Archive for the ‘Chivalry’ Category

This is the third in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

In THE COMPLEAT GENTLEMAN, Brad Miner tells us that a gentleman should hold his own beliefs, his own code so dear that when the time comes to give his life for what he believes, it should appear he cast it away as though it meant nothing to him. That is how action appears when one depends on a belief that is complete, whole. One can put everything one is into action and proceed without hesitation.

This isn’t always possible. Not every believe we hold is so complete, so whole that we can act on it so decisively.

Is Musashi advising us to only act when you’re absolutely certain of your reasons, the environment, the adversary, the desired outcome? This would be impossible and would leave us trapped in inaction while we constantly gathered new information and re-examined our beliefs.

What Musashi is advising us here is that one can rely on and act so decisively only on whole feelings, complete information. But when we are required to act on partial feelings, information and commitments we recognize are imperfect and incomplete, we must not depend on the course such feeling would insist on without being prepared to alter that course when we learn the feeling or incomplete belief we are acting on is wrong.

When considering this precept, its important to keep in mind the idea that any “partial feeling” must also include its opposite. A partial feeling that a man is trustworthy admits to a partial feeling that the same man is not trustworthy. Neither of those feelings can then possibly be relied upon.

I, personally, have many times watched the failure of my plans and thought, “I saw that coming” or “I knew…” or better, “I should have known…” This is the after effect of relying on a partial feeling. When we are genuinely mistaken, failure comes as a surprise.

Following this precept then requires that we take upon ourselves two habits. We must examine our beliefs closely. We must know what we believe utterly (and hope it reflects the first precept’s admonishment to accept things exactly as they are) and what beliefs we cannot commit to wholly. An incomplete belief, whether moral or concerning the nature of things, need not be abandoned, but it must be recognized as only partial.

I have a pretty solid conviction that the US Constitution is the most perfect political document. It is only “pretty solid” and not “absolute” because I do not know the details of most other governments (I am not terribly interested in political theory) and because the romantic in me wants a monarchy while the rebel in me wants anarchy. I also recognize that the constitution hasn’t been a meaningful part of how our government works for over a hundred years.

My decision to enlist in 1985 was not fueled by patriotism. Enlistment is one of those “all or nothing” decisions a man makes in his life. You place yourself entirely in the hands of a system that openly admits it will risk or spend your life as it sees fit and expect you to obey. Doing so on the basis of a partial feeling of patriotism would be foolish.

I enlisted because I wanted to know the things soldiers know. I wanted the skill set that comes with being an infantryman in an army. I had no doubts about this. Had I been born in any other country, I would have still found myself in the army.

My feelings on the country are partial. My feeling on military service is not.

The second habit required when one holds incomplete beliefs is the adoption of contingency plans. Every plan the military makes considers the possibility that our understanding is incomplete. As a result, those plans contain clauses that “If we find this, we will do that.” When we hold partial feelings, we must have plans and provisions that come in to play when we discover which of the possibilities we half believed in is “things as they are.”

Again we are brought to the first precept. We discussed there acceptance that we will always have blind spots and errors in our understanding. But we are resolved to accept things as they are no matter how inconvenient that is to our self image or our view of the world.

Likewise, when our feelings are partial or incomplete, we must consider how we will act when reality comes down on one side or the other and reality makes one belief complete. We must have contingency plans. “Trust, but verify.” Be prepared when one verifies our trust was given in error, act on the way things are, not on that fiction our trust hoped for.

General James Mattis gave us a good rule to follow: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

We are obliged by the human condition to act on impartial feelings. I suspect most men are good and mean well for their fellows. But I always carry myself as if among secretive enemies. I cannot rely on my suspicion that men are good and let my guard down, exposing those I love to the wrath or opportunity of those few corrupt souls.

Start where you stand. With the first precept we analyzed our beliefs and our understandings. Now we must acknowledge that we must be prepared for the unpleasantness of learning that our worst suspicions might be the reality we live in. Especially examine and test your own capabilities and refuse to depend on anything but the most solid proof that you are physically, mentally prepared to walk the way alone.

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This is the second in a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

When Musashi wrote these precepts, he wasn’t writing for all of us. He wasn’t writing for you and me. He was writing for one student; Terao Magonojo. He wasn’t writing for shopkeepers who attend a martial arts class twice a week. He was writing for a student who would face death every time he drew his weapon and was depending on that “Way” as his path to enlightenment and salvation.

