From Liddel Hart's "Why We Don't Learn From History" -
Faith matters so much to a soldier, in the stress of war, that military training inculcates a habit of unquestioning acceptance of the prevailing doctrine. While fighting is a most practical test of theory, it is a small part of soldiering; and there is far more in soldiering that tends to make men the slaves of a theory.
Moreover, the soldier must have faith in his power to defeat the enemy; hence to question, even on material grounds, the possibility of successful attack is a risk to faith. Doubt is unnerving save to philosophic minds, and armies are not composed of philosophers, either at the top or at the bottom. In no activity is optimism so necessary to success, for it deals so largely with the unknown—even unto death. The margin that separates optimism from blind folly is narrow. Thus there is no cause for surprise that soldiers have so often overstepped it and become the victims of their faith.
I think an unheralded reason for the success of Christianity and Islam is the belief that dying for the religion is the greatest possible victory. Thus, the religious warrior had a win/win position - the enemy would be destroyed, raising up his civilization; or his body would be destroyed, and he would enter paradise as a blessed martyr.
Other cultures have been able to achieve this, like the Japanese samurai culture, which too had a spirit of win/win towards combat, and dying in it.
Yukio Mishima wrote that "[the Japanese] image of death [is that there exists beyond life] a spring of pure water, from which tiny streams continuously pouring their pure waters into this world." To die was to re-join the stream of pure water, leaving behind honor and a glorious ending upon your bon-voyage to life.
For those of us without a philosophical or theological tradition that glorifies action for the cause, a careful balance must be struck between rational skepticism with the maximization of willpower and strength. Doubt is unnerving save to philosophic minds -- yet skepticism is what allows us to break free from the past.
I read this book by Yukio Mishima a bit back, it's an analysis of the main themes of "Hagakure," a 1700's book of samurai philosophy.
Lots of thought provoking stuff in there. Not everything I agree with, but here's a few that I found interesting -
Page 22, Love is higher when undeclared:
The art romantic love as practiced in America involves declaring oneself, pressing one's suit, and making the catch. The energy genereated by love is never allowed to build up within but is constantly radiated outward. But paradoxically, the voltage of love is dissipated the instant it is transmitted. Contemporary youth are richly blessed with opportunities for romantic and sexual adventure that former generations never would have dreamed of. But at the same time, what lurks in the hearts of modern youth is the demise of what we know as romantic love.
Page 23, I don't agree this at all but it's a fascinating insight into prewar Japan:
Happy new year!
I am hoping you would share your resources for your reading on Japanese history. Book titles and/or urls would be very helpful.
I got that a week ago, and I kind of sat there staring at the email. Japanese history is some of the most confusing to start to learn, because different elements of Japanese history and culture all play on and influence each other. I could run you through the military history of Japan from The Battle of Okehazama to Sekigahara to the Boshin War, from there into Dai Nippon Tekoku Era, from there into defeat and the Occupation under McArthur, and then we could do a little post-war history.