Virginian countryside did not last long for Valizadeh. He unwittingly rented a former crack house and could not get past the stench- too perfect a metaphor for his place in modernity. Roosh thought a materialistic quick fix would undo the spiritual damage that a lifetime of pleasure seeking took but God was not about to make things so easy for him. Becoming a mountain man was ultimately contrived- West Virginia was not his home- Roosh was consciously seeking an identity rather than letting the invisible hand of the Holy Spirit guide him.
What’s next for Roosh isn’t clear- the road is wide open for him- with his only certainty in knowing that whatever happens is supposed to happen; that whatever happens is part of God’s plan.