Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Monday, November 22, 2004

An Armed Society?

In one of his books, Robert Heinlein suggested that "An Armed Society is a Polite Society".

He was wrong.

Sorry, I know that a couple of generations of Americans have taken this as dogma, but empirical evidence tells us that this is not true.

By-in-large, Africa is an armed society, and it is not a very polite one. In parts of Africa guns are easier to get than food, and in the more stable areas personal hand to hand weapons are common. In Tanzania, where I like to spend most of my time, you will find people armed with fimbo, a kind of short (1 M or so) staff, the Panga, a kind of machete, the rungu, the traditional Maasai war club, and the Sime, the Maasai short sword, as well as any number of small knives and improvised weapons such as screwdrivers and ice picks. This is all perfectly legal and you will see any number of armed people where ever you go. What you will not find is anything remotely resembling "politeness".

What you do find is that no one respects your "personal space", that you take your life in your hands if you try to cross a busy street (in most of Africa traffic laws are just sort of vague ideas that people give lip service to) That no one cares if they bother you. Drivers will lay on their horns for any reason, people will use loud speakers that rattle buildings to spam the town with whatever they are advertising.

People do get pissed off and kill each other over this sort of thing, and it makes no difference at all.

So, societies are "polite" because they have developed that way, not because there is an implied threat of "I will kill you if you are rude to me".

3 comments:

CoolBlue said...

You left a trace.

So I blog rolled you.

Unfortunately, you chose blogger to host your blog so when I link to you I won't be able to give you a trackback. And I will link to you.

Welcome to the blogosphere, friend.

--Frank

Anonymous said...

You left a trace.

So I blogrolled you.

Unfortunately, you chose blogger to host you blog so when I link to you I won't be able to leave a backtrack. And I will link to you.

Welcome to the blogosphere, friend.

Frank

V said...

Salient point to be sure. Heinlein had a bit more thought built around what turned out to be a bit of wit.

Much as most folks assume the "eye for an eye" is a statement encouraging revenge, it's more a statement about restraint. You don't have to go to Africa to see the tragedy wrought by "he dissed me, so I shot him, he killed my family".

In that vein, one could use Heinlein's statement not so much as a policy position but rather a suggestion that one should interact with others "as if" they were armed...if you hadn't already learned that being polite ain't so bad.

FWIW,
Vince