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Notes politics

Strategy 15: Control the Dynamic (The 33 Strategies of War)

Forcing Strategies

In 1833, Mr. Thomas Auld, a slave owner of a plantation in Maryland, called back his slave Frederick Douglass, who was 15 at the time, from Baltimore. Douglass had spent several years in the city, serving Auld’s brother. But in life in the city has changed him, he taught himself to read and write, a privilege that no slave was allowed for fear of simulating dangerous ideas.

Douglass tried to teach other slaves in the plantation about what he had learned, but his efforts were squashed. He also developed a defiant attitude, he talked back to Auld and questioned him often, he would even play tricks to get more food (Auld kept his slaves close to starvation).

Eventually, Auld sent Douglass to another slaveowner who was notorious for putting slaves in line. There, Douglass was met with the worst forms of punishment and inhumanity. He was beaten for no reason and tortured on a whim. He became so demoralized that he could no longer read or write. Until one day, a sense of defiance overtook him once more, and he fought back.

The new slaveowner could not kill him because his reputation was ruined, so Douglass managed to survive hitting a white man without dealing with any major repercussions. He went back to the old plantation, but he was not whipped again. He noticed that slaves that were the most easily whipped were whipped the most often. Weakness only encouraged tyrants to keep going.

Douglass learned the game of power he was involved in, if he let his guard down, if he was weak, he would be shown no mercy. He changed the rules of war, he used trickery and physical defiance to make life difficult for his slaveowners, this changed his destiny. He endured short-term pain but achieved longer term peace. He stopped being preyed upon because he changed his state of mind. He had nothing to lose, but he lost his fear of death, and this made him infinitely difficult to tame.

In life, when you give your aggressor the opportunity, they will take advantage. Bullies will only prey on the weak and the naïve. You must constantly look for new ways of fighting, like Douglass who, instead of accepting his fate, taught himself to read and write, he was mentally empowered by books, and this translated into real defiance against his aggressors.

One who excels at warfare compels men and is not compelled by others.

Sun-tzu (fourth century B.C.)

In any fight, you will have to know how to defy your opponent’s will to control you. The best way is to not allow it to happen in the first place. This involves using multiple strategies. With the overly aggressive, it is best to use passive power, to allow them to make mistakes, and to manipulate them with subtle tactics. You must give them ground and give the illusion of control, all the while you are leading them to your desired conclusion. Against the passive opponent, you must strike first and control the tempo, never allow them to take initiative.

“Pressing down the pillow” refers to one’s efforts not to let the head of one’s opponent rise. In battles based on martial strategy, it is taboo to let your opponent take the initiative, thus putting yourself on the defensive. You must try at all costs to lead your opponent by taking complete control of him. During combat, your opponent intends to dominate you as much as you want to dominate him, so it is vital that you pick up on your opponent’s intentions and tactics so as to control him…. According to the principle of martial strategy, you must be able to control your opponent(s) at all times. Study this point well.

THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS, MIYAMOTO MUSASHI, 1584-1645

Read The 33 Strategies of War

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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