Since I was a child one of my favorite movies has been the 1960 film version of the H.G. Wells story “The Time Machine”. (The more recent remakes were okay, but I like the original.) At the end of the movie Rod Taylor has jumped back into his machine and left behind his present day life in the Victorian world in order to return to the time of the childlike Eloi and the tyrannical Morlocks of the future. When H. George Wells’s puzzled housekeeper and his best friend Filby return to the parlor from his vacant laboratory they notice three books have gone missing from the shelf, and decide Wells has taken them back to the future with him. Mr. Filby poses the question to the maid, “Which three books would you have taken?”
My whole life this essential question has often crossed my mind, especially after each viewing of the timeless movie. Naturally most people would consider “The Holy Bible” at the top of that short list, but perhaps not for some folks. Not as any forced religion, but faith in an almighty God with a foundation for laws and civility in a new society based on personal responsibility would be a lesson to convey to a people that had been bred as lazy mindless cattle for government consumption purposes. They had the “talking rings” that gave a vocal accounting of history prior to the fall of Earth’s civilization, but the dumbed-down Eloi had never governed or provided for themselves, much less thought for themselves, and had no context of the importance of good or bad history. They were generationally conditioned subjects, dropping their aimless attention from their collective mediocre existence of waiting for their next meal or clothing to be provided for them until the media siren blared and filled their ears with the demand to obey their masters … marching blindly to their own demise. They had been at the mercy of the governance of Morlocks for generations and had no concept of managing and surviving the dangers of life, natural or manmade, or the individual and daring process of critical thinking. (The 2002 version of the movie gives more ‘intellect’ to the masterminds of the Morlocks.)
Also there would be the need to protect a society’s new freedom and avoid becoming serfs, cattle, or victims for anyone ever again. How about Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”? Or Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”? Oddly enough we now find ourselves becoming the dutiful Eloi to our ravenous growing government of Morlocks with the blaring media siren leading the way. Perhaps it’s time for our side to put down the other side’s “Rules for Radicals” and pick up a copy of Sun Tsu…
Many Americans these days believe the Republicans are not only losing this current political war, some think they are not even putting up much of a fight. Based on the recent results of the fiscal cliff negotiations, they may well have a point. Perhaps they could benefit, in their battles with President Obama, from a few words of wisdom from another war-time philosopher/strategist, Sun Tzu.
1. On sizing up your competition he said . . . “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” A psychologist will tell you that when someone tells you who they are, you should probably listen. When they act the way they say they are, you should more than listen. Obama spoke for years about his activist, win at all costs ways – including his Sun Tzu-like “All warfare is based on deception” ways.
Since being President, he has stayed true to that and not negotiated in good faith – on anything. He has been a “take it or I will get it another way” president from day one (think defeated cap & trade legislation turned into mandated EPA rules). Republicans should know that by now and have had a strategy other than hoping he will act in good faith.
2. On the need for preparation . . . “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
In any negotiation, your potential success is nearly predetermined by your level of preparation including having a strategy and executing on it. For all appearances, Republicans did not dictate the pace or substance of the recent negotiations. There was no apparent grand strategy. Instead, Obama simply waited them out.
3. On framing the debate . . . “One mark of a great soldier is that he fights on his own terms or fights not at all.” Knowing that Obama won’t negotiate in good faith is only Step 1. Having a plan to deal with that is Step 2. Sun Tzu tells us here that Republicans need to fight this battle on terms they can win. To do that, they have to frame the debate so that people will listen to their message.
In these recent negotiations, and for a long time now, Obama has framed this debate. Most Americans thought this was a battle over how to close the budget gap through higher tax rates. It wasn’t a question of if higher tax rates were necessary; it was a question of how much higher. Under those circumstances, there was no chance Republicans could expect a good outcome. That’s the Democrats home field. Republicans will always lose that debate and many supporters with it.
Republicans win the debate when it is centered on 3 things:
And I might have grabbed a forth book from my shelf … “Square Foot Gardening“.
Cross-posted @ CW