Revisiting the Warrior-Scholar Ideal
Just the slightest acquaintance with the world’s great wisdom traditions readily reveals that for all of their differences, there is overlap. Their founders and adherents emphatically agree upon some fundamental, interrelated points:
(1)What appears to be real is not really real; and
(2) Enlightenment consists in appreciating (1) so that one can then emancipate oneself from appearances and embrace reality.
This conviction of the generations is expressed today whenever it is said that people are living (or not) within “The Matrix,” i.e. a fake reality of the kind featured in the film of the same name.
The more things change, the more they stay the same: Most people spend their lives mistaking appearances for reality.
Moreover, most people prefer to trade in appearances. Their ignorance, at some level or other, is willful.
The COVID era supplies us with the most glaring and recent illustration of this willful ignorance. Even though we live in an age of information in which it is infinitely easier now than it was just a generation ago to do one’s own research, and even though COVID has been and continues to be used as a pretext for transforming the country in ways that would have been unthinkable just a year ago, the vast majority of people uncritically accept every declaration made by those who Big Media deem “experts.”
From start to finish, from testing to mitigation and the very identification of the virus itself—despite the dubiousness of every aspect of the Official Narrative, the claims of the latter are treated as dogma by at least half of America (and others throughout the world).
Spatial considerations preclude as thorough an analysis of this question as it merits. At a minimum, I think we can safely conclude that what accounts for the eager acquiescence of the masses in this lie is what accounts for their eager acquiescence in every other Big Lie: fear.
The human race’s wisdom traditions, particularly those that come to us from the ancients, seem to have achieved a consensus on another point that was most memorably and explicitly expressed by Socrates. This is the idea that virtue is a unity:
In order to possess one virtue, you must possess the others.
Courage has historically been regarded as a moral virtue. So too has wisdom.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but, as Aristotle reminded us, the wisdom to know what to fear, when to fear it, and how to fear it.
Most people lack courage because they lack the will to critically think for themselves and challenge the dominant narratives of their place and time.
Make no mistakes about it: If the consensus of humanity’s most insightful members indicates to us anything, it is that a courageous person, as opposed to one who is arrogant or rash or reckless, must indeed possess the will (and, of course, the ability) to critically think. In turn, the more courageous a person becomes, the stronger will become his determination to critically think.
Regrettably, most of our contemporaries, and none more so than intellectuals of both the academic and journalistic varieties, act as if they were oblivious to this understanding of our ancestors.
And unlike the present generation, our ancestors never would have dreamt of separating “physical courage” and “moral courage” from one another. They recognized that a courageous person, being a virtuous person, a person of strong character, would manifest that courage in all aspects of his life. At any rate, this was the ideal taken for granted by the pre-modern world.
This ideal found its logical culmination in that of the Warrior-Scholar.
This understanding was articulated clearly and concisely by Thucydides, an Athenian who lived in the fifth century before Christ:
“The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”
It is also worth noting that in addition to being a first-rate scholar—whose classic History of the Peloponnesian War seems, remarkably, to have been written by one who had been trained in “the historical method,” i.e. within the principles and rules of the academic discipline of history that wouldn’t emerge until well over two millennia after he was long gone—Thucydides was also a general who himself fought in this war between Sparta and his native Athens.
About 2,000 years or so later, over in Japan, the legendary Samurai warrior, Miyamoto Musashi, made a similar point:
“It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way.”
Admittedly, there have been and remain plenty of physically tough people who lack analytical prowess and, conversely, intellectually adroit people who lack physical toughness.
Yet the ideal of the Warrior-Scholar is an ideal, a goal that belongs to, as Burke described it, “the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.” As such, it is one that we ignore at our peril, for this brilliant orator and enemy of the radicalism of the French Revolution also reminded the hubristic of every generation that while the “individual is foolish” and the “multitude, for the moment, is foolish” as well, “the species is wise, and when time is given to it, as a species it almost always acts right.”
To be certain, a warrior needn’t be one who has worn a uniform for a government and actually fought in war, on a battlefield. Rather, a warrior is anyone who prepares his body and mind for war with those who would make of themselves the enemy of God and man by physically endangering innocents. As Bradley Steiner memorably remarked decades ago: “Real self-defense is war in microcosm.” (It is also worth noting that Steiner, while a distinguished combat, self-defense instructor and lifelong martial artist who trained under the pioneers of World War II Close Quarter Combatives, was as well a man of erudition whose monthly Sword and Pen newsletter never failed to express the Warrior-Scholar ideal).
The present generation has severed the Warrior from the Scholar. Tragically, this is particularly the case within the contemporary academic establishment and, for that matter, within the martial arts community. However, as a consequence of undermining the union of heart and mind, this divorce has weakened both of them individually.
Thus, we find ourselves in our present situation, one within which the description that Hannah Arendt made of Adolph Eichmann seems to apply to most. Eichmann, Arendt wrote upon having witnessed his trial in Israel, possessed a “curious, but quite authentic, inability to think.” It’s not that this architect of the Holocaust was stupid. Rather, he had an “extraordinary shallowness,” for his thought was confined to the “clichés,” “stock phrases,” and “conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct” of his day.
The solution is staring us in the face. The human-person is a psychosomatic unity. This being so, in order for us to affirm human integrity, we must aim to restore the integration of the body and mind upon which our ancestors insisted—and which we have neglected, when we haven’t outright undermined it.
It is time to resurrect the Warrior-Scholar ideal.
This was previously published at BeliefNet.com.
Be Strong and Live Well
The left’s going to take our speech! They are going to take our guns! They are going to rob of us of all our freedoms!
So shriek a good number of the 80 million or so Americans who believe (justifiably) that their votes for Donald Trump’s reelection were stolen.
Of course, conservatives and libertarians have been saying such things for years.
While I understand the concerns, and while anyone and everyone who values the live-and-let live philosophy embodied within the United States Constitution can’t but be at least somewhat concerned given the profound rot that has myelinated within our institutions (and that Trump’s presidency made glaringly obvious to the world), I personally have neither the time nor the patience for this kind of talk or the people who engage in it.
Of course, it is “conservative” and “libertarian” pundits who lead the way on this score, for their very livelihoods depend upon feeding consumers of their product with as much bad news, as many haunting images of the future as possible. The writers and talkers of both the Big Conservative Media Complex (“the Big Con”), as well as lesser known libertarian and conservative outlets inexhaustibly wax hysterical about the impending and, to hear them tell it, imminent leftist Apocalypse—all while making fortunes, achieving fame, and, critically, supplying their followers with no direction or solution other than to vote for the Republican politicians for whom they daily apologize.
But I digress. The point is this:
Repeated expressions of fear regarding what others might do to you are the stuff of losers and cowards. They are pathetic.
They are no less pathetic than the messianic rhetoric that we hear just as often on talk radio and elsewhere as the pundits insist (in so many words) that the GOP is the only thing preventing America from being lost forever to “socialism.”
The problem with this thinking, besides being hyperbolic, is that it at once reveals and encourages weakness:
The strong neither tolerate infringes against their liberties nor rely upon other human beings to defend them.
Mainstream conservative and libertarian scribblers and talkers, for all of their mockery of the “snowflakes” on the left, are themselves the true snowflakes, for if they didn’t have the left’s outrages to whine and shriek over, they’d have nothing at all. This is especially revealing, given that it is these same conservative and libertarian snowflakes who regard themselves, spiritually, as it were, as America’s Founding Fathers’ rightful heirs.
Yet the Founders, while they certainly didn’t spare any occasion to express their grievances against the British government, recognized that there was a time when complaining would have to give way to decisive action. They would have found it unimaginable that free men, men endowed by their Creator with “unalienable” rights, could resign themselves to suffering in perpetuity an endless chain of oppressive acts against them.
They would have found it inconceivable that self-styled champions of liberty would construct an enormously profitable industry based upon nothing other than their whining and shrieking about systematic violations of their very liberties, dispensations, gifts, as they regard them, from God Himself.
Those who compose the Big Conservative Media Industrial Complex promote, tirelessly, the anxiety, depression, helplessness, and demoralization of the millions whose fears they exist to stoke. To what end, one finally has to ask, for the only prescription these merchants of fear offer their customers (their audiences) is to vote Republican. However, besides the fact that the leftward drift of the country has proceeded apace for decades, even while Republicans held power, the election thievery of 2020 should suffice to show that it is not now (nor has it ever been) possible to simply and solely vote one’s way out of this cesspool.
It is time for patriotic, God-fearing men and women to focus upon their own self-empowerment. This means ridding their lives, as much as it is possible to do so, of all potentially toxic influences. This, obviously, requires the expungement from their orbit of all Democrat Party propaganda organs, those which President Trump rightfully referred to as “fake news,” but, as well, that of the conservative (and libertarian) media outlets that, in their way, also purvey fake news.
Self-empowerment, though, demands not just the excising from our lives of those who threaten to disempower us. It requires as well the improvement of those aspects of our personal lives that are in our control and that we can begin to address immediately.
I will elaborate more in the future, but, for now, I offer some quick tips for decent human beings who are looking to feel better, and not worse, about their lives and those for whom they care:
(1)Read. Preferably, though, read books and long essays—as opposed to social media posts and the mental junk food that passes for daily political commentary.
Specifically, form a habit of reading work that will broaden your intellectual horizons, refine your emotions, and deepen your relationship with God, the Ground of all being. This regimen should supply you with a genuinely liberal arts education, an education in “the humanities,” so to speak, for in making you more familiar with your inheritance as a member of the human species, it promises to make you more familiar with yourself. Self-discovery and self-creation—these are but two sides of the same coin, inseparable dimensions of a single odyssey that is facilitated by the nurturing of your mind and spirit with a sound, balanced diet of quality literature and familiarity with your civilizational inheritance.
One piece of literature that is imperative reading for everyone, and particularly the inhabitants of what was once known as “Christendom,” is the Bible. Not only is this the defining collection of writings of Western civilization; via the omnipresence of the latter, its influence has extended to every corner of the globe.
Even if one isn’t a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, there is no limit to the benefit to be had from the profound, timeless metaphysical and moral insights that the Bible imparts.
Yet if one is an adherent of the world’s monotheistic faiths that produced the Bible, then the Good Book is that much more indispensable for one’s flourishing, for it is viewed as divinely inspired, the written medium of all written media through which He who creates, sustains, and perfects all things converses with those who He made in His likeness.
And this brings us to the next point:
(2)Communicate regularly, incessantly even, with God. Through prayer, study, meditation, self-reflection, gratitude for one’s countless blessings, and charity toward others, one can dialogue in every moment with the Source of his or her very existence and the innumerable good things that are predicated upon the gratuity of one’s being.
(3)The dualism that pervades, whether explicitly or implicitly, much of Western intellectual life, is a fiction. The human person is a unity of body and mind. This being so, physical activity is essential to managing fear, anger, and sadness.
In my own case, I find that weightlifting and martial arts training have been essential to this end.
In a future essay, I will expand upon the centrality of place that should be reserved for these activities, but specifically that of combat training, in the lives of decent people who are looking to become…better.
This piece was previously published at BeliefNet.com.
On its first anniversary, it is worth revisiting what we may now refer to simply as “Charlottesville.”
Thanks to the assistance of Republican politicians and their apologists in Big Conservative media, the left didn’t hesitate to transform this event into an ideologically and politically-useful weapon.
Of course, Charlottesville could serve the left’s agenda only if the official interpretation of circumstances defies reality—as it does.
On August 12, 2017, hundreds of people gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for what they called a “Unite the Right” rally.
They would be met by an even greater number of leftists of various sorts, self-described “anti-fascists” and “anti-racists.”
Immediately, elites in Washington D.C. and their fellow travelers in Big Media (of both the “mainstream” and “conservative” varieties) laid the blame solely at the feet of “white supremacists.” Every politician, Democrat and Republican alike, and every commentator, Fox News contributors and talk radio hosts no less than their leftist counterparts on the other networks, spared no opportunity to show the world that they were even more repulsed by this exhibition of “white supremacy” than the next person.
Make no mistakes about it, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the fever-pitched waxing of indignation, was political theater at its absolute best—or worst. It is inexcusable that anyone who purports to be in the know, let alone those, like politicians and media figures, who are expected to be knowledgeable of current events, should not have been able to discern from the jump the gist of what occurred in Charlottesville on that fateful day.
President Trump elicited much criticism for claiming at the time that there were good people amongst both the demonstrators and the counter-demonstrators, and that both sides contributed to the violence. The President did misspeak, but not in the ways in which his critics charge:
First, it is manifestly absurd to characterize as “good” those—like the militant leftists who converged upon Charlottesville—who routinely violate the Constitutional rights to speech, assembly, property, and bodily integrity of, not only those of their fellow citizens with whom they disagree, but as well those of their fellow citizens who they deem insufficiently supportive of their “anti-fascist” agenda.
Second, not a single hair on the head of a single person would have been harmed, much less would anyone have been killed, had it not been for the “anti-fascists” and “anti-racists,” the “counter-demonstrators” who initiated the violence.
(1)The organizers of the Unite the Right rally acted lawfully, availing themselves of their Constitutional right as Americans to peaceful assembly. The organizers applied for their permit months in advance of their demonstration. It was granted and then withdrawn. The organizers appealed and, thanks in no small part to the American Civil Liberties Union—hardly a right-wing operation—a judge determined that the city of Charlottesville had no legal grounds on which to deny them a permit.
In other words, the organizers of the Unite the Right rally acted in good faith, with fidelity to the law, every step of the way.
(2)The counter-demonstrators, in stark contrast, conducted themselves lawlessly: They had no permit and never even applied for one. Quite the contrary: The “anti-fascists” armed themselves with weaponry—clubs; bricks; bottles and balloons filled with cement, urine, and feces; bear mace; baseball bats; bows and arrows; and a makeshift flamethrower—and, quite literally, hit the streets. They formed mobs and took to intersections, blocking traffic and attacking motorists.
For this reason, because of their lawlessness, their flagrant criminality, it is a misnomer to describe the “anti-fascists” as counter-demonstrators. They composed a mob.
(3)It’s true that a few of the demonstrators were seen sporting KKK and neo-Nazi paraphernalia. It is equally true that the vast majority of the rally-goers who gathered in Charlottesville were doing no such thing, and that several of these endeavored to remove those showcasing KKK and Nazi symbols.
The lion’s share of rally attendees descended upon Charlottesville on that fateful day not to affirm “white supremacy,” “white nationalism,” or any racial fiction that the media would ascribe to them, but, rather, to demonstrate against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, an act that symbolizes to many patriotic Americans the radical left’s ongoing attempt to fundamentally transform Southern culture specifically and that of the United States of America generally into something in the image of their own ideology.
And, to repeat, there weren’t so much as dirty looks exchanged, to say nothing of overt violence, until lawless leftwing mobs, so-called “Antifa” and Black Lives Matter, in particular, arrived and instigated every bit of it.
(4)The foregoing facts were available at the time. Big Media—both the “mainstream” or “liberal” media as well as such “conservative” media as Fox News, talk radio, National Review, The New York Post, etc.—just weren’t interested.
Those who were interested had to go underground, to the internet, to Youtube, to gather eyewitness testimony from those who were actually in Charlottesville. The most reliable testimony comes from the members of several “Patriots’” organizations, self-described “civic nationalists” (as opposed to racial nationalists) who came to Virginia to keep peace and safeguard the Constitutional rights of their fellow American citizens (See here and here).
Most of these men (and some women) are military and police veterans who remain committed to upholding the oath to the American Constitution that they pledged upon embarking upon their careers in law enforcement. These are the same people who those in Big Conservatism (the Big Con) tirelessly “thank” for their service. Yet when these retired soldiers and officers of the law were physically besieged by leftist criminals and corrupt Charlottesville police alike, Big Conservatives were all too eager to side with militant and radical leftists and blame the protestors and these Constitutionalists for the unprovoked violence that they suffered.
(5)This brings us to the next point: As some of us knew then, and as the Heaphy Report has subsequently confirmed, violence would have been averted not only had leftist street thugs shown the same respect for the law as that shown by the Unite the Right demonstrators. It would have been averted had the governments of Virginia and Charlottesville—the governor and mayor, the state and local police—and the University of Virginia conducted themselves more responsibly.