For Musashi and for the warrior-monk, prowess is part of the path to salvation. If you study a martial art that ends in -do (Aikido, Judo, Karatedo, Hwarang-Do) then you should understand that “-do” means way in the exact same manner that “Dharma” means way. Among the Hindus of the classic age it was recognized that each caste had its own dharma. What was right for the Brahmin might not be right for the Ksatriya.

When Musashi says “the Way” he is referring to this concept. The Way of the Sword. The Way of Walking Alone.

That said, perhaps it is important to ask whether every man has a duty as a warrior to train and study and think upon these things as though he, too, were facing extinction at every moment. Perhaps our shopkeeper needs to keep death in his mind at all times, prepared for the robber who lies in wait when he locks his shop at night. In picking up this slender volume of essays, in reading even once THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS, we have committed to being students of the Way and students of that psychotic swordsman.

So, we do not seek pleasure for its own sake as our teacher taught us.

Note that Musashi does not say, “Do not seek pleasure.” He says do not seek pleasure “for its own sake.”

As a warrior, even a warrior who spends his time as a shopkeeper or a doctor or a carpenter, it is necessary to put training and fighting ahead of everything else. Those two arenas must occupy all of our time. By fighting, I don’t necessarily mean a physical struggle. Sitting here at this laptop writing these words is fighting. Reading about how better to push my ideas into the world is training.

But if we lift for two hours a day, and train jujitsu for two hours a day and have 40 hour a week jobs, that leaves about 72 hours a week for study and recreation. We have families, children, who are owed far more time than we seem to have to give them.

My point isn’t that our lives are too busy to train. You’re a warrior, training should be a given, sleep and work might be questionable. My point is that we have SO much time for recreation that we need to ask whether we are using that time as we should or whether we are merely killing time by seeking pleasure for its own sake.

Training and constant vigilance require energy. There’s nothing wrong with recharging your batteries by playing guitar and drinking a few beers with your brothers. There’s nothing wrong with eating delicious food. There’s nothing wrong with sitting in a room lit only by the TV watching a show with your fingers in your wife’s hair allowing the day to decompress.

When I get a pizza and sit alone in the back of my truck, eating too many carbs and undoing the work accomplished that morning at the gym, I am indulging in pleasure for the sake of pleasure. When I take my youngest son to Chuck E Cheese and eat an even less healthy pizza (and drink soda) the purpose of our pleasure is bonding over video games and the accumulation of tickets to be exchanged for plunder. It is, in effect, training time for two warriors as we throw skee-balls and gun down aliens.

No form of recreation…provided it doesn’t undo your training…is unhealthy or unnecessary provided it is done always with an eye toward your role as a warrior.

I play Dungeons and Dragons with my sons. We play Minecraft on XBox. There are few activities that I would condemn out of hand as never having any benefit. Smoking, perhaps. The use of dangerous recreational drugs. This precept only condemns those pleasures that claim our time and our strength and benefit no one. And we are surrounded by such pleasing vices.

This, then, becomes the vital point for the ronin in the 21st Century, pleasure and recreation must be seen in the context of furthering your aims as a warrior whether those aims are that you support and defend your family or the perfection of prowess for its own sake. If it does not increase the harmony you feel within and without, it must be cast away no matter how good it feels.

For my own part, I struggle with this precept constantly. I want Pepsi and tacos…that aforementioned pizza. I recently examined my life, the amount of time I wasted when I should be training or fighting and made the decision to live outdoors. I have been able to put more money into my business ideas, have been more diligent about training and nutrition, but best of all, I have rediscovered the pleasure of waking up to the sky after a night spent falling asleep under the stars.

I have an infinite access to pleasures…but none of them exist for their own sake now. It becomes obvious to me now that the pleasure I chase for its own sake is always a vice.

Start where you sit. Consider the comforts you are surrounded by now. How many are essential? How many actually further your development and how many somehow hold you back? How many of the pleasures you indulge in serve no purpose beyond that pleasure? If you stripped away those pleasures that are actually innocent seeming hedonisms, would you have more time and greater resources for the things that truly matter to you more?

If you recognize that you have pleasures that you cannot discard even though they hold you back, you have to examine whether these addictions are such that you willingly step away from the Way of Walking Alone. There will be legions who cannot follow this Dharma, this Do, this Way. Only you know if you are among them.

This begins a series of 21 essays on the 21 precepts of the DOKKODO, the final writing of Miyamoto Musashi, completed about a week before his death in 1645. He wrote these precepts as a dying gift to the most talented of his pupils. More than a treatise on swordsmanship, it was intended as a final statement on his life and his philosophy of living as a man, a warrior, and a ronin. In these essays, I approach the DOKKODO as a man, a warrior, and, yes, a ronin, in these early years of the 21st century.

