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Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil
By Michael Sabbeth
Walter Palmer killed a lion bestowed with a name—Cecil. For a while, much of the hunting world, particularly hunting iconic African big game, imploded as if into a death star. For months people uninformed about lion hunting, who never heard of the Hwange Game Park and who couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map if their fat-free soy lattes depended on it, issued death threats on social media, threatened the person and business of the hunter, condemned much of hunting with broad-brush swipes and raised fortunes for predatory opportunistic animal activist groups.
Drenched in ignorance, energized by a luscious sense of moral superiority and the need to feel good, they were unmoved by the damaging consequences their demands would have inflicted. Unleashing a flash mob of hate, death threats and physical intimidation, they illustrated their deceit in purporting to value life.
Another Cecil-esque event will occur again, either by the act of a hunter or by an event orchestrated by an anti-hunter in a propaganda hit. We must be prepared to mobilize factual and rhetorical defenses for that next event. I offer eight strategies for crafting our defenses.
Strategy 1: Understand the Moral and Intellectual Terrain
We are in a defensive asymmetrical war against people and organizations that do not value reason, logic or consequences. Indeed, reason, logic and consequences are an anathema to anti-hunting people and organizations. Ignorance is a virtue for it facilitates self-righteousness. Hunters tend to see defending hunting and conservation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy. Consequently, hunters over-value truth and facts. We tend to see the battle through a narrow lens. This small aperture stifles a comprehensive understanding of hunting’s opponents. We tend to ignore the complexity of human nature; its narcissism and need to feel morally superior, its cowardice, its lust for easy solutions, the avoidance of pain and the pervasiveness of predatory opportunistic greed.
Our opponents operate on a more primal and effective level. They see anti-hunting in terms of power and the opportunity to advance anti-human and anti-conservation ideologies. Hunters value the research of South Africa’s Ron Thomson and are motivated by the stirring speeches of Shane Mahoney and the narratives of Craig Boddington. The anti-hunters disregard them totally.
In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote that “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” Eliot is partially correct. Often human kind does not care much about reality. Reality impedes their ideological advancement. The anti-hunters grasp this fundamental truth; the hunting community does not. Our failure to grasp this point jeopardizes our ability to effectively refute the anti-hunters.
Strategy 2: Use Social Media More Effectively
We know a picture is worth a thousand words and that a lie travels around the world before the truth gets out of bed. Social media has exposed several undesirable qualities of the hunting community: its aloofness from reality, its complacency, its inability to present a unified front and, worse, its lack of confidence. For example, powerful forces in the hunting community turned on Palmer before the facts were known.
The new media era battle space is complex. We must be willing to fight fire with fire, as the expression goes. We must show the vile wires, snares and traps poachers use and the resultant loathsome injuries they inflict on animals. We must highlight the consequences of children with unclean water and food deprivation. Show the decapitated rhinos with a subtitle screaming: “This is what hunting bans cause!” We should have illustrated the vulgar immorality of the self-satisfied somber-faced American woman arrogantly carrying a sign “I am Cecil,” attempting to parasitically leach morality from the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris. We must show the images; employ powerful iconography and trenchant rhetoric. We must change the social media paradigm!
Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions:
I attended the annual meeting of African Professional Hunters Association at the 2017 SCI convention. Wonderful dedicated all! However, one statement troubled me. Citing Cecil, an attendee said that “that the world will not tolerate unethical behavior.” I disagreed. There is no world in any unified sense, I said. Moreover, the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior. Indeed, the Cecil event proved my point rather than the speaker’s. Additionally, this so-called world has no interest in ascertaining ethical behavior or supporting it. A hunting community, I argued, that seeks to appease ‘the world’ and which acts upon the belief that the world will embrace hunting if hunters are universally ethical is doomed to commit suicide.
It is delusional to believe that the organized anti-hunting advocates—well-funded animal organizations and European and American NGOs—will come to accept elephant, rhino, leopard hunting and remove bans on trading ivory and rhino horn if only they knew the facts. This thinking is self-destructive. It is idiocy. They know what we know. They read the reports, the data, the arguments. Secrets do not exist. Rather, they don’t care. They have different agendas; they submit to different ideologies, they make their money based on different arguments. We must understand that reality if we are to craft winning strategies and rhetoric.
The anti-hunters are willing to impose on the world’s hunting regions, generally, and African hunting nations and their populations, specifically, costs that these far-removed wealthy elites will never pay. African hunting nations, specifically, find themselves in the untenable and frankly, absurd, situation of being dictated to by people who will pay no consequences for being wrong.
Strategy 4: Shift the Paradigm
We should focus less on the virtues of hunting and focus more on the arrogant and deceitful character of those that oppose hunting. Extolling hunting’s conservation virtues is a necessary but insufficient process to persuade the vast middle ground.
