Tools For Your Mind. Stoic Philosophy And The Profession Of Arms.

A word of note: Much of this post will be drawing heavily from the article written by Michael Evans entitled “Stoic Philosophy and the Profession of Arms” and his “Captains Of The Soul.” It is highly recommend to click the links and read both all the way through. I will be using some quotes to make points, but both are that important. Another important source is blog post from The Defensive Training Group entitled Re-Re-Post: Stoicism: Necessary Development for the NPT Leader and Member.

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Stoicism. You may have heard of it before. What does mean? The most common definitions show Stoicism as “the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.” But this is too simple of a definition. Stoicism is more than that. At times it seems that we in the community talk endlessly about this gun, or that bit of gear as if that is all you need. Other talk about the need for training and skills to help you “survive and thrive” in a SHTF situation. But what about skills for your mind and soul? This is where Stoicism can be a tool for you.

 

First some quick history. In a nutshell stoicism developed around 300 B.C. with the philosopher Zeno and his student Chrysippus in Greece. It grew in popularity and survived even the Roman Empire conquering the region. In fact, stoicism today is heavily influenced by its most famous Roman adherent, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Stoicism at it heart espouses the idea of being free of suffering through peace of mind, but not the peace of mind that most of us think of today. Definitions change over the years. The ancient thought of peace of mind as being objective and being clear minded when judging or thinking about a situation. Being able to clearly think through a decision, with logic and an understanding of natural law and the order of nature was key. Stoicism is thus about empowerment by perception—a cultivation of an invincibility of the will by minimizing personal vulnerability through a mixture of Socratic self-examination and control of the emotions.(Evans, Captains)

To make this a little more understandable in today’s language: Professional victims and purveyors of victimhood need not apply.

Stoicism is not about being a robot, or a Vulcan like Mr. Spock. It is about a conscious effort to understand what you are facing, change what you can change (most often our own thought process), and accept what we cannot change. Much like the well known Serenity Prayer. One of the best known Stoics in American Military History was the late Vice Admiral James Stockdale. As a POW for over seven years in the Hanoi Hilton, he remarked the following: “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.” But, he also added: “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” 

(More of Stockdale’s thoughts can also be read in his 1993 speech Courage Under Fire which was delivered to King’s College in London. I have it printed out in a binder with a printed out copy of The Farmer At War, which is about the plight of the farmers in Rhodesia during the late 1970s. Stoics every single one of them.)

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So why isn’t Stoicism taught more in schools today? Well, look at the state of education in our country today. Classical Western Civilization is not taught. The history of victim classes is. Evans writes (emphasis mine):

The greatest challenge to the Western profession of arms comes not from our external enemies, formidable though some of them are, but from within our own society. The rise of postmodernism and anti-rationalism since the 1960s combined with the celebrity culture of the mass media and the social revolutions in youth pacifism, radical feminism and the rise of psychotherapy have created a self-esteem society based on moral relativism. One of the casualties of the rise of such a society has been what the American cultural analyst Susan Jacoby, in her 2008 book The Age of American Unreason, calls Western middlebrow culture—the very culture which was traditionally responsible for supplying the armed forces with many of its best recruits.

As Jacoby recounts, middlebrow culture represented a culture of aspiration that was located halfway between lowbrow or common culture and the highbrow intellectual culture of the literati and the learned professions. In the English-speaking West, middlebrow culture lasted from the 1880s until the 1970s and embraced the best of the working class and of the lower middle class. It was a culture of effort and self-improvement that aspired to higher education and an appreciation of the arts. Middlebrows included liberal Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic families, all of whom shared a common pride in the primacy of family values, in the importance of community identity and in the imperative of religious faith. Many aspects of middlebrow culture could often be found in the Australian Labor Party, and the rise and fall of its values is well captured by Kim Beazley Snr’s famous remark that when he joined the ALP in the 1930s it was composed of the cream of the working class; when he left it in the 1970s it was made up of the dregs of the middle class.

