We live in a culture that promotes democratic values of being fair to one and all, the importance of fitting into a group, and knowing how to cooperate with other people. We are taught early on in life that those who are outwardly combative and aggressive pay a social price: unpopularity and isolation. These values of harmony and cooperation are perpetuated in subtle and not-so-subtle ways–through books on how to be successful in life; through the pleasant, peaceful exteriors that those who have gotten ahead in the world present to the public; through notions of correctness that saturate the public space.
The problem for us is that we are trained and prepared for peace, and we are not at all prepared for what confronts us in the real world–war.
The life of man upon earth is a warfare. JOB 7:1
This war exists on several levels. Most obviously, we have our rivals on the other side. The world has become increasingly competitive and nasty. In politics, business, even the arts, we face opponents who will do almost anything to gain an edge. More troubling and complex, however, are the battles we face with those who are supposedly on our side. There are those who outwardly play the team game, who act very friendly and agreeable, but who sabotage us behind the scenes, use the group to promote their own agenda. Others, more difficult to spot, play subtle games of passive aggression, offering help that never comes, instilling guilt as a secret weapon. On the surface everything seems peaceful enough, but just below it, it is every man and woman for him-or herself, this dynamic infecting even families and relationships.
The culture may deny this reality and promote a gentler picture, but we know it and feel it, in our battle scars. It is not that we and our colleagues are ignoble creatures who fail to live up to ideals of peace and selflessness, but that we cannot help the way we are. We have aggressive impulses that are impossible to ignore or repress.
In the past, individuals could expect a group–the state, an extended family, a company–to take care of them, but this is no longer the case, and in this uncaring world we have to think first and foremost of ourselves and our interests. What we need are not impossible and inhuman ideals of peace and cooperation to live up to, and the confusion that brings us, but rather practical knowledge on how to deal with conflict and the daily battles we face.
And this knowledge is not about how to be more forceful in getting what we want or defending ourselves but rather how to be more rational and strategic when it comes to conflict, channeling our aggressive impulses instead of denying or repressing them. If there is an ideal to aim for, it should be that of the strategic warrior, the man or woman who manages difficult situations and people through deft and intelligent maneuver.
[Strategy] is more than a science: it is the application of knowledge to practical life, the development of thought capable of modifying the original guiding idea in the light of ever changing situations; it is the art of acting under the pressure of the most difficult conditions. HELMUTH VON MOLTKE, 1800-1891
Judge people by their actions. The brilliance of warfare is that no amount of eloquence or talk can explain away a failure on the battlefield. A general has led his troops to defeat, lives have been wasted, and that is how history will judge him. You must strive to apply this ruthless standard in your daily life, judging people by the results of their actions, the deeds that can be seen and measured, the maneuvers they have used to gain power. What people say about themselves does not matter; people will say anything. Look at what they have done; deeds do not lie. You must also apply this logic to yourself. In looking back at a defeat, you must identify the things you could have done differently.
It is your own bad strategies, not the unfair opponent, that are to blame for your failures.
You are responsible for the good and bad in your life. As a corollary to this, look at everything other people do as a strategic maneuver, an attempt to gain victory. People who accuse you of being unfair, for example, who try to make you feel guilty, who talk about justice and morality, are trying to gain an advantage on the chessboard. Depend on your own arms. In the search for success in life, people tend to rely on things that seem simple and easy or that have worked before.
This could mean accumulating wealth, resources, a large number of allies, or the latest technology and the advantage it brings. This is being materialistic and mechanical. But true strategy is psychological–a matter of intelligence, not material force. Everything in life can be taken away from you and generally will be at some point. Your wealth vanishes, the latest gadgetry suddenly becomes passe, your allies desert you. But if your mind is armed with the art of war, there is no power that can take that away. In the middle of a crisis, your mind will find its way to the right solution. Having superior strategies at your fingertips will give your maneuvers irresistible force.
As Sun-tzu says, “Being unconquerable lies with yourself.”
Ideas are bullet proof!
Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the present battle and calculating ahead. Focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it. In order to avoid wasted effort and failed battles, start every mission by examining your real means rather than simply your desired ends
Sankofa tells us to go back and learn from the past, so that we can use those experience to guide us in the present and better prepare us for an improved future.
Black Power • The Kwame Nkrumah Documentary
Life has more meaning in the face of death. The risks you keep taking, the challenges you keep overcoming, are like symbolic deaths that sharpen your appreciation of life
PATRICE LUMUMBA’s STORY-A TRUE AFRICAN NATIONALIST
Leaving the past for unknown terrain is like death, and feeling this finality will snap you back to life.
The Upright Man The Thomas Sankara Documentary