Bushi vs Samurai

Every once in a while someone asks us what a “bushi” is.

Aside from that obvious answer, it’s a Japanese word. We had a somewhat interesting Twitter thread yesterday on the topic. Feel free to click on one of the conversation boxes to navigate the whole thing.

The short answer is that “bushi” means warrior. Sometimes it’s interchangeable with “samurai.”

The longer answer is that…it depends who you ask.

I decided to do a little scouring of the J Internet, to see what the natives say. Here’s one Japan-informational blog that addresses the question:

日本人にも答えづらい「侍」と「武士」の違い – (Even Difficult for Japanese to Answer: The Difference between “Samurai” and “Bushi”)

I’m not going to attempt a line-for-line translation of this article, as it would take a lot of time and my translation would no doubt be rather crude. But let me summarize. My notes are parenthesized in red.

1. Mrs. M (presumably the author of this blog) says that there are many questions foreigners want to ask Japanese people, one of which is the difference between “samurai” and “bushi.”

The answer, she asserts, is that most Japanese people don’t know and so there are very few people who can clearly answer this.

But Mrs. M’s explanation is this:

From the Edo period (~1603-1868) onward, the basic distinction was that samurai were sword-toting martial arts masters. Bushi were samurai who served a lord.

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In historical dramas, she notes, townsfolk call anyone with a sword “samura-san,” not knowing if they’re a ronin or the retainer to some lord.

From the Heian period (~794-1185) on, however the distinction changed with the times. The original root for the word “samurai” was “saburau,” (meaning “to serve”). “Samurai” referred to those employed to protect holdings like nobles’ estates or temples. 

“Samurai” occupied a lower social rank in the earlier periods.

In high school textbooks, the Heian period marks the emergence of the term “samurai.”

And so it’s not incorrect to say that samurai are the same as bushi. The distinction between the two differs (or even disappears) depending upon the time period in question.

In the context of the Edo period, however (if I understand this correctly), samurai were retainers to lords, but were not considered to be “employed.” Bushi, on the other hand, also worked for lords but were basically hired soldiers. The famous Shinsengumi (imperial secret police force) was comprised of “bushi,” not “samurai.”

By the end of the Edo period, anyone disciplined and determined enough to obtain a sword and learn how to use it could become a samurai.

Ultimately the best answer, by Edo standards, is that bushi were warriors for hire who served a lord. Samurai were experts of the martial arts who served (but were not hired by) a lord. If you’re talking about other time periods, the answer is much less clear.

This is a simple explanation from one Japanese blogger. I admittedly have no idea about her level of expertise, so take this as you will. Still, interesting topic.

-Bushi

bushi

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The glories of war: King and Country

War is a popular subject matter across all forms of entertainment, and it’s small wonder. They say that prostitution is the oldest profession, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone said it was soldiering.

War and violence can be complicated subject matter. From a Catholic point of view, as I understand it, an act may be evil without being (gravely) sinful. A man may kill in defense of self or family or country and be judged righteous.

The catechism of the Church says this regarding war:

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

– the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

– all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

– there must be serious prospects of success;

– the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of mode[rn] means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

While there are certainly many tales of the evilness and ugliness of war (for it is Hell, after all) and stories of the gray middle ground, the ballads of glory, nobility, bravery, and heroic sacrifice – these are the stories of war that boys and men so enjoy. They are uplifting and inspiring and highlight the heights to which men may rise in their nobler moments.

And yet we also do well to remember that the stories of Charlemagne and of Arthur’s knights are heavily romanticized.

Among war movie buffs it’s a common lament that there aren’t enough flicks about World War I. This is because it was a terrible, tragic, hellish mess. Surely there is some redemption to be found in every war, but at least WWII is easy to romanticize. Villains like Hitler and the Nazis and the fanatical kamikaze bombers allow for stark portrayals of evil and the heroes who stood against them.

WWI, meanwhile, saw the dawn of modern warfare. Terrible leaders, often aristocrats, clinging to the Old Ways sent countless peasants to fight and die in the mud; to choke on frightening, deadly new gases; to be shaken to the edge of madness by the incessant pounding of devastatingly powerful artillery.

What brings this long ramble to my tongue (or fingers, as the case may be)?

I recently watched King and Country (available for streaming on Kanopy, which many libraries offer for free with membership). The film, released in 1964, is based upon the play Hamp. It tells the story of a British army private, one Arthur Hamp, during WWI.

Hamp is the last surviving member of his company. The others were all killed in previous battles, sometimes right beside him. Eventually he reaches a breaking point. He is blown into an artillery hole filled with water and mud, and he nearly drowns. He then decides to “go for a walk.” A simple, yet honest-to-a-fault young man, Hamp tells his legal counsel that he didn’t intent to desert, but neither did he intend to return. He simply didn’t think about it.

His defender, Captain Hargreaves, starts off as a cold and unsympathetic advocate. As the film progresses, however, he begins to feel for Hamp. The boy, only 23, joined the army voluntarily at a dare from his wife and mother-in-law (who both sound like dreadful wildebeests). Hamp’s lieutenant calls him a good solider, and even offers to perjure himself as a witness to try and get the boy off.

The most senior officers, however, the ones running the war, are much less circumspect about Hamp’s life. They are arrogant, detached, and self-assured about the proper way to conduct a war. The Captain Court Martial, when the court is convened, makes offhanded remarks about saving time. The medical officer refuses to consider the possibility of shell shock, calling Hamp a coward and admitting to examining him for 5 minutes and proscribing him laxatives to address the private’s complaints of sleeplessness and extreme anxiety.

Meanwhile, several of Hamp’s fellow privates catch a rat and hold a mock court martial of their own. They eventually convict the rodent and pummel it to death with stones until it dies in the mud. This parallel serves to show the tragic attitude of the senior officers concerning the lives of their men.

Back in court, Hargreaves gives a stirring defense of Hamp, finally imploring the court to remember what they are fighting for and not to come down on the side of killing the boy who had voluntarily joined to defend his country. Let justice be done, or else the deaths of all the British soldiers will have been for nothing, he says.

Justice

The Captain sits down after this stirring and eloquent defense, and for a moment everyone is silent. The members of the Court Martial appear contemplative and almost ashamed. Then the convening officer remarks: “matter of opinion.”

Opinion

It is all wasted.

The court finds Hamp guilty, but recommends mercy in light of his commendable service prior to the infraction. They send this verdict up the chain of command. Back comes a reply – the company is to advance up the front on the morrow. Mercy is denied. Hamp will be executed to “improve morale” in light of the advance.

Hargreaves is present when the sentence is read to the prisoner. He stumbles back to the command post and falls in the mud, a strongly symbolic moment. One of the elite has finally recognized the plight of the common soldier. Alas, there’s little he can do.

Mud

He confronts the Captain Court Martial, who defends the decision but then admits there is no way to know if these executions for desertion really do anything to improve morale. They share a bitter drink.

The next morning the firing squad is convened. The shaky lieutenant and Hamp’s fellow grunts obviously do not relish the task, but they must do their duty. One member of the detail intentionally aims his gun away.

Aim

Hamp survives the volley. His lieutenant pulls out his revolver to finish the job, but hesitates in obvious distress. Hargreaves gently takes the gun and approaches Hamp. The private apologizes for prolonging the event.

Yet

Again gently, Hargreaves puts him down.

End

Not a happy story. But a tale need not be uplifting to teach a worthwhile lesson. King and Country is definitely a worthy watch. The acting and cinematography are top notch. Especially for those who don’t know much about the first World War, it’s worth watching a film about the nightmare that inspired Tolkien’s creation of Mordor.

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-Bushi

bushi

Writing Topic: Foreshadowing, or Why Does Stuff Happen in a Story?

  • by Gitabushi

A few weeks ago I wrote “Economies of Scale”, a fairy tale.  One thing I wanted to do in that story was make the main character encounter a series of obstacles, overcome them in his path to achieving his goal, and even have some of those obstacles actually contribute to achieving that goal.  Meaning, the main character wouldn’t have succeeded if something that seemed bad at the time didn’t turn out to help.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So the story was partly an exercise in trying to make a coherent, believable narrative.

I cheated, perhaps, by making it a fairy tale, which relaxes some of the rules of realism.

It didn’t work for everyone.  One critique I got was that it just seemed like things happened because the author wanted them to happen.  I disagreed: I thought I set up fairly realistic obstacles, had the character make fairly realistic responses to the obstacles, and the outcomes were also fairly realistic.  I just figured he wasn’t the audience for the story (which was a big breakthrough for me in writing confidence).

However, after thinking about it for a few days, I realized that what it meant was I didn’t set up the foreshadowing adequately.

[As is my wont, now is the moment when I suddenly make a sharp turn into a different topic that seems like a digression until I bring it back to the main point]

In music, there is no impossible collection of notes.  Anything can be musical.  You can walk up to a piano and slam your fists down randomly on the keyboard and still make it sound like music, if you are skilled.  The trick, the key element, is resolution.  Each note must be carefully resolved toward consonance. If one step isn’t enough, two or three probably are.  In fact, the best music is often that which hits what would be a very discordant, unmusical sound (if heard in isolation) that, nonetheless, is beautiful and even moving when properly resolved to a consonant chord.  You can make it even better if you approach it carefully and properly.

The same is true, albeit in reverse, in writing fiction.

You can have the most incredible, unbelievable, unrealistic event or character action/decision…if, and only if, you set it up correctly.

Chekov said that if a gun is on the mantel in the 2nd Act, it must be fired by the 3rd Act. Or something like that. A quick search returned so many different versions, I’m just going to stick with my gist.

The corollary of this is that if you want to have a gun go off in the 3rd Act, you should have it innocuously appear in an earlier act.  It can’t be just pulled out of nowhere. Even worse if you take the time to set up a conflict that looks completely unresolvable with the current tools and options open to the main character, and then resolve the problem by having them pull out a tool the audience didn’t know they had, like a pistol.  This is how I understand the weakness of a Deus Ex Machina ending.

