How to become a one man (or a one woman) army … or something even better
Our quote for the day:
In short, this is what you need to become a one person company and be routinely successful. … this recipe is also a route to become a one man/woman army.
— From “I’m Young and Need Advice“, by John Robb, posted at his website Global Guerrillas, 26 October 2009
Robb’s a brilliant writer, and I am insufficiently familiar with his work to evaluate this in context. But it’s a fascinating thought, and so prevalent today, to deserve consideration on its own.
- An Army of One was the US Army’s recruiting slogan from 2001 to 2006.
- It’s the theme of a thousand movies, from Batman to Death Wish to Buffy.
- We’ve heard it a thousand times from movie heroines. A horde of bad guys approaches, and she says “I can take care of myself.” We seldom see an epilogue at the abortion clinic, as she decides whether to carry or abort the fetus.
This is a pernicious concept, an attractive poison to our society, IMO. A one man or one woman army is a contradiction in terms, a misunderstanding of the essential element of an army: collective action. As is society. As one of the West’s greatest philosophers wrote:
This makes it obvious that for as long as men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in the condition known as ‘war’; and it is a war of every man against every man. For WAR doesn’t consist just in battle or the act of fighting, but in a period of time during which it is well enough known that people are willing to join in battle.
… Therefore, whatever results from a time of war, when every man is enemy to every man, also results from a time when men live with no other security but what their own strength and ingenuity provides them with. In such conditions there is no place for hard work, because there is no assurance that it will yield results; and consequently no cultivation of the earth, no navigation or use of materials that can be imported by sea, no construction of large buildings, no machines for moving things that require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no practical skills, no literature or scholarship, no society; and — worst of all — continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
— Thomas Hobbes, Part I chapter 13 of Leviathan (1651)
A fine description of the world’s failed states — and (to a lesser extent) the worst of America’s inner cities. Few pretty young girls living in the inner cities consider becoming an army of one an option. Collective action gives security, and allows such luxuries as democracy and capitalism.
In peaceful times people can indulge in dreams of autonomy. But always the foundations rest on collective action against the chaotic forces of nature and man’s nature. Our Republic stands as a magnificent example of collection action, where the “common power” Hobbes described lies within ourselves. Unfortunately the structure consists of ideas, which each generation must pass to the next for the Republic to survive.
The enticing dream of autonomy — whether a self-sufficient ranch in Montana or a well-stocked garage in Los Angeles (guns, ammo, generator, and bags of rice), or the voluptuous surrender into despair — divert us from the hard and messy work of politics which makes the gears of the Republic rotate.
Most of this takes place in each community. Neighborhood watch groups, school boards, email chains and blogs about local politics, voter registration and vaccination drives, and countless other voluntary activities — these are the ways America has built an Army of Many.
It can still work, if we have the will to make it so.
A last work about the one man army
An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure horse shit. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about fucking!
— Speech to the Third Army on 5 June 1944; published in The Unknown Patton by Charles M. Province, p. 32 (1982)
For more information from the FM site
Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.
About John Robb’s writings:
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw – solutions to 4GW, 18 November 2008
- A solution to 4GW – the introduction, 12 March 2008
- How can America adapt to a new world? A conference about national security lights the way., 18 October 2008
- Are Americans easily panicked cowards? I think not, but many experts disagree., 24 April 2009
- “Combating the Growing Threat of International Organized Crime”, 30 April 2009
About super-empowered individuals:
- Empowered individuals — and super-empowered ones!, 13 November 2007
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