April 25, 2011

Enter the Ethical Warrior

Yes, we just wrapped up another visit from the ethical warrior himself, Jack Hoban, who never ceases to amaze us with his energy, message, energy, enthusiasm, energy, and energy. 

BLACK BELT magazine's June 2011 issue - 50th anniversary -
is out along with my interview with Jack Hoban. In it, Jack speaks
about his history and the importance of clarifying the 'warrior ethic.' 

Jack came to town to clarify warrior ethics at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) conference in Wheeling, IL. More than 700 trainers from around the country, and perhaps the world, were on hand to share ideas and learn from each other. It is the premier event of its kind and happens once a year.

He was invited to give his "Ethical Warrior" presentation - his thoughts on protector ethics derived from his work with the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, a moral-physical approach to activating protector values. It is based on a theory of human nature, so powerful, its realization has promoted respect among unlike peoples, quelled violence, and stopped unnecessary killing. With the training, the Marines are transforming themselves from the stereotypic ‘killer’ to the Ethical Warrior - the life-protectors of the 21st century.

As it turns out, the Law Enforcement community has been doing its own soul-searching for some time now. We don’t have to ask why, just open a newspaper or check the Web to see a story on our protector professionals exhibiting poor, if not downright criminal behavior, overshadowing the good work done by their majority. Jack’s message resonates with trainers and officers, who understand the need for a recalibration. But calibrated to what? People believe there’s a crisis of morality in America today. But it’s not true, says Jack – there’s a crisis of ethics. So, exactly what is an ethic?

Jack begins his EW presentation by asking the very same questions the Marines struggled with as they embarked on creating their program. At the time, Jack knew training young Marines to physically protect self and others was the very best way to instill warrior values, but first they had to clarify those values. And so, they began by examining the Marine Corps' core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. And that’s when the trouble started …

What trouble, you may be thinking. What could possibly be wrong with values like honor, courage, and commitment? Are they not great values? Perfectly suited for the warrior? But, wait a minute ... don't terrorists talk about honor? Ever heard of an 'honor killing?' "Honor among thieves?" Is that the same honor we're talking about? What about courage? Don't terrorists believe it's courageous to sacrifice themselves by blowing up and killing 'infidels?' And they certainly are committed. In fact, they talk about their commitment to ‘jihad,’ their religion, their values ...

So, let me get this straight … the Marine Corps – American servicemen and women - and terrorists share the very same core values? They’re morally equivalent? And if they are not, how are they different? What separates United States Marines from Al Qeada?

These were the difficult identity issues the Corps was dealing with. Of course, they felt they were different - if an insurgent shoots a Marine down and closes with him, that insurgent is likely to empty the rest of his bullets into him. No one disputes that. But when the reverse happens and a Marine shoots an insurgent down and closes with him, if that insurgent is no longer a threat, that Marine will render first aid. And if that Marine chose to kill that unarmed insurgent, he could face arrest and be charged with murder (we could also say the same thing using Police Officer and Criminal). Does anyone believe the Taliban is putting their people on trial for murdering Americans?

There was no moral equivalency about it - they were different, but they needed to articulate why in a basic, common sense way, not some pseudo-intellectual freefall through semantics. In fact, they realized they had to clarify a great many things that most people took for granted. For example, what exactly is a value? Or a core value, for that matter? Are all values moral? How do we know for sure a value is moral – simply because we think it is? Or is there some way to qualify our values to make certain they are moral? Are ethics and values the same thing? What exactly is an ethic? How do we know when our actions are ethical? Not easy questions are they? The great thinkers have struggled with these very concepts for eons and now the Marines were trying to answer them.

The reason there was difficulty clarifying the Marines’ core values is because most (if not all) values are relative – important because we think they are; which is why we can see how the Marine Corps and the Taliban could share the very same values. It’s called Moral Relativism and is defined as “truth or falsity of moral judgments is not objective. Justifications for moral judgments are not universal, but are instead relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of an individual or a group of people ... "It's moral to me, because I believe it is."” What was needed was a qualifier – a superseding value that qualified relative values as truly moral.

Enter Robert Humphrey, a mentor of Jack Hoban. Humphreys’ theory, the ‘Dual-Life Value,’ was conceived in war. He first observed it in the heroic actions of the men he commanded as a Marine rifle platoon lieutenant on Iwo Jima. He would come to recognize the balance and imbalance between the value’s ‘self and others’ concept, which holds we consciously or subconsciously value our life (self) by the simply reasoning that we have not taken our lives, which we could freely choose to do. We also value the lives of loved ones (others) and can reason to value by extension ‘all others,’ even those outside our group whose behavior we disagree with.

