Thursday, December 22, 2016

Embracing Brutality

Living in a civilized society, it's rather easy to forget that brutality is part of life.  We are sheltered from the constant conflict that exists in many places in the world.  There are places that haven't known a real peace in thousands of years and people that have lived their entire lives, however short, in the devastating wake of war and tyrannical oppression.

We get glimpses of it.

A man kidnaps a couple and forcibly cages a woman in his home, the authorities finding several dead bodies on his property. National news brings your attention to a woman who has drowned her own children in cold blood. Gunshots ring out in an historic church in a coastal city, leaving faithful attendees as casualties.  These events all happened in my own State of South Carolina.  Just think for a moment of the things you've heard of in your own towns and cities.

Riots. Police brutality. Gang violence. Rapes. Human trafficking. Terrorism.

These are the atrocities of human existence!  And, yet, how many of us have actually encountered these things face-to-face?  Some, to be sure, but the majority of people in civilized society have been spared (thank God) the horrors of which the human species is capable.  We are protected from them to the point that we turn a blind eye to even their possibility and, as such, fail to recognize when they are occurring or fail to guard ourselves against them being thrust upon us. You turn a corner and find yourself face-to-face, ready or not, with violence and death.

Violence comes whether you prepare or not.
But there are people whose memories are painted with blood and punctuated with tragedy. They understand something about life that most of you reading this will never truly understand (and if you do, I'm sorry):

Life is fucking brutal. 

Thomas Hobbes referred to this state of nature as being "nasty, brutish, and short."  Humanity, for all its structures of government, teachers of morality, and religious fervor, maintains its status as a species full of violent reprobates. It earns these accolades with flying colors.

In every place humanity has existed, we've enslaved our fellow humans; we've ignored the cries of the innocent; we've left the destruction of towns and cities and animal habitats and entire species as a monument to our depravity. No matter where you look, no matter where you go, no matter what you do-- danger is there. There are no safe spaces. 

What, then, do we do when faced with this truth of existence?

I propose that we accept it as a part of life. To deny it is naivety to the highest degree. Instead of ignoring or rejecting brutality, we ought to embrace the brutality of life as one of its primary features.

Embrace the brutality, you say?

Now, please understand that I am not saying that we ought to participate in the brutality that leaves such devastation upon the pages of our history. I'm saying that it would do us good to recognize that brutality is merely an ever-present, innate aspect of living in a world where creatures have to devour each other to survive, even down to the smallest single-cell organisms. Knowledge of this brutality is a weapon against it. To prepare for war is to preserve the peace.

Think about the movies you've seen where there's a town under the control of a despot and the hero (or heroes), after understanding the reality of the situation, fight back and unseat the tyrant from his high place and free the people. Without the acceptance that there are some people who do not care about the preservation of life or who they hurt, as long as their own passions are sated, we sit in weakness, hoping to reason with those we've already posited do not care about the same types of values we have.

In the movie, Enter the Dragon, the character Han speaks these words, which have always resounded within me:

"It is difficult to associate these horrors with the proud civilizations that created them: Sparta, Rome, The Knights of Europe, the Samurai... They worshiped strength, because it is strength that makes all other values possible. Nothing survives without it. Who knows what delicate wonders have died out of the world, for want of the strength to survive."

While spoken by the villain of the movie, Han understood that strength is the tool by which civilizations maintain order and promote the values of love, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, and equality.

If you'll remember, Frieza cares little for any of those values.

Once you've accepted that brutality is an inevitable part of life, you'll probably be affected by the weight of that realization. You might be terrified, which is reasonable in understanding that, as the Joker put it,

"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day."

Think about all the people in your life. Parents, siblings, friends, and lovers alike. They all have dream and aspirations, but they all have fears and that one thing that if someone said or did to them that they would be broken or snap. They don't always know what it is, but it's there. All it takes is that one thing to be laid, stinging-bare, open to the world and even the most civilized person will turn into as much of a savage as a human can be.

Let's review, shall we?


Life is fucking brutal and we're not that far away from that brutality. 

Alright. Now that we've covered the reality of living in our world, past all the sugar-coatedness that is Society, and our possible reaction to it, let's talk about what our reaction should be.

If you were terrified or if you weren't, that's fine. Your next step after understanding that brutality is just a part of being alive in a world with 7 billion other human beings is very simple. Go back and read the words of Han.

That's okay. I'll wait.

Those words may have awoken a fear in you, but the beauty of those words and the words of those who have shared the horrors of this world with us, is that the answer lies in the same place as the problem. Theodore Roosevelt said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

Carry the stick or become the stick.

Live in society. Build it up. Maintain the positive values of love, peace, charity, tolerance and every other good and pure thing you can think of. Eschew the expression of brutality on a grand scale.

Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Clothe the poor. Protect the weak. Avoid war, if possible.

BUT, on a personal level-- EMBRACE BRUTALITY!

Subject yourself to the things that will create the type of strength that the wicked would use to kill and destroy and subjugate. Move your body. Lift things. Gain combat and survival skills.  Crush your comfort zone and burn the safe spaces.  Shape your body into a weapon for your own protection and the defense of others. If you never have to use that power, society has done its job and we can all live another day, thankful we live in the time and geographical location that we do.

But, understand something, please:  If there comes a day that calls for power that you could have provided, you'll curse the weakness in your bones and will wish that you'd reached out of the glorious lie we get to live every single day and embraced the truth of brutality. You can't bank on anyone else coming to save you or to stand in between you and the ever-present, faceless Enemy.

SGT Rory Miller said, "The only defense against violent, evil people are good people who are more skilled at violence."

Be more skilled at violence. Know your enemy by embracing the brutality that they will force upon you. As Jesus put it, "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

It is only the strong person that has the privilege of giving mercy to an enemy, for the weak will be overcome and his mercy will die with him.

Now that you've read this, you can either go back to what you were doing or you can go embrace brutality. I'll leave you with one last thing:

Good luck and train hard.



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