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Consecrating the Warrior

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One of the most vexing questions for those who want America to evolve to the next level is how to handle the warrior qualities that we've developed in our country. We are a country steeped in violence, from our high murder rates to our lust for bloodsports to our excitement at crushing an "enemy" in battle. Like the Romans who encouraged and cultivated martial culture through coliseum "sport" and battlefield glory, Americans have been trained to love violence in film, games, and sport, which has fed our growth into becoming Earth's dominant military power.

Many peace activists and pacifists believe that we will simply outgrow our martial tendencies and that we will no longer harbor aggression once we evolve to the next level. Peace, in that view, becomes a transcendence of the more primitive qualities that now often dictate human behavior. We just evolve into an idyllic and sanitized human nature in which we all just get along peacefully.

I believe that our evolutionary path forward requires something different. Once a capacity is built, it is human nature not to want to lose it. Right-wing fears of giving more power to the United Nations reflect this desire to retain the power, strength, and dominance we've achieved rather than cede it to a larger political structure. America's resistance to the Kyoto Accords also relates to fear of loss of power. Even if rational analysis reveals that larger global structures hold greater promise to solve problems such as war and global warming, emotionally it is quite hard for Americans to relinquish the power that we've amassed. "We're number one" has become a national attachment.

The left tends to dislike the mentality that fuels martial dominance. The right tends to be identified with it. Neither side is really providing a true path forward for how the virtues that are foundational to martial dominance can be harnessed in the service of the evolution of all humanity. I say virtues because the disciplines required to become martially strong are not easy to master. To become physically, emotionally, and mentally outstanding is no easy task. America is a young nation and to rise to military dominance so quickly has required remarkable excellence, from the economic engine that provides the money to the science that provides a technological edge. Almost every country in the world has vied for military dominance at some point and the fact that we've achieved it is a mark of excellence.

That said, now that we've become "number one," what do we do with that warrior power? Empires can and do rot. They become stagnant and self-indulgent, like a professional athlete who retires and becomes a coach potato. Is that America's fate? Or will we find better uses for our accumulated prowess?

I see two main things that need to happen for America's warrior qualities to be consecrated in the service of the next level of evolution. The left needs to embrace the virtues and disciplines that undergird warrior strength. They need to see the competitive fire of sports, the driven intensity of business, and even a strong and effective military as engines for the good. The full embrace of warrior disciplines will allow more left-wing and higher consciousness folks to demonstrate the physical, emotional, and mental strength that those on the right require of their leaders, and thus be embraced as political leaders. I see it as a good sign when left-wingers can comfortably embrace weight-lifting, boxing, or hard-core capitalism.

The right, on its side, needs to outgrow narrowly-defined self-interest. When the warrior is harnessed only in the service of narrow interests, it becomes increasingly narcissistic and even demonic, to use a loaded religious word. That's part of why a fair number of right-wing folks start off by developing strong, self-reliant, and noble virtues but then evolve into, for lack of a better word, jerks. Their warrior virtues become increasingly self-focused and their sense of care and compassion for others diminishes. They become good at amassing power, money and strength and increasingly selfish about what they do with it.

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to dissociate from the warrior side, or diminish its value. So they may become less adept at being strong, productive, and self-reliant. They resent the amassment of power and money by conservatives and want it to flow more "equitably" rather than simply compete for the resources in the capitalist game. Their warrior side tends to come out in their right-wing critiques, which often are strong on intellectual logic and weak on personal accountability. To use the words of right-wing pundits such as Ann Coulter, they become "whiny wimps."

The way I see it, neither is in balanced, right relationship with the warrior side of their being. One identifies with it for mostly selfish gain while the other splits from it in a way that abdicates power. The path forward for America, I believe, requires a different relationship with our well-honed warrior qualities, one that consecrates them in the service of something higher.

A truly sacred warrior consecrates his or her "sword" for the liberation or betterment of all beings. Not just Christians or Americans or Muslims or Crips or Jews. Everyone. Even our animal brethren. Gandhi was a kind of spiritual warrior, expressing his warrior qualities in the form of intense personal disciplines and social action. He and his satyagrahas acted for the liberation of India AND the transformation of the British empire. America's founding revolutionaries were not just trying to get out of paying taxes, they were fighting for the right to create a new kind of political structure that would advance human freedom for the entire world. In World War II, Americans stepped up militarily to stop Hitler's march, a great and noble service for the whole world.

Contrast those acts with the current-day occupation of Iraq, in which recent polls show some 91% of Iraqis opposed to the occupation of U.S. troops. We can no longer sincerely claim that we are in service of the Iraqi people. We have to admit that what was originally presented as an effort to liberate Iraqis from Saddam and advance freedom is really about US greed for oil and a military presence in the Middle East. The occupation is not a case of us using our martial dominance for sacred purposes, although that kind of rhetoric was required to win popular support in the beginning for the war.

Because we are the most powerful nation on Earth militarily, it is essential for us to evolve that martial dominance into something that truly serves the planet. Human nature being what it is, it is unlikely that we will simply relinquish the dominance we've achieved. However, the dominance can be consecrated sincerely for the whole. Such a political consecration, though, can only happen when a critical mass of American citizens begins to evolve a different relationship with their own warrior side, taking the middle path forward of embracing warrior qualities and virtues while using them for the good of all beings.

This is ultimately a path of love, which integrates all aspects of our full nature and offers them up in a spirit of generosity. Such a path reduces violence rather than reveling in it. When America's martial dominance and warrior virtues can be equally offered up in service to Israelis AND Lebanese, Americans AND Iranians, then we will begin to create a world that is truly at peace.

Sacred America Series #26
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Stephen Dinan is the author of Radical Spirit and the founder of the Radical Spirit community, as well as the Director of Membership and Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human (more...)

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