The world is a dangerous place.

Confusion makes it a more dangerous place.

As I listen to a generation of women fed on the promises and assertions of “whatever wave” feminism and then find themselves victimized or witnesses to another’s victimization, I hear again and again that the world “should be” a certain way. Men should be different. A woman should be able to dance naked at the club, blackout drunk, and never be molested. But reality is that when a woman does that, bad things are likely to happen. Rejecting the reality that bad things happen does not protect our young feminist.

When a woman goes to a club or frat party where she knows no one and gets black-out drunk, she is relying on reality as it should be and refusing to accept things as they are. Is her subsequent rape her fault? Am I the only one who thinks she made poor choices and that poor choices almost always lead to disaster? To assert the truth that her rapist is solely responsible for his own decisions to commit atrocity doesn’t save her NOR does it provide a lesson that might save her sisters.

Accepting reality exactly as it is might.

Taking personal responsibility and accepting that one has a duty to maintain their own situational awareness requires that you accept the reality that the world can be dangerous and that your assertions about how the world “should be” are meaningless.

But even this assertion comes under attack in this age.

In May 2017, Nolan Bruner was sentenced to four months for a sexual assault. Its easy to agree that this absurd sentence should have been much greater for the crime of rape. The only lesson that might actually benefit women though is taboo to even discuss. His victim went to a party where she knew no one and there indulged in drugs with a man she did not know even AFTER he asked her for sex. To suggest that she should have not done these things, to suggest that she bears even the slightest responsibility for how her conduct and her decisions impacted what happened to her is itself criminal in the eyes of those who benefit from an agenda furthered by her victimization.

She was not only a victim to Nolan Bruner’s lust, but she was a sacrifice to that agenda and so is every girl and woman taught that she has no responsibility to accept the reality that her own safety is her own responsibility more than any others. Even today when this topic is discussed with many people, the reality that what she did was stupid and led to her assault is rejected.

As I write this, members of the US Olympic Gymnastic Team are at odds on social media over this issue. One athlete went public with her claim she was victimized, and one of her peers posted that “it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

This was in response to a different assertion: “Just because a woman does a sexy photo shoot or wears a sexy outfit does not give a man the right to shame her or not believe her when she comes forward about sexual abuse. What is wrong with some of you? AND when a woman dresses sexy it does not give a man the right to sexually abuse her EVER. Women are allowed to feel sexy and comfortable in their own skin, in fact I encourage you all to wear what you feel good in. I will not put up with any woman or girl being shamed for wanting to wear a skirt, dress, etc. I do not tolerate it. Are we clear? Oh and one more thing. STOP VICTIM SHAMING. It is because of you that so many survivors live in fear.”

Now…in this instance let’s be clear: the victims were children; the assailant admits his guilt; victim shaming is always ALWAYS unnecessary and inappropriate. But this habit of labeling any comment as “victim shaming” has led to a situation where any consideration of how a bad situation might be avoided cannot possibly consider the duty of the individual to protect themselves.

You gain nothing when you scream, “Teach Boys Not To Rape!” You have no control over the actions of others. You have complete control over your own decisions. The first step, by no means the final answer, is to accept these things exactly as they are. THEN prepare to confront and resist.

Musashi exhorted his pupil to accept reality. The Modern Age exhorts us to refuse to accept reality and insist again and again on the “way things should be”, hoping that such stubborn insistence alone will create a new reality.

Such an attitude can only led to more victims.

It is the warrior’s responsibility to study and understand the world through which he moves. Before deploying two Iraq and Afghanistan, we were given classes on the worldview of the culture we were about to be immersed in. It wasn’t necessary that we agree. It wasn’t necessary that we adopt. It was necessary that we accept.

The most well-known example of such a cultural example is that residents of Iraq and A-Stan and much of the rest of the Middle East do nothing with their left hand. You and I might think it silly. We might think the reason for this habit is absurd. That doesn’t matter. If you want to get along with these people and secure their co-operation, you have to accept that they think WE are the ones lacking culture because we differ from them.

Those who marched in and insisted that we are the Americans and will do as we please without regard for our ally’s perception of the world were rejecting this reality; imagining they could force their understanding on their environment and refusing to instead work with the situation as it really was.

Sun Tzu advised us that we must understand terrain, our enemy and our self. Only a fool would insist that his army can advance into Russia and not accept the reality of weather. Only a fool would look at the lessons of the colonial wars and every war since and suggest that technology is ever a good substitute for a simple willingness to fight.

