Monday, January 9, 2017

History Continues

Pein Forte et Dur

No, really, it isn't a dialectic.

For a long while, I was into the thesis-antithesis-synthesis model.  It was hard to do think any other way if you were raised here in the US in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first century.  Marxism was present and constantly molding the conversation to the Hegelian.  Truth be told, a lot of the teachers and profs and politicians jumped in willingly because a simple competition between two ideas allowed them a simple enough model to teach from.

But watching the world for the past fifty-some-odd years has convinced me that it is not a clean dialectic, with two competing ideas and a clean compromise/victory of one thought over the other.

But the sports ideal was then getting real traction in the US, the idea of a gentlemanly tiff with the best man winning and moving on.  Hire the best players from the other team and stay on top of the pile.  Winners keep winning.

No, the game is akin to the pastime of the sixth grade boys being schooled by Mr. Mayberry in the basement of Clearfield High School back in 1965.

Pig Pile (or smear the queer, as it was named when the teachers were out of earshot) had a very simple set of rules.  The dominant male 12-year-old would shout out the name of a mid-range social status member of the pack.  As soon as one heard his name called, that lucky individual would haul ass in the direction where the pack was the thinnest.  He would keep running like hell, because there were 15-20 other boys tearing after him to pull him down and all pile on top of him.

Now, being on the bottom of a pile of 15-20 boys is not a pleasant experience.  Personal hygiene habits at that age are, at best, suspect, and since each of the assailants weighs between 80 and 120 pounds, the "pig" usually has around seven-hundred to eight-hundred pounds weighing down on him.  Breathing becomes problematic (pein forte and dur).

After a bit, depending on the perceived manliness and ability to "Take It" had been established, the pile would unwind and everyone takes a bit of a rest.  Remember, being the person pulling down the prey is at the bottom of the pile as well, his reward for a job well done is quite similar to the reward offered the pig.

After an appropriate rest, the pig would then become the person singing out the name of his successor (Caller of Names).  Now there was some subtlety to this portion of the "game".  It was usually not done to sing out the name of the previous caller of names.  There is usually a brief inventory of slights and calumnies received, then an individual is selected, a name called out, and the whole process is repeated.

One could probably write a Masters thesis on the interactions leading up to the initiation of the game.  If one thinks that boys of this age are oblivious to social slights, wealth dynamics, and dominance rituals, one would do well to think again.

Back to the original thesis, the nature of history.  The multivariate, complex nature of "Pig-Pile" is a much better model for the study of history than the simplistic Hegelian model.  I come to this conclusion despite numerous attempts to get the dialectic to describe the real world without suffering near-fatal suspension of disbelief.

No, climate change and peak oil, Marxist dialectic and efficient market theories, trade routes and the rise and fall of trading countries, radical Islam and Crusaders all are a part of the fabric of the Norns.

Best that a man can hope to do is to have a reasonably balanced "rough-guess" available and then hope for the best. 


No comments: