Violence and Growth

So as promised, here are my reflections on the subject of violence and growth.  We began the discussion in the comments of this post, and continued it briefly here.  You can find links to the Classical readings at the second of those links.

The issue at stake is how violence creates capacities to excel -- a capacity for excellence is arete in the Greek, and virtus in Latin, "virtue" in English -- yet also can create serious damage. That it does both is obvious, as the comments note at the first link; practical experience shows it. 

One might hope that the damage could be avoided, and the good still gained in another way.  This is the subject of the discussion among the Greeks in Plato's Laches, which Socrates is invited to join as he is a man of proven military valor. All the participants in the discussion are. The question is whether having sons practice 'fighting in armor' with masters who travel around teaching fighting techniques -- the ancient Greek version of martial arts teachers -- will also teach their sons courage. The debate ends in aporia, that is, with the members of the discussion stating that they aren't sure about the answer after all the talk.  Yet several things do emerge. One is that, while these men cannot say for certain exactly what courage is, they have all demonstrated it practically. Whether or not 'practicing in armor' can bring forth courage, war certainly can and does. 

It seems as if the quality of war that does what practice may not is the exposure to the genuine possibility of harm. Some practice, then, looks better than others. This weekend the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit suffered a tragic loss at sea of eight Marines and a sailor.  These men were literally 'practicing in armor,' and trying to develop an excellence of capacity through that practice:  an excellence in amphibious warfare. Their deaths are not in vain, for their comrades will be more successful in developing courage as well as other virtues given the clear example of how perilous the training itself can be. If it felt safe -- worse even than if it was safe -- there would be no more benefit to one's courage than comes from 'fighting' in pads, with padded objects.

Likewise in the Middle Ages, knights engaged in tournaments that were very nearly as brutal as war. An essay whose author and title I cannot currently recall points out that one of the most marked features of knights in the chivalric literature is wounds: the experience of being wounded, and of recovering from wounds (or not recovering from them) suffuses the literature. Even Lancelot is occasionally bed-bound and near death, tended by another and dependent on their care. Sometimes this is a lady, but often it is a former knight who has become a religious hermit or brother -- and whose expertise with such wounds comes from experience. To be brave and skilled seems to require the practice of doing dangerous things, which sometimes entails getting hurt.

This is what we would expect from reading Aristotle. All virtues of character, he notes, arise from practice. This is because the thing exists in us already as a potential (here we have what AVI would point to in terms of genetic heritage). But a potential is only a 'first actuality'; at first one's courage is only that one has the ability to become courageous. One's character changes by actually doing the things, until such time as one does them without needing to work up to it very much. Eventually courage is so habitual that it requires no thought, yet this does not make it irrational, says Aristotle: because it was rationally chosen and inculcated, the courageous man will do immediately what the thinking man would choose if he had time to think it through. So with all the virtues.

Yet Aristotle only gives us the happy part of the picture. Indeed for Aristotle, courage entails success in war:  the brave conquer, if they are brave enough. Practically we know this is not true. Often the bravest fall to superior numbers, but also -- like our bold Marines fallen this weekend -- to bad luck. This is what I think is absent from the Classical discussion: the role of moral luck.

In fact I have been extremely lucky, for which I am deeply grateful. I have been to war three times. I have been rocketed, mortared, machine-gunned and shot at with Kalashnikovs, and so many times that I long ago lost count. Yet I have experienced no serious harm from the wars. Another friend, whom I've written of before, experienced a mortar in a different way. A mortarman himself, one with extensive combat experience in OIF I, he was eventually badly concussed -- badly enough that he was forced to transfer out of the infantry. The damage to his brain is obvious and lingering, and he has trouble keeping it together; indeed, sometimes he doesn't manage to keep it together.  He is still courageous, but now also dangerous in bad ways because of the loss of the virtue of self-control. The loss is not his fault; it was bad luck. 

