Brain Buster Podcasting The Marketeer

Christopher Penn – Honorary Ronin

So I thought I was pretty clever earlier this week with my Rule of 2 (don’t waste your time with social networks that you only hear about once), then Chris Penn, of The Financial Aid Podcast weighed in with a brilliant comment – who gives a damn about the 2 minutes it takes to register, join every network out there to lock down your namespace (protect your brand in Marketese), and he’s absolutely right. He also pointed me towards some other crazy crap Google is trying.
The thing is, this is not the first time he’s dealt me a brainbuster. He’s doing crazy stuff all the time over on MySpace and he’s always experimenting. He’s also good at scripting, and I’m not, so that makes me jealous.

You may ask “Why only an Honorary Ronin”? Chris is actually a ninja, so calling him a Ronin would be an affront. I’ll let him correct my limited understanding if necessary, but the Ninja work for the emperor, sort of like Navy Seals (but you never see them and if there was a movie about them with Charlie Sheen in it, everyone involved in the film would end up assassinated). The Ronin is often without a master, usually because they have been disgraced – basically mercenaries.

In other words it’s sort of like how Colin Powell would be Sir Colin if not for that altercation we had with the kingdom back in the late 1700’s.

I also salute him for working at this place that, for some unknown reason, he’s the only one there that’s not a supermodel (actually I just checked Flickr and for some reason there were some other guys at the holiday party this year, maybe they took some heat for discrimination or something).

So Chris, this sangria’s for you.

3 replies on “Christopher Penn – Honorary Ronin”

Hey John!

Thanks, I appreciate the nod. Speaking to Japanese history…

… ninja’s kind of a new term. At least in the sense of Japanese history, the actual word “ninja” didn’t come into use by the people whom it described. More often they were called “teppo” – battle disruptors – or described as being people of a certain region, like Iga no mono, “Men of Iga province” (near modern-day Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics).

The terms ninja and ronin aren’t mutually exclusive. Ronin – literally, wave people, or wanderers – were indeed masterless samurai. Usually they were masterless because they were either dismissed or their daimyo (feudal lord) lost one of the hundreds of provincial wars that wracked Japan’s medieval period before unification, and they were not required to commit ritual suicide with him. Some of them did indeed become mercenaries, but many changed professions or sought work with a different lord.

The ninja were somewhat different. They tended to be families hiding out from unfavorable political conditions, or in some cases were also on the losing side of a war, but “opted-out” of ritual suicide, believing that life was more important than a societally-imposed ideal of honor. As a result, the ninja’s first loyalties were to their families, and they changed their allegiances as necessary to keep their families as safe as possible in uncertain times. Many of the tactics and skills developed by ninja families relied on using deception, tricks, and stealth because brute force simply wasn’t an option. A small family would stand little chance against a brigade of professional soldiers in a “fair” fight – just as a small business stands little chance of winning against a Microsoft or Google if they play on the terms set by their opposition.

Comparing the ninja to Navy SEALs is actually a poor analogy because the ninja did not owe their allegiance to anyone other than their families. Navy SEALs are constrained in many ways by allegiance to a nation, to a president and commanders, to “rules” by which they must make war (which are admittedly much more flexible than non-SpecWar soldiers), and to serve an objective which is ultimately dictated to them, rather than one they create for themselves.

The peak of power in ninjutsu is the ability, the power, to prevent bad things from happening in the first place. Instead of having to wage war against an enemy, wouldn’t it be so cool for them to simply not want to war against you? That’d be like having a mugger begin stalking you and then about halfway there they’d suddenly get really hungry for a hot, juicy burger and cheese fries (cheddar and mozzarella, a little bit of black pepper and salt, and a side dish of sliced jalapenos) – so much so that they’d completely forget about mugging you and go right for the burger.

All that said, thanks for the nod and the honor. I appreciate it. And I’m not a ninja. What kind of lousy ninja runs around saying they’re a ninja?

That’s interesting, I thought the ninja were sanctioned by the political system. As outcasts they are much closer to ronin than I thought…

Nope. If anything, ninja were more disliked than ronin, because as a feudal lord, you couldn’t count on their loyalties. The highest ranking members of a ninja clan, the jonin (senior management) worked with different entities that were in alignment with the clan’s goals. From the perspective of a daimyo, one day the ninja clan might help you intercept an enemy’s troops – and the next day, you’d lose a brigade’s worth of supplies to a mysterious fire, and unless you had the same insights as the jonin, you never knew why.