I bought this book, not because I’m weird and think that the subject matter is just the most fascinating thing in the world, but because I took a philosophy class a while back and the prof recommended it highly.
It’s a very detailed, fairly scholarly work with lots and lots of data, and not much in the way of lurid stories—the cover is the most titillating thing about it.
But I have enjoyed it very much, although it’s taken me a long time to read it.
I ran across a section today that I want to quote because I think it’s relevant to the subject we’ve been discussing—how to deal with bullies. How far can we go? What is permissible? What is not? Why?
In primitive societies (what Daly and Wilson refer to as “stateless societies”), blood feuds are often a way of life. In the section of the book devoted to revenge killing, they discuss how in these cultures, an eye-for-an-eye is often the rule rather than the exception.
However, in some cases, in some cultures, it’s possible for the two parties (the family of the victim and the family of the killer) to get together and go through arbitration of sorts and arrive at a settlement price.
There’s something like this in the Old Testament as well. Leviticus lays out all sorts of rules about what you have to pay for if you inadvertently kill another person’s slave or sheep or whatever. In these cases, it’s payment for killing.
Only it doesn’t always work. There are situations where the victim’s family simply will not accept a payment, and demand the killer pay with his life. As Daly and Wilson quote:
“I will not carry my dead son in my pouch, ” was the furious retort of a father scorning blood money (Grimm, 1999, quoted by Goebel, 1937).
Usually the cases where a family accepts “blood money” involve accidental killings, or killings that occur as the result of a sudden fight. What we term “first degree murder” would result in a blood demand, not money.
This has come down to us in “civilized society” as the various degrees we put on charges involved murder: first and second degree and manslaughter. We recognize that there is a difference between somebody who plots and schemes to kill another person, and a situation where sudden passion results in a fight and the fight results in death, or where the killing is totally accidental.
And that leads to the quote I had in mind:
But the ideology of obligate vengeance was not necessarily adhered to in practice, even when the death was unequivocally inflicted by another human being. In particular, the chroniclers of many societies have noted that material compensation in lieu of revenge is much more likely to prove acceptable to the victim’s next of kin if the initial homicide were unintentional. In the event of a deliberate murder, arbitration may only be possible after a revenge killing. The existence of these practices and attitudes reinforces the point that the social display of one’s will and ability to retaliate are very much the point. It is an act of magnanimity to accept an apology for an accidental affront, but to turn the other cheek in response to deliberate aggression is mere weakness or stupidity. He who forgives a deliberate act of violence simply invites another. (from page 237, italics by the authors)
Let me repeat that last bit:
It is an act of magnanimity to accept an apology for an accidental affront, but to turn the other cheek in response to deliberate aggression is mere weakness or stupidity. He who forgives a deliberate act of violence simply invites another.
This, of course, is a description of what we would consider a “primitive” culture, but the idea struck me as valid. You can’t beg a schoolyard bully. We all know about the battered wife who forgives her husband only to be hit some more days later.
Several years ago, I believed Camille Lewis when she lied to me about Leah Hayes’ supposed mental health history. I didn’t invent the story, but I believed it. I believed it because I didn’t understand that Camille will lie freely if it advances her cause (which is Camille K. Lewis).
Leah very graciously accepted my apology for that poor behavior on my part. She did so in part because she knew that I didn’t deliberately set out to slander her, or make up a malicious lie about her. I simply believed somebody I shouldn’t have believed.
But Camille and Cathy and Fossen have literally made up lies about people. They have set out to destroy reputations, cast doubt about other people’s characters—even dead people, family members, children. Doesn’t matter to them. They plot and scheme to do this stuff. It’s not accidental. It’s not just a bit of poor judgment. It’s first-degree character assassination.
And that’s why we cannot “forgive” those deliberate acts of “virtual violence.” To do so simply invites more of the same.