By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 9, 2011
Today we launch a new series on the site. It’s called The Warrior Ethos. Here’s a short intro, in case you missed it. The series is intended for our young men and women in uniform, but I hope that other warriors in other walks of life will give it a chance too. Posts will appear every Monday. After this week, Writing Wednesdays will resume.
Let’s plunge right in. Here’s the introduction to The Warrior Ethos and the first two chapters. (The photo above is from Khalidiyah, Iraq, 2008—the men of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines. Thanks to Lance Corporal Albert F. Hunt.)
THE WARRIOR ETHOS
Part One: Academies of War
“The Spartans do not ask how many are the enemy, but where are they.”
Plutarch, Sayings of the Spartans
Writing About War
I am a writer. I write about war—external wars and internal wars, wars ancient and modern, real wars out of history and imagined wars that exist only in speculation. Why? I don’t even know myself. (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 14, 2011
[Last week we introduced this new series, The Warrior Ethos, posting the introduction and Chapters One and Two. Today’s post is Chapters Three, Four, Five and Six. The Warrior Ethos will continue in this space every Monday. To see prior posts, click on the “Series” bar above. Let’s resume!]
CHAPTER 3 EAST OF EDEN
Where did the Warrior Ethos come from? Why would anyone choose this hard, dangerous life? What could be the philosophy behind such a choice?
An answer may come from the Garden of Eden (which is an archetypal myth common to many cultures other than our own Judeo-Christian).
God sets up Adam and Eve in paradise, where all their needs are met without effort. But He warns them, “Don’t go near that tree in the center of the garden.” Of course, they do. The mother and father of the human race choose to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
In other words, they choose to become human. They acquire a quality of consciousness that, before then, had been the possession of God alone.
God kicks them out—into the land of Nod, east of Eden. And here is the curse He lays upon Adam and Eve (and by extension upon the human race forever):
Henceforth shalt thou eat thy bread in the sweat of thy face.
In other words, from now on you humans have to work for a living.
By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 21, 2011
Chapter 7 Tribes, Gangs and Terrorists
Every honorable convention has its shadow version, a pseudo or evil-twin manifestation in which noble principles are practiced—but in a “dark side” system that turns means and ends on their heads.
"Men of Honor." Do criminal organizations practice the Warrior Ethos?
The Mafia and criminal gangs live by rigorous and sophisticated codes of loyalty, discipline and honor. So do terrorist organizations. Does that make them warriors? Do these groups practice the Warrior Ethos? When is “honor” not honor?
To answer this, we must consider the nature of tribes. What are the social, cultural and political characteristics of tribes?
First, tribes are hostile to all outsiders. This has been true, anthropologists tell us, of virtually all tribes in all parts of the globe and in all eras of history. Tribes are perpetually at war with all other tribes.
Tribes practice the primacy of honor. Tribes are governed not by the rule of law but by a code of honor (nang, in Pashto). Tribal codes mandate the obligation of revenge (badal). Any insult to honor must be avenged.
Tribes prize loyalty and cohesion. Tribes revere elders and the gods. Tribes resist change. Tribes suppress women. Tribes value the capacity to endure hardship.
Tribes are patient. Time means nothing in the tribal scheme. Tribes will wait out an invading enemy till he tires and goes home.
“You’ve got the watches,” say the Taliban, “but we’ve got the time.” (more…)