Archive for the ‘Honor’ 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.

 

 

 

 

 

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

C. S. Lewis THE ABOLITION OF MAN

PART ONE can be found here.

With recent attention turned to the use of torture for information gathering purposes sanctioned by the United States Government, I’ve had to discuss torture as a common practice among cultures where “honor” was a highly prized value. Specifically, I am reminded of the prevalence of torture among American Indians and the “blood eagle” among the Norse.

What I find is that these tribes did not use torture as a means to gather information or any advantage in war. We don’t find records of prisoners in Indian hands being questioned or being told that their torture would end once they cooperated. We do find records of men and women being tortured and treated very harshly for years only to be accepted as full members of the tribe at some future point.

An Indian warrior living among the tribes of the American Southwest and the American Northeast, where torture seems to have been most prevalent, expected to be tortured if taken prisoner, just as his foes knew to expect torture at his hands if they fell into them. The purpose of this torture seems to have been twofold. On one hand, it served as a simple act of revenge and was often accomplished by women who had lost husbands and sons to the enemy.

Secondly, it tested the warrior’s mettle, possibly for the last time, and gave him a chance to prove his toughness, his spirit, and his honor. There are stories of great torture lasting for days wherein the victim did not cry out. This was seen as a great show of courage even among enemies. It was also apparently common for a victim who did cry out to be killed immediately, provided he had suffered in silence a sufficient time. White soldiers often began crying out immediately under torture and those cries were ignored.

In this cultural context, one sees torture used as part of an honor system where an enemy is provided a chance to prove he is strong and brave, and any need for revenge can also be satisfied. It was expected that both of these values were respected by all parties to the conflict.

What we do not see is instances of one tribe torturing prisoners while crying out that the other tribe is monstrous for its treatment of captives. Suffering for personal glory and the well being of the tribe is a warrior’s lot and the routine torture of prisoners is seen as a part of this.

The Norse Rite of the Blood Eagle was not such a part of a shared set of values. The blood eagle may have been a form of execution where a prisoner had his back cut open, his ribs hacked from his spine, and his lungs pulled out. In truth, we do not know what was meant when the Skalds reported that an eagle was cut on or in a man’s back, but this is the popular image, based on a description in the ORKNEYINGA SAGA.

To my knowledge, there are no human remains that suggest they were the victim of this rite as so described and earlier sources suggest it may have been so simple as carving the picture of an eagle on the victim’s back.

The most recent pop culture exploration of the blood eagle was in The History Channel’s VIKINGS, where Ragnar Hairy Pants (That IS what Lothbrok means. Kinda takes some of the grandeur out of it, huh?) inflicted this punishment on his enemy. What seems to have caught the public’s imagination most was Ragnar’s  explanation that if the victim suffered in silence, he would prove he was worthy of Valhalla.

This, Gentle Reader, is good entertainment, but the sagas make no mention of such an aspect to the rite.

It was an execution or the prelude to an execution, pure and simple.

The Rite of the Blood Eagle (whatever it was) seems to have had only one objective; the painful death of an enemy. Ivarr the Boneless inflicts this death on his father’s slayer. Torf-Einarr inflicted this death on his enemy Halfdan Long Legs.

Neither are being honored in any respect. Nor are either of them being questioned. Neither has a chance to end their suffering with a confession or a vital piece of disclosure.

These are important distinctions when considering torture among those cultures and in our own.

 

Honor and the Torturer: PART ONE

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Honor
Tags: , , ,

We’ve all seen responses to the recent (Dec 2014) release of the US Senate’s Report concerning the CIA’s use of torture during the ongoing Global War on Terror. Some claim to be sickened that their republic would stoop to such measures, but to me, the cries seem shallow, hollow, or simply false. We’ve all known for ten years this was happening. It happened under President Bush, and most of the reaction is coming from people who are simply so excited about another chance to talk about Bush that they are about to pee.

Liberal outrage comes and goes like hashtag crusades against #Kony or #HobbyLobby. There was no substance to the voiced outrage then and there is no substance to the voiced outrage now.