So one way of understanding why my friend didn’t like the plot development is I didn’t set up each obstacle resolution properly, with enough foreshadowing.

One technique I tried to use was something I don’t know the name of: if the character is going to find or use something that helps, it must also be used to hurt the main character.  The reverse is true, as well: if the antagonist can use something to harm or block the protagonist, then it is fair game for the protagonist to use it in return.

Go read the story again to see if you can spot the times I tried that. Let me know if you thought it too clumsy, or what I could have done to do it better.  I say “could have done” because for better or worse, the story is done.  I like it. It has weaknesses, but I think it works as is, so as is it shall stay.

Later, in a discussion with my friend, he pointed out that another thing that would have helped make the story better is if the main character has a better feeling of agency, meaning that all the actions taken by the characters seem, um, in character with the personality/person I’ve established.

I admit, that one’s harder than me. I have a difficult time thinking in characters. I fear that everything I write is going to end up sounding like “me, as a space pirate”, “me, as a dragon hunter”, “me, as an assassin”.  I hope not.  My characters do seem different from each other to me, but they’ve grown on the page, rather than me choosing a specific voice, or specific attributes.  This is one I really need to work on.

Thoughts?

Disruption

  • by Gitabushi

In my last post, I mentioned Disruption.

This is a theme I’m still pondering. I haven’t come to any solid, final conclusions yet.  When I do, it will likely become another stakeholder/touchpoint in my personal socio-political Philosophy of Everything.

Right now, what I’ve mostly decided is that disruption is neither good nor bad.  It is Chaos, which is the dissolution of Order.  Order is generally good, but tends to calcify, becoming unyielding and stifling to the dynamics of human life.  In contrast, of course, Chaos tends to feed on itself, dissolving order and keeping humans in a constant state of stress and crisis, which pressures individuals into poor decisions that expand the Chaos.

This is kind of a big deal for my philosophy, because I’ve been a pretty consistent advocate of Order.

How I came to embrace the good points of Chaos was simply mulling on the best way to deal with the growing oligarchy of Silicon Valley, crony capitalism, Too Big to Fail corporations, and the unholy alliance between Government and Big Business.

I’m not a full-on Libertarian for a number of reasons, but I do have a Libertarian distrust of turning to Government to fix problems..  The problem with having Government fix problems is they tend to see all problems as opportunities for graft or gaining additional control over the every day life of citizens, they rarely do a good job of fixing things, and they are probably more responsive to other citizens who have a different notion of what “fixed” looks like than I do.

I am a firm believer in Liberty, however, and absolutely believe that the most effective solutions involve *increasing* options for individuals, rather than decreasing them.

This is intrinsically related to what I see as the role of Government: do the things citizens can’t do individually or even effectively in private groups, like National Defense and determining and acting on National Interest; resolve problems between equals (equal persons, lower levels of government, corporations, corporations and citizens, etc.); and working to ensure a level playing field.  To a certain extent, these are all just different aspects of the same thing: private citizen groups *could* engage in foreign policy and military action, but it would conflict with the rights and interests of other citizens, so it would almost immediately create a conflict that would need government to resolve, so just have the government do it in the first place, and ensuring a level playing field *is* resolving conflicts between citizens or between citizens and corporations.

So what I’m getting around to saying is that I think the best way to stop Big Corps from running and ruining our lives, or from putting their quest for Profit above the best interests of their workers and customers, is to encourage competition.

The best way to stop Google and Facebook from monitoring us 24/7 is to make it easier for other companies to make money disrupting Google’s and Facebook’s business model. The Silicon Valley Oligarchs are huge fans of regulation right now, the same issue they were huge opponents of when they (and the internet) was in its infancy.  That’s because regulation creates barriers to competition.  The difficult part is how easy it is to demagogue regulation.

Here’s a great example: It was discovered that some toys from China had lead paint.  This is bad. From there, it is very easy to demand that *all* toys imported from China be tested for lead paint.  Since that is logistically impossible, the logical step is to have random testing of imported toys, and demand that the toy importers pay for it. Guess who can afford to pay for random testing because they benefit from economies of scale?  Mattel, Fisher Price, Hasbro, et al.  Guess who supported the new regulation for random testing paid for by the importer?  Mattel, Fisher Price, Hasbro, et al. The regulation represented an additional barrier to small, upstart toy importers that could cut into their market share.  But if you oppose the regulation, China will have no incentive to stop exporting toys with lead paint, and US children will be harmed.

Look, some regulation is good. But encouraging disruption is also good.

There is no reason that a large company must stay a large company. There is no reason that just because they’ve been making a number of sales for a certain profit margin, that they should be able to continue doing so forever. Humans must compete and work to improve themselves to maintain their station in life, so corporations should also.  And they comprehend that, because they are always fighting to increase their market share, drive out competition, etc.  There’s just no reason our government should help them in reducing competition.

