Should You Learn To Fight?
Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about colonizing other planets. Well, maybe not so much as hearing as I’ve been reading many articles on the Internet about the subject. You know how that goes, you find something online, you find this pretty interesting, and you read more and more about this, and click around on the links, and pretty soon you find that you suddenly have developed an interest in this topic that you only maybe were vaguely aware of before now.
When I think back, I think it was all started by something I saw on TV, some crime drama involving some guys that were on this privately owned space ship that offered millionaires the chance to go into orbit for a few days. One of the characters mentioned that this is the golden age when it comes to space entrepreneurial ship. Whether that’s actually true obviously remains to be seen. But it doesn’t take much imagination to see the correlation with Europeans setting out across vast unknown bodies of water search of new lands hundreds of years ago to setting out across space to set up colonies on other planets.
Of course, then there’s that recent movie that is a fairly thin metaphor of what to do when you meet up with people already living in the new area that you’d like to colonize. Human strategies have ranged from killing them, joining them, assimilating them, and pitting them against one another.
Probably the most useful strategy, and resulted in the spread of the most culture, at least according to some historians, is Alexander of Macedonia, or Alexander the Great as he is commonly referred to. He lead a coalition of Greek forces across Persia, and to this date is the second greatest conqueror of all time, if you measure how great a conqueror is by the amount of land they took over. In the number one position is Genghis Khan. An interesting side not is that Genghis Khan was a peasant who’s parents were murdered by a rival chieftain, and yet he rose to become the greatest conqueror in human history, while Alexander was born into a royal family, and inherited his kingdom, which already had quite a bit of support from the various Greek city states when his father was murdered. So you don’t need to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth if you want to conquer the world.
But while Genghis Khan swept through land with fury and terror, and slaughtered everything in his path, Alexander took a more diplomatic approach. Much of the land he conquered, he didn’t even have to fight for. The Persian Empire at that time had undergone quite a bit of upheaval, and they were spread far and thin. Many times Alexander and his troops would ride into a city, and the city government would simply switch their alliance from Persia to Alexander.
But one thing that Alexander did that helped spread Greek culture throughout the world was to encouraged his men, at least the single ones, to take brides from the new cultures. Often times he would pick up fresh soldiers from the cities, and many of his soldiers would stay and build new lives. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. When Babylon fell to Alexander’s troops, he gave them free reign over the city. They raped, plundered, murdered and burned the city to the ground, as was fairly common practice back in those days. (And unfortunately today as well in many places).
Another interesting strategy is the divide and conquer strategy. This was used particularly effectively by the Catholic Church during the colonization of South America and part of Asia in the 1500’s and 1600’s. First they would send the priests, who would convert as many people as possible, including the leaders. Of course, not everybody would convert, and would stick to the old “pagan” religion. Including in some that converted, and some that didn’t would of course be those involved in government. Once there was sufficient division in the ruling classes, then the solders would come, their jobs having been made much easier by the priests that preceded them.
This was attempted in Japan during the same time period, but all the Christians were expelled, or executed before they could finish their plan.
Anytime you want to expand influence into a new area, there is going to be resistance, and there are always several different strategies to take to best overcome the resistance. Brute force, cooperation, or subversion, it depends the desired outcome, and what an appropriate level of risk you’re willing to take, and what skills you possess and how they could best be used. I doubt Alexander or Genghis Khan could have gotten very far by sending in priests. I also doubt that the Spanish Conquistadors would have done well with Alexander’s or Genghis Khan’s fighting strategies, as they required open fields, and many men galloping furiously on thousands of horses. That strategy doesn’t work well in the jungle.
One interesting, and some say natural, application to all these battle, warfare, and conquering strategies is in business. Classic books on warfare, like Sun Tzu’s “The Art Of War,” And Miyomoto Musashi’s “The Book Of Five Rings” are usually found in the business section of the bookstore.
The huge success of the British Empire was largely do it’s effective application of these strategies of warfare to business. One could argue that English is the second most spoken language in the world today, behind only Mandarin, is due to the effective application of timeless warfare strategies to business purposes.
If you own a business today, whether it is a twenty-year-old brick and mortar shop, or an online start up that you are doing in your spare time, it might help to keep some of these ancient warfare strategies in mind.
Because I guarantee you, whatever it is you are trying to sell to your customers, there’s several other people fighting for their attention, and would be pleased as punch to get their business instead of you.
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