Tag Archives: Morality

The Philosophy of Victory – Machiavelli and Sun Tzu

Two great books, two timeless texts, two manuals on the differences between victory and defeat, success and failure. These two texts, I believe, cannot be read separately. I myself finished them both this December and found them to be everything I imagined them to be.

A short background: Machiavelli was a Renaissance court employee who bore witness to the daily affairs and politics of Europe’s leaders. He saw the way they handled themselves both in war and in peace and observed the traits which ended up leading to their success. While being a nice guy himself, he came to the conclusion that to succeed as a leader (or Prince), one has to be ruthless, conniving, bribe-happy and, most importantly, rule by terror, as opposed to love. Sun Tzu was a famous Chinese general who seemed to win every battle he was involved in. He collected and wrote an anthology of texts explaining the art of war, and how careful planning is to go into every battle. He outlined how and when to attack, when to retreat, how to deceive one’s opponent and how to ensure victory every time.

Why it’s important today if these two men lived 400 and 2600 years ago: The lessons learned from these texts extend to canvass far more than just the art of ruling a kingdom or fighting a battle. They are manuals of management for any environment, from managing a restaurant, to running a family, to building a corporate giant.

It goes without saying that there’s so much win in these two books that successfully applying either of them can ensure that your life will be one big victory pie. But it’s not that simple.

Lessons from each book which I thought were interesting:

The very first thing Sun Tzu said: “The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death,¬† a road to either safety or ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

The very first thing on the agenda is to assert a huge contradiction to the attitude which dominates western thought. When in a state of war, you cannot ignore the uncomfortable things. War is itself a brutal affair. One cannot worry about how to treat the prisoners when the war has not been won yet, or ignore all of the possible dirty tricks one’s enemy may attempt, simply because that wouldn’t be fair. When in a state of war – in business, or in actual war – you cannot choose to ignore certain details in the hope that your enemy will also ignore them. If you do not choose to consider every possible betrayal and low move, those will be the things that surely lead to your demise. If you do not actively take those options into your strategy, then you will be disadvantaged throughout the fight. This is a rule that is ruthlessly applied to the corporate environment, but in everyday ‘moralistic’ life, people choose to ignore this fact, and pretend life is good, virtuous and easy. Unthinkable acts are just that: unthinkable. That’s all well and good if you’re a simple citizen, but if you want to play the big game and if you want to win, Sun Tzu says that you should, at some point, come to the realisation that going all out is the only rule. Failure to go all out will result in failure across the board.

Machiavelli likes to go on about the best possible way to ensure that your rule is long-lived and successful after the initial victory, rather than just looking at how to defeat the enemy’s army, which is why I think his philosophy complements that of Sun Tzu very well. The most intriguing lesson he brought forward was the effectiveness of two opposing methods of maintaining control over one’s kingdom: terror and love. Terror implies ensuring that your subordinates know that double-crossing you or under-performing at their jobs means harsh punishment, while love implies debauchery and a benevolent rule which benefits them, and thus results in an obligation to you. The problem that surfaces with the method of love is that when things get tough, and you are no longer able to supply your subordinates with a lavish lifestyle or keep low taxes, they will not be so loyal and will quickly get used to the idea of treachery, while a rule of terror will ensure their submission and loyalty no matter the situation.

A man is only as good as the books he reads. So read these books.

I’ll be writing again soon, I hope. Stay tuned/connected.

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On Melissa Bachman and Hunting in General

Well, if you don’t know about it already, a well-known TV presenter took a picture of herself with the lion she shot on a farm in South Africa. She was recently brought under the all-powerful microscope of society to be scrutinised and threatened by people who know nothing about what she did, except for the bare basics. Some of these comments, made by respectable people, celebrities and the common internet junkie, have been deplorable in their own right, calling this woman things like ‘monster’, ‘evil’, and ‘poes’ (If you’re not South African, this is a very rude word which one certainly would not use publicly to describe a person).

+10 points for the smile, Melissa. I don't care what the internet says. I have my own opinions, and I think you're alright.

+10 points for the smile, Melissa. I don’t care what the internet says. I don’t derive my opinions from the masses, and I think you’re alright.