But I also can’t say disruption is always a good tool.  The Left has done a great job of disrupting things they don’t like: Christianity, the traditional family, integrity, free speech, the right to self-defense (via the Second Amendment right to bear arms). LBJ’s Great Society was extremely disruptive to the black community and to many of the traditions that had made the US strong.  Medicare merely added to the misconception created by Social Security that individuals should not be responsible for their own lives, sustenance, and comfort.  I cannot describe to you the sense of frustration and despair I felt when I found out that the Health Care for Life that I earned by sacrificing 20 years of my life to the military reverts to Medicare when I turn 65.  Not that the military’s TRICARE is all that good.  But everything I’ve seen convinces me that Medicare is worse.  But I digress.

The simple truth is that disruption is merely a tool that helps us improve the order in our lives.  But tools can be used badly, and tools can be used on the wrong target, or for the wrong reasons.

I haven’t developed any pithy truisms regarding disruption. I don’t even have a metric for when or how to encourage creative disruption yet.  Let’s have a discussion about it in the comment section.

Must Read, er, Fantasy?

  • by Gitabushi

I highly recommend reading The Paladin by CJ Cherryh.

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The hesitancy of the title is that while this story is set in a semi-fictional world, there are no fantasy elements at all. The people are superstitious, so belief in demons has some impact on the story…but there’s no magic to speak of.

When I originally read the story, I assumed the setting was a fictionalized Japan. Re-reading it, I’m not really sure why I thought that: the setting is quite obviously a fictionalized China.

Perhaps it was because the names are Asian sounding, but most are not valid Chinese syllables, so it is easy to assume Japan as a not-Chinese Asian.  Perhaps it was because of the artistry of the martial arts, except that China also has such artistry.

In any case, regardless of the society C. J. Cherryh intended to copy, it could easily be ancient China, and is probably best understood that way.  Although, to be honest, you don’t have to know a thing about China or Japan to enjoy the story.

The story is about the Emperor’s martial leader, exiled for disloyalty, but left alone as long as he remains in exile, and the girl who brings him back to the world. His martial leadership is never really explained: he’s a master swordsman, but also a tactical and strategic genius.  Prior to the beginning of the novel, his only student was the boy Emperor; hints during the novel indicate he was possibly the top Imperial General, except that his fame is for prowess in fighting, and he never meets anyone considered an equal in the story.  If he was supposed to be the most skilled bodyguard or champion of the Emperor, it wasn’t clear to me.  So it seems more that he was taught all the martial arts, and his training and talent made him the best at all aspects, both personal fighting and leading small units and large armies.

I’ve said before that one things C. J. Cherryh gets better than any other writer I’ve ever seen, is language.  She has always shown the difficulties in communicating in languages learned as second languages, and that plays some small part in this story.  However, in The Paladin, Cherryh displays one of her other strengths: speed of communication and transportation.

One of my theories is that what makes a story work is uneven information flow.  This can be seen in how ubiquitous cellphone coverage has had such a profound impact on film stories, including slasher flicks.  They *must* include some explanation of why the characters can’t simply make a phone call; in truth, the conflict in most stories would be resolved with just a quick phone call.  Time and Communication can create all sorts of conflicts that make a story good.  Thus, C. J. Cherryh has included language differences as a disruptor of clear communication, and her FTL isn’t just “press a button and get there,” but rather a system of applying power to an advanced physics problem, so mass vs power causes different ships to make it to the next normal space location at different times; and so ships can race to get through FTL hops, and take risks to cut time, because presence and communication are the key to conflict and resolution.  But those are her science fiction stories.

The speed of horses, the fatigue and endurance of humans, and the speed of gossip and misinformation, all play a significant role in this novel, and it is the better for it. If for no other reason you should read this novel to see how she handles the flow of information and people. It makes the world *feel* more real.

One other reason to read this book: realistic handling of feminist topics.  It has never been confirmed, but I and others have assumed that C. J. Cherryh was the liberal science fiction writer (Sherry Atkinson) appearing on the Alien Assessment Team in Niven and Pournelle’s Footfall.  I felt their characterization of her, for all that it was good enough to make it clear who they meant, was unfair.  She may be (and probably is) Progressive, but she is no bleeding heart, naive liberal.  Her books always display a clear and profoundly accurate grasp of human nature, vulnerabilities, and motivations.  This book is no different.

In this book, a young girl wants to learn how to be a killing machine so she can get revenge on the man who killed her family and destroyed her home community.  Cherryh handles is quite realistically: the girl doesn’t become an equal to a man; in fact, after a full year of training, the viewpoint character shows her how even a half-trained man could easily defeat her just by height, reach, and strength that will always outmatch her own, no matter how vigorously she trains.  But then the sword master alters his training from the ideal set of skills to helping her minimize her weakness and maximize the strengths of her different set of abilities.

Cherryh may be a liberal/progressive/Leftist, but her stories often seem to arrive at the same conclusions conservatives do, and she has a gritty and insightful view of human nature that shines through.

