Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another Way, Part 2

Sorry these are coming slowly and painfully. Truthfully it's only partially because I'm busy. Mostly I just don't feel like writing anything serious right now. I would rather read Dr. Seuss out loud to a bunch of kids. It would be a lot more fun.

The second part of the development of a warrior is when he forgets all about the enemy. Or, to put it another way, the enemy ceases to be important to him. This is not automatic. As a very young boy or teenager (the actual age can vary greatly depending on maturity and life-experience) the enemy is the primary reason for wanting to fight. A man can go his entire life as little more than a philosophical brawler if he does not move beyond this. Fortunately, the world being what it is, there are limits placed on the use of force, both in every day life and in international affairs. This means that there are consequences for actions of violence, so in order for a man to engage in them on a regular basis (and not end up in jail) he has to have a reason and a justification.*

So if he is serious about pursuing the challenge of the enemy, he has to find a path, which in our society is pretty much limited to the military and the police. (I personally have known many soldiers who claim to have told their recruiter, "I just want to shoot M----- F-----s in the face and not go to jail.") The military, while enabling and honing these traits, also puts controls on them, and most important to this topic, provides a justification. The only problem is that it is external justification, meaning it is entirely based on the authority of the superior officers and the consequences that could be visited on a violater by society.

In order for a warrior to develop personally he must develop his own internal controls on violence. That is, he must have his own personal moral code, which he is fully invested in. This is not automatic. It cannot come to our philosophical brawler who just wants to live a life of adventure. It can come only to someone who loves something else, besides adventure. (This is the reason why training in the gentler arts of life is a far more effective and useful response to boyish testosterone than repression.) The young man who loves art, or poetry, or his family, will eventually have to make a decision as to why he really wants to fight. Is it just about the adventure? Or is it to protect something else he loves even more? The two are not entirely mutually exclusive, but eventually one must predominate. A balanced character (hearkening back to his martial education as a child) will have other loves, and if he eventually chooses those loves as most important, he will have successfully made the transition into the second stage.

This second stage is marked by a complete lack of animosity, or personal interest of any kind, in the enemy. His love is simply that which he wants to protect. As he gets older and wiser, he will learn to desire, not only to protect, but also to enjoy it himself. A young man who admires family life, and wants to fight to protect the ability of others to have such a quiet family life, will eventually learn to love that life in its own right. He will not simply want to protect the good, but also to enjoy the good. (He may still choose to sacrifice that enjoyment so that others may have it, but it isn't truly a sacrifice until he has learned to appreciate it enough that he desires it himself.) This is why he doesn't hate the enemy. He just wants this good thing to be safe, that's all. He just wants the enemy to stop being a threat to his village, or his family, or his country, and he doesn't particularly care how that happens. If we convert all the enemy and they shave their heads and live as monks for the rest of their days, that suits him fine. If he shoots them all in the face, that also is an acceptable outcome. Whatever is the most effective way to protect what he loves, that is what the warrior at this stage wants.

The most dangerous abuse of this stage of development is the business like soldier. This is the soldier who is willing to take any advantage, use any technology, break any rule or kill any number of innocent civillians (not intentionally of course) to acheive victory. The American military has historically tended to this extreme. It's not personal, it's just business, and we are good at business. From the fire-bombing of Dresden and the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the impersonal snuffing out of lives via satellite controlled drones, we want only one thing: we want to win, quickly, with the least amount of damage to our side. Which is admirable, but can easily degenerate to a lack of respect for human life, if that life is not "us".

*Note: this holds true for our society, right now, but other societies in other times have not been so restrictive. While there have always been consequences for violence, historically there has often been a lot more wiggle-room in avoiding or dealing with them.

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