disdain the things you don't have / the idea of the concept

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence
and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy,
the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often
made worse and more visible when you try to fix it. It is
sometimes best to leave things alone.

 If there is something
you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less
interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.
The Mexican rebel leader Pancbo Villa started out as the chief of a gang of
bandits, but after revolution broke out in Mexico in 1910, he became a
kind of folk hero-robbing trains and giving the money to the poor, leading daring raids, and charming the ladies with romantic escapades. His exploits fascinated Americans-he seemed a man from another era, part
Robin Hood, part Don Juan. After a few years of bitter fighting, however,
General Carranza emerged as the victor in the Revolution; the defeated
Villa and his troops went back horne, to the northem state of Chihuahua.
His army dwindled and he tumed to banditry again, damaging his popularity. Finally, perhaps out of desperation, he began to rail against the
United States, the gringos, whom he blamed for his troubles.
In March of 1916,

 Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. Rampaging through the town, he and his gang killed seventeen American soldiers and civilians. President Woodrow Wilson, like many Americans, had
admired Villa; now, however, the bandit needed to be punished. Wilson's
advisers urged hirn to send troops into Mexico to capture Villa. For a
power as large as the United States, they argued, not to strike back at an
army that had invaded its territory would send the worst kind of signal.
Furthermore, they continued, many Americans saw Wilson as a pacifist, a
principle the public doubted as a response to violence; he needed to prove
his mettle and manliness by ordering the use of force.
The pressure on Wilson was strong, and before the month was out,
with the approval of the Carranza govemment, he sent an army of ten
thousand soldiers to capture Pancbo Villa. The venture was called the
Punitive Expedition, and its leader was the dashing General John J. Pershing, who had defeated guerrillas in the Philippines and Native Americans
in the American Southwest. Certainly Pershing could find and overpower
Pancho Villa.
The Punitive Expedition became a sensational story, and carloads of
U.S. reporters followed Pershing into action. The campaign, they wrote,
would be a test of American power. The soldiers carried the latest in
weaponry, communicated by radio, and were supported by reconnaissance from the air.
In the first few months, the troops split up into small units to comb the
wilds of northem Mexico. The Americans offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Villa's capture. But the Mexican people, who had
been disillusioned with Villa when he had retumed to banditry, now idolized hirn for facing this mighty American army. They began to give Pershing false leads: Villa had been seen in this village, or in that mountain
hideaway, airplanes would be dispatcbed, troops would scurry after them,
and no one would ever see hirn. The wily bandit seemed to be always one
step ahead of the American military. 

By the summer of that year, the expedition had swelled to 123,000
men. They suffered through the stultifying heat, the mosquitoes, the wild
terrain. Trudging over a countryside in which they were already resented,
A starving fox ...
saw a cluster
Gf luscious-looking
grapes of purplish
Dangling above hirn on
a trellis-frarne.
He would have dearly
liked thern for his
But when he tried and
failed to reaeh the
"Ah weil, it's rnore than
likely they're not
sweetGood only for green
fools to eat!"
Wasn 't he wise to say
they were unripe
Rather than whine
and gripe?
1 621-1695
Gnce when G. K.
Chesterton's eeonornie
views were abused in
print by George
Bernard Shaw, his
friends waited in vain
for hirn to reply.
Historian Hilaire
Belloe reproaehed hirn.
"My dear BeUoe, "
Chesterton said, "f
have answered hirn.
To a rnan of Shaw's
wit, silen ce is the one
unbearable repartee. "
LAW 36 301
TI IL \CiS "'oll
TIIE C ,\ IWI:'iI,: K
An ass had once by
some aecident lost his
tai!, which was a grievous afflietion to him;
and he was everywhere
see king after it, being
fool enough to think he
could get it set on
again. He passed
through a meadow, and
afterwards got into a
garden. The gardener
seeing him, and not
able to endure the
mischief he was doing
in trampling down his
plants, fell into a
violent rage, ran to the
ass, and ne ver standing
on the ceremony of a

 cut off both his
ears, and beat him out
ofthe ground. Thus the
ass, who bemoaned the
loss of his taU, was in
far greater affiiction
when he saw himself
without ears.
rm: I'IWIl IC\ 0\
Onee, when the Tokudaiji minister of the
right was chief of the
imperial police, he was
holding a meeting of
his staff at the middle
gate when an ox
belonging to an official
named Akikane got
loose and wandered
into the ministry building. It climbed up on
302 LAW 36
they infuriated both the local people and the Mexican government. At one
point Pancho Villa hid in a mountain cave to recover from a gunshot
wound he received in a skirmish with the Mexican army; looking down
from his aerie, he could watch Pershing lead the exhausted American
troops back and forth across the mountains, never getting any closer to
their goal.
All the way into winter, Villa played his cat-and-mouse game, Americans came to see the affair as a kind of slapstick farce-in fact they began to
admire Villa again, respecting his resourcefulness in eluding a superior
force_ In January of 1917, Wilson finally ordered Pershing's withdrawal. As
the troops made their way back to American territory, rebel forces pursued
them, forcing the US.

 Army to use airplanes to protect its rear flanks. The
Punitive Expedition was being punished itself-it had turned into a retreat
of the most humiliating sort.
Woodrow Wilson organized the Punitive Expedition as a show of force: He
would teach Pancho Villa a lesson and in the process show the world that
no one, large or small, could attack the mighty United States and get away
with it. The expedition would be over in a few weeks, and Villa would be
That was not how it played out. The longer the expedition took, the
more it focused attention on the Americans' incompetence and on Villa's
cleverness_ Soon what was forgotten was not Villa but the raid that had
started it all. As a minor annoyance became an international embarrassment, and the enraged Americans dispatched more troops, the imbalance
between the size of the pursuer and the size of the pursued-who still managed to stay free-made the affair a joke. And in the end this white eIephant of an army had to lumber out of Mexico, humiliated. The Punitive
Expedition did the opposite of what it set out to do: It left Villa not only
free but more popular than ever.
What could Wilson have done differently? He could have pressured
the Carranza government to catch Villa for him_ Alternatively, since many
Mexicans had tired of Villa before the Punitive Expedition began, he could
have worked quietly with them and won their support for a much smaller
raid to capture the bandit. He could have organized a trap on the American side of the border, anticipating the next raid. Or he could have ignored
the matter altogether for the time being, waiting for the Mexicans themselves to do away with Villa of their own accord.
Remember: You choose to let things bother you_

 You can just as easily
choose not to notice the irritating offender, to consider the matter trivial
and unworthy of your interest. That is the powerful move. What you do
not react to cannot drag you down in a futile engagement. Your pride is not
involved. The best lesson you can teach an irritating gnat is to consign it to
oblivion by ignoring it. If it is impossible to ignore (Pancho Villa had in fact
killed American citizens), then conspire in secret to do away with it, but
never inadvertently draw attention to the bothersome insect that will go
away or die on its own. If you waste time and energy in such entanglements, it is your own fault. Learn to play the card of disdain and turn your
back on what cannot harm you in the long run.
Just think-it cost your government $130 million to try to get me. I took them
over rough, hilly country. Sometimes for fifty miles at a stretch they had no water.
They had nothing but the sun and mosquitoes .... And nothing was gained.
Pancho Villa, 1878-1 923

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