On the other hand, her current epic series masterworks (the Foreigner series (at last count, 20 books and still going), is filled with the same Leftist Dowager political assumptions that mar the later works of Lois McMaster Bujold: “Conservative = bad,” “Conservatives are hypocrites or ignorant people who would be Progressive if they would just open their eyes,” “It’s okay to lie/cheat to obtain a Progressive societal win, because after the stupid Conservatives have Progressive societal advancements shoved down their throat, they’ll see it was right,” “the correctness of the Progressive cause justifies using dishonest and dishonorable methods on anyone who tries to stop us,” “There is absolutely no decent argument for opposing the Progressive agenda, so I won’t even let them make an argument in my book,” and “Progressives win simply because they are virtuous in their commitment to Social Progress.”

The change in her writing seemed to happen about the time she turned 52. McMasters Bujold became less enjoyable for me when she turned 51.  Come to think of it, Heinlein became unreadable in his later life, as well. I disliked Stranger in a Strange Land, written when he was 54. In all three cases, there is a novel where their writing disappoints me, then a novel or two that are still good (in the older style?  or in concert with the older themes?), and then within 3-4 years, their novels become wholly unreadable.

This has implications for my hopes of establishing a writing career, since I’m already extremely close to that age.

Anyway, The Paladin has a great setting, great characters, a good plot, a great grasp of the realities of communication and travel in a non-technological world, and one other thing I appreciated:

Disruption.

I think I’ll discuss this theme tomorrow.  Let it suffice to say that the girl uses disruption to get what she wants, only to have it used against her later.  And then Disruption becomes the main theme of the last third of the book. We’ll discuss this more tomorrow.

A Sloppy Theory of Everything on Why Current Society Sucks

  • by Gitabushi

Some ideas have been percolating in my sub-conscious, as is their wont.  A tweet from a friend brought them to the surface.

I am long winded.  When I have thoughts, I have a long series of logical steps by which I reach my conclusions.  I also have explanations for why I make those steps, and I have evidence for those reasons.  By evidence, I rarely have anything that is actual proof, but I have events and statements that demonstrate someone holds those views.  I know that’s vague, but a good example would be something like saying the Left wants to confiscate guns.  No, not every single person to the Left of Jeb Bush wants to confiscate guns right now, but I can find prominent individuals on the Left who have stated that is an end goal, with little/no pushback from the Left for saying that. I consider that “evidence”, and can always provide a link to that sort of thing.

However, this time, I just wanted to share my view, so I didn’t go into all the steps, all the reasons, or even provide any of the evidence.  I just wrote what I was thinking, somewhat free form.  As such, there are logical leaps. Rest assured, the steps are still there, even if I didn’t write them here.  Feel free to ask questions or challenge any of my leaps or assumptions.

I did some minimal editing to boost clarity.  If you want to read the original, you can click on the twitter link above. Otherwise, my thoughts, gathered together, are below.

Let’s have a conversation.

Can I start my response off with what may seem like a tangent?

Most epic fantasies (and SF stories) that are set up as Good vs Evil seem to posit that the Good isn’t all that Good, but the Evil is horrible. If Evil wins, Darkness will rule everywhere. But if Good wins, Darkness is vanquished, but people still aren’t that good.

The one thing I got from Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever, was the notion that you can never defeat Evil. It’s always there. The flip of that is you can never really defeat Good, either. It’s always there. The difference between Good winning and Evil winning controls what 80% of society is.

The Soviet Union, and China since the 1800s, have been pretty much Evil: people look out for themselves, seek power to protect themselves and their closest loved ones from the vicissitudes of life, and screw everyone else. And get ahead *by* screwing everyone else.  But there were still good people, and acts of charity and kindness.  But mostly, people worried about and took care of only themselves, out of self-protection.

I’d like to say the US has been pretty much Good, but we had slavery. We screwed over the Indians. We had Jim Crow. But we had a system of govt that helped us to address and resolve those. And much of the US has not been racist/sexist, but rather live and let live: Good.  Lots of charity, some evil.

But Marxist Ideology took hold around the turn of the last century. Everything got worse for everyone. It was a religion. It changed the way people thought of society, and the relationship of individuals to their govt, and to society.

Imagine/remember what it must have been like in the 1600s, where the big questions were whether your nation was going to be Catholic or Protestant. Would you have a Protestant (or even secular) King or one subordinate to the Pope?

Then actual representation in government became a thing with the US, growing out of representation in England (and maybe other spots). But that lasted less than 100 years or so (more, if you consider representation since the Magna Carta, say) before Marxism showed up.

Marxism was the religion of the Industrial Revolution. Aside: Maybe modern Leftism is the religion of the Information Age? But it grew out of Marxism.

And Marxism is a religion of governing large groups of people. Dealing with large groups of people as if they were naturally liabilities, and only assets if grouped and properly sorted.

Once you start thinking of people as their identity or the group they belong to, instead of individuals, you stop thinking of them as people, but more like cattle. Numbers. Abstract inputs into a wide-scale resource production and consumption system. Dehumanized.

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” Sounds nice, but notice that “each” is not named. It’s a faceless entity. And the only thing considered is production and consumption. Not desires, not needs, not fulfillment.

Marxism says that if you take care of production and consumption, people will find their own ways to be fulfilled. I think experience shows us that is bullshit. Marxism robs meaning of life by treating people merely as what they make and use.