And yet, the people doing the insulting don’t know the details of the situation, They simply follow others on-board the train to ‘higher moral ground’ and from there grant themselves the power in numbers to publicly condemn this woman without consequence. I find this quite disturbing. It brings to mind the idea that civilisation as we know it is only separated by a thin veil from absolute chaos. People just need an insignificant incident to excuse themselves from virtue and act with impunity.

Let’s get down to it then. Yes, yes, the moral saying of the day is that hunting is evil, that we should condemn it as a barbaric, savage act of cruelty to animals. I think that’s a perfectly valid opinion, or rather, it would be if we did not live in a society which uses animal products on a massive scale, which effectively makes anyone who uses the colourful aforementioned words look like a total moron (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Mansfield. Way to go for propagating ignorance and redundant values).

Here are some fun facts I picked up after 5 minutes of research: Throughout the world, 50 billion chickens a year are raised (meaning this number will die within the year) for human consumption. These chickens are kept in cages which are comparable in size to an A4 paper. You eat chicken burgers/chicken fillet/eggs/chicken wings/chicken anything, really. This means that you are condoning the mass-genocide of animals every year. What’s that you’re sitting on? Leather? No, no. It looks more like SHAME.

A typical and very legal chicken laying farm.

A typical and very legal chicken laying farm.

My frustrations on the subject: It’s alright to condemn hunting if you’re a vegan and live like a hippie. But it’s not alright to condemn hunting when you eat meat, own leather products or use animal produce in any way, which implicates almost everyone on Earth. They have a name for someone like this: Hypocrite.

How (Legal and Illegal) Hunting Works: I live in a country which makes a great deal of its annual income from the hunting industry. Do we hunt animals in the wild? No, not legally. There is a reason for this, which is quite simple. Animals don’t really survive out in the wild – lions, leopards, rhino, you name it, they mean only one thing to poachers: money. A poacher is not restricted from finding these animals out in the wild. They are in essence walking money. A hunter-friend of mine tells me lions can be worth R200 000 and up. However, the legalised hunting industry in South Africa makes use of game farms, which are basically vast areas of untouched land which are fenced off and filled with a very low density population of animals of any variety. These animals are allowed to breed naturally, are not fed any funky stuff and pretty much lead the life of an animal in the wild, except that their natural predators are replaced by humans. Game farmers are people of the land. They live right next to nature every day. They rely on it for their livelihoods, and thus have an incentive to ensure that the population of animals on their farms does not decrease. The game farmer will allow hunters to enter the farm and enjoy a drive through the beautiful South African savannah for a few hours while searching for an animal. Professional hunting standards dictate that when you shoot an animal, it has to be an instant kill. This is enforced by the fact that animals are tough and will run away and die somewhere else if you hit them in the wrong place, and the hunter will end up having to pay a small fortune to take nothing home. The hunter pays for what he kills, the farmer ensures that the animal population remains consistent and a healthy ecosystem remains on the farm. A species like the west African lion, which would otherwise be hunted to extinction by poachers in the wild, is guaranteed survival as a species, protected from poachers who don’t care about how they kill, or how many they kill.

Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks.

Why the Hunting Industry is Essential to Animals: That sounds very counter-intuitive, but it’s an established, albeit little-known fact. Let’s think about what would happen if hunting in South Africa were banned, if the fences came down and the hunters stopped coming and paying to hunt animals legally. The populations of these animals would decline dramatically, simply because there isn’t much ‘wild’ left. Old game farms would likely be turned into crop farms or developed, driving the animals into ever-shrinking habitats. Do the maths: So much land = so many animals. The less land, the less animals that can survive. Then take into account the poachers. Do you think they’d let a walking moneybag like a lion walk around in the wild for long? Consider every valuable animal in South Africa extinct within a few decades, probably less. Then the less valuable will follow as the numbers dwindle. Furthermore, consider the implications for the local environment, which would ultimately suffer in the total and very sudden absence of these animals. Whether you like it or not, hunting is here to stay. It is the foremost effort of wildlife conservation in South Africa. It’s sustainable, it’s definitely more humane than the factory-farms you get your burger-patties from, and it’s profitable so you can be damn sure it’s not going anywhere in a while.