But that outrage has given certain conservative elements of our culture an excuse to parade their patriotism and righteous indignation about the liberals’s righteous indignation. And these “conservative” sentiments seem perfectly sincere.

I’m not going to address the report’s conclusion that, in the end, torture yielded no benefit whatsoever. Only the very naive cling to some notion that interrogators are too stupid to know when a subject is lying to save his skin. Torture works. That it works is a poor excuse for using it.

On FaceBook, I saw a photograph of a man falling from one of the twin towers and the caption around this tragic death turned social media meme read that “This is why I don’t give a shit how we gathered information from terrorists.”

My FaceBook friend list is dominated by people I deployed to Iraq or A-stan with. Good men all, and many of them agreed with that sentiment. Those deaths and the many that followed and the possibility of preventing other such murders were all the justification we needed for torture.

On the surface, its hard to argue with. What is more important; my sons’s lives and safety or the way a terrorist is treated?

If the bad guys need killing, why does it matter how we identified them or how we found them?

It matters because we are the good guys and they are the bad guys. I’m not weak. I’m not squeamish. But our entire cause rests on the idea that human beings are obligated to treat each other with a modicum of benevolence.

It doesn’t matter how the terrorists are treated. It matters what we do. It matters how we conduct ourselves. It matters what deeds we commit and what deeds we even tolerate in our presence.

The GWOT began when Al Qaeda murdered thousands of non-combatants. They behaved worse than any rabid beast and in that attack, they demonstrated there was no possibility of peace or co-existence with the culture of Radical/Extremist Islam. They proved it was necessary to annihilate that culture. Those men must be killed and their way of thinking exterminated.

These facts were undeniable. Radical/Extremist Islam must be eradicated.

The only questions that remained concerned logistics.

And how to stare into the abyss, fight monsters, and not become monsters ourselves.

Its easy to suggest that we’re the good guys because we were attacked and its easy to cite the countless heroic deeds done to protect the innocent as we waged this just, necessary cultural genocide. We give candy to children, build schools for girls, wells for villages, and we put our bodies between murderous dogs and their intended innocent victims.

But then we piss on the corpses of their dead. We humiliate the prisoner without any expectation outside the moment’s amusement.

And in the names of justice and efficiency, we tortured.

When we stared into that abyss, it stared back and we crumbled.

The test of whether we are good and honorable men doesn’t come when we are defending what we love and cherish. It doesn’t come when the innocent cry out for aid. Those cries are easy to answer.

The test comes when the evil-doer has fallen into your hands and you now face the same temptation they faced. “I hate, therefore I will hurt.” When we faced that temptation to hurt and we yielded to it, some of that evil crept into us.

That they have done evil, that they have killed innocents, that they have tortured cannot be the guide we use to determine what is moral and honorable in our conduct. It doesn’t work. We cannot follow the thoughts and inclinations and deeds of evil men and hope we somehow come to some place other than that desperate darkness they found. Good men cannot allow evil men to provoke them into committing evil deeds.

It is sometimes necessary to put down a mad dog.

What makes us different from the terrorist is that we do not kick that dog first.

In pursuit of their warped vision of what is Good, the terrorists have yielded their humanity to the Adversary. If we follow and commit the atrocities they embraced, no matter how loudly we voice our reluctance, we too sink into the abyss and serve the Adversary.

To argue that we serve a greater good, that we need to commit torture because the benefits of expediency and information and the possibility of saved lives justifies it, only commits us more completely to the path that the terrorists took as they started down the road to suicide bombs and public beheadings.

I do not ask myself if I would commit torture to save my sons. I am weak. My answer might shine light into parts of my soul I am not ready to examine.

But I ask if I would want my sons to carry the taint of having tortured another human being, no matter how monstrous, and I know what is right.

Good men do not torture nor do they allow torture to be conducted on their behalf.

Honor First.

PART ONE has been my commentary as a warrior and a veteran to revelations concerning activities by the United States during the GWOT.
PART TWO will concern the perception of torture among the Norse and some Native American tribes.