Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bushido II - Justice (Rectitude)

There are seven aspects to the ethical code by which the Samurai composed themselves - Justice, Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Sincerity, Honor and Loyalty.  I have chosen to spearhead an organization which can help chefs and other service industry professionals to make positive changes in their lives and I believe that those who are looking for change will find it on this path.
Each week we will examine one of the aforementioned virtues and see if Bushido may be a good path for the Order of the Chef to use as a guideline in inspiring industry professionals young and old...


As a foundation for the remaining virtues upheld by those who walk the path of the bushi, Justice demands constant vigilance over one's own actions.  In his definitive treatise on Bushido, Inazo Nitobe defines Justice or Rectitude as "...the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering - to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right."  The path of Justice is not an easy or common path among most people, and so arose the concept of Gi-ri (literally Right Reason) in Japanese culture as an enforcer of Justice among the masses.  

Giri is a concept in Japanese culture that is understood as an obligatory service for those to whom one is indebted.  For a very simple example, if someone takes you into their home in a time of need, you will now have giri to pay back to that person.  This may be as simple as taking them for a nice meal or as severe as taking your own life to save theirs, it all depends upon the people and actions involved.  The concept came about to protect the integrity of family units because when familial love was not motivation enough for someone to do the right thing, the social construct of giri brought a motivation based on personal honor and duty as seen by a public eye.  

There is not enough giri in the culinary world.  There are certain understood rules that can be often difficult for young cooks to learn: show up on time, bring your own knife, give a timely notice if you plan to quit, work in a tidy and timely manner...  For chefs who have done their time in the industry, there is a sort of unspoken code that we have and the more "old school" the chef, the stronger this code seems to hold.  All of these rules, however arbitrary they may seem to an industry novice, can be made obvious by applying Bushido and by having a sense of giri. 
...peer pressure?

Perhaps more importantly, young chefs should be taught to respect and empower themselves in order to better serve their chosen "daimyo".  Often it is too easy for a young cook to be swept up by the popular current of good times and revelry in a new place, trying to fit in and protect a fragile ego.  However, a person on a path founded on Justice will have a much easier time in controlling his behavior and escaping the pitfalls of the restaurant scene.  The primary effect of following a code founded on right behavior is that the student develops a sense of constant vigilance over his actions and sets up a 'guard rail' to keep from slipping into a negative pattern.  Bushido can be a great stepping off point for a person who has demonstrated great Courage by initiating a positive change.

1 comment:

  1. I blame the devaluation of our art, our profession, our craft due to the idea that anyone with a television and access to cable, or a Rachel Ray cookbook, can do that we do. Yes, you can learn a few recipes and feed your family with such media. But, in the setting of the subject matter that the blog has been written. There is far more to it than just "cooking". We as industry professionals, must follow a code of moral and deeply rooted philosopical ideas that have been passed down through generations and separate arts. The idea that we MUST be of service to someone other than ourselves, is unfortunately, becoming a bygone way of thinking. I am proud to feel that I am connected to a group of "old school" thinkers. Values, standards, and the honor to be of service to someone other than myself. The new wave of cooks coming out of school have little or no knowledge of such things. From my estimate and observation, they lack honor. They lack respect. They lack the discipline. Can they be taught, yes. Are they willing to learn. That's a case by case basis. Most are driven by the siren's song of "Top Chef" and "Chopped", rather than respect for the ingredients, the technique, the giants that have come before them. They emulate, yes, but without the foundation of previous mentioned qualities. All may be lost. Keep posting, keep pushing, and keep the history and honor at the forefront of what we do. Then, some, the one's who will listen, and be taught will benefit.. I know that I have.. Only because I was able to put my ego and selfish needs aside. Until then. MacDonalds is always hiring. .