Engaging an Opposing Ideology via Martial Arts Philosophy
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 5 Dec 2016
Reframing the Challenge of Trump and Jihadism as Worthy Opponents
5 Dec 2016 – Much is now made of the increasing challenge of right-wing populism, especially as it is articulated by unconventional leaders held to have dubious associations with dangerous political strategies. This is currently most evident within the USA following the presidential election of Donald Trump. It is evident in other ways with respect to the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism and the threat it constitutes to a way of life never previously called into question to the current degree.
The surprising nature of the times is evident from the case of Donald Trump:
Very few people thought he would actually run, then he did. They thought he wouldn’t climb in the polls, then he did. They said he wouldn’t win any primaries, then he did. They said he wouldn’t win the Republican nomination, then he did. Finally, they said there was no way he could compete for, let alone win, a general election. Now he’s president-elect Trump. (US Election 2016 Results: five reasons Donald Trump won, BBC News, 9 November 2016)
As widely remarked, his advance was in the face of unprecedented criticism by an estimated 90% of the US media and their experienced commentators. His election is acknowledged to be a profound shock to those who had underestimated his appeal, as separately summarized (Radical Disaffection Engendered by Elitist Groupthink? 2016). A similar pattern is evident with respect to populist movements in various European countries, most notably France. Curiously the pattern bears strange similarities to the foreign policies of western countries in their engagement with the surprisingly enduring strength of fundamentalist Islam, exemplified by ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Following the election of Trump, the negative campaigning has continued through every possible criticism of his initiatives prior to formally achieving office. As during the campaign this is accompanied by careful choice of unflattering images of Trump, in contrast to those of icons appreciated by the elites. This is especially noteworthy in the left-leaning, alternative media where the more measured style of the past has been replaced by hysterical commentary increasingly shrill in nature. There is little call for historical or strategic perspective. This may even be deprecated as failing to address the dangers for which expressions of abhorrence, urgency and panic are seemingly held to be the most appropriate response.
The concern here is with the possibility that more measured response might be elicited through the philosophical traditions basic to the practice of the eastern martial arts. In that context reference to “philosophy” implies development of attitudes capable of informing strategies appropriate to engagement with a deadly enemy. The argument was previously developed by reference to its aesthetic dimensions (Ensuring Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns: reframing the scope of the “martial arts” in response to strategic threats, 2006).
In contrast with the prevailing sense of panic and abhorrence, such attitudes imply an unusual form of respect for the enemy which reframes fundamentally the nature of the engagement. In strategic terms both Trumpism and Jihadism could well require consideration otherwise — in a manner contrasting with the inadequacies of conventional thinking of the past.
To that end a focus is given to recognizing contrasting “styles of play” in engaging opponents, as variously illustrated by sport, negotiation, and the martial arts. This could even justify anticipation of the hypothetical challenge of contact with extraterrestrials (Writing Guidelines for Future Occupation of Earth by Extraterrestrials, 2010; SETI: a “universal” criterion for species maturity? 2008). Understood otherwise, however, it could be said that — with Trumpism and Jihadism — the “aliens” have already arrived and necessarily call for a new mode of thinking.
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