As the world becomes more dangerous and uncertain, there are two kinds of human responses that often surface. There are those who are so understandably distraught by quickly unfolding events seemingly beyond their control that they throw up their hands in exasperation, fearing that all is lost. Then there are those who, having recently awakened to the daunting issues surrounding us or having been stewing in their juices for years waiting for others to notice what's going on, now find a fire in their bellies as an energetic determination takes hold. I encourage you to find your way toward the second camp.
It is not that I have unwavering optimism that all will be well; it is that I know that the more of us who accept reality for what it is and then proceed to tackle it accordingly, the more quickly we will achieve our goals. Even the most demoralized among us know this to be true. I have never met anyone who says, "And then the Global Deep State will take control and hold all power over the rest of humanity forever." Nobody worried about the collapse of the West believes that those doing the demolition will be permanently victorious. Government tyranny is nothing new. Evil disguised as part of a false State religion regularly returns. Loss of liberty and the spread of slavery are regrettably routine.
People are depressed today not because encroaching totalitarianism is succeeding behind the camouflage of the West's "politically correct," "we're all in this together," "we must protect democracy," "the planet is dying," "everything is racist," manipulative pablum. They are depressed because they know how much hard work will be required to dredge all this evil hokum from society, liberate the masses, and find victory in the midst of retreat. It is the size of the gargantuan task before us that is intimidating — not some belief in certain defeat. Once you recognize that distinction — once you accept that no matter how heavy the load we must bear nor how long the road we must travel, there is a path to success — then the real challenge becomes executing a vision of our better future and not perpetually mourning the burial of our trampled past. As with many challenges worth pursuing, the most difficult first step is changing one's state of mind to that of a warrior.
Among writer David Mamet's considerable achievements, he deftly addresses the warrior mindset in a number of his works. In Ronin, Spartan, and the television series The Unit, the master wordsmith delves into notions of honor, duty, perseverance, and sacrifice. One of his often overlooked gems contemplating these subjects, though, is Redbelt, a film about a jiu-jitsu instructor who teaches his students over and over that no matter the adversity — in combat or in life — there is always an action that will prevent defeat. Neutralizing any threat requires understanding the given circumstances, choosing the correct response, and executing that response faithfully. Mamet, who is trained in mixed martial arts and reveals an undeniable respect for true warriors, drops philosophical pearls throughout the film that would resonate with any servicemember, law enforcement officer, or veteran, or anyone else who has been or will be in harm's way:
A man distracted is a man defeated.
There's always an escape.
There is no situation that you could not turn to your advantage.
One rule — put the other guy down.
Who imposes the terms of the battle will impose the terms of the peace.
You control yourself, you control [your opponent].
Everything has a force. You embrace it or deflect it. Why oppose it?
The best weapon in the world is a flashlight ... so you can look deep into the other guy's eyes.
With Redbelt, Mamet articulates not just a warrior code, but also a philosophy for living: no matter how daunting the circumstances, there is always a path forward. There is always an action that will redefine the nature of the fight. There is always an available choice in how a battle proceeds. There is always a way to secure victory in the face of what seems like certain defeat. Do not let yourself get distracted with nonsense. Never abandon your common sense. Accept the circumstances around you as they are and not as you would wish them to be. Everywhere you go, spread light because your enemies find power in darkness. These are all sage rules both for living a good life and for finding secure footing when things don't go according to plan.
All of this brings to mind Confucius, who observed more than twenty-five hundred years ago, "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and Third by experience, which is the bitterest." Reflection, of course, is excruciatingly difficult. It takes time and patience and a willingness to abandon what we once thought certain when new knowledge upends deeply held truths. It is, by nature, a solitary struggle and requires a person to question everything — especially those things we have merely been told by others. The wiser the person, the more likely that person will admit to knowing very little.
Experience puts the flesh on wisdom's bones but does so with much pain along the way. Before we can understand wily deception, we must first be wholly deceived. Before we can grasp true love, we must endure heartbreak. Before we can honestly seek God's mercy, we must first grapple with despair. Experience helps us see through falsehoods at great personal cost but ultimately prepares us for reflecting upon once-hidden, sometimes unfathomable truths.
Alongside that hard fought space between experience and reflection lies imitation, and imitation as a means of gaining wisdom can be most cruel. It depends on possessing enough experience to know whom to imitate and engaging in enough reflection to know when to reject the examples of those we imitate when they yet behave unwisely. In this regard, when it is done correctly, it is not easy at all. Instead, it tends to put us in the position of imitating the loudest, most popular, or most credentialed members of society, when none of those attributes connotes wisdom.
The Intelligence Community says, "Trust us," but then those same spies also readily admit that they lie for a living. Politicians and bureaucrats claim to be "public servants" but then demand that the public obey every government mandate without protest. Corporate news media claim to pursue objective truth but then unquestionably parrot the talking points of their government allies and corporate bosses. Medical doctors claim to "follow the science" but then walk like lemmings off COVID-19's experimental "vaccine" cliff simply because government health bureaucrats demand they do so. Academics perceive their own academy as filled with society's most intellectually knowledgeable when in fact they have become so single-minded in their support of an insular, "politically correct" worldview and so quick to reject rigorous scrutiny or Socratic debate that they may actually be society's most indoctrinated group! Wherever you look, those most likely to say, "Trust us, believe us, imitate us," are precisely the ones spouting falsehoods as truths.
It should be no surprise, then, that the world feels upside-down today. Those we might normally imitate in better times are known liars; our experiences leave us feeling deceived and abused; our reflection informs us that we must upend the status quo to find salvation. Nobody ever said wisdom comes cheaply. As Mamet identifies in the warrior's ethos, first we understand our circumstances honestly, then find the correct response, and finally, execute that response faithfully.
The best weapon is a flashlight. Every situation can be turned to an advantage. There is always an escape. It's the warrior's path to victory.