And only a fool fails to understand that getting old and fat make you less dangerous than you were at twenty.

Yet we find ourselves surrounded by men who refuse to accept that exactly as it is.

To not accept this reality exactly as it is and begin to counter and slow the degenerative effects of age by remaining focused on fitness and training is the exact sort of mistake we discussed above.

The warrior doesn’t have time to waste confronting fantasy or making excuses. He doesn’t wish his enemy were a better man who had no vices and sought only peace. He understands that all efforts to diplomacy must be rooted in the reality of their present enmity and accompanied by a willingness to destroy rather than become extinct himself. He doesn’t wish his terrain were easier and his allies identical to him. He packs light, he packs warm, and he smiles when his allies need to see him smile. He doesn’t think a new M4 and body armor, stockpiles of food and ammo, and a weekend camping weigh his disorganized militia constitutes actual preparedness. He lifts, he runs, he cares for the only two weapons that matter: his mind and his body.

Accept things exactly as they are. The only thing you can change and determine the course of is your own decision making.

Lastly, we must also accept the reality that we will not always understand completely. That sometimes facts and information are sketchy and we must proceed anyway. One reality we must always accept is that no plan survives contact with the adversary and you will often learn only by being confronted by your misunderstandings.

Start where you sit. Analyze your own fitness for war and, regardless of how fit you think you are, plan for how you can be more fit. Begin executing that plan.

Was anyone actually surprised?

We all grew up on stories of young starlets going to Hollywood and making it big either because of or in spite of a dalliance on the casting couch. On 16 Oct, Ben Zimmer wrote a piece for the Atlantic in which he disclosed the origin of that phrase: “the casting couch” and he traces the phenomenon beyond Hollywood of the 20’s and 30’s and to Broadway where the Schubert brothers apparently kept apartments for their dalliances with actresses and dancers.

In 1920, Photoplay magazine ran an article which Zimmerman quotes as saying, “young women are not advanced in their chosen profession unless they submit to the advances of studio managers, directors or influential male stars.”

Suddenly, we’re not talking about the activity of a few rich and powerful men.

We’re talking about an aspect of a sub-culture.

Women choosing this profession of actress must surely have heard the same stories as you and I. They knew advancing in their craft mean headshots and dance lessons and a voice coach and nights at the Four Seasons with Harvey Weinstein. We have heard a great many starlets come out with their stories of how Harvey assaulted them or asked for a massage or made some lewd comment. That we haven’t yet heard from Sally Mae of Podunk, Arkansas about the time she rejected Harvey and was told she would never work in Hollywood again suggest that, perhaps, even when not embraced, Harvey’s advances were an accepted, expected part of doing business in Hollywood.

Until it wasn’t.

Until whoever complained first spoke out and then so many followed her talking about their experiences YEARS after the fact. These poor victims who had made so much money and garnered so much fame as a result of their dance lessons, their head shots, their voice coach and their nights at the Four Seasons with Harvey Weinstein.

I have never met a good man who one day discovered he wanted to be a pimp. Pimping, it could be supposed, might be that vehicle he took to such fortunes as might buy his mother a house and send his sisters to college and build a hospital to name after his father. Such noble use of wealth seems incompatible with the base nature required to be a merchant in the rental of women’s bodies (Dan Akroyd in DOCTOR DETROIT and Will Ferrell in THE GOOD GUYS being the exception that proves the rule, perhaps.)

Being a pimp simply carries with it a moral burden and a blood guilt that good men would refuse to bear.

If my son said he was thinking of becoming a pimp, I’d lay out for him the moral issues and the stain such deeds imprint on one’s soul. If my daughter were thinking of going to Hollywood, I’d remind her that success depended a great deal on “who you blow” rather than “who you know.” It has always been this way.

I’m not arguing that since it has always been this way no victim should complain or that Harvey Weinstein should be viewed only as an artist and a businessman in an environment flowing with the eager attentions of women. I am arguing that every woman who posed for a head shot had already decided whether she was going to submit to his advances and had already decided she would at least keep quiet so she could be part of that sub-culture.

I hope it is time to throw out the casting couch and demand that these flesh merchants be honorable men. I don’t expect it, I’m sure a director with a true White Knight’s respect for women could never cast an interesting movie where some young starlet wears the Black Widow costume or exposes her body (for the sake of the art, of course) or embodies the literary and commercial excellence of the FIFTY SHADES movies.

These women knew these advances were going to occur when they walked into the room and declared they were an actress.

And they still walked in that room.

