Sunday, July 1, 2018

Civil Discourse

What do you do when one side chooses obedience to the rules of the game and the other side does not? There are lessons from military history. Agincourt, where the Longbow put an end to Chivalry. There's Chaka Zulu, who it's been argued changed warfare in Southern Africa from "ritualized taunts with minimal loss of by slaughter." There's the First World War, were many a general insisted that "valor and a nation's fighting spirit" would defeat the machinegun, the tank and long range artillery. If there's a lesson, more likely it's a question, "What's winning worth to you?" And there's years and years of stuff about this from the Sufi Poets imploring princes, through the disciple Mark's "what does it gain a man..." and all the way up to a scandal worse than gerrymandering, the Australian cricketers outrageous cheating in their test match just this year against South Africa, no circle in hell low enough for the bowler Cameron Bancroft, one of those moments some of us wished we believed in the power of prayer. But sadly it's only Medieval Saints like Winfred who can get away with asking God to do things like cause the earth to open and swallow a ne'er-do-well. Which is why I'll certainly be wearing a necklace on her Feast Day, November 3rd. You never know it might work.

In the First World War, Lieutenant General Sir Charles Fergusson, commander of II Corps, said this about the German use of poison gas. "It is a cowardly form of warfare which does not commend itself to me or other English soldiers ... We cannot win this war unless we kill or incapacitate more of our enemies than they do of us, and if this can only be done by our copying the enemy in his choice of weapons, we must not refuse to do so." So there's that to contemplate while pondering the direction of civil discourse. Both Plato and Sartre had much to say about the beginning of things, ideas, especially books, bibles and commandments. Their mutual point being that once it was written, odds are it became a tombstone, flaws like worms eating it away. There are those who will say "Go high, when they go low," and then the Vikings sacked Lindisfarne, not for it's knowledge or learning, but for gold, silver and slaves. And always, always worth recalling the Battle of Maldon. A 991 Saxon defeat which for Saxon England heralded Danegeld, but which for Saxon Poets was something else, "There was shouting heaved up, and ravens circling, eagles eager for carrion—an uproar was on the earth." Every Saxon died bravely of course except for two, the Cameron Bancrofts of the Saxon world, Godwin and Godlat both ran away on the same horse..

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