Reason acts as the fulcrum between ‘self and others,’ with the balance slightly in favor of the ‘others’ side as we may reason to give up our life in order to protect someone we love. Therefore, on its face the “true north” of the DLV is ‘life,’ but actually it is recognition of the ‘life value’ inherent to all human beings and characterized as an ‘inalienable right to life.’

Jack being interviewed by PoliceOne.com

Humphrey himself said it best: "Obviously, it does not mean that people are not different in almost all measurable ways. You may be bigger than I am, smarter than I, better built, stronger, faster in mind and body, better looking, possess a more popular skin color, etc. Nonetheless, in one way, in a way that eclipses all others in controlling importance, I AM YOUR EQUAL: MY LIFE AND THE LIVES OF MY LOVED ONES ARE AS IMPORTANT TO ME AS YOURS ARE TO YOU." ("Values for a New Millennium," Robert L. Humphrey, pg 51, emphasis original).

This recognition and respect of the ‘life value’ is the DLV’s law, its foundational concept for one simple reason: life is not a relative value, it is an objective value - we either are alive or dead, and if we are dead, we no longer have need of a ‘life value.’ Aside from all the world’s relative values, contributed by all the cultures of the Earth, life is the single, universal, objective value every human being shares in common with every other human, no matter our standing, who we are or where we come from. There is nothing nebulous about this - we each have a life, and we value it, consciously or subconsciously, or we would not be alive.

Seminar 04/16/11
Without even knowing it, most of us already adhere to both sides of the life value and live our lives accordingly, balancing out our singular wants, with the needs of others. However, some of us, and they are very few, do not. They still live according to the value, but in an unbalanced manner. For example, when the value is tipped toward the ‘self’ side, someone, like a serial killer, reasons to live only for themselves – selfishly - in a most violent way. And when the value is tipped toward the ‘others’ side, an individual can reason to live only for their group - self-lessly - like a suicide bomber. Thankfully, the people who carry out such violence are few in number compared to the rest of us.

The DLV is a recognition of a superseding value that can clarify relative values as moral and stands in direct opposition to Moral Relativism by asking a single question: does the relative value protect life? Or in this case ‘respect the life value of others?’ Since life is an objective and universal value, shared by everyone alive, the DLV becomes an excellent judge of the morality of every relative value there is, by making ‘respect for the life value’ the qualifier between them.

"Nice guys finish last ... Unless they got their shit together." 

For example, I like vanilla ice cream. But if I attack every vanilla ice cream disliker I meet, because I deem their ‘vanilla disliking value’ to be inferior to my ‘vanilla liking value,’ the DLV would rightfully judge my behavior as immoral. Because I choose to reason my own relative value – liking vanilla ice cream – as superior to their inherent life value, regardless of whatever relative value they may believe, my behavior is immoral. Remember, the singular law of the DLV notes that a particular relative, cultural value, tradition, or belief cannot supersede anyone else’s ’right’ to their inalienable life without being immoral.

Can we understand how the Taliban, the Nazis, and the 9/11 hijackers did not place life or a life value as the “true north” of their moral compass? In fact, they placed their own relative, cultural values as true north, values they reasoned superseded the value of all of their victim’s lives. Moral relativism occurs here in rejection of a universal life value - the Nazis claimed moral license to burn innocent Jews, because they reasoned Jews were their inferior and the 9/11 hijackers claimed moral license, because they reasoned infidels were their inferior.

Moral relativism gets its “truth” from having no absolutes, but unlike relativism, the DLV’s method of observation and explanation of behavior is based on an objective absolute - the sanctity of life itself. It challenges us to clarify our perspective and behavior with respect for that sanctity, making us aware of the natural rights and duties that exist toward each other. When we understand these duties, we can voluntarily choose to place ourselves at greater risk – spiritually, emotionally, and in some cases, even physically - to protect the health, welfare, and lives of those around us.

We can approach higher ethical standards in dealing with the least of us, including violent offenders, by intuiting respect for the value of life, even when someone’s behavior is not equal. For our protector professionals, law enforcement and military, this reasoning may also serve to better protect them from the psychological damage that occurs in having to kill a fellow human being, and there is great hope it may even lower rates of PTSD and suicide by stating, in effect, an oxymoron – you were forced to take life, because it was the only way to protect life.

Someone pipes up - what if they're ‘Army strong?’
Jack smiles, "Send in the Marines."

By the DLV’s reasoning, we could ask the morality of all kinds of values. For instance, is truth a moral value? Most might say, the truth is the truth, it is neither moral or immoral. Really? Got kids? Gonna tell the truth and let a pedophile know where your kids are? Truth here is not a moral value, is it? In fact, it would be immoral to tell the truth, because in this case the truth does not protect life, does not respect the life value.

