Wednesday 12 August 2009

Plus ca change

Seeing as the world and his wife covered the Stephen Hawking blooper, I'm shooting for something that falls on the other side of the good/original dichotomy. Specifically, contrived historical parallels.

Here we have a modern account of life among the private security contractors of the Green Zone:

Along with having young men armed to the teeth, most of their outfits have bars ... A couple of years ago at one of the compounds inside the British embassy, around 50 young guys got into a fist fight. They were young and obnoxious, many were on steroids and there they were with guns and beer, which should never mix ... Another time, I was in one of the compounds celebrating a birthday for one of the lads and it was obvious all night that something was going to kick off. There were the tight T-shirts, the Americans, the Brits and the attitude. Sure enough, a brawl erupted.

And here we have Dumas' description of the Musketeers and their ethos*:

Loose, half-drunk, imposing, the king’s Musketeers, or rather M. de TrĂ©ville’s, spread themselves about in the cabarets, in the public walks, and the public sports, shouting, twisting their mustaches, clanking their swords, and taking great pleasure in annoying the Guards of the cardinal whenever they could fall in with them; then drawing in the open streets, as if it were the best of all possible sports; sometimes killed, but sure in that case to be both wept and avenged; often killing others, but then certain of not rotting in prison...

Assuming for the moment that this parallel has any merit, should we conclude that:

a) we're all a lot more susceptible to the influence of our surrounding than we like to think and that given the right circumstances any of us could degenerate into a hard-drinking street-brawler, or
b) there's always going to be a group of nasty bastards who are attracted to situations that offer them weapons, booze, an arbitrary tribe, regular opportunities for mayhem and a distinct lack of oversight, and that dealing with these apes is just one of those perennial problems any society worth the name has to cope with?

And if it is b) is there some way we can continue the plan of corraling them into a secure compound equipped with numerous and well-stocked bars and arsensals and just letting them have at it - but without involving the locals?

*Ethos was of course the "Fifth Musketeer", but his career never recovered from being cut out of the final draft.

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