We have some limited control over this, but only insofar as we are the ones with the sword. We can learn to recognize the kinds of harms that cause trauma, and to avoid doing that kind of damage in preference to others. Sometimes this is impractical or unwise, as it would be unwise to risk your comrades clearing a room full of al Qaeda when a grenade would do it without similar risk (and anyway the hope is not to traumatize the foe, but to kill him, after which he will suffer no harm save from whatever judgment may befall his soul, the justice of which we have no ground to doubt). We can learn, though, not to inflict psychological harms on people in less warlike conflicts; we can choose to fight them fairly, preferring even physical wounds to psychic ones (though there is clear overlap with issues like traumatic brain injury). 

Even this kind of control is limited, and it flows downstream from us to our foes. Hopefully they might respond in kind; probably they will not. This was the ideal of the knights, who praised chivalrous treatment of one's enemies very highly. In practice, even for them, it was rare. The practicality of ransom might save a knight or a nobleman who fell on the battlefield; but as likely as not, a wounded man would be knifed and his body looted. Practically in recent wars our foes would behead captives on film, or burn them alive; or enslave them, if they were women. In the next war our foes are likely to be Communists again, and the Communist treatment of prisoners has historically been built around psychological abuse -- or summary execution. So if we do it, at least at war, we do it because it is right and itself virtuous rather than because it is likely to return any benefit to us. The best we can hope for from it is that it might give us people to negotiate with at the end of the war, veterans of the conflict who will understand the hardships of war as we do and who have reasons not to hate us as much as others do.

It is more beneficial in the cases under discussion in the comments. We have strong practical reasons to oppose abuse of children, the elderly, and weaker parties in general. We know this causes harms that are not easily fixed, even into adulthood. The abused may develop a courageous capacity out of learning to survive abuse, but there are cleaner ways to develop their capacities. I suppose that is not controversial.

What Aristotle might suggest to those who have suffered abuses, or bad luck, is probably that they should continue to practice the virtues they need. Last year I attended a MARSOC-oriented charity dinner (called the Brothers in Arms Foundation, if you happen to be looking to donate to something). One of the speakers was a former member of MARSOC who, after years of what he described as the best possible life -- the life of suiting up in armor and killing America's enemies -- stepped on a pressure-plate IED and lost his ability to walk. He was learning again, and could at this point stand with a cane. His speech was impressive, and he received much genuine admiration from all present, but his case cannot be as happy as he bravely made out. His sacrifice was terrible, yet he is doing his best with it. That may be the best that can be done. 

It may be necessary in less physical matters too. It might be necessary to practice being brave enough to confess (as happened here in the comments of the first post) that one cannot connect emotionally as some do. Perhaps this might give rise to some trusted relationships in which one can practice trying to do so, to nurture whatever potential for it remains. We can often only do our best with what we have; Fate sends what she does, and we must do what we can. 

That is practical advice, but it is not great advice. It is a hard road. Some of us choose to dare it, and our injured Marine shows why:  because it is the best possible life, to live boldly and free. It does not last forever, and it might end at any time. We may hope, as I do, that it ends in a quick and worthy death rather than in trauma, in painful labor without any hope of returning to the glories that went before. We should bear friendship and fellowship to those who have had that bad luck, though, because the bad luck came to them for reasons apart from their virtues. They may well be -- likely are -- better men than we are, in part just because they are having to practice harder with less hope.

As always, I leave the discussion open. These thoughts will be less valuable than your own. 


ymarsakar said...

The modern "human nature" and the ancient "human nature" that causes these kinds of conflicts and traumas, will end soon enough.

In only a few years. I was told 2025 was the last deadline, although even in 2020... we are already beyond the first finish line, the first lap, encroaching on the the Final Battle of the Final War.

Is all this fighting in vain? From the Godhead's perspective, no, it is a test or experiment to see what would happen. The eternal administrators do what they do, because it is boring being eternal and not having new things to experience.