We know from studying the facts regarding Cecil the lion and the black rhino hunting auction orchestrated by the Dallas Safari Club that hunting saves animals and people. No rational decent human being can intellectually and morally refute these claims. Yet such hunting is opposed. What is the explanation? Let us not flatter ourselves. We do not have an exclusive divine link to wisdom and knowledge. I accept that many anti-Cecil protesters are decent but uninformed yet that is only a small aspect of their personality structure. What kind of person rejects a rhino hunt knowing that many young rhinos would be saved? What kind of person demands a ban on rhino horn trade knowing that the result is more poaching, more rhino deaths and more hunger for the local populations? These are the messages hunters must make. Data puts people to sleep. Mutilated animals inspire people to fight those that enable the mutilation.
Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we know that those who choose animal protection over animal conservation will get neither. And we know that airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Palmers. We know that the feelings business is profitable and the thinking business not so much.
Strategy 5: Focus on the Proper Audience
Mark Duda of Resource Management estimates that as many as 60-80 percent of the population is non-committal regarding hunting in a general sense. My reading of Duda’s material leads to the favorable conclusion that most of these people can be reached by reason, ethical arguments, caring for native populations and passion. Thus, our strategy should be to forcefully refute the radical anti-hunters, not expecting to change their minds, but to persuade the large ‘middle’ of uncommitted people. This vast group will align with those that seem to have winning arguments.
Strategy 6: Get Legislation and Enforcement
We must develop strategies, including legal action, to combat the extreme anti-hunters’ sadistic fetish for violence and intimidation. Civil and criminal legal action should be taken in extreme cases by skilled lawyers. We should lobby state legislators to pass legislation assessing criminal and civil liability against those who make credible threats, whether in person or through cyberspace, against hunters, their families and their businesses. Paraphrasing Michael Corleone, we must become wartime consigliaris.
Strategy 7: Don’t Avoid the Fight
I spoke with many people who advise hunters to maintain a low profile when confronted with a Cecil-like situation. “Let it blow over; don’t draw attention!” they say. This passive avoidance is self-destructive. Our strategy should be to make the anti-hunting attacker pay a price for its misinformation, greed, narcissism and the unethical consequences of its beliefs. Let us be guided by two of the most fundamental laws of human nature: avoidance is interpreted as weakness and weakness invites aggression. Unlike donors to the anti-hunting causes, the animals we fight to conserve do not live in a therapeutic utopian world. Nature’s one constant is life-and-death brutality. The lion does not co-habit with the gemsbok waiting for a dinner of locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten free, organic steamed broccoli. We must fight for reality if we are to conserve the animals.
Strategy 8: Unify with a Central Resource
Our focus must be on persuasion, which is not the same as spewing out data and making abstract arguments. We must identify and then use people who are smart enough and intellectually agile enough to deconstruct future anti-hunting attacks in concise, simple language. We must identify and emphasize the morality or lack of morality of the consequences of policies advanced by the anti-hunters. We must give our hunters the words to fight back. We must craft arguments that align the virtues of animal conservation and human enrichment with the values of the larger audience. Strategic thinking and action offer the best hope for conserving animals and those in the hunting world who lives are affected.
Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values, available at Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu
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Why Are We Turning On Ourselves?
Fair Chase, Legacy, Crossbows and Joe Bell
For several reasons I felt compelled to read Joe Bell’s article, Thoughts on Fair-Chase Bowhunting, http://pope-young.org/comm/article_details.asp?uid=F95B5128-3B16-4239-8FD0-A23EED172325I aspire to be a student and practitioner of Fair Chase and ethical hunting. I write, lecture and consult on hunting and shooting ethics; and, coincidentally, I am learning to shoot and hunt with a crossbow. Given the article’s title and the prestige of the Pope and Young Club, I figured I could learn something about how bow hunting relates to Fair Chase. I share my thoughts about Mr. Bell’s article and my respectful disagreement with his arguments and conclusions.
I cannot divine Mr. Bell’s mind and soul but I can study the words he actually wrote and what he did not write and then draw conclusions from them. His title includes the phrase Fair Chase, which is a noble concept. I looked forward to seeing how Mr. Bell discussed it. The Pope and Young website has a definition of Fair Chase: http://pope-young.org/fairchase/default.aspThe definition is curious because it defines what Fair Chase is not rather than what it is. Example: “The term “Fair Chase” shall not include the taking of animals under the following conditions:…..” The definition ends with the even more curious and vague rule: “Any other condition considered by the Board of Directors as unacceptable.” Not much guidance there.
“To begin with, the Club defines a bow as a hand-held, hand-drawn device, in which you pull the bowstring back using your body's strength. This is where the energy comes from to propel the arrow forward. We believe anyone that uses such a tool is an archer and therefore a bowhunter when pursuing game.”
Mr. Bell writes; "This is why the Pope and Young Club does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool. For this reason, we are against them for use in archery-only hunting seasons."
