12. 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 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 … political 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 and presented his thoughts
upon a 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 malice, ridicule, and obscenity;

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 pleasant 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.

Whether fanciful, romantic representation or not,
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 –

this last, a concept that is continually advocated
throughout this Internet site.

The cultivation of tender feelings,
( I have continually endeavoured to assert ) WILL
foster a regard – thoughtfulness – for the suffering
and anguish of others who genuinely are in distress.

( Sadly – given the silence in the comments section
of this Internet site, my hope to raise awareness
of tender feelings, was an absurd hope indeed. )

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

Respect for Others.

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

This code of Bushido [ Mandarin: wǔ shì dào]
is now applied to the Samurai –
as is the notion of ‘chivalry’
to 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 to battle 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 allegiance ( think modern ‘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, perverted; and 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.

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 he was ordered to do so …?

Honestly now.

I have learned ( last year ) 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 summarily
escorted from the shop because I refused to accept
the insulting degradation of my 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 fashion, trend,
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 the thought
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 hearing of the perceived faults
of any man or woman,
look at what They have said;
and, most particularly, what They have done,

And not what Others

have said about them.

P Livingstone

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