Thus for the Law of One, that all is Source/Godhead/Creation, to be simulated in a pared down fashion as "divided and at odds with one another", is a new experience. That experience is however mostly an illusion. It is real enough for the people experiencing it, but it would have to be, otherwise people would just "log off" the game. How many rage quit online or just delete their stuff online and give up? Life, for it to be a real test, has to not have this "exit way out". The solution chosen was amnesia, total amnesia of the soul/body/mind.

As for what is going on with these constant wars, it's mostly just unresolved prior issues coming to a head. They can't be easily resolved by fighting the battles, because people have honestly forgotten why they were fighting to begin with. Not just this war but every other war before them.

They may well be -- likely are -- better men than we are, in part just because they are having to practice harder with less hope.

These things will be useful for those that graduate, as well as for those that have to repeat the cycle/year again.

. Last year I attended a MARSOC-oriented charity dinner (called the Brothers in Arms Foundation, if you happen to be looking to donate to something).

I donate to Camp Coral and Underground Railroad, composed of former special forces now fighting child traffickers by arresting them in cooperation with locals (who have no idea how any of this works).

In the next war our foes are likely to be Communists again, and the Communist treatment of prisoners has historically been built around psychological abuse -- or summary execution.

Heh, that's an interesting prediction. Not even the angels know all the potential future timelines of the quantum multiverse. Which one becomes manifest, is still reliant on the law of free will (distortion)

ymarsakar said...

One of the more useful things Target Focus Training transmitted to me was the "flipping on and off" of what people call the sociopath switch or the machine mind or the black zone, or the mental zone, or the killing aura/saki.

Civilian operators can turn that on and off. It's when they can't turn it off... or it turns on in conditioned police operators and LEOs, that stuff happens that may not be warranted.

The "don't shoot blues" rule of the military conditioning means unauthorized discharge of fire is not allowed and imbedded in the conditioning rules itself. These rules are hard wired, not paper wired. Sometimes stories will pop up of military trained individuals, marines especially (greater discipline, lol) who freeze up in combat/crime scenarios and get injured/die. This is not the result of lack of training but too much training. They were trained to "wait for authorization to fire/kill". No authorization came because... there were no ossifiers on deck. So just wait, freeze, wait, freeze, and then die from repeated stabbings or shots or something.

Every time the "fight" vs "flee" option came up, it was overridden by the "Don't shoot blue, don't pull the trigger unless ordered".

Do we have authorization to fire? Do we have authorization to rescue the staff at Benghazi?

No, Stand Down.

The number of people who "can refuse" to disobey or the number of military trained/experienced operators who can come up wit htheir own ops plan, tends to increase as they gain time and experience. So the ex SF who disobeyed the Stand Down orders at Benghazi were often retired or "attached" to CIA action teams. They were mostly not active SF, because active SF have, again, chains of command they need to obey. Especially on the Beard Thing in Afghanistan. Even the military special forces will court martial for Disobeying a Direct Order. That is why many of them I know, get very clever at side stepping orders that aren't direct.

So emotionally, if one gets stuck into violence early on so to speak, they then no longer know how to "flip off" the switch. Thus they are constantly in this dead zone where they might have to do something and so eventually the empathic senses turn off, or reverse themselves. By empath, I mean normal civilized social conditioning. I don't mean Ymar empathic abilities. Although they often count as well, since many military members have this "gut feeling" they cannot explain that helps them in war.

Just watching the twitter stuff itself is traumatizing to unconditioned or unprepared civilians, conservatives, etc. online.

It only barely affects me, but that is because of who I am and what I am. Before I gained direct control, things online affected me more going into the past. After a certain point after 2012, the first trick I developed was to nullify or negate emotions by flipping on the switch partially. This resulted me in treating people as if I was talking to Epstein or Hussein or a mortal enemy. The fact that almost all of them were or will be, was another issue coincidentally. TWANLOC is the modern conception of the concept.