On the surface, Mr. Bell gives the appearance of weaving Fair Chase principles and ethics into his arguments. His motive is obvious: his arguments and conclusions will gain credibility and moral justification if he can successfully draw upon Fair Chase and ethics to support them. However, Mr. Bell does not show why Fair Chase principles or ethics supports his definitions. He just says so.
Mr. Bell writes: “But lines must be drawn, and the "bow" is a great place to make it clear cut. Again, it must be hand held, hand drawn, so your body takes up the power of the bow's force in order to propel the arrow forward.” He doesn’t say why a line must be drawn. He doesn’t explain why, based on ethics and Fair Chase, anyone would care or should care if a line is drawn. He does not provide an explanation based on ethics as to why a line must be drawn. Again, he just says so.
Mr. Bell’s policy recommendation is limited: “Are we against the person using the crossbow? No, absolutely not. This is foolishness. We are simply against the "tool" for use during archery-designated seasons.”
Does Mr. Bell make a case based on ethics and Fair Chase principles for restricting the crossbow? I don’t think so.
Mr. Bell doesn’t offer evidence or show which Fair Chase principles support his conclusion that it is more ethical to ban crossbow hunting from archery-designated seasons. Mr. Bell simply says it is so. More specifically, Mr. Bell offers no evidence that the “hand-held” bow is in any way more ethical or more consistent with Fair Chase principles than the crossbow.
No references are made to arrow speed, accuracy, range, power or other variables that might provide an ethical basis for distinguishing crossbows from hand-held ones. Mr. Bell has a bias against crossbows, which is fine, although he writes that the use of any kind of bow is up to the subjective sense of the individual hunter. But his bias is not supported by facts or ethics or Fair Chase principles.
Mr. Bell writes: “This is why the Pope and Young Club does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool.” Okay, fine. He is entitled to his opinion; but he is not entitled to make up or ignore facts or twist the meaning of Fair Chase or ethics to support his opinion. Mr. Bell’s subjective definition of a ‘real archery tool’ has nothing to do with Fair Chase or ethics, and, in fact, he doesn’t try to show that it does.
Mr. Bell has a bias against crossbows “Because it severs the line between what is archery and what is not.” It is easy, of course, for Mr. Bell to reach his conclusion because he defined the terms of bow and archer in such a way that no other conclusion is possible. His conclusion is not grounded in ethics but in manipulating definitions.
Mr. Bell wants the moral authority gained by saying his arguments are supported by the Fair Chase doctrine but he never shows how any of its principles apply to any of his arguments or definitions. He simply writes Fair Chase as if the words alone stops all debate. He does not show why or how a vertical bow is consistent with Fair Chase and a crossbow is not. By itself, whether an animal is taken with a hand held bow or with a slice of month-old pizza has nothing to do with Fair Chase.
I try to understand and do justice to Bell’s arguments and then write accurately about my understanding. To do otherwise would be unethical, as if I, as a lawyer, misstated to a judge the facts or holding of a legal case. It may well be that, in Mr. Bell’s words, “it’s the practice of Fair Chase and high-ethical standards that keeps all Pope and Young Club members branded as one.” But he doesn’t show how ‘real archers’ advance these goals better than crossbow hunters.
Primitive-Like and Legacy
Another part of Mr. Bell’s bias against crossbows is that they are not ‘primitive-like.’ He writes: “we owe it to them and our sport to protect this legacy, which is to keep the sport primitive-like and as challenging as possible...to keep bowhunting a full-body shooting engagement.”
Several issues leap out. First, ‘primitive-like’ is a suspiciously flexible term that defies precise meaning. Thus, like tofu, you can make ‘primitive-like’ into anything you want. Second, defining the modern compound bow as primitive-like defies reason. Made of space-age materials such as carbon, titanium and specialized steel alloys, deriving great mechanical advantages from pulley systems, boasting luminous sight sticks, range finders and release triggers and machined to stunning tolerances, these bows are marvels of modern technology and precision. They are as primitive as a Porsche.
Third, Mr. Bell’s reference to ‘legacy’ is unhelpful. Legacy is a morally neutral concept. Some legacies are good; some not so terrific. Slavery comes to mind. Mr. Bell limits legacy to one factor: the mechanical action of how a string is drawn. Again, fine, but he fails to show how such a legacy in any manner advances Fair Chase and ethical hunting. Appealing to legacy without explaining why the legacy is virtuous is not a persuasive argument. Moreover, I would bet a substantial sum that the animal cares not a whit how the arrow was released.
When evaluating Mr. Bell’s arguments, another factor deserves attention. I have volunteered on hunts with many severely disabled persons and persons not disabled but afflicted with upper-body injuries. They cannot draw a compound bow. They might be able to shoot a crossbow. Is Mr. Bell going to look into the eyes, for example, of the fourteen-year old I accompanied on a pronghorn hunt (rifle hunt) last year, a boy with no legs and two withered arms, and lecture to him that he can never be worthy of the title ‘archer’ or ‘bowhunter’? That he can never hunt according to Fair Chase principles because, at best, he can only use a crossbow? I hope not. But if so, the key question is: what benefit is derived from that argument?