Harvey Weinstein might be a terrible example of the merchant mentality where sex is bought and sold for influence and favor just as any commodity is. But I doubt he is the worst. He’s just the one we’re going to talk about this week. #BringBackOurGirls

He will be replaced and hound starlets will kneel before his replacement auditioning as expected for the lead role in the remake of BUTTERFLY or 9 1/2 WEEKS. I don’t fault them. It is how powerful merchants have always behaved. What cannot be won, must be purchased and everything has its price in their world.

I do not fault, either, the young actresses posing for headshots and trying to relax when such a man touches them and they do what they must to advance in their profession. I do hope neither plays the hypocrite and pretends they did not know, they did not accept, they did want to pay this price.

One last note: I think the greatest fault and condemnation in these stories falls to the men by whom these women thought they were held dear. Where were the brothers, the fathers, the boyfriends? Why did none of these men break role and stand up to the villain and punish him? Had they, too, accepted it was merely part of the culture of Hollywood? We’re they afraid of that offense some women seem to feel when a man thinks they need rescued?

“They (the common people) are totally incapable of real freedom, and if it were granted to them, they would straightaway vote themselves a master, or a thousand masters within twenty-four hours.”
-Ragnar Redbeard   MIGHT IS RIGHT

The greatest problem for the anarchist is not the state.

The problem for the anarchist is not that system of institutions and traditions that insist they have a right to seize the wealth of the capitalist under the guise of taxation or oppress the hungry masses seeking a true communism only to be met with border walls.

These could be swept away. Every state eventually finds its end and passes away. It isn’t likely, but it is conceivable that there could be an uprising that destroys the state, destroys the very idea of the state, and when asked what it intends to set in its place, replies “Nothing.”

The subsequent, inevitable failure of that “nothing” is not the fault of those men who rise up and say, “Be my slaves! Serve me!” The end of that nothing would not be in the hands of that man who says, “I am a leader, let me organize your lives and offer you security for your liberty.”

The problem for the anarchist is that the vast majority of people do not want to be free.

Freedom is scary and difficult. It requires being painfully aware of one’s own inadequacies (as most men are) and then deciding to trust one’s own ability regardless. How much easier is it to place one’s children in the hands of an authority that assures you it is strong and benevolent? How much easier is it to trust in that faceless, soulless authority and accept what it teaches than it is to face the unknown and risk extinction by thinking for yourself?

Anarchy, whether hyphenated as capitalist or communist or primitivist or pacifist, is doomed not because there will be those few men who want to lead, but because there will be legions who want to be led. Modern anarchy fails to make a place for that man who aspires only to be a valued serf.

Now, there are few men who openly admit that serfdom is their chief desire. There are, perhaps, few men who recognize that is the place they seek. But what else shall we say of that man who says, “I just want a good job (working for another) and the distractions of professional sportball and a case of that beer which promises to deliver sex and respect”?

That man does not want to be free. He merely wants a benevolent Master.

Modern anarchy is doomed because it refuses to make a place for that man and refuses to acknowledge him and refuses to accept his right to enter into a voluntary association where he is a slave, or at least, unequal. Being denied, that man then destroys the nothing that replaces the state. Why should he support a nothing which fails to recognize and support him?

All free men must accept then that some free men will accept the burden of being Master.

The only chance to preserve freedom for those men who want to be free is to make a place for those men who cannot be free and refuse to be free. Even more important than protecting our “non-state, voluntary associations” from the slaver, is the necessity of protecting them from the slave.

Its important to mention now that the world is inevitably a hostile place. We haven’t found a way to get along with each other in the last 300,000 years, why would even the most utopian among us imagine we will do so in the future? With this in mind, the primary duty of a free man is prowess and strength, enough to protect his own liberty and secure his own existence at least. Secondly, and perhaps in conjunction with the first, is the duty to preserve his group.

Let’s dismiss any notions now that anarchy must be without hierarchy. In the ideal vision of anarcho-capitalism, every corporation will have a CEO and a board who have greater significance from the honest man turning wrenches on the factory floor. Even in anarcho-communism, that honest man turning wrenches will answer to some functionary whose task it is to identify problems and implement solutions.

In truth, I do not see anarchy being swept in with the sudden enlightenment of all people everywhere or the revolution that the rock throwing fascists in Berkeley imagine they are the fore-runners of. Instead, I imagine Guillaume Fay is correct in his anticipation of a “convergence of catastrophes” that will level the current systems.