And so when when people are grouped, sorted, assigned rights based on their groups, and reduced to what they produce and use, and ordered around based on all that, it ruins trust. It destroys social credit.

Due to Bell Curve distributions of ability, intelligence, drive, etc., *most* people will be in a competition with millions of others with similar abilities, with nothing to distinguish themselves from anyone else. Except luck and connections.

Pull strings to get to the front of the line for the education/job everyone wants, and you’re set for life. Don’t, and you toil in frustration, and see others who pulled the strings succeed without any advantage in ability, drive, talent, etc.

So people then compete, following the same rules, for a decreasing number of opportunities. No wonder people become vicious and selfish. No wonder people try to find ways to distinguish themselves in the coin of the realm: victimhood. You get stuff if you are a victim.

Being a victim means you can jump to the front of the line without connections (or ability, or drive, etc.) because Justice or something. But to be a victim, someone has to victimize you.

That results in people designated as oppressors who probably did nothing wrong, but now are pushed to the end of the line. Again, regardless of ability, talent, drive, etc. The unfairness of this causes people to prioritize self-interest, if only to make sure they aren’t designated as an oppressor.

The US system of governance was great about outlining how the govt wasn’t supposed to pick winners and losers. The problem is that every law and policy is only as good as its enforcement.

Judicial Review, for example, is not in the Constitution. It seems to have been an oversight. Or something they couldn’t agree on, so wasn’t included. But then that power was taken. There have been token moments of opposition (President Andy Jackson), but it is a power because everyone accepts it.

That’s why the Left is trying so hard to astroturf things like Trump’s Russia collusion, gun grabbing, illegal alien voting, dissolving the electoral college. They’ve proven (via things like Roe v Wade) that they don’t need to follow the US Constitution.

All they have to do is isolate and dishearten their socio-political opponents, and then get the right set of judges to rule, pressure the SCOTUS to not hear it, and it is now the Law of the Land. That’s how they got Abortion, Gerrymandering (although only allowed when it benefits them), SSM, widespread vote fraud, etc.

Okay, let’s try to draw this back to the original topic. I think that merely returning to Constitutional Governance won’t be enough. First, the Left wouldn’t let us do that. Second, social trust has eroded way too far.

Offhand, the only thing I can think of is maybe a new addition to the US Constitution, like a new Bill of Rights, but one that describes everything wrong with Alinsky’s rules and establishes methods of identifying and punishing its use.

But that won’t work, I realize as I type. We don’t need more laws. The more things are written down, the more people will find ways to violate the spirit of the law while adhering to the letter of it, and get away with crap that further erodes public social trust.

I guess I don’t know what the answer is, either.

One other idea, maybe, would be to clearly acknowledge that “religion = belief system”, so that society would have more tools to push back against Atheism and Leftism belief systems trying to eradicate competing belief systems, i.e. Christianity.  Without establishing a specific religion, we should encourage religious belief that helps build and support social trust.

I’ve said before that Islam is a Leftist religion, for a lot of reasons I won’t get into now, and that those reasons explain why the Left allies with and protects/promotes Islam. One reason I will share is that both Islam and Leftism have pillars of faith that require mere words.

Left: You don’t personally have to have an abortion, you just have to support it being legal. Muslims can do that without violating their faith. Islam: You just have to say “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” Lefties can do that without meaning it.

You can’t be called a bad Muslim as long as you support the right things: the Pillars of Islam:
Faith
Prayer
Charity
Fasting
Pilgrimage
Faith is taken care of by just making a memorized statement. Charity by a tithe. Prayer requires commitment…when people are watching.  The point is, the system can be gamed with rote actions and rote statements.

But if you do those 5 things, you can be a pedophile. You can murder infidels. You can even murder other Muslims in collateral damage. NO ONE CAN EXCOMMUNICATE YOU OR CRITICIZE YOUR MUSLIM-NESS. That was why Osama bin Ladin was a Muslim hero. He did the 5 Pillars of Islam

Likewise, you can’t be kicked out the Left as long as you support the right things, the Pillars of the Left:
abortion on demand
rights assigned by group
progressive taxation
clean energy/climate change
sexual libertine
…okay maybe those aren’t the main 5. We can debate.

But consider Bill Clinton, who was a Leftist hero despite being a sexual predator. He did the Pillars of Leftism. And note how easy it would be to mouth the pieties of one while actually believing (living) the other.

Western Leftism and Islam are compatible. Mouth the right words, support the right causes, and you can do what you want without fear.

Which is why they work together to destroy Christianity, because Christianity makes demands on your daily life that both cannot be easily gamed, and encourage the growth of social trust; and you can be excommunicated (or otherwise rejected) for disqualifying actions. Hypocrisy is a weapon used effectively against Christians because the inherent social trust of the religion.  Hypocrisy rarely works on Islam or the western Left, because no one expects socially-admirable behavior: supporting the Pillars of their respective ideologies are Indulgences that allow you to purchase righteousness without giving up your sin.