Why Are We Dividing Ourselves?
I read and re-read Mr. Bell’s article, and several questions kept haunting me. Why did he write it? What was he trying accomplish that deserved to be accomplished? Why start the equivalent of an Animal House movie cafeteria food fight among hunters using different bow platforms for the trivial goal of eliminating some of them from the archery-designated season?
Hunters of every platform face real problems, problems that threaten every kind of hunting. We live in perilous times. If interest rates creep up, if the welfare state continues to consume the economy like a metastasizing cancer, if the economy contracts a little, the billions of dollars for hunting and conservation raised through Pittman-Robinson taxes will dissipate like smoke from a campfire. When photos appear showing an animal with an arrow through its head or neck, thereby creating the equivalent of Cecil the Elk or Bear or Deer or whatever, the Great White shark of viral social media won’t distinguish how bows were held or how the arrow was drawn. When hunting is ended and the animals are dead from starvation and poaching and so forth, it really won’t matter which bow platform you liked and disliked.
Much of the world has gone insane, and viciously insane, feasting on reptilian predatory opportunism. Turning bowhunters against each other strikes me as self-destructive and void of logic and reason. I’d much prefer we hunters focus on meaningful issues. Let us develop strategies for fighting anti-hunters that buzz drones over the animals and who on social media threaten injury and death to hunters and their families.
Let us absorb the fact that we are one Supreme Court Justice away from perhaps losing the individual right to own or possess a firearm. “What’s that got to do with me?” some bowhunters might ask. Well, consider that Scotland is now enforcing its Air Weapons and Licensing Act, https://www.nraila.org/articles/20160304/scotland-sets-july-deadline-for-airgun-licensing
requiring registration and permits to possess an airgun. Is there any rational basis to believe this could not happen to bows?
I never met Joe Bell. Pope and Young is an honorable organization. I believe Mr. Bell is passionately dedicated to preserving and advancing bow hunting. But, in this instance, whatever compels him, he allowed passion to dominate reason, and generally nothing good comes from such a dynamic. I conclude Mr. Bell did not make his case. He did not persuade that the crossbow restrictions are justified by Fair Chase or ethics. We cannot afford to fracture the hunting population, bow hunting included. The stakes are too high. We need to pull together, not create division, especially when there is no moral or factual reason to divide us.
Michael G. Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. He lectures on ethics and rhetoric. He has written the book The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. It is available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu He is now working on a book titled No More Apologizing! Arguments to Defend and Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. Visit his website www.thehonorablehunter.com and his Facebook page www.facebook/thehonorablehunter.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
In Polymnia, the Seventh Book of the History of Herodotus, Demaratus, a betrayed Spartan, warned Persian King Xerxes against attacking the Spartans. “Valour is an ally whom we have gained by dint of wisdom and strict laws,” he said. Xerxes, scoffing, said the Spartans were weak because they are free men under no direct authority. Demaratus admonished Xerxes, “They are the bravest of all. For though they be free men, they are not in all respects free. Law is the master whom they own; and this master they fear more than thy subjects fear thee... It forbids them to flee in battle...and requires them to conquer or die.”
Xerxes ignored Demaratus and was defeated in the naval Battle of Salamis. The Spartans fought for a noble purpose, not personal glory or wealth.
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, commander of the German Schutzstaffel(SS), the Nazi concentration camps and the Einsatzgruppen death squads, expressed an elastic view of noble purpose in his speech to SS officers in Posen, Poland on October 6, 1943: “Most of you know what it means when a hundred corpses are lying side by side.....and at the same time— apart from exceptions caused by human weakness — to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard..... a page of glory in our history... We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us.”
Like beauty, noble purpose is in the eyes of the beholder. Himmler illustrates the infinite capacity of the human mind to behold the vilest evil as noble. The lethality of modern weaponry dictates that the survival of the human species and much else will be a consequence of the proper determination of the nobility of purpose our professionals in arms are commanded to implement.
Leaders determine what is noble, but they, even if democratically elected, offer no guarantee of wisdom and virtue. Ascribing something as noble is an easy rhetorical stunt, but, in George Gershwin’s words, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Noble purposes do exist. A realist’s perspective on noble purpose should incorporate criteria to measure its nobility, its consequences and the likelihood it will be pursued. The inherent ethics of the purpose, the existence of power to implement it, the moral clarity possessed by leaders assessing it and the existence of moral will to implement the purpose must be assessed. Those who choose a life of service within the profession of arms are duty bound to understand the morality of their assigned purposes and to make moral judgments among conflicting noble purposes.
