Saturday, April 11, 2009

Warriordom

A warrior is someone who makes war for a living. Period.  It's not some autonomous, independent, noble killing machine, some reborn knight or paragon.  It is someone who is paid money to make big problems go away, often in a messy fashion.

Never been in a war? Not a warrior. Get over it.

I know that there is a myth and an industry building up around the 'warrior identity' but there are parts of it that I really don't get.  "Warriors" I am told, follow their own hearts.  Whatever. Real warriors follow orders. Know what you call a bunch of individuals on a battlefield? Meat.  They have the humility and the basic intelligence to know that other people have more information and trust the people with that information to make those decisions.

Can the decisions be wrong? Absolutely. And the people in the field, if they know it, will respond. That's not a warrior doing what a soldier wouldn't, it's just what any animal would do.  Same with disobeying an unlawful order. That's what any decent person would do.  Will do and have done.  

There are top operators, mercenaries and kids who signed up to get money for college.  Other kids from (specific country redacted) who will make enough money in two years to be set for life back home.  Men who have been fighting for their homeland their entire life.  Some are funny and some are clueless and some are wise.  Some can't even fight and some are cold hell fury.  Some read almost as much as me (and might well argue with me later) and some can't wait to get back to base and get their playstation or DVDs going.  They're just people who have chosen a job that people who have never been exposed to feel a need to romanticize.  Ignorantly, for the most part.

Have you ever read the Hagakure?  Parts are pretty powerful. You can almost forget that it was written by a bureaucrat who had never been in a fight in his life trying to inspire his lazy son.

Warriors, I hear, deliberate carefully over each decision.  Really? The top tier rely on their training to circumvent the thinking process in some situations. Deliberating is generally too slow to get your ass out of an ambush.  Not just the top tier, either.  An E3 gets something like $1650 a month (base pay, more for combat but not a lot more).  What was the real decision behind taking the job?  $1650 a month doesn't seem enough to kill or risk dying over.

"Know yourself and know your enemy and you will not be defeated in a hundred battles."  This warrior-myth is also supposed to be omniscient or at least to strive for it.  To work to always make the right decision, to be just and wise... when it gets bad enough that the dogs of war are let loose the right decision, even justice, is something that may take decades to sort out.  What the people in the field see and hear is, I guarantee you, not what the people sitting at home watching the news will see and hear.  What the actual warriors learn has very little to do with what the philosophers of the warrior myth teach.

I'm not a warrior. Technically, I'm in a war zone right now and I have the equipments, skills and will to fight if it comes up- but it's not what I'm being paid for. I'm being paid to teach. I'm not a warrior. I'll try to get over it.

But I have used force professionally.  A lot, actually. And it's not some big, mystical, cosmic thing. Eight time out of ten I wasn't using 'warrior skills' to defend myself or family or even people I liked- I was keeping one bad guy from hurting another guy who was just as bad.  There was no deep meditation on dangers of force and what was worth risking life for. I was paid to make bad things stop, so I did. Then I wrote the damn reports and had some coffee.

Why the need for the label, especially one that ties not just to conflict but specifically to war? Why isn't it enough to be a "good person" or 'Someone it would be good to have on your six'?  What need is this myth industry fulfilling?

Sometimes I don't understand the human monkey at all.

11 comments:

Steve Perry said...

Writer Monkey here, and with one of those pesky definitions ...

According to the Random House Dictionary, the term warrior has two meanings. The first, literal use, refers to "a person engaged or experienced in warfare." The second figurative use refers to "a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics." [1]"

So by those lights, you are sort of correct. Mr. Webster's unabridged adds a few more: a person of demonstrated courage, fortitude, zeal, or pugnacity; an advocate of war; a South American Hummingbird ... and so you aren't altogether right in saying that if'n you've never been in a war, you aren't one.

You could be a hummingbird.

There are a lot of terms that no longer rest entirely on their original, literal meanings. Tell somebody the guy next door is "gay," and chances are real good they won't leap to the original literal meaning of "lighthearted" or "carefree," but the more recent common usage have to do with sexual orientation.

A professional is somebody who gets paid to do something, as opposed to an amateur who does it for some other reason.

And if you are an insurgent who doesn't get paid anything but are doing it for a Cause, then you might be an amateur, but no less of a warrior, yes?

Just keeping the language thing in play here ...

James said...

I just watched the first episode of a new cop show called "Southland". Some excellent police stuff, some crap , but generally good (one of the best I've seen since Wambaugh stopped doing TV). There's one scene where an FTO gives a Rookie a talk after a shooting and it's a good one. The last sentence is " You're a cop because you don't know how NOT to be a cop". That writer just summed up the last 3 decades of my life. Some people just have to walk the perimeter, Rory. Call it whatever you want. We're stuck with it.

Anonymous said...

