The world can start to think East with West. Democrats with Republicans. This army with that army. Our nation with your nation. Only then can the world move on and alleviate its pains. East with West combat terrorism. Democrats with Republicans supported a region hit by disaster. This army with that army shared a meal. Our nation with your nation exchanged ideas to cure cancer.
Two sides can disagree without hating each other. Two sides can behave in different ways without one being good and the other bad. It takes a special person to think this way.
One special person was indeed Sun Tzu. Even in the harsh reality during the Late Spring and Autumn Period when nations attacked others with regularity and seemingly with little more reason than to secure some small advantage, Sun Tzu still had the good sense to advise releasing a retreating enemy and treating well a captured enemy.
The reason behind his advice is clear: anger turns to happiness again, but lives lost cannot be brought back to life. Like fire, anger that is uncontrolled and not stamped out will grow until it is out of control. It will use as fuel anything that is closest to it until there is no more fuel.
So when Sun Tzu listed wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence, courage, and discipline as desired attributes of a leader, he wasn't kidding. Let's review the five attributes:
Wisdom to view the world as it is, but also having the experience and knowledge of how it works, how to navigate it, and then producing a desired result from it.
Trustworthiness to ensure cohesion and unity among people. This isn't some rah rah speech that would be given from time to time but consistent action to show that the leader cares about people and that his or her decisions have been proven to be generally sound in the past. When someone is right most of the time, people tend to rely on him or her and would tend to follow him or her.
Benevolence to add good to the world that might lack goodness. This sometimes requires sufficient resources. This sometimes requires an honest compliment. In either case, this benevolence moves society and makes the world a better place to live. It is worth noting that changing the world doesn't mean literally changing the world significantly as people seem to understand it to be. As the saying goes, "charity starts at home," which is to say, do your part, shaping your world of influence to make it better. If other people do the same, then in fact the world has changed noticeably for the better. This takes time and consistency.
Courage to keep on going even if the leader feels discouraged. Enough said.
Discipline to do what needs to be done but at the same time to not go overboard. The middle road is the path of discipline and one must stay on this road even when extreme and fundamentalist factions are rattling in their little cages. This ensures fairness for everyone and is the mark of a society based on measured improvement. It is a mark of a society based on mercy and kindness. Mercy and kindness seem contrary to discipline but they are related and depend on each other. Sun Tzu understood this well when he had the discipline to control his anger before ordering his troops to scale a walled city. He understood this well when he proposed a strategy of prevention instead of a show-off display of power -- even if one could display it.
Therefore, I urge more people, especially young people, to read Sun Tzu's Art of War to take a different path in life, a path of wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence, courage, and discipline. Help me to spread the word. Thank you.