Martial Arts as War (MAW) and Martial Arts as Sport (MAS)—these are the two paradigms that, by and large, define the contemporary universe of the martial arts. Or so I have argued in previous essays. Now, it’s true, of course, that—as my own Master-Instructor observed to me in one of our countless conversations over this […]
The United States of America is “a nation of laws,” as we say. That being so, it follows that no one poses a greater threat to us than the criminals who live among us, for by definition, criminals are resolved to undermine the law. And since, unlike the slave who lives by directives, commands, and orders, the free man is abides only by laws, a sustained assault against the law is an attack against the freedom of every person who enjoys it.
Considering this, it is indeed puzzling that such pundits on the establishment right as, say, Sean Hannity and Dennis Prager, “conservative” talk show hosts who never tire of reminding us of the need to combat the evil of “radical Islam,” should remain virtually silent when it comes to this far greater evil. Maybe, however, this phenomenon isn’t as enigmatic as it appears, for speaking out against the evil of Islamic terrorism in contemporary America doesn’t require nearly as much courage as speaking out against the evil of crime.
For one thing, even though it is undeniably true that criminals come in all colors, the stone cold fact of the matter is that in America, overwhelmingly it is blacks and Hispanics who are the purveyors of crime. To put it bluntly, it is impossible to discuss the issue of crime without speaking to its racial subtext. Although “the War on Terror” has a racial subtext as well, as of this juncture, American pundits pay hardly a price at all for comments that are perceived as derogatory of Muslims; such, needless to say, is most certainly not the case when it comes to Hispanics, to say nothing of blacks.
But it isn’t just the fear of being charged with “racism” that I suspect accounts for the right wing pundit’s silence with respect to crime, for when we consider the variety of criminal organizations to which whites of various sorts have belonged, it becomes painfully clear that there is no shortage of the chronically evil among the Caucasoid race. Perhaps the right wing enemy of evil simply fears for his physical well being.
Some may recall the shame that the New York City newspaper publications invited upon themselves some years ago upon the death of the infamous “dapper don,” John Gotti. Gotti was a career criminal, a convicted murderer and the head of one of the most notorious mafia families in the country. Yet in spite of all of this, and in spite of the fact that he died while serving a life sentence in prison, the papers paid him tribute. While there were some right-leaning commentators who challenged them on this, with remarkably few exceptions (of whom former talk radio host, founder of The Guardian Angels, and one time Gotti victim, Curtis Sliwa, is the most notable), I don’t recollect any who were willing to call out Gotti for the thug that he was. Could it be that they feared Gotti would have put out a “contract” on them?
More recently, an Irish-American mobster from Boston named James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested in California after having been on the run for the last 15 years or so. Bulger, too, was the lowest of low lives, from all accounts, a career criminal responsible for all manner of crime, from murder to extortion and everything in between. Before he went on the lam, Bulger began cooperating with the FBI. It appears now that corrupt agents within the Bureau had been aiding Bulger all along. Surely, then, this is no small story and yet, to my knowledge, none of the usual fighters of evil have touched it.
All of us, whether we are in law enforcement or not, have an obligation to combat evil. The Islamic terrorist who deliberately targets for death innocent men, women, and children is evil, to be sure, but, this evil doesn’t pose as clear and present a danger to us as the evil of the Criminal. With the exception of the darkness that lurks within our own hearts, in our campaign against wickedness it is the Criminal who should receive the lion’s share of our attention.
For those of who aren’t in law enforcement, there is only so much that we can do. But the little that we can do may ultimately prove to be quite considerable.
Besides regularly observing the law, cooperating with law enforcement officers when necessary, and enthusiastically pledging our support for the toughest of penalties for the Criminal, we can also strive to inculcate in ourselves the utter contempt for him that he so richly deserves. This in turn means that we must steadfastly refuse to so much as remotely endorse any and all attempts on the part of Hollywood and the media to romanticize him. If nothing else, while enjoying, say, but another viewing of The Godfather, we must continually remind ourselves that while it is undoubtedly a fine piece of art, it is emphatically not an accurate depiction of mafia life.
Just as importantly, because language contributes in no small measure to shaping the world that we inhabit, the world that we perceive, we must set out to subvert the conventional vocabulary in terms of which the Criminal is characteristically described. Words invoking manliness—“tough,” “bold,” “respect,” “honor,” etc.—have all too frequently been used in connection with the Criminal—even though his unwillingness and/or inability to order his life in accordance with the law without which a true man degenerates into something less than a real man should establish beyond a doubt that they have no place when it comes to him.
For most of the history of what we now call Western civilization, a real man or a true man was recognized as being synonymous with the good man, the man of virtue. A virtue is an excellence. Of two eyes, only one of which has sight, we say that it alone is “the good eye,” for only an eye with sight is capable of doing that for the sake of which eyes exist to begin with: see. An eye with perfect vision, as we say, is a “virtuous” eye, for it excels at fulfilling this purpose. In contrast, an eye devoid of all sight, being a bad eye, is not really an eye at all; it is an eye in name only. Similarly, an evil man is in reality something less than a real man.
In order to be good men, real men (and, of course, good, true women) we must resolve to express this truth every chance we can.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.