On Facebook I posted a simple statement that created quite a conversation. I posted, “I live by the principles contained in two books, first, the Bible and then, The Art of War. These two books cover all situations.”Later I added, “The only just war is for self defense” And yes this is a hard line in my dealings with people.
The great atrocities of history all have one thing in common, that human beings broke the golden rule with the idea that “The end justifies the means.” This is the basis for all evil. The invention of racism by those who wanted to profit from the land, labor and skills of Africans, the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” (google it because it is no longer mentioned in American History courses) which justified the genocide of Native Americans, and the Holocaust which used Jews as the scapegoat for German's decline after World War I. In all three cases groups and individuals accepted the idea that is was okay to not treat others as they would have wanted to be treated. In modern times we should add the War on Drugs, which sets up both the attractive marketplace luring the long term victims of racism and feeds a profitable industry with the incarceration of people who may never have broken the golden rule. (enslaved for selling something to people who came to you)
I present these mass atrocities to make my point, but on an individual and organizational level, the same holds true. Stealing, cheating, lying, abusing, homicide, gossip, discrimination, disrespect and breaching covenants are all the same, people choosing to treat another or others differently than they would wish for themselves... toward an goal that they feel justifies doing so. There may be true psychopaths, people who have no moral compass who sometimes lead mass atrocities, but most evil is done by people who want something so badly that they fail to consider the impact on another or others, or believe in “necessary evils”, a very slippery slope, and a moral leap that, at least for me, designates a person as dangerous to others.
That is where “The Art of War” and a strategic lifestyle comes in. If you are going to fight evil, you cannot depend on it, so I've chosen to make my living outside of corporate America, serving a variety of consumers, small businesses and institutions, and developing a public persona that gives me some political leverage. At times even my Boo has expressed chagrin because I have consistently refused to engage in many opportunities that having access to power provides (no longer, having witnessed the “perpwalks” of familiar people who did). Making sure your lines of supply are redundant and invisible is a basic principle of the “Art of War”, not the Bible, but treating everyone as I would like to be treated is Biblical and the surest way to avoid war, by not having enemies. But I have been evil.
When I bought my present home, across the street from a park, the park was the focus of criminal activity, due to the war on drugs which caused addicts to come to this community with the money that fuels the crime. It was easy for the dope dealers to hide among the kids who were just trying to get their game on. Well, I got on my high horse and used my political access and clout to get the basketball goals removed... indefinitely.
Well I solved my problem. With no camouflage in an empty park, the dealers couldn't hide, and knowledge in the neighborhood that I had district cops on speed dial cause them to vacate the park. I smugly declared that those goals were an attractive nuisance, and dared anyone to put them back up.
About three or four years later, what must have been a very courageous young man knocked on my door and introduced himself and very respectfully asked, “Mister, they say, you are the reason there aren't any basketball goals in the park, is that true?”
I replied in the positive and proceeded with my spiel about the drug dealers...
When I had finished, he entreated, “But, mister, me and my friends don't sell drugs and if we can't play in the park, where are we supposed to play?”
Looking at this courageous and articulate young man, I teared up right there, and through his eyes understood the evil I had done. I had a flash back to my childhood in the lower ninth ward in New Orleans during the 1960's and having to look at parks and swimming pools, that had been shut down rather than be integrated. I was the evil in the neighborhood, now, not the dope dealers or racists. I don't know what went through that kids mind as he witnessed this “powerful” man (from his perspective) completely melt down because he had the courage to speak truth to power.
Right then I committed to him and muself to do everything I could to get the goals back, and they put the regular goals back up, but those were inadequate for these high jumping, ball stiffing players, so for years it was only half court basketball (and a self enforced rule against dunking).
When the NBA came to town and wanted to do something for the parks in neighborhoods affected by Katrina, I lobbied to have them install NBA basketball goals in what I now consider to be my park (as in responsibity), using the argument that most of the kids displaced from the lower ninth ward and New Orleans East were living in Algiers. I don't know if my lobbying was a factor, but on Sunday mornings we have the best b-ballers in the city in my park playing on the best goals in the city.
That encounter with that kid twelve or thirteen years ago was an epiphany for me. There are no justifiable shortcuts that deny someone what you would have for yourself. That was when the Bible became my first reference, before the exercise of will or power... but the Art of War is still there anytime I feel the need to defend myself, my family or anybody's children from evil.
By the way, after a bit of respectful communication, the boys and young men in my park honor me and my wife by not throwing trash, or parking on the grass and tone the language down when we're around. They also warn potential drug dealers that “the man across the street don't play that”, and I've taught the cops in the area that sweaty guys in well worn sneakers are not the problem, but anyone with gold jewelry, clean sneakers, and crisp clothing may be worth checking out. We have a great relationship with our park.