In cutting-edge conflict theory, ‘young men’ are framed as a potential source of violence and insecurity in underdeveloped countries, especially in the so-called ‘failed states’. Supposedly, ‘young men’ bereft of socio-economic opportunities constitute a dangerous sub-population which can easily be recruited by ‘Spoilers’, or warlords when the pursuit of personal gain through the use of violence is rational; that is, in situations where the state has failed and therefore has no monopoly over the means of violence. Drawing on fieldwork among the Maï-Maï of South Kivu, I challenge the notion that the young fighters of the Maï-Maï were easily lured into the militias because they lacked other exit strategies. Recruitment actually followed a much more complex pattern. The young Maï-Maï fighters were either forcefully recruited or joined voluntarily for one or more of the following reasons: in order to exact vengeance on the ‘enemy’, for personal protection; to fight for national liberation; to protect a given community; for the right to enjoy the spoils of modernity; and to recast a disempowered and humiliated self into a vigorous and virile subject. In this article, therefore, I argue that recruitment into a non-state armed group was a question of ethics instead of the machinations of a universal instinct secretly at work.