Lessons on Political Change from Rurouni Kenshin

"New eras don't come about because of swords, they're created by the people who wield them."-Kenshin, Rurouni Kenshin

I love Rurouni Kenshin because it has a strong message on political change as it takes on a common dilemma for those who have to fight for and protect change. 

What is change? It means something different and new that comes about from the old. It is the end of the old and the beginning of something new. Change as an objective, an end, is achieved through a variety of means and ways.

Is it justifiable to use the ways of the old to protect the new? 

If the new is threatened by the elements from the past that use the old ways, is the use of the old ways by the protectors and elements of the new justifiable to protect the new? Is there still a place for the ways of the old - killing and violence that was used supposedly to pave the way for a new age - in the new era? Is there no escaping the old ways?

Kenshin's Message

For Kenshin, the new is only truly new if the ways of the past - that supposedly paved the way for the new - are no longer necessary to protect it. 

Kenshin, a legendary manslayer, vowed to stop killing because he believes killing is a way of the past. Such way has paved the way for the new age, where supposedly killing is no longer necessary. And such new age can only be so if the ways of the old will no longer be resorted to - even in protecting the new age. 

Therefore, for Kenshin, it should be the conscious decision of those wanting a new era to stop themselves from resorting to the old ways even if this seems to be the last resort to protect the new. Using the ways of the old to fight for the new is like becoming the enemy you want to defeat.

Means and Ends are One

Means and ends are one. Your means will ultimately determine whether you have actually achieved your end. This is so because the end - change for the better - is only truly achieved if the means in achieving new ends will also be different. 

Stretching the logic of this, new ends can only be imagined and achieved if the ways of the old have been discarded to pave the way for new ways and means. Our thinking won't change unless our ways have changed, just as our ways would stay the same if we continue to think in the same way about the same things.

Resorting to the use of the same means in the new context would only result to a perpetual cycle of the same end justifying the use of the old means until such time when the two are no longer distinguishable -- means and ends as two sides of the same coin, a shadow to each other. 

Demands More

Kenshin also shows what change requires. Bringing about something new demands a lot. It demands a change from ourselves most importantly, which is oftentimes the hardest. We are, after all, a product of our past.

The ways of the old that we once mastered to pave the way for the new, this we must unlearn. We must resist the temptation of using it too, even to protect the new.

To do so, we must reinvent ourselves. We must learn new ways and befriend those who flourish in making and using news ways to achieve new ends. Kenshin harnesses a reversed blade to protect the innocent who he thinks should own and chart the new era. 

This entails mastering of the self and defeating it to be different and to defend and protect those which are different using the new ways we learn.

Does it Work?

This is the central question of the story of Rurouni Kenshin: will such conviction work? 

The Kenshin story is all about the many attempts to taunt, challenge and defeat such principle and how every step of the way, the main protagonist, Kenshin, with the help of his friends, overcome the challenges, deflected the temptations and stayed true to his principle. And for every fight won, Kenshin becomes better ready to face stronger enemies. 

Kenshin becomes better with stronger conviction. Such is a necessary shield as he faces his succeeding challenges.

The new allies he wins over, the friends he makes, the hearts he is able to convince - this makes him better.

Most importantly, Kenshin becomes better every after a fight for as he wins each fight - strengthening his conviction and winning over the heart and mind of others in the process - he is winning the battle. He is becoming the new that he fought for.