Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trial by Combat

Occasionally an old trial-by-combat law is found to remain on the books - but no one takes them seriously. Why not? Wouldn't head-to-head, armed combat be an efficient means to determine guilt and innocence?

If you don't believe in the efficacy of trial-by-combat in rendering justice then you obviously don't think that there is a god making sure that the good guys always win. You might even be accustomed to such phrases as, "only the good die young," and, "nice guys always finish last."

Why is it, then, that we so readily accept a trial-by-combat philosophy of history? We obviously have a bias to do so given that modern society is, in the broadest sense, the result of a series of war victories. If you are American then the American Revolution serves as evidence that an empire has no right to subjugate a colony. The American Civil war is easy - slavery is wrong from every angle. World War II? Hitler.

Obviously empires, slavery, and genocide are terrible things. Those that fight against them are heroes. A more detailed study of such conflicts, however, reveals that war typically isn't entered into for such simple, noble reasons. The path to war is usually very complicated and entails many compromises and whispered promises.

If all men were created equal then why were so many of them still held as slaves while rich landowners were liberated from foreign taxes? Was the American Civil war truly over slavery or were there also deeper economic motivations? As bad as Hitler was, why did the U.S. stay out of World War II until Hitler declared war on them?

Overall, those wars have been the easiest to rationalize; to reduce to a single, noble cause. Even if motivations were much more complicated, that doesn't make the simple, noble simplifications false - but it does reveal a bias that is used to colour our view of other conflicts.

Few laymen can even begin to layout the basics of The Spanish-American War or World War I. Then there is Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq to consider. All sold on relatively simple White Hat/Black Hat stories. With bombs still falling in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more either dropped or still dropping on Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Somalia - Americans need to ask themselves if they believe in justice from trial-by-combat.

As Nazi SS officers looked at each other, hats decorated with a skull and cross-bones, some of them must have wondered, "Could we be the bad guys here?" A quick Google search of "CIA scandals" has to spawn the same question for many Americans.

American apologists typically point to the prosperity of their country as evidence that they really are the white-hats. Americans have won so many wars and been economically rewarded. Has America been economically rewarded for their efforts? By whom? A god that makes sure the good guys always win? If so, then you must believe in justice from trial-by-combat.

1 comment:

  1. Add to your comments, "history is written by the victorious" and you have neatly summarized the delusion under which most of the American public operates. Of course they are no different than the citizens of any other of history's "EMPIRES"
    Until teaching our children becomes more important than the avoidance of embarrassment, nothing is likely to change.
    Thank you