Rocker and Sage

The Quintessential Optimist and the Quintessential Cynic - Working Together to Build a Better America.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Mandate of Heaven

As a passionate student, and teacher of the history of the world, I have studied the lives of many of both the famous, and infamous characters that have shaped it. Thus I have always been an admirer of Genghis Khan. On the surface he would appear to be nothing more than a minor player who stepped on the stage from the outback of Mongolia for a few brief moments. A barbarian from a backward time and a strange land whose major accomplishment was to cut a swath of blood, and terror across Central Asia for a short time in the 12th/13th centuries, and then disappear forever into the dusty history of the Silk Road. But upon a closer examination, he emerges as one of the most remarkable leaders in history. And it is in this respect, he differs from most of the others that the closer you get to him, the more admirable he becomes.

To begin to understand him is to look at the experiences of his youth. He had been born in obscurity on an ocean of grass, a veritable louse on a hill. He was a quick study, and soon learned that the key to survival was to be found in the thing that he most lacked: power. Power to fight to win ,to command,to rule, to reform, and rebuild what had been lost, and then to continue to create further security that could be passed on to his posterity, and not be threatened by anything of this world.

And while I realize that all of this sounds like the babbling of a historian trying to work up a resume piece to find his niche in some think tank, or other house of historical psychology,one that would in effect, attempt to make his case(Genghis) as that which arose out of some "deprived childhood", I would doubt that the spirit of Temujin, were it here to be questioned, would ever concur. To do so would be to deny the force that, in his view, lay outside himself. For his personality was infused with the undenialable certainty of being divinely ordained for the world leadership that he was to have placed upon him. Yes, help was given to him through "mysterious" means-the reading of a sheep's fire-cracked shoulder bone,and prayer on the sacred mountain in which he received special insight,yet the pre-ordained end was clear: he was to achieve an unprecedented power on Earth to the end of an unprecedented justice in Heaven. And power was the key.

Therefore, to win power, to hold power, to increase power, and to keep power was his lifelong purpose. He was not the first,nor would he be the last to come to this realization. But his greatness is to be found, I think, in the fact that he was imbued with the largesse of soul to innately know that in order to achieve this he would need the divine combination of charisma, and faith to inspire others in that same certainty that the "mandate of heaven" was to be one with his own.

What became extraordinary about his life was the maintenance over the period of fifty years of a balance between evolving personality, changing conditions, and increasing power-holding these three variables in constant tension against the ever present ends of falling into corruption, and paranoia thus allowing events to dictate an agenda. This was something new, and unique in the annals of human history. I call it governing under the "Mandate of Heaven". As I thought on the meaning that a life lived such as his was lived could have on us in the present, as any good historian would attempt to do, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is a deep strand of truth that needs to be understood by us about the kind of leadership that we should be demanding from the various candidates who seek to govern us. The following is provided for a quick guide for both the elected, and the electorate.

1. Reward Loyalty
In his dealings with people, Genghis never forgot an act of generousity. Once, after he had ascended to power, he met a man who had helped him escape captivity in his youth: "In my dreams in the dark of night, and in my breast in the bright day I have always remembered the good will that you showed me". As part of his revolution, he honored the brave, and loyal whatever their origin, or status in life. The bonds of loyalty were not easily tied, and often had to be maintained by every means possible. But once convinced of a man's devotion to him, he delegated brilliantly. An instance of this was when he left his viceroy Mukhali to the all important task of conquering, and maintaining the northern territories of China. Under Mukhali's leadership taxes were raised to support poverty-stricken followers. Please understand that this was not done under the pretense of any foreshadowing of socialist, or democratic impulses, or even humanitarianism, but rather should be seen as an embodiment of a supreme traditionalism in which the basic duties of the successful tribal leader were carried out to their ultimate end. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

2.Be Austere
Genghis remained the tough nomad that he was despising the life of luxury, and honoring simplicity for himself, and thus became the example for his followers. It was well known that he would give the clothes off his back for another Mongol in need. He was a physically hard man for all of his life, fit for the hunt, or the fight until well into his sixties, keeping his roots in the mountains, and grasslands of his youth. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

3. Exercise Self-control
One of the extraordinary characheristics that he displayed was the ability to control his anger, and allow others their say in matters. When an uncle defected to a rival tribe, according to protocall, he immediately ordered his death. but upon his being reminded by two brothers in arms Boorchu, and Mukhali that to kill your uncle would be to in effect, "extinguish your own fire" (because of the relationship to his deceased father), Genghis sobbed "let it be", and fell into silence. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

4.Recognize talent, and use it
Under the rule of Genghis, herdsmen became generals, and enemies became trusted officials. To the plethora of non-Mongols who served him he was as fair, and generous as he was to his own kind. He admired, and rewarded talent without prejudice, given only that it was practiced with loyalty. In his service were Chinese, Muslim merchants, Nestorians, and Buddhists. Ye lu Chut-sai, the Chinaman, who was his closest advisor, was a primary example of this. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