What gradually destroyed the West’s literate middlebrow culture as a bastion of community knowledge and moral standards were the combined forces of three upheavals: the sexual revolution of the 1960s; the insidious rise of postmodernism and moral relativism inside the universities in the 1970s; and the mass media technology revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. The late social historian Christopher Lasch catalogued the grim impact of these revolutions on middle-class culture in his books The Culture of Narcissism (1979) and The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy(1995). Lasch demonstrated in devastating fashion how the ominous combination of decaying public institutions, a coarse electronic media and the rise of an academic pseudo-rationalist elite have created an increasingly banal society defined by “the abolition of shame”.

In the new millennium, traditional middlebrow values based on family, church and school have long since been swamped by a tsunami of secularism and moral decline that has left us with a public culture dominated by effete celebrities and corporate media billionaires united by their lack of civic virtue. The “abolition of shame” has bequeathed to us a growing underclass of single-parent families led by unmarried mothers on welfare. This underclass has, in turn, produced a generation of fatherless and dysfunctional boys dominated by dangerous varieties of street culture. Increasingly, the kind of traditional manly virtue passed from fathers to sons that has been central to the success of Western civilisation has been replaced by fatherless social alienation, drug abuse and gang membership. This process of social dislocation is daily accelerated by a twenty-four-hour infotainment media that appears devoted to endlessly portraying crude language, misfit behaviour and violent action as acceptable norms of male social behaviour.

Central to the West’s middlebrow collapse of good taste and decorum is the belief that popular culture transmitted by the internet—surely the biggest toilet wall in the history of the human race—can in some way replace the study of great books as a serious medium for education. In educational circles today one can find any number of defenders of the virtues of electronic learning from behind screens. Such people are merely the latest purveyors of junk thought.

Those aspects of the collapse of middlebrow culture that have disturbed me most in my work as a scholar of military affairs and as teacher of strategy at the Australian Defence College are the disappearance of essential cultural knowledge and the apparent end of the West’s distinctive honour culture—both of which have occurred at the hands of postmodernism and relativism. Two examples will suffice to illustrate the problems. In mid-2009, in a College syndicate activity that included a discussion of moral philosophy, a Directing Staff member proceeded to discuss the Old Testament Book of Job and its teachings on the unfair moral economy of the universe. As the staff member spoke, he was met by secular bewilderment and it rapidly became evident that no Australian officer in the class had ever heard of Job. Indeed, the only course member who could discuss the sufferings of Job proved to be a Pakistani Army officer who, because he had attended a British-modelled private school in Lahore, had been exposed to a course in Western civilisation and had thus studied the Old Testament. It is a sobering thought that at a time when we in the West are preaching the need to understand foreign culture, many in our society barely understand our own. (Evans, Stoic)

Evans argues that at it core, especially for those in the profession of arms, that there are Eight Moral Lessons from Stoicism. I will only list them here. Read the article for more detail:

Eight Moral Lessons:

  1. Develop an understanding of the meaning of a human life.
  2. How a military professional (or anyone for that matter) should face his day.
  3. Knowing the difference between what one can and cannot control.
  4. Happiness can only be found from within.
  5. Events do not necessarily hurt us, but our views of them can.
  6. Character matters more than reputation.
  7. Renounce self-conceit and arrogance.
  8.  Finding the line or path of goodness in life.

There is so much more to learn. Look at the popularity of Bushido and the “Viking” culture in our military today. Why do you think they are so popular as opposed to Stoicism. There are many similarities amongst the three of them. I look forward to your thoughts.

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Clayton Shackelford

 

 

You Do Have A Blow Out Kit In Your Vehicle, Right?

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During the middle of last month, I was moving my family from our home in far west Texas to our new home in Arizona. We had been on the road for only 45 minutes when a car that was eastbound on the road we were on, crossed over the centerline and struck our moving truck nearly head on. I say nearly head on due to the fact that I was trying to avoid a full head on collision when the impact occurred. My 14 year old son was in the cab of the truck with me. My wife and other children were in the family mini van directly behind me. They witnessed the impact between the two vehicles.

After our truck came to a rather abrupt halt, my son and I quickly checked each other and exited the cab via the passenger side. We made sure that the rest of the family was safe. They were physically, but very upset mentally and emotionally. That is when I turned to see about the other vehicle.

