By Robert L. Humphrey and Jack E.
The premise of the Living Values philosophy is that the Life
Value isman's singularly most important value. Are all lives
equal? Perhaps we should ask: All men(and women), are they really
created equal? Perhaps the best way to answer a questionabout
the equality concept is to relate this true story. I remember
first hearing thisstory as a graduate student in a class taught
Humphrey. Professor Humphrey,on contract with the US State
Department, was charged with stopping "Anti-Americanism"overseas
in a poor allied country during the Cold War. The implications
of this story areof clear importance to this day. We call
After the war
America was the undisputed leader of the world. For a while everyone
loved us, even our former enemies. But soon people began
to resent us due to oursuperior attitudes. We Americans
thought that was unjustified and ungrateful. In one particular
country, the unrest was beginning to have strategic implications
during thatdelicate time of detente. Dr. Humphrey's job
was to find a solution.
The basic problem
was that the Americans working in that poor ally countrythought
that the local people were smelly, ignorant, violent, dishonest
and lazy and letthem know it. No matter what he did, Dr.
Humphrey couldn't stop the negative talk;partially because
some of it was true! As a result the local people wanted
the Americansto go home.
One day, as
a diversion, Humphrey decided to go hunting for wild boar
withsome people from the American embassy. They took a truck
from the motor pool and headedout to the boondocks, stopping
at a village to hire some local men to beat the brush andact
was very poor. The huts were made of mud and there was noelectricity
or running water. The streets were unpaved dirt and the
whole village smelled.Flies abounded. The men looked surly
and wore dirty clothes. The women covered theirfaces, and
the children had runny noses and were dressed in rags.
It wasn't long
before one American in the truck said, "This place stinks."
Another said, "These people live just like animals."
Finally, ayoung air force man said, "Yeah, they got
nothin' to live for; they may as well bedead."
What could you
say? It seemed true enough.
But just then,
an old sergeant in the truck spoke up. He was the quiettype
who never said much. In fact, except for his uniform, he
kind of reminded you of one of the tough men in the village.
He looked at the young airman and said, "You thinkthey
got nothin' to live for, do you? Well, if you are so sure,
why don't you just take my knife, jump down off the back
of this truck, and go try to kill one of them?"
There was dead
silence in the truck. Humphrey was amazed. It was the firsttime
that anyone had said anything that had actually silenced
the negative talk aboutthese local people. The sergeant
went on to say, "I don't know either why they valuetheir
lives so much. Maybe it's those snotty nosed kids, or the
women in the pantaloons.But whatever it is, they care about
their lives and the lives of their loved ones, same aswe
Americans do. And if we don't stop talking bad about them,
they will kick us out ofthis country!"
him what we Americans, with all our wealth, could do toprove
our belief in the peasants' equality despite their destitution?
The Tennesseesergeant answered easily, "You got to
be brave enough to jump off the back of thistruck, knee
deep in the mud and sheep dung. You got to be brave enough
to walk throughthis village with a smile on your face. And
when you see the smelliest, scariest lookingpeasant, you
got to be able to look him in the face and let him know,
just with your eyes,that you know he is a man who hurts
like you do, and hopes like you do, and wants for hiskids
just like we all do. It is that way or we lose."
This story effects mostAmericans. We sympathize with those poorvillagers.
Maybe it is because we are natural "under-dog" lovers.
Remember, ourown revolutionary war against the British started
because they looked down on us. Recallthis popular motto from
that time: "Don't tread on me." It was on our flag.
But the point of the story, according to Humphrey, is this:
Beneath ourculture, beneath the fine clothes or the dirty rags,
beneath the color of our skin, we alllove life, and we all hurt
sometimes, and we all want for our children. My life, and thelife
of my loved ones, is as important to me as yours are to you.
This is the Life Value,and this universal value defines our
Human Equality. If you can accept the fact of HumanEquality,
not just others', but your own, you have taken the first step
toward acceptingthe Life Value, which is really just choosing
to live life according to your deepest humannature. And human
nature is deeper than economics, behaviors, and cultures.
Understanding human nature gives us the insight that cultural
values--whatwe do to live, or how we live--can be relative,
but that the Life Value itself is not.And, since we are all
equal, we would pretty much act the same way as those"different"
people if we had to live in their environment.
Notice, also, exactly what that old Sergeant said. He said: "I
don'tknow either why they value their lives so much. Maybe it's
those snotty nosed kids, or thewomen in the pantaloons."
The Life Value is a dual one: self and others.
One last thing about warriorship. The purpose of the training,
especiallythe physical training, is to help develop in the practitioner
physical/moral courage.Could you do as that Sergeant said? Could
you jump down off the "back of the truck?" Today, when
you walk through the mall, or sit in the subway, or even passthrough
the scary part of town, are you confident and secure enough
in your values andskills, to project your acknowledgment of
human equality into the eyes of everyone youmeet? Is everyone
in your presence safer, does everyone in need have a friend,
because youare there?