Is freedom a moral value? It can be, when it is operating in a life-protecting manner. But I can assure you, when it becomes unbalanced and too much freedom actually endangers life, like here on the West and South sides of Chicago, where children are dying by the carload because of the ‘freedom’ of gangs to operate illegally and violently, it is not moral. In fact, what we have seen is a rejection of freedom by victims for the security of a ‘code of silence’ – a protective barricade from retribution, by those who fear the gangsters more than they trust the authorities.

Is divine faith a moral value? We may believe so, but so do radicalized Islamic terrorists. Their divine faith is used to justify the deaths of innocents all throughout the world. Which means divine faith is a relative value and must be qualified as moral or not. How do we qualify it as moral? When faith is life-protecting, life-respecting, it is moral, but when it endangers and takes life – like Islamic terrorists use their faith - it is immoral.

Even the church’s four cardinal virtues are relative values: Prudence, Justice, Restraint or Temperance, Courage or Fortitude. Unless qualified by the ‘respect for the right of inalienable life,’ they cannot be truly moral. As we saw, even the core values of the Marine Corps - ‘honor, courage, and commitment’ – can be corrupted to make logic of evil – Al Qaeda can say their agents are honorable, courageous, and committed as well. But when we weigh Al Qeada’s actions on the DLV scale, we find them immoral precisely because they believe their group’s beliefs, traditions, and culture to be of greater value than their victims intrinsic ‘life value.’

And what of those who choose not to believe in God or are agnostic in their beliefs? How does divine faith work for them? The brilliance of Humphrey’s theory is if you believe in God or do not believe in God, the reasoning is sound. Should divine faith simply preclude our ability to reason and deconstruct our own nature? On the contrary, even St. Thomas Aquinas applied Natural Law theory to reason why “Good is to be sought, evil avoided.” He didn’t just take God’s Word for it, he used God’s gift of reason to explain why.

The DLV does not address divine faith for one simple reason – it is not equipped to, so it neither supports faith nor dismisses it outright. But with studies showing humans hardwired to be moral creatures, even born that way – the work of sociologist Stephen Pinker, who argues against the notion of the ‘blank slate,’ or the surprising experiments at Yale University discovering a rudimentary morality in infants – it seems the DLV leaves the door open for discussion, discovery, and debate on where this hardwiring comes from.

Personally, I believe it comes from God, but this is not a prerequisite for acceptance of the DLV. In fact, I would argue God is the inspiration of this design for one simple reason – why we value our lives defies explanation. Are they important simply because we think they are? Or is there a superseding value to them that at this point in our evolution we are not equipped to answer? The DLV is a rejection of moral and ethical relativism, standing in direct opposition to that amorality because it reasons our proclivity to value our life, the lives of those we love, and by extension ‘all others,’ to be inherently moral. But it gives no answer as to why. On this, the DLV is silent and rightfully so.

To wrap up, I’m quoting Jack Hoban and his “Bully” story, that I believe answers the very questions the Marines set out to answer early on.

"The Bully"

You are a kid in the schoolyard. You see a bully. He thinks he is the “top dog.” That is fine. That perception is a relative value. But when his relative value supersedes the life value of another kid – in other words, when the bully picks on and/or punches the other kid – this is wrong.

Here is the rule: relative values, no matter how “great,” cannot supersede the life value.

You see the bully picking on the other kid. You feel – in your gut – that this is wrong. Congratulations, you are moral. (By the way, most people are moral – they know the difference between right and wrong).

Now…you see the bully picking on the other kid. You overcome the “freeze,” you overcome the embarrassment, and you go tell a teacher. Congratulations! You are ethical. (Ethics are moral values in action).

Now…you see the bully picking on the other kid. You overcome the “freeze,” you overcome the fear, and you go to the aid of the kid being bullied. You put yourself at risk. Congratulations! You have the makings of an Ethical Warrior.

And as we know, it doesn’t end in the schoolyard does it? There are bullies everywhere, in our communities and all over the world, in fact, occupying high offices and wielding power – superseding the life values of others with their own relative values. If we’re going to counter bullies, whether directed at us, others, or ‘all others,’ we first have to know the difference. Once we do, we can choose to stand up for ourselves or the bullied. Why? Because I got news for us – we have the training, we have the know-how, and whether we like it or not, it may just be, in that moment, our responsibility. Some people can practice the whole of their lives and never understand this.

So, don’t just practice, train. When not standing up for themselves or others, warriors, especially ethical warriors, train. Because if we don’t, if we can’t walk our talk, if we can’t make it work, can’t do it, nobody is going to take us seriously, nobody is going to listen to us and give us a chance to do the right thing. And we should ask ourselves, what’s worse than doing the wrong thing at the wrong time? Simple. Not doing the right thing, at the right time.

Train. Live a better life. Repeat.

1 comment:

David C. Furukawa said...

Hi James,
Well done,Buyu.All the warriors across the globe should read this one.Take care and enjoy life!