The Emerging Ideal of Budo

The Emerging Ideal of Budo

There was, however, another big gap in the gentleman ideal, which was never filled. I realized this gap for the first time when I went to Japan. Our list of virtues—Honesty, Kindness, Freedom, Courage and also Calm—says nothing about culture at all. This compares very unfavourably with the Japanese tradition. Of course, not all the Japanese warriors were cultured. But they were ashamed if they did not have some culture, and they respected culture in others, whereas in Britain the gentleman did not feel ashamed even if he had almost no knowledge of literature or music.

True, a few refinements in behaviour were expected of him and his wife. But the ideal was fine character and especially self-control, and not culture. There were indeed many highly cultured and intelligent gentlemen. But culture and intelligence (dare I say it?) were regarded as extras, so to speak. They were desirable, but not essential.

There was, and still is, a criticism: ‘He is too clever’. No Frenchman would make such a criticism; he would never think one could be too clever. But the English word ‘clever’ corresponds to ‘zuru-gashikoi’. We both associate extreme cleverness with cunning.

There was even a view that too much culture could be somehow weakening. For instance, a general who was also a poet might be regarded with suspicion. General Wavell, later Viceroy of India, published a book of poems. But they were not his own; his book was an anthology, called Other Men’s Flowers. It used to be said that if a soldier wanted to publish poems, he did it under a woman’s name.

Perhaps this attitude has begun to change now. There is more poetry in the newspapers, magazines and on the radio. Changes in Britain are very slow, but it may be that the ideal gentleman will have to practise some form of culture. In the last 40 years, the whole concept of the gentleman has been under attack from socialist egalitarians. But socialism has been a disastrous failure all over the world. It failed in the fields where it claimed to be strongest: economic organization, scientific advance, education and freedom. So the gentleman ideal may have a strong revival. But it cannot be revived in its past form: it must find new forms.

In the same way, I believe, the Budo ideal too is beginning to find new forms. In the little history which I have given above, the gentleman ideal found new life in the 19th century by reviving the old Roman idea of inner calm, not merely outward stoicism. So too, I am sure, the new forms of Budo will incorporate elements which were there in its past, but which did not come to flower.


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