And Leftism/Islam are totalitarian, allowing no separation between personal and political views. Too many people don’t want to let political entities have total control of over their daily life, so the Left has to create a void to fill it.  If there is no social trust, then of course the government must regulate all interpersonnel interactions.

Social trust is being destroyed by the Left because the Left itself wants to be the method by which you deal with your fellow human, not trust.

Okay, maybe that’s pessimistic. Maybe that’s overly cynical. But it all fits.

UPDATE: I mention Christianity, religion, and belief systems a few times. I value the Christian belief system, but am not a Christian myself.  I think Atheism works fine with Christian ethics.  It doesn’t work so well with Atheist ethics.  Meaning, atheists who were raised as Christians or Jews, but have left their faith without any resentment and rancor, can still act according to an ethical system that supports social trust.  I don’t think someone raised as an atheist can do that as easily.

And even though I’m not Christian myself, and I know that Christianity didn’t stop the horrors of slavery and racism, I still think that those are examples of Christianity done wrong.  When Christianity is done right, it is admirable, loving, charitable, enhancing…all the positive attributes.  Leftism and Islam done right, however, aren’t necessarily giving, generous, etc., to anyone but their own…and even within their own groups, the focus is on their smaller circle of family and friends first, against all others.  And when done wrong?  Genocide.

The Problem With the Military’s Oath

  • by Gitabushi

I think this blog is growing into a Speculative Fiction blog.  I started with writing about Guitars.  I took inspiration from PCBushi’s exhortation on Twitter once to Alienate All the Readers with some of my harder-core socio-political views.  But I think the three of us have some distinctive and valuable talent when it comes Speculative Fiction, whether games, movies, books, or original work.

However, I’m going to break with that momentarily and go back to Alienating Readers with Socio-Political Views.  The reason is I want to explore an issue that really isn’t appropriate for the piecemeal nature of Twitter, and where else do I have to talk about such issues?  Nowhere.  So whether you agree or disagree, let’s discuss.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, there has been a national discussion on gun ownership and the evils and virtues thereof.  Some are merely pushing to ban the civilian (restricted to semi-automatic) versions of the M-16 and M-4 (labeled loosely as AR-15 rifles).  The Right assumes that is just the first step, and justifications will be found to continue further bans, re-accomplishing all the gun control gains lost in the Heller ruling, and attempting to overturn the wild success of Shall Issue open and concealed carry that has been so successful in reducing violence, crime, and homicide in recent years. Others have justified that view by openly stating they want to confiscate all guns.

800px-BCM_AR-15
Scary-looking rifle. Photo by Motohide Miwa: https://www.flickr.com/people/28742299@N04

And from there, the issue always comes to the US military: will they fire on citizens who are refusing to allow their guns to be confiscated?  Or will they honor their oath the support and defend the US Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms?

Obviously, this is a complex issue, and I can’t cover all the aspects. If the Left actually succeeds in Amending the Constitution to weaken or eliminate the Second Amendment, then the US military would have to shoot violators to uphold the Constitution, no?  But the US military is also more conservative than the citizenry at large, and many understand the importance of the Second Amendment in resisting tyranny. Moreover, the Left is unlikely to succeed in overturning the Second Amendment.  The Assault Weapon Ban hasn’t been renewed because the Left doesn’t have the political power to do so.  So amending the Constitution is probably a non-starter.  The Left’s best hope is probably to use their power in the Judiciary (read Glenn Reynolds’ The Judiciary Class War to understand how this would work) to re-interpret the Second Amendment.

The Right insists the US military wouldn’t fire on citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights. The Left, particularly those on the Left with military experience, says they would.

The reality is enforcement of gun confiscation, if it ever happened, would be done by the armed and militarized federal bureaucracy, like BATF, IRS, EPA, FBI, Department of Education (no, I’m not kidding. They have SWAT teams).

However, I want to explore the notion of the US military supporting and defending the US Constitution.

See, the military has some inherent conflicts in its culture.  The main one I’m thinking of is this contradictory pair:

Rule 1: Always Follow Orders
Rule 2: I was just Following Orders is no defense for war crimes

There’s also the cultural conflict of Top-Down hierarchy against bottom-up initiative.  The US military is one of the best in the world *because* we encourage individual thinking and autonomy at the lowest level possible.

However, the lower the rank, the younger and less experienced the troop.

And the whole point of Basic Training is to teach you to follow orders, without thinking, even to your personal detriment.

Why?

Because there are times where a series of squads or fire teams have to be sent against an entrenched enemy position, and many of them will die.  But a consequence of the assault that will claim many of their lives is the taking of the objective and the accomplishment of the mission.

You can’t have young soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines questioning whether it is a Lawful Order to charge the machine gun emplacement. So we train obedience to orders.

The military spends hours every year discussing ethical issues, including the ticking time bomb scenario, where your team leader wants to torture an enemy captive to get information that will help you save the lives of your squadmates, what do you do?

But although we take the Oath to Support and Defend the US Constitution, we rarely, if ever, discuss what that means.

