You Win Fights By Being More Willing to Permanently F-Up The Other Guy*
April 1, 2013 9:44 AM Subscribe
"I would advise you when You do fight Not to act like Tygers and Bears as these Virginians do - Biting one anothers Lips and Noses off, and gowging one another - that is, thrusting out one anothers Eyes, and kicking one another on the Cods, to the Great damage of many a Poor Woman." Thus, Charles Woodmason, an itinerant Anglican minister born of English gentry stock, described the brutal form of combat he found in the Virginia backcountry shortly before the American Revolution. Although historians are more likely to study people thinking, governing, worshiping, or working, how men fight -- who participates, who observes, which rules are followed, what is at stake, what tactics are allowed - reveals much about past cultures and societies."Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch" The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry
Cultured Easterners like Phillip Vickers Fithian and Europeans like Charles William Janson and Thomas Ashe often made note of what they considered shocking levels of brutal violence and disfigurement they encountered in brawls and public fights during their respective travels in the American South of the 18th and 19th C. In particular, the densely forested and mountainous backcountry, whose population drew heavily from the Northern border region between England and Scotland, and who maintained the requirements of Honor Culture: violence as response to perceived challenge to personal honor (no matter how petty or ridiculous the cause seemed to outsiders), risk-taking for its own sake, and emphasis on etiquette and propriety in social interactions.
Where a gentleman’s duel was cool, civilized, structured, private, and reserved for the upper class, backwoods rough-&-tumble fights were boisterous (often drunken) affairs with howling boasts and an avowed lack of structure or rules, in the presence of a boisterous, howling (often drunken) audience. They existed in an alternate system of honor for those without wealth or property, but who were still white men in cultures that held black slaves.
By the 1840s, the Bowie Knife became the popular option for ending rough-&-tumble fights, to be supplanted a little later by the revolver.
In “On the Obsolescence of the Concept of Honor” sociologist Peter Berger contrasts the demise of pre-modern honor with the rise of modern concepts of inherent dignity. Honor has no standing in most modern legal systems, and the ones that do are generally viewed as quaint medieval holdovers. As Gorn notes:
Honor is an intensely social concept, resting on reputation, community standing, and the esteem of kin and compatriots. To possess honor requires acknowledgment from others; it cannot exist in solitary conscience. Modern man, Berger has argued, is more responsive to dignity - the belief that personal worth inheres equally in each individual, regardless of his status in society... Naked and alone man has dignity; extolled by peers and covered with ribbons, he has honor.___
*Warren Ellis (GRAPHIC comic book violence as demonstration of title quote)
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