The White Feather

Presumption and Perception.

Created by an Irishman who had ascended to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy,
the White Feather Movement began in 1914
when thirty women were tasked to make it their business
to approach any healthy young man not in uniform,

and hand him a single white feather.

The message was a simple one: Any man who was given a feather,
was now considered to be a ‘coward’.

It was an utterly ignorant method intended to compel any and all
able-bodied men to ‘join up’ –
or face the ‘fact’ that he was a ‘coward’.

There were men in Britain, at the time, whose presence ‘at home’
was deemed more important than being either cannon fodder
or gun-toting political pawns overseas.

Clergymen, veterinarians, and farmers were amongst those
included in a list of reserved occupations.

Others were men who, were they to be placed in battle – or even in supplementary roles,
would be more of a detriment to their comrades than a help:
those with poor eyesight, physical infirmity, or congenital defects.

Some … were simply home on ‘leave’.

But to the women of the White Feather Movement,
none of these things mattered.

THEY saw something … Developed an instant opinion based upon presumption
and wholesale ignorance: And THAT was all that mattered.

The fact that THEY could possibly be wrong – never once occurred.

Far easier to degrade people, apparently, than to consider for a moment,
that they just … might … have a coherent reason
for living quietly, peaceably, and morally;

or for having deeply held, moral convictions that are different from yours.

Many of the “cowards” in ages past were those whose genuine moral conscience
moved them to avoid military service because they did not wish to threaten,
intimidate, or butcher people in foreign lands,

often for no greater reason than serving the mere whim of grasping politicians,
and whatever foreign policy was instituted to serve their purpose.

More than a few such men were forced to ‘serve’ … and then jailed,
shot, or hanged for “treason” when they could not bring themselves
to pull a trigger, or gun down men, women and children
who had no weapons whatsoever.

They were regarded as cowards by the great general population
who had neither interest nor moral integrity to pause, and think, and consider.

Whatever fantasy-fiction was broadcast in the ‘news’-paper or on the wireless,
was ‘good enough’ for the mindless multitudes who believed any
and every word put out by ‘spin doctors’.

[ On a purely personal note – I would have thought it better (surely?)
to have a willing thug who will empty his weapon
into a human being without the slightest bit of moral trepidation –

than a man who would actually think about WHY he is doing what he is doing,
before deciding to snuff out a human life ? ]

The White Feather Movement, certainly, felt no compunction
about publicly degrading any man – based purely on ignorant presumption.

Perception: Wilful Delusion

There is something about slaughtering people ( whether literally, or vicariously )
that appeals to those who are ruthless, vicious;

or hold that they above all others on the earth, deserve to live as they wish.
And any fiction that reflects that capacity, is embraced with unthinking enthusiasm.

My chief interest in life – merely because it is the last culture
on earth that reflects my values and way of living – is
traditional Japanese culture.

Once familiar with (any) culture, it is a simple matter to see
the effects of either ignorance of it, or contempt for it,
that is held by people in ‘western’ parts of the world.

In the thug mentality of the modern world there is much fanfare
about ‘Bushido’ – the way of a ‘warrior’.

In 1905, Japanese politician Inazo Nitobe wrote a very well-crafted book
in response to an American query about how the Japanese nation
could possibly be so civilised without having the Bible
as its central feature for moral living.

Nitobe died in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1933,
but his book was arguably “The Book” that stimulated interest
in oriental thought in the western world.

He wrote very eloquently about the Japanese code of moral principles
– “Bushido”, a spirit of Self Sacrifice as a [ Note ! ]
COMMON … standard of behaviour for people in his nation.

A hundred and ten years later, the common ‘standard’ of the masses
in ‘Western Society’ is – observably, the spewing of obscenities,
crude vulgarity, and arrogance; amidst which,
any demonstration of manners renders one
( my brother and I have found from repeated personal experience)

an object of bewilderment to what now passes for “men”,
and a source of curiosity for women who are –
clearly, unfamiliar with the experience of genteel courtesy.

A tragedy indeed as the ever-dwindling remnant of gentle people
who remain on this earth, deserve far better
than the brash selfishness and profanity that they receive
at the hands and mouths of multitudes today.

For Nitobe, ‘Bushido’ comprised qualities of:

Composure in times of danger or calamity;
Contemplation, in order to attain heights of considered thought
that could not easily be described; and
the Sympathetic regard for the feelings of others –

concepts that are continually advocated throughout this Internet site.

The cultivation of tender feelings, ( I had endeavoured to assert )
will foster a regard – thoughtfulness – for the suffering
and anguish of others who genuinely are in distress.
Given the silence in the comments section of this Internet site,
my hope to raise such awareness was an absurd one indeed.