Never been in a war? Not a warrior. Get over it.

Amen! Though I think that's hard for many martial artists to accept. After all it makes some people feel cool to draw a connection between themselves and someone who has actually started a few days with the thought in mind that they're heading off to kill someone. Of course they don't want the other crap that goes along with that.

MikeK

Aiglet said...

I think part of the problem is that the average person is *afraid* of people who have violence available as a usable tool. The average American (at least in my experience) has mostly been trained away from being able to effectively hurt people, or even to necessarily consider it as a first-line response to any given situation. On the whole, that's probably a good thing -- there are way too many heads/acre for everyone to be trying to resolve things all the time the way you might have to or want to in a less stable situation.

But because of that, I think there's an undercurrent of "hurting people is bad, but these guys hurt people professionally and are still good, so they must be doing something else" -- and thus the Warrior Mythos is born. It's the flipside of macho posturing, which I think is another thread of the same ongoing dialogue about force, violence, and the self-image of both the larger group and the individual.

(NB, I'm just an amateur historian, not any kind of warrior, and never will be, so please forgive if I'm chewing on my ankles here.)

Kevin said...

Rory,

I can roll with this declaration. People will fret and fight about the whole thing forever. I believe there are warriors as you have defined them who'd keep you on your toes in a 'vigorous and spirited debate' (phrase used by the soft-handed).

I've never been quite comfortable with the spectacle of self-appointed 'warriors' strutting in cyber-space or down the sidewalk--for the reasons you mention.

Frankly, I could live without the labels. I do what I do and I am what I am and deal with whatever happens to be in front of me. Kevin works for me, grumpy sob does to.

That said, we're left with the challenge of agreeing to adopt broadly accepted definitions and criteria for who belongs in which line in the school yard.

Protectors, Guardians, Enforcers, Equalizers, Educators, 'Post standers' just good men raised in the old school who do what needs to be done, Kerryman, Licensed Thumpers, are okay too. I'm most comfortable staying away from labels. I do what I do because I couldn't do otherwise.

You are Rory, I'm Kevin, Loren is Loren, Clint is Clint, Glen is Glen, Rodney is Rodney and so on and so forth. There's more than enough work to go around. I'd rather be working with a bouncer in a bar than a cop. If I'm riding with cops in the city please let it be a city cop rather than a State Trooper or FBI agent I'd rather be with you in a prison than some Special Forces guy.

And I'd hope any of the above folks would extend the professional courtesy to let me take point if I we got dropped into rocking psychiatric admissions units, rough back wards, --in any type of psychiatric facility--including an office. It might be presumptuous for anybody but cops to feel better prepared than me to move with them.

And it ought go without saying-all things being equal-we defer to a guy moving through the back streets, 7-11's, in their back yards.

Like you said, violence comes in so many forms and contexts, the best a man can do is have sufficient humility to stick to the territory he knows and pass the baton to whomever is best equipped to deal with whatever mess you are rolling up on.

Hell, it could be a bunch of 3 year olds boys having a rockin birthday party. The fathers in the bunch could form secret alliances to knock off competing groups of fathers who want to run the show. It'd be better to let the kids run things.

GREAT POST-----might you be a closet grumpy older man with little patience for nonsense ?

I hope you.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"Never been in a war? Not a warrior. Get over it."<

I usually don't interfere when giants are warring, but in this instance: Forget Perry. He's on crack.

Reading "Meditations", I get the impression that you trained in schools that encouraged you to "be a warrior", even if you weren't in, or have never been in, a war. I wouldn't have expected this kind of post from you, more fool I for misjudging you without meeting you face-to-face.

I have always hated it when teachers imply some sort of high moralistic standard just below the surface in whatever martial; art they are teaching, and frankly, it makes me a little suspicious that they might be closer to a cult than a school.

I've seen it happen before.

This was a great post. You're a good writer, and I really enjoy your articles.

Rory said...

Bobbe- as far as I know, Steve doesn't smoke crack. It's other, more personal issues. I ignore him when he's only pontificating. Thanks, though. Just for the record I'm not much for labels. Especially when they feed ego. It's not (how's this for ego?) wanting to be a Galahad, but making future generations aspire to be a Rory.

James- Yeah, we're stuck with it. But we get WAY better stories.

Mike- Some things are far cooler to fantasize about than they are to do. That's life.

Aiglet- Yeah. If something scares you, tell a story about it. Bad guys who use violence can only be stopped by good guys who use violence.
http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/2007/06/hard-truths.html
So, since they aren't bad guys, they're violence must be different, right? And so we create the myth...

Kevin- you get it. Labels applied to others may save you time. Labels applied to yourself are usually crutches.

Bohdi said...

"A warrior is someone who makes war for a living. Period. It's not some autonomous, independent, noble killing machine, some reborn knight or paragon. It is someone who is paid money to make big problems go away, often in a messy fashion."