It is impossible to suggest that every voluntary association that rises in the wake of this collapse with be “ancom” or “ancap” or take on any specific model theorized about now. Different peoples always have and always will find different solutions to life’s pressures. I also do not imagine that they technology necessary for the popular visions of ancap and ancom prosperity will survice the collapse, especially if one of those catastrophes is the depletion of oil.

The immediate response to the collapse will be tribal. A group of hungry, desperate, frightened survivors will watch their world pass away and then begin finding their way into the future. Philosophy and labels will not be among their immediate concerns in the initial years.

Even now, there are tribalists, men bound together by oaths and friendship and loyalties that rely on models that pre-date the state and will, I imagine, outlast it as well. These associations have a feudal nature in that they are held together by oaths between men. Unlike the current model where a soldier or statesman takes an oath to support a constitution or a vague assemblage of “the people”, these oaths are between individuals who look each other in the eye and say, “I swear…”

In this sense, these tribalist groups ARE anarchist. Instead of being born into a condition of expected servitude to a state’s laws and regulations, these are free men, anarchs, choosing to subordinate some of their self-rule in the interest of the group. They are also feudalist, in that each assumes a set of duties toward the other and accepts a place within a hierarchy determined by the group’s vision and its responses to the pressures it needs to overcome in order to survive.

There will be some groups that form in the final stages of the collapse or even after the collapse. But those groups formed now and already possessed of a sense of tribal identity and solid, genuine relationships will have an obvious advantage. Many of them already possess arms, defensible arable land,  and, most importantly, some training as a “unit.”

These groups will not only have a better chance of surviving during the closing acts of the collapse, but they will be the groups most likely to have the stability to offer a place to “refugees” from outside the tribe that agree to labor or supply meaningful skills to the group.  In the anarchy following the collapse, these will not be men demanding a living wage or human rights. They will instead be those frightened masses needing a new master since the old one has passed.

That these groups exist now provides another advantage: they have time to develop traditions and ideas about those refugees. They could be, even now, debating whether the refugees lot will be a cruel slavery in the mines or a pleasant second class citizen role with the possibility of joining the free men as circumstances and individual virtue allow.

Avoiding the crushing pressure of solving this problem only in the instance creates a circumstance where the tribe can reason a method to make that serfdom as livable and dignified as possible. This assumes, of course, that any tribe whose leaders cannot reason out that such serfdom serves everyone, including future generations, better than a harsh slavery will not last long anyway. The refugee can be offered a place if his presence benefits the tribe. He can enter into the voluntary association and make his own oaths to the men who will defend him and provide for him in return for his loyalty and labor.

But even if a transfer to anarchy somehow occurs without the annihilation of the present empire, only the feudal model provides a place for that man who is not interested in real freedom. In the ancap model, he is an employee and one unprotected by the state. The modern serf could never abide being genuinely at the mercy of market forces without a regulatory agency to see he is paid and has safe conditions. The ancom model simply offers such a man a spot next to a bullet riddled wall if he dare voice his reservations (though the ancoms will deny this and fall back to their old assertion that “real communism has never been tried”, the historic model indicates any man not eager to voice the party position will be executed.)

In the anarcho-feudal model, such a man could enter into an oathbound relationship that obligates both parties to sincerely seek the other’s best interest. The serf could rest assured that the system did not consider him a mere employee who might be sacrificed to the bottom line, but a part of the tribe, even if only on the periphery. He is not merely a valued member of the team at some corporate seminar, but a man who has given his word and received another’s that their destinies are bound together.

 

 

 

 

 

Kalev_BonecruncherNone of the virtues of chivalry come easily to me, but none comes with greater difficulty than humility.

I can fake humility pretty well.

I have no need to praise myself, no reluctance to praise others. There is no task so low that I cannot stoop to set my hand to it. But I will be oh so very concious that I am stooping. In my mental ledger I will make a mark that reflects that today I took a step toward that virtue. Then I will erase that mark as I take pride in the accomplishment.

I have that most obnoxious sort of pride available only to old men.  You know the type: “I went to Basic Training when it was hard. My Drill Sergeants were crusty Vietnam vets who were allowed to swear and strike us for our failings. You young people couldn’t handle what we went through. That being said: get off my lawn, you delinquents!”

That sort of thing.

And now that I have again picked up a wooden sword and resumed armored combat in the SCA after a thirty year break, I absolutely HATE having so much to learn from these twenty-somethings that beat me so easily.

Before I step on the field to practice, I think about what exactly I seek to accomplish. I have to recover my sword properly. I have to close distance with greater efficiency. Those two things are all that matter. I am not bothered if I lose, I am bothered if my Lady and my Knight have reason to say, “You’re still not doing it.”  That is what I am working on.