Modesty and Respect for Others, Nitobe maintained,
are at the root of … Politeness.

Three qualities that are all but absent from the Internet,
and western society at large.

This code of Bushido [ Mandarin: wǔ shì dào] is applied to the Samurai
– as is the notion of ‘chivalry’ of the mediaeval Knights;
or the modern trend of seeing ‘honour’ in anyone wearing a uniform
– by those who seem captivated with the glorification of “macho” ferocity

It is a perception that is based on fairy-tale illusion:
a romantic fantasy that, in any age, rarely applies.

Samurai was a class into which one was born;
(or, on occasion, to which one could be upgraded
by bringing the heads of many opponents in battle
and thus, being awarded land.)

The Samurai were land-owners who were ‘on call’
to go quell disturbances the moment they were needed.

More than just military thugs, many would be familiar
with subjects such as art and Calligraphy;
and had ( think “officers”) servants who attended them,
both at home and on the battlefield.

Samurai who, for whatever reason, had lost their employment,
would travel from place to place in search of a new lord
and a steady pay-cheque.

These were known as ろうにん – “rounin” [ ‘ronin’ ] or, ろうし – “roushi” …

the image was of men who drifted about like flotsam on a wave.

Re-employment for such men required the approval of a previous lord;
in the interim, they would take sporadic employment as,
for example, “bodyguards” … to anyone.

Fully employed, or seeking work, the supreme characteristic
of the Samurai was … implicit obedience to whomever paid him.

What seems to be ignored by those who consider such men
to be ‘honourable’, is the plain fact that a Samurai would murder anyone
if his ‘lord’ told him to do so.

Multiple Samurai murdering a lone man was considered ‘honourable’
because – blind, amoral compliance (think ‘military’ ) –
they had obeyed their lord.

Implicit, unthinking obedience to “Orders”.

The Samurai wanted reputation, and pay.
If that meant cutting you, me, him, or her down
for no other reason than that his lord directed him to do so
… that was all the reason a Samurai required.

To see ANY “moral code” to that mentality is – for me,
impossible to understand.

Yet multitudes – clearly – insist upon holding perceptions
of people, because it appeals to their fanciful ideas,
or lends credence to their own unprincipled nature.

Those who insist upon seeing ‘honour’ in killers
reveal a great deal about their own standard of morality.

Many prate on about Bushido – ‘honour’ … but VERY few practice it,
when it ‘gets in the way’ of Self.

People believe and act – without being able to provide
a coherent reason why.

To see the Samurai as some principled warrior who exercised
‘noble’ characteristics … before brutally cutting someone down
for no other reason than that his employer ordered him to do so …?

Honestly now.

I have learned ( this past month ) that to go into a shop
with the intent of giving the owner one’s business ( and money )
actually permits one to be called a thief – and escorted from the shop
– because I refused to accept the insulting degradation of character
in having to leave my bag ‘at the front’.

In 1875, the crew of HMS Challenger were plumbing the depths
of what was known to be the deepest part of the ocean
until the line they had been using, suddenly ran out
and more line had to be added … and added … and added.

They had discovered the Marianas Trench.

I, too, have discovered new depths … in modern humanity.

To live a life – to have used the time given me in this life
to no higher purpose than to seek almost constantly
to be entertained, gratify my conceit, and live vicariously
through family, children, ‘friends’, and possessions …
would be ( for me ) to have utterly wasted my life.

Such a self-serving existence would, on my deathbed,
fill me with shame and regret.

I had learned early in life that IF ANY teaching, ‘teacher’, or personality
is POPULAR with the vast majority of people,
it, he, or she – should be treated with extreme Caution.

The White Feather signified “cowardice” in those who did not deserve it.

Perception makes heroes and villains of those

who are neither.

It has been truly astounding to see the ease and willingness
with which people will believe Anything that is presented to them
on television, cinema, and the Internet.

And deeply disturbing to realise the readiness of people
to debase someone without so much as pausing to consider
that – they – Just Might be the ones who are wrong.

Nor are such individuals troubled about the cost
to a man’s name or reputation … if they are.

Malicious men and women are so resentful –
or unable to bear the moral efforts of others,
that they cannot endure that anyone should outshine them –

and so, are ever seeking to drag others down to the gutter with themselves.

Others feel the need to ruin the work of anyone
who possesses the diligence, the skill; and makes the effort
to do what they will not.

It is merely a suggestion, of course, but –

When considering the perceived faults of any man or woman,
look at what They have done; and what They have said …

and not what others

have said about them.

P Livingstone

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