Monday, October 27, 2014

Equal Footing

So, I've been watching "Game of Thrones" lately. I started watching the series when the fourth season started up earlier this year, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the series. Good writing, good acting, swords and axes and armor, all the makings of a good time. I started watching the show from the beginning to fill in what I was missing the past couple of weeks, and one thing struck me:

Civilization is a paper-thin veneer.

While I understand that the TV show is hardly historically accurate (especially considering it takes place in some sort of alternate universe where winters last years), there's plenty taken from our own history as well as history that might have been (but uninteresting enough for anyone to record for posterity). There's certainly enough of our own history to trace back the phrase "might makes right" and instances. Thucydides uses the concept in the History of the Peloponnesian War, about the war between Sparta and Athens.

The character Gregor Clegane, better known as "The Mountain" in Game of Thrones, is portrayed as a large, powerful man prone to fits of extreme violence who, owing to his size and strength, pretty much does whatever he wants to whoever he wants without consequence. His prowess with a blade, combined with extreme strength and complete lack of anything resembling morals, allows him to violate the rules at will - although "ignore" is a better term. Rules simply don't apply to him.

Take what you want, because no one can stop you. That's what happens when the stronger have no morals, and the weaker have no effective means of defense. Martial arts are meaningless if the other guy is three times stronger and twice as fast, no matter how good you happen to be. You might be the smartest human on the planet, but if your house/jacket/mate garners the attention of someone larger, you're going to be hard-pressed to effectively fight to keep what you have.

There's one difference now, though: firearms put us all on equal footing. Being the biggest, strongest SOB on the planet is meaningless when the person you're trying to intimidate can launch 230 grains of equalizing goodness in response to your aggression. While they may have been powerless against you in bare-knuckle brawling, they do not need to descend to that level for their own defense.

The firearm puts us on equal footing, whereas edged or impact weapons do not...

That is all.


Dave H said...

One doesn't have to be a massive brute to ignore the rules. Any group of like-minded people can become a mob with the same advantages, end then some. (Such as the Lannisters, or ISIS.) An individual with a gun can't counter a swarm; it takes another group - armed, willing, and trained - to push back against the anarchists. Hence "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

abnormalist said...

while not 230 grains at 850fps
600 grains at 180 fps with a razor sharp point leading can still be quite the equalizer.

Just need to learn how to shoot a bow :-)

Also, best delivered in the back

Paul, Dammit! said...

Nothing makes civilization seem more fragile than travel. Going to Brazil created a real sea change in my outlook on many things- but it really took months for me to suss out the impact it had on my worldview. I think I wrote something along the lines of how Brazil was a savage, lawless place with a thin veneer of civilization to maintain foreign investment.

Whether you look at might as strength of arms, or wealth of resources, those who have the advantages are going to keep them... and civilization is one tool to do just that, by minimizing the need for defense against attack for those holding the keys. For the rest of us it's a rising tide lifting all boats, as we scratch out a living... but that quote about God making men, and Samuel Colt making men equal is incredibly poignant... and sure goes a long way to explaining why *certain* people really, really don't want to make all men equal.

Cargosquid said...

What made him dangerous and able to ignore the rules...was that he was on the side of the Lannisters.

If he had been a Stark, there would have been a crossbow bolt in his back.