3 May 17
“Excellence is an Art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue and excellence, but rather we have those, because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Do “sleazy” people have less of a right to deadly-force self-defense than do “good” people?
Technically, the answer to that question is “No,” but in practical terms, the answer is almost always “Yes!” Personal character of actors, even criminal histories, should be considered irrelevant, indeed invisible, as facts are examined by objective investigators. But, that is seldom the case.
Inner-city drug-dealers, legitimately employing deadly force when defending themselves against other drug-dealers, can expect scant sympathy from local prosecutors, nor from juries, and the actual facts of the case will invariably occupy second place behind the issue of character and “life-style” of the accused.
“Criminal intent,” or the “criminal mind,” is always easier for investigators and prosecutors to imagine in the case of sleazy miscreants, than it is with “good” people, who otherwise have no criminal record.
We can argue interminably about the “fairness” of our system, but that is not the point!
The point is this:
We all need to start preparing for our next lethal-force event right now!
And that preparation starts with being a genuinely good, decent, and honorable person, adopting honesty and integrity as a personal lifestyle. Heaven knows, none of us are truly “innocent,” and we all have personal baggage, some of which we are surely not proud. But, when dishonesty, sleaziness, and casual morals accurately describes your personal lifestyle, it will invariably all come back to haunt you, in a host of ways, and unfailingly at an “inconvenient” time!
Honorable people are experts at minding our own business. We surely don’t go about seeking violent confrontation. Conversely, we do our best to avoid it. See that you do!
Honorable people don’t hang-out with sleazy reprobates, nor do we hang-out in seedy places, particularly late at night. Those people, places, and times we carefully avoid. See that you do!
Honorable people have a “normal” appearance. See that you do!
Honorable people don’t “fail the attitude test.” We are ever courteous and polite. See that you are!
Honorable people realize that professional training is necessary when we decide that “going armed” represents our best interests. Honorable people don’t just wake up one morning and decide to “carry a gun.”
Honorable people don’t do evil things, but sometimes we do foolish things, simply out of ignorance. Such foolish ignorance may become a real problem when they involve deadly force and subsequent interaction with our criminal/justice system!
Honorable people are prepared in depth, not just with equipment, not just with a respectable moral foundation, but with solid, relevant training and education. See that you are!
The Bushido Code:
Just a few decades after Japan’s Warrior Class was officially abolished in the 1880s, US President Teddy Roosevelt raved about a newly-released book, entitled “Bushido: The Soul of Japan.”
He bought five-dozen copies for family and friends. In this slim volume, which went on to become an international best-seller, author Nitobe Inazo interprets the Samurai Code of behavior: how chivalrous men should act in their personal and professional lives. Though some have criticized Nitobe’s work as romanticized yearning for a non-existent Age of Chivalry, there’s no question that his work builds on thousand-year-old precepts of manhood that originated in chivalrous behavior on the part of some, though certainly not all, Samurai.
What today’s readers may find most enlightening about Bushido is the emphasis on compassion, benevolence, and the other non-martial qualities of true manliness.
Here are Bushido’s Eight Virtues as explicated by Nitobe:
I. Rectitude or Justice. Bushido refers not only to martial rectitude, but to personal rectitude: Rectitude or Justice, is the strongest Virtue of Bushido. A well-known Samurai defines it this way: “Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering; to die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right.” Another speaks of it in the following terms: “Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. Without bones the head cannot rest on top of the spine, nor hands move nor feet stand. So, without Rectitude neither talent nor learning can make the human frame into a Samurai.”
II. Courage. Bushido distinguishes between bravery and courage: Courage is worthy of being counted among Virtues only when it is exercised in the cause of Righteousness and Rectitude. In his Analects, Confucius says: “Perceiving what is right and doing it not, reveals a lack of Courage.” In short, “Courage is doing what is right.”
III. Benevolence or Mercy. A man invested with the power to command, and the power to kill, was expected to demonstrate equally extraordinary powers of benevolence and mercy: Love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, are traits of Benevolence, the highest attribute of the human soul. Both Confucius and Mencius often said the highest requirement of a ruler of men is Benevolence.
IV. Politeness. Discerning the difference between subservience and politeness can be difficult for casual visitors to Japan, but, for a true man, courtesy is rooted in Benevolence: Courtesy and good manners have been noticed by every foreign tourist as distinctive Japanese traits. But, Politeness should be the expression of a benevolent regard for the feelings of others; it’s a poor virtue when it is motivated only by fear. In its highest form, Politeness approaches Love.
V. Honesty and Sincerity. True Samurai, according to Nitobe, disdained money, believing that “… men must grudge money, for riches hinder wisdom.” Thus, children of high-ranking Samurai were raised to believe that talk about money was a display of poor taste: Bushido encouraged thrift, not for economical reasons so much as for the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to manhood, and simplicity, accordingly, was always a Virtue.
VI. Honor. Though Bushido deals with the profession of soldiering, it is equally concerned with non-martial behavior. The sense of personal honor, a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth, characterized the Samurai. He was born and trained to value and revere duties, responsibilities, and privileges of his profession. Fear of personal disgrace hung like a sword over the head of every Samurai. One would rather die than disgrace his family, or his regiment.
VII. Loyalty. True men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted: Loyalty to a superior was the most distinctive Virtue of the feudal era. Personal fidelity exists among all sorts of men: a gang of pick-pockets, for example, still swears allegiance to its leader. But, only in the Code of Personal Honor, does Loyalty assume the status of Virtue.
VIII. Character and Self-Control. Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute and unchanging moral standard. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and evil and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion nor justification, and a man should know the difference.
Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior. The first objective of Samurai education was to build-up righteous Character. The subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence, and dialectics were less important. Intellectual superiority was esteemed, but a Samurai was essentially a man of action.
No historian will argue that Hideyoshi personified the Eight Virtues of Bushido throughout his life. Like all great men, deep faults paralleled his towering gifts and accomplishments. Yet, by choosing compassion over confrontation, and benevolence over belligerence, he demonstrated ageless qualities of manliness.
Today, his lessons could not be more timely!