The governor declared a state of emergency, in effect canceling the demonstrators’ permit at the last minute, while the Charlottesville mayor ordered the police commissioner to in turn order his officers to stand down.
But even this way of putting the matter is understatement. The police didn’t just do nothing as innocent citizens were assaulted. They encouraged the violence by forcing the Unite the Right rally attendees to vacate the premises by way of walking through the wall of volatile leftists that were waiting for them.
From these facts, we can deduce another: Contrary to the conventional (Politically Correct) wisdom, far from being aggressors, the only party in this story that is innocent of provoking violence is that of the rally demonstrators.
Fairness, however, forces us to go one step further: It is the rally attendees, and them alone, who showed respect for America, for its traditions, laws, and the Constitution, for preserving the history of their country, civility, free speech, and peaceful assembly. No other actor in this melodrama can claim credit for doing the same. Every other actor, in fact, revealed themselves as decidedly anti-American.
A final point: While the overt left has long ago put us on notice as to its desire to destroy (“fundamentally transform”) America as it has existed, the response of Big Conservatism to Charlottesville proved, if proof was still needed, that Big Cons are but an alt-left. Big Cons incessantly whine over the left’s suppression of free speech whenever it is one of their own—like, say, Ben Shapiro—who is prevented from speaking at a college campus. Yet their eagerness to buy hook, line, and sinker the interpretation of Charlottesville favored by Antifa and Black Lives Matter confirms that they care as much about protecting the free speech rights of those to their right as they care about “supporting the troops” and “blue lives” when law enforcement veterans are lumped in by the left with “racists,” “fascists,” “white supremacists,” and, simply, “the alt-right.”
Never again can anyone within the Big Con be regarded with seriousness when they espouse platitudes concerning the Constitution, free speech, tolerance, civility, or, for that matter, respect for veterans and law enforcement. Though few people have yet to grasp this, the truth is that Charlottesville comes as close as anything to serving as the criterion, the test, for determining one’s commitment to the Constitution, law and order, free speech, civility, tolerance, and all of the rest.
The Big Con failed this test miserably.
There are Wolves, there are Sheep, and then there are Sheepdogs.
Wolves prey on the outnumbered, the weak, the unsuspecting, the vulnerable—i.e., whether the Sheep or, in a not infrequent number of cases, other Wolves who have fallen out of favor with the pack.
Wolves lack courage. They lack honor. And Wolves care only about satisfying their own greed.
Though they are typically presented as being polar opposites, Wolves and Sheep actually share some character traits in common. Sheep, too, tend not to be particularly courageous. While they are not necessarily mean-spirited or even selfish, and while Sheep can be gentle and compassionate, since they value their own safety more than anything else, Sheep are prone to conform their speech and conduct to that of the herd. They are prone to “obey orders.”
Thus, like Adolph Eichmann, to whom the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt ascribed a “curious, but quite authentic, inability to think,” Sheep too are devoid of original thought, preferring instead to trade in the banalities of whatever clichés and conventionalities happen to be in vogue at the moment.
Like Eichmann, Sheep “obey orders.” Only in the case of Sheep, the orders constitute the Zeitgeist of the majority, or what is felt to be the majority.
In the case of our contemporary political situation, the Spirit of the Times is what is usually called “Political Correctness.”
The Sheep, even when they suspect that PC notions are wrongheaded, will not dare to say so aloud. Sheep, after all, are not daring. And, so, PC is permitted to prevail.
The Wolves, however, are the self-appointed guardians of the PC orthodoxy, its watchdogs. The Wolves, forever salivating over the prospects of fresh blood, spare no occasion to search out deviations from their creed so as to administer as humiliating and agonizing a punishment for the heterodox as possible.
To repeat the foregoing point, Wolves and Sheep are quite similar in many respects. Wolves run in packs because, though they will never admit it, not too far beneath the surface they are terribly afraid of being devoured by their own. Wolves lack the self-discipline to act rightly, for righteousness often demands that one stand against the will of the Mob, the Pack or Herd.
