Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

As below, so above: the Hermetic theory of foreign policy

An idea I've wanted to explore for a while now, has to do with the basic premises of how I view relations between nations and how to conduct foreign policy.

My basic premise is a version of the principle of Hermetic philosophy, "As below, so above."(1)

How I apply this could be stated, "What's true for the street, is true for countries."

Remember what your mother told you about bullies?

"Just be nice to them and they'll be nice to you."

"Ignore them and they'll leave you alone."

If you bought into this, I've got some rather bad news for you.

Your mother lied.

There are a fair number of thugs out there, who regard "nice" as weakness, and who flat won't let you ignore them.

"As below, so above." There are in this poor old world of ours, thug nations who regard expressions of good will as contemptible weakness.

I was going to write a whole article about it, then I remembered that Canadian martial arts teacher Ted Truscott had written it already.

"Lies to bleed for" it's called, and it's divided into three sections:

-Myths your parents told you

-Street Myths

-Dojo Myths

The article has been reproduced in a lot of places on the Web, in somewhat different versions. You can find Truscott's site here:


I post some excerpts below to whet your interest. Go there and read it. Later we might explore how they apply, "As below, so above."

*1. Just be nice to them and they’ll be nice to you.
Remember this one? Didn’t work in the sandbox either, did it? Or in the cafeteria?

Hey guys - let me speak to your parents here for a bit, ok? Thanks.

Why the horse puckey did you teach this to your kid when you knew it was totally inadequate? It did not work for you when you faced the bullies in life and it will not work for your kids either! The message should be, “Be as nice as you can until the time comes to be not so nice.” You can’t take your child’s independence and awareness of the situation from him! Help him to understand the difference between "nice" and "not nice" and then let him practice and make mistakes, yes?

Ok, rant mode off.

Be warned, there are people out there that interpret your niceness as weakness and naivety and therefore will either terminate you just for the fun of it or jack you up. That nice guy may just be setting you up for a sucker punch.

Nice is good but it isn’t enough when you don’t know the rules, the players or the action. A good teacher can save a lot of learning the hard way but every teacher has his price that you must pay. That older guy who warns some punks to leave you alone may just be grooming you for his own criminal purposes.

Lesson: Don’t be naive and waltz into places you can’t handle. If there is anything about the place that gives you pause, listen to yourself - it is your brain trying to keep you alive! Fade into the room, step sideways to get your back out of the door and casually look things over. Take your time.

*Variation 1.a Just Ignore Them, and they will leave you alone.

Ignoring a fox locking onto him is not going to do a rabbit any good at all, now is it? Rabbit just means ’victim’ and even tough guys get to be victim sometimes. Tough can be beat by sneaky and nasty. Puffing yourself up to scare off any predators around will be seen for the false bravado it is and alienate you from those who might otherwise be inclined to help is it goes sideways on you.

*2. Just stand up to a bully, and he’ll run from you.

Some guy is giving you the eye or some lip so you stand up to him. “Bullies are looking for victims, not a fight,” is current social wisdom. What they don’t tell you is that bullies may in fact be motivated by fear, insecurity and other manifestations of low self-esteem but they are also very practiced at being themselves, They have spent years perfecting their style at home and school and bars. They practice knocking down those who stand up to them every day.

How many times do you get to practice standing up to a bully?

*Variation 3.a. The cops are your enemies.

Just as silly as hoping a cop will save from your own foolishness is thinking that the cops have nothing better to do than dust you off for being alive. Man, they will let the jackals do that. Playing silly bugger with the police, harassing them for fun and frolics can get you in their scope. If the nasty boys decide that you must go, no cop will do a favour for the one who spends his time giving them trouble. Street enemies are enough, why make enemies of the cops just to show off? Even career criminals don’t make it personal with the cops because it is just too dangerous. If you aren’t planning an anti-cop lifetime, don’t start or you may not be able to quit later.

*5. It’s a free country, I can do what I want.

Other ways of saying this are: “If you believe in yourself you can go anywhere and do anything,” and “Trust your feelings and just go with them.”

Surprise, guys, (ladies included), your feelings, desires and motivations don’t mean a thing to anyone else out there but you. They are not the definition of reality or of right or wrong, and they shouldn’t be, either. Who made you God? Sure your feelings are rampant and important and your hormonal desires are a forest fire but if you expect the world to lay at your feet so you can indulge your little self on them then you are so immature as to be a social liability to those of us who are still sane!

(1) Wikipedia puts it: The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, in the words "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above, corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing."

Yes, I have tongue firmly in cheek. Sort of.


  • At 1:56 AM, Blogger [itchy]uvula said…

    Haha, that's so funny. My parent's advice to ME when I was getting bullied?

    Punch them.

    Of course when I tried this *I* was the one who got in trouble at school!

  • At 5:13 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Yeah, there's that "no tolerance" policy in schools these days. Meaning the victim gets punished alongside, or even instead of, the bully.

    There's another thing too. Anyone who has ever had occasion to defend themselves with violence, or the threat of it, discovers that there are people out there who consider you a bad person for doing so.

    For my specultations why, see the previous posts on 'courage and cowardice.'


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