July 30, 2012

An Extraordinary Loss

This is heartwrenching. A long-time Bujinkan-er and a fellow I have known for many years has lost everything. Pat Lee's daughters, Vivian and Lillian, ages six and eight, are gone. The links below spell out the details. His former wife was also lost in this horror. And now he needs our help. 

Please donate whatever you can to assist him with funeral costs - $20 would be great. 


The scope of this tragedy is astounding. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Thank you,




July 18, 2012

The Chicago Way of the Warrior

The Rocks: Six innocent swimmers have become trapped on two rocks by the incoming tide. Five of the swimmers are on one rock, while the last swimmer is on the second rock. Each swimmer will drown unless they are rescued. You are the sole life-guard on duty. You have time to get to one rock in your patrol-boat and save everyone on it. Because of the distance between the rocks, and the speed of the tide, you cannot get to both rocks in time.

Question: What should one do?
Better question: What ought the warrior do?

An old friend contacted me recently. He used to live here in Chicago, but no longer. Surprised by the spiking levels of violence and death, he asked my take on it. A few years ago I wrote a piece called, "That which each one of us could provide for himself" detailing the violence and ideas that might help curb it, maybe even stop it. Since then, nothing has changed, in fact, it's gotten worse, now it's a gang war that even cops are comparing to 'tribal warfare,' like in Afghanistan.

The violence is primarily centered in and around black communities, where innocents and perpetrators do most of the dying. Everyone is a target now: Adults and way too many teens and children. Kids coming out of late-night parties are shot down in drive bys; arguments and disagreements end in beat downs, drawn weapons, and shots fired. The mother of a recent victim allowed her teen son to attend a party he begged her to go to. It was his last. When she arrived to pick him up, she found him covered in blood on the sidewalk. He died in her arms at 13.

And the violence is spreading. Just recently a fellow walking his dog in a "good" neighborhood had his throat slashed - he wasn't even mugged, his attacker just watched him bleed. A couple weeks ago, a block from Wrigley Field, home of Cubs baseball, four guys jumped from a white stretch limo and beat several people on the sidewalk, leaping back into the limo to speed away. Mob beatings, muggings, knifings - it isn't just about money anymore, it's about "respect," but combatants seem to be losing sight of exactly why they're fighting and dying. This from the UK Telegraph's report on Chicago:
"This is a block-to-block war here, a different dynasty on every street," said a dreadlocked young man heavily inked in gang tattoos who calls himself "Killer".

"All the black brothers just want to get rich, but we got no jobs and no hope. We want the violence to stop but you ain't safe if you ain't got your pistol with you. Too many friends, too many men are being killed. We don't even cry at funerals no more. Nobody expects to live past 21 here."
Chicago murders are outpacing actual warzones: Since 2001, 5,000 people have been murdered, compared to the 1,966 (Washington Post) troops America has lost in Afghanistan. The Chicago Tribune reports that just this year 228 residents have been murdered, compared to the loss of 144 troops in Afghanistan over the same period. For Chicago, that's up 38% from the first half of last year.

A career police officer told me this is the lowest he has ever seen morale in the department in nearly 40 years. Insights I received from another officer felt leadership was to blame: Low manpower, botched budgets, and failures in leadership to back officers up. He points out Police Academy classes used to have 200-300 recruits every six months, now they're lucky if they get 50-100. He calls the investments in the new Chevy Tahoes a waste. As he writes, "They are not even 4×4. What's the point? To get stuck in the snow?" He also says the street light cameras simply relocate criminals. But he's really hot about leadership who he feels are busier keeping tabs on officers with microphones in squads and GPS than actually fighting crime.

Now for my take. Let's approach this from the perspective of physical, mental, and spiritual or Shingitai-Ichi.

A quick note: Shingitai-Ichi is often translated as "unification" or "oneness" of shingitai - heart, technique, and body. But "Ichi" here does not mean the number one. The actual word is 一致, "Ichi" meaning "agreement." In this sense the heart, technique, and body converge to synergistically support each other and balance out as they are applied by the manner in which they need to "agree."

A healthy community also has to internally "agree." It makes certain its physical, mental, and spiritual aspects are healthy on their own, so in combination they strengthen each other, gaining the potential to become very resilient. A physically safe community allows people to come to the (mental) conclusion they can live there, plant roots, start a family, and invest in a (spiritually) satisfying future they are compelled to protect, which in turn upholds the physical. So, the truth here is simple: Physical safety must be fulfilled or the mental and spiritual aspects never get the chance to take hold.

