Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lessons from history

"It's not so much that History repeats herself, it's that sometimes she screams "Won't you ever listen to what I'm trying to tell you?" and lets fly with a club." -John W. Campbell

Over at Ilana Mercer's blog http://www.ilanamercer.com/ there is a short account of what happened to the waifs and strays from Sudan taken in by the compassionate in America. Four thousand of these former boy soldiers were rescued from horrifying conditions and resettled in the US. A number were also taken in by Australia.

The results have been ugly. Many have descended into violent crime, alcohol and drug addiction - and in certain neighborhoods in Australia have formed organized militias on the Sudanese pattern.

My comment was: "One might call it The Haight-Ashbury Lesson. "Any society that renounces violence, even in self-defense, becomes a magnet for those willing to use violence to get what they want."

This refers (for those too young to remember) to the "Summer of love" when hippies congregated on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco to build a new world based on peace and love.

Of course, right behind them came every con man, rip-off artist and thug who could get themselves there to feast on the buffet of naiveté.

Some years ago I started naming my pithy observations of human nature based on specific incidents from history that I thought illustrated Eternal Truths. I called them Lessons.

The John Wesley Hardin Lesson.

John Wesley Hardin was a western outlaw and one of le premier badasses of western history with at least 44 confirmed kills. He was eventually caught and served 14 years in prison. (And our generation though we invented coddling criminals?)

In prison he studied law, eventually got out and apparently determined to go straight. We'll never know for sure, because shortly after he got into an argument with a young man in a saloon over a dice game.

The young fellow left and shortly thereafter met his father and said something about "that so-and-so John Wesley Hardin."

The father freaked, "You got crosswise with JOHN WESLEY HARDIN!" got his pistol, went to the saloon and shot Wes Hardin in the back of the head as he was leaning over a dice table.

The Lesson: "A reputation as a badass can get you killed."

The Heinlein observation: No matter how badass you are, you still don't have eyes in the back of your head.

The Diane Fossey Lesson: Diane Fossey was the woman who studied mountain gorillas in Rwanda, whose life was the subject of the movie "Gorillas in the Mist". She was murdered, hacked to death, for her activities against the native gorilla poachers.*

The Lesson: "One should beware of declaring war against people who kill things for a living."

Now I'd like to make this a game and ask for contributions.

P.S. Update; ideally it should be one sentence long for stylistic reasons.

*When I was an Anthro major in grad school, one of the grad students in our department Wayne McGuire, was working with her. After her murder he kept bugging the Rwandan government to do something about her murder. So they did - they arrested and charged him for it.

Being no fool, when he was let out on bail he high-tailed it back to the States. The Rwandan government then tried and condemned him to death in absentia. Afterwards when the State Department would ask what they were doing about the murder they'd just say, "We tried him. Send him back and we'll kill him for you."


  • At 6:24 PM, Blogger dchamil said…

    I swear, Rants-n-Raves, you are going to keep me up all night worrying about this stuff! As if I didn't have enough worries already!

  • At 10:50 AM, Blogger matt said…

    King Phillups Lesson: Don't sell weapons (or any technology) to people you plan on dominating. It will bite you in the ass.


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