When we were young my parents were not in favour of fighting. “Don’t fight if you don’t have to” was the mantra. I suppose every parent has that thought.
Even given its importance, I cannot recall a discussion around when I might have to. Maybe stand up to bullies, or look out for your younger brothers and sisters. Looking back, it must have been confusing.
That kind of confusion seems to drift into foreign relations and even some domestic things. For example, I wonder if the treaty with Iran arises from the wish to not fight. If so, we are likely the worse for it. Not fighting is only the right choice when you don’t have to.
There is a corollary to the don’t fight rule. It says that if you must fight, win.
Looking at history it seems more clear. Possibly standards and principles were once more defined. Even with more diluted principles today, surely some things are still in play. The right to live as you wish without interference seems like something worthwhile. Religious freedom, freedom of association, and freedom of expression are useful. Personal safety is a high priority.
Radical Islam violates all of these, but fighting is out. Perhaps it should not be out. If you are in a fight for your standards, dropping your weapon as an offer of peace is an impractical gesture.
I happened to see some documentaries on wild animals recently. I noticed how they fight. To win. And the obvious technique. Never get involved unless you have an advantage. A fair fight is a stupid fight. Animals in the wild are fragile in their way and an injury can be lethal. So a time and place of your choosing is important.
In our world, advantage Iran.
We have lost the ability to fight external enemies effectively. When we do fight, we do not fight to win but rather to contain the opposer. Bad idea. How did we get here?
Domestic issues take up a great deal of time and mind space. Most of this political infighting is passive-aggressive. Polarize the people is the principle tactic. Not helpful when it comes to real fighting. An enemy with a clear purpose and the ability to decide can defeat any enemy without a purpose or with a divided agenda.
Losing track of principles, learning to fight in nonproductive ways, and not being committed to the idea of winning leaves us vulnerable.
At a personal level the same conditions apply. Hold values that are important for your goals. Avoid passive aggressive. Learn to state and support your position. Either leave situations where your requirements are not met or fight to win. Learn humility and negotiating skills. Learn empathy and avoid pride. Discover balance. Respect others.
Patrick Swayze, as Dalton in Roadhouse, says it best. “I want you to be nice until it is time to not be nice.”
Martial arts training with an instructor who understands the philosophy of the skill would be a useful beginning.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.