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
In Once an Eagle, a seminal novel on military honor, Anton Myrer expressed a noble purpose: “but what excited him (Sam Damon) most of all were the stories of Cincinnatus and Dumouriez and Prescot, of farmers and citizens who took arms to confound tyranny and crush it, who stepped into the mortal breach to save their native lands...”
Of the six purposes cited in the Preamble of the United States Constitution that justify its creation, one imposes a noble purpose on the nation’s profession of arms: provide for the common defense. The Preamble is derived from the classic Greek tragedian concept that the natural state of man is conflict rather than peace
due to its predatory and opportunistic nature. Thus, society has a duty to protect its citizens through deterrence and battle. In Western culture, the mission of the profession of arms is to serve the rule of law and individual freedom.
Augustine of Hippo, generally considered the greatest Christian theologian, asserted: “Peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin.” The premise of the ‘just war’ was that the evil of war could be justified only if war could prevent greater evils.
"Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience." Blaise Pascal
Moral clarity, the intersection of the rational and the ethical, allows nobility of purpose to be judged on its own ethical integrity. A fighter pilot in Gulf War I was instructed to shoot Iraqis fleeing Kuwait. Deductive reasoning compels that the mission to get Iraqis out of Kuwait had been accomplished and the rationale for shooting them no longer existed. The pilot requested a change of orders. The granting of modified orders negating the instruction to shoot acknowledged a noble purpose premised upon sanctity of life, among other virtues.
Either a purpose is noble or it is not, based on reasonably objective criteria discerned by scalpel-like questioning: does the purpose advance ethical principles such as Autonomy, Justice, Sanctity of Life and individual liberty and personal freedom? Himmler’s didn’t. Neither did Mohamed Atta’s, the Egyptian hijacker who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower on September 11, 2001.
The absence of moral clarity leads to moral confusion and false moral equivalencies, risking an Orwellian linguistic dishonesty where the narrative of the enemy defines the noble purpose. Moral clarity must distinguish between reasoning and rationalizing; between rational and sophistic rhetoric.
The nobility of a nation’s purpose is a function of its power to actualize that purpose. As power drains, what is noble becomes malleable. John Keegan, the great military historian, observed that a nation without a military is in a sense no longer a nation. Author Mark Steyn noted that “in a more general sense, nations that abandon their militaries tend also to abandon their national interests: Increasingly, instead of policies, they have attitudes.”
When nations lack the power to address serious issues, they become consumed with trivial ones, where, for example, concerns for windmills trump concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons. The nation becomes a bystander in its own fate.
Executing a noble purpose requires power. Nations promised fortunes in aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia. As food and goods piled up on docks, to be stolen or to rot, the United States military saved lives because it had the power—helicopters and pilots—to reach stranded and wounded people. If you’d wanted to donate to a useful charity to save lives, you’d have given your money to the United States Navy.
In the absence of power, a nation may, at best, mask its impotence by couching its noble purpose in narcissistic moral preening. The most assertive action almost any nation can now take to confront savagery around the world is to get a UN resolution expressing concern.
Moral will is the distillate of several qualities, including ethical character, the capacity to analyze facts and, through logic and reason, evaluate foreseeable consequences of actions and inactions. Character, however, is the most salient attribute of moral will. The essence of moral leadership is the ability to inspire loyalty and confidence through force of personal example; the difference between the officer yelling "Follow me!" as opposed to "Charge!"
Moral will in its most honorable incarnation is duty but duty does not define its boundaries. The most motivating force in war is not country or flag but protecting your buddy. ‘Leave no soldier behind’ is the quintessential expression of moral will.
Moral will is the willingness to risk all for a noble purpose. U. S. Army Ranger Sergeant Leroy Petry, the second living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, saved the lives of at least two men in his unit by lunging for a grenade before it could kill them, amputating his hand. "It's not courage," he said. "It was love. I looked at the two men next to me that day and they were no different than my own children or my wife. I did what anyone would have done." Anyone would have done? If only!
Moral will directs behavior. It demands that the exigencies of the present not be cravenly ignored. It demands a credible deterrence against those that desire to undermine you. Rather than having perverse mesmerizing awe for the aggressive self certainty of those inflicting harm, the exercise of moral will effects an unalloyed commitment to defeat them. The nation that lacks moral will acquiesces in barbarism.
Lack of moral will degrades into moral confusion, undermines confidence in noble purposes and can lead to appeasement, the appearance of weakness and possibly the preemptive compromising of those values the arms professionals have sworn to uphold. Moral will enables a nation to have the right enemies and the right friends. You can be liked by all or you can be a great noble power. You can’t be both.
CONFLICTING NOBLE PURPOSES
Noble purposes often conflict. A soldier’s work is inherently conflicted among obligations to the object of the conflict, the welfare of the men and the broader ethical context of the mission. If these conflictual choices are not recognized and their resolutions deliberated, there is nothing for the professional in arms to profess.