The phase I entered after that, involved greater control of the capacity to use violence, both physical and verbal. Strangely, with the options to use physical violence out online, it motivated me to develop the esoteric and more verbal (feminine) arts. Other people did not have my ability to pick up emotions, so in order to communicate real emotions, I had to use a pretty visceral and raw writing method. This had good effect, to a certain extent, yet it still lacked something.

ymarsakar said...

The next phase after that, involved a state change. I could no longer comprehend what humans were talking about online, why they were fighting, or even what they were fighting over. I no longer thought of myself as Red or Blue, so there was nothing for me to fight about. Of course I skipped a few minor transition states, but this was the end result.

And now the 2020 version of Ymar is where I manually and forcibly lowered my energy vibration level, to the point where now I can understand why "Corona" makes people afraid in 2020. It's a pretty big deal for a student of warfare, to no longer comprehend this "fear" thing. Money fears, economic fears, job fears, family fears, physical, health, all of that went poof. This was the Enlightenment of death which Musashi gained, although I only gained half of that that way.

This 20-30 minute video explains the "Enlightenment" stage shift via personal testimony. The first 1-2, and the last 1 (Sadguru the guy with Indian/black face lol), is particularly good.

These concepts are not present in Western culture language matrix, so I have to translate them or use testimony eye witness.

J Melcher said...

Isn't "training in armor" the point of sports? Particularly, high school football?

Now, the problem with high school football is that we have built giant high schools in order to have more numerous candidate players -- and so to select a "winning" team of bigger faster heavier boys. But then fewer boys actually play the game. Ten small schools put more boys on more teams than one giant school. If football, or any sport, is conducive to good citizenship, then we must move to smaller schools and more opportunities to participate.

Now we ask, is sport in general or a particular sport of comparable benefit to girls? Three generations ago the most vigorous activity comparable to football was cheerleading. And the same numbers apply. Ten small schools put more girls on pom-pom squads than one giant school. But are there other pursuits? If simply "sports" to help girls keep fit (and attractive) then tennis or track or volleyball -- though usually more small schools give more opportunities than giant schools. (The only exceptions might be (a) if such a small percentage of students participate in a sport than only a giant school can field a team at all and (b) if the venue is so expensive -- swimming, maybe -- or an ice rink for hockey in Florida -- that only a giant school can afford it.

But then the sport is sold to the schools, parents, and taxpayers on the virtue of physical fitness for boys and girls, and not on the virtue of "building character" and developing courage as in the pseudo-battle in specialized armor of football.

Perhaps the quickest cheapest and most courageous solution is to institute bare bladed saber competitions. A Prussian-style dueling scar wouldn't be any worse than the tattoos I see on our young people.

Grim said...

William James had something like that idea. Football, though, leads also to concussions and TBI; and in fact the armor seems to make it worse. A possible solution is to play football but without the pads. That seems to reduce the danger of concussions (mass at impact is less, and people don't hit as hard when it's going to hurt them too), without eliminating the danger.

I have not contemplated the difference between girls and boys in this essay; these days I'm told there aren't any, and that it's wrong to ask after it anyway. I have long thought that fighting sports should not mix girls and boys, because it is of great social benefit that we should have a strong norm against men using violence against women. That, though, seems to be of no interest to the current generations. They'll have to decide if they don't just want to run everyone together, and let the girls decide for themselves whether or not it's worthwhile to play.

ymarsakar said...

A possible solution is to play football but without the pads.

The real sport, rugby? English and Australians were right/superior? The fields of Elton, by that guy who defeated Napoleon, may have been referring to the sporting fields of rugby players.

ymarsakar said...

They'll have to decide if they don't just want to run everyone together, and let the girls decide for themselves whether or not it's worthwhile to play.

The japanese have an interesting solution.

Which is to have teams led by the opposite sex, but everyone else is of the same gender or build type.

So one military man, would have to lead a team of 12 girls age 12-15, against another team, equivalent or superior.

Or reversed. One woman ex player, would lead a team of 12 boys.

