A few thousand years ago a king and his son, the next king, led completely different lives. The father lived a life of conquests and campaigns, defense and attack. On the other hand, the son prioritised economic growth planning along with maintaining and forging diplomatic relations within and outside the kingdom.
The father’s life started taking a turn towards waging wars and leading conquests at the age of 13 when his father died. He had no choice but to deal with scheming relatives to kings and princes who took every opportunity to encroach. The latter part of his life was more stable as he had ensured security and there were no further disputes. But the real question was to have enough money and doing everything that would prevent another war from falling upon the kingdom.
It was then that his son took bold and courageous decisions to push the kingdom towards an economic powerhouse while keeping their borders secure. The father, in this case, is a wartime king and the son, a peacetime king.
Who is better?
Who holds more prominence?
Who needs to be admired more?
Who would the populace remember forever?
All these questions are important thought experiments. The wartime king and the peacetime king are separated by time, situations and context. Their responsibilities and call to action are different in nature. The wartime king had to mobilise funds for arms and personnel which is a high risk, high return situation but taking an action becomes necessary to safeguard the territory. A calm and collected mind is quintessential; close and reliable aides and advisors were means to his success.
Managing human resources, and building relationships became his second nature. There was no room for error. A slight hiccup or slip, and the wartime king will drop dead. He wanted people to not question his claim on the land and kingdom. The fear of losing it probably had its roots in his father’s untimely death.
Whereas, the peacetime king had rebuild the state, fresh from all wounds. He saw the citizens distraught, farmers and artisans displaced and women heading the households while men were nowhere to be seen. The royal coffers were his secret hiding spots so that no one could find him. Bit now, there was nowhere to hide there. His kingdom stayed intact and that was his father’s legacy.
He worked on promoting trade, supporting producers and encouraging crafts. He also introduced a better taxation system and forged diplomatic ties while silencing the voices of dissent throughout. Peacetime king’s goal was to ensure that his kingdom lasts well beyond his death and an appropriate handover to his successor. His grandfather didn’t have this option.
Creation and sustenance are often far from each other, and that is what we need to understand from this tale of Wartime king and Peacetime king.
If you put yourself in the shoes of wartime king, does your feet hurt? If you see what they have seen, do you feel hopeless? What about the peacetime king? Between the two, which one do you reckon you can be? Either or neither?
I’d not fall into the trap of choosing one over the other. Emulating both of them is the call of our times. Initially, they seem different but on closer inspection, they appear to be cut from the same cloth. Both were masters of the cost-benefit analysis. They forged relationships that helped them see through the difficult times. They had to change the occupations of their citizens (those in menial jobs became protectors of the state and vice versa) to suit their own purpose. Both of them worked towards the same goal, making sure the kingdom outlives them.
Imagine your world as your kingdom. Are you in wartime or peacetime? Who are you protecting? Who are you leveraging to protect others? Who does your growth depend on? What are you doing to bring hope to the tired and gloomy souls around you? How are you any different from the king who stands by his kingdom?
We all oscillate between wartime and peacetime. Often, it’s a battle from within and sometimes, it’s out in the open. We need to be innovative, adaptive and consistent. Our nature is fluid and reactionary to the situation. We attack to defend when our existence is threatening. We nurse our state when its battered.
When you live in a constant state of emergency with the false sense of normalcy, open your eyes to know that it’s wartime. Figure out who needs your support and whose support are you seeking to find peace. Pick when to wield a weapon and don an armour, and when to be burdened by the crown.
The original query, however, was to determine who was better qualified to remain within the collective consciousness of the civilization. The wartime king handed the kingdom to his son with the war behind him while the peacetime king did not let his kingdom get clenched into the jaws of war. Now that we have realized that they both are different chapters in the same book, the question seems innocently pointless. Then maybe, I need to approach this from a different angle.
In an ever growing state; every new generation surpasses the previous one. War is undesirable. Avoiding it is many times better, and the peacetime king successfully does that. He learned from the wealth of words the wartime king has. I am sure that it wouldn’t have been easy, that it would’ve been lonely, and he might have felt lost too.
We sometimes forget that kings are human beings too. Even if the peacetime king led the kingdom well, people would remember the wartime king for longer. In that case, it becomes our responsibility to be vigilant of both the sides in us. Let’s not forget.
Note: Here, I am not referring to any king or his son, living or dead. This is purely based on imagination of a king and his son who might have lived their lives like this. Any similarity is purely coincidental.