Obama violated the US Constitution. He did so many times. Obama has more 9-0 SCOTUS rulings against him than any other POTUS in modern history.  Should the US military have risen up to depose him from office?  We didn’t.  Did the US military violate its oath?

Well, those rulings mean the system worked: the Judiciary struck his rules down.

But what about the exceptions?

  1. After Justice Scalia died (previous error: “Scalito”), if the Progressive side of SCOTUS ignored the US Constitution to rule (as it often does…don’t want to get into all the details now) in Obama’s favor, then his Constitutional violations don’t get overturned. What then?
  2. Obama lost several rulings on immigration, then proceeded to ignore the court orders.  What then?
  3. Obama sued to keep Arizona from enforcing federal immigration laws, and won. What then?
  4. In more than one aspect of law, including immigration and Obamacare, the appeals court wouldn’t let plaintiffs make argument of unConstitutionality, because they lacked standing.  Yes, the arguments that Obama’s policy violated the US Constitution were sound and probably would have prevailed, but if the people that SCOTUS feels would be hurt don’t sue, you can’t do anything to stop it!  So: Unconstitutional + SCOTUS *thinks* it is helpful = Constitutional!  Examples of this include Sandra O’Connor ruling that racial discrimination is WRONG, but okay if the govt does it for another, say 25 years.  Or the Obergefell ruling.  Or the California state ruling that an Amendment to the Constitution can be UnConstitutional, so you have no hope of stopping me from using my own ruling to benefit myself personally.  What then?

Should someone in the military have taken a sniper rifle and killed Obama?

Of course not.

Should the military have risen up to depose the Obama administration?

Of course not.

What is the threshold?  What is the trigger?

I don’t think anyone knows.

The problem with the oath is the disparity between Policy as Written and Policy as Enforced.  Once you get to the O-6 level, particularly when you get to the 2-star General/Flag Officer and higher level, promotions are political.  The President only promotes those who agree with them politically.

Remember the Front Row Kid concept?  Well, Front Row Kids make up most of the instructors at the military academies, so Academy Graduates absorb that viewpoint.  Moreover, the military academies *are* the Ivy League for military service, so they have a vested interest in preserving their Elite status, tending to promote each other, and tending to be set up for promotion by the Front Row Kids that form the civilian oversight of the military.

So there won’t be orders to overthrow any POTUS for even fairly blatant violations of the US Constitution.

…and yet, I think that is a good thing.  One of the best things about the US political system is its elasticity.  There are violations, but there are peaceful means of redress, and if you wait long enough, the Wisdom of Crowds effect swings the pendulum back toward the other direction, so there isn’t really a need to take the drastic and damaging action of a military coup.

However, I also think it isn’t purely a good thing.  Individuals respond to incentives.  There is little incentive for any one person to decide to defend the US Constitution via assassination.  In fact, they’d be vilified and jailed as a traitor.

I know, personally, that I don’t want to murder anyone.  But if even half the things Eric Holder seems to have done are true, assassinating him would have been the patriotic thing to do.  He was held in contempt for his dishonesty in front of the US Congress, and his dishonesty was to avoid confessing to several material crimes against US citizens, but the contempt never resulted in any punishment at all.

A military that took its Oath the US Constitution seriously would have done something to ensure Eric Holder faced punishment of some sort (even if not capital punishment) to ensure that partisan hack Attorney Generals will not dare to violate the Constitution in the future. But as of now, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Lois Lerner, Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Susan Rice, Susan Powers, Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, and yes, Barack Obama, have faced no threat of punishment for what seem to be significant crimes against the US Constitution and the US citizenry.  The only one who has been punished at all is Andrew McCabe, and Democrats are doing what they can to restore his pension and take the teeth out of even that minor penalty.

Again, I don’t advocate assassinating people like Eric Holder. I don’t even want to play footsie with the idea.

But if even half the allegations are true, the US military did nothing to fulfill its oath to Protect and Defend the US Constitution.

I’ve been told, and used to believe, that the beauty of the US military’s oath is it was to the Constitution, rather than to a man.  But at this point, that no longer seems to be true.  The US military’s oath isn’t to defend one man for life, but it does seem to have been re-interpreted to be allegiance to the President, whomever he shall be at one time, and his subordinates, regardless of illegal orders and criminal activity.

I honestly don’t know what to do.  It clearly isn’t the place of an individual of any rank to decide on their own that someone in the civilian government has violated the US Constitution.  It clearly would be treason for a small cabal of US military of any rank to decide, as a group, that someone in the civilian government has violated the US Constitution, and take action.  It clearly would be treason for a single General Officer, or even a few General Officers, to begin preparing their subordinates to execute a coup against civilian leadership.

But it also is clear that the US military wouldn’t “just follow orders” to attack and kill US citizens exercising their rights, to attack and kill US citizens for purely political reasons, or to just stand by while Executive Branch agencies attack and kill US citizens for the aforementioned reasons.

I just can’t, at this time, figure out what the tipping point might be.  Or even how to discuss the tipping point in broad terms.  On one side, clearly wrong to take action. On the other side, clearly wrong to not take action.  When/where does the flip happen?

I don’t know.