Living Values and HumanEquality
By Robert L. Humphrey and Jack E. Hoban
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 by Professor Robert L. 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 it:
The "Hunting Story"
After the war America was the undisputed leader of the world. For a whileeveryone 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 oneparticular 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 as guides.
This village 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 placestinks." 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 oneof 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 myknife, 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!"
Humphrey asked 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 thetruck?" 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?