Understand that I am being vague on certain details. However, suffice it to say that the other driver, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was very messed up, but still alive, yet unconscious when I approached his vehicle. There were other bystanders near the vehicle, but no one was attempted to assist in any way the other driver. After assessing the situation, we had to start basic aid to stabilize his head and control bleeding with the blowout kit I keep with me when I drive. I started shouting out his list of visible injuries to folks who were on the phone with 911 so that the responding EMS and Fire Department personnel had an idea of what they were dealing with upon arrival on the scene.

I stayed with the driver, trying to get him to respond to vocal stimulus until the Fire Department arrived. I stepped back while they cut open his door. The driver was life flighted to the hospital. My son and I walked away with minor bumps and bruises. We still have not heard more about the other driver since the event.

Get medical training, even if it is a basic first aid course. Get the basic blowout kit and learn how to use it. It can save a life.

 

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Clayton Shackelford

 

 

Gadsden Dynamics Cohort 4 Chest Rig First Impressions Review.

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There are a lot of gear makers today all competing in a hot market. Coming out of active duty military service, I knew that I wanted to replace some of the gear that I turned in during my out processing from the military. I looked around at a lot of different makers and while there is a plethora of great designs available, nothing really reached out and grabbed me.

Then through a series of conversations with Andy at Gadsden Dynamics, the idea of a custom design chest rig was brought up. After a series of quick sketches and more messages, the Cohort 4 Chest Rig was born. It quickly became a collaborative work. I was looking for a chest rig that was low profile, with a center mounted tourniquet holder. I wanted the capability of mounting the rig to a plate carrier as well. The 80% solution was foremost in my mind as was certain historical applications of the chest rig.

Andy surprised me with his ideas of including elastic between the MOLLE on the two inboard magazine pouches.

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He kept me informed as the construction went along. I could not wait to get my hands on it. Upon its arrival and unboxing I was immediately impressed with Andy’s level of craftsmanship and attention to detail. His simple yet durable method of shoulder strap adjustment made sense. You just adjust the QASM buckles up or down the MOLLE on the shoulder straps to get the height just right. The center mounted tourniquet is easily reached by either hand and the shock cord adjustment holds it firmly in place.

The magazines are held in place by removable kydex inserts that Andy made himself, and directly behind the tourniquet is a small compass/notebook pouch. On either side of the compass pouch are two small strips of velcro that are used to help secure the chest rig to the front of a plate carrier. When the rig is used alone, they are covered with two removable padded velcro covers that are lined with neoprene.

On the front of both outboard magazine pouches are two small general purpose pouches that are permanently attached and closed with velcro fastened flaps. They are big enough to hold a field dressing like the Israeli bandage, yet do not add any undue bulk to the overall design.

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The ability of clipping the rig into a plate carrier was part of the design from the start. The plate carrier that I am wearing in the picture above is a Ferro Concepts Slickster. Due to the cumberbund design, I rigged a couple of shock cord connectors that route through the cumberbund. Do not worry, any normal plate carrier connection kit will fit the Cohort 4 chest rig to any normal plate carrier.

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On the back of the harness is a reinforced drag handle and a section of MOLLE. One of the first things I found out when I donned the chest rig is that I needed the lower waist strap to be a bit longer. A quick message to Andy and a longer one was on the way. Okay, I get it. I am bit bigger. That is something I am remedying.

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For being my first experience in custom gear design, Andy made it a good learning experience. Yes, this rig was influenced by other designs and ideas out there in the shooting environment. However, I think we developed a good, solid, general purpose chest rig that can serve an active duty service member, the sworn law enforcement officer, or the responsibly armed citizen.

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If you are looking for gear made here in the USA, do yourself a favor and check out Gadsden Dynamics.

 

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Clayton Shackelford

 

We Are Still Here!

Please forgive the complete lack of posts over the last several months. Three members of Cohort One Five are in the middle of transitioning out of active duty service. Our focus has been elsewhere. Rest assured, there are more articles to come within the next weeks and months.

One of our members has designed a plate carrier mountable chest rig with gear maker Gadsden Dynamics. Look for a first impressions review sometime in early November. Also, look for some articles about building a Recce Rifle for around $1000 complete, a Recce Pistol/Truck Gun concept for around $800 complete, plus some other gear reviews.

From the get go we knew that articles would slowly be generated. We here at Cohort One Five appreciate your patience and interest in us.