Society fails when we become competitors instead of warriors. When we choose a political party the way we choose a sports team, then we miss out on the cooperative self-development that improves us, our community, our country, and our world.
Humanity consists of many cultures. Sometimes these cultures are divided by national boundaries, but this is increasingly less common.
If the individual fails to integrate into the community, they pose a risk to themselves and to humanity at large. An example of such a failure came into the news this week as Charles Manson passed away. His life is an example of an individual whose stunted social development and lack of any healthy family structure, led him to form a family of his own. He recruited young, vulnerable and similarly disconnected women and boys with no mature belief system. He then further isolated them from their families, communities, cultures, and ultimately, their humanity.
Having a family is not enough, if that family does not facilitate the connection to the community of compassion. Having a community is not enough if that community does not connect us to a culture of broad knowledge and wisdom. That culture is not enough if it does not connect us to humanity as a whole.
Humanity is measured by its respect and care for each culture, and for how successfully each culture cares for its communities, how for how well each communities cares for its families, and for the ability of the families to care for the individual.
Humanity is measured by how well it treats the individual. The individual is measured by how well they treat humanity.
The warrior is not focused on the self for the sake of the self. The warrior cultivates the self for the betterment of all humanity.
When, as individuals, communities, or cultures, we simply pick a team with which to identify, and then cling to that team out of some simple primitive survival instinct, then we fail to grow as a culture or as individuals. We also fail our humanity.
If you or someone you know is an avid sports fan, you will be familiar with the devotion that some fans display toward their favourite team. People are capable of identifying strongly and emotionally with a team. Now I remember a time when the local sports team was made up of local players. You identified with them because they were your friends or relatives, or went to your school, or at least lived in your community. But these days, the players on professional sports teams are seldom from the local area, and are often from different countries. The only thing they have in common is the colour of their uniform. Yet the devotion to that colour above all others is without question in the hearts and minds of the avid fan. Fans will pray over, argue over, and even come to blows over their team. Fans of opposing teams are sometimes forbidden from sitting together for fear of the violence that might occur.
All of this over the colour of a shirt.
This might be a merely bizarre curiosity of human nature if the phenomenon did not work its way into all other aspects of society.
On a simple individual level, there are some who identify very strongly with their own personal space, or their girlfriend, or their preferred barstool, and are willing to start a fight with anyone who triggers their insecurity around those perceived possessions. Such fights sometimes start with the words, “Hey, you are in my seat” or “Where is the store where you bought the balls that make you think you can look at my girl?”
No one is served by such frivolous attachment. Such insecurity is certainly not cultivated in the mind of the warrior, for such would be at odds with the harmony of the individual with humanity.
In the past several decades there have been several times when modern cultures and communities have descended into a kind of frivolous attachment. We have become dissociated, antagonistic, and polemic. We have descended into cronyism, favouring our own political team over any merit that they might hold.
This mentality exists everywhere. You can certainly see it in martial arts. The internet is full of Style vs Style videos and challenges by so-called martial artists who want to prove the superiority of their particular style over all others. I am not just talking about that ridiculous examples of a so-called “tai chi masters” getting knocked out by mma fighters.
I teach tai chi. I am a martial artist. But while tai chi is a style of martial art, it is important to point out that an art is not a style. A style simply refers to a particular pedagogy. Anyone who masters an art transcends the style, and almost always several styles, that they learned.
Too often we see students who are devoted to a style at the expense of the art. If you are a teacher, you might want to try an experiment that the great Adam Chan designed. Take a student who has an unhealthy devotion to the style you are teaching and spend a class working on two specific techniques. Technique “A” is from your style. But tell the student that it is from another style that the student does not respect. Technique “B” is an invented technique that you make up and which is designed to fail. But you tell the student that it is a technique from the style that they love.
Now, spend enough time working with both technique to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that technique “B” does not work, and that technique “A” is very effective. In almost every case, the student will come back to the next class having spent the week working on “B” and will not even be able to remember “A”.
The same thing is happening in politics these days. People choose a party or an ideology without any intellectual rigour, and stand by it, whether it is right or wrong. Their emotional need to be adamant, and to belong to a group, is far more powerful than any commitment they have to the truth. They will abandon reason, compassion, their own humanity, and even their own best interest.
In the famous 1968 debate between Buckley and Vidal, the two men are portrayed as being diametrically right or left. But this was not true. Both men were capable of agreeing with policies held by either liberals or conservatives, and they often did. The popular memory of the debate is of the two men trading insults. But the discussion was much more nuanced than that, the so were the men. The fact that the media tends to profit from antagonism and false dichotomies, just as demagogues do, is one of the reasons why countries such as the USA are in the conundrum they are now in. The news organizations can claim to be bewildered. But they are contributing to the problem just as much as social media and fringe journalism is.
This is what happens when journalism fails, and when we as individuals refuse to surrender our egos, release our attachments, or open ourselves to a different paradigm.
This is also what happens when we fail to be warriors, and become mere competitors. As soon as we fail to see ourselves in the other, we descend into hatred and self destruction. Only by seeing ourselves in the enemy, and by seeing all of humanity in ourselves, can we hope to see reality for what it is. This is no flaky hippy idealism. This is the experience and advice of warriors and saints who, over the centuries, have seen the horrors of war, and who have transcended the petty bickering that precipitated some of the most vicious atrocities.
Unless we can have rapport with our opponents, we will never be able to see the truth. Unless we love our enemies, we will never be able to effectively defend ourselves.