And my humility.

Men half my age are going to beat me then tell me how they did it.

As much as I am practicing the arts of war, I am also “practicing” the Virtues of Chivalry.

And I am so very proud of that.

Damn.

And there it goes again.

There is one sword, one shield, and seven basic blows.

Then, there is the pell.

Every day I carry out the sixty pound base and set it up outside my apartment. Sometimes, the kids come by to watch. They ask if they can hit it. I usually drag out my six-year-old’s boffer gear and let them attack it while I’m resting. Sometimes the six-year-old, Kalev Bonecruncher the Berserk, will announce to the kids he has to train, too.

Earl Syr Knarlic Wulfersson, whose squire I am, has me throwing the blows again and again and again. I have power, some small speed, but he wants the recovery to become muscle memory. Throw the blow, let gravity bring the blade down, pull it back up into the ready position. Again and again and again. Again and again and again. Again and again and again.

Duke Conrad has instructed me some on my shield use. It’s a strapped round shield, and very unpopular. I am told again and again that I should get rid of it, but, for now, Earl Knarlic allows me to use it. Its used much differently from other shields and its only advantages are found in a certain offensive manner. My round shield is useless at mid range. I have to close distance quickly and then use the edge of the shield to push my opponent’s shield or sword away for an instant just long enough to strike.

Start out of range but close the distance quickly and scrape the edge of the pell with the rim of the shield, throw the blow, recover. Again and again and again. Again and again and again. .

Sir Osric is a reactionary fighter. He likes to stay back and launch his attack when an opponent makes a mistake. The round shield’s disadvantages all work in his favor. I step in to close the distance and my helmet rings. I can’t find an angle of approach that defeats this tactic.

He explains that I have to keep his sword busy as I close distance. It takes me a few tries to understand. he explains it again. I don’t have to hit him, I don’t have to move his weapon, I simply have to make it unwise to use the weapon as I move in. I start using an offside blow to the head (number four of the seven basic blows) hopefully requiring my opponent to block with his sword as I close that distance.

And then I stand before the pell again.

Start out of range and throw a distracting blow as I step in to close range, scrape the pell with my shield as I recover my sword and launch another blow without pause and recover. Again and again and again. Again and again and again.

It isn’t the sword I need to master. It isn’t this impossible round shield. I’m not exactly sure what I am trying to Master.

Hopefully, I recognize it when I get there, though.

This was written in response to the Daily Word prompt found here.

Kalev_Bonecruncher

This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.

Honor: Honor First.

You won’t really find it in a dictionary anymore. Its gets discussed by college sophomores reading THE ILIAD for the first time, then it gets dropped as being an impossible philosophical construct. “Is it honorable to steal bread to feed a starving child?” There are a hundred catchy, pretty phrases and no explanation.

Honor is the idea that some ideas and values are so important that we would choose extinction rather than betray those values. Perhaps the value itself is unimportant and what is vital is that we hold it passionately. For one man, honor might demand that he steal before he lets an innocent suffer. For another, honor might demand that he let innocents die before he steals.

Rather than simply bearing witness, Honor is that impulse that demands we act when we see what is Right.  And Honor is the impulse to stand silent as a witness when that is what Right requires.

Prowess: Train constantly. Your strength and your prowess are all that stands between the Right and the Adversary.

Without the virtue of prowess, all other virtues are irrelevant. If a man is unable to strike down an enemy, then it is not mercy that stays his hand but simple weakness. Prowess is the virtue that provides a knight with the means to change the world to suit his own desires.

Without prowess, a man’s desires are meaningless as he cannot act on those desires. Your desire to feed the poor, clothe the naked, establish schools and courts will count for nothing if it is not matched by an ability to stay the hand of those who intend to remove those things.

Honesty: Always speak the truth.

I’ve been told this tenet can be a cruel one that defies mercy. I see that point, but I disagree. There are often truths that are unpleasant to speak, but when you hold your silence, it is not for their sake but for your own. There are truths that cause suffering, when you speak that truth, you must be prepared to stand and share that suffering.

To lie doesn’t avoid an unpleasant truth, it merely delays its uncovering. Perhaps, when it is uncovered, the hearer will be in company less comforting than your own.

Courage: We cannot let fear make decisions for us.

This is not the same as embracing foolhardiness and risk for its own sake. We do not court danger but we cannot let fear move us to act in ways that do not further the cause of Right and Good. We hold our values and our honor so closely that, when the time comes to give our lives in defense of our values and in pursuit of the Good, it will seem as though our lives meant nothing to us.

