Mike Terry is a man who has learned to live with people’s fears. He is a teacher of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He always tells students, there is no situation you cannot escape. You escape by turning a disadvantage into an advantage. You learn about motion. It is no use denying that they are there. The martial art is devoid of moralism.
Protecting the neck is protecting blood & breath: Protecting mere life. Winning fights, however, requires thinking as well. Before man is wily, man must be endurant. Wit & toughness reinforce each other as habits & habits of mind, as science & insight, teaching man that he stands for something noble in standing for himself. This is hard-bought teaching & it makes man proud. He sees that he stands alone by destroying his opponents.
How about when your wife gets you in trouble with loan sharks? How about when you get your policeman student suspended because you trust rich people to be honest? Terry does not fight people who do not attack him, because fighting weaker people weakens you. But he wants to help people, to do something good for them & to help them defend themselves. How does helping people become stronger not make you weaker?
Terry’s wife is the only person to use the word noble – dripping with contempt. People who cannot make money talk about nobility. Terry answers, nobility is being correct. If truth & justice worked together, sure, that’s what it is. What if you have to hurt people for their own good? What if living with people requires punishment, not merely protection?
There is another character who talks about financializing problems. Look to the advantage & rationalize by measuring things in money. Why should the money matter? It stands for the good things. The fight between the noble & the ignoble is actually done between lawyers. Terry saves both a policeman & a lawyer, offering to teach them his martial art. He cannot protect them from the enormous corruption of the city any more than they can protect him. Notice that the hero & the conspirators differ on the relationship between art & chance. You have to ask yourself, How practical is deception?
Proving to people that nobility goes beyond the laws is doubtful, to say the least. Nobility is most obvious in defeat, because victory is so often so obviously unjust. Only sacrifice can satisfy people that you are not mercenary. The life of the just man is the unhappiest because he alone can claim that God must hate him. Those who despair need help; they will not be reconciled to death; they will therefore turn to injustice, because strength needs no justification. Can we reflect on justice without considering, cannot our world be based on rational injustice?
David Mamet’s story about the art of war.