Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Enemy of the Bureacratic Mind

Walter Russel Mead has started teaching Grand Strategy at Bard College. To the end, he's begun a blog entitled StratBlog. A friend sent me the link to one of his articles from which I will post an excerpt below. The whole article may be read here.

The article is about Sun Tzu and the Art of War, and how the way of Sun Tzu was the very opposite of the bureaucratic way Chinese governmental affairs were managed.

Don't play by the other guy's rules. Change the game. If he wants to play poker, play chess. If he wants to play chess, then box.

Since we've examined The 36 Strategies, maybe it's time to begin posting on Sun Tzu's Art of War?

 The Art of War comes out of a culture where political correctness reigned: Confucian China attached enormous importance to ideas of correct conduct and correct speech.  To do something in the wrong way was to do the wrong thing.  Ethical Chinese scholars rejected concepts like the use of deception in warfare and believed that the aim of politics was to establish a benevolent state under a wise and absolute ruler who would use unlimited power to promote the general good.

It was a culture of bureaucracy and meritocracy.  China is famous for inventing the rigorous civil service exam, with posts awarded to candidates based on their demonstrated academic knowledge.  By and large the classical works of Chinese literature on the exams celebrated the ideals of propriety, conformity, and respect for the ancient traditions.  In the quiet library of Confucian literary studies, The Art of War is like a fart in church.


walt said...

Speaking of "change the game..."

In their rematch Title fight, Ali KO's Liston in Round 1 (your photo) at Lewiston, Maine, by way of a "phantom punch" that nobody saw. This is after Ali had announced his conversion to the Muslims, and his allegiance to Elijah Mohammed. You'll recall "heated controversy" in those days -- including lots of death threats in the run up to the fight.

Liston's sparring partner for the fight was Amos "Big Train" Lincoln. A few years after the fight, I heard Lincoln interviewed on the radio. He stated that Liston had been convinced the death threats were serious. He said that Liston had told him, "As soon as he hits me, I'm going down," in order to avoid flying bullets.

Sports Illustrated "proved" by way of still photos that Ali had, in fact, hit Liston on the chin. But was it a real "knockout punch?"

Rick Matz said...

At a minimum, your comments are an example of Strategy #7 from the 36 Strategies: Make Something From Nothing. "Fix an idea in your opponent's mind ..."

Compass Strategist said...

Make Something From Nothing. "Fix an idea in your opponent's mind ..."

When one is ahead of the game, that stratagem is applicable. ...