So, what ought the warrior do? Here's a dose of philosophy taken from Elizabeth Ashford and Tim Mulgan's entry, "Contractualism," in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The Rocks: Six innocent swimmers have become trapped on two rocks by the incoming tide. Five of the swimmers are on one rock, while the last swimmer is on the second rock. Each swimmer will drown unless they are rescued. You are the sole life-guard on duty. You have time to get to one rock in your patrol-boat and save everyone on it. Because of the distance between the rocks, and the speed of the tide, you cannot get to both rocks in time. What should you do?

Suppose you decide to save the lone swimmer on the second rock. Intuitively, this seems wrong. Surely you should have saved five people instead of one. The challenge for contractualism is to explain why what you did is wrong. Utilitarians have a straightforward answer, based on aggregation. You should save the five people instead of the one simply because five deaths is a worse result than one death. This case is tricky for contractualism because it rejects aggregation. The five people will each want to reject the principle that allows you to save the one, by appealing to the fact that such a principle leaves them to die. But the lone person on the second rock will want to reject any principle that allows you to save the five. And the reason for objecting to the principle is exactly the same in each case - this principle leaves that person to die. The five people cannot appeal to the fact that there are more of them - because this is not an individual reason. (Suppose you are one of the five. The fact that four other people will die is not something you can object to, as it is not something that happens to you.) It therefore looks as if we have reached a stalemate - and perhaps the best solution (the principle that no-one can reasonably reject) is to toss a coin. That way, each of the six people gets a fifty-fifty chance of survival. No-one can reasonably reject this principle on the grounds that it only gives them a fifty-fifty chance of survival, because any alternative gives someone even less chance. Tossing a coin is the only
principle that guarantees everyone at least a fifty-fifty chance. So it is the only principle that no-one can reasonably reject.
Perfectly logical - toss a coin. Awesome. Isn't that how you would want someone to decide if your life or your loved ones lives are worth saving?

One aspect overlooked here is this: Each of these people not only have an equal claim to be rescued, they also share an equal responsibility to protect themselves from dying, and, in fact, according to the original problem, are engaged in that very action by clinging to the rock to begin with. However, their responsibility does not end there, it inevitably continues until one of three outcomes occur: They are rescued, they give up - let go of the rock and die - or don't give up, but slip off the rock and die anyway.

However, the original problem states you are a life guard, meaning you have training. Are there other solutions here, not yet articulated, based on the fact one is trained? I can think of two:

Drive the boat toward the sixth swimmer. When you are reasonably certain he can reach it, because you are trained as an expert swimmer, dive in toward the five swimmers - risking your life - to attempt their rescue. Since the sixth swimmer is alone he only has himself to rely on, unless he has some overwhelming technical advantage, like a boat. The five swimmers are not alone and can work together to stay afloat, and perhaps even more so with your strong, expert help. The sixth swimmer could even drive the boat over to pick up all of you.

However, I think this is the choice with the best chance:

Drive the boat toward the rock with the five. When you are reasonably certain they can reach it, dive in to attempt a rescue of the sixth swimmer, since your chances of rescuing (and possibly reviving) just one person are better than all five. The five are still responsible to save themselves and have an opportunity to work together to swim for the boat and/or keep each other afloat, saving one another. At that time, they can drive the boat to pick up the sixth swimmer and yourself.

(For those of you who dislike changes to their ethical riddles, I say this: The reason ethical questions are composed in the first place is to allow one to think them out. If "right" and "wrong" are only to be reacted to by one's "gut" in knee-jerk fashion, they deny us any opportunity to explore the process and conclude new options and hence, open new pathways of thought.)

The bottom line here in Chicago is this: Just like the folks trapped on the rocks, everyone has an equal claim to be rescued. But everyone also has an equal responsibility to protect themselves. If the violence and death in the city is ever to be resolved, then everyone - residents under siege, law enforcement, and all of the city's citizens - is going to have to risk at least some of their personal safety while recognizing their inherent responsibility to protect it.

My belief is unless there is overwhelming sustained security - boots on the ground providing for the physical safety of residents and their children - there is never going to be the kind of cooperation between these troubled communities and law enforcement. Never. And one thing is for sure, nothing will change without risk, on behalf of the city and its residents, law enforcement, and the members of these troubled neighborhoods.

Citizens will have to risk their personal safety by agreeing to have less law enforcement on hand and available to them, reducing their usual expectation of safety, so manpower can be redirected to troubled areas. Neighborhood residents will have to risk their personal safety, due to their proximity to the problem, and bear the risk of retribution for cooperating with police. And law enforcement (or National Guard) will have to risk their lives by physically standing between residents and the thugs who mean them harm for as long as it takes.

How long will it take? Until residents trust law enforcement more than they fear the thugs.

No trust means no cooperation, means no safety, means no peace.