Conflicting noble purposes are evident in innumerable choices and decisions such as those pertaining to the release of prisoners from Guantanamo, the use of drone attacks, the concern for collateral damage as a factor to limit or reject lethal action and the rules of engagement.
We nobly aspire to be a nation of laws, not men, yet when decisions are made on the basis of bureaucratic legalisms, risks increase that released prisoners will return to kill Americans. The noble purpose of avoiding or reducing what is euphemistically called collateral damage is undermined when those targets are spared and, thus, allowed to kill more innocents. When the rules of engagement give greater value to the lives of enemy fighters than one’s own, its nobility of purpose begins to dissipate like smoke at a campfire.
The inherent conflicts among noble purposes are ineluctable and elude the consistent application of the same solutions. In harmony with the Greek tragedian sense, leaders must be adaptable and, with grit and nobility of character, struggle to find new solutions. However, consistent principles should guide leaders to find resolutions on a case by case basis. Classist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson advocates pragmatism and prudence but acknowledges that for them to have moral value, pragmatism and prudence must be wrapped in an ethos that defends the nation and its core values of individual liberty and personal freedom.
But what is strength without a double share Of wisdom?
A discussion of noble purposes and the profession of arms should raise the kinds of questions informed engaged citizens must ask if they are to gauge and hold accountable the moral integrity of their society and the arms profession that defends it. Noble purposes should be premised on a commitment to truth, for the greatest evil is done by those who believe lies. Noble purposes should advance the principles of individual liberty and freedom. They should be identified unambiguously and vigorously defended without apology or equivocation.
Noble principles are not self-executing and ethics are not self-actualizing. Thus, leaders of moral character must be cultivated, nurtured and rewarded. Paraphrasing Thomas Sowell, ignorance draped in confidence is a dangerous quality and a leader’s ignorance conveyed through brilliant rhetoric will lead to national disaster.
If the leadership chain fails to interpret and advance noble purposes and allows them to morph into philosophies contoured by momentary convenience and expedience, then noble intent becomes polluted like a toxic chemical seeping into an aquifer, subverting the mission of the profession of arms.
The kinds of questions a society and its arms professionals ask—political, military, cultural, financial—illuminate their level of courage and honor. Noble purposes are more likely identified and achieved when leaders are not, in Edmund Burke’s phrase, “intoxicated with admiration at their own wisdom and ability.”
Those who have dedicated their lives to the profession of arms can best realize nobility of purpose through ruthless introspection of their wisdom, character and moral will. Spelunking into the labyrinthine caverns of their souls to confront the tyrants within may be the noblest purpose of all.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
IT IS ONE MATTER TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF AN ART; TO GRASP ITS DETAILS, MASTER ITS THEMES AND APPRECIATE ITS WHIMSICAL RIVULETS. IT’S QUITE ANOTHER TO TIP TOE INTO ITS HISTORY AND WATCH IT BLOSSOM INTO THE FUTURE. I HAVE BEEN FAVORED WITH MANY VIBRANT EXPERIENCES BECAUSE OF MY RELATIONSHIP WITH SAFARI MAGAZINE AND A FEW OTHERS, BUT I SAY UNABASHEDLY THAT NO WRITING ASSIGNMENT HAS AFFORDED ME THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING PART OF HISTORY’S FLOW AS HAS WRITING ABOUT THE ENGRAVERS OF BERETTA’S HIGH GRADE GUNS.
"BELLE ARTI" and BERETTA
The history of Italian engraving is a subset of the develop- ment of structures to advance the Italian language and art. For example, Dante Alighieri (1300), considered the ‘father’ of the Italian language, was the dominant force to have books written in an Italian language rather than in Latin. The Italian ‘language,’ however, was actually an array of several dialects. Regarding the engraving art, from the 1200’s through the 1500’s, Italy could boast of notable artisans such as Giotto. These artists, however, were solitary craftsmen that worked alone and independently, just as writers wrote in different Italian dialects. They were often secretive about their tech- nique and tools.
Beginning in the 1500s, a new structure variously referred to as ‘scuolas’ (schools) or bottegas (small shops or studios) or
academies flourished that institutionalized the apprentice system. Prior to the bottega institution, no structure existed to identify, train and promote the practitioners of the arts or to establish quality standards.
The academy system that began to flourish in the early 1500’s specialized in painting, engraving and sculpture. Collectively, they were referred to as the “Belle Arti” or the ‘beautiful arts.’ Significantly, the bottega/academy system implementated the Italian cultural philosophy that methodi- cal disciplined teaching within a defined structure was vital for cultivating and sustaining the arts.
Illustrative of this unifying structure is the Italian linguistic academy “Accademia Della Crusca,” the most prominent academy in the field of language. Founded in 1583, it served to unify and protect the evolving coherent Italian language first conceived by Dante.
