This year I’ve noticed a lot of people are in fear of things other than banshees and night-gaunts. A particular group of evil doers has gained some notoriety by posting videos in which they decapitate innocents and encourage like minded thugs to commit “lone wolf” attacks on their fellow citizens here in the United States.
The possibility the bad guys might show up in our hometowns with bad intentions has sparked a range of emotional reactions on social media. Most common seem to be hand wringing remarks like: “This is what I’m afraid of,” or “This worries me.”
I would be among the last to suggest we live our lives oblivious to any given threat to our society. But I do propose we refuse to live in fear of any enemy who would use it to further their own political, religious, or ideological agendas.
Some things to consider before you let the headlines send a shiver down your spine:
Character – Our enemy has none. This is why we are better than they are. In our culture, the notion of honor has to do with our positive impact on those around us. Our enemy only understands honor as it pertains to saving face.
Concepts like being a ‘man of your word’ are Western in nature. Culturally, we despise liars and even though lying may not be uncommon it is not viewed as a favorable trait. It is nothing for our enemy to lie as a matter of course. As long as it furthers their purpose nothing is taboo.
“While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion…” – General James Mattis
The worst any enemy prisoners of war have endured at our hands is water boarding. For the most part, they have been fed and received medical attention with the notion that one day hostilities will end and we would send them home with all their fingers and toes. Our enemy embraces the idea hostilities will never end until all of humanity is under submission. Coming home alive after being captured by our enemy seems to be the very rare exception, not the rule.
In the West, the concept of religion exists to inspire a crisis of conscience. Our enemy uses religion as an inspiration for outrage and murder.
“The order of chivalry is more exalted and noble than imagination can suppose; and no knight ought to suffer himself to be debased by cowardice, or any villainous or foul action; but when his helmet is on his head he should be bold and fierce as a lion when he sees his prey.”
– King Joao of Portugal, knighting men on the eve of the Battle of Aljubarrota, 1385
We should also recognize any type of chivalric code is an ideal to strive for and human beings often fail to achieve. It is a mark of someone’s character if they strive to be better than they were yesterday despite failure.
Consciousness – The 21st Century seems no different than any other time in history in that individuals need to be aware of potential threats around them. The law of tooth and claw insinuates each of us is responsible for our own safety and those in our charge.
Much is made of the concept of mindset as pertains to combat. Now days I prefer consciousness as opposed to the word mindset. To me the latter seems to conjure the idea I have to get my head ready for action. We should practice being aware of our surroundings all the times. By this I don’t mean being “switched on” in combat mode 24 hours a day. Consciousness means being aware of potential threats whether you are protecting your pin number at the grocery store or on patrol in Ramadi. Terrain will dictate the level of possible threats and we should adjust our consciousness accordingly.
“They set by their heads their broad battle-shields,
wood rimmed with bright iron. There on the benches,
hard by each hero, arms were easy to see-
a high battle-helmet, a coat of ringed mail,
a mighty spear shaft. For it was their custom
that they were always made ready for war,
both at home and in war-band, so in either of those
they were equally prepared, if the lord of their people
should have need in distress. That was a brave band.”
Capability – Capability makes us less afraid. When the monsters come, capability is what makes us able to calmly snatch up a mighty spear shaft and ram it down their villainous throats.
We increase our capability through our own personal training. Whether that be in martial arts, through exercise, or the gun range it’s all up to the individual. My personal training includes all three to an extent that in my mind the difference between my open hands and a rifle is all a matter of timing and distance.
It should also be noted the capability to render aid should not be solely regulated to the mere application of violence.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
― Robert A. Heinlein
As we have seen, any brute can commit an act of violence. This is why capability should be tempered by character and consciousness. These direct when and where we appropriately apply our capability to a given set of circumstances. Character might help us understand our mere presence can diffuse a situation vice punching someone’s teeth out just because we can. Consciousness intelligently directs capability or can even enable us to avoid danger entirely. Consciousness might dictate discretion be the better part of valor, although character may occasionally trump reason even when the odds are ten to one against you. Remember Thermopylae!
“[T]he hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty — that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.” – George Washington, General Orders, 1776
With the above considerations in mind we should refuse to bow to fear but conduct ourselves with character and consciousness, applying our capability positively where we can. We are the posterity our forefathers fought for and should acquit ourselves accordingly.
Our enemy desires we live in fear. I will defy our enemy and choose valor instead. Don’t be afraid, be ready, both at home and in war band.