No Greater Misfortune; No Greater Shame

The generals have a saying:
‘Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.”

This is called going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 69, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, Lao Tzu talked about the virtue of non-competition. Lao Tzu was talking about competing in the spirit of play, like children. And, he talked about the best general wanting to get into the mind of his enemy. Today, we are going to expand on this idea of how to be the very best in military strategy.

Lao Tzu says that generals have a saying. And, as I read through this saying, I couldn’t help but wish that wars could be left to these generals. Never make the first move. Wait and see. It is better to retreat a yard than advance an inch.

And I can already hear the naysayers. “Lao Tzu was naive. Wars can’t be fought this way.” But I suspect that those who think and say such things are even more ignorant of military strategy than I. Why, if you can go forward without advancing, and push back without having to resort to using weapons, wouldn’t you?

Why do we insist on underestimating our enemy? Why don’t we realize that there is no greater misfortune? But we don’t leave military strategy to generals. We insist they fight our wars in a whole other way. Our enemies are evil. Evil. Generals, and all their sayings, are out of touch with the reality that we must advance global capitalism. We are making the world “safe for democracy”, forgetting that our Founding Fathers considered democracy to be the most vile form of governance.

What we have done is not treasure our three greatest treasures. Instead of being simple in our actions and our thoughts, patient with both our friends and our enemies, and compassionate toward ourselves, we have chosen to see our enemy as something evil. We have destroyed our three greatest treasures and become an enemy ourselves. We have become evil. To quote Howard Zinn, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” We have become so evil, we know no shame. That is why our commander-in-chief can order drone strikes against innocent civilians and then go on late night talk shows to tell jokes. It is so cool to deny people the basic human right of due process.

So, as we approach yet another federal holiday where flags will be waved to remember the dead, I will also be remembering. Just don’t be surprised I won’t be waving any flag. I will be remembering the countless dead sacrificed, not for our freedom, but in wars of aggression.

And, I will be wondering when or if we will ever learn: When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.

2 thoughts on “No Greater Misfortune; No Greater Shame”

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