The Japanese do not actually mix these setups like that in public society but their schools sometimes have this type, but it has worked historically in some units.

J Melcher said...

We could distinguish between exercise-sports for the sake of fitness and combative-sports for the sake of character.

I'm not sure how many more combative characters among woman our culture can survive.

Anonymous said...

For girls? Field hockey. Some of the most ferocious ladies I've ever watched were playing field hockey. For a while it was the only team sport permitted, and I suspect a lot of frustration got released in the game.

As a holder of two X chromosomes who tries to be a lady, I'd argue that our culture can survive very few combative characters among civilizations' women. Women good at defense, and willing and able to help their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons are vital, but women warriors . . . not so many. I believe that a very few are truly called to that, a true Vocation in all senses, but very, very few.


raven said...

Maybe courage starts with gravel on the playground, instead of rubber. Or no bike helmet. Or a day in the woods with just your friends. Courage, self reliance,consequences, these are all tied together.
Our cultures attempt to eliminate risk results in weakness.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am embarrassed that I did not see the shortfall in Aristotle, that he focuses entirely on the good effect that war might have on character, neglecting the negative effect. You are right to point it out that it can have negative luck-effects so large as to negate any possible advantage of character. I would add this as well: what are the effects on the average man, and on the worst of men? Surely this also has weight? God may care deeply about the development of the saints and we should not undermine that, but we live here and cannot see all ends. We can only see the broadest outlines, and have a responsibility to our fellow-men to do with that what we can.

I see I have made things more muddled for myself rather than more clear by asking.

ymarsakar said...

Aristotle's teachings led to the virtues and vices of Alexander the Great.

A dead end, more or less, no matter how good the theory sounds. Aristotle diverged significantly from Plato and Socrates.

Paying close attention to the violence of yesteryear and this year, will make all the theoreticals and philosophy make more sense.

ymarsakar said...

Sometimes even sports becomes the new battlefield, and casualties result.

As I said at thenewneo, the Divine Counsel is testing Isaac. If he passes, he graduates to something far better than an NBA contract.

Unfortunately, a real test can only come from the Opposition, aka Satan, as proctor. Satan in Job is depicted as prosecutor, not devil.

Tom said...

Although it's been mentioned several times and it's probably obvious, I want to point out in a clear way that there is a great difference in effect depending on age, or mental & emotional development.

I think it takes a lot less trauma for a child to be psychologically harmed than an adult. The capacities are less developed in the first place, so recovering may be less like healing and more like forcing growth. I think it may also depend on the temperament of the child; some kids go through trauma and seem to be fine afterwards, while others may experience the same trauma and never fully recover emotionally.

It was always interesting to me that Hagakure, an early 18th century manual on bushido, made the point that you should never scare children because it will lead to cowardice.

Somehow, I think this is tied in with the development of trust. If you teach a kid not to trust others when they are young enough, it can last a lifetime.

Tom said...

To go a little further, the development of trust seems rather important in training for combat. Being able to trust the warriors to your left and right at least helps with courage; you may be courageous, but if you don't trust the soldiers you're with, you may be reluctant to act courageously. Your supposed-to-be brothers in arms may run just when you put yourself forward.

On the other hand, if you really trust them, then you are more likely to put yourself forward.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Tom - great thought about never scaring children. I will have to think about both that idea and its opposite.

Anonymous said...

I think too, how hard and fast the violence comes has a lot of effect. Is it something that builds over time, allowing the child/person to learn that it can be overcome, trained for, and adapted to, or does it hit all at once? I know in my case the combination of sudden onset and the erosion of trust (in this case family members who didn't realize how bad the situation at school had gotten until it was too late to fix) did most of the damage. I didn't have the tools to do more than try to escape (not possible in the long run) and evade (got good at that, eventually) until several years after the violence ended.

For warriors, training as well as temperament and trust might be the core elements in who survives, who collapses, and who thrives.