I finished Robert Ringer's "Winning Through Intimidation" and started reading Yukio Mishima's "The Samurai Ethic of Modern Japan." It's an introduction to and analysis of Hagakure. Hagakure's a 17th Century work on bushido and Japanese samurai ethics and living - I've got some excerpts of it here - "Excerpts from Hagakure, Chapter 1."
Reading Mishima, I realize something about the difference between Japanese and American superheroes and fictional characters.
At the most desperate moments, American fictional heroes tend to win by discarding their training and going with instinct and feelings. You see the hero who was beaten down and whose plans failed, who now "lets go" and thus wins.
At the most desperate moments, Japanese fictional characters win by unleashing and realizing the effects of their training.
A hallmark of Japanese fiction is the hero going through a long training period, but then not quite mastering his skill. Then, at his most desperate moment, the training kicks in to the full extent, and he wins.
American fiction goes a little differently. The hero might or might not train, but regardless, he is eventually almost defeated. At that point he frequently abandons his training or normal way of doing things, and thus wins.
I find the Japanese way to be much more reflective of reality, healthier, and better. The idea that under duress you should "go with your heart" is false and nonsense. When you're doing something with life or death stakes - emergency first responders, soldiers, police, medics, surgeons - you need to give yourself over to your training when the emotions are running hot.
The American "let yourself go" message does not work in reality. It encourages people to turn off their mind and disregard common sense in the most intense moments when you should not be running on emotion - love, hatred, danger, intense gain, intense loss. That is when you need to trust your training and ethics, because you aren't thinking clearly at all. But American fiction has heroes disregarding all of their training and past ethics at that point, and then coming out on top. The Japanese way is different - the heroes finally realize the extent of their training and give themselves over fully to it.
I love classical American ethics - invention, hard work, entrepreneurship, the frontier mentality, being good neighbors, individuality, self-reliance, and speaking softly and carrying a large stick. But this "let go everything you learned and trust your feelings in the moment" seems disastrous to me. I'm with the Japanese way on this one.
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