Killing People and Taking their Stuff

Killing people and taking their stuff has been popular throughout history. Many great historical figures are considered great for doing this. Empires have been built on it. Sun Tzu, military genius, guide for every military in the modern world, taught how to do it. Although he recommends taking people’s stuff without killing them, if possible. Clausewitz, another brilliant theorist, famously labeled this “Politics by other means.” 

Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon were not unusual people, at least not with regard to their values. In that they were common. They were coveting at an unusual scale, but the feeling was widely shared. That is how they assembled great armies and focused their energies on their neighbors. 

Read the history of empires as they grew and you will see this ethos in operation. Not just in the west, but throughout the Americas, the middle east, north Africa, central Asia, and the east. It did not begin a few centuries ago. Its origins are untraceable; but they can be traced to the earliest evidence, before human settlements, where piles of hand axes, and fragments of ribs and femurs, have lived to tell the tale. 

Out of all the things that people can do, many have thought this to be the best. It is popular right now. On the borders of nations and within nations, in apartments and houses, on backroads and city streets, its popular. Breaking and entering, larceny, threats and assault are all popular. And what about all those reports of murder by mistake – the unintended consequence of an “armed robbery gone wrong?” What about all the armed robberies gone right? We don’t hear much about those. But they are popular too.

In gang wars, in piracy ancient and modern, in the competitive strategy and internal policy of cartels, globally and locally, killing people and taking their stuff drives behavior. It is a key compensation metric for their HR departments, a core competence in their organizations, and a pillar of their business model. That is not new.

It has been justified as a fight for glory. A fight for us. As revenge. As the answer to “Why not?” As the self-evident truth “Better us than them.” It has been declared divine right. The mandate of heaven. Manifest destiny. Creation of global order. Inevitable progress. 

People have been persuaded of its rightness because “they have a lot, while we have a little.” Because “they have become weak while we have grown strong.” It has been justified as the fight for right. As our turn. Because we will do unto others what was done unto us before, or what might be done to us if we don’t. 

Ardent proponents declare the deeds necessary, the goal to be achieved by any means necessary. For the revolution. For the triumph of the will. For lebensraum. As the path to the Pax Whatever. 

But here and there, in the valley of the shadow of death, in the presence of enemies great and small, named and nameless, grew countless counter-movements. Some withered. Some flourished. Some prevailed. Some became great forces of history. 

Our training grows from them. From the defenders of boats and beaches, fields and towns on Okinawa hundreds of years ago, from Japan and China, to here and now. From Pacific atolls to the Atlantic’s eastern shore. A response to battered walls and burning fields a thousand years ago; a response to the fevered pleas and curses electrifying the world’s cities last night.

It grew from the wish not to be killed. Not to have our families, friends, neighbors intimidated, threatened or hurt. To keep our lives and livelihoods intact: our homes and land and all the things that we and those who came before us worked for and built, treasured and protected. 

From the wish to keep people safe and well.

To stay safe and well may mean giving up safety and comfort, and taking on responsibility. The responsibility to get strong and skillful, to become righteous and vigilant, and to stay that way until the threat disappears or is overcome. Which may be never. 

Which might be good. To stay strong and vigilant is a good way to live. 

Threats and pressures, from the inconvenient to the mortal, appear in every life. Whatever form they take, we will be more prepared to take them on because we train the way we do. 

A purposeful and courageous life cannot be manufactured, inherited, bought or stolen. They must be built, one by one, by hand. This is what we train to do.


Post and photo Copyright © 2019-2021 Jeff Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Values of the Martial Arts – available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

1 Comment

  1. Arne Rosenstock says:

    Well writ, as is your custom.


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