5.Kill your enemies without mercy
To those who had not bound themselves to him and his cause, or who opposed him Genghis was merciless. Once he became convinced of disloyalty in either friend, or foe he was a ruthless executioner. If he never forgot a favor, he likewise never forgave an insult. He considered such an insult not only to be against him, but also against Heaven as well.The Merkits abducted his wife Borte, and held her captive for a brief period not long after they were first married. His response was "to divide them until they were no more". The Taychiuts, who captured him, and held him against his will, were made "to blow like ashes in the wind". Of the Tatars, who were responsible for the death of his father, he made war with them, and killed them to the last man wherever he found them. To him, vengeance was a Heaven sent duty. There was no quarter shown by him that other military leaders showed in their dealings with the opposition in the hope of future alliances. To Genghis, an enemy that would not defer to him at once was not worthy of any tratment short of all out destruction. This determination was without a doubt the salient point in history's identification of him as nothing more than a bloodthirsty barbarian. Once, when on the hunt with his General Boorchu, he is reputed to have asked what he (Boorchu) considered to be a man's greatest happiness. After some thought, Boorchu replied that it lay in falconry. What could be better than a sturdy gelding beneath you, and a swift bird on your wrist? Genghis's reply was: "You are wrong. A man's greatest good fortune is to be found in the destruction of his enemies, and the seizing of all of his possessions, and the leaving of his women weeping, and wailing." In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

6.Oppose cruelty
While the last point could certainly be seen to suggest otherwise, the record shows that he did not sadistically enjoy the suffering of those he had conquered. There are no accounts of him employing torture to his victims, and on more than one occasion there is record of him specifically ordering restraint on the part of his men on a defeated foe. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

7.Adapt to changing circumstances
This, I think, is his most remarkable virtue as a commander. In this, Genghis displayed more sublety to him than any mere barbarity might suggest. If a leader is to be judged by the men who serve him, and the decisions that he makes, then Genghis Khan deserves to be credited for recognizing the benefits of education, and bureaucracy by his commanding the briefing of his scribes for the sake of posterity, and administration. This is quite remarkable for an illiterate herdsmen/warrior of the 13th century. And he matured as he went. With each leap to the next level of power; from clan chief to tribal leader, to national statesman, and finally to emperor, he grew in status. This is all the more astonishing when you consider that he was the first of his people to make this leap, and that his only mentors were his enemies. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

8.Know that you have divine support
At each level, he never doubted that he had Heaven's support. His ideology was simple, and straightforward. It was set forth by the belief that all tribes, and nations were to be subject to Mongol rule by the will of Heaven even before their conquest. If all foreign kings would acknowledge this basic truth, all would be well. This belief reminds me of the simple faith required by the Hebrews in achieving their biblical conquest of the land of Canaan. The fact of it was already written in Heaven, all they had to do was accept it. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven for a true leader of his people.

9.Make your friends, and enemies believe it too
Yeh-lu Chutsai joined Genghis because he believed that the Khan possessed the Mandate of Heaven. His success had proved it, and history had demonstrated it. How could any man defeat his enemies in so many instances without the power of Heaven behind him? It simply could not be done. When Genghis made war against a people, it was as if Eternal Heaven had already slain, and marked them for annihilation because they opposed the great Khan, and thus were in opposition to his Heaven.In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven as a true leader of his people.

10. Respect the power of mystery
Why Genghis had been chosen for this role was a mystery to him, as was the nature of the godhead that chose him. With no clear understanding of Heaven, and its will, respect was due by him to all who sought to understand it, and might help him to travel a little farther down the path. In so doing, he upheld the Mandate of Heaven as a true leader of his people.

From Alexander the Great to Adolph Hitler, the best, and vilest of leaders have all had some of these traits. Select a few of them and consider for yourselves. Jesus's kingdom was not of this world. Napolean was perhaps a more brilliant military general/politician, but he made no claims to divine backing; and he ended in defeat without empire. Mohammed balanced religion with military genius, but the briefly unified empire of Islam that he founded was less his creation than that of his heirs.
Alexander came the closest to Genghis I think, though he was no match for ruthlessness to the Khan. He might have been constrained by his tutor Aristotle with lectures on ethics, or possibly he never got the proper chance having died at half the age of Genghis.

When I look to American leaders, I see none that are his equal beyond George Washington,and to a somewhat lesser degree Abraham Lincoln. Jefferson, and John Adams were world class statesmen but lacked divine support, and were thus unable to inspire their people to claim the goals, and ideals that they themselves were aspiring to. The American people have had real leadership only in form without function since the Civil War as the moneyed class has usurped the reins of governmental leadership parading an assortment of acceptable puppets across the stage in what has been perhaps the greatest political hoax of the ages,the ideal of a sustaining constitutional republic. There has been little, or nothing of "the mandate" in the lot of them. Most have been scoundrels, and the cronies of the men whose wealth has bought for them the offices that they have sought. And "WE THE PEOPLE" have heartily endorsed the lot of them as representative of the world as we believe it to be.

The point being here is that those who we elect to public office are a direct reflection of the people that have elected them. Thus we have the kind of government that we deserve. When we deserve better, we will get better. But,if WE THE PEOPLE will allow history to teach us something, the life of a so-called "barbarian" from the 13th century has much to tell us about the kind of leadership that can lead a great people to great achievements,even in this modern era. I hope that we will all consider that any leadership without "The Mandate of Heaven" is not leadership at all, and that those whose feet walk this path will be put to its fire! So let it be written, so let it be done!

The Revolution will not be televised.