The bottega system germinated at the time that Beretta was established. Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta considers its ‘‘birth certificate’ to be a receipt dated October 3, 1526 from the Doge of Venice to master Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone, Brescian territory, for 185 arquebus barrels.. Thus, Beretta’s ‘birth’ was contemporaneous with the institutionalization of promoting the fine arts. These two phenomena, one artistic, the other corporate, have sup- ported and elevated each other for a half millennia up to this moment when the engrav- ing art is at its zenith and Beretta has become the art’s dominant patron.
The Art is in the Blood
“Un artista ce l’ha nel sangre,” Giulio Timpini told me. My skillful interpreter, Chiara Pivato, from Beretta’s marketing department, translated: “The art is in the blood.” Giulio Timpini knows whereof he speaks. Past director of the Beretta engraving bottega, he and his family have been engravers for Beretta for two hundred and fifty years.
During our interview Giulio referred to the concept “sensi- bilita,” by which he means the spiritual dimension of the engraving art, that which resides in the heart, the blood and in the soul of the artisan.
The rigorous training of elite engravers encompasses three foundational techniques, which Giulio poetically analogizes to the three classical art forms. The first and most fundamen- tal engraving technique is the use of the hammer. It is com- parable to the basic sculptor’s technique applied to stone. Both employ the same strength, motion and body position.
Bulino is the second technique taught. The engraver uses the fine burin or graver (actually, dozens of different ones) and the loop, a magnifying lens, to remove steel millimeter by millimeter from the object’s surface. Pressure from the hand rather than from a hammer strike guides the graver and makes the cuts.
The bulino technique yields those soul-stirring scenes of ani- mals that have the spark of life and landscapes so vivid you sense the whisper of the wind. Giulio compares the bulino technique with painting and the graver to the painter’s brush.
The engraver employing the bulino technique will usually be seated while the engraver applying the hammer technique will almost always be standing, and will usually walk around the vise with the precision of a ballet dancer to make the cuts.
One of the most daunting bulino applications is the techni- ca chiaroscuro, the darkening and lightening of the steel’s sur- face. The luminescence of oil paint seen in the works of the finest painters such as Caravaggio and Titian is replicated tri- umphantly by the engraver by minutely altering the depth and angle of the removed steel.
Oreficeria, the inlaying of gold and other precious metals, is the third technique. The skills are derived from crafting gold jewelry, the art that led to the careers of many of Italy’s earli- est engravers. The multiple facets of the engraving art can thus be understood as the synthesis of the arts of the sculp- tor, the painter and the jewelry maker.
A minimum of five years is required to become reasonably skilled at these three techniques. Transforming technique into art, however, requires mastery of another artistic dimen- sion – the knowledge of the animals, their habitat and phys- iology and the knowledge of landscape, terrain and sky.
To realistically reproduce the charging lion, the mallards against a misty sky, or indeed, your spouse, your home, your dog or your jet, the engraver must become an artist. The artist must also master the classical styles; Baroque, Romanesque, English scroll and the deep chisel cut. Also to be mastered are what Plato referred to as balance and proportion, not only within the objects themselves but balance and proportion within the physical constraints imposed by the borders and shapes of the object.
The Beretta studio has about fifteen engravers. Their work day begins at about seven in the morning, when the natural light flooding into the studio is bright and direct. Employment openings are rare. A new engraver is hired onl
every five to ten years. Each artist has his or her own artistic strength – scroll, birds, animals, gold inlay. “I let them create,” Giulio says. “Each artist must follow his own path.” Giulio discerns each artist’s passions and strengths and assigns high grade gun projects based on those individual talents.
Beretta’s ‘Cathedral of the Mind’
The artist that works on a vast canvas can illustrate more of his skills than the one confined to working on a small surface. Giulio lyrically analogizes the opulent opportunities on the large canvas to a cathedral. “If you work within a cathedral, the artist can do many things.” The cathedral metaphor also applies to working for a large successful company such as Beretta, where more opportunities to express artistic talent are offered.
“Working for Beretta,” Giulio says, “is like having a cathedral. There are so many different guns and artists and subjects. The artist has the freedom to express what is inside him.”
Chiara helped Giulio refine and clar- ify his ideas and imagery as he strug- gled to express thoughts he said he had not previously expressed. Their faces were luminescent, as if transported to another world as they interacted as flu- idly as an elegant pair of ice skaters.
Making a premium gun is a great responsibility. On all aspects of the pre- mium guns, Giulio has always worked closely with Ugo Gussalli Beretta
(Beretta’s CEO), who he refers to as his mentor. Giulio explains that Beretta has given him the possibility to build a cathedral. With a flourish he adds, “It is the same as when the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Ceiling.”
Giulio shared that he could have earned more money leav- ing the valley and moving to Milan or Florence. He stayed at Beretta, however, because of family and history. “You don’t forget your origins,” he said. “Would I leave?” he asks rhetor- ically. He shakes his head. “No, I will miss my cathedral.”
In addition to its bottega engravers, Beretta contracts with the finest independent engravers. I visited several in Italy and had the serendipitous good fortune to meet with Ken Hunt this October at the third Grand Masters Engraving Program in Emporia, Kansas sponsored by the Glendo Corporation.
Bottega Giovanelli is located high in the mountains in Magno, about ten kilometers further up the valley from the Beretta facilities. The morning of my visit the air was clean and clear and as crisp as chilled apples. The building’s interi- or and exterior are adorned with murals, sculpture and pho-
tographs. The bottega employs about two dozen engravers, one third of which are women. Master engraver and Giovanelli manager Dario Cortini greeted me and Jarno Antonelli and gave us a leisurely tour of the spacious, multi-level offices and work areas.
Directing our attention to different gun actions as we walked through the studio, Dario explained the la tec- nica della linea, where very fine thin lines – molto fine – were used on the game scenes to control the light, a technique mastered by Durer.
Dario identified some advantages of the line technique. The engraver is less likely to make mistakes employ- ing it and the lines are less vulnerable to wear than are the fine points
employed in the tecnica puntino. “It is an honor to be selected by Beretta,” Dario said. It is
the most important firearms maker in the world, he added. No other maker has Beretta’s influence and prestige. But as an artist, more important to Dario than Beretta’s prestige is its philosophical relationship with the engravers.
Beretta doesn’t tell him what to do. No one tells him any- thing like, ‘I need two pheasant, a Labrador Retriever and an elephant to go!’ On behalf of all of its engravers, Dario told me how Beretta allows the engravers to engrave in their own style, asking their opinion about what they can do best. Dario then made arguably the most powerful statement an artist can make: “Beretta trusts me.”
Giacomo Fausti greeted me and Jarno Antonelli like old friends in the main salon of the Creative Art bottega. I had met Giacomo the previous year at the Grand Masters Engraving Program. Creative Art is the second most important bottega that does work for Beretta. Founded only eight years ago, Creative Art has catapulted to the highest world renown. Many of their best engravers started with Giovanelli and many had been students of Giulio Timpini.
Mingling among the busy engravers, I noted several Giubileos, exquisite DT 10 sporting target guns, one 687 EELL covered with magnificent pheasant and yelping dogs and a pulse-raising SO 6 EELL titanium action boasting gold inlays that prompted thoughts of a second mortgage.
Allowed to take the action from the vise, I studied its sur- faces with the respect and care of an angler delicately hold- ing the soon-to-be released trout.
I inquired how the engraver achieved the striking dark shading of the head of a charging elephant engraved on a double rifle. Giacomo explained it is done with meticulously fine cross-hatched lines that capture the light. No ink is used.
My last visit in Italy was with Mauro Dassa of Incisioni Dassa. I have known Mauro for several years and consider him a friend. He is at the top of the craft and is imbued with -a contagious passion for the art. He has engraved many Beretta premium guns, including stunning new SO 10 mod- els, during a relationship that spans several years.
Mauro works with his uncle, brother and father at his airy, scrupulously neat bottega in Collebato, which means ‘beauti- ful small mountains,’ a mid-sized town about one-half hour’s drive from the Beretta offices. I chatted with Mauro amidst the background din of the staccato tapping of his brother’s and uncle’s hammers striking their chisels.
The studio’s several polished wood cabinets overflowed with books on art, engraving and travel. Photographs and small sculptures adorned the shelves like birds in a nest. Desks are covered with calendars and folios featuring its work.
One of the great joys and privileges of this assignment was interviewing Ken Hunt at this year’s Grand Masters Engraving Program. This article gave me the justifica- tion to ask specific detailed questions about the style and technique of this unsurpassed masteroftheart.
Beretta had asked Ken to engrave and adorn one of the surprise ‘birthday’ guns for Ugo Gussalii Beretta. “Of course, it is an honor,” Ken said, “to be selected to create this unique gun for Mr. Beretta.”
Since it was a dominant feature of the birthday gun, Ken patiently explained his unique methods for coloring the gold in exquisite hues and then applying it to the action and the barrels. He described the process as just like painting. The action must first be prepared to secure the gold so that it would withstand the contraction and expansion of the steel
from firing tens of thousands of cartridges. “No one else has used this technique,” Ken said.
Almost all buyers of Beretta high grade guns in the United States work with Peter Horn, the vice president of the company’s retail division. One of the reasons for Peter’s prominence is his close relationship with the elite engravers.
He knows their schedules, he knows their styles and he knows how to align their rep- resentations with the customers’ personal artistic preferences. Peter insightfully notes: “Working with the master engravers in and around Gardone is equivalent to
walking amongst the master painters of the Renaissance.” A unifying theme always effervesced to the surface in any conversation I had with these independent engravers: that Beretta is the dominant artistic force in the valley. Beretta sus- tains the engraving art. It has done so for five hundred years and I expect it will continue to do for so for as long as people value the art of the gun.