Wolves and Sheep are two sides of the same coin. Perhaps we need to add another character-type to this three-old taxonomy: There are Wolves, Sheep, Sheepdogs, and…Sheep-Wolves or Wolf-Sheep.
The Sheepdog, though, is of a different breed altogether. The Sheepdog, like the Sheep, dreads trouble. He hates violence, and aims to avoid it at virtually all costs. But unlike the Sheep, he doesn’t hate it because he fears for his own safety alone. Like the Wolf, the Sheepdog is willing to engage in violence, but unlike the Wolf, the Sheepdog will use violence if and only if it is necessary for the sake of preventing harm to innocents, whether himself or, crucially, others.
In the Sheepdog there is no arrogance. The Sheepdog is not given to trash-talking. His training involves the cultivation of, not just physical prowess but, what is arguably even more important, “situational awareness,” i.e. the ability to diffuse potentially violent situations before they occur.
In the world of contemporary American politics, one can distinguish the Wolves and Sheep from the Sheepdogs. It’s also all too easy to see how the Wolves and Sheep are more like one another than either is similar to the Sheepdog: Wolves select their prey and then intimidate the Sheep into joining the attack. The Sheep, of course, though conspicuously unenthusiastic—Sheep tend to lack enthusiasm about virtually everything—are nevertheless all too ready to pile on those who the Wolves have already maimed. The target, after all, poses no threat at this point.
The Sheepdog, however, despises injustice. He despises alike bullies and those who never tire of ingratiating themselves to bullies. His instinct is to protect those upon whom the Wolves and their Sheep pummel, whether he likes or agrees with their prey or not, for these predatory attacks, lacking as they do all proportionality and honor, are unseemly.
When Roseanne Barr, a long-celebrated left-leaning white Jewish Hollywood actress dispatched an admittedly crude tweet identifying former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett as the offspring between the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes, Roseanne was besieged by Legion, the mob of Wolves and their Sheep lackeys. Jarrett, as it happens, is partially black. Any ape reference vis-à-vis a black person is…“racist.” Or so the social media mafia of Sheep, following marching orders from their Wolf bosses, wailed indignantly.
Roseanne, who herself on more than one occasion—like when she posted a picture of George Zimmerman’s parents’ home address while their son was incessantly receiving death threats from enraged blacks for his (justified) killing of Trayvon Martin—has been known to assume the role of Wolf herself. Yet for this one tweet, and despite issuing multiple apologies, this one-time Wolf now found herself at the mercy of the pack. As she became reduced with rapid speed to a non-person, exiled from the Respectable Society that she once inhabited, Roseanne quickly discovered that the Wolves and their ever-obedient Sheep were devoid of all mercy.
The Sheepdog, though no fan personally of Roseanne, is repulsed by the relentlessness of the attack upon her, as well as the cowardice of the Mob, all of whose members—Wolves and Sheep alike—would never think to be confrontational if they knew that they could be harmed while doing so.
In other words, the Sheepdog knows that the Herd would rather ground and pound an outnumbered, defenseless white woman for her alleged “racism”—a juvenile tweet—than express outrage over the precipitous rates and truly barbaric nature of black-on-non-black criminality and violence. The former approach is not only safe, but it provides the added benefit of allowing Wolves and Sheep to virtue-signal to one another while encouraging them to see themselves as brave Social Justice Warriors.
The latter approach, in glaring contrast, is dangerous, particularly if the critic is white (though blacks and other racial minorities who are courageous enough to call out black criminality risk much too).
Despite its hazards, and maybe in part even because of them, the Sheepdog resolves to do his part in protecting innocents by acting on the side of truth and righteousness.
Be a Sheepdog.
Jack Kerwick earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from Temple University. His areas of specialization are ethics and political philosophy, with a particular interest in classical conservatism. He has been teaching philosophy for nearly 20 years and his work has appeared in both scholarly journals and popular publications. Jack is the author of four books, including Misguided Guardians: The Conservative Case Against Neoconservatism and the recently published, Higher Miseducation: A Dissident’s Essays on the Assault Against Liberal Learning.