Sunday, 4 March 2018
The New Age Subversion of Warriorhood
Warriors and warrior-hood go back a long way, crossing huge cultural, geographic, and temporal divides. It's arguably a universal feature of complex civilisation, by which I mean that any large and sophisticated society has, somewhere in its past, some sort of comitatus structure in its DNA.
Whether it's the Romans, the Anglo Saxons, Qin, Han, Zhou, Japanese, or Vikings, each one of these civilisations and cultural complexes has, as a major and arguably essential feature of its structural integrity, a wholly committed warrior elite (comitatus). It's not controversial to say that the comitatus structure and culture, whether it be Samurai or Legionaries, was a key part of the aggressive militarisation which enabled early expansion of all the world's current major civilisations, and which has shaped the world we live in today.
And this is the thing which I think has largely been forgotten. The origin and purpose of warriors exists in the service of the state. This might sound an uncomfortable proposition, but is actually reasonably obvious. The absolute loyalty of the warrior in ancient times is always focussed on a single figure: the thane, daimyo, king, or emperor. And in ancient times these people, whoever they were, weren't actually people, but rather living embodiments of part or all of the state. So while it may feel, when we're looking back through time, that what we're seeing is fierce personal and human bonds of loyalty, this isn't a true or complete picture. Warrior-hood, at its deepest, most functional level, exists as the force necessary to maintain and legitimise power, encoded into living, breathing humans.
Concepts as old as this do not, of course, need to be preserved pristine and in their boxes like some man-child's collection of Marvel figurines, but in order to retain any meaning or significance, what cannot be compromised is their core fundamentals. In the case of the concept of warrior-hood, that core centres around selfless service. Which would be why the man bun wearing single origin crystal healing elephant dung version of the warrior ethic makes me so viscerally angry. To be a warrior is emphatically not about making oneself 'better'. It is not about 'fixing' or 'improving' the self as a goal in and of itself. To be a warrior is to negate the self. To live as one already dead. Vanity, self-improvement for its own sake, and wandering around cocking on about being a warrior are no part of actually being a genuine one.
I know many people who say they're living a warrior lifestyle, and some of them actually are. But the vast majority are not - they're simply co-opting a garbled idea of warrior-hood as an excuse to be selfish, or in an attempt to be interesting, but mostly as a pretext for living a life that fails in any way to be of service to anyone other than themselves. We often speak of 'walking the path'. I would suggest that a great many people who claim to be are not - they're stuck in that zone just within sight of the first important step, rendered static by their insistence on striking a warrior pose.