The Moral Implications: A dear (and very sexy) friend of mine highlighted that she finds hunting more or less acceptable provided it’s not for recreation and that the catch is used to make food, etc. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Any hunter worth his salt knows how to turn his catch of the day into a month’s worth of delicious biltong (South African beef Jerky, but aeons better) or knows someone who can do it for him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy the South African scenery, breathe the fresh air, enjoy looking at the other less interesting animals as he drives by and, of course, experience the thrill of having caught the damn thing. Believe it or not, aiming and firing a VERY heavy rifle at a moving animal’s head from far away is tough, and any human who doesn’t celebrate his or her ability to do it right is certainly not doing it right in the first place.

What? Jus' cause I'm ugly, you don't care if she kills me?

I’m a fish, and I know you don’t really care so much when you see this photo, because I’m not as gorgeous as that lion. You’re such a good person.

Hunting, whether you despise it or celebrate it, is an art as old as the human race itself. Sure, the weapons have changed, but the feeling of earning your dinner for the night with sweat and hard work is as ingrained in us as any emotion. It’s the exact same feeling the hunter feels today. It’s like experiencing a little piece of history.

Remember to like this and follow my blog if you share my interests.

And always remember to stand back and look at the big picture before stoning someone to death.

I won’t be posting related articles because they are all essentially saying the exact same thing, which happens to be incorrect and uninformed.

Savva

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Derivative Values (Not the Maths kind)

Everyone’s talking about values, morals, right and wrong, good and bad.

But is there even an all-encompassing objective truth out there? Is it at all possible to find the ultimate code of living? I think not, but that won’t stop me writing about it. It also didn’t stop this guy:

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Say hello to my favourite philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. A Dollar/Pound/Euro for every time you spell his name wrong please. Modern forensic scientists have recently confirmed that his brain was indeed situated in his moustache. Moving on, Nietzsche is here to tell us that there is no objective truth. He is an advocate of radical perspectivism, which is to say that NO perspective (that includes religions, moral codes of individuals and moral codes of entire societies as opposed to other societies) is objectively true, but some may be more correct than others.

Nietzsche is important here because he dismissed ‘good and evil’ in his creatively named book, Beyond Good and Evil. He believed that modern Christian values had been distorted over the years to form the background morality of ‘Victorian civilisation’, which is to say, life in the 1800’s in Europe and beyond. Basically, the morals we inherit as we grow up are not a very accurate mirror of what the original teachings of Jesus Christ were. Nietzsche was called many dirty names for stating his opinion rather brusquely in the phrase ‘God is dead, because we have killed him’. ‘Atheist’, ‘nihilist’, ‘fatalist’ and ‘moustachio-man’ were among those dirty names, although none of them were true (except for one). Nietzsche was in fact a big fan of Jesus Christ himself, although he was disillusioned with what Christianity had become over the years. He despised all of the apostles and rejected everything that came from them, which is to say, modern Christianity of every kind.

He thus attempted to break away from all societal morals in order to break away from Christian morals because, as I have pointed out, they are essentially the same thing. After he successfully managed that, he was left with nothing but a clean slate with which to construct a new standard of morals.

For the record, Nietzsche never intended for these new revised morals to belong to everyone. He was quite happy with most of the population remaining in favour of traditional morals, a crowd he referred to as ‘the herd’, while the odd enlightened individual would reconfigure his sense of self worth to guide humanity to new heights through introspective wisdom. He labelled this enlightened individual the Over-man, or the Ubermensch. But, he believed both perspectives were true and necessary in the world. If we were all enlightened individuals, well, then what?

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Sadly, 30 years after his death, Nietzsche’s surviving sister marketed his ideas to the Nazi’s, and you can imagine they had a field day with this Ubermensch business after warping a few words like ‘individual’ into ‘Aryan’ or something of the like. Nietzsche himself despised nationalism, as he believed it killed perspective, and even went so far as to deny his German descent as nationalism grew more popular in Germany.

The moral of the story here is that truth is subjective. Nobody’s way of life is correct entirely. With that mindset, we can all live in a truly tolerant and individualist society, one which I believe is closer to us every decade, despite the rampant crazies that try and ultimately will fail to turn the whole world to what they believe is the ‘only correct path’.

A Christian, A Buddhist, A Muslim, a Jew and an Atheist walk into a bar……

And have a drink together.

Now doesn’t that sound lovely?

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