This is a mercenary or a soldier...there is a difference. Although they can be one and the same, more times than not, they are not even close. Those military men in the field who truly understand the warrior mentality will concur with this; those whose character is lacking will disagree because the fact that they are in a war, is all that they have. Honor means nothing to them. I have known many men who fall into each of these two categories.

"A warrior is someone who makes war for a living."

Steve is 100% right...

This definition is as skewed as calling some kid who can't fight, is failing in school and was talked into signing up by a recruiter/salesman doing push-ups in his school cafeteria, a warrior. So this kid gets a few weeks of training, a gun and a helmet, and is shipped overseas...now he is a warrior?? Yeah, right...well, I guess opinions differ...

If receiving monetary rewards for participating in "war" is the only criteria for being a warrior, then should we assume that drug runners who get paid for their participation in the "war on drugs" or terrorists who are compensated for their part in the war against the infidels are warriors also? Not in my book, but again, opinions differ...

"Never been in a war? Not a warrior."

Well maybe, but not in the way that you define war...War is also defined as "A warrior is someone who makes war for a living. Period. It's not some autonomous, independent, noble killing machine, some reborn knight or paragon. It is someone who is paid money to make big problems go away, often in a messy fashion."

This is a mercenary or a soldier...there is a difference, although they can be one and the same, more times than not, they are not even close.

"A warrior is someone who makes war for a living."

Steve is 100% right...

This definition is as skewed as calling some kid who can't fight, is failing in school and was suckered into signing up by a recruiter/salesman doing push-ups in his school cafeteria, a warrior. So this kids get a few weeks of training, a gun and a helmet, and is shipped overseas...now he is a warrior?? Yeah, right...

"Never been in a war? Not a warrior."

Well, maybe, but not in the way that you use the word "war." War is also defined as "an effort to combat or eradicate something harmful" or "a serious struggle, argument, or conflict between people." This doesn't necessarily mean that you are on the battlefield going through rounds of ammunition, and it certainly doesn't mean that this is a requirement to be a warrior.

This is a pretty narrow-minded assessment of a warrior, which leaves much to be desired.

Bohdi Sanders said...

Not sure what happened in my original post...it repeated stuff. Here is one easier to read...

"A warrior is someone who makes war for a living. Period. It's not some autonomous, independent, noble killing machine, some reborn knight or paragon. It is someone who is paid money to make big problems go away, often in a messy fashion."

This is a mercenary or a soldier...there is a difference. Although they can be one and the same, more times than not, they are not even close. Those military men in the field who truly understand the warrior mentality will concur with this; those whose character is lacking will disagree because the fact that they are in a war, is all that they have. Honor means nothing to them. I have known many men who fall into each of these two categories.

"A warrior is someone who makes war for a living."

Steve is 100% right...

This definition is as skewed as calling some kid who can't fight, is failing in school and was talked into signing up by a recruiter/salesman doing push-ups in his school cafeteria, a warrior. So this kid gets a few weeks of training, a gun and a helmet, and is shipped overseas...now he is a warrior?? Yeah, right...well, I guess opinions differ...

If receiving monetary rewards for participating in "war" is the only criteria for being a warrior, then should we assume that drug runners who get paid for their participation in the "war on drugs" or terrorists who are compensated for their part in the war against the infidels are warriors also? Not in my book, but again, opinions differ...

"Never been in a war? Not a warrior."

Well, maybe, but not in the way that you use the word "war." War is also defined as "an effort to combat or eradicate something harmful" or "a serious struggle, argument, or conflict between people." This doesn't necessarily mean that you are on the battlefield going through rounds of ammunition, and it certainly doesn't mean that this is a requirement to be a warrior.

This is a pretty narrow-minded assessment of a warrior, which leaves much to be desired.

Narukami said...

To be a warrior
You must be able to kill
Without becoming a killer
And die
Without becoming a victim.

Or, as general Sir John Hackett mused "The essence of being a solider is not to slay but to be slain."

Interesting article, thanks for a good read.

tgace.com said...

Depends on the society and culture we are discussing.

In ancient Japan (and in other societies) a "Warrior" was what you were were born as (vs a Farmer, Artisan or merchant).

I have no issues with some professions using the word as a motivational term to inspire their members to a higher level of training and/or performance.

If a cop considers himself a "warrior" who protects society from criminals and the mindset drive him to workout, shoot, take martial arts classes, study law, etc...GREAT!

On the other hand if a person is only using the term as an ego gratifier and thinks that he/she is somehow a better person than someone else that's an issue with the individual, not the term.

I think that the word is vastly overused by people who never have to put their ass on the line for it (in service to others). A soldier, LEO, Firefighter, etc using the term? Fine. A hobby martial artist, sport fighter or gun class Rambo? That's another story.