Thursday, 12 January 2017

Book Notes: "The Warrior Ethos" by Steven Pressfield

The Warrior EthosThe Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have a firm view that the only way to end war is for people to refuse to go war. It really is that simple. In the present, I often wonder whose nation is being secured through "national security". It tends to relate to a particular categorisation of humans that distinguishes one from the "other". I have firm views about global trade, institutional frameworks, and so on, that transcend the tribal. When reading this work, I could not help but think that the "ethos" discussed was Orientalist at its core. The sense of awe directed towards the Spartan way of life denies that the Spartans brought about their own demise, and indeed, ended the grandeur of Ancient Greece. The idea that dominant cultures are somehow "right" and everything and everyone else suffers while "to the victor go the spoils", denies Sun Tzu's realist understanding of conflict and its aftermath. The final section deals with inner wars, and I found this most useful. But I could not help but think that the ideas of courage put forth here are a significant portions of the Tsar's cake: "we rule you, we fool you, we shoot at you". That is not to say that a warrior ethos did not exist, but I think the simplicity of the warrior ethos today assumes a monocultural entity defending itself from an attacker. Such simple conceptions of morality are so far in the past that the notion of a warrior ethos, beyond the internal wars that individuals must fight each day, is, in effect, a shirking of one's responsibilities as a citizen of humanity. If this view is naive, then what is it to simply do one's duty unquestioningly? Hannah Arendt supplies many of the answers to such a question. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be regarded as "courageous" for holding such individual principles. Until, of course, we are found wanting for not having stood up to tyranny. Pressfield mentions Jung's "collective consciousness" and other ideas that counter the romantic view of the warrior ethos, but I was disappointed that the connection between Ancient Greece and the present whitewashes a good deal of history. Pressfield mentions that such ideas are anachronistic, but this is mentioned in passing, and barely scratches the surface. Reading this has sparked more questions than answers and therein, I think, lies its value.

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