Mercy: Defend the weak. Protect the innocent.

Just as we prevent the suffering of others through our pursuit of the right, we seek to inflict no more suffering on the wrong-doer than necessary. This is one reason why prowess is the foundation of chivalry and why chivalry can only be pursued by warriors.

Mercy takes many forms, but it is never the simple over looking of errors and mis-deeds.  We confront and defeat the weakness and ignorance of men, but we do not always need to defeat the man himself.

Humility: Praise the worthy deeds of others as you seek to emulate their virtues, but do not boast of your own.

If you are spending your time in the proper company, there will always be others to speak of more highly than yourself, and there will always be others speaking highly of you as they learn the code through watching your actions.

When we boast during sumbel, remember that those supporting you will be affected by your aspirations. Always push the limits of what you can do, but remember that if you push too hard and fail, your burdens fall to another.

Generosity: Gluttony and greed are marks of cowardice.

By taking up arms and taking our place on the wall, we assume responsibility for the lives and well-being of others. What greater generosity is there than that we share our strengths and spend our lives in pursuit of the well-being of all? Give your time, your wealth, your energy to those people whose need hampers their development or the advancement of us all.

The coward fears that he will not have the strength to feed himself again if he shares his meal with the hungry. When we exercise largess and keep an open table, we remind the world through our example that we have the strength and confidence to make our way into the future.

Justice: Seek justice for others without thought of your own gain.

What is good and right is always under assault by weak and ignorant men. Through our words and deeds, we seek to temper the harm done by those who act against the Right. We seek to set two examples. Of course we hope through our actions to inspire others to seek the Right, but we must also conduct ourselves in such a fashion that such men know that acting against the Right in our presence will be met with opposition.

If there are those who imagine that they can act in defiance of what is Good and Right in your presence, then you should reflect on how you have failed.

But justice is a terrifying thing when we truly examine our own lives so we must temper that pursuit of justice with mercy.

Honor: Honor first.

This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.

The idea that “Chivalry is dead” is common enough that it found discussion in my oldest son’s high school history class. It seems that whenever the question gets asked, “Is Chivalry dead?”the audience immediately wants to discuss feminism and why men no longer hold door opens or help with chairs.

My son tells me the young men and women in that class agreed with their teacher, Chivalry IS dead and the cause was feminism. Women no longer need men to open doors, carry packages. and they never really did. As women discovered the capacity for independence, men discovered a capacity to enjoy not being depended on.

The students and teacher saw no need to mention that chivalry was a code for warriors; specifically noble cavalrymen. The image of the knight in shining armor with lance and shield was once the model of chivalry, but now that image is only invoked when one wishes to mock the notion and show outdated chivalry is.

That the role of women in our society has changed from that of the High Middle Ages was an important point to them, but it was of less interest that the role of men has changed as well.

In that class of thirty or so, only one young man, my son, had probably ever trained with a sword or even held one since leaving behind the things of childhood. Perhaps a couple of others have held a firearm or hunted. But had this been the Age of Chivalry, those young men would have already spent years either tilling in the fields, laboring as an apprentice, or attending upon a knight and learning the sword, the shield and the Code (even if we all know it wasn’t written down, commented on, or called “chivalry”  for many, many years.)

The death of chivalry isn’t about how men see women but rather about how they see themselves.

Chivalry can only be practiced, perhaps, by those trained in the ways of war. Any gentle person can open doors for another, help with a chair or a coat. But chivalry requires one to rise above simple courtesies and be prepared, as well, to put one’s life and safety between danger and the one served. In this instance, “prepared” cannot simply mean “willing” and must include a certain level of prowess that can only be achieved by training and study and diligent pursuit of the ways of violence.

Men at large no longer see themselves that way. Young men are not taught that they must be protectors. Young women are not taught that they must be (or will be) protected. And the limited imaginations that govern the world discover chivalry is dead.

But when we recognize that our knights are not exclusively male, it shows more clearly perhaps that chivalry is more intimately bound to notions of strength, service, protection than it is in notions of gender.

So let us consider that chivalry is not a code that determines how men treat women, but how warriors treat each other and how they treat non-combatants. Whether man or woman, boy or girl, chivalry can only reside in the heart and actions of that person who has decided that he is willing to stand on the wall and shake a spear at the darkness.

Chivalry appears dead to those whose view of it is too small. When a generation is taught that their own comfort as consumers is their prime purpose, it might be a bit much to expect basic courtesy from them. It is impossible to expect chivalry.

But in every age and every generation, we find those few who will embrace the role of protector. Only from them can we expect chivalry.