The Corner

Whether We Stay or Run Away

This reminded me of a passage in “Historical Records,” the great historical tome of ancient China, written by Sima Qian. “the Chinese Herodotus.” In the time of the second Qin emperor, a force of 900 men was forcibly conscripted to garrison

a town some miles away. They started out, but heavy rains made the road

impassable. This meant they would be late–an offense punishable by death.

Writes the historian: “Chen She and Wu Guang accordingly began to plot

together. ‘As things stand, we face death whether we stay or run away,’

they said, ‘while if we were to start a revolt we would likewise face death.

Since we must die in any case, would it not be better to die fighting for

our country?’….” That is how discipline collapses in an army–or a

country–run by fear.

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