Friday, June 05, 2009
Over time, some societies forget that safety is not a natural condition, but a hard won commodity.
Western Civilization triumphed because it excelled at fostering individual initiative while cultivating those skills needed for the collective application of violence. Hence, "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton". Whether the Duke of Wellington said it or not the shocking losses of the skills and the emotional reflexes needed to defend the community over the last three generations are dramatic.
Critics of Scouting and compulsory gym uniforms and Color Wars and a host of other issues complained that these activities, that had been a traditional part of maturation for generations, were secret training in militarism that children had to be protected from. They were half right. They were part of a coordinated program and the children did not need to protected from them but rather should have been encouraged to participate. These activities were part of a natural and conscious effort to instill in the youth those qualities, such as teamwork, courage, initiative, and self discipline, needed for a successful response to aggression. The key was to ensure that all those qualities were instilled in those who by education and association were not only likely to assume positions of leadership but who were also imbued with an appreciation for the humane values and achievements of the civilization that made it worth the sacrifice of defending.
Civilizations can commit suicide by adapting pacifism in the face of aggression. One example was the Khmer of 700 years ago whose devotion to Theravadra Buddhism, whatever its other merits, left them ill equipped to respond to aggression by the Thai or the Vietnamese. It is an error in logic to assume that a sub optimal choice can not be made. That would be as wrong as to assume that in